Fred Provenza (00:00:00):
For the animals in our care, we’ve tend to focus on model cultures that are low in phytochemical diversity and then in our own diets, and then as you say, the downstream effects are huge of that in terms of our health and the health of the animals in our care.
Dr. Mark Hyman (00:00:20):
Welcome to The Doctor’s Farmacy. I’m Dr. Mark Hymanand that’s Farmacy with an F, a place for conversations that matter, and if you’ve ever been curious about the debate between meat, no meat, grass fed, not grass fed, about our greenhouse gases, climate emissions and the impact of all of this, you’re going to love this conversation with a legend, Fred Provenza who’s written so much about this for decades. He is my new hero. I didn’t really know about him until recently and then I started reading his stuff and I’m like “How do I not know this guy?” He grew up in Salida, Colorado working on a ranch and attending school and wildlife biology at Colorado State, and he’s now professor emeritus in behavioral ecology, which is a great, great subject we can talk about, in the Department of Wildland Resources at Utah State University where he worked for 35 years.
Dr. Mark Hyman (00:01:12):
He’s really a pioneer in understanding how foraging behavior and animal behavior link soil, plants, herbivores, and humans together and his work really reminds me of a quote from Sir Albert Howard who said, “The whole problem of health in soil plant animal and human is one great subject,” and he is tied that together and his work has really been studying that. He’s the author of three books, which is great. One is called Nourishment, his most recent book, What Animals Can Teach Us About Rediscovering Our Nutritional Wisdom, Foraging Behavior: Managing to Survive in the World of Change, and a number of other books. He’s published 300 research papers, I read three of them so far. I got a 297 more to go. He’s also been invited speaker to over 500 conferences and his recent papers are just so compelling.
Dr. Mark Hyman (00:02:05):
One of them is called Is Grassfed Meat and Dairy Better for Human Environmental Health? His recent ones are going to be published soon called Health Promoting Compounds are Higher in Grassfed Meat and Milk, so we’re going to talk about what that means. Are there plant rich compounds that are health protective in animal foods? Are there phytochemicals in animal foods? That is something that you should listen to very carefully because I think the answer will surprise you, and his recent article, We Are the Earth and the Earth is Us: Linking Land, Food, Heart, and Mindscapes, is just a beautiful philosophical essay on our relationship to the earth and its relationship to us, and one of the things I’ve often said is what we do to ourselves, we do to the planet, what we do to the planet, we do to ourselves, and it’s really the actual quote, it’s almost from your article that reflects an ancient Maori proverb.
Dr. Mark Hyman (00:03:00):
Maoris are the indigenous people of New Zealand where my wife is from, which is “I am the land of the land is me,” and we’ve gotten so far away from that, we’ve got so disconnected from our heritage and our connection to the earth, and it’s pretty important, so I’m just so excited to have you, Fred, on the podcast, The Doctor’s Farmacy. Welcome.
Fred Provenza (00:03:19):
Thank you very much, Mark. It’s wonderful to be with you, and what a great overview you gave over. You need to go here, seriously.
Dr. Mark Hyman (00:03:31):
I’ve been thinking about this for a long time and there’s a lot of topics we’re going to cover. We’re going to cover the issues around grassfed meats, are they healthy or not, how are they impactful for the environment and the climate, we’re going to talk about really surprising topics that people haven’t maybe thought about which is what is the role of a plant nutrition and animal nutrition and how does that affect our health and their health, and what’s really shocking from what you wrote about in your book is that there are 200,000 wild plants, only a few thousand are eaten by humans, a few hundred are domesticated, and only 12 account for 80% of our diet, mostly corn wheat, soy, and rice, and yet our biologies depend on these phytochemicals for their resilience and their health and we’re not using any of them, and so we’re in a pretty bad predicament.
Dr. Mark Hyman (00:04:23):
How did you come to think about this bigger topic of phytochemicals in animal foods? Because phyto means plant, right? I’m talking about a plant food and animal food and how does that affect us. How did you even come up with that notion?
Fred Provenza (00:04:40):
It was through no fault of my own, actually. I’ll go back in time. I had not a clue of phytochemicals, I knew about what in ecology, we refer to as the primary compounds, energy, protein, minerals and vitamins, I’ve learned about that in my courses during undergrad in wildlife biology, and I ended up going to graduate school and working on domestic goats foraging on a shrub called blackbrush down in Southern Utah. Nothing in my mind was more boring, actually. I wanted to work on goats but I wanted to work on wild goats foraging on these diverse arrays of native plants in the high rocky mountains of Colorado. Didn’t turn out that way.
Fred Provenza (00:05:29):
So I’m working with these goats in Southern Utah and they’re doing amazingly interesting and strange behaviors. We were using them as mobile pruning machines during the winter to prune this shrub which stimulates new growth on the shrub, and we knew that the new growth was higher in energy, higher in protein, higher in minerals, it’s better for the goats. Goats didn’t want to eat the new twigs. That’s what took me into this whole area that I knew nothing, absolutely nothing about. It turns out that new twigs on blackbrush are what ecologists referred to as highly defended with these chemicals, and I started working with natural products, chemists at the University of Alaska and ecologists, and in those days, we were doing what’s referred to as bioassays where you extract and purify compounds and you’re searching for the compound that’s causing the deterrence.
Fred Provenza (00:06:28):
We did tons of these bioassays and finally decided that it was a condensed tannin in blackbrush that was deterring the goats from eating the new twigs. This opened up this whole area in chemical ecology that was just coming on the scene 40, 50 years ago about how compounds in plants mediate interactions with other plants and with animals in the environment, so it was so timely and I started to read in that literature, oh my gosh, it’s incredible. One, the number of these compounds that plants produce, literally tens of thousands of them in these broad classes, like phenolics, terpenes, alkaloids each with tens of thousands of compounds, and ecology was, in those years, ecologists were trying to understand what roles do these compounds play up to that point.
Fred Provenza (00:07:31):
In ecology, we classify these compounds into two broad classes. Primary compounds, energy, protein, minerals and vitamins, and these so called secondary compounds.
Dr. Mark Hyman (00:07:44):
These are called phytonutrients, right?
Fred Provenza (00:07:48):
Absolutely, what are now commonly called phytonutrients. They were historically called secondary compounds because people didn’t know what roles they played and they were thought to be even waste products of plant metabolism by biochemists and physiologists back in the day. It’s just reflecting how our knowledge grows and grows and grows. To make a long story short, in the last 50 years, we’ve come to realize they’re not secondary compounds at all, there’s papers written with titles such as Primary Roles for Secondary Compounds. What we’re realizing is that these compounds are the eyes, the ears, the voice, literally, of plants. They’re the ways that they communicate and interact in their environments, so to me, it’s just an absolutely fascinating topic that it’s so broad and inclusive, but it’s basically about how plants interact with their environments and then the roles that these compounds play in those interactions in the health of plants, and then as we’ll discuss, in the health of all the creatures that utilize plants.
Fred Provenza (00:09:05):
I often think soils is such a hot topic nowadays, and for good reason, absolutely, but I try to remind people every time I speak, plants turn dirt into soil and communities, diverse communities of plants, turn soil into homes for herbivores, omnivores, and carnivores below ground and above ground, and it’s that tremendous diversity of plants that creates the homes, they become the nutrition centers and the pharmacies, and I literally have come to so much appreciate that over my years of working in this area.
Dr. Mark Hyman (00:09:47):
Incredible. Basically what you’re saying is that there were these seemingly irrelevant compounds that scientists were finding in plants that you call secondary compounds, we now call these phytochemicals or phytonutrients that are in there that are different than protein, fat, carbohydrates, vitamins and minerals, and they’re so devoid in our diet right now. So we really created an agricultural system that’s focused on protein, fat, carbs, and calories, not even vitamins and minerals and certainly not phytonutrients, and that’s led to a massively nutritionally deficient animal production system, the animals are deficient in these compounds in their biology and humans are, and as a doctor, one of the things that’s always struck me was that looking at these compounds in human health, I’m like, “Wow, how do these compounds that come from plants that are essentially their defense and communication systems, how do they interact with our biology to produce so many beneficial effects?”
Dr. Mark Hyman (00:10:48):
I often think that our biology is very lazy as humans. We only do the things we have to do, we only make the compounds we have to make, and we get the rest from what we eat, but if the average hunter gatherer was eating 800 species of plants and we’re eating 12 and maybe mostly four or five in our ultra processed diet, what are we missing and what are the implications for that on human health? I begin to realize that these are not just accidental relationships that there’s this phenomenon that I came up with this goofy term years ago called symbiotic phyto-adaptation. Meaning we have adapted in a symbiotic way with the plants to borrow their chemical machinery that we’ve ignored in our peril to optimize our biology and to create optimal function. They don’t necessarily treat disease but they reduce inflammation, they help detoxification, they’re antioxidant compounds, they help our microbiome, all these compounds that you mentioned are so powerful and we really created this mono diet.
Dr. Mark Hyman (00:11:47):
In your work, you talk a lot about the challenges of our modern agriculture and why it’s producing food that’s devoid of these things both for humans and for animals, and particularly in animal husbandry, the mono diets, the feedlot diets that are providing adequate calories but not enough nutrients and not enough phytonutrients has a dramatic impact on the quality of the meat, and in your work, you talk a lot about the challenges of the research we have on meat. There’s a lot of study that show that meat is potentially harmful, that it may increase risk of heart disease, cancer, and diabetes and death, and there’s other studies that may not corroborate with that, so there’s a lot of mixed research, but all those studies are not on grassfed animals and they’re certainly not on grassfed animals eating a diverse array of plants, so it’s not just grassfed or not grassfed.
Dr. Mark Hyman (00:12:38):
If they eat one kind of grass, it’s not great, but if they eat multiple kinds of grass or multiple kinds of plants, then it has a different effect on them, so can you talk a little bit about the challenges of this current form of agriculture and the implications for our health and for the animal health and what we’re eating in terms of animal products in this day and age that are not necessarily providing these compounds?
Fred Provenza (00:13:02):
Everything you said, absolutely spot on related to that, and let me go back and pick up some of the ideas that you’re developing here, starting with this whole idea of how we’ve simplified our diets, made them virtually as you say, highly processed, devoid of all these rich arrays of compounds, and how we did that very same thing with the animals in our care. If you look historically at how ecologists viewed these secondary compounds and as they relate to herbivores, they were viewed as defenses, as deterrence against animal feeding, and so they took on this negative connotation. If you review the literature as I have and as we were working on projects in agronomy, which is think about the fruits and vegetables and all the crops we grow, they were viewed as toxins, and so in both literatures, they took on this very, very negative connotation. So how does that work then?
Fred Provenza (00:14:14):
One of the things that we came to understand working with herbivores is that these compounds set a limit on how much of any one food an animal can eat. How do animals get around that? They eat a diverse array of different plant species then, and so you don’t swamp detoxification mechanisms in the body. An animal can maybe 50 bites of plants with tannins, another hundred bites of plants with alkaloids and so on and so forth, but they mix and match all these different compounds, and in so doing, they’re exposing cells and organ systems to this vast array of compounds. I often think of cells and capillaries kind of like the capillaries are a stream and the cells can only forage on what’s in that stream, and if there’s this diverse array of compounds in that stream, if a cell needs a certain kind of whatever compound, it can get that because these herbivores are forging on a diverse array of plants.
Fred Provenza (00:15:28):
We simplified simplified, simplified there diets focusing primarily on quantity as opposed to quality, how much can we produce how quickly, and we certainly did that with all of the domestic species, from chickens right on through, and as a result-
Dr. Mark Hyman (00:15:49):
Also plants, right?
Fred Provenza (00:15:52):
Yes, that’s exactly right, Mark. So we selected against these secondary compounds with the idea of growth and production. If you realize, there’s an elaborate and very interesting literature ecologically on this as well. There’s a cost to producing these compounds. When they were originally viewed as waste products of plant metabolism, we thought there’s no cost. Well, there is a cost. It takes resources for the plant to make them, and so they’re actively synthesized so if you select against them, you can increase growth at the expense of phytochemistry, but we’ve also shot our self in the foot doing that. Those compounds serve not only as deterrence to larger herbivores to set limits on intake, they prevent insect pest from attacking them. So we make up with all the roles that these compounds used to play with fossil fuel inputs. Our cost do go up but they’re indirect. We’ve selected against these compounds-
Dr. Mark Hyman (00:17:01):
You’re writing in your book that the phytochemical richness of plants, fruits and vegetables and grains have declined between 10 and 50% in 43 different plant species that we eat over the last 50 years. That is just striking to see. Half of the beneficial compounds in the fruits and vegetables and plant foods we eat are less than 50 years ago, with human implications that are staggering.
Fred Provenza (00:17:27):
Absolutely the case. We’ve done that for the animals in our care, we’ve tend to focus on monocultures that are low in phytochemical diversity and then in our own diets, and then as you say, the downstream effects are huge of that in terms of our health and the health of the animals in our care.
Dr. Mark Hyman (00:17:47):
So we have this incredible diversity that we’ve lost and these incredible compounds that we’re learning have huge impacts on human health, and it may even be more important than vitamins and minerals I believe in some cases in terms of protective foods, I mean the whole idea of protective foods. What’s fascinating to me is you write about how these animals have this innate intelligence, that they will eat certain plants and other plants, and if they’re given the opportunity to navigate themselves based on the flavor and the nutritional and medicinal properties of the food, they will self select things that make them healthier and they will self select things that actually make the quality of their meat and milk far better. How do they do that?
Fred Provenza (00:18:31):
That was the key question. Watching the goats in Southern Utah, avoiding the current season’s twigs that they should be eating, and when I went back and told some of my sainted professors that I very much admired and still do what was happening with the goats that they’re avoiding these twigs that they should be eating, they’re eating woodrat houses. Why would they eat a woodrat house? These are just stimulating my thoughts like mad, but when I told the old professors, they said, “Well, I guess that just goes to show that domestic animals have lost their ability to have nutritional wisdom. They’ve lost that wisdom.” That was absolutely the thought back in those days. Wild animals still have those abilities. Domestic animals, as a result of the domestication process, have lost that ability, and I think people think about people in that same way, we no longer have that ability.
Fred Provenza (00:19:32):
I didn’t believe that but I didn’t know how on earth would you show that an animal has, that the body has nutritional wisdom? What does that even mean? In those days, people talked about palatability. It was a poorly defined term. Depending which literature you read in, it was defined in different ways, and so what is palatability and how would you be able to demonstrate that there is this nutritional wisdom of the body?
Fred Provenza (00:20:05):
There are three facets to this wisdom, Mark, and if I were to start into it, if I were to ask you why you liked a particular food, you would tell me, I’m certain, as other people do, because it tastes good, and I would say the same thing, and if I ask you why don’t you like a food, it doesn’t taste good to me, and certainly taste and odor, potentiated odor are fundamental to this system, the flavor of the food, but what we learned over 40 years of studies is that there’s another component to this that we referred to as feedback, and that feedback is coming from cells and organ systems, including the microbiome, and people are all over this nowadays. The role of the microbiome in changing our liking for foods. It’s cells and organ systems including the microbiome that are feeding back, and a lot is known about the way feedback occurs.
Fred Provenza (00:21:04):
Neurotransmitters, peptides, hormones. That’s a whole huge topic in and of itself, but it’s just to say there’s a physiology that underlies that feedback, but what feedback is doing is it’s changing liking for the flavor of food as a function of need. That summarizes literally hundreds and hundreds of studies that we did with cattle, with sheep, with goats, with other species, but feedback changes liking for the flavor of food as a function of need is really a summary of that-
Dr. Mark Hyman (00:21:41):
What’s interesting though, Fred, is in humans, the same phenomenon happens, but in reverse also. I mean in both ways, right? Kids for example who are iron deficient will eat dirt to get iron, right? Called Pica, but also what we learned is that if you’re eating ultra processed food which is 60% of our diet, people eat far more of that compared to a control group…
PART 1 OF 4 ENDS [00:22:04]
Dr. Mark Hyman (00:22:03):
Eat far more of that compared to a control group that’s given nutrient dense whole foods. They’ll eat less because they’re satisfied. So, often people who are overweight or eating processed food are searching for those nutrients even though they don’t know it, so they just eat more of the same junk while becoming more nutritionally deficient. That’s what’s fascinating to me.
Fred Provenza (00:22:22):
It is fascinating. It is fascinating. And you’re, you’re absolutely right on what you’re saying. And I have some colleagues who’ve written extensively on that and they just have a book that just came out. And their hypothesis is that people… It’s broader in the sense that you’re talking, but that they focused on protein, and they present a lot of evidence that we over ingest energy in order to try to meet protein needs. We have a limited amount of protein.
Fred Provenza (00:22:51):
My wife and I were at the feed store yesterday. We have some chickens here and we have some young chicks. And she said, “Well, I can’t get the protein concentration that I want, it’s a little bit low. Does that matter?” I said, “No, it won’t matter. They’ll simply over ingest that food to meet their needs for protein. They’ll eat more energy in order to meet their needs for the protein.” And that’s that same idea. And there’re really many, many studies that have been done with… The one I’m thinking of where these cattle deficient in a particular mineral and they were offered a block that contained a mix of many different minerals. Well, they were eating huge amounts of that block, two pounds per animal per day. That’s enormous amount. And as it turns out, they were deficient in zinc. So they were doing just exactly what you said, they’re ingesting huge amounts of this. Well, when they started to offer the minerals separately, the animals keyed in immediately on the zinc and they ate huge amounts of that until they rectified their deficit.
Dr. Mark Hyman (00:24:05):
That is fascinating.
Fred Provenza (00:24:08):
It is fascinating. You know, when we did trials… So let’s-
Dr. Mark Hyman (00:24:13):
So, I wish humans could do that. If they were deficient in something that they would say, “I need selenium and I’m going to eat more Brazil nuts,” but we don’t have that level of intelligence anymore in our diet.
Fred Provenza (00:24:23):
Well, and I think we don’t key into that anymore. The food system has so corrupted the nutritional wisdom of the body that it’s a mess right now.
Speaker 2 (00:24:36):
Hi everyone. Hope you’re enjoying the episode. Before we continue we have a quick message from Dr.
Dr. Mark Hyman about his new company pharmacy and their first product, the 10-Day Reset.
Dr. Mark Hyman (00:24:46):
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Dr. Mark Hyman (00:25:18):
However, there is a systems-based approach, a way to tackle the multiple root factors that contribute to FLC, and I call that system the 10-Day Reset. The 10-Day Reset combines food, key lifestyle habits, and targeted supplements to address FLC straight on. It’s a protocol that I’ve used with thousands of my community members to help them get their health back on track. It’s not a magic bullet. It’s not a quick fix. It’s a system that works. If you want to learn more and get your health back on track, click on the button below or visit getfarmacy.com. That’s getfarmacy with an F, F-A-R-M-A-C-Y.com.
Speaker 2 (00:25:53):
Now back to this week’s episode.
Fred Provenza (00:25:55):
To go back to your point one step further and to link in with some things. So, animals in feedlots are fed what are referred to as total mixed rations. And those rations are very high-end grain.
Dr. Mark Hyman (00:26:10):
Which is not their normal diet?
Fred Provenza (00:26:12):
No, not they’re not their normal diet, and certainly not this diverse array of different forged species that we’ve been talking about. It’s a very simplified kind of diet. The diet is formulated for the average individual, and that’s what they’re offered throughout this finishing period. A couple of points then to make. We’ve run studies where we’ve offered individuals choices of the ingredients that are in the total mixed ration. So for instance, a ration that’s made up of corn, corn silage, barley, and alfalfa, that’s all ground and mixed together so that the animal can’t select. When we offer individuals choices, even of something as simple as that, poor choices, what we find is they eat less food yet they perform just as well as the animals that are fed the total mixed ration. Why? The why relates to what you were saying, individuals are over ingesting in order to meet needs for nutrients that they’re needing.
Dr. Mark Hyman (00:27:17):
That could explain our whole obesity crisis. People are over eating foods that are nutrient depleted to try to get more of the nutrients they need, and it’s just an endless cycle they can’t get out of.
Fred Provenza (00:27:26):
That’s absolutely the case and it makes one other point too that I really want to hit here. We think often, I think in nutrition, what are the needs? What are the needs of a person my age, for instance? My sex, my age and so forth. But, and what that ignores is that no two individuals on this planet are alike. No two have ever been alike. Everyone is different in terms of morphology and physiology, how we’re built and how our bodies function.
Fred Provenza (00:27:59):
And so when we ran our studies and particularly during the last 15 years, you made a point to highlight how no two individuals are doing the same thing in our studies, they’re all doing something different. So this study with the cattle, no individual ever selected the same foods, no two individuals selected the same combination of foods across that study. No individual ever selected the same foods from day-to-day. Everyone did their own thing, but they met their needs. And it ended up, as I’ve been saying, that they ate less food because they were better able to satisfy their individual needs. It’s such a critical… So, nobody can tell you then, Mark, exactly what you should be eating any more than they can tell me. It’s a very individualistic relationship with the foods in the environment.
Dr. Mark Hyman (00:29:01):
And the problem is we now are having trouble finding the quality food because the quality of our food has gone down so much because of agricultural practices. The yield has gone up. We produce more food, but less quality food. And in your book Nourishment: What Animals Can Teach Us about Rediscovering our Nutritional Wisdom, which everybody should get, you talk about the four reasons why food quality has declined.
Dr. Mark Hyman (00:29:24):
Now, the first one is that plant breeders want more quantity over quality, right?
Fred Provenza (00:29:30):
Dr. Mark Hyman (00:29:31):
Two, the way we use the irrigation and fertilization increases the growth of the starchy component of the plant and doesn’t help at all with the phytochemical conditions, which is dependent on the quality of soil. And then also we pick and pack our food before it’s ripe, which means it’s not really phytochemical dense. And lastly, I think this is surprising to most people because carbon dioxide goes up in the atmosphere with greenhouse gases, which is in large part caused by agricultural systems, the protein goes down in the food because carbon dioxide feeds the plant and makes it more starchy. So we’re reducing the nutritional quality of our plant. So how have these factors led to us being so disconnected from our innate nutritional wisdom?
Fred Provenza (00:30:19):
Yeah. And every one of those cases you described, we’re really selecting for growth over phytochemical richness. Aren’t we?
Dr. Mark Hyman (00:30:26):
Fred Provenza (00:30:29):
And so all of that leads to foods that, as we’ve been saying, are lacking in this phytochemical richness. We have a greenhouse here on our place, it’s not great growing conditions here. You know, short growing seasons? And yet we love to have fresh, fresh green. So, we’ve got them growing like mad right now. And so for our evening, late afternoon meals, Sue will go and pick a fresh bunch of kale and various lettuces and herbs that she’s growing out there. It’s really diverse. And I absolutely love that. I don’t even want to put dressings on that because the flavors are so rich. The flavors are fabulous. And, so why are they fabulous? It goes back to what we’re saying. Not only are there richer arrays of primary compounds, there’s a diverse array of secondary compounds.
Fred Provenza (00:31:35):
And I literally, I’m amazed. I’ve obviously over the years become very tuned-in and aware of this, how satisfying that is for me to… I just love to eat those foods. And it goes back to what we’re talking about. The flavor is wonderful. Why? Because feedback from cells and organ systems is basically altering my liking, increasing my liking for the flavors of those foods. Well, when you do those four factors that you just described, the food no longer has this rich array of primary and secondary compounds. And so it’s no wonder kids don’t want to eat their vegetables, you can’t blame them.
Dr. Mark Hyman (00:32:26):
The flavor is terrible, right?
Fred Provenza (00:32:28):
The flavor is terrible.
Dr. Mark Hyman (00:32:31):
Yeah, and anybody who’s grown a tomato plant knows that. You go in your garden, you pick a fresh tomato, and it’s like, “What is this? I’ve never had this from the grocery store before.” And it’s like an explosion of flavor.
Fred Provenza (00:32:40):
That’s absolutely the case. And so, I know that the concentrations of compounds have gone down in fruits and vegetables, obviously for the reasons that we’re talking about, but still, when you grow foods yourself and you’ve got even a little garden plot or whatever it is, you can get varieties that have these rich arrays of compounds and you can grow them under conditions that stimulate phytochemical richness in them. And those flavors, in the stores many times the foods look great, but they have absolutely no flavor or in some of the fruits and vegetables I notice now they’ll be sweet, but they’re just sweet.
Fred Provenza (00:33:26):
Here, where my wife and I live now, during the late summer and fall, you can hike in the hills and you can pick probably 10, 12 different berries as you go, and those berries have… I’m not a food taster or stuff so I can’t… But they have a richness of flavor and a punch to them. It’s not just that they have a sweetness, they do, but they have this richness of flavor and you just know that you are getting much more than… I laugh. I have an old friend from the days I was on the ranch, and sometimes we’ll visit with her, she’s in her mid-eighties now. We were talking about old varieties of fruits that we used to absolutely love to eat and how you can’t get them anymore.
Dr. Mark Hyman (00:34:12):
Fred Provenza (00:34:13):
She’s says, “I got apples the other day in the store. They were so terrible. I just threw them out in the pasture and the cows wouldn’t even eat it.”
Dr. Mark Hyman (00:34:20):
Fred Provenza (00:34:21):
Yeah. So, it’s reflecting. And I remember years ago, working with orchard folks in the Pacific Northwest, we were at that time training sheep not to utilize the trees in their orchards through some techniques that we had developed. But what was most insightful were their discussions of what’s happened with the trees that they grow, what’s been selected for over their long lifetimes. And so they were describing all of this and then they said, “So this is what we sell for you to eat, but this is what we eat.” And they took me to the back of the orchard and here was the plum tree and here were the apple trees. And they said, “Try one of these plums,” and it was a richness of flavor that you [inaudible 00:35:06] the experience of what you’re talking about.
Dr. Mark Hyman (00:35:10):
So, Fred, I don’t know if you know about Dan Barber and his Row 7 Seeds, but he’s a chef who said the same thing, “There’s no flavor in our food anymore, so let’s breed for flavor.” And he wasn’t as a chef, necessarily breeding for health or for phytochemical richness, but the good news is that flavor causes good health and flavor causes phytochemical richness. So it’s a win-win all the way around, right?
Fred Provenza (00:35:34):
Absolutely the case, and those are so interconnected then. The flavor of food through feedback in response to these primary and secondary compounds gets so intimately linked. So if there is a richness of flavor that’s telling you something, huh? And in the dishes that we cook, my wife has a dish that comes from France, that some friends were here on Monday and it has some meat in it, lots of vegetables and lots of herbs and spices, and they were just raving about that particular dish, and they were satisfied. There was so much of the food left, so you’d think, “Well, you’re raving about it, but you didn’t eat much.” No, it’s the fact that when food is meeting needs, it’s so satiating. And it goes back to what we’ve both been saying, how you eat less because of the phytochemical richness and biochemical richness in the meat of course, and so forth.
Dr. Mark Hyman (00:36:33):
All right. So, speaking of meat, let’s just change tacks for a minute because we’re talking about plants and phytochemicals and all the medicinal compounds and things that make it taste good and make it healing. But when most people think about meat, they think about, “It’s bad for our health. It’s bad for our climate. It’s bad for the environment.”
Dr. Mark Hyman (00:36:51):
And you started asking a question, which is, are grass-fed animals better for your health? What do they contain? And not only any grass-fed animals, because again, if you just feed them on lawn grass, it’s not going to work, they need a diverse array, and the more complex their diet, the more complex the phytochemicals are in their body. But this was striking to me, that animals depending on their diet have different compounds that come from plants in their tissues that you eat and are protective, things like polyphenols and terpenes and carotenoids and alkaloids, all the things that you mentioned, catechins.
Dr. Mark Hyman (00:37:31):
I mean, there may be in goats milk that are fed on diverse pastures have as much of these beneficial compounds called catechins as green tea and beans, which was like, what? So eating goat milk can be as beneficial for you as green tea if goats are eating the right thing. So, you aren’t what you eat, you are whatever you’re eating just ate. And I think this is really an incredible subject that I’d like to go in because the way we’re growing food doesn’t do this. And there’s been some interesting studies on humans when they eat different animals, depending on what they ate, their health impacts are really interesting.
Dr. Mark Hyman (00:38:11):
So let’s start at the high level with the conversation about the kangaroo study compared to feedlot meat and what biological effects they have, because everybody says, “Meat’s inflammatory, it’s going to cause all these diseases,” but this study sort of blew the lid on that one. Can you talk about that and what we learned from it?
Fred Provenza (00:38:29):
Absolutely, Mark. I retired 11 years ago. We’d been doing all this research on plants and herbivores, and I’d thought often about humans and the relationship with humans, but I had not gotten into the literature on human food selection, nutrition, and health, and I thought, “I’m going to do that, and that’s going to be an important part of trying to link with the book.” And so this was one of the papers out of Australia that I came across. It was published in 2010 and it blew me away. What they were doing was comparing the diets of kangaroos or the meat of kangaroos that were eating this diverse array of plant species. And realize that in Australia, when you go to the store, you can buy kangaroo meat. There’s a whole system they have for harvesting kangaroos in the wild and processing them and getting that meat. So this is really the real deal there in Australia.
Dr. Mark Hyman (00:39:26):
Fred Provenza (00:39:26):
And they were comparing the responses of people to that meat with cattle that were raised in feedlots. And they were looking at various inflammatory markers. And when I read through the paper, it was just amazing. It’s like there was no increase basically in any of these inflammatory markers following a meal with the kangaroo meat, whereas the cattle from the feedlot, a very rapid rise and very long sustained increase in these inflammatory markers.
Fred Provenza (00:40:04):
As I read in the literature, I came to realize that anytime we eat a meal there’s an inflammatory response in our body. The degree to which that occurs and how long that lasts is a function of the foods we eat. And here they were showing with meat this total difference, so I wrote to them and I said, “This is really amazing. Are you going to do this study in a way that’s not, what we referred to in science as, confounded?” We know that diet and animal were confounded. You don’t know to the degree to which it’s kangaroo and their diet versus cattle and their diet, and so forth. So I said, “Are you going to repeat it with cattle and see what response you get?” And they said, “No, [inaudible 00:40:44]. The point we’re making is if you want to eat meat at all, you should be eating kangaroo meat.”
Dr. Mark Hyman (00:40:51):
Good luck if you live in New Jersey.
Fred Provenza (00:40:56):
And so, ever since then, I was moving out of research in those days, but I had it in my mind, “We need to do studies. Humans need to do studies.” Because it was clear just from that, and then the more it got into all that we’ve been talking about, that meat isn’t meat isn’t meat and grass-fed definitely isn’t grass-fed isn’t grass-fed.
Dr. Mark Hyman (00:41:21):
Fred Provenza (00:41:22):
The diversity of the diet is going to influence that. And so I talked with different people, and I have a friend who’s a doctor here, who’s I think very much like you, Mark, actually in his views and approach, and I would talk with him and I’d say, “We need to do studies.” But that takes a whole setup, right? I mean, you don’t just get to do clinical studies with people, you really have to have a set up. And so it took many years, but there’s a team in place now.
Fred Provenza (00:41:57):
Stephan van Vliet at Duke who’s a hardcore human nutritionist that’s very much on the same page as what we’re talking about. Collaborator, Scott Kronberg, who’s with USDA ARS in Mandan. We have really put together a small team, we’re submitting many proposals to really start to do research. We’ve done a little bit. Stephan has been doing metabolomics work to try to… Metabolomics is a way to try to get a handle on the diversity of compounds that are in meat, in this particular case here, to compare meat from a monoculture diet versus different diversities of diet. So we’ve done some work like that, but what we really want to do is to get involved in clinical trials, looking at responses of people to meet that varied phytochemical.
Dr. Mark Hyman (00:43:04):
I mean, some of the preliminary data is interesting, where you look at the blood levels of certain of these phytochemicals in people who eat animals that have diverse diets that are foraged, actually finding these compounds in the blood of humans. This is the metabolomics work you’re doing. So there’s preliminary evidence that this is actually happening, that you’re eating animals that eat a rich diet of plant foods from foraging on special types of regenerative plant or grass farms, and they’re actually seeing those compounds in the blood of these humans and also the effects on their biology. And that’s striking to me.
Fred Provenza (00:43:40):
It is. It’s amazing, and it really points to the linkages. Does it not? Of the soil, plant diversity, the diets of animals, the diets and the health of those animals and then to us as well, and to how deeply interconnected all of that is. And I think in the past we simply didn’t appreciate-
PART 2 OF 4 ENDS [00:44:04]
… and I think in the past we simply didn’t appreciate how intimately linked we are with the environments we inhabit. This is just another way of illustrating that. In visits with Stefan, and I see this not as one study to be done, I see this as 10 to 20 years of studies that really fleshes out the implications of this and what it is and how it works, just like 45 years ago when we started.
I remember, I was telling a professor, I said, “I really want to study the role of learning in food and habitat selection.” He said, “Yeah, you could do a neat little study that rules out genetics and so forth.” Well, it wasn’t one little study, it was 40 years of research that was looking at all these facets and trying to describe the elephant, trying to move away from just single factor one study to really looking at the richness.
That’s how I see this, is that there’s a whole worlds to be explored. One of the things that we found over and over again is that everything that’s in the diet of an animal is influencing its response to anything else that gets introduced into that diet. So what we would refer to as the basal diet is fundamentally important in any response that you’re going to get.
Well, nowadays, one of the interesting responses I think is if you compare people that are on the Western ultra-processed diet and their responses to meats of different biochemical and phytochemicals richness to people that are … It’s the way the researcher in me starts to think, “Well, what are some key kind of studies that could be done initially to start to move your way into this?” And there’s reasons to believe that when you’re on the ultra-processed diet, you’re going to have a totally different response compared to when you’re on a really wholesome diet of fruits and vegetables and meats.
I think it’s just my way of trying to say there’s such a rich array of studies that could be done and questions-
Just to highlight some of the amazing things you’ve said, because there’s worth pointing out is that one, animal foods fed diets that are rich in a diverse array of plant species, which they self-select based on their needs for their nutrition and for the healing properties, end up having much higher concentrations of these in their meat and their milk, which do have consequences for human health. And while there isn’t a huge amount of data, there’s enough there to go, “Wait a minute, we’re seeing the biological effects and that brings into question this big debate about meat/no meat.”
It’s a very oversimplified debate because most of the studies that have been done are on feedlot meat in our diet, not these kinds of diverse diets that aren’t just even grass-fed, but that are regenerative. We’ll talk about that in a minute. And so all of a sudden we’re like, “Wait a minute, maybe our notions about the health effects or the harm from meat are not really well sorted out because we haven’t done the right research on these benefits of grass-fed regenerative meats and the hypothesis that it actually is much better for us.”
“It may help with protecting us against certain diseases, and reducing inflammation, and increasing antioxidants in the food, and increasing the kinds of quality fats that we need like CLA.” All of a sudden we’ve got this incredible opportunity to rethink our approach to meat, so I think that’s an important point.
The second thing that I think are in people’s minds is, “Okay, well two questions. One. What about the environmental impacts of all this meat? What about the increasing consumption of meat across the world and the demand? Grass-fed sounds nice, but one, it’s not scalable and two, what about all those methane burps from the cows? Aren’t those terrible and isn’t that going to create climate change as well? So maybe we really can’t win, so we should be just reducing meat overall or eliminating meat.”
You talk about some of the challenges with EAT-Lancet Report that sort of said we should all be having 90% less meat in our diet. Can you talk about first, the issues around the scalability of this and the fact … And you talked about this when you talked about how there’s a 432 billion kilograms of inedible food for humans that gets upcycled and upgraded into high quality nutrient-dense animal food that we couldn’t otherwise eat. I mean, you also talked about the potential for scalability of this across different landscapes. Can you talk about that first?
Absolutely the case. So many things come into my mind [crosstalk 00:48:56]-
Sorry, I got no deep.
… but let’s go back to one of the points you made and then we’ll spring forward. I think what EAT-Lancet was talking about, there’s certainly some valid points there. What we need to, I think discriminate, or people generally need to discriminate is there’s a certain system that was adapted after World War II for how livestock … We moved away from pasture finishing of animals, which was the common way, and toward this feedlot model.
That has to do with ways of producing feeds that are fed in the feedlots, the high grain diets that animals are on, that has to do … So that creates a certain kind of agriculture based on monoculture crops and high inputs of fertilizers, pesticides, gone to GMO. So that’s one system that’s produced tremendous amount of red meat in the country. It’s so important to distinguish that then, as we’ve been alluding to, from a system that’s past your base and where animals will be coming from pastures, hopefully with diverse mixtures of plants, and then from range lands as well. That’s where I spent my career working was really on range lands.
This whole issue of grazing and methane burps and all the risk of that gets so intimately tied with this. And again, not to take us too far down this path, but grazing isn’t grazing, isn’t grazing. Grazing, especially in the wildlife literature, has a very negative connotation and that connotation came from the way that animals were allowed to free range at the turn of the century and the early part of … I’m talking about the last century and [inaudible 00:51:00] that century.
There was a lot of degradation of landscape. There’s no question about it. Too many cattle, too many sheep grazing year around, overgrazing plants.
But not wild food, right, because there were 165 million ruminants roaming around America, buffalo and antelope and elk and deer. Now we have 95 million animals and we’re seeing all these climate impacts and then we weren’t.
That’s absolutely the case. So what all has happened? Well, what we’ve learned through this discipline called range science is that grazing isn’t grazing isn’t grazing. When grazing is properly managed, when animals are moved around landscape in ways simulating movements of wild animals. Wild animals didn’t just stay put. They follow the green up the hillsides in our part of the country. Now, in the winter, they’re all in the bottom, thousands of elk are in this valley where we live, this Madison Valley.
They’re going to move, they’re starting to move already. They follow the green vegetation. They’ll end up in Yellowstone National Park. So animals are moving around landscapes. When we confine them to landscapes, we put them in a box. So this ability of animals to move becomes very important for the health of the animals and for the health of the plants and the plant communities.
That’s what range science was really about, is how you manage grazing in ways so that you encourage biodiversity of plants, diverse arrays of grass, and forbs, and shrubs and tree species, each with different rooting depths and abilities to fix carbon.
This winds us back around to this idea that, “Well it’s part of the system and what we really want to do is to manage grazing in ways that encourages biodiversity of landscapes and the health of all these plants.” If you think about plants, most of the plant is below ground. Three-fourths of the plant is below ground. Now, what do you see when you overgraze a plant?
What you see above ground is less and less growth in flat. If you could look below ground, the root systems are vanishing. They’re diminishing. You have nothing there. That’s one of the arguments that people make for, “If we manage grazing properly, we can fix more carbon across landscapes,” and it’s valid. And if you start to think beyond-
And that’s called regenerative agriculture, right? That’s what-
It’s called … That’s the term that-
Because you regenerate soil, you regenerate biodiversity, you regenerate water systems.
Absolutely the case. Healthy system. If you realize that these different plant’s species each have different kinds of roots and different rooting depths, you start to realize there’s potential for these different species to fix different amounts of carbon.
If you start to appreciate shrubs as a part of systems as well, so little trees, you start to realize there’s potential to fix carbon long-term in those soils. That’s one benefit that can be attained if we start to think about grazing systems, moving away from agriculture as we’ve done that in terms of animal production. Start to think about how can we create bio-diverse pastures and farming systems that incorporate livestock, incorporate their manure and feces, which is the natural way that landscapes were fertilized by animals, but-
Yup, what’s also fascinating, Fred, I’m just going to interrupt you for a sec, is that the plants also affect the soil. So when you have a diverse array of plants, you’re putting different nutrients in the soil and they’re helping the soil extract different nutrients to the plant in this incredible cycle that ends up upgrading the quality of the nutrition that the animals eat. It’s this incredible cycle and it’s such a beautiful thing. It’s almost like having a buffet of different plants for the animals, all feeding different levels of nutrition that have different properties, but it’s also feeding the soil in a way that generates better soil.
Absolutely the case. If you realize that there are herbivores, omnivores and carnivores below ground, you can classify. And when you have diverse arrays of plants, you’re creating homes for all those different creatures to interact with one another and the potential then, in terms of climate change, to fix carbon dioxide in those communities, not just short-term, but longer term.
Then, let’s go to these secondary compounds. Let’s talk about tannins and terpenes just a little bit. When ruminants have plant tannin-containing species in their diet, that reduces methane emissions. Those tannins reduce methane emissions. Some of them are methanogenic. They also, by the way, tannins interact with compounds like proteins and carbohydrates when they get into the digestive system. They totally change outcomes. They also create species and soil that’s more recalcitrant to breakdown, so t hat they’re fixing carbon long-term in those soils.
I read a lot about, and I chuckle, and it makes me a little frustrated about seaweed as a possibility for … Put seaweed in the diet and you reduce methane emissions. Most recently I’ve read about activated charcoal is a way. And certainly not to take away from these, but what I would like to hear everybody say is, “Look. Tannin containing plants are everywhere. You have forbs that [crosstalk 00:56:42]-”
Forbs are flowering plants, like sunflowers and-
Flowering plants. That’s what people would like to, like the petunias and-
Yeah, yeah. Those are forb, because I never heard of forb. I’m a doctor, but I looked it up and it’s like a sunflower and flowering plants.
Yes. And for me it’s a term that’s so much a part of you it would be like using some of your specialized terms for that-
Yeah, yeah, yeah.
… don’t know about, but they’re the flowering plants. Right now, on our little place here, we have a lot of native vegetation on our acre and a half, phlox. Phlox is a plant that people grow. The little native phloxes, all their pretty little blossoms are flowering. The locoweeds are starting to flower, the larkspur. All those are the forbs.
What you’re saying essentially is that certain plants have this vital chemical compounds like tannins that reduce methane emissions?
Absolutely. They’re [crosstalk 00:57:37]-
[crosstalk 00:57:37]. And what’s also fascinating is that we talked about the feedlots driving climate change, which they do. And we talk about methane emissions being such a big issue, but it turns out that livestock only is responsible for about 5% of methane emissions. Rice paddies are about 3%, so maybe you shouldn’t eat rice. We need to fix how we grow rice. That’s another issue. And that even worse is food waste, which produces 16% of the methane emissions. So maybe we shouldn’t be eating vegetables that we throw in the landfill or whatever. There’s all these arguments, so I think maybe the vegetables that we throw out, and the food waste and the rot are actually driving far more, maybe three or four times more, methane emissions than the feedlot animals.
What you’re saying is with the range-fed animals, they can even have less methane emissions, and there are also methanotrophic bacteria in the soil, if it’s cultivated properly, that it’d fix methane into the soil. Is that right?
Absolutely the case. Absolutely the case.
Not bad for a doctor, right?
No, you’re doing fantastic. It’s [inaudible 00:58:46]. I think you are the doctor of the future there. You have to think ecologically, seriously ecologically about all of these issues, and-
Okay, so getting back to the-
… [crosstalk 00:59:01] very nice perspective, when you start to talk about termites would be another one, right? Should we get rid of all the termites on the planet that are producing tons of …? But that what you said puts it in a broader perspective and then we can think about … One of the arguments that’s popping into my mind too, “Well, it takes longer for animals to finish if they’re not in feedlots.”
Regardless of how a person look at that, when the diets of animals grazing on landscapes when you have grazing in ways that create high quality diets for animals, when you have tannin-containing plants in those diets animals satiate quickly. To put it in a feedlot term, they perform, they gain well because they’ve provided, and you get away from all the antibiotics. Why? Because that’s what’s in the plants. That’s creating the health organ, all these diverse array of compounds. It moves toward a very-
I think people would say, “These are nice ideas, but how can we scale this?” I mean, we raise so many animals in this country, how can we do that at scale with managed grazing and regenerative agriculture? We need to feel a growing world. There’s going to be nine billion people. Everybody wants more meat. Is this realistic and how do you answer that question?
Yes. I think that’s a very, very important and a very valid question. I know of groups that are really working, that have broad, broad reach, broad scope, and I very much encourage and work with groups. The holistic management group of folks I think are really trying to, and there are many, many subgroups that are trying to get word out, trying to get changes to occur, but that’s a major issue.
It’s tied, in my mind in part, too here in the United States with how much meat we eat. When I was a youngster growing up, we never ate, I never had a steak ever, and I’m not crying poor boy or any of those kind of things. We could not afford to have that. We had a little bit of hamburger. We ate not so much meat, but we probably ate the amount that we needed for us to grow and to be healthy.
Over and over again people make the point that, for here in the US, we’re probably consuming way more meat than what we actually need to. If you think then of what we’re saying about well, where does that meat come from and what about phytochemically and biochemically rich meat as a part of that, it’s probably a true statement that we can reduce the amount of meat that we eat.
I also think so much, I speak very often at these organic and regenerative ag conferences. There are so many young people at those conferences. So many young people that are wanting to become involved in agriculture. How do we create an infrastructure that enables those people to get on landscapes and to work on landscapes and to integrate animals with those landscapes?
I think of this documentary I watched, The Biggest Little Farm. I don’t know if you’ve seen that or not, but I think that’s a wonderful illustration of how to reach that.
It’s true. It’s so true. Allen Williams really has done the math on this and he said there’s 29 million grain-fed cattle consumed every year from factory farms. He said if we take idle grasslands, including USDA conservation reserve program land, that is not great for farming, but good for grazing, if we convert some of the corn and soy monocrops used for fattening feedlot cows, we could produce 52.9 million grass-fed head of cattle, which is almost double what’s produced in feedlots.
If we’re smart about what we’re doing, and we use the right types of agricultural practices, and take all the lands that we’re not using now and convert some of the lands that we are using for growing feedlot feed, we could literally have almost double the amount of cows. So I think it’s not a fair argument. I don’t know if it’s factual or right, but I think I would challenge people who would say that we can’t scale this.
Absolutely the case. Absolutely the case. Then it’s a question of how do people who get people onboard? Perhaps some of what’s happening right now with the coronavirus and the pandemic, and what’s happened. We were at a Costco yesterday and they’re limiting the amount of meat that you can buy there at that Costco because it’s not available.
Well, that gets you thinking more on a local scale as well, huh? When I was a young boy growing up, everyone grew gardens, everybody. All those people that had come from other countries, who had immigrated over, including my relatives, they all had little gardens. They all raised chickens. They all have had a few animals around,
Now, that changes all that as well, gets it very local and then, as we’ve been saying, I think … I went to Utah State University years ago because I had this ranch background where I saw what was happening on ranches and thinking, “That’s pretty neat, that contact with landscape.” I’d been in Wildlife Biology at Colorado State University and the wildlifers hated ranchers, they hated grazing basically. They always thought of the bad in that.
Well, here’s this program where they’re saying, “We are using domestic animals to improve habitat for diverse arrays of wild species,” and I thought, “That’s where I want to be,” because that’s illustrating how we can use domestic animals to enhance the health of ecosystems, through soil, through plant diversity, through diverse arrays of wild species. And as we’re talking now, right, on up through human health.
So again, realizing those linkages and the important roles that cattle, sheep, goats can play nowadays in these ecosystems is very important. Very important.
Yup. I think what’s interesting is how do you navigate the argument that if we did this at scale that could it be the opposite of contributing to climate change? Could it be the answer the climate change?
In your articles you talk about how, of the 80 solutions to drive down carbon out of the environment, when you combine all the regenerative agricultural solutions from managed grazing to silvopasture, which is introducing animals into, for example, trees, having chickens eat walnuts Or, like in Spain, they did it with the black footed pigs that make incredibly nutritious and delicious meat, that because they’re eating the acorns from-
PART 3 OF 4 ENDS [01:06:04]
Dr. Mark Hyman (01:06:03):
… nutritious and delicious meat, because they’re eating the acorns from trees. If you did that and if you do all these other practices. That you could literally have the number one solution, for climate change. So it’s almost the opposite, of what people are saying. That in fact, an integrated ecological system. Integrating plants and animals, in a robust regenerative system. Could literally be the solution, instead of the cause for climate change.
Fred Provenza (01:06:24):
Absolutely the case. And that’s where I think the general public, needs to do more and more come to discriminate the conventional system, since World War II. Of how we’re producing beef and chicken and all the rest of those things. Versus what we’re talking about, which is an entirely different way. To think about our relationship, with the landscape. And the animals, that we’re producing from that landscape.
Dr. Mark Hyman (01:06:49):
It’s so true. The other really cool thing, that I learned from reading your work was unexpected. So one, there’s the phytochemicals and protective compounds in animal products. That eat a certain almost natural diet, of wild plants. And two, there’s the cultural habits of certain cultures, that actually introduce various compounds in the cooking of meat. So that it diminishes any adverse effects. For example, in Morocco, they have much lower rates of cancer and it’s all the spices they use.
Dr. Mark Hyman (01:07:21):
The Maasai, who eat only meat and milk. Use 28 spices in their meat cooking and 12 spices in their milk. How does that impact the effects on human health? And should we be having a big array of spices, that we consume? And personally, I have a giant spice drawer. That’s literally this big and it’s huge. Probably three, four feet across, by two feet deep. And it’s completely full and I use it all the time. So how does that impact, what happens to human health and the meat and some of the adverse effects?
Fred Provenza (01:07:57):
Absolutely the case, what you’re talking about. And that’s such a fascinating area, to think about. So we think about process. We often think about meat in general, as being not good for our health. Not good for the health of climate, as we’ve been saying. And then we think of processed meat, as even worse. You have all these carcinogenic compounds, that are in there. Nitrates, nitrites and so forth.
Fred Provenza (01:08:24):
And then here’s this study, comes out of Morocco. This case controlled study, where they’re taking people recently diagnosed with colorectal, or colon, or rectal cancer. And then they’re comparing them, with people that are not. And are looking at diet and lifestyle kinds of things. And they reviewed many, many factors and considered many factors, in their analysis. Related to lifestyle and then of course, to diet. But one of the really important findings, was that there was a strong inverse association. Between processed meat and colorectal and colon cancer.
Dr. Mark Hyman (01:09:01):
Fred Provenza (01:09:02):
Which blows your socks off.
Dr. Mark Hyman (01:09:03):
Meaning the more processed meat you ate, the lower your risk of cancer. How does that make sense?
Fred Provenza (01:09:09):
But then they said, “Okay, but look. They don’t process meat, the way that we process meat in Western countries.” But they’re starting to do that. And they’re seeing an increase then, in cancer.
Dr. Mark Hyman (01:09:18):
Fred Provenza (01:09:18):
And they’re saying historically, what they use olive oil. They use this diverse array of herbs and spices. And that that’s probably very, very important. They have the association there, that’s strong and highly significant. And then they’re trying to think from a mechanistic standpoint, why could that be the case? And they’re talking about these rich array of herbs and spices. And all their anticarcinogenic immunomodulatory and on and on kind of responses. And saying, that’s probably playing a really important role in this.
Fred Provenza (01:09:48):
And then, that winds us back. And that review paper we did, we were trying to… It’s a hypothesis paper. We’re really waving our arms and trying to pull together. Circumstantial evidence to say, this is worth study that’s all. And one of the ways we did that, was to say, “Look, when herbs and spices are added to meat, it counters these effects.” And there’s a literature on that. Why do I like drinking red wine with meat? And polyphenols in that red wine, are counting allegedly adverse effects in the meat. And I like that combination and [crosstalk 01:10:26] is saying, this is a good sound on organ systems, is how I would view it. Are feeding back to say, this is a good combination of things to do. And so-
Dr. Mark Hyman (01:10:37):
And the science on that, just to stop you for a sec. Is really interesting, because there’s something called malondialdehyde. Which is a marker of oxidative stress, or basically oxidation. Which is what hurts people and causes aging. And you can reduce by having meat, with red wine. You can reduce that malondialdehyde, or MDA by 75%.
Dr. Mark Hyman (01:10:57):
And also, I think the other thing people don’t realize. Is that when we’re looking at the typical American diet, people are eating meat with lots of junk. With lots of starch and sugar. They’re not eating meat, as part of a diet. That’s full of an array of vegetables and fruit. And phytochemicals and urban spices, which totally changes its impact on our health.
Dr. Mark Hyman (01:11:17):
So a lot of the studies we have, are epidemiological studies. And they’re not so reliable, because they don’t really distinguish these factors. And they look at meat, as an independent factor. And not considering, what you ate the meat with it. And my favorite study is, when I looked at meat eaters and vegetarians, who shopped at health food stores. Meaning they both probably had a better quality diet. The risk of death for both groups, reduced in half. And it was the same, because of what they were eating with the meat, or not.
Fred Provenza (01:11:46):
Absolutely the case and beautifully said, Mark. By the way, that absolutely, that’s it. And that’s where earlier, when I was saying, when we launch into some of these clinical trials. Assuming we can get some funding to do that. I think the basal diet, becomes very, very important. In terms of looking at the response. If you’re on a highly processed, Western diet. That’s setting you up, that’s a certain kind of basal diet. That generalizes across so much that’s happening, not only in our Country, but now worldwide. Versus a really wholesome diet, you can expect two totally different kinds of responses. So that’s just fundamental, to the whole works, as far as I’m concerned.
Fred Provenza (01:12:30):
And even though we can argue and certainly it’s the case. That the nutrient content, both primary and secondary compounds of fruits and vegetables. And when we look at poultry, or pork, or beef. That all that has declined, still I think a person is better off eating those kind of wholesome foods. And if you get into that, figuring out what are the best ones? What are the best variety? Blah, blah, blah. It’s amazing, my wife won’t even eat chicken anymore and she hasn’t for years. And it’s because, there absolutely is no…
Fred Provenza (01:13:12):
And when you get into that literature. They talk about how these different, what they might call diseased States. That are produced, as a result of the very, very rapid growth. And it’s what we were talking about on plants earlier, you dilute this for rapid growth and very short lifetime. There is no richness, to that meat.
Fred Provenza (01:13:38):
And so one of the issues we get into though, that I think about a lot. This whole nutritional wisdom right there, I’m going to go back up here just a second. So there’s three [crosstalk 01:13:49] nutritional wisdom of the body. We’ve talked about flavor feedback and those relationships. We’ve talked about the second one, the availability of alternative foods. And how you learn to utilize those foods. It’s so fundamentally important, that’s where we’ve gotten off track. In the U S, on these highly processed diets.
Fred Provenza (01:14:06):
The third part is learning in utero and early in life. What’s food and what’s not. Then we did so much studies on that. The fetal taste system’s fully functional, during the last trimester of gestation. So the young fetus, the foods that are in Mom’s diet. The flavors of those foods, are getting into the amniotic fluid. So in a way, a young fetus is already starting to experience, what’s food. What’s not food.
Fred Provenza (01:14:31):
After birth, flavors of foods get into the Mother’s milk. That’s what we’re talking about, on phytochemical richness. And that getting into milk and dairy products. And then Mother is a model, of what and what not to eat. And where and where not to go. All these become fundamentally important. Well, we’re no different from that. And there’s a rich literature, on a lot of the research we did. There is not a rich literature in humans on that. But there is a rich literature, on these experiences in utero and early in life.
Dr. Mark Hyman (01:15:02):
If your Mom’s eating Skittles, then you’re going to want Skittles when you are born.
Fred Provenza (01:15:06):
[inaudible 01:15:06] Listen, you’re already born pre-diabetic. And all this, is influencing gene expression. This whole-
Dr. Mark Hyman (01:15:13):
Fred Provenza (01:15:15):
Gene expression, is being influenced by these experiences in utero and early in life. But now, think of a person here, that’s been raised on grain fed beef. That was the whole… I remember that buzzword, back when I was a kid. Eat grain fed beef. And a lot of my friends from other countries, think it’s the most bland, boring thing you could eat. There is no flavor to that and it’s the same with the poultry. And again, that goes back to what’s being fed.
Fred Provenza (01:15:51):
And so, one of the things I’m trying to move toward here. Is that to get people to start to appreciate, what that richness means. In terms of the flavor of food. And it might be, sometimes people say, “Well, I don’t like to game meat, because it’s too strong.” And that’s reflecting our experiences. There have been some really neat studies, done in different countries. To show that if people are born and raised on grain fed animals, they prefer that to pasture fed and vice versa. It’s variances that start to shape, what you see as food. I often-
Dr. Mark Hyman (01:16:32):
But they can be changed though, right? They can be changed?
Fred Provenza (01:16:35):
Right. That’s right. They can change as a function of need. And so if you get your diet right and you start to need, what’s in that. Your body will come around to that, so it can change. But I think back, to my years as a hunter. And anybody who’s hunted a lot, you know the season of the year. And what foods the animals are on, are influencing the flavor of that.
Fred Provenza (01:16:57):
And I think specifically about blue grouse. These beautiful blue grouse, that occur out here in the West. And during the fall of the year, they’re eating a really rich mixture of different plant species. Fruits and vegetables, so to speak. As you get into late fall, they move into these Douglas fir trees. And they’re eating the Douglas fir needles. And when you shoot an animal at that time of the year, there’s a subtle, subtle hint of terpene. So there you go, there’s the flavor of the diet, right there in your face. And I often thought, this could probably bring high dollars, at a restaurant. This little thing. But you would need to… What do you say? To get your pallet to learn, to appreciate that.
Fred Provenza (01:17:49):
I have a very good friend in France and I’ve worked with for years. And his work has been to study shepherds and shepherding practice. And to realize that during the day, the animals that they’re shepherding. Have many, many courses to the meals. They’re eating diverse arrays of plants and not just eating the best and leaving the rest. They’re learning to mix all these different plant species, to improve the health of ecosystems, the health of animals. But each one of those people, we met many, many of the farmers there. Have their own mix of plants. And so there’s a terroir, that comes from each unique landscape. And they milk their own animals. They make their own cheese. And so you go to the market and you’re met, “Well, I really prefer Gus [inaudible 01:18:37] dairy product, to Michelle’s, or to…
Fred Provenza (01:18:43):
You pick up that flavor and it’s like with the wines. And so the pallets really come to appreciate, this diversity of landscapes. And maybe you do have different preferences, that reflect a whole array of things. But now it’s a one size fits all blandness, that’s in that. That I think as a culture, we need to come to… If we make these transitions, to come to appreciate richness of flavors and different flavors, that can be. But at first, I can see a lot of people saying, “Ah, yet.” And-
Dr. Mark Hyman (01:19:17):
Yeah. Well listen, if you’re used to eating pure sugar and you eat a blueberry, it doesn’t taste very good. But if you stop sugar for a few weeks and eat a blueberry, it tastes very sweet. I think that’s very true.
Fred Provenza (01:19:29):
That’s absolutely, absolutely, absolutely the case. And if you eat a blueberry when you’re really hungry, at the beginning of the meal. Even if you don’t even have sugar in your diet, it’s going to taste sweeter than at the end of it.
Dr. Mark Hyman (01:19:41):
Sweet. That’s right. That’s right.
Fred Provenza (01:19:41):
That’s that feedback, altering liking as a function of what you’re moment to moment. That’s-
Dr. Mark Hyman (01:19:48):
So I’m going to close, with a couple of thoughts. One is, you wrote in one of the articles. About this concept of a farmer, as an ecological doctor. And I think of myself as a doctor, who’s an ecologist for human health and it’s all connected. And I think that you have been the most important guest, I’ve had on The Doctor’s Farmacy. Because it’s farmacy with an F, F-A-R-M-A-C-Y. Meaning that we need to think about the food we eat, as a source of our medicine and food is medicine. And this is exactly what we’ve been talking about, the whole time.
Dr. Mark Hyman (01:20:19):
And I just want to share a quote, from your article. Which is just one of the most beautiful, philosophical musings on our condition, at this moment in history. We are the earth and the earth is us, linking land food, heart and mind scapes. And I think, if we all paid attention to this. The world would be a lot better. And the quote goes like this. What we do to one another and the plants and animals on earth. We do to ourselves. And if we hope to survive, we must mend broken linkages. That separate us from one another and the other inhabitants of the earth. And that requires empathy and sympathy for all life. While not doing so, could be our undoing. Doing so, could transform our collective consciousness. Into one that respects and nourishes and embraces, our interdependence with life on earth. That is just so beautiful.
Dr. Mark Hyman (01:21:09):
Fred I just can’t say, how much that resonates with me. And I think if people paid attention to these interdependencies and inter linkages. All of these things we’ve been talking about, the magic of nature. The magic of how all of our food and our biology is interdependent. And the animals, the plants and the humans and the soil. It’s really the summation, of my life’s work. And clearly this has been, you’ve been at this a lot longer than I have. And I’m just so, so happy to have had you, on The Doctor’s Farmacy podcast.
Fred Provenza (01:21:38):
Mark it’s been absolutely wonderful for me. I tell you, I’m obviously retired, at the end of my career. But when I see people like you and I see what you’re doing. And what you’re talking about, I just think, that’s the hope. That’s the hope for the future. And if I could do one thing and I saw this as one of your questions at the end. If you could do one thing, what would you do? I would really hope, that people would get in touch with this. And one way to do that, I often think of all the resource we use to grow lawns. These lawns, throughout our properties. And I think, if you took back the amount of lawn, that we grow. Have your little bit of grass, but start to grow vegetable, herbal, medicinal gardens. If everybody would start to reconnect with that.
Fred Provenza (01:22:35):
And then around your land, I know this is really dreaming. But more generally, so on our acre and a half here in Ennis. We have a little bit of lawn, that’s totally been colonized by clover. So we don’t need to fertilize, the lawn is very green. But it’s the clover fixing the nitrogen from the atmosphere, that’s fertilized it. But most of the place, is just native vegetation. This rich array of grasses, in these forms I’ve been talking about. Berry producing shrubs, like crazy. And to me, there’s a beauty to that. There’s an incredible beauty, to that diversity. And the beauty is, you don’t have to do anything. It grows naturally. You don’t have to irrigate it. You don’t have to fertilize it. You don’t have to put pesticides and herbicides on it, to keep it in place. All you have to do, is appreciate its beauty.
Fred Provenza (01:23:28):
And I often think, if we could get to that point. And I realized for me, I didn’t start out anywhere at that point. When I took the first class, I did it in plant identification. I was absolutely, absolutely blown away, that this whole world existed. That I had been walking in [crosstalk 00:17:48]. And hunting and fishing and all that stuff. I’d never seen it. I had never, ever seen that. It’s like, “Oh my gosh, these plants are just fabulous.” And I know that would take a total transformation of-
Dr. Mark Hyman (01:24:00):
I don’t think so. We actually had Victory Gardens, 40% of the food in American was grown by Victory Gardens in World War II. I think we need that again.
Fred Provenza (01:24:10):
And maybe coronavirus, is an opportune for us to… It’s a way that we could each reconnect, with the landscape. And do what you were just talking about, in that cold time.
Dr. Mark Hyman (01:24:23):
That is a great idea. Everybody during the lockdown here, summer’s coming. Let’s grow gardens, as a way of nourishing ourselves. Nourishing the planet and actually doing so much good, for our mental health. And physical health, at the same time. I think it’s a great, great magic wand, that you’ve just laid on us. So thank you so much Fred, for being on The Doctor’s Farmacy.
Dr. Mark Hyman (01:24:43):
If you love this podcast, please share it with your friends and family, on social media. Make sure you check out Fred’s book, Nourishment. Check out his papers and articles, we’ll link them in the show notes. Share this with your friends and family. Leave a comment, we’d love to hear from you. Subscribe wherever you get your podcasts and we’ll see you next time on The Doctor’s Farmacy.
PART 4 OF 4 ENDS [01:25:12]