Dr. Paul Saladino serves up in-depth information regarding the nutritional value of meat. In addition, we discuss strategies for improving your own immune function.
Dr. Saladino is the leading authority on the science and application of the carnivore diet. He has used this diet to reverse autoimmunity, chronic inflammation and mental health issues in hundreds of patients, many of whom had been told their conditions were untreatable.
This Show Is Sponsored By BiOptimizers
Table Of Contents
- The Carnivore Code
- Debunking Common Myths About Carnivore Diet
- What's Wrong with Plant Food?
- Carnivore Diet and Brain Size in Human Evolution
- How To Know If Your Immune System Is Compromised
- Getting Vitamin C From Animal Foods
- The Vitamin A and Choline Misconception
- Environmental Considerations of Eating Meat
- The CO2 Freakout and Global Warming
- Mushroom Is Medicine
The Carnivore Code
Dr. Paul: I'm glad we have this second conversation and do a 2.0 version and certainly since we talked in the fall many things have happened. I've now published a book called The Carnivore Code and I have lots of interesting thoughts about coronavirus and immunity and nutritional density and how we create a healthy immune system. We're going to get into all of it. But I went to the grocery store the other day and I think that this may be a function of which foods don't spoil, but most people have freezers and they have refrigerators so people could still be buying non-processed foods. But one of the foods that are most depleted from the grocery stores for a lot of people it's, well toilet paper which is not a food.
Paper products are gone, which I don't understand at all. And a lot of the processed foods are gone. You know you look at the chips aisle and the chips aisle is just completely destroyed, you know, it's just completely empty and I'm thinking, "Why are people buying corn chips? Why are people buying potato chips? What are people doing? Why are they buying these foods?" Then you go to the aisle with the pastas and a lot of people are buying pasta and rice. And I get that some of these foods stay for longer amounts of time, but if you have a freezer and you put meat in a freezer it would stay for a very long amount of time as well. I think the conversation that I want to add here, or the piece of the conversation that I think is very relevant in this moment, is these ideas around nutrient density and where we get our nutrients from.
So the conversations that I want to have, or the thing I want to add to the conversation, and this is a very relevant time to do doing this is the idea of nutrient density and how we get a healthy immune system. That's on everybody's mind. And of course, I'm a huge advocate for animal-based foods. If people read my book they'll know that I created a spectrum plant toxicity and so it's not that I'm saying that everyone in the world needs to stop eating all plants, but I do think it's valuable to consider which plants are more or less toxic for humans. And also there's a whole chapter in the book about where we actually get our nutrients from as humans.
And I think this is a fascinating conversation and you highlight this when you're talking to your friend who's saying, "I've got a bunch of meat, but I don't have any vegetables." And he's worried about that. And you think, "Why are you worried about that? What nutrients are you worried about getting from vegetables that you can't get from eating animal foods, that you can't get from eating meat and organs, nose to tail?" And we can talk about that perspective of eating animals, which is how I believe humans should do it. Not just eating ribeyes, but eating all the organ meats and stuff. When I wrote The Carnivore Code what I realized was that, hey all of the nutrients that humans need to function optimally can be found in animal foods. And I will unpack that statement, a lot of people might think, "What about Vitamin C?" And I will unpack that in a moment and we know that there's a good amount of Vitamin C in animal foods that we're often not told about it. That's not even really controversial. And a lot of things come up.
But there's a whole chapter in the book about how I really … Looking at the nutritional literature you can make a very strong case that animal foods are simply the best foods for humans. They are the most nutrient-rich, the most nutrient-dense, and the most bioavailable sources of all of the micronutrients, all of the vitamins, all the minerals that humans need to thrive. And that conversation quickly moves to the idea of how do we get a healthy immune system, we give our body all of the nutrients it needs to thrive. And where do we get those? Primarily we get them from animals. I think we've been misled recently to think or we've been provided with messaging suggesting that plant foods are superfoods, and I think that that's pretty false. So this is where we can start our conversation.
Debunking Common Myths About Carnivore Diet
Michael Bledsoe: So I'm curious, from you is what exactly is … So what is the problem with plants? It sounds like what you're saying right now is you can get all the nutrients you need from the meat, from the organs. Can you give us a quick reason on that on what are some common myths around organ meat deal and getting the nutrients you need? And why plants are a problem.
Dr. Paul: Yeah. So there a couple of things to address in this and I talk about all of this in the book. If we look at the vitamins and minerals that we know that humans need, things like Vitamin A, Vitamin C, Vitamin D, Vitamin E, Vitamin K2, other vitamins and minerals, selenium, copper, zinc, iron, magnesium, molybdenum, all the B vitamins, folate, thiamin, riboflavin, pyridoxine. In the book I really give a detailed explanation of almost all of those things. You can see that animal food, across the board, a really as good as plants or better than plants at providing those foods. And there are two pieces to that equation.
There is absolute nutrient presence. There is absolute nutrient robustness of food, how much of a nutrient, a vitamin or a mineral, is in a food. And then there is the bioavailability of that nutrient in the food. And on both counts, animal foods win almost every single time. Let's use something like Vitamin B6, or pyridoxine, as an example and then we will talk about something like riboflavin which is Vitamin B2 which is very similar.
Dr. Paul: So what we find with all of these B vitamins, especially and really all of the vitamins and minerals, is that they're much more present in animal foods. If you're trying to get Vitamin B6 from plants, you're going to have to work really hard. The same is true of riboflavin, which is Vitamin B2, and perhaps riboflavin is even a better case of this. Getting riboflavin from plants is very hard and we know that riboflavin is crucial for human function. We need it to make methylation products, we need it to run the enzyme MTHFR. People may be familiar with MTHFR and methylation and this enzyme that converts one form of folate into L-methyl folate. A lot of people are hearing about MTHFR polymorphisms and this idea that people who have MTHFR polymorphisms don't have an MTHFR enzyme or have an MTHFR enzyme that doesn't work as well.
Well there are also studies that I talk about in the book that show that if you are getting enough riboflavin if you are getting robust amounts of riboflavin, even with an MTHFR polymorphism that slows your MTHFR enzyme down, you can normalize the production of L-methyl folate. Meaning that enzyme which is slowed down by these polymorphisms normalize completely when people are getting enough riboflavin. Well, how much is enough riboflavin? It looks like in these people they need two to three milligrams of riboflavin per day. And I have an MTHFR polymorphism myself. How many plant foods would you have to eat to get that much riboflavin? An astronomical amount. Pounds and pounds and pounds of the highest amount of riboflavin containing food. So it's very difficult to get riboflavin from plant foods. Animal foods, real easy. You can eat a few ounces of liver and get that much riboflavin. A few ounces of kidney, a few ounces of heart muscle and that much riboflavin. So there's a real dichotomy, a real juxtaposition in terms of the bioavailability of riboflavin and that serves as a model for many of the other vitamins and minerals.
Getting zinc from meat
Dr. Paul: The same is true with things like zinc, which is a mineral. We know that we need zinc to have a healthy immune system. We know that zinc deficiency causes increased incidents of the common cold, viruses, and really a susceptibility to all sorts of infections. Well where do we get zinc from? There is some small amount of zinc in some plant foods, specifically things like pumpkin seeds.
The zinc that's present in things like pumpkin seeds is not very bioavailable because it's chelated to … there's a molecule in that called phytic acid in most of the plant seeds which bites onto zinc and prevents us from absorbing it. So in Brazil nuts people say yes they have a lot of selenium, specifically it's selenomethionine I believe, which is a much less bioavailable form of selenium than selenocysteine. If we're talking about selenium, selenocysteine is generally found in animal foods. But the idea with selenium is similar in Brazil nuts that selenium is chelated, all these minerals are chelated in these plant foods, a lot of times in plant seeds, that prevents us from being able to absorb them at the same rate that we would an unchelated form of the minerals.
There's an experiment that's been done with zinc and oysters, and I detail this one in the book as well, that oysters are on the highest zinc-containing foods that we know of. When oysters are given to someone you can see blood levels of zinc rise dramatically. But if you coadminister oysters with tortilla or black beans you see an extreme decrease in the amount of zinc showing up in the blood after the oysters are eaten. Because tortillas and black beans contain phytic acid which chelates the zinc and prevents this absorption.
The story here is the same. Again I go through this for many of the vitamins and minerals that we need as humans in the book. Vitamin A is similar. Again zinc, selenium, iron, the B vitamins, B6, B2, et cetera, et cetera, on and on. When we try and get these things from plants they are simply not as bioavailable for humans. And if we look at the content of these vitamins and minerals in animal foods what is very striking, especially when we eat nose to tail, meaning eating the organ meats, is that they are all present in animal foods and that we can get robust amounts and quickly replenish, quickly fill up our stores, quickly become very nutritionally robust and replete when we are eating more animal foods and excluding the most toxic plant foods.
What's Wrong with Plant Food?
Dr. Paul: So then the second part of your question is what's wrong with plant foods? The main issue that I have with plant foods, and I started to describe this a little bit, is that a lot of the plants, all of the plants on the Earth, have coexisted with animals for 450 million years and have needed to develop toxins. And a lot of times we're not told about this, we're only told about plants as superfoods or we're told they have this magical compounds in them. Well, really when we look at plants what we find is that they've developed many chemicals, thousands and thousands, hundreds of thousands of chemicals which dissuade animals from eating them. This is a chemical warfare that's been going on for hundreds of millions of years being plants and animals. And it's allowed plants to persist. Herbivorous animals, animals that focus the majority of their diet on plants, know which plants to consume and they know how much of a plant to consume.
If you look at the way herbivorous, or plant-eating animals eat plants, they eat small amounts of plants seasonally and move throughout a pasture. They don't focus on one plant and there are plenty of examples of herbivores being forced to over-consume one plant and having mass die-off events if they are cordoned off, if they can't graze, if their food supply becomes limited.
Furthermore, herbivorous animals also have developed many mechanisms to detoxify plants throughout their coevolution with plants because they have always depended on plants during their evolutionary journey. Humans, on the other hand, we involved from primates, but we appear to have lost those detoxification mechanisms or to be not as good at it as we used to be, or to really have evolved some ability to detoxify plants which varies from person to person. There's a lot-
Carnivore Diet and Brain Size in Human Evolution
Michael Bledsoe: But I am curious about that because I mean there are people in the vegan camp who will say the true paleo diet is one that's more vegan because if you look at the apes, this and that. And I look at it and go, well there's a number of my teeth that are shaped for the purpose of cutting meat, but there's also teeth for the purpose of cutting plants.
Dr. Paul: What we know is that primates actually eat meat. When primates are able to avail themselves of meat, when meat is available many different types of primates, chimpanzees, will eat meat.
Michael Bledsoe: Did you see that photo of that orangutan spearfishing?
Dr. Paul: I may have. And I've also seen photos of monkeys eating other monkeys. So even our primate ancestors are not entirely vegan. But one of the other things we know about human evolution, and this is fascinating and it's detailed in the first chapters of my book, is that humans appear to have arisen or separated our hominid ancestors appear to have diverged from primates, chimpanzee, and bonobo, approximately four to six million years ago.
What we know is that primate evolution proceeded our hominid evolution by 60 plus million years, six zero million years. And the size of the primate brain of our ancestors stayed fairly constant during that time based on fossil analysis of cranial ball size. There is evidence that Australopithecus branched off about four million years ago in the East African Rift Valley.
The size of Australopithecus' brain gradually increased and then about two million years ago, if we look at brain size, something incredible happened. It began to accelerate rapidly. And what do we see also happening at that time in our hominid ancestor's evolution, specifically that was Homo-erectus and Homo-habilis, we see the advent of hunting. We see stone tools, which are bifacial, they're called Acheulean tools. We see cut marks on bones. We see evidence for mass graves. And we see evidence for injuries to animals in their bones from things like spears. So there's really good anthropologic evidence to correlate with this rapid increase in brain size two million years to suggest that hunting made us human, that hunting allowed our brains to grown rapidly. Whereas for the previous 65 million years they've been pretty small and they stayed pretty constant.
So the statement that we can make, ergo, 65, 60 million years of primate evolution consisting of mostly plants, didn't grow a bigger brain. And suddenly when we start to eat meat we are encountering new nutrients, or larger amounts of certain nutrients, Vitamin K2, B12, zinc, iron, selenium, all of these nutrients that are present in animals foods that are really not well represented in plant foods, that allow our brain to get very big, very quickly. Over the successive two million years our brain tripled in size from about 500 cc to about 1500 cc. We are the humans of today because we began eating meat. And that's the premise that I make in the book, or that's the hypothesis, that's the suggestion that I make in the book is that eating meat made us human.
Impaired brain function for meat avoiders
Dr. Paul: And then I'll just add one more point to this, and this is another thing that I highlight in the book, is that there are many nutrients in meat that are not found at all in plant foods. And the reverse is not true. And again I can go down the Vitamin C rabbit hole and I'm happy to. But there are no nutrients in plants that are not present in animal foods. Again this creates all sorts of things we have to unpack because we're going to have to talk about polyphenols and we're going to have to talk about plant compounds. But the idea here is that there are many nutrients in animal foods, specifically things like creatine, carnitine, carnosine, anserine, taurine, Vitamin K2, Vitamin B12, on and on, that are not present in any significant amounts in plant foods. And I actually call these magical animal nutrients in the book, or thereabouts. Animal foods just present this unique nutritional combination which made our brains grow, apparently, and can also make our immune systems very strong. Did that answer your question?
Michael Bledsoe: Yeah. So if someone is avoiding meat, are they going to have impaired brain function?
Dr. Paul: Absolutely, and we know that to be the case. There are studies in the book that I cite in which vegetarians and vegans are given creatine. So there's no creatine in plant foods. Our body makes a small amount of creatine, but we really can't make enough. Creatine is a phosphate sort of donor, it becomes creatine phosphate in our muscles, people may be familiar with this. Bodybuilders use creatine. If you are eating a pound of meat per day you are essentially saturating your body with creatine by giving it about five extra grams of creatine per day. So you really can't get much more than five grams a day in your diet into your muscles.
But when we take vegans and vegetarians who have essentially no creatine in their diet, and very limited synthesis of creatine for a variety of reasons, and we give them creatine they get smarter. We can increase verbal memory, learning, task completion, and recall when we supplement these people with creatine suggesting very strongly that they are very deficient in creatine. Not a good thing to be. We see this across the board for so many of these what we may call zo-nutrients, or animal-based nutrients. Carnitine, carnosine, choline, taurine, anserine, B12. We know that vegans and vegetarians-
Michael Bledsoe: I'm hearing a lot of stuff that impacts cognition here.
Dr. Paul: Impacts cognition and impacts the immune system. And impacts the immune system. Yeah. And vegans and vegetarians have much lower levels of those things.
Veganism's Effect On Brain Size
Michael Bledsoe: Let's go down that rabbit hole. I lived in Sanitas for five years where there's a high density of vegans and vegetarians. I had never seen such a large amount of people needing to get vitamin shots injections. And I've had so many people like, "Oh, you want to go get a B Vitamin shot with me?" Or like we're going to go on a B Vitamin shot date or something. I've always shrugged and looked at them and go, "Well I'm not deficient so I don't know what it's going to do for me." I was like, "I eat really well, so I don't know why I need to get a shot." But come to find out those people are eating almost no meat so when they get this B Vitamin shot they feel amazing.
Dr. Paul: Exactly. There are also studies, they're population studies, there are population studies which show a strong correlation between levels of B12 in our body and the size of our brain. And this shouldn't be surprising, it's probably the same thing that happened two million years when we got a lot more B12 in our diet when we started hunting. But there are studies which show that people who have the least amount of B12 in their body have the smallest brains. And this is a big deal because it's also correlated with dementia. As brains shrink there's an increased incidents of dementia.
Now in that study, they don't report these findings, but it's been speculated that vegans and vegetarians may have smaller brains. And some people have even suggested that in that study, which was done at Oxford, comparing brain size to B12 levels that there was some data which was unpublished that they vegans and vegetarians had much smaller brains than the omnivorous cohort, meaning people who are eating meat in addition to plants.
I think it's pretty clear that nutrients found in meat when supplemented in vegans and vegetarians can improve brain function. And these are very valuable nutrients for both our brain and our immune system, it's all connected. We really can't say this nutrient helps your brain, this nutrient helps your liver, this nutrient helps your immune system because all those systems of our body are so connected and if we nourish one we are certainly going to nourish all of them. I think that's a really reasonable thing to suggest.
How To Know If Your Immune System Is Compromised
Michael Bledsoe: So a lot of people are concerned about their immune system right now. What are indicators, I guess leading indicators, of an immune system that's compromised? Is there things that go, oh if you tend to get the cold every single winter you may have a compromised immune system, or it's not as healthy as it could be? Because I haven't been sick in years. I imagine you're in the same category. And if we do, it's kind of like oh I got cold sweats for a night and then I shook it off. So what are some signs that people's immune systems are jacked up and they need to really focus in on it?
Dr. Paul: Yeah, I haven't been sick in a long time. I don't even remember the last time to tell you the truth. But I think that you offer some good ideas there, that there is such a thing, I believe, as immunologic momentum. And that's really just sort of synonymous with the idea of a robust immune system, of a healthy, strong immune system. I think some of the best indicators are just overall feeling crappy. It may not even be, though getting flu or getting a cold every year or getting sick frequently is certainly an indication that you have a weakened immune system, it may be other things like just being fatigued. If you have brain fog, if you're not sleeping well, if you don't have energy, if your mood is bad. Even if you have depression, which I think is clearly related to the immune system and overactivation of the immune system in the brain and neural inflammation. All of these conditions. Any chronic medical condition.
Basically, if we are not feeling eight out of 10, nine out of ten most days, your immune system is compromised. If you are not doing well in the gym, if you don't have a good libido, if you are overweight, if you have diabetes. These are all signs of immunologically compromised, not just getting a cold every year. As I said, it's all connected. All of the systems of the body are connected and so if we have issues with one system of the body, if we have an autoimmune disease the immune system is probably not working as we want it to.
Important nutrients for the immune system
Dr. Paul: And let's just then move that conversation into what nutrients are important for the immune system. The first one everyone thinks about is Vitamin C so I want to talk about that. But there's plenty of good literature, in fact, I did a podcast on my podcast, which is called Fundamental Health. Just yesterday I released it all about coronavirus, it's two hours if people want to hear it. At the end of that podcast, I reviewed a lot of literature suggesting number one that insulin resistance, metabolic dysfunction, diabetes is strongly associated with immunologic dysfunction. And number two that there are many, many nutrients that we know very clearly are necessary and crucial to normal, to good, to robust immune function. And those nutrients included many things beyond Vitamin C. Vitamin A, Vitamin D, Vitamin E, zinc, selenium, iron, copper, the list goes on and on. And again we sort of talked about that a little bit and I will retouch on those momentarily.
Those nutrients are clearly more present, more bioavailable, and better obtained from animal foods. And that's one of the things that I want to add to the conversation here around coronavirus or any infection. I've made it very clear on all my social media that I'm not claiming a carnivore diet will cure the coronavirus, a carnivore diet will not cure the coronavirus. But also I think hand washing and social distancing are important, and no one is really talking about the nutrients you need to have a healthy immune system and no one is contrasting how well we might obtain those from animal foods versus plant foods. I'm not saying plant foods are uniquely bad for all people, again in the book I draw a spectrum of plant toxicity and talk about the most toxic plants. My main point here is that the best source for the majority of our nutrients is going to be animal foods. They should be a critical part of our diet. And as you are suggesting a lot of people feel much better, especially from a GI perspective and other perspectives, when they cut out the majority of plant foods or even just the most toxic plant foods.
Getting Vitamin C From Animal Foods
Dr. Paul: Let's talk about Vitamin C for a moment. There is a broad misconception that we cannot get Vitamin C from animal foods. And this is just based on false data from the USDA who didn't measure Vitamin C in animal foods. In the book, I give multiple references to peer-reviewed studies showing that there is Vitamin C in animal foods, and in fact, historically fresh meat, organ meats, are well known to be an antiscorbutic, they cure scurvy. Steak cures scurvy. That is not debatable. Steak cures scurvy. That should be my slogan. There were studies done on conscientious objectors from World War II in the 1940s in which people were given scurvy, they were Vitamin C restricted for a number of weeks, they got scurvy, they had petechiae, which are little red hemorrhages on the skin, they had bleeding gums, they had dental issues. They had the symptoms of scurvy which are essentially inadequate collagen formation throughout the human body.
Investigators in the 1940s in those study, things that will never be repeated now, were able to cure scurvy with as little as 10 milligrams of Vitamin C per day. That is an amount of Vitamin C that is present in probably less than one ounce of liver, or less than one pound of meat per day. So you can cure scurvy with very moderation amounts of fresh animal foods. The other-
Michael Bledsoe: I want to point out that you're saying fresh.
Dr. Paul: Yes. Fresh animal foods, not dried. We know that if you have to dehydrate something the Vitamin C may be denatured. SPAM is not going to cure your scurvy. And in people who are doing carnivore diets, I'm very clear about this. If you are not eating fresh animal foods you may need to supplement with Vitamin C. But fresh animal foods, steak that is not overcooked, fresh liver that is not overcooked, these are completely viable, great sources of Vitamin C in the human diet.
"Isn't more Vitamin C better?"
Dr. Paul: Now beyond that people may say, "But isn't more Vitamin C better?" And that is not known. If you look at the literature for Vitamin C, generally speaking, interventional studies with Vitamin C fail to show any benefit in medical outcomes, prevention of the common cold, cardiovascular disease, cancer. Giving people extra Vitamin C doesn't seem to help with those things at all.
Michael Bledsoe: I'm not, of course, going to be able to point out a single study, but I do remember reading at some point that hyper dosing Vitamin C can help with viral load. Is that-
Dr. Paul: That's a different story. So we can give people IV Vitamin C in the setting of sepsis or other infections, and that is Vitamin C not acting as a vitamin but probably acting as a pro-oxidant or almost as an antibiotic in the human body. So that's different. Hyper dosing Vitamin C maybe. And people are talking about doses of Vitamin C for people who are acutely sick with coronavirus, and again this is very different than normal day-to-day use of Vitamin C. And people say, "Oh Vitamin C helps with cancer." Well the studies are very mixed and it's not clear that it actually does. There's again IV Vitamin C is 100 to 1000 times the does that we would get normally and at that point you are using Vitamin C as a pharmaceutical. We could never obtain that much Vitamin C orally. And that's a very different application of Vitamin C.
Michael Bledsoe: Got it. You're not going to eat enough oranges-
Dr. Paul: You could, but you'd get diarrhea. And this is interesting to note, I mean you know it doesn't take a whole lot of Vitamin C to give you diarrhea. For a lot of people even 1000 milligrams of Vitamin C in your diet will give you diarrhea. You can easily eat your way to diarrhea with oranges. So the body only needs a certain amount of Vitamin C and to go beyond that is really just hurting you. Excess Vitamin C can cause B12 deficiency, it can cause all sorts of GI side effects. So I don't think we know what the sweet spot is for Vitamin C, but I'm far from convinced that it's 500 milligrams a day or 1000 milligrams a day.
Like I said, interventional studies with Vitamin C generally do not show benefit for humans. There's a study that I talk about in the book where people's Vitamin C was increased from 70, seven zero, milligrams a day to 270 milligrams a day. And despite an increase in blood levels of Vitamin C there were no improvements in markers of oxidative stress or inflammation in the human body. So I think for most of us, lower doses of Vitamin C are totally fine. Now if people want to supplement with Vitamin C at moderate doses of 300 milligrams a day I don't really have a problem with that. I do have some concerns that excess Vitamin C much above that could possibly lead to increased incidents of kidney stones or other problems. I don't think humans would've routinely gotten Vitamin C above 300 milligrams very often. And I think that there's plenty of good evidence that even doses of Vitamin C 40, 50, 60 milligrams a day are plenty for optimal immune, oxidative reductive, and functioning of collagen synthesis, which is one of the main roles of Vitamin C in the human body.
Dr. Paul: So that's just to illustrate that there is Vitamin C in animal foods, that we don't see scurvy in the carnivore community, that many of us do not supplement with Vitamin C, don't see a need for it as long as we are eating fresh meat and organs. And we don't really have a great way to measure immune function other than the ones that I mentioned earlier, the avoidance of illness, feeling good in general. I certainly do not have scurvy, nor have I had scurvy at all throughout my carnivore eating journey. And I've been doing a carnivore diet … I personally have been eating a strictly carnivore diet for coming up on two years here pretty soon. So if I were going to get scurvy I would know by now. Or if I were going to get any manifestations of inadequate Vitamin C in my body, which might be things like low glutathione levels or increased levels of oxidative stress, which I don't see in any of my blood work and has not been demonstrated.
So that's the Vitamin C story. Hopefully that helps clear it up for people. The takeaway there is just that animal foods have Vitamin C. I believe if you're eating fresh meat and organs it's enough to have an optimal Vitamin C amount in your body. If you want to supplement with Vitamin C, that's fine, I don't think there's good evidence that that's going to improve your physiology and you can definitely supplement with too much.
The Vitamin A and Choline Misconception
Dr. Paul: And the other vitamins are perhaps they've all been left out of the conversation. There's a few people talking about Vitamin A right now in the wake of coronavirus, but very people are talking about this. But we know that Vitamin A is crucial for proper immune function. Well where do we get Vitamin A from? We generally get it from liver and egg yolks, animal organs, there's a moderate amount of Vitamin A in kidneys as well. But it's a crucial nutrient for our immune function. And so many people think they can get Vitamin A from carrots or enough Vitamin A from carrots and this is a broad misconception and I'll tell you why. "Vitamin A" in plant foods is beta carotene. It's not retinol.
People who eat a lot of carrots will quickly realize that their skin turns orange because the beta carotene in those carrots gets deposited in your skin instead of getting used as retinol Vitamin A. Humans are very bad at converting beta carotene into retinol Vitamin A. Vitamin A is a molecule that looks like half of a beta carotene molecule. And in order to make retinol Vitamin A, which is the usable form of Vitamin A, we need to cleave beta carotene. There's an enzyme that does this called BCMO. A lot of people have polymorphisms in this enzyme and do the conversion very poorly.
There's good literature, and I note this in the book, to suggest that 21 units of beta carotene are needing to create one unit of retinol Vitamin A. Meaning when you look at a carrot and you see the nutritional information for that carrot, it's going to say it has X amount of Vitamin A. Well you have to divide that by 21 because that "Vitamin A" in the carrot is 21 times less usable than the Vitamin A in liver or egg yolks.
And this is why I think there are many more people who are not getting enough Vitamin A than we believe to be true. If you are relying on sweet potatoes or carrots for your Vitamin A, you are going to have to eat a whole lot of them. Sweet potatoes I think have the most Vitamin A, or excuse me I should say beta carotene. You have to eat almost a pound of sweet potatoes per day to get enough retinol Vitamin A when you account for that 21 to one conversion from beta carotene to retinol.
Yeah. And then when you think about the fact that choline is another important nutrient for cell membranes and immune function. If you want to get enough choline from plants, the most choline rich plant is broccoli. You have to eat more than a pound of broccoli to get the RDA for choline, that's just the RDA.
But you can get the recommended daily allowance for choline by eating some eggs and liver easily. So the thing is that if you actually want to get enough of these nutrients from plants you're going to have to eat a pound of sweet potatoes and a pound of broccoli. And then you haven't even made it half way to your other nutrients, right? We've only talked about two nutrients. But if you eat animal foods, you can get all those things with basically a moderate amount of steak, a small amount of liver, and some egg yolks. You're going to get so many more nutrients. It just makes complete sense and there's a real cohesion of these ideas. It's interesting to think about. In animal foods, as I said, the nutrients are so much more available, it's just not even questionable.
Environmental Considerations of Eating Meat
Michael Bledsoe: Okay, someone's listening, they go, "Okay, okay. You sold me. I'll eat way more meat, organs, reduce my plant intake. Maybe I'll even go hardcore carnivore, eat all my raw meat and organs and all that." But there's no way that everybody could go on this. Like if everybody on the planet said, "This is the way to do it," there's just not enough animals. A lot of people point out the environmental impacts of the meat industry.
Dr. Paul: Sure, let's talk about that, absolutely. When I hear people say everyone on the planet couldn't do this I think, "Well, hold on. Like don't put the cart before the horse." So we need to consider the fact that everyone in the world will never eat a fully carnivorous diet. If we decide that meat is a healthy part of the human diet, then the challenge for us becomes how do we produce more meat sustainably. Which is a great segue into the environmental considerations of eating meat.
So here's the deal. Ruminants, animals that chew grasses and have rumens, have multiple stomachs, these are called ruminants. They include cows, sheep, buffalo, deer, elk, antelope, pronghorn. These animals have always been a part of the ecosystem on our Earth. Before humans arrived or in 1850 or maybe even in earlier 1800s, there were 250 million ruminants in the United States. 250 million. So to suggest that ruminants are the cause of climate change really loses a historical perspective on the fact these animals have always been here. Yes animals burp methane, but that methane is a part of what is called the carbon cycle and always has been.
Greenhouse gasses are a necessary part of our environment. Not to say that we should put more greenhouse gasses into the environment, but the amount of greenhouse gas in the environment that we have no is increasing apparently due to the burning of fossil fuels. But the contribution of ruminants is very small when we look at in the grand scheme of things. The majority of methane produced comes from, are you ready for this? Termites. Termites.
Michael Bledsoe: Oh, we got to fucking kill those termites.
Dr. Paul: We got to kill the termites. But people will quickly realize like wait a minute, what happens, all right let's get rid of the termites. Wait a minute, termites aren't contributing to climate change. Methane also comes from the ocean. Methane also comes from landfills. So if you're worried about methane in the environment you should never buy anything that goes in the landfill, which may not be the worst idea for anyone listening to this. Methane also comes from wetlands, there are natural wetlands in Africa that produce methane that goes into the environment. And ruminants produce methane as well. Well ruminants have always been here, just like natural wetlands have always been, much like termites have been here.
So without getting into the statistics, I talk about much of this in the book and in fact I am happy to talk about now if you want to hear about it, but the fact that there are more ruminants on the planet now is a very small contribution to the greenhouse gas in our environment.
The CO2 Freakout and Global Warming
Michael Bledsoe: Everyone's talking about CO2.
Dr. Paul: Yeah, CO2. Well the CO2 is the carbon equivalent. Methane is a carbon containing molecule is CH4. But it's part of the carbon cycle. The methane from ruminants goes into the carbon atmosphere and is oxidized to CO2 in about 10 years. Plants then fix that carbon dioxide into their roots and create carbohydrates and the animals eat that. So if we could tag a carbon atom, if you could take a carbon atom from the environment and tag it you would see that the methane from ruminants is going round and round and round. It's carbohydrates that ruminants are eating that becomes a part of their digestion, they burp out that same carbon atom as a methane which goes into the environment, becomes carbon dioxide and is then fixed into the plant root system. So it's going around and around.
When we are burning fossil fuels we are liberating carbon that has been stored in the earth. It has not been moving around the cycles in the same way that the carbon cycling carbohydrates of animals are. Cows are not nuclear reactors. They're not creating, they're not big bang, right. They're not creating atoms out of dust. They are moving atoms around, right. And the carbon that we have on the Earth, nobody can create carbon. It's just a matter of where that carbon is.
Michael Bledsoe: Well if we're circulating that could create more heat is I think what the argument is.
Dr. Paul: Right. But so hear me out here. The amount of carbon on the Earth is fixed, right, we're not getting carbon from space. The majority of the carbon in our environment is in the ground, it is inert. It's in fossil fuels, it's in the soil. Okay? The carbon that is moving around from ruminants is part of a carbon cycle, it's always been cycling. The major issue in terms of increased carbon contribution to the environment is liberation of new carbon.
Michael Bledsoe: We're increasing the volume. It's the increase of volume of carbon in the atmosphere, not the speed at which the cycle's running.
Dr. Paul: No, no. The cycle is always the same carbon, but we're putting new carbon into the environment.
Michael Bledsoe: I'm saying is it running faster if we have more people eating more meat?
Dr. Paul: Well, in a small, small amount. But the major contributor is the amount of carbon that is being liberated from the ground that was never there in the first place, right, that was never in the environment. That was in the environment-
Cows are worse than cars?
Michael Bledsoe: I'm pretty sure I've seen some infographic somewhere that said that cows were worse than factories and cars.
Dr. Paul: That's so false. It's so false. And so-
Michael Bledsoe: But it's an infographic on Instagram. It's got to be true.
Dr. Paul: It has to be right. So if you look at the data, right, so there's a graphic in my book, and this is from EPA data in 2016. Let's just look at "tailpipe emissions". How much methane comes out of a cow versus how much methane comes out of a factory versus how much methane comes out of your car. If you look at those numbers, this is Environmental Protection Agency data from 2016, ruminant animals in the United States produce 1.8% of greenhouse gas emissions, 1.8. Other animals produce about 1.8 as well. Plant agriculture produces more than 4% of the carbon dioxide. And then if you look at the amount of greenhouse-
Michael Bledsoe: Plant agriculture produces more carbon dioxide than-
Dr. Paul: Than what comes out of cows' mouths, yes. And then if you look at what is actually coming out of the tailpipe of cars or you look at what is coming out of factories directly, then you have a major, major discrepancy and those things are producing 25 to 30% of the greenhouse gas emissions at the tailpipe level. This gets very confusing for people because some people are quoting lifecycle analysis and some people are quoting tailpipe, right. So the problem here is that when you consider the lifecycle analysis of a cow, saying well we're going to take how much methane comes out of their mouth and add it to the amount of carbon that it took to ship them to a pasture or the amount of carbon it takes to process them, the amount of carbon it takes to get them to a factory, right, then it inflates the amount of carbon dioxide in the signature of those cows.
Well here's the thing, Mike. No one has ever published data on lifecycle analysis of the transportation industry. So there's a 2016 FAO study which compares a lifecycle analysis of cows to tailpipe emissions of cars. Well that's apples or oranges, right?
Michael Bledsoe: Yeah.
Dr. Paul: If you're going to compare lifecycle you have to compare lifecycle to lifecycle. If you're going to compare tailpipe you have to compare tailpipe to tailpipe. So if you compare tailpipe to tailpipe how much methane comes out of a cow and how much carbon dioxide that equates to, to carbon dioxide coming out of a tailpipe of a car, cars dwarf animals, they dwarf them in terms of the amount of carbon dioxide being produced. Factories, electricity generation, these are all much greater contributors. No one has done a lifecycle analysis of the transportation industry for their carbon emissions. I will repeat, there are no data that I have ever seen looking at a lifecycle analysis of the transportation industry. Therefore, all comparisons of cows' life to transportation must be very carefully scrutinized and so often plant-based proponents are comparing the lifecycle of cows to the tailpipe of transportation. Does that make sense? Do you see why that's so misleading?
Michael Bledsoe: Yeah, that makes sense. In addition to that, what that brings up for me, I'm looking at you're saying emissions from agriculture from plant-based agriculture. I know a lot of times the number of calories you're going to be able to get out of a piece of meat versus what you're able to get out of plants, and then you look at the shipping of those plants and the farming and all that and what type of emissions are coming from that.
Having an open mind dealing with climate change
Michael Bledsoe: And another thing I don't pay attention too much to the CO2, methane conversation after I listened to, are you familiar with Randall Carlson? Joe Rogan had him on several times on his show. He's a geologist.
But he talks about the history of CO2 in our atmosphere and how it's been up to four times higher. And during those periods of time there was actually an abundance of life on Earth. And he was talking about the global warming may not be as big of an issue as everyone thinks it is because we don't really have history around these measures. So much of it is theory and people suspect that if it gets warmer that it's going to cause a lot of problems.
Yes the Earth is always changing, it's always changing. We may not notice because we're only here for a short period of time. But most coastal cities in the last 10,000 years I imagine have been underwater or there are coastal cities that are now underwater that we're now discovering. It's like everyone is fighting change. Fighting change is a great way to cause misery and suffering.
Dr. Paul: I think these conversations are very interesting. One of the things I'll note here is it's so sad for me that people can't have an open mind. There are some things that you cannot discuss today. You simply cannot even suggest that climate change may be more nuanced than we believe it to be without being, you know, without being derided.
Michael Bledsoe: Yeah. Well, you start bringing this kind of stuff up and then people freak out and want to cut your head off.
Dr. Paul: Exactly. And that's really saddening to me. So though I agree with you that the Earth has gone through many shifts and it is true that the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere has been greater, I prefer to not get into those conversations because it's so triggering for people and I'll say, "Okay, fine. Like, let's just accept the fact, if we accept the fact that climate change is happening because of human impact on the Earth, then what is actually contributing to it?" I think that's a conversation that most people can kind of get their head around. Even within that framework, we have to be very careful to blame cows unnecessarily because they are not major contributors to greenhouse gases.
Mushroom Is Medicine
Michael Bledsoe: All right, last question before we close down. Mushrooms. Where do you stand on mushrooms? They're not plants. They're not animals. What do we do with them? I love them.
Dr. Paul: Medicine, not food. Right? Medicine, not food. All of this conversation, and I talk about this in the book as well, we haven't talked about the difference of using plants as medicine versus plants as food. I'm not denying-
Michael Bledsoe: Yeah, because I also have more questions, but I want to save them for another time, around a lot like herbs and herbal remedies. Yeah, but go ahead and go down there. I just want to let people know that there's way more conversation to be had here, and I love where you're going with this now.
Dr. Paul: Yeah, so I'm not denying that plant molecules don't have physiologic affects in humans, but I don't think that we should be using them as food. What I talk about in the book is we should be looking for the root cause of an illness rather than using plant molecules to ameliorate symptoms, or using any pharmacological model to ameliorate symptoms. One of the things I talk about in the book is the fact that plant molecules like any pharmaceutical molecule, synthetic, bacterial, fungal, whatever, has side effects and these have been largely ignored. And plant molecules have been heralded as magical things that we can take to make us better.
The very real counterpoint that I am raising in The Carnivore Code, my book, is that hey look, I think these molecules are being used irresponsibly as food. I don't think we need them to be optimal. We are generally ignoring the side effects of these molecules. Why not correct things at the root cause? But all couched within that whole conversation, the entire framework of the conversation is that hey, if you have an illness and want to use a plant molecule, or any molecule, as a medication that is valuable, just understand that it will have side effects all the same. And so I think that mushrooms are the beginning of that conversation. I think they are very valuable as medicine. Molecules like psilocin, molecules that are psychedelic I think are incredibly healing for people in terms of psychological issues. But I don't think we're using them as food. That's a whole different conversation.
Side effects with consuming mushrooms
Michael Bledsoe: Like there's shiitake, you know? Like there's a lot … I mean it's not a plant. Are there side effects to the mushrooms?
Dr. Paul: I think there are. I think that we haven't looked at it enough, but I think that all the mushrooms, just like plants mushrooms exist on a spectrum of toxicity and we should be careful with these. They are still going to produce compounds to defend themselves because they're stuck in the ground.
Michael Bledsoe: All right. If I eat five grams of psilocin mushrooms once a week, am I going to be okay?
Dr. Paul: I think you're probably going to be okay. I mean five grams of psilocin is a lot every week. You're more of a psychonaut than I am. But we don't know and I guess my position is that I am not convinced that mushrooms provide unique nutrients for humans that we cannot get from animal foods. Animal foods are generally not trying to defend themselves in the same way with chemicals in the animal foods. Animals can run away, they can kick, they can bite, they can gore you with their antlers. Plants are stuck in the ground, fungi are stuck in the ground. I think that fungi will do the same thing and develop toxins and molecules … We just haven't studied the fungal molecules well enough to know how these may be harming or helping humans.
Anecdotally I had a major eczema flare when I was doing doses of Chaga, Reishi, and Lion's Mane a couple years ago. So clearly for me it did appear that compounds in mushrooms could trigger my eczema. Eczema was the original reason that I started doing a carnivore diet and got interested in animal-based diets. There's a lot more to know here, but the take-home with regard to mushrooms is I don't think we know what all of these compounds are doing in our bodies. I'm not convinced that there are molecules in mushrooms or plants that make us any better than we can be without them and I think they are generally a net negative and were used as a survival food by humans evolutionarily.
They can be used in small doses if people want to use them for texture, color, flavor, et cetera. One of the things I want to do in my next book is creating a spectrum of plant toxicity that includes different mushrooms, but I'm not sure that mushrooms are completely exempt from this model, the paradigm of developing some toxins.
Michael Bledsoe: Cool. I just want to clear one thing up. I'm not suggesting eat five grams of mushrooms a week.