Sunday, December 5, 2010

Interview with a Kitavan

Kitava is a Melanesian island that has maintained an almost entirely traditional, non-industrial diet until very recently. It was the subject of a study by Dr. Staffan Lindeberg and colleagues, which I have written about many times, in which they demonstrated that Kitavans have a very low (undetectable) rate of heart attack, stroke, diabetes and overweight. Dr. Lindeberg described their diet as consisting mostly of yam, sweet potato, taro, cassava, coconut, fruit, fish and vegetables. Over the seven days that Dr. Lindeberg measured food intake, they ate 69% of their calories as carbohydrate, 21% as fat (mostly from coconut) and 10% as protein.

I recently received an e-mail from a Kitavan by the name of Job Daniel. He's working at the Papua New Guinea Institute of Medical Research in Madang, studying the social and economic impacts of malaria and related health issues in Papua New Guinea. He recalls many details of Dr. Lindeberg's visit to Kitava, which Dr. Lindeberg has confirmed are correct. Job generously offered to answer some of my questions about the traditional Kitavan diet. My questions are in bold, and his responses are below.

How many meals a day do Kitavans eat?
People on the island eat mostly two meals a day. But nowadays, breakfast is mainly comprised of tubers (yam and sweet potato and greens all cooked in coconut cream and salt) and dinner is the same with the inclusion of fish as protein most often. In between these two meals, lunch is seen as a light refreshment with fruits or young coconut only to mention these two popular ones. In between the morning and the evening, we mostly eat fruits as snack or lunch. Generally speaking, there are only two main meals per day, i.e breakfast and dinner.

Do Kitavans eat any fermented food?

There are fermented fruits and nuts like you've said for breadfruit, nuts, yams and not forgetting fish. We ferment them by using the traditional method of drying them over the fire for months. And this fermented foods last for almost one to two years without getting stale or spoiled. Food preservation is a skill inherited from our great grand fathers taking into consideration the island's location and availability of food. Foods such as bread fruit and fish are fermented and preserved to serve as substitutes to fresh food in times of trouble or shortage. Otherwise, they're eaten along the way.

Is this really fermentation or simply drying?
To your query about the fermentation methods we use, apart from drying food over the fire, we also use this method like the Hawaiians do with taro [poi- SJG]. For our case we bury a special kind of fruit collected from the tree and buried in the ground to ripen, which takes about 2 - 3 days. I don't really know the English name, but we call it 'Natu' in vernecular. There's also a certain nut when it falls from the tree, women collect them and peel off the rotten skin, then mumu [earth oven- SJG] them in the ground covered with leaves to protect them from burning from the extreme heat of the fire, both from the open fire on top and hot stones underneath. After a day, the nuts are removed from the mumu and loaded into very big baskets which are then shifted to the sea for fermentation. This takes a week (minimum) to ferment or be ready for consumption at last. After the fermentation period is over, i.e one week some days or two
weeks to be exact, then the nuts are finally ready for eating. The length of time it takes before the nuts are no longer edible is roughly one week.

What parts of the fish are eaten?
As islanders, we eat almost every creature and body part of a sea creature. Especially fish eggs, it is one of the favorites of children. They always prefer it burnt on the fire and consumed greedily. Every part of the fish is eaten except for the feces, gall bladder, bones and the scales.

Is food shortage really rare on Kitava?
Generally speaking it is rare. BUT sometimes we run out of food only if there is a drought and the sea is useless. Otherwise, we tend to use the preserved or fermented foods on the dryer in the kitchen. As you would understand, we have seasons and they affect the type and availability of food on the island. In the beginning of the year, we eat sweet potato, cassava and mostly tuna for protein. During mid year, before yam comes in to replace sweet potato and cassava, taro is then ready for harvest. And then yams are ready for harvesting so the food supply is continued on. OK when yams are harvested, some are eaten, some are stored away for reserve and seedlings. In this way, we don't run out food towards the end of the year before sweet potato would be ready for harvest. So as you can see, the food supply on the island is somewhat planned by our ancestral economists where it continues throughout the year without stopping.

Do Kitavans traditionally eat pork, and if so, how often?
We do eat pork but not that often because pork meat is chiefly regarded important on the island. We only eat pork on special occasions so I'd rather say that pork is only eaten occasionally. In most cases in the middle of the year when the yams are harvested (yam harvest celebrations and towards the end of the year for certain rites and activities). Otherwise the everyday meal is always topped with fish.

How long are infants breast fed on Kitava?
Women breast feed for a minimum of 2 years. But breast feeding is again determined by the size and health situation of the baby. If the baby is looking healthy and big, it is most likely that this baby would be adopted temporarily by someone else so as to be removed from breast milk after two years of age minimum. Child care nowadays is paramount as people start to realize the importance of health and hygiene in general. But Kitavans are well known in that part of the country for their hygiene practices. They also got the provincial and district awards for a 'clean community' in early 90s and right now, they still maintain their hygiene level and awareness.

Are there any other foods that are commonly eaten on Kitava that I might not be aware of?
Bananas, pineapple, corn and watermelons. For watermelon and corn, they are plentiful especially at this time of the year.

Thanks for your help, Job! I know many people will appreciate reading these responses.


Danny Roddy said...
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Danny Roddy said...

Bad ass! Thanks Stephan!

TedHutchinson said...

That was excellent, particularly the food preservation techniques.
Some nice photo's here from Primal Wisdom to remind us this is a sunny, unpolluted, country where lots of time is spent outside with lots of skin exposed, even in the shade UVB will be reflected, so vitamin D levels will be very high compared to current UK/USA norms.
Thanks again for the interesting information.

Gazelle said...

Corn! Any idea how they eat it, and what kind of corn it is? Different than our GM corn, no doubt.

. said...

Some more (wonderful) photos from Papua-New Guinea:

Vladimir Heiskanen (Valtsu) said...

Thank you Stephan! The people living on Trobriand islands are very interesting to me. I just bought Malinowski's Kiriwina book with some old Trobriand photos as I want to know more about their lifestyle.

Btw, here are some Trobriand videos too:

And hmm... Do you possibly know about their circadian rhytms (how much they do sleep etc) and even though this may be not-so-important, how long time do they spend eating a single meal (breakfast or dinner)?


Matt Stone said...

Nice Stephan. I better start eating my burnt fish eggs! Somebody tell Jamie Oliver. It's only a matter of time before American kids are turning their noses up at chicken nuggets in favor of these nutritious treats... RRRRight.

David L said...


Now I'm getting a bit conflicted. I thought Gary Taubes said unambiguously that our problem was that we were eating too many carbs, and, by implication, not enough fat. He is very direct in his examination of "diseases of civilization" and how groups of people such as the Pima Indians became obese and "discovered" illnesses such as heart disease and cancer. As far as I can tell, this is also a pretty good match with what Weston Price has taught.

Taubes was even unwilling to point the finger at HFCS, saying that calories from carbs were the basic problem.

So you have pointed out basic dietary issues such as the deleterious effects of untreated grains (especially wheat), problems with industrial seed oils, and the need for fat-soluble vitamins, among other issues. Yet you coverage of many of the traditional societies often consist people who ingest a large amount of carbs, but the "right" carbs.

How do you reconcile you findings about these societies(which seem to have good empirical support) with the basic Taubes hypothesis?


Helen said...

Aha. They eat fruit.

I think a key issue with carbs, including the dreaded fructose, is to eat them with the soluble fiber nature gave them. I think we are adapted to deal with carbs that are partially predigested by friendly bacteria in a healthy gut that has not been damaged by gluten and other gut-disruptors - perhaps including other grains and soy, but also including NSAIDs, early introduction of infant formula, and lord only knows what pharmaceuticals.

It also takes a healthy metabolism that hasn't been damaged by whatever the heck is damaging so many Western people's, including mine. I do think large quantities of *refined* fructose may responsible for at least some of the mitochondrial damage involved here.

(I'm partially responding to a previous post by Dr. Kurt Harris arguing that fructose is poison whatever the package and dose. I've been evolving a different theory.)

I also think environmental toxins are messing us up a lot.

I say all this as a person with celiac disease & diabetes on a low-carb diet.

Might-o'chondri-AL said...
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Andreas said...

Hi Stephan! You continue to bring interesting information! Thank you!
These islanders demonstrate perfectly that carbs alone can't be the reason for DOC, and obesity in particular. The plant that supply the majority of the calories consumed are low in fiber, protein and high in easily digested carbs. I guess that the fructose consumption is also above the minimal level and I remember reading a report from Lindeberg etc. years ago. "This is in line with
an earlier report from Kitava, where a high proportion
of palmitate in serum cholesterol esters
despite low intakes of palmitic acid and total fat
suggested a high level of endogenous lipid
synthesis [22, 23]." The relative high consumption of carbs and fructose allows them to make longer chain saturated fatty acids, needed in the healthy metabolism. But it's doesn't cause them to gain fat or age prematurely. And they have no problem with high blood glucose either!

Anonymous said...

Great post Stephan, and it's good to see a bit of balance to the unrelenting anti-carb messages. The Tarahumara are much the same macronutrient wise - some of the best ultra-marathon runners in the world, yet with an 85%+ carb diet.
I firmly believe the problem with carbs are in their nutrient stripping properties. Top of the worst foods would then be white wheat flour with its additional damage to GI tract properties, rather than starchy tubers.

David Pier said...

Let's all give Stephan an extra contribution so that he can take his next vacation to Kitava!

Unknown said...

Any idea what the average vitamin d levels of Kitvan islanders are?
Im a bit concerned that there is an overemphasis on excessively levels of this hormone within the paleo community.As its a hormone one would expect a U shaped curve negative health impacts with overdosing as well as under dosing.It would be nice to have some idea of a baseline from Kitava.
Though this is one factor which is likely influenced by racial type and climate,(looking at the variances of skin colour worldwide) a reading here would at least be a start.

Unknown said...

Furthermore it may be an interesting topic to look into what might be the negative trade offs of tolerance to modern diets.
It is obvious while the SAD is unhealthy pretty much for everyone it is extremely unhealthy for communities which have no history of exposure to it.
Therefore Western societies has some genetic (or maybe even epigenetic!) tolerance to our standard dietary poisons. I have to wonder what would genetically regulate this and what cost this resistance comes at to the organism.There are no free lunches in biology after all.

R. K. said...

Another interesting follow-up question for your contact: are the yams and sweet potatos served warm, or are they sometimes served cooled (or at least room temperature)? (The latter produces more resistant starch.)

jaime said...

Great post Stephan,

I would loooove to see a study showing the importance of coconuts as their main dietary fat, what would happen if we replace it with butter or olive oil or lard/tallow ????
How protective could coconut products be over these other fats?

Stephan you are destined to travel to Kitava & run your own experiments!

Alina said...

Thank you for this post! Interesting that they consume so many starches and sugars (in their natural form) without adverse health effects.

Ned Kock said...

Very interesting Stephan. I was also wondering if the fish “fermentation” was really fermentation.

Shahrzad Mojarradi said...

I am so glad I stumbled upon your blog. I have always been interested in the lifestyle of indigenous peoples and want to thank you for this post. This knowledge is precious and invaluable.

I feel proud that I breastfed my kids for two years (on the suggestion of my family doctor). It would help to have a family member adopt them for a while to help with the weening process :)! Sadly my family live far away.(another very important factor contributing to good health - to have family live in the same geographical area).

I was wondering:
At what age do the Kitavians introduce solid food in the diet of their babies?

It would be invaluable to learn about this transition from breastmilk to solid food in the life of the Kitavians. They have learned from trail and error over centuries and have passed on that knowledge from generation to generation. Awesome pawsome :)!

Ed said...

I'd like to try sweet potatos cooked in coconut cream for breakfast. Anyone have any tips? Ratio of coconut cream to tubers? I suppose the tubers are diced. I wonder what "greens" he's referring to.

Skip Safire said...

wow - this is VERY useful information. IMO, a detailed description of a natural proven-through-time is worth more than all the health-related press and their flawed studies...

Brian Kozmo said...

You wrote that they maintained a traditional diet until recently.. what does 'recent' mean in this case? Is this person old enough to have lived a traditional life and then an industrial one, or does he only know the latter? Which way of life would he prefer? Has the corn and the fruit, for example, only been introduced 'recently'? Did you also ask about (or can you ask about) if he knows to what age people normally lived to be on the island, what they die of, and if women experience painless births (all traditionally, of course)?

All really interesting stuff! Thanks!

David Pier said...

Where do you think they get their K2?

Jenny said...

It is worth noting that pacific islanders who evolved on isolated islands have developed genetic adaptations to their traditional diets very different from those of westerners.

For example when they do develop "Type 2 diabetes" the version they develop does not unfold with the same "natural history" or pattern of complications western Type 2 has. They have higher blood sugars before developing complications, for example. The underlying genes causing their diabetes is different too.

So it is a mistake to base your diet on their traditional diet. You'd do much better to look at the traditional diet of your ancestral line (going back only a few generations) because natural selection has adapted you to that diet, and the form of diabetes you might get would have the genetic signature of your heritage. (For example, Ashkenazi Jews will have completely different genes related to their diabetes than English people or people with African genetics.

Anonymous said...

wow... awesome post. i take away that starch and carbs arent the enemy, and neither is saturated fat. interesting that coconut oil has no cholesterol in it and it is their main fat source. so their fat source vastly differs from that of tallow or butter.

also, makes vegetables(those touted leafy greens) look pretty pointless.

many many questions to ponder

Ed said...

Jenny, I think your point has quite a bit of validity. However, I do like Peter's perspective, that famine resistance is likely to be highly conserved no matter where in the world you live or what diet you normally eat. Thus every human probably can run for long periods on 50% saturated fat + 50% monounsaturated fat (roughly), a bit of protein, plus mostly fat soluble vitamins. Evidence suggests humans can survive on a large variety of diets -- perhaps with some adaptation, as you point out -- but the common denominator is likely to be the ability to live on fat.

I'm not attempting to correct you (lord knows you know far more about nutrition & metabolism than I ever will), I am just taking the opportunity to share a perspective I find interesting and compelling.

As we learn more about genes and how they react to environment, we do see how diets conserved or allowed variation in genes. For example, HLA-B27 would seem to be more prevalent where historically fewer starches were consumed. HLA-DQ2 is probably more prevalent where there was less wheat.

Can you add anything in particular about the Kitavan population, hypothetical or otherwise?

Might-o'chondri-AL said...
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Helen said...

@ Antispirit - re: breastfeeding/cos-leeping while sitting cross-legged. Each to her own, I guess. Though I did co-sleep, the "sleep" part was scarce as it was. Wouldn't that position cut off the circulation to the legs? Are you sure what you read wasn't some kind of hoax invented to punish progressive-minded mothers...? (Off-topic for most here, I suppose.)

@ David - Fish roe has K2. I'll bet fish organ meats do, too. Some fermented foods have it. All of these Job mentioned eating. And a little is made in our gut from green vegetables by our friendly bacteria. He also did mention a dish that contained greens, with tubers and coconut milk for breakfast.

@ Ed - You sure know your haplotypes. I'm not sure how far back wheat consumption goes in the British Isles, but I believe they are rife with the HLA-DQ2. But my husband's Ashkenazi family carries it, too (our daughter is homozygous for it). I'm only learning about this stuff very recently. As an adoptee, I wish I knew more about my genetic line. What I do know of my supposed ancestors' diets doesn't square very well with what I can safely eat.

Stephan Guyenet said...

Hi Gazelle and Valtsu,

I don't know, but those are questions I can ask Job.

Hi David,

Gary and I disagree that carbs per se are the cause of the diseases of civilization. But in any case, I've spoken with Gary about this and he recognizes that there's probably another factor involved, such as sugar. He has read enough about non-industrial cultures to know that there are many healthy high-carb cultures like the Kitavans. He believes they're healthy despite the carb, rather than because of it.

Hi Helen,

Yes, they do eat fruit, in fairly large quantity. Their total sugar intake is still below Western norms though, and as you noted it comes from unrefined sources.

Hi Andreas,

Yes, as you noted their serum cholesterol esters are full of palmitate, probably indicating de novo lipogenesis. I wouldn't call their diet low in fiber though.

Hi Marcus,

I don't know what their 25(OH)D3 status is, but I wish I did. I'd love to know what their 1,25(OH)D3 levels look like too. I agree that it's important to have a baseline for comparison so that we can decide what's biologically normal. I've been looking for data to answer that question but I haven't found it yet.

Stephan Guyenet said...

Hi Shazi,

I don't know but I can ask.


I don't know the extent to which their diet is modernized today. Job mentioned that they eat some processed and canned food now on the island. When Lindeberg was there in the 80s, they ate virtually none.

Hi Antispirit,

I'm not sure, but I assume it has something to do with treatment of feces.

Hi David,

They would get K2 from shellfish, fish organs eggs, and fermented food.

Hi Jenny,

I do agree that each population (and each individual) has different genetic variations and different adaptations to diet and various other things. But I think it's remarkable that all populations seem to react in a broadly similar way to the industrial diet/lifestyle (that is, by getting sick in similar ways).

I wouldn't recommend that anyone eat practically nothing but sweet potatoes like the New Guinea group I've described a couple of times. But my opinion is that a Kitavan-like diet would probably be perfectly healthy for a European to eat, as long as that person started out in good health. It's varied, nutritious and based mostly on the kinds of food that all humans ate at some point in their evolutionary history.

Hi Malpaz,

Yes, coconut oil is quite different from animal fats. Kitavans' animal fat intake is quite low even though their saturated fat intake is high.

Hi Might-o'chondri-AL,

I doubt obesity, diabetes and CHD were transmitted to Pacific islanders by infectious harmful gut flora brought over by Europeans (or harmful bacterial genes). In the rodent studies, you can only transfer gut flora if you start with a sterile mouse. If you feed the flora from an obese mouse to a lean mouse with established gut flora, it will not make it obese because the ecosystem is so well-established it's difficult to perturb.

Gut flora is shaped by diet and host immune status. Exposure to bacteria has some effect of course, especially during infancy, but I think the data on the whole aren't consistent with the idea that the introduction of new bacteria/genes are behind health declines. But who knows, this field is rapidly expanding so we'll see where the research leads.

Unknown said...

The Kitavan diet is low in fat, but most of the fat they eat is saturated because it comes from coconuts.

Natural Remedies

TedHutchinson said...

@ Stephan
"Gut flora is shaped by diet and host immune status."
Indeed raising omega 3 status increases bifidobacteria and bifidobacteria increases omega 3
Oral Bifidobacterium modulates intestinal immune inflammation

Surely the common denominator underlying ALL the foods mentioned by JOB is that they are ANTI INFLAMMATORY.

Even the meat (pigs/poultry) will, I guess be free range, organic so anti-inflammatory compared to indoor raised, grain fed pro-inflammatory supermarket pork/poultry.

"Exposure to bacteria has some effect of course, especially during infancy"
Being born by typically vitamin D insuffient mothers in western culture will adversely effect immune status from birth and our 30% caesarean section rate will mean many babies will not even pick up their mothers gut bacteria and our low/short breastfeeding rates will also reduce the chances of babies acquiring healthy gut flora.

Early differences in fecal microbiota composition in children may predict overweight
Both Vitamin D and Curcumin inhibit Staphylococcus growth.
It would be interesting to know to what extent Turmeric is used in Kitava?

Might-o'chondri-AL said...
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Neonomide said...

Thanx Stephan, I enjoyed this one a lot. The traditional food preservation is very interesting.

If you let another(???) recent 'hunter-gatherer' to ramble a bit on fats...

I think it might well be that grass-fed is a far more important concept than we know (or guess).

I live in Finland and actually in eastern Finland, the exact place where heart ischaemic disease was probably one of the most rampant in the world after World War II. North Karelia was actually the main example of saturated fat & IHD connection in the famous (and otherwise bad) seven countries study by Ancel Keys. Then became the messianic North Carelia Project (good intervention, less good science), hoorah, which supposedly saved us by limiting safa, tobacco and salt + exercise.

Recently anthropologists have asserted that finnish people have been among the very last hunter-gatherers in Europe, judging anthropogy and genome. Just a couple of centuries ago we had no horticultural crap, just plain gathering and (look at the map, we live just as north as canadian inuit communities!) tons of hunting and fishing. Of course the temperature was a couple of degrees higher than now but not too much to really matter.

There is evidence that some Swedish people (just slightly south from here) even took agriculture and then stopped it for hundreds of years for some reason(s).

I'm not easily bought by half baked theories on IHD not having anything to do with certain animal fat SOURCES.

Costa Rican farmers had a stunning negative correlation with CLA intake and IHD. Natural CLA is one hot thing in pastured butter, K2 may be another. Getting CLA from butter is simple, just let them eat fresh grass. If there IS grass to eat.

Mexicans had similar safa consumption as we had, yet just a tiny fraction of IHD. In Finland, one could say that having around 4 months of time to let cows eat grass is a lot less than in Costa Rica, no ? How about (unresearched yet biologically somewhat plausible) K2 status and the obvious Vit D content of foor and far higher native levels (and less seasonal fluctuation) ? Exactly.

Traditional inuits always had far less safa and far more omega 3 than finnish agriculturalists ever had in their very short (around 200+ years) history. Before then, their (and my) ancestors' traditional diet was far more like the inuits, with perhaps not a whole lot of more vegetation as a caloric base.

Wheat consumption in particular has had tremendously short history here, as I learned a couple of months ago, especially in the genetically separate east.

Neonomide said...

Then there are genetic differences between populations. Safas may not be actual reason for IHD panculturally in any meaningful sense, but they may well be a mediator for lipotoxicity in a context of consuming too many (carb) calories. This has been proposed for example by a big low carb fan and trial researcher Dr. Michael Dansinger, who recently visited Jimmy Moore's podcast.

Finnish people did the 'Inuits' by becoming alcoholics and diabetics super fast by getting excess and bad carbs like wheat (and 6-pufas) into their non-evolved systems by overnight, that much I agree with Stephan and paleo community. I just think there is more to the story.

Of course, safas seem in a similar position now as processed carb-crap seems to have always been since the dawn of fat debate, but safas sadly still get the most attention because of the 'plausible' mechanism of LDL toxicity. The mechanisms of carb-crap in IHD is far less clear and this may be a cause of general confusion upon GI and GK as general carb quality quantifiers, which suck anyway on many levels.

Now that Ramsden et al. has brilliantly brought to light the stupidness of simple linoleic acid centered fat politics, it is still not clear why people should eat safa more or even as much as now. It just seems that the thing is more about the sources of safa (ie palmitic acid) and some specific conditions, since getting the same calories from coconut seem not 'neutral' enough for similar exclusion exercise from a otherwise healthy diet. Omega 3 seem more obvious (and essential) good guys than ever before.

Then of course there is high hemi iron in beef, that independently raised IHD in a recent harvard study. It may be that beef meat itself is more dangerous than safa in any case, we'll see.

The anti-vilifying safa movement seems more like paleo-enacment to me, most of the time, in terms of logic. Please get your animal fat as natural form as possible or just get that cold pressed coconut. I choose the coconut for now, as well as olive oil and real animals. Getting sensible animal fat this time of the year here is just tough call.

Anonymous said...

Nice, I only hope that the corn and the watermelon won't get the upperhand.

Andreas said...

Hi Stephan!
By low in fiber I don't compare to the SAD but to the no grain/minimal starch Paleo folks, who in general try to avoid concentrated carb sources and fructose in particular.

Shahrzad Mojarradi said...

Thanks Stephen I would really appreciate it.

Antispirit thanks for the input. I will look into this book. And on the topic of co-sleeping: its the only way I could do it. It was an all round good experience to have them sleep next to me: made for better sleep, happier kids and a sense of well-being I know I could not get from having them sleep in another room. But that's just me :)!

Might-o'chondri-AL said...
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Peter said...

Are there any hunter- gatherer societies with significant rates of diabetes?

Might-o'chondri-AL said...
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Anonymous said...

This is really, really interesting! I especially enjoyed learning about the fermentation process.

Neonomide said...

yo antispirit,

I just shortcut to wiki, as I obviously agree to this:

"While their mtDNA haplogroup distribution mainly represents a subset of the European gene-pool, the most common Y-DNA haplogroup among the Sami is of Asian origin. However the second most common haplogroup is I, which is found almost exclusively among those of European ancestry.

Thus the Sami appear to have a complex population history, suggesting a mixture of peoples arriving in Fenno-Scandia at different times, from different directions. Their physical appearance reflects this, varying from very European-looking with blond hair and blue eyes like Finns or Scandinavians, to almost indistinguishable from East Asians, indigenous Siberians, or Inuit."

There exists a lot of anthropologic Sami research here, yet their population is far greater in Sweden, especially in Norway yet less in Russia (which has its own indigenous arctic people that avoided Stalin's massacres).

Perhaps I should blog about it a bit. Sami traditionally seem to have had marriages between fisher people and reindeer hunters/breeders. Their nutritional niche seems to be quite similar before agriculture, except perhaps the seal eating part.

By the way, in Finland there has been done insane amounts of nutrition research and "groundbraking intervention studies" like The Mental Hospital Study and North Carelia Project, yet NO low carb study ever to fit the meta-analyses to even show to a a point that LC way of eating sucks.

I even had to write to our equivalent of (former) Surgeon General a critique on his reading of Cordain et al. study on macronutrient ratios in Doctor's association website, since he used the study to point out that paleolithic people ate LESS fat ja MORE carbs than we presently do. And he meant the text to finnish people. Insane.

Might-o'chondri-AL said...
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kilton said...


If you're able to ask some more questions, it would be interesting to know how Kitavans regard the sun.

Do they have a sense that the sun's rays are health-promoting in any way (besides obviously providing heat)?

Do they avoid direct sun exposure when it is high in the sky? If so, is this done just to stay cool, or is there a sense that the rays themselves can be harmful?

Do they ever intentionally expose themselves to the sun's rays for health/medicinal purposes?

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Might-o'chondri-AL said...
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Might-o'chondri-AL said...
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Imgenex said...

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Might-o'chondri-AL said...
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Might-o'chondri-AL said...
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jacob said...


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Might-o'chondri-AL said...
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Neonomide said...

Might, u said:

"Karelia during World War Two was a hot war zone. Germans retreating from staging areas of attack on Russia burnt out all of
north Finland as a tactic.

Famine and fighting caused up to 90,000 deaths; with possibly16,000 were mere civilians. To those starving some food was
brought in. Coastal Sami were luckier to have sea calories."

- Yes. Yet the CHD was remarkably higher in Eastern part, where I live. Sad to say, but excess mortality has not changed too much since social problems and alcoholism have taken the toll previously attributed to CHD.

Yes, several famines have been recorded. As I understand those may have had an effect on epigenetic level too. Western and eastern finnish are rather distinct genetically, yet swedish speaking westerners live several years more, even when counted for common risk factors. Researchers like Markku Hyyppä have concluded that social stress and overall cultural factors (and masculinity) may be factors. Fishing may play a role too too, but definitely not a critical one. Genetics practically none.

Wheat and related grains were not really eaten in most of the country until a couple of hundred of years ago. Western and southerns parts got their grains mostly via boats anyway (from Sweden, Germany etc). Sugar and alcohol was rather rare until the start of 20th.

A lot of Finland is swampy (even the word of the country means a swamp in finnish!) and swamps were artificially made more dry by massive trenching which caused a lot of heavy metal pollution to lakes and big fishes. Lakes are absolutely everywhere and have been the key part of subsistence, just like Cordain has explained. Large game does exists and has obviously has been aplenty, but is also very difficult to hunt during winters with a lot of snow. Fishing and seal hunting obviously have been the Don (when they were seals to hunt).

So there has been some conversation on the fish mercury contamination and heart risks.

Also, finnish natural water resources are very hard (little calcium & magnesium), which has been linked to heart problems umpteen times elsewhere:

"According to the U.S. National Academy of Sciences (1977) there have been more than 50 studies, in nine countries, that have indicated an inverse relationship between water hardness and mortality from cardiovascular disease. That is, people who drink water that is deficient in magnesium and calcium generally appear more susceptible to this disease...

...Soft water, deficient in calcium and magnesium, has also been linked to elevated rates of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (Caddell, 1972), diabetes (Foster, 1987b), cerebrovascular disease (Foster, 1987a) and cancer (Allen-Price, 1960; Foster, 1986)."

Vegetation is fine and all during the summer, but the most popular cultivable veggie seems to have been turnip mustard - you can't get those superhealthy berries to last for a whole winter.

Of course, getting food to last we need salt and rich salting practises and excess salt seems to be a real problem here and definitely a key element in the puzzle.

I must say that cattle has been unable to secrete milk for a lot many months during winters. At least the cattle were not getting too much grains until recent times...

Please let me know what you think. :-)

Neonomide said...

Oh and I really do acknowledge that the lipid hypothesis is perhaps not as tight as they say.

According to Ancel Keys' data, both Mexico and Finland had almost identical fat consumption. But Finland's death rate from heart disease was 24 times greater than that of Mexico.

Still, I must say I was very pleased with Ramsden meta and the manner it criticized finnish mental health study, the nemesis of lipid critics. ^^

Might-o'chondri-AL said...
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Anonymous said...


"I'm partially responding to a previous post by Dr. Kurt Harris arguing that fructose is poison whatever the package and dose. I've been evolving a different theory."

I've never argued any such thing, ever. Indeed the dose makes the poison for fructose most emphatically.

Any otherwise healthy person can tolerate moderate amounts of fructose in the diet, such as with fruit consumption. There is no reason to think otherwise nor have I ever said any amount of fructose is poisonous.

What I have argued is that "refining" is not some kind of evil magic. Highly processed food tends to contain more of things that are bad, like wheat gluten and fructose. The "more" is what makes it bad more than the source. I already gave you the counterexample of coconut oil, butter, cheese, vitamin D drops, etc. - they are all "refined" but when added to an otherwise healthy diet are helpful or harmless

150 grams of fructose a day obtained from eating nothing but honey has no plausible chemical or metabolic reason to be safer than high fructose corn syrup with indentical equimolar amounts of fructose and glucose (honey has plenty of free fructose, by the way) The fructose goes to your liver in the same large amount either way.

It is true that we don't observe this often because no one eats that much honey, but it is easy to get that much fructose by drinking big gulps all day at the video arcade. But I argue that is the main difference. X amount of fructose into your portal vein and on to your liver is what it is, unless your "theory" can account for the fungibility of molecularly identical amounts of fructose.

My argument can also be stated as the converse. Drinking 8 ounces of coca cola daily as your only source of fructose (about 15 grams of it) is no more harmful than eating 6 teaspoons a day of honey - whether it is raw, natural unprocessed organic honey or not...

Might-o'chondri-AL said...
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Olga said...

Hi Stephen:

Do the Kitavan's drink coffee? I found this study and wonder if it could possibly expalin their lack of smoking related health issues:

Nyx said...

I'm not sure if this post is too old to comment on, but I wonder what kind of nuts they are eating. I also wonder whether the "corn" he mentions is actually maize. My recollection is that in the rest of the english-speaking world, "corn" refers to other types of grain, or grain in general, and does not mean maize at all. And it seems as though most people in other continents who learn English as a second language do not learn American English, but British or some other dialect. I do wonder ...

Roman said...

Wow, very impressed, and very grateful.