For today’s edition of Dear Mark, I’m answering a few questions. First came in from an email and regards a new study showing a link between chicken eating and several types of cancers (melanoma, prostate cancer, non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma) among British adults. What do I think of the study? Second, did I really tell people not to neuter or spay their dogs? Third, can dogs take collagen powder, and if not, are there any alternatives? And last, I address a comment about early time restricted feeding.
What are your thoughts on this study that showed a link between chicken consumption and cancer?
First of all, the link wasn’t between chicken and cancer, it was between chicken and specific cancers. The specificity suggests that there may be something going on here.
Look, I love a good roasted chicken. There’s almost nothing quite like crispy chicken skin.
But today’s birds are exceedingly high in omega-6 fatty acids. Your standard battery-fed bird—which is what most people in these studies are eating—eats a diet of soybean oil, corn byproducts, and other junk high in omega-6 fats. Those dietary fats are incorporated into the animal’s tissues, which get incorporated into your dinner, which get incorporated into your body.
Most of the cancers in question have been previously and mechanistically linked to elevated omega-6 levels and/or reduced omega-3 levels.
Melanoma and other skin cancers?
One study out of Australia—land of skin cancer—found that adults with the highest serum concentrations of DHA and EPA had the least “cutaneous p53 expression.” When your skin is in danger of damage from the sun, p53 expression is upregulated to protect it. The fact that p53 expression was low suggests that the skin wasn’t in danger; the omega-3s were protecting the skin and reducing the “perceived” (and real) danger. Acute intakes of EPA reduce the inflammatory skin response to UV radiation.
One problem of excess omega-6 fats is that they crowd out DHA and EPA from the serum and cellular membranes. The more omega-6 in your diet, the less DHA and EPA you’ll have laying around to protect you from the sun.
Anti-inflammatory omega-3 fatty acids (found in seafood and fish oil) are generally linked to lower rates of prostatic inflammation and a less carcinogenic environment; omega-6 fatty acids can trigger disease progression. A 2001 study of over 6,000 Swedish men found that the folks eating the most fish had drastically lower rates of prostate cancer than those eating the least. Another study from New Zealand found that men with the highest DHA (an omega-3 found in fish) markers slashed their prostate cancer risk by 38% compared to the men with the lowest DHA levels.
I didn’t see any solid evidence one way or the other with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, but omega-3 intake is linked to a lower risk. If that’s a causative connection, and excessive omega-6 is competing with your omega-3s for physiological supremacy in the body, that could increase the risk of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. But again, this isn’t a sure thing.
I couldn’t find the study mentioned in the article, but according to the article the scientists focused only on “meat consumption patterns.” They weren’t looking at other foods or nutrients—just what kind of meat they ate. If that’s the case, they wouldn’t have controlled for the intakes of fries and mayo and other junk foods often consumed alongside chicken.
British are eating more chicken than ever before, and they’re moving increasingly away from big family chicken meals—roasts and such—toward individual chicken meals for one—pasta and stir fries.
The fastest growing fast food in Britain is fried chicken. That’s chicken that’s been breaded in flour and fried in reused, rancid vegetable oil, then served alongside french fries and smothered in mayonnaise.
Now, I’m not going to say you should eat chicken for every meal. Red meat, fish, and eggs offer far more nutrients than chicken, and they’re much lower in omega-6 fatty acids. But I’m not going to shy away from a good roast chicken, or even a chicken chili, especially if I’m using well-raised, preferably pasture-raised chickens.
I’m sorry, are you recommending people DON”T spay/neuter their pets?!? Am I reading an article in The Onion? Is it April 1st? What the hell is going on??? Dear Bob Barker is rolling in his grave and thousands of dogs and cats will be unnecessarily euthanized today (and tomorrow, and the next day, and the next….) because there are just too many of them.
Nope, I’m just recommending that people read the literature and understand that spaying/neutering can have unwanted health effects, especially if you do it too early.
Most experts agree that fixing the dog after they’ve stopped growing is pretty safe and reduces the risk of later health issues. That to me is a good compromise.
And I’m not speaking to the masses. I’m speaking to the people reading this who are in general a reliable, conscientious bunch.
Also, a vasectomy is a good option that few people consider but more vets are offering.
Mark, would there be any harm or benefit in throwing in a scoop of collagen on top of my dog’s raw meat&veggie patty?
You could definitely do it. Just be aware that I’ve found some dogs have bad digestive responses to protein powders of any kind. A raw chicken foot will do the trick, if you’re up to trying it. I’ve also seen freeze-dried tendons in pet stores.
After a few years of IDF that had me mostly eating between noon and 8, I recently tried early time-restricted feeding (eTRF) and man it seems to work well for me. I did it under the influence of this guy’s posts: https://www.patreon.com/CaloriesProper/posts
And I learned about him from an MDA post…
Yes, some people for whom intermittent fasting doesn’t seem to be working may want to switch to an early feeding system. The vast majority of people who skip meals every day are skipping breakfast. It’s easier that way, you can just have some coffee and keep trucking. But not everyone benefits from it. If that’s you, try eating breakfast (and lunch) and skipping dinner.
Mark Sisson is the founder of Mark’s Daily Apple, godfather to the Primal food and lifestyle movement, and the New York Times bestselling author of The Keto Reset Diet. His latest book is Keto for Life, where he discusses how he combines the keto diet with a Primal lifestyle for optimal health and longevity. Mark is the author of numerous other books as well, including The Primal Blueprint, which was credited with turbocharging the growth of the primal/paleo movement back in 2009. After spending three decades researching and educating folks on why food is the key component to achieving and maintaining optimal wellness, Mark launched Primal Kitchen, a real-food company that creates Primal/paleo, keto, and Whole30-friendly kitchen staples.