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Peak Human - Unbiased Nutrition Info for Optimum Health, Fitness & Living

Nov 14, 2018

Welcome back everyone, I’m Brian Sanders and I quit my job and have dedicated my life to the investigation of nutrition and lifelong health. I’m creating the feature length documentary Food Lies, this podcast, and a health technology company here in Los Angeles with a doctor and 2 other partners.

Today my guest is Dr. David Klurfeld, which is a quite a treat. This is his first podcast appearance and had to get special clearance to be able to participate. He couldn’t talk about certain things because he’s the National Program Leader for Human Nutrition in the Agricultural Research Service of the USDA since 2004. He was also on the working group of the World Health Organization that decided meat causes cancer in 2015. I won’t leave you guessing - he was very opposed to it and called it “the most frustrating professional experience of his life.”

He’s accumulated a vast amount of knowledge over his 40 years researching nutrition and dietary factors in cardiovascular diseases and cancer. He wrote an amazing peer-reviewed article defending meat titled “what is the role of meat in a healthy diet” which I linked to in the show notes.

He’s not going to support a fully carnivorous diet, but certainly sees past the bogus vegan propaganda

Speaking of support - PLEASE support Food Lies on Indiegogo. Thanks for everything so far. The campaign just ended but Indiegogo allows us to keep funding because we hit our baseline goal. We need a bit more help to hit the real goal, however. Pre-order a copy of the film or check out some of the other perks. Also, this podcast has a website that I have barely even mentioned. Check out for all episodes and detailed show notes.

A little more about Dr. Klurfeld before we start: He is responsible for the scientific direction of the intramural human nutrition research conducted by USDA laboratories. He has published more than 200 peer-reviewed articles and book chapters. He was Editor-in-Chief of the Journal of the American College of Nutrition for 6 years and is currently Associate Editor of the American Journal for Clinical Nutrition. He is also a member of National Institute for Diabetes, Digestive and Kidney Diseases Advisory Council.

Let’s just say he’s done his homework… and still enjoys a good steak… here he is!


Show Notes

  • Dr. David Klurfeld focuses his research on the 3 macronutrients and their effect on health on chronic disease - specifically breast and colon cancer
  • People debate on how much what we eat affects diet and disease
  • A paper published tries to stick all of cardiovascular disease precisely on 10 factors
  • Full article:
  • David and I spoke earlier and are on the same page - there’s no one-size-fits-all solution for how to eat, and nobody should pretend they have all the answers. There’s a framework and some general guidelines, however, that people should be aware of (if this isn’t already abundantly clear, this is the goal of the Food Lies film
  • They have high salt as #1 factor of “cardiometabolic mortality attributable to dietary habits” and #2 being “low intake of nuts and seeds”
  • There’s no evidence to support these specific quantities like amount of PUFAs
  • Residual confounding is a big problem that’s not really addressed
  • The thing that meat consumption correlates with most is not living a healthy life and ignoring doctor’s recommendations. Smoking, not exercising, etc.
  • Eating meat made us human - why would it be killing us?
  • Dr. David Klurfeld: Red meat is somehow blamed for a multitude of varying diseases and cancers. Imagine if one medication was purported to cure all of these disparate things? It’s just not plausible
  • You can get half your daily requirement of protein in just 3.5 ounces of meat
  • Dr. David Klurfeld: there are 8 essential amino acids which are in animal foods but absent in all plant foods
  • We should get the best of both worlds and eat an omnivorous diet
  • We don’t know exactly what our ancestors ate but they sure didn't have international trade of peaches and didn’t have farms. We chased animals
  • He’s done a lot of research on fiber and therefore not that hot on the carnivore diet
  • Even though there’s no requirement for fiber in our guidelines, he believes we have more science now
  • He believes if you don't eat fiber in your diet, your body will eat away the good mucus membrane in your intestinal walls
  • I ask about people or populations on long term carnivore diets - connective tissue in animals feed gut intestines like fiber does
  • He also says the lifetime risk of colon cancer is only 5 out 100 - so we’d have to study hundreds of thousands of people for a long period of time to get meaningful data - we just don’t know the effects
  • He’s like to see dietary guidelines have a grade for the level of evidence
  • After all the decades of research and gazillions of dollars he still can’t say anything with any level of certainty about what you can eat to get or not get cancer
  • Processed meat is said to increase risk of cancer by 1.2 while cigarettes are 10 to 30 times the risk
  • You don’t know if it’s real risk or noise in the system at these very low levels like 1.1 and 1.2
  • He talks about studies they do which are pretty controlled with meals handed out and weighed in the lab - way better than these bogus food questionnaires
  • People can’t remember what they ate over the course of the whole year
  • has a graphing tool for correlations. He made a graph showing the correlation between per capita consumption of beef and deaths by lightning that are correlated by almost 90% - this stuff CAN’T show causation
  • He actually appeared in the plant based film Forks Over Knives where they tried to get him with a gotcha moment and make it seem like the meat industry is funding them and they are biased
  • Dr. David Klurfeld says the USDA is a giant organization with 90k employees and many different departments - they don’t influence each other though when it comes to studies. He is 100% certain about that
  • He’s seen vegetarians on these committees who want everyone to be vegetarian, but never meat eaters who want everyone to eat meat
  • He believes being a vegetarian is a conflict of interest on these committees
  • He was on the World Health Organization working group to decide if meat causes cancer in 2015 with a bunch of vegetarians and vegans and says it was the most frustrating professional experience of his life
  • There were 22 scientists - half of which were epidemiologists
  • They claimed they used 800 studies but they actually only used 18
  • There was a group of people that were strongly against the vote
  • He thinks a number of the people made up their minds before they even arrived
  • National Cancer Institute study with 900 people split into 2 groups who had an intestinal polyp removed on a colonoscopy. One group told to eat whatever they want, one group was assigned a “healthy” diet low in red meat and processed meat, high in fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. 3 years later the risk to get a 2nd polyp was exactly the same in both groups. The emission of red and processed meats did nothing.
  • Then came the Women’s Health Initiative - largest nutrition study in history. 9 years of a low fat diet compared to a control - again, no difference in risk for colon cancer
  • So they threw out the 2 studies that were actually scientifically controlled on humans, none of the animal studies showed any problem with meat, and they're left with epidemiology and mechanistic studies they CANNOT show causation
  • One of the members of the working group did a study feeding mice bacon and also an agent to induce cancer and actually found the bacon diet reduced precancerous lesions!
  • They relied on one study that fed mice blood sausage at 3 times the normal dose of protein and the diet had a calcium deficiency - only then was
  • The report on that 2015 decision finally came out this summer and he has no idea why or if they omitted those studies he brought up
  • He mentioned to a staff member of the WHO that he thought people on the working group should declare that they are a vegetarian as a conflict of interest - she laughed and said she was a vegetarian and they changed the subject
  • Being a vegetarian, in his view, is far more of a conflict of interest than who funds you - it's a more deep-seated belief
  • He estimates ¼ to ⅓ of the committee making the decision against red meat were vegetarians
  • His journal article “The role of meat in a healthy diet”
  • Since the only used observational studies, it should only be suggestive that they should look into it more, certainly not causal
  • In other fields of study this is the case. Nutrition is somehow held to different and much looser standards
  • Nutrition researchers with a bias think they're saving the world and push this information without solid evidence, just their beliefs and some observations
  • People have different responses to whole grains and refined grains - there’s no way to tell. So many factors from gut bacteria to genetics
  • It’s impossible to give everyone in the country personalized tests and recommendations. Personalized nutrition is the future though.
  • What can we do now knowing this?
  • His personal nutrition ideas are 1) eat a variety of foods, 2) don’t eat too much of any one food, 3) enjoy what you eat
  • He mentions nutrient density - Americans eat an enormous amount of calories from non-nutrient dense foods packed with white flour plus sugar and fat
  • Eating out used to be a once per week treat, now it's almost every meal
  • Soda used to be a 7oz bottle as a treat - now people are luggin home multiple 2 liters to have on hand at all times
  • We started getting obese when we gave out the dietary guidelines - the problem was we said eat less fat so carbohydrates got a free pass
  • He thinks we are on a bounce back from the low fat thing and it's not correct to say carbs are bad
  • Unless you have high blood pressure you don’t have to go on a low salt diet
  • Salt is essential and fine - the problem is processed foods usually have too much salt so we think it’s a problem, but it’s actually the processed food
  • For all vitamins and minerals - it's dose dependent
  • “The dose makes the poison” - toxicologists have known this for 500 years
  • With nutrition it’s all or nothing, though
  • All the studies we have showing fruits and vegetables are good for us are from people eating conventionally raised produce - not organic
  • He says half the fruits and vegetables we eat have no pesticide residue on them at all - the USDA tests thousands and thousands of samples each year
  • Here’s the latest available (2016) report
  • He’s right - it says only 0.46% of samples exceeded the safe levels
  • The permissible levels have built in margins of safety
  • He says heart attack rates are way down and cancer is up due to us living longer (I beg to differ)
  • Commercial fryers can have oxidized PUFAs
  • We need a more balanced Omega 3 to Omega 6 ratio
  • We should be cooking more at home - no profit for big food manufacturers however
  • What about carcinogens in meat from burning or charring? I say we have been cooking meat for 2 million years and have developed mechanisms to deal with this acute stressor just like the small toxins in plants
  • The animal studies pointing to problems in animals had 1000 times the carcinogens as in a well done piece of meat (that I would never cook anyway…)
  • Why would we blame meat, that we’ve been eating for all of human history, for our modern diseases
  • Elderly people need adequate protein and ground beef would be preferable to cottage cheese or tofu because all of the great micronutrients and total nutrient profile
  • It’s insane that what many people today consider a “healthy diet” is one that avoids red meat
  • He did the first study showing benefits of red wine back in the 80s
  • Future of nutrition research is going to be more personalized
  • Companies are selling a bunch of yogurt - we have no idea if those help your gut bacteria or not
  • Maybe we’ll have 10-20 “buckets” to put people in based on their physiology that will give them an ideal nutritional approach
  • It’s all about developing a healthy pattern of eating


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