Tag Archives: honey

Mimicking Hunter-Gatherers Seasonal Dieting Habits

The best way to spruce up your Paleo menu and learn which foods are in season is to shop at local farmer’s markets, where the food is fresh, comes from nearby farms, and creates good safety net to ensure a higher-than-average quality diet. As Paleo Dieters we aim to closely mimic the diet of our hunter-gatherer ancestors in contemporary society.

In springtime, hunter-gatherers in Israel hunted species that were overly lean and otherwise fat-depleted, they supplemented the fat content of their diets with acorns and nuts.1 While the animal meat to which we have access in modern times isn’t subject to large variations in fat content, we can still benefit from the nutrient-density and healthy fats in nuts.

For many months out of the year, during the wet season, hunting wasn’t productive for the Hadza, so much of their caloric requirements were met by honey.2 Obtaining the honey was no easy feat, often an energy-intensive process, which in some respect justified its consumption. Nowadays, honey is available year-round, and as a sugar-rich food, excess consumption is not recommended. In summertime, when many delicious fruits are in-season, just remember that historically, this change in diet quality was frequently accompanied increased energy expenditure.

The Hiwi, on the other hand, have better success hunting game in the wet season, whereas in the dry season they rely more on fish trapped in small ponds.3 Living in a coastal state, much of the fish to which I have access is consistent year-round; this will certainly be different for mainlanders. However, seafood has been critical throughout human evolution and I see no reason to consume less of it during any particular season.4, 5

With regard to animal foods, I don’t see the seasonal aspect as relevant as it is for plant-based foods. In warmer months, carbohydrate-dense plants are more seasonally available, and even in our modern environment this may well be perfectly fine. While we’re not expending exorbitant amounts of energy acquiring honey, this is still a time of increased physical activity – more time spent playing outside, for example. Also, increased sun exposure translates to increased levels of vitamin D, which have been associated with a wide variety of improved health parameters. So the higher level of dietary carbohydrate at this time of year is matched with increased physical activity and higher levels of vitamin D. If you live somewhere with a frigid season, when you’re trapped indoors with much lower levels of physical activity and sunlight, perhaps a more seasonal approach may be prudent: plants that are more fibrous with less sugar and starches like nuts, mushrooms, spinach and kale, Brussels sprouts, and asparagus.

Some aspects of seasonal dieting remain relevant today, despite the fact that our access to most foods is not seasonally-restricted, regardless of where you live.

William Lagakos, Ph.D.
@caloriesproper
CaloriesProper

William Lagakos, Ph.D.Dr. William Lagakos received a Ph.D. in Nutritional Biochemistry and Physiology from Rutgers University where his research focused on dietary fat assimilation and integrated energy metabolism. His postdoctoral research at the University of California, San Diego, centered on obesity, inflammation, and insulin resistance. Dr. William Lagakos has authored numerous manuscripts which have been published in peer-reviewed journals, as well as a non-fiction book titled The Poor, Misunderstood Calorie which explores the concept of calories and simultaneously explains how hormones and the neuroendocrine response to foods regulate nutrient partitioning. He is presently a nutritional sciences researcher, consultant, and blogger.

references

1. Lev, Efraim. “Mousterian Vegetal Food in Kebara Cave, Mt. Carmel.” Mousterian Vegetal Food in Kebara Cave, Mt. Carmel. Journal of Archaeological Science, Mar. 2005. Web. 12 Aug. 2014.

2. Eaton SB, Eaton SB, 3rd, Konner MJ, Shostak M. An evolutionary perspective enhances understanding of human nutritional requirements. J Nutr. Jun 1996;126(6):1732-1740.

3. Hurtado, A. Magdalena. “Early Dry Season Subsistence Ecology of Cuiva (Hiwi) Foragers of Venezuela – Springer.” Springer. Journal of Human Ecology, 01 June 1987. Web. 07 Aug. 2014.

4. Crawford MA, Broadhurst CL, Guest M, Nagar A, Wang Y, Ghebremeskel K, Schmidt WF. A quantum theory for the irreplaceable role of docosahexaenoic acid in neural cell signalling throughout evolution. Prostaglandins Leukot Essent Fatty Acids. Jan 2013;88(1):5-13.

5. Cunnane SC, Crawford MA. Energetic and nutritional constraints on infant brain development: Implications for brain expansion during human evolution. J Hum Evol. Jun 10 2014.

 

Honey: The Sticky Truth

It’s still mostly fructose.

As I mentioned in my lecture on the realities of food addiction, I am often asked whether honey, a common staple in contemporary Paleo Diets, is beneficial. Typically I recommend a diet low in sugar to most clients, because of the addictive and rewarding properties of the substance.1 This means honey, which is mostly sugar,2 typically gets the “thumbs down” as well. In fact, honey is about 40% fructose, 200% sweeter than glucose, which is found in less sweet carbohydrate sources, and can be used by every cell in your body for energy.3

This is in contrast to fructose, which largely gets handled by the GLUT5 transporter, and is almost entirely cleared in the liver.4
Metabolism and Honey

Fructose does not raise insulin levels,5 reduces leptin (your satiety hormone)6 and has many parallels with ethanol (alcohol).7 With honey being the food single-handedly highest in fructose, only behind soda and applesauce,8 it is generally a good idea to limit intake in today’s modern obesogenic environment.9

Metabolic Effects of Fructose: Honey

However, hunter-gatherers have traditionally sought out honey,10 often enduring great risks to procure the substance.11 While researchers state honey is the most energy dense food in nature,12, carbohydrate and protein contain 4.1 kcal/gm, Fats (acylglycerols) ~ 8.8 kcal/gm depending upon the acyl group, and ethanol 6.9 kcal/gm. Accordingly, honey contains almost carbohydrate entirely and, therefore, has a caloric density roughly half that of fats. Hence, honey is not the most energy dense food in nature, but rather fat. Hunter gatherers acquired fat (triacylglycerols) from both plant and animal food sources. Concentrated animal triacylglycerol sources include marrow, subcutaneous fat, perinephral fat, mesenteric fat, and retro-orbital fat. Brain, a highly favored food does not contain triacylglycerols but rather is a rich source of fatty acids contained in the phospholipid fraction and, therefore, remains more energetically dense than carbohydrate. Certain plant foods including nuts, some seeds, olives and avocadoes are rich sources of monounsaturated fatty acids. But, honey was a favored food of hunter-gatherers. The Hadza of Tanzania rank honey as their favorite food.13

Also of note, is a study barely a week and half old, which describes diet-dependent gene expression in honey bees.14 This study details the gene expression, which vastly differs between bees fed honey, and those fed either sucrose or high fructose corn syrup (HFCS). This study points out key differences in the gene expression effects of a natural food like honey, compared to man-made creations.

Since it was traditionally thought that bees would respond equally to table sugar and HFCS, as they would to honey, this study is of vast importance, showing the differential responses, genetically, that bees exhibit. This has potential translational implications for humans,15 which is vital in the obesity pandemic,16 and the metabolically diseased state,17 in which we currently live.
Differences in Honey Gene Expressions

Could a simple replacement of natural sweeteners, like honey, with man-made creations, like HFCS, be a potential cause of genetic changes?18 It seems possible. However, we must proceed with caution, and never base any substantial conclusions on one study, especially when it was not performed on human beings. This study is also supported by another recent finding that HFCS-rich diets may be partially to blame for collapsing bee colonies.19

Interestingly, some studies have shown honey may instead have potentially “obesity protective” effects.20 This is based on observations in responses to the hormone ghrelin and peptide YY (3-36).21 In another study, researchers showed that honey has a gentler effect on blood sugar levels on a per gram basis, at least when compared with sucrose.22

Honey: Chart 4

However, to me, this doesn’t change the biochemistry of fructose, of which honey is largely comprised. It makes more sense to eat whole fruit, starchy sources of carbohydrate and vegetables. It is true that the metabolism and neurochemical responses of pure fructose, such as those used in many studies, may be slightly different than the fructose found in honey. But, in practice, humans consume sweet foods with complete abandon,23 whether it’s man-made or natural.24 Keep honey as a rare treat, as our hunter-gatherer ancestors (seasonally) did.25 This will limit reward to your brain, which will help to limit more reward-seeking behaviors.26

References

1. Lustig RH. Fructose: it’s “alcohol without the buzz”. Adv Nutr. 2013;4(2):226-35.

2. Available at: //nutritiondata.self.com/facts/sweets/5568/2. Accessed July 23, 2014.

3. Petelinc T, Polak T, Jamnik P. Insight into the molecular mechanisms of propolis activity using a subcellular proteomic approach. J Agric Food Chem. 2013;61(47):11502-10.

4. Tappy L, Lê KA. Metabolic effects of fructose and the worldwide increase in obesity. Physiol Rev. 2010;90(1):23-46.

5. Schaefer EJ, Gleason JA, Dansinger ML. Dietary fructose and glucose differentially affect lipid and glucose homeostasis. J Nutr. 2009;139(6):1257S-1262S.

6. Shapiro A, Mu W, Roncal C, Cheng KY, Johnson RJ, Scarpace PJ. Fructose-induced leptin resistance exacerbates weight gain in response to subsequent high-fat feeding. Am J Physiol Regul Integr Comp Physiol. 2008;295(5):R1370-5.

7. Lustig RH. Fructose: metabolic, hedonic, and societal parallels with ethanol. J Am Diet Assoc. 2010;110(9):1307-21.

8. Available at: //nutritiondata.self.com/foods-000011000000000000000.html. Accessed April 12, 2014.

9. Bray GA. How bad is fructose?. Am J Clin Nutr. 2007;86(4):895-6.

10. Douard V, Ferraris RP. Regulation of the fructose transporter GLUT5 in health and disease. Am J Physiol Endocrinol Metab. 2008;295(2):E227-37.

11. Marlowe FW, Berbesque JC, Wood B, Crittenden A, Porter C, Mabulla A. Honey, Hadza, hunter-gatherers, and human evolution. J Hum Evol. 2014;71:119-28.

12. Eteraf-oskouei T, Najafi M. Traditional and modern uses of natural honey in human diseases: a review. Iran J Basic Med Sci. 2013;16(6):731-42.

13. Available at: //www.epjournal.net/articles/sex-differences-in-food-preferences-of-hadza-hunter-gatherers/. Accessed July 23, 2014.

14. Diet-dependent gene expression in honey bees: honey vs. sucrose or high fructose corn syrup. Scientific Reports. 2014;4

15. Purnell JQ, Klopfenstein BA, Stevens AA, et al. Brain functional magnetic resonance imaging response to glucose and fructose infusions in humans. Diabetes Obes Metab. 2011;13(3):229-34.

16. Swinburn BA, Sacks G, Hall KD, et al. The global obesity pandemic: shaped by global drivers and local environments. Lancet. 2011;378(9793):804-14.

17. Owens S, Galloway R. Childhood obesity and the metabolic syndrome. Curr Atheroscler Rep. 2014;16(9):436.

18. Brown RJ, De banate MA, Rother KI. Artificial sweeteners: a systematic review of metabolic effects in youth. Int J Pediatr Obes. 2010;5(4):305-12.

19. Mao W, Schuler MA, Berenbaum MR. Honey constituents up-regulate detoxification and immunity genes in the western honey bee Apis mellifera. Proc Natl Acad Sci USA. 2013;110(22):8842-6.

20. Erejuwa OO, Sulaiman SA, Wahab MS. Honey–a novel antidiabetic agent. Int J Biol Sci. 2012;8(6):913-34.

21. Larson-meyer DE, Willis KS, Willis LM, et al. Effect of honey versus sucrose on appetite, appetite-regulating hormones, and postmeal thermogenesis. J Am Coll Nutr. 2010;29(5):482-93.

22. Shambaugh P, Worthington V, Herbert JH. Differential effects of honey, sucrose, and fructose on blood sugar levels. J Manipulative Physiol Ther. 1990;13(6):322-5.

23. Bray GA. Fructose: should we worry?. Int J Obes (Lond). 2008;32 Suppl 7:S127-31.

24. Avena NM, Rada P, Hoebel BG. Evidence for sugar addiction: behavioral and neurochemical effects of intermittent, excessive sugar intake. Neurosci Biobehav Rev. 2008;32(1):20-39.

25. Pontzer H, Raichlen DA, Wood BM, Mabulla AZ, Racette SB, Marlowe FW. Hunter-gatherer energetics and human obesity. PLoS ONE. 2012;7(7):e40503.

26. Volkow ND, Wang GJ, Fowler JS, Tomasi D, Baler R. Food and drug reward: overlapping circuits in human obesity and addiction. Curr Top Behav Neurosci. 2012;11:1-24.

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