Earlier this week we watched Mark make his signature salad: a veritable cornucopia of vegetable wonder (and anti-oxidant powerhouse). We’ve also heard Mark talk about his personal penchant for a good glass of red wine (another bearer of anti-oxidant goodness). It seems we primal types can’t get enough of those polyphenols, can we? And, wouldn’t you know it? These two primal “treats” (salad as PB staple, red wine as very sensible vice) are at the center of some very intriguing research on reducing the harmful effects of fat oxidation during digestion.
Fats – harmful? We surely haven’t given into the manipulation of all those fat slanderers out there? You know, the ones who say that fat is the center of all health evils? Not to worry. Fat is still our friend, especially when it’s not overcooked and loaded with the modern cocktail of pesticides, hormones and anti-biotics. But we love good research that not only illuminates the natural workings of the human system but suggests profoundly easy ways to make good food that much healthier.
Researcher Joseph Kanner contends that the real identifiable problem with dietary fat is that it oxidizes, which sets in motion the creation of harmful cytotoxic and genotoxic compounds. But his studies have centered on the role of polyphenol-rich foods and drinks (fruits, vegetables and wine) to counteract this detrimental process. Polyphenols, Kanner found, come alive in the stomach and not only thwart generation of cytotoxic compounds, but also to prevent the absorption of cytotoxic compounds from the gastrointestinal tract into the blood stream, where they spur an inflammatory response in the circulatory system and various organs.
Kanner has observed this protective phenomenon in both human and animal studies. Toxic byproducts of fat digestion were measured in Kanner’s research, including malondialdehyde and hydroperoxide. In the human study, one meal consisted of meat portions with water, a second included meat with wine concentrate added after cooking as well as a glass of wine itself with the meal. A third meal consisted of meat with wine concentrate added before cooking as well as a glass of wine with the meal. The measured compound in this study, malondialdehyde, shot up from an average baseline of 50 nM to 160 nM after the meat and water meal. After the meat with wine was added following heating, absorption of the compound was approximately 25% of the meat and water meal. Even better, the meal with wine concentrate added prior to heating “completely prevented” any elevation in plasma levels of the compound! Urine analysis showed “similar” figures.
The take home message here? We still maintain that research suggesting meats or high fat diets are problematic is likely explained by the fact that the studied diets have traditionally been high in overcooked or processed meat, high in carbs and hydrogenated oils, and low in anti-oxidant rich produce. Nonetheless, digestion itself is a complex and “stressful” process for the body, albeit a natural one. Despite our primal perspective, modern science can confirm the power of the tried and true diet staples as well as effective food pairings that maximize the health benefit we receive from the foods we eat. A Primal Blueprint diet high in veggies and other anti-oxidant sources along with clean, properly cooked meats and other saturated fat sources is the best option, we say. Add red wine to that meat (on the side and/or as a marinade), and you’ve made a good thing even better.