Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Okinawans: Hormones and Pork (again)

'The Jungle Effect'

I'm reading 'The Jungle Effect' by Dr. Daphne Miller MD, professor at UCSF. It is better than the Blue Zone. She has some candid interviews and observations that remind me of Weston A. Price and Francis Pottenger's nutritional insights. Dr. Miller went around the world, lived amond native groups who practice ancestral food and lifestyle cultures.

Her perspective is neat because it encompassed both the medical and nutritional points of discussions -- vitamin A and D and omega-3's are frequently referenced. She keenly noted how Okinawans lived in their 80s and 90s wihtout being incapacitated or wheelchair bound. When women transitioned to menopause they reported 'easy menopause transitions free from hot flashes, sleep disturbances, and mood swings. In addition, the fatigue, poor memory, depression los of sexual drive, and impotence that we consider to be a normal part of agiing were rarely experienced by even the eldest of Okinawans.'


She also reports that 'In fact, the research team interviewed a number of men and women who were still experiencing healthy, active sex lives in their eighties and beyond.' Why? Could it be the pork? The pigs raised on green pastures and imo -- the purple sweet potatoe that is loaded with antioxidants?

Okinawans: High Levels of Hormones

Dr. Miller is keen and a girl after my own hormonal heart...
'After doing lengthy laboratory analyses on the Okinawan elderly, the Centenarian Study research team was ablt to identify more specifically how these foods may be helping to preserve their vitality. the foods seemed to augment natural homrone levels since Okinawans had higher levels of thyroid hormone, cortisol, and sex hormone -- including TESTOSTERONE, DHT, ESTRADIOL, and DEHYDROXYEPIANDOSTERONE -- than a comparison group of elderly from the United States. Interestingly, if you look across the lifespan, Okinanawans and North Americans seem to have different hormonal patterns. While the average North American starts out in adolescence with higher levels (a fact that many researchers atribute to the synthetic hormones commonly found in U.S. meat and dairy products), the hormone levels seem to fizzle out by the time most Americans reach their mid-fifties. Okinawans, however, tend to start low, increase slowly, and maintain their hormone levels longer than elderly in the United States."

Better Adrenal Organs

..'In fact the researchers did an autopsy on one very elderly woman and were surprised to see that her adrenal glands (the organs where many of these hormones are produced) were the same weight as those of a much younger woman.'

Pork Does a Body Good

Miller references one of the coauthors of the Okinawa diet book, Craig Willcox, as believing that 'pork, as it is eaten traditionally on the island, is actually an important player in the longevity diet.' Errr... that somehow did not make it into the text. Yes. I checked. Fervently and was strongly disappointed with the book and its pork-deficiencies.

'He explained that the long-lived participants in the Okinawan centenarian AStudy had high blood levels of proline and glycine, which came, at least partly , from the collagen and elastin in pork. These proteins help the body to build and regenerate normal tissue' she reports.

Pork = Excellent Source of Selenium for Glutathione

'Pork happens to be an excellent source of selenium, an essential mineral that concentraes in the breast and prostate and acts as a building block for a powerful cancer-fighting enzyme called glutathione peroxidase.' She lists sources of selenium: spinach (cooked 1 c) 2.7 ug; whole-grain bread slice (11.2 ug); sunlfower seeds (1/4 c) 25.4 ug; anchovies (3 oz) 31 ug; pork loin 4 oz (37 ug); halibut 3 oz (39.8 ug); Brazil nut (1 nut) 100 ug. Bison is a great source especially raised on sunflower screenings and/or pasture contains 26-31 ug selenium per 100 grams (~ 3 oz). [Thank you gentlereader Sweeney for the reference HERE] Selenium is vital not only for our #1 antioxidant and de-toxifier glutathione, but also for components of enzymes responsible for conversion of thyroid, adrenal hormones and neurotransmitters in our nervous and immune systems.

Pig: What You Eat is What You Are

Is Okinawan pork different? Possibly. Miller states 'In Okinawa, most pork is raised on purple and orange imo [special species of sweet potato, which apparently has a slimly consistency]. Certainly a pig eating such nutrient-rich food cannot help but be nutrient-rich itself.' Lard? Bone broths? Okinawans are subsistence farmers. Miller discusses how the fat was discarded and only lean meats consumed... misinformation? She fails to mention cooking with lard. Again, with my self experimentation, 1-2 Tbs of saturated fat raised my HDL chol from 89 to 105 mg/dl in ~6wks (18%). Perhaps higher, bionic HDLs help traditional Okinawans achieve centenarian status?

Prior posts:

Brain and Cholesterol
When is Cholesterol Too Low? -- coconut oil raises HDL
Brain and Adrenal Health
Okinawan resouces -- pork-rich, island shoreside diet


epistemocrat said...

Hi Dr. BG,

Looks like she has a neat clinic in SF. Cool stuff. I'll keep eating my port bellies whole, though.



Dr. B G said...

Hey Brent,

We're so lucky to have ALL this Bay Area talent... Linda Frassetto is at UCSF as well :)

Although I love Okinawan precepts... I can't get into goat meat or eating bitter melon daily. But PORK BELLY, YES. The men and women often have a shot of sake (rice wine) in the evenings... we should try sake or shoju that at Korean bbq! (very EVO PALEO!)


epistemocrat said...

Hi G,

The Iban in Malaysia (according to the book I am reading titled "The Evolutionary Biology of Human Body Fatness") were all about the rice wine as well. When the author lived amongst the Iban, he noted that they started drinking at 10 AM. lol. I'll give it a shot at Korean BBQ--good idea.

I'm a fan of pork belly, but my friend, Gio, who just got some goats, was curious about how goat meat tastes: I'll let him know it's not so hot.

To each ancestry, its own.



Dr. B G said...


Actually I love bitter melon but I can't seem to get into as a daily routine as the Okinawans do -- there are special flavonoids that lower blood glucoses, reduce oxidative markers and act as a prebiotic for the gut flora in bitter melon. Chinese people do eat it frequently however in the summer when it is hot as it seems to lower the 'fire' (like ying/yang).

In the Bay Area goat tastes really delicous at 2 restaurants -- Pakwan and Shalimar. I have yet to try it but it is highly recommended. My sister however is not fond of the 'special' smell when she picked up goat meat from her CSA. My Pakistani and Indian friends say it has to be slow cooked for 1-2 hrs; the spices, herbs, cilantro, onions, etc make the biggest difference in the flavor. It's on my long to-do-list.

I think your friend will do great selling goat (or for his own kitchen)! A lot of Mediterrean people eat goat as well. It provides wonderful meat and milk. (also I think my ancestors ate it -- the northern Chinese folks)


Peter said...

Nell Stephenson blogged a few days ago about eating uala or Okinawan potatoes while she's in Hawaii. They sounded great, but I doubt I can find them in the stores here on the East Coast.
I'm working on buying a pastured pig. I can't wait to eat pulled pork from a naturally (non-grain) raised pig. All the great taste without the big dose of n-6.

epistemocrat said...

Hi G,

I'd like to try some bitter melon someday--maybe a better proxy of fruit pre-agriculture, eh?

I'll pass that goat information along to my friend. Thanks. Personally, I like me some goat cheese too.



Dr. B G said...

Hey Peter,

Thank you for Nell's reference. At my farmer's market they do sell Japanese sweet potatoe -- purplish and mildly slimy upon cooking (like okra I was told). I have yet to try it!

Tell how the pastured pork works! I am looking to adding some pastured lard too. My sister's CSA has provided pastured pork and it is quite good !!


homertobias said...

I can't believe you are finally reading a book I recommended to you a year ago. You should go over and meet her. You remind me of each other.
BTW, I almost fell over cruising through TYP earlier this week. JEG was recommending your website to a newbie. Go figure.

Dr. B G said...


I should've listened to you a year ago! :)

My husband actually bought it! DR.Miller is in fact as good as Weston A Price imho. She however is bound by the anti-saturophobia and you can just see her STRUGGLING. Should I meet her and end her pain??! *haa* She's hawwt on top of everything else...

I love Jeg whether he wants to acknowledge or not. In the past I have really tried encourage and try to sanction lifestyle and nutr'l and supplemental resources for those like him at TYP who are not seeing the health gains that they should (e.g. what's the regression rate??!? hopefully improving) based on medical evidence. Pharmaceuticals DO NOT WORK. They are the modern snake oils pandered... What I believe for health is entirely anti-USDA, anti-ADA, and God forbid anti-AHA. It is also anti-TYP...
--no pharmaceuticals
--no statins
--lower carb, no grains
--high sat fat 20+++%
--little omega-6
--red meat (pastured)
--lots of chol-rich egg yolks (pastured, no grain feeds)
--high high LDL (and optimally functional BIONIC HDLs)

Thank you for the TYP update *wink* I have to promote that it is great place to meet like minded health-conscious people. Boy they are so smart!!! I've gotten in fact a PhD from the sophisticated members and arguing w/Davis and Jeg has sharpened my guns...! Thank God for detractors.



(any more book recommendations?)

BTW... DR. homertobias, I look forward to you joining the International Society of Evolutionary Health and Medicine (pending name finalization)... and if you attend the Ancestral conference in LA -- you must say 'hello'!

webster said...

Nice to know that dietary collagen promotes health!

Just recently I accidentally stumbled on a tasty recipe that makes high-collagen meat go a long way. These are the cheaper cuts i.e. chuck or round. I take whatever collagenous meat I don't chew through, throw it in a pan and deep-fry the hell out of it with MCT oil. The collagen absorbs the fat and the meat breaks down making it easier to chew. Throw it back in and re-fry, re-use if necessary. It gives the oil a different, but nicer flavor although I don't know the heating poses a health hazard. Maybe it alters the chain length, I don't know.

Neonomide said...

I was longing for reading some kind of Okinawan comeback!

How about Willcox et al., do you think they did not know about pork or thought that mentioning pork in their book was commercially unpalatable and left it out ?

It seems that everyone does this - even Cordain who seemed to soften up on safas writes similar stuff in his new newsletters about evil safas like he wrote in his 10 years old book...

It's funny really, since alcohol's cardioprotective effects have not been shot down so easily with all this red wine talk yet everything that even brings saturated fats to mind are considered bad to the bone...

This drama just makes me think Mary Douglas and mechanisms of social taboos...


Dr. B G said...


I am not sure why, but MCT oil apparently has a low smoke point and oxidizes easily. Regular coconut oil and semi-refined (Omega Nutrition) have high smoke points like beef tallow, lard and palm oil and are better suited to higher heat. I am trying not use high heat or as minimally as possible to reduce oxidative products. Lower heat for longer periods is better for the long run.


Why did Willcox and Willcox omit vital information? Who knows...? Perhaps the editors like many peer reviewed journals had influence? I don't get Cordain's newsletters so thanks for the tidbit :) Mary Douglas does explain the cognitive dissonance!


Anonymous said...

Goat is excellent meat, similar to lamb but often tastier


we got a big hunk of billy goat kid back in the Long Hot Summer of 76 from friends in Wales, and had only gotten half way home when the stink got so bad I had to hoy it out of the window of my truck :(

In the UK it's not a common meat except for ethnic butchers and restaurants, IMO it's well worth a try. Needs to be fresh though.