New Under the Sun:
Volume 3, Issue 1
Greetings!! As we begin a new year, this poem seemed particularly apt, especially the focus on sunlight and being open to change.
should breed Change
William Drummond, of Hawthornden. 1585–1649
Men and Contraception: During the winter months, activities increase that result in a bumper crop of babies in the fall. If couples wish to avoid having a baby, they have a variety of contraceptive choices. However, most of these choices have put the contraceptive burden on the woman. Only two options have been available for men: vasectomy (relatively simple surgery, but a permanent choice) and condoms (excellent for preventing spread of disease, moderately good choice for contraception, but generally disliked by men because condoms reduce sensation). Researchers have been working for some time to develop a hormonal option for men that would be equivalent to the “Pill” or the implantable forms of contraception used by women. It now appears that one group may have succeeded.
Researchers in Germany used an antifertility preparation based on testosterone called 7 alpha-methyl-19-nortestosterone (MENT). MENT blocks spermatogenesis or the production of sperm. Three different dosages were tested on a group of 35 men divided into three subgroups of 12, 11, and 12 individuals. The dosages were implanted just under the skin into each man’s upper arm. The first group received one dosage of 400 mcg/day; the second subgroup two; and the third subgroup four dosages. The original plan was to leave the implants in place for six months, but those in the second subgroup had the test extended to nine months, while those in the third subgroup completed a year of testing. Based on sperm counts at the end of each test cycle, it was determined that no man in the first subgroup had a reduced sperm count, while only four in the second group had a reduced sperm count. However, two of those four did have their sperm count reduced to zero. Results were much better for the third subgroup who received the highest dosage of MENT each day: eight of the twelve men had a zero sperm count. Side effects were mild and reversible, and MENT did not adversely affect sexuality. While further testing is necessary, it appears that a male contraceptive somewhat equivalent to implantable female contraceptives is on the horizon. von Eckardstein S, Noe G, Brache V, Nieschlag E, Croxatto H, Alvarez F, Moo-Young A, Sivin I, Kumar N, Small M, Sundaram K; International Committee for Contraception Research, The Population Council. A clinical trial of 7 alpha-methyl-19-nortestosterone implants for possible use as a long-acting contraceptive for men. J Clin Endocrinol Metab. 2003 Nov;88(11):5232-9.
Healthcare and Handwashing: Shades of Dr. Semmelweis! It is about 150 years since Dr. Semmelweis realized that deaths in hospitals could be dramatically reduced if physicians just washed their hands between patients. His fellow physicians did not want to hear that their own lack of hygiene had any role to play in patient health and death. But eventually, sterilization of instruments and hands became routine. Or so it seems. A simple study carried out in England in a primary care setting found that physicians are still too lax when it comes to handwashing.
In a new clinic in England, each of three physicians and two nurses had his/her own sink. At the beginning of the blinded study (participants were unaware of the study), new soap dispensers for each sink were equally filled. At the end of the study, the amount of soap used in a particular dispenser was quantified as “amount per handwash” and correlated with the number of patients seen by that individual. Based on the study’s results, the two nurses were more hygienic than were the three doctors, especially Dr. C who only washed his/her hands once for every 20.3 patients seen. The other two doctors were better (Dr. A washed once for every 6 patients, while Dr. B washed once for every 4.9 patients.), but the two nurses took their hygiene seriously: Nurse D washed once for every 2.7 patients and Nurse E washed once for every 1.9 patients. Naturally, this is a very small study and further research needs to be done, but the moral of this research seems to be that it is better to be examined by a nurse than by a doctor if one wants the highest probability that the hands touching your body are clean. A. Stone. Audit of soap usage by a primary care team. 2003. BMJ: 327:1453-4.
Book Review: This month’s review is of Eat to Live: The Revolutionary Formula for Fast and Sustained Weight Loss by Joel Fuhrman, MD, published in 2003. Fuhrman claims that by following his plan you can lose 20 or more pounds in six weeks, and that you will live a longer, healthier life. Since a longer, healthier life is also the goal of AnthroHealth, this seemed like a promising book. His revolutionary formula is a vegan diet. Fuhrman makes some very good points about increasing our intake of fruits and vegetables while eliminating refined grains and dairy products from our diet that are in agreement with the AnthroHealth Way. However, he takes these good points and then runs over the edge with them thereby indicating that he has limited knowledge and/or poor understanding of human evolutionary biology which is the basis of AnthroHealth.
As Fuhrman drives home in his book, the best way to ensure that we obtain adequate levels of disease-fighting nutrients and antioxidants is through eating at least 10 servings each day of whole fruits and vegetables, especially dark green vegetables such as spinach. However, in an illustration of taking things to extremes, he creatively reconfigures how protein content of foods is determined to give the impression that if one eats spinach or other dark green vegetables, one would ingest more protein than by eating meat, poultry, fish, or eggs. But in order to have adequate grams of protein intake eating only greens, one would need, according to Fuhrman, to eat one pound of raw and one pound of cooked green vegetables each day. Even Fuhrman admits that few if any individuals could manage that intake. However, Fuhrman thinks we should aim for that because that is the diet of gorillas and it works well for them! Such statements simply demonstrate Fuhrman’s lack of knowledge concerning human evolution and adaptations.
The appropriate primate comparison for humans is with chimpanzees, not gorillas. Humans and chimpanzees are genetically, according to the most recent analyses, 99.2% identical; and both are equally genetically distant from gorillas. Gorillas in the wild are not fat. Their bellies are so large because they have the relatively large digestive tract that is necessary to properly extract all available nutrients from a diet largely composed of vegetation. Researchers have found that there is a tradeoff in the relationship of gut size to brain size relative to body mass. Brain size can increase only when gut size decreases. That is, brain development requires a higher quality, higher energy diet than can be provided by vegetation alone. In a comparison of two monkey species, it was found that the species whose diet consisted almost entirely of vegetation was much less intelligent on average than the species whose diet consisted primarily of fruits, nuts, and insects. That is, an omnivorous diet, one that is composed of a wide variety of plant and animal sources, is associated with both a smaller gut and a larger, more complex brain relative to body mass. Of the great apes, gorillas have been shown, on average, to be less intelligent and self-aware than are chimpanzees whose diet includes very little vegetation compared to gorillas. What vegetation chimpanzees do eat is mostly eaten when they eat meat. Chimpanzees eat a wide variety of fruits, nuts, insects, eggs, and also eat, although rarely, meat from monkeys and other small game.
There are excellent archaeological data to show that meat eating was an important part of the human diet by at least 2.5 million years ago. Large shellfish middens are found dating to at least 150,000 years ago. Of the small percentage of genes that differ between humans and chimpanzees, about 80 of them appear to be associated with protein digestion. Since the last common ancestor of chimpanzees and humans existed around 5 million years ago, this would indicate that non-vegetation protein sources became increasingly important to human evolution. One of the major anatomical differences between humans and chimpanzees is relative brain size: the human brain is about three times larger than the chimpanzee brain. Based on what is known about the relationship between gut size and brain size and between high-quality and low-quality diets, it is clear, contrary to Fuhrman’s claims, that humans are designed to ingest protein from non-plant-based sources such as eggs, fish, shellfish, fowl, and game. Humans are designed to be omnivores, not herbivores or vegans.
Beyond this major point of contention, there are a few other points that Fuhrman seems to have twisted to his cause. Fuhrman rightly notes that the government recommendations for calcium are excessive if one eats a well-balanced diet. However, the example he uses to support his position that one need eat only vegetation to obtain enough calcium is flawed. He states that Eskimos, despite eating a traditional diet of fish including the bones (and therefore obtaining large amounts of calcium) have high rates of bone fractures and osteoporosis. However, he has conflated two different groups of Eskimos. Those Eskimos eating a traditional diet heavy in fatty fish not only obtain adequate levels of calcium, but also adequate levels of vitamin D needed to effectively use the calcium and maintain skeletal health. Those Eskimos who have reduced their fish intake and added processed and dairy foods to their diet do show dramatic increases in skeletal problems even if their calcium intake is unchanged. The reason is that their vitamin D intake is now suboptimal given where they live. Those populations who traditionally obtained most of their calcium from dark green vegetation also lived in equatorial zones with abundant UVB radiation exposure and so could easily maintain optimal blood levels of vitamin D. Fuhrman’s limited knowledge of human adaptations is especially apparent in that he devotes only one, relatively vague paragraph to vitamin D. He devotes two paragraphs to vitamin B12 in which he admits that a vegan diet does not provide enough of this essential nutrient; therefore, he recommends taking a supplement. He does not bother to state that B12 is easily obtained from animal-based protein sources.
Fuhrman also dismisses the importance of essential amino acids and eating appropriate combinations of vegetation to obtain complete proteins. He must dismiss these because otherwise he would be forced to admit that a vegan diet is an unworkable and/or inadequate source of protein. Fuhrman states that a broad-based vegan diet should give one all the amino acids one needs to build proteins. But if it doesn’t, well, then, your body will be able to supply the missing ones. This is true, but he does not point out that your body will supply what is missing from your muscle tissue. To conclude, Fuhrman does make a number of good points such as that a grain-based, dairy-based vegetarian diet is unhealthy and nutrient deficient; and that we need to increase our daily intake of richly-colored fruits and vegetables and eliminate refined grains and dairy products. However, he goes too far when he pushes for a vegan diet as the key to optimal health and a long life. Fuhrman seems unaware that the type of diet for which humans are adapted and which we require for optimal health and a long life includes such high-quality protein sources as eggs, fish, shellfish, and small amounts of fowl and game eaten in conjunction with fruits, vegetables, and tree nuts.
AnthroHealth Tip of the Month: If weight loss is your goal this month, and after the holidays it may well be, then take the good points from Fuhrman and dramatically increase the amount of fruits and vegetables you eat while cutting out refined grains and dairy. However, to truly achieve optimal health, you also need to include high quality protein sources such as eggs, fatty fish, and shellfish. And don’t forget your vitamin D! This is the one supplement AnthroHealth recommends if you do not eat sardines and do not get adequate UVB radiation exposure for your skin color. Take at least 1000 IU of vitamin D each day. If you live in the far northern latitudes, then you should probably take 4000 IU/day. Make sure the supplement is vitamin D3, also called cholecalciferol, and that it is not bound to anything else such as calcium or vitamin A. The AnthroHealth Way is the only method that is truly appropriate for human biology and our adapted needs.
© 2001-2009 Kathleen E. Fuller, PhD. All rights reserved.