Dear Mark: Sleepy After Chicken, Microwaving Bone Broth, and Safest CAFO Meat

BrothIt’s time for yet another edition of Dear Mark, and this time I’m covering some interesting topics. First up is the phenomenon of sleepiness following a meal of chicken with the skin on. Far from being an unwelcome, foggy sort of fatigue, this particular brand of sleepiness is pleasing. Could it be something in the chicken? Next, I discuss whether or not the proteins in bone broth are irreparably alerted – in a bad way – upon microwave exposure. I don’t come to an ironclad conclusion, but I do try to give some perspective on the issue. Finally, I try to decide on the “safest” CAFO meat to order when you’re unable to procure grass-fed or pastured. Let’s go:

Hey Mark, I love eating chicken, especially baked. I have noticed that after eating chicken meat with the skin I often feel pleasantly sleepy afterward. This is not a brain fog, food coma kind of tired. Just a nice tiredness. Do you know of anything about chicken that would cause this? Or is it just an association? Thanks! Sarah

As much as we criticize chicken for containing too many PUFAs – which is a valid point, especially if you rely on chicken for the bulk of your animal calories – chicken fat is actually quite high in oleic acid, the primary monounsaturated fat and the same one found and championed in olive oil, ranging from 37% to 56% of total fat. In fact, it’s the primary fatty acid in chicken fat. In the body, oleic acid can be converted into oleamide, a fatty acid amide. Fatty acid amides are formed when a fatty acid combines with an amine, and they are used in chemical signaling within the body. Oleamide in particular has been fingered as a potent sleep-inducer:

Beyond helping to regulate sleep, oleamide likely has other physiological roles. For one, it appears to inhibit the inflammatory effects of lipopolysaccharide, the toxin released by certain gut flora. For a real nice sleep, try chicken soup. The glycine in gelatinous broth links up (in your body) with the oleic acid in chicken to form n-oleoylglycine, a bioactive precursor to oleamide with “chill-out” properties of its own. It’s not quite so simple as “eat chicken fat, make more oleamide,” but having more oleic acid in your diet should provide more substrate for oleamide synthesis, and thus inducement of sleep. Either way, it appears to be having an immediate effect on you. Even if my educated guess isn’t correct, enjoy the sleep! You know, I’ve noticed this myself. Not just with chicken, but with pretty much any animal fat, which makes sense when you realize that animal fat almost invariably comes along with plenty of oleic acid. Beef fat? About 50% oleic. Pork fat? About 50% oleic. Lamb fat? Around 45% oleic. I wonder if olive oil (mostly oleic) will work, too, or if it’s something else in the animal fat that works in concert with the oleic acid. Interesting stuff. To find out the truth, just eat some animal fat before bed! Seth Roberts has had similar experiences with animal fat (specifically pork fat) and sleep, for what it’s worth. Speaking of broth…

Mark, I just read your 4/24 post on how much protein should you eat. I followed a link from that to an article on the Weston A. Price site (Why Broth is Beautiful: Essential Roles for Proline, Glycine and Gelatin). One part of the article said that microwaving bone broth changes the proline in it from the trans to the cis form. This in turn causes ‘structural, functional and immunological changes’ in the body and can be nephrotoxic, and heptatotoxic. So, is this true?? Do you use a microwave to reheat broth? I have been, should I stop? Kitty

That’s a great article, overall, which is why I linked to it, but I’m not very convinced on the dangers of microwaved bone broth. Let’s assume microwaving turns the L-proline into D-proline. Should we be worried about D-proline? Is it truly toxic to the kidneys and liver? There have been a number of animal studies examining the effects of the various proline isomers, and there are conflicting results. In chickens, L-proline induced amnesia, while D-proline did not. L-proline destroyed more hippocampal neurons than D-proline. Among chicks, L-proline caused more pecking than D-proline. Pecking is often used as a marker of depression in chickens kept in close quarters with other chickens. Now that I think of it, though, I’m not so sure “increased tolerance of inhumane crowding” is such a good or normal thing. Depression appears to be warranted in the chicken’s situation! When injected into a chicken’s heart, D-proline produced convulsions and death, while L-proline did not. D-proline produced liver and kidney damage in rats, while L-proline did not. There are also a few human studies, not on the effect of dietary D-proline, but rather highlighting the constant presence of D-proline in our guts and in our saliva: Both D-proline and L-proline are found in human gastric juice. Furthermore, patients with gastric cancer and H. pylori infections tended to have higher levels of L-proline, but not D-proline, in their guts. It’s also present in our saliva independent of our dietary intake. Does this mean broth should be microwaved in order to convert it into gut-protective D-proline? Does it mean that it should never be microwaved in order to protect us from liver lesioning D-proline? Of course not! I just wanted to highlight how depending on what research you use you could claim that D-proline is dangerous, deadly stuff that should be avoided at all costs, or you could call it neuro-protective and anti-depressant (at least for baby chicks). Look, D-proline may be problematic. I really don’t know. And microwaving your broth may alter the proteins to make them dangerous. I don’t know. I don’t think it’s likely to cause severe issues in the way we consume broth. I mean, how often are you drinking broth, let alone broth that’s been heated in a microwave? Daily? Couple times a week? A tablespoon of gelatin, which contains just under a gram of proline, will gelatinize two cups of water, so you’ll be getting about that much (of potentially converted D-proline) every time you consume a couple cups of properly set broth. I find that I don’t use the microwave all that often for broth, but that’s mainly because I like to add stuff to it and stir it in as it heats on the stove. I’ll usually throw in some sea salt, black pepper, and turmeric (and maybe some egg yolks) as it heats. And if I cook with broth, say to make a reduction. My latest kick is sautéing some garlic, shallots, and ginger in butter, adding a splash of white wine, reducing that, adding a cup of real broth to the pan, reducing that, and then add chopped pastured chicken livers to the mix until it forms a nice, livery (yet mild) gravy. Excellent, nutritious, and no chance of creating harmful amino acids. I wouldn’t worry too much about microwaved broth, especially if that’s your only reliable way to get it. Whatever you do, don’t inject microwaved broth into your ventricles (either of them).

Dear Mark, If I have to choose among CAFO beef, chicken, or pork, which is the least of the “evils”? I try to get grass-fed/pastured whenever possible, but that’s not always possible. Thanks! Goldie

“Cleanliness,” or the presence of various agricultural and/or industrial toxins in the meat.

CAFO animals eat industrially-produced feed, which means exposure to a fair amount of pesticides and other toxins. Do these show up in the actual meat, though? Let’s take a look at some average findings, according to the What’s on my Food? website. Beef fat samples contained 10 pesticide residues, including significant amounts of DDE and dieldrin. DDE is a metabolite of DDT, and it’s been linked to impaired neurodevelopment in children, lower birth size, and chronic kidney disease, among other conditions. Dieldrin is an organochlorine insecticide banned in the US since 1987 that still manages to display remarkable persistence in the food supply, even biomagnifying – become more concentrated – as it moves up the food chain. 33% of samples contained DDE and 15% of samples contained dieldrin. Beef muscle meat and liver, however, were absent of pesticide residue. Poultry fat contained no residues, whereas poultry thigh and breast both have been shown to contain detectable levels of eight and seven pesticides, respectively, though at a far lower rate than beef fat. Residues from three pesticides have been found in pork meat, while pork fat has been shown to contain up to eight pesticides. Winner:  Lean beef or beef liver.

Fatty acid composition.

Since the ruminant is pretty resistant to dietary influence of its fatty acids, CAFO beef fat contains just 4% PUFA, with the rest being saturated and monounsaturated fat. That’s pretty solid. Too bad you’re missing out on the CLA content found in grass-fed beef, though. Pork fat is decent in theory, but in practice – which includes the feeding of soy, corn, and related oils to pigs – the PUFA content of pork fat can get as high as 32%. Chicken fat is PUFA-rich, and it’s getting even richer. Since 1980, the average linoleic acid content in chicken has increased by 2.6 times, while the omega-3 content has dropped even further. Nowadays, CAFO chicken fat is a bit like tasty vegetable oil. Winner: Beef.

Antibiotic-resistant bacteria.

A new report found antibiotic resistant bacteria in 81% of ground turkey, 69% of raw pork chops, 55% of raw ground beef, and 39% of raw chicken parts. I know how much you all love your rare turkey burgers and medium rare chicken thighs, but it’s just not worth it. Beef seems to be the most risky here, for two reasons: grinding beef increases the surface area and spreads the bacteria evenly throughout; beef is often eaten rare, which keeps the bacteria alive. Sure, you’ve got the occasional crazy who demands his chicken thigh pink, but that’s pretty rare. Winner: Chicken, which has the least resistant bacteria and tends to be well-cooked.

Quality of life.

While no CAFO animal lives a “good life,” some have it worse than others. Chickens live in crowded warehouses with tens of thousands of other chickens with no access to fresh air. Pigs live on concrete slabs, oftentimes in pens too small to turn around. Cows, on the other hand, typically start out on pasture before being transferred to feedlots. All animals suffer stress, but it seems obvious that cows suffer “less” than the others. Winner: Beef, although I’m hesitant to call it a winner. Overall? I’d say go for the lean CAFO steak. But if you don’t make this sort of thing a habit, go for whatever you want and enjoy it. Thanks for reading, folks. Take care.

About the Author

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.

If you'd like to add an avatar to all of your comments click here!

45 thoughts on “Dear Mark: Sleepy After Chicken, Microwaving Bone Broth, and Safest CAFO Meat”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

  1. Oooh adding egg yolks into your bone broth! Genius! Why didn’t I think of that! Will try it next time… Good to know that I’ve not been a bit pedantic about re-heating it on the stove top all these months then.

    1. A favorite quick soup in our house is egg drop: just heat up the chicken broth, stir in an a raw egg or two, and add some chopped scallions and a bit of toasted sesame oil. Maybe not how it’s done in China, but easy and tasty!

      1. I do straciatella…quickly stir some raw eggs into boiling broth, they cook in little strings (or rags, hence the name) and add chopped spinach. Super easy and a full meal in a pot!

  2. Three things:

    1. Could tryptophan account for the sleepiness? It’s found to some degree in all meats.

    2. If those chickens are receiving any amount of grains (and they naturally will, being birds), could the grains ingested break down into carbs that are stored in the meat, causing the meat-eater (who is by now sensitized to carbs) to get slepy? My own experience with carrots is such–I can’t even eat ONE without falling asleep about 10 minutes later.

    3. CAFO-raised liver is NOT recommended due to the use of Ractopamine, which is reported to leave the system entirely in 8 days after use, but in reality, it DOES NOT. Case in point: I used to buy it, puree it, and feed stray cats with it…until the stray cats blew up to the size of medium dogs. I even had a raccoon running around here the size of an ottoman after eating the food. I switched to organic liver, and everybody shrunk back to normal size, and I never used CAFO livers again.

    The beef industry may say they no longer use Ractopamine, but they do currently use an equivalent (and more toxic) replacement chemical. Meanwhile, “Racto”-laced meats are being exported overseas, where it hasn’t yet been outlawed (mostly Asia).

    1. Thank you for pointing this out (#3). It didn’t make any sense that CAFO livers would be safer.

      I would also like to point out that ractopamine IS banned in parts of Asia (yes, including China). Taiwan also has a ban on ractopamine, but as of last year they were pushed to adopt the 10 ppb international limit for US beef. They only did it to establish that Taiwan is a reliable trading partner… It’s really saddening. Thankfully, pork and internal organs in Taiwan are still under the ban. Still, it makes you wonder how they’re handling the double standard.

  3. Seven years ago I remodeled my kitchen and bought a Wolf stove. I have always wanted one and I had the money so… BTW, I LOVE to cook and the stove is great. The kitchen had a microwave/stove hood combo and I had to buy an industrial hood. I didn’t replace the microwave, thinking that I would see how long I could go without one. To this date, I still don’t have a microwave! I warm my food on the stove, I cook on my stove or in my oven and I don’t miss it at all. Doesn’t take that much more time. I have found that if I reheat my food in a steamer basket over water, it is moist and flavorful. And food reheated on the stove stays hotter! When people find out I don’t have a microwave, the first question they ask is “how do you make popcorn?” and then when I tell them I don’t eat popcorn, the skeptical looks increase. I think it would blow their minds to bits if I told them how I eat!

    1. I never really thought about ditching my microwave but everything really is so much better reheated on the stove!

    2. My problem is at work, when I have left overs from dinner the night before as lunch, there is no way to heat them other than the microwave.

      1. Amber, I had the same problem. Bought a cheap toaster oven. I just pop the stuff in (using a pyrex container, plastic lid off) and heat it at 250 for 20 minutes. Works great. Takes longer, but I just drop it off and work for the extra 20 min.

      2. I fixed this problem: I skip lunch 🙂 (and actually, breakfast too)

      3. I solved that problem by not reheating my lunch; cold bacon and eggs, right from the fridge!

  4. So that’s a big plus for soups and stews then…. I am forever boiling bones and bits for soups. I used to remove all the fatty bits and skin before boiling, but now it all just goes in – then add onions, salt, pepper and veg to the stock and “Delicious! ” So it seems I’m doing something right…

    And I do sleep well at night – I wonder is my soupy diet part of the reason for this? Got me thinking anyways. 🙂

    PS I have ME (CFS) and this is ME Awareness month. I follow a Paleo diet to help me with the symptoms of ME. I wrote a blog post to try and help raise awareness. This is the link:

    *Mark I quite understand if you wish to take the link down, but hopefully you will take a peek and deem it acceptable. Many folk with ME (including me) use your resources to help them with the dietary changes to help their condition. 🙂 Thanks.

    1. Thank you Mark for leaving the link to my ME (CFS) awareness post available in your comments section. I have noticed a number of your good readers have taken an interest and followed through to find out more.

      PS I’ve some lovely chicken bones boiling as I type… guess I’ll sleep well tonight. Thank you for all the excellent advice you offer here. I love all the inspiration I get from you and other peeps who post. 🙂

  5. Thanks for covering the bone broth. I’d seen those studies about the potentially harmful effects of the microwave as well, and they made me really nervous because I microwave mine all the time! Now I’ll go back to doing it with confidence.

    1. I would truly avoid using the microwave for anything, especially bone broth. Studies have shown that using microwave boiled water, cooled, and then used for water growing plants, basically kills them.

      Microwaving alters the chemical structures of foods making them useless and potential harmful.

  6. Fatigue could be caused by MSG or the hidden forms of the neurotoxin (yeast extract, hyrdolyzed proteins, etc.) in broths. More info can be found at Even the Pacific brand broths found at Whole Foods contain autolyzed yeast. For me, these toxins cause fatigue, nausea, headaches, and extreme irritability.

  7. So glad to see I’m not the only one struggling with chicken… I’d been told I might be intolerant to it, or wondered if it was the sheer amount I ate of it… but it certainly makes me feel sleepy!

    I’m moving onto salad with fish at lunch, chicken and other meet for dinner/ sleep!

    1. You might try rattlesnake, I understand it tastes just like chicken. 🙂

  8. I wish the fear mongering about microwaving would stop. Broth is almost all water. Water absorbs the energy from the microwaves and the EM waves are converted to heat. The heat is continuously spread out among the molecules. Unless you heat up the broth hotter in a microwave than on the stove, there is no difference.

    I wish anyone who made these claims would back them up with science.

    And I wish the paleo community would demand scientific cites like they do with all other claims.

    1. +1. I don’t have a microwave oven, not out of fear, but simply because my old one broke and I had better things to do with my money. I don’t really miss it, except for the few extra dishes I have to do from reheating leftovers in pots or pans.

  9. If you consider the gastrointestinal distress suffered by cattle that are fed grain on the feedlot, I don’t know that they are really the most humane choice. If there is anything else in the budget to cut, and there always is, I would try to find the money for grass fed.

  10. What is FAR more of a concern is to not cook meat too quickly, when it gets charred that’s when carcinogens get released as I understand (there are many articles out there that go into the science / chemistry, Mark has probably published something regarding this subject). I personally don’t eat meat, rest of my family does and all of my friends. I tell them they are probably doing the right thing as man is an omnivore and the reason I’m lean and trim is due to eliminating grains, consistent exercise, and getting protein via whey, hemp and lots of free range eggs. On an unrelated note, based on one of Mark’s recent posts he motivated me to begin a Leangain IF 16/8 eating regimen, I’m on day two, wish me luck folks LOL.

  11. My wife and I eat chicken from time to time, usually whole roasted, with the picked bones to be roasted a second time for broth. Our favorite part of the chicken is the skin. We buy skins only from a local butcher and roast them on a sheet pan until they become crispy, caramelized pieces of awesome ness. We then use them in place of chips with guac or salsa (have to be aware of how easy it is to eat way too much this way), or we crumble them up and top our deviled eggs with them.

    1. that’s amazing! you could probably do the same with pork rinds. thanks for the idea!

  12. First I had to stop eating sugar, then wheat. Then cut down on the dairy and alcohol. Now I have to stop injecting bone broth into my ventricles? Sigh.

  13. Has anyone seen the seinfeld episode where they feed a woman turkey so she will fall asleep and they can play with her toys.

    1. They were all in the original boxes! What’s a person to do? “More red wine?”

  14. My one-year old grandson had a big helping of Crispy Carnitas (Mark’s recipe) in January and literally fell asleep in his high chair with his hand on another bite on the tray. We wondered if it was the tryptophan!

  15. so the livery gravy sounds delicious! what do you serve it with? chicken? by itself?

  16. The Princess Bride! I got the points for getting the reference.

  17. “In chickens, L-proline induced amnesia, while D-proline did not.”

    I’d like to know just how you can tell whether an animal as stupid as a chicken has amnesia.

  18. Hahaha – don’t inject bone broth into your ventricles! Love it! I will try to remember not to do that!
    Still giggling here …

  19. The statement in the Weston A Price article that broth should not be heated relies on a bad study that could not be replicated under reasonable conditions. The article should be revised.

    See for example: “The report by Lubec (1989) that microwave heating of milk infant formulas induces formation of d-proline and cis-l-hydroxyproline compared to conventional heating could not be confirmed (Fay et al., 1991; Fritz et al., 1992; Marchelli et al., 1992; Petrucelli and Fischer, 1994). It is also noteworthy that microwave heating of gelatin did not generate cis-4-hydroxy-l-proline, an inhibitor of collagen biosynthesis (Erbe and Brückner, 1999).” ( )

    Also: “The formation of D-amino acids in microwave heat-treated milk, which was indicated some years ago, results from extreme heat. Household equipment does not use these conditions. Therefore, fears about the formation of D-amino acids in microwaved milk can be ignored.” ( )

  20. I just KNEW you were a Princess Bride person! 😀 (Excellent post, too.)