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Let me introduce myself. My name is Mark Sisson. I’m 63 years young. I live and work in Malibu, California. In a past life I was a professional marathoner and triathlete. Now my life goal is to help 100 million people get healthy. I started this blog in 2006 to empower people to take full responsibility for their own health and enjoyment of life by investigating, discussing, and critically rethinking everything we’ve assumed to be true about health and wellness...

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November 18, 2013

Dear Mark: Acid Load and Type 2 Diabetes, and the Safety of Homemade Baby Food

By Mark Sisson
43 Comments

Baby FoodFor today’s edition of Dear Mark, we’ve got a question about dietary acid load and type 2 diabetes. A new study’s just come out suggesting that the acid load of the diet does indeed have a significantly negative impact on our health and may actually cause type 2 diabetes. The reader is understandably worried, so I dig into the research and try to see what’s going on. Then, for Dear Carrie, my lovely wife answers a reader’s question about the safety of homemade baby food.

Mark,

I was under the impression that this was rubbished a long time ago provided you ate plenty vegetables? Unfortunately I can’t get hold of the full “The Times” article without subscribing but it was in the UK print edition. I thought you would be able to work your magic with journals to uncover what is really at work here.

Acidic Foods like Meat, Cheese and Soft Drinks Increase Diabetes Risk

Acids from meat and cheese are linked to higher diabetes risk

Regards,

Euan

Hey Euan, thanks for bringing this to my attention. I was able to find the full text of the study (PDF). It’s called “Dietary acid load and risk of type 2 diabetes: the E3N-EPIC cohort study” and tracks the type 2 diabetes incidence across 14 years among 66,000 French women.

So yeah, you could look at the results and claim that a high dietary acid load is associated with type 2 diabetes. That would be true. There is an association. The data is clear. But let’s look a little closer and see if there’s another way to consider the issue.

If you scroll on down to Table 1 in the study text, you’ll see the average intake of various macronutrients and food groups broken down by low, low-medium, medium-high, and high acid load quartiles. Intakes were very different across quartiles, particularly comparing the lowest and highest quartiles. Let’s look at some of them and consider how they might relate to the risk of diabetes:

The high-acid quartile ate the least magnesium. Magnesium intake has been strongly, consistently, and inversely linked to type 2 diabetes. A 2011 meta-analysis spanning 13 studies and over half a million subjects found a significant inverse association between magnesium intake and type 2 diabetes risk (in a dose response relationship, so the more they ate the less diabetes they got); an earlier meta-analysis had similar results. Just recently, a study found that higher magnesium intakes were associated with lower fasting glucose and insulin resistance, prompting the authors to posit that magnesium intake can protect against progression from pre-diabetes into full-blown type 2 diabetes. Another recent study confirmed these associations, finding that a high magnesium intake predicted reduced insulin resistance.

The high-acid quartile ate the least potassium. Potassium intake may be linked to type 2 diabetes as well, but it’s not clear. A recent review of the inconsistent evidence makes some interesting observations, however: induced hypokalemia (potassium deficiency) causes glucose intolerance in humans and repleting potassium reverses it.

The high-acid quartile ate the fewest vegetables. Although the evidence is somewhat unclear, vegetable intake is usually associated with a reduced risk of type 2 diabetes, particularly root vegetables and leafy greens. One study found that a great quantity and variety of vegetable intake led to a lower risk of type 2 diabetes. And once you have type 2 diabetes, green vegetable intake is associated with improved HbA1c scores and lower triglycerides. Plus, vegetables are the best source of protective nutrients like magnesium.

The high-acid quartile ate the fewest fruits. Certain fruits, particularly ones with antioxidant-rich skins like blueberries, plums, apples, and grapes, are associated with a reduced risk of type 2 diabetes despite the sugar content.

The high-acid quartile drank the least coffee – about half as much as the lowest quartile. Coffee is one of those consumables that everyone knows is bad for you but which is actually linked to a number of health benefits, most prominently a reduced risk of type 2 diabetes. Across study after study, habitual coffee consumption is consistently associated with less type 2 diabetes. They’ve even run randomized controlled trials where coffee consumption protected against glucose intolerance, one of the first signs of pre-diabetes. This is almost certainly a factor.

The high-acid quartile ate the most calories, and high calorie intake (or, put another way, energy excess) may increase the risk of type 2 diabetes (if it’s not accounted for by activity or basal metabolism) by inducing insulin resistance at the cellular level. They were also the least active of all quartiles, which would contribute to the energy excess.

Although this wasn’t listed in the nutrient intake table, the high-acid load quartile would have also consumed the fewest plant polyphenols and antioxidants due to lower fruit, vegetable, and coffee intake. Plant polyphenols have been shown to improve glucose tolerance and homeostasis, which may help prevent type 2 diabetes and partially explain the protective effect of fruits, vegetables, and coffee on metabolic health. Grape polyphenols, for example, prevent fructose-induced oxidative stress and insulin resistance.

So, is it the acid load causing (or preventing) the diabetes? Or is the acid load merely a representation of the diet which in turn causes (or prevents) the diabetes? Heck, it may even be that the diabetes is causing kidney disease, which in turn leads to acidosis. We don’t know for sure from this study. As the authors write in the discussion section, “this is the first prospective study to evaluate the risk of type 2 diabetes associated with scores reflecting the acid load of the diet.” What we do know is that many aspects of the overall dietary pattern of the high-acid quartile, like low magnesium, potassium, coffee, and produce intake, are consistently linked to type 2 diabetes across multiple studies. For now, that seems to be where the strongest evidence lies.

Eat your vegetables and fruits. Get your micronutrients and plant polyphenols. Drink your coffee. Try not to eat so much food that you gain weight and overload your cells’ ability to handle the energy. Exercise consistently and intelligently.

Dear Carrie: Is Homemade Baby Food Safe?

I actually do not have any children of my own… but as someone who is part of a local farm’s veggie & protein CSA, and is very passionate about “knowing where my food comes from”… this subject really disturbs me.

I’ve recently been warned via mass Facebook update about the risk of making baby food at home: “In 2005, the American Academy of Pediatric released their advisory for homemade baby food. They stated, ‘Infants fed commercially prepared infant foods generally are not at risk of nitrate poisoning. However, home-prepared infant foods from vegetables (eg, spinach, beets, green beans, squash, carrots) should be avoided…'”

Can you please provide your input? This seems like a marketing ploy… I can’t see how commercially prepared is better?

Thanks!!

Bethany

The worry with too much dietary nitrate in baby food is that it can lead to something called methemoglobinemia, or excess methemoglobin levels. Methemoglobin binds oxygen and prevents it from getting to the tissues in our body. In normal conditions, methemoglobin levels are extremely low and cause no problems. With too much nitrate in the baby’s diet, however, rapid conversion to nitrite in the immature intestines causes methemoglobin levels to jump 1000-fold, leading to tissue hypoxia (lack of oxygen). This is bad, particularly for a cute little helpless baby.

So, watch out for nitrates, right?

I found the Facebook post to be extremely misleading. I went ahead and took a look at what the AAP actually recommends. Nitrate only poses a problem for kids of a certain age. At six months, intestinal conversion from nitrate to nitrite is greatly reduced, making dietary nitrates much safer. It’s right there in what the AAP actually wrote back in 2005: “the intake of naturally occurring nitrates from foods such as green beans, carrots, squash, spinach, and beets can be as high as or higher than that from well water, these foods should be avoided before 3 months of age.” They go on to say that this shouldn’t be an issue anyway since “there is no nutritional indication to add complementary foods to the diet of the healthy term infant before 4 to 6 months of age.” Since you shouldn’t even be feeding complementary foods before 3 months, this isn’t a problem. In fact, I breastfed Devyn for two years and Kyle for a year. They were given only breast milk for the first six months of their lives.

Total non-issue, unless you know people who are pureeing these foods for their newborns under six months. That can be an issue. In a recent study looking at a group of homemade food-associated infant methemoglobinemia cases, the biggest risk factor was homemade food that was made too far in advance. Food made 24-48 hours before the kids ate it had an odds ratio of 17.4 and food made more than 48 hours before consumption had an OR of 24.9, most likely because the nitrate was converting to nitrite in storage (which, remember, is what does the damage). Other risk factors included breastfeeding (!), chard, and borage.

When I was introducing solid food to Devyn and Kyle, I usually made my own at home, (and vegetables were probably the last things I introduced). Even though I eat a ton of vegetables now, I do find many children tend to dislike vegetables, and you shouldn’t try to override their natural revulsion because it may be in place to keep them away from plant toxins they haven’t developed a defense for. It’s probably not a great idea to introduce chard, borage leaves, and spinach too early. Try meat, lightly cooked egg yolks, ripe fruit. My children enjoyed, peas, carrots and sweet potatoes. Those are way more digestible (and enjoyable). Besides, if you are feeding complementary foods, ones made at home are way more nutrient-dense than store-bought purees.

That’s it for today, folks. Let us know what you think in the comment board!

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43 Comments on "Dear Mark: Acid Load and Type 2 Diabetes, and the Safety of Homemade Baby Food"

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Cody
Cody
2 years 10 months ago

You know, living is bad for you, because it WILL cause your death!

I’ve made a lot of changes in my diet over the years, based on studies touting the latest findings, only to have later findings contradict the earlier findings. Just seriously listen to your body, although I think in today’s world most people have lost that ability. I know I did for the longest time.

Matt
2 years 10 months ago

LOL….that’s a great point. I think a lot of people can overdo it by trying to look at EVERY single detail only to not have a profound effect on the longevity of their life compared with those who “slip” a little every now and again for some indulgence. Life is made to enjoy from time to time.

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[…] For today’s edition of Dear Mark, we’ve got a question about dietary acid load and type 2 …read more […]

Tasha
2 years 10 months ago

Does the danger of making homemade baby food still apply if you freeze it, or only if it’s sitting in the fridge for more than 2 days? What if you cook a bunch over the weekend, freeze individual containers, and defrost as needed?

Carrie
2 years 10 months ago

That is what I do with I do with my left over soup after 2 days in the fridge. I also freeze things in individual serving size containers. That is fine for children as well.

Feather
Feather
2 years 10 months ago
The conversion from nitrate to nitrite is a chemical reaction. As a rule, chemical reactions go faster at higher temperatures. At a chemistry course we were taught a rule of tumb: adding 10 degrees doubles the reaction speed (so in this case, speeds up the accumulation of toxic components). It also means lowering the temp slows the process down a lot. Fridge is better than room temp, freezer is better than fridge. So cook the veg (to kill bacteria and make the food easy to digest) and either serve soon or cool it down fast. You can use a bowl… Read more »
Mike
Mike
2 years 10 months ago

Hi Carrie and Mark!

Are there any plans on releasing a PDF-file or a book about suitable primal food for babies/small children and possibly dogs/cats and other pet animals?

Mike
Mike
2 years 10 months ago

As far as primal food for dog and cats go, I’d read Paleopet by Dr. James Coghlan DVM. http://www.paleopet.com/

Erin
Erin
2 years 10 months ago
John Jarvis
2 years 10 months ago

Homemade baby food is something that I’ve always wondered about; I do feel like the homemade baby food is a MUCH safer alternative to the processed foods that are manufactured and put into jars and shipped out across the country. What is the “shelf life” of homemade baby food? I might have missed it if you mentioned it earlier.

Captain Competition
2 years 10 months ago

When my daughter was a baby we made a bunch of baby food and froze it. We tended not to keep it in the fridge more than 2 days after we thawed it out. Great response to baby food safety question Mark, thanks.

Katie
Katie
2 years 10 months ago

Take a look at baby led weaning – there’s really no need to ‘make baby food’ at all, just offer your baby appropriate foods from the family table around 6 months of age and they’ll do the rest. I have four children between the ages of 7 and 1 and I’ve never puréed a thing 🙂

Rob
Rob
2 years 10 months ago
I was about to make the same comment. We fed our son lightly cooked egg yolks from about 6 months to wean him (he was breast fed until about a year). After he was weaned off of breast milk we just put bits of what we were eating in front of him. It’s pretty clear that when he sees us eat something he’s much more likely to eat it himself without issue. The other thing we do is just put the stuff in front of him and let him choose what he eats and so far he’s been a really… Read more »
em
em
2 years 10 months ago

Also take a look at pre-mastication and kiss feeding. Turns out adult saliva has some of the same antibodies as breastmilk, plus enzymes to start pre-digesting the food. Also infants in pre-masticating cultures are at much lower risk of the iron deficiency that plagues pretty much the rest of the world.

Gross, but fascinating. Especially when babies are more clued in than you and try to eat the food right out of your mouth.

wendy
wendy
2 years 10 months ago

but I have heard it passes on took decay?

wendy
wendy
2 years 10 months ago

Tooth decay. Darn spell check!

em
em
2 years 10 months ago
The bacteria that can cause tooth decay, yes. Also any other bacteria and viruses that can survive in saliva (or traces of blood). Except in the case of serious infection, like HIV, the consensus seems to be that the kids will get inoculated with bacteria and viruses eventually, and for many babies the benefits are worth the risk. That’s mostly research on developing countries; in industrial nations we have iron supplements. ::shrug:: I’m not like a premastication activist or anything. I just think it’s very interesting, especially since both my children seemed to want to do it. When I was… Read more »
Feather
Feather
2 years 10 months ago
What Em said. I would’t promote it as a rule, but I don’t see problems with it either. Those bacteria are passed on from parent to child anyway, by kisses and such. What do you do with a dropped pacifier if there’s no water at hand? Wiping it clean, then putting it in your own mouth before returning it to the kiddo is a commonly used safe option. Again, those bacteria are passed on. There is one catch: there are about 500 different types of bacteria found in human mouths, and an individual has about 50 of them. You don’t… Read more »
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[…] For today’s edition of Dear Mark, we’ve got a question about dietary acid load and type 2 diabetes. A new study’s just come out suggesting that the acid load of the diet does indeed have a significantly negative impact on our health and may actually cause type 2 diabetes. The reader is understandably worried, so […] Mark’s Daily Apple […]

Diane
Diane
2 years 10 months ago

People had no commercial baby food before the industrial revolution.

Sarah
Sarah
2 years 10 months ago
I totally agree with Katie. I have an 8-month-old baby and he just gets what we eat in little cut-up bits on his high chair tray. He is perfectly capable of stuffing it in his mouth, he controls how much he eats and, for things that he can’t feed himself (like yogurt) we pay attention to his cues as to when he’s done and don’t force it on him. He’s my second kid – my first never got any “baby food” either and she is now 8 years old, disgustingly healthy and the least picky eater of any kids I… Read more »
Fred Timm
Fred Timm
2 years 10 months ago

Nothing can compare to good old fashioned mothers milk, nurse them to a year, 18 months, build up their resistance, and they should be able to eat anything (except maybe a two finger steak)

mims
mims
2 years 10 months ago

I made most my own baby food using this
http://www.happybabyproducts.com/kidcofoodmill1.html

I rarely froze or refrigerated stuff…with the food mill I just pureed what we adults were eating (peas, spinach, meat, etc.)…easy to use, take apart and clean. I had two, as one always was drying from previous meal it seemed, and good to have a spare to throw in the diaper bag.

Ripken Holt
Ripken Holt
2 years 10 months ago

Hey guys, just wondering, is whipped cream primal???

Nocona
Nocona
2 years 10 months ago

Grass Fed Grass Finished whipped cream is excellent…if you are not lactose intolerant.

Andre Chomene
2 years 10 months ago
Thanks for the beautiful alert and breakdown Mark. After I looked at the study I noticed this “Dietary acid load and food consumption With respect to specific food groups, a high-PRAL diet included significantly more meat, fish, cheese, bread and soft drinks, particularly artificially sweetened beverages, whereas a diet with a low- PRAL score included more dairy products, fruit, vegetables and coffee (Table 1).” Doesn’t this tell me that the high acid group a lot more bread and drink sodas and diet sodas? Plus a high-protein diet is a high sugar and acidic diet. Dr. Ron Rosedale always says the… Read more »
Nadia
2 years 10 months ago
Hey Andre, as a fellow t1 I agree that’s the case too – if I have high protein my blood sugars go higher too. I’m not sure what 4oz equates too (I’m in the UK so a grams kinda gal 😉 but I know I have to stick to high fat, low carb, medium protein to keep my blood sugars stable. Its really interesting you’ve noticed the spike at 4 / 6 hrs later – do you notice that with protein only? I always thought the “optimum” time to test what a meal has done to blood sugars was between… Read more »
Sara
Sara
2 years 10 months ago

I agree there is something to be said for not giving babies too many greens early on… we do have an aversion to the bitterness for a reason! Peas and avocados seem to be tolerated well + most fruits + sweet potatoes, carrots, squash, etc. Also, egg yolks, meat, even liver are often palatable to babies.

And offering them chunks of soft-cooked food that they can select & feed themselves (versus spoon-feeding them a puree of stuff) works better IMO.

Karl Nilsson
2 years 10 months ago

Like Mark says, “Eat your vegetables and fruits. Get your micronutrients and plant polyphenols. Drink your coffee. Try not to eat so much food that you gain weight and overload your cells’ ability to handle the energy. Exercise consistently and intelligently.”

Translation: don’t over-think it 🙂

trackback

[…] For today’s edition of Dear Mark, we’ve got a question about dietary acid load and type 2 diabetes. A new study’s just come out suggesting that the acid load of the diet does indeed have a significantly negative impact on our health and may actually cause type 2 diabetes. The reader is understandably worried, so […]… Mark’s Daily Apple […]

em
em
2 years 10 months ago

I was skimming and missed both mentions of Dear Carrie. So I did a pretty good doubletake when I read “In fact, I breastfed Devyn for two years…”

Piper A R
Piper A R
2 years 10 months ago

Nominated for Comment of the Week.

Meghanne
2 years 10 months ago

Both Canadian, American and WHO Paediatric guidelines strongly advise that babies should not be fed anything except breastmilk or infant formula (if you are unable to provide breastmilk) up to 6 months of age. After that, the new Canadian guidelines recommend starting with proteins and fats such as egg yolks, avocado, soft meats ect. Carb sources, like from veggies, should be added in slowly after 8 months and it’s best to start with things like yams. This is due to the fact that babies don’t really start producing salivary amylase until that this time. A pretty Primal recommendation I’d say!

steffo
steffo
2 years 10 months ago

you heard it folks

enjoy plenty of fruits of veggies

Jennifer L.
Jennifer L.
2 years 10 months ago

Is it the caffeine in coffee that is associated with a lower risk of Type 2 Diabetes, or some other antioxidant power of coffee. How about green tea or black tea?

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[…] Dear Mark: Acid Load and Type 2 Diabetes, and the Safety of Homemade Baby Food […]

Katerina
Katerina
2 years 10 months ago
Where I live (Greece) store bought baby food in jars is seriously frowned upon by pediatricians and family alike. It’s considered pure laziness on behalf of the mother/parents and people only use it rarely for example when they have to travel. Most doctors advise introduction of solids at 6 months and the vast majority of families cook for the babies daily and Greece’s infant rate mortality is very low, I believe lower that the U.S. despite the more advanced medical care in the U.S. I personally cooked double the amount needed and kept individual servings in the freezer, so that… Read more »
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[…] [Mark's Daily Apple] Dear Mark: Acid Load and Type 2 Diabetes, and the Safety of Homemade Baby Food […]

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[…] affect on your health, but the acidity or alkalinity of foods is not important. As has been stated in another blog, eat your vegetables and fruits. Get your micronutrients and plant polyphenols. Drink your coffee. […]

???????????
2 years 8 months ago

I like the valuable info you provide in your articles.
I will bookmark your weblog and take a look at once more here
regularly. I am fairly certain I will learn many new stuff right right here!
Good luck for the following!

Tom
Tom
2 years 8 months ago

I’m a type 2 and I can say that vegetables are helps me a lot. My blood sugar levels are much lower since I’ve introduced much vegetables into my diet. Still, my blood sugar levels are way above normal (). I mostly eat raw vegetables as boiling them will remove many vitamins and minerals. I always add vegetables or fruit to each of my meals. I didn’t like vegetables before but now I quite like them. These two articles might be helpful to you:
http://healthiack.com/diets/diet-for-people-with-diabetes
http://healthiack.com/health/what-is-normal-blood-sugar-level#how-to-lower-blood-sugar-level
Hope this helps.
Best regards, Tom

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[…] cell types, when faced with systemic hyperglycemia, have mechanisms in place to regulate the passage of glucose through their membranes. They can […]

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[…] Eating a purely acidic diet isn’t a good idea, but that’s because you’d be eliminating a ton of healthy plant matter with important nutrients, not because of the effect it has on your blood acid/base […]

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