Dear Mark: Tick Red Meat Allergy, Seventh-day Adventists, Magnesium and Carnivory

Dear_Mark_Inline_PhotoFor today’s edition of Dear Mark, I’m answering a few questions and comments from last week’s post on the carnivore diet. First, Dawn gives us the unfortunate but necessary information that it’s not just the lone star tick who causes red meat allergy. Great. Second, what are 7-Day Adventists so healthy? Is it all because of their tendency to avoid meat, or is there something else? And third, I give some more thoughts on magnesium requirements on a carnivorous diet.

Let’s go:

Dawn wrote:

It’s not just the lone star tick that causes an alpha-gal allergy, aka red meat allergy. Other ticks can cause it as well. The info about other ticks is about 3/4ths of the way down, under “Clearing up Misconceptions About Alpha-Gal.”

And to be precise, it’s an allergy to meat from non-primate mammals. Primates don’t have the alpha-gal carbohydrate, but other mammals do.

That is very good information. Unfortunate, but good to know. Thanks for the note.

Also good to know I can still eat my braised orangutan shanks even if I get an alpha-gal allergy.

Edward wrote:

The healthiest, longest lived people, now live in Loma Linda, CA. What is it that is unique about Loma Linda? They have a bunch of 7 day adventists that live there. Also, they have the highest density on earth of pure ‘vegans’ in their population.

Coincidence? Possibly, but highly unlikely.

By the way, if animal products is the only way to get vitamin B12 in the diet, where do
cows, deer, zebras, great apes, ect……. get their vitamin B12? They get it from where ALL B12 really comes from……..bacteria in the soil and water. It’s just that we humans wash it off our produce and treat our drinking water.

I love the Adventists. Their diets get the most attention, but there’s a lot more to it.

Seventh-day Adventists follow Eight Laws of Health.

Eat a nutrient-dense diet. This is usually a vegetarian or vegan diet, but it doesn’t have to be.

Exercise regularly to improve mind, body, and spirit. Note the . They recognize that training is good for our cognitive and psychological function, not just for the body. That’s something that modern science is finally getting around to recognizing, and the Adventists have known for 150 years.

Drink plenty of water. While I’d take umbrage with “plenty”—just drink what you need, not some predetermined quantity—the fact that they’re drinking water and not other stuff is a point in their favor.

Spend time in sunlight. The benefits of this are numerous: vitamin D, nitric oxide, better endothelial function, sun-derived opioids coursing through their veins.

Don’t overdo the good things and avoid the bad. This rather open-ended law covers a wide range of inputs that can get in the way of health and happiness. Good things often become bad when we overdo them; bad things are, well, bad.

Breathe pure air and do so with proper technique. This is another law with double effects. It captures environmental health—you’re more likely to choose to live in a healthy, pollution-free area and spend as much time in nature as you can if you’re worried about pure air. Second, breathing properly, leading with the diaphragm, carefully heeding each inhalation and exhalation all tend to produce a state of relaxation akin to miniature meditations throughout the day.

Work hard and rest well. Not “work hard, play hard.” Not “I’ll sleep when I’m dead.” Not “you only live once.” Instead of those trite and frankly counterproductive slogans, “work hard and rest well” implores you to follow the most rewarding, fruitful, and sustainable path through life and work.

The final law is to “trust in divine power as you make choices and seek inner peace.” I’ve never been religious. Yet, in a sense I have a “religious” estimation of my own tendency to make things work out. When I had a wife and two kids to support, I left my cozy gig and started my own business. It was a risk. I knew it would work though. And it did. I can imagine having the confidence that a transcendent force is pulling for you would make for a similarly robust mindset.

As for the B12 question, I’m sure someone somewhere is working hard on edible soil for humans. And there’s certainly a market for “raw water.” But what does that mean for the average person avoiding animal foods?

Are they going to drink untreated water with the perfect balance of vitamin B12 and raccoon poop? Are they going to eat enough soil-caked spinach?

I’m skeptical.

“A recent paper showed that the majority of people following a “paleolithic ketogenic diet” with at least 70% of calories from animal foods and including offal had adequate serum magnesium levels. That’s a great start. But earlier studies show that serum magnesium may not be the definitive marker. A person can have normal serum levels but inadequate tissue levels—and in the tissues is where magnesium does its work. A person can have normal serum levels but still be deficient.”
Dear Mark. First: “majority people”, in fact 99.9%
Second. What you write, is not real. The magnesium function depends only on the degree of glycolysis. Tissue and intracellular magnesium also depend on glycolysis. If is ketosis, very little magnesium is required. Any magnesium supplement can make a cardiac complication, sinus tachycardia, extrasystole etc. But it can cause diarrhea, warmth, sweating. Also made increased intestinal permeability and changed membrane functions. Magnesium dosage is not a game.
To talk about past investigations are a professional mistake because these study made not during healthy diet.
Animal fat is important in nutrition. So it is better to say a meat / animal fat-based diet, a paleo-ketogenic diet as a carnivore. The only meat is not as healthy as meat and animal fat.
Anyway, the real paleolithic diet is actually paleolithic ketogenic diet or carnivorous diet.
This is important for magnesium.I apologize for the bad English, I hope you understand what I wrote.

Thanks for writing, Dr. Csaba. Your English was perfectly fine. For those you didn’t pick up on it, Dr. Csaba is one of the researchers who ran the “magnesium on paleo-keto/carnivore” study I referenced last week.

You’re right that magnesium figures prominently in glucose metabolism, and that if you’re not eating much glucose, you probably don’t need as much magnesium for that purpose. After all, magnesium is used to treat many diseases and problems related to glucose metabolism. It’s effective against type 2 diabetes, protects against pre-diabetes turning into full-blown diabetes, reduces blood sugar levels, improves insulin sensitivity. Low levels seem to increase diabetic complications, and high sugar intakes do make low magnesium intakes more problematic. If glucose isn’t a major part of your diet, I can buy the assertion that you probably don’t need as much.

But magnesium does more than that. It also fights depression, reduces post-op complications, improves bone health

The number of people who find they need to increase magnesium intake when going ketogenic, and the number of ketogenic diet writers (including me) and researchers who recommend magnesium supplementation when going keto make me wonder though. Is there something different about carnivory that reduces magnesium requirements? It can’t only be the lack of carbohydrates, because basic ketogenic diets also lack carbohydrates yet still require magnesium.

Perhaps it’s the anti-nutrients in low-carb plant foods, like nuts and greens. Dietary phytate, lectins, and oxalates can reduce magnesium absorption. A carnivorous diet has none of these compounds, making any magnesium present in the diet far more bioavailable. I can see that playing a role. Yet, what of plant (or plant-like foods, like mushrooms) foods with low anti-nutrient levels? One study found that eating high-oxalate spinach reduced magnesium absorption, while low-oxalate kale (sorry, carnivores, I know kale is your favorite nemesis) increased it. 

Some people have suggested that the fiber in low-carb plants is inhibiting magnesium absorption, artificially elevating the magnesium requirements of plant eaters. While that may be true for other nutrients and different types of fiber—I’ll have to dig deeper in a future post—it looks like fermentable fiber increases magnesium absorption in humans. That assertion doesn’t really seem to jibe with the evidence.

Magnesium deficiency tends to increase low-level inflammation. To be on the safe side, any carnivores worried about magnesium deficiency and wary of magnesium supplementation could track their hs-CRP levels. If it’s elevated or begins trending upward upon going carnivore, you probably need more magnesium.

My point is let’s not be too hasty in claiming that all the benefits of magnesium supplementation are predicated on a glucose-based metabolism.

Dr. Csaba, I look forward to more research from you and your team!

Thanks for reading, everyone, and take care! I’m sure I’ll be covering more of the questions from the carnivore post, as you folks asked some good ones.

Primal Kitchen Dijon Mustard

TAGS:  dear mark

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.

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34 thoughts on “Dear Mark: Tick Red Meat Allergy, Seventh-day Adventists, Magnesium and Carnivory”

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  1. As someone sharing 97% of my genes with orangutans, I find this post offensive.

  2. I don’t know much about magnesium and the heart, or, referring to a recent coffee post, what correlation there is between coffee and nonlethal cardiac arrest, but they do increase your risk of fart attacks.

  3. Excellent synopsis of the Seventh-day Adventists lifestyle Mark. I think what that reinforces is something we all know … good health is a synergy of a number of factors / good habits, and diet (which is important, don’t get me wrong) in terms of plant to animal ratio may not have as much importance as we tend to attach to it.

  4. Every time I hear about the Seventh-Day Adventists, the article makes it sound as if they’re all vegetarians and most of them are vegans. But according to Wikipedia, only 35% of them are vegetarian or vegan?

  5. Hmmm, I always thought that the Adventist’s did a lot of fasting too, which could be another major reason they are so long-lived. Is that not one of their protocols?

  6. What can we do within Primal perameters to reduce our chances of being bitten by ticks? What about mosquitos?

    1. I live in a rural area with a large tick population. Anytime after working outside, I leave all my clothes out in the barn for 48 hours and then shower. Sounds extreme but so far I have managed to avoid a tick-borne illness. Others in the community have been less fortunate.

    2. Tuck your pants into your socks and your shirts into your pants. We put rubber bands at the wrists of our son’s shirts because he is a tick magnet. Interestingly enough, just like mosquitos, some people just aren’t as appealing to ticks as others. We do spray our hiking and camping gear with permethrin, though, because the risk for Lyme Disease is higher here, and just not worth it. But, that is not something you spray on your skin. Also, we travel with tweezers and know how to properly remove ticks. That is VERY important, to do it right.
      I wish I could tell you an effective way to keep mosquitos off. The best I can suggest is find a friend that mosquitoes think taste better than you, and keep them with you at all times.

      1. I’ve found, to my delighted amazement, that Citronella Oil diluted some, but not a whole lot, with MCT oil actually keeps the little biters off. I am proven the mosquito’s fav food — and in the South, that’s a sentence of darned near death! Have always had to avoid going out in the summers (well, and I hate the heat and humidity) … But sometimes, outside needs attending. Rubbing the citronella on any exposed skin, and a bit up under my sleeves or pants legs, on my sandaled feet, my face, neck, ears! (Don’t forget the ears! Ask me how I know!) keeps them from landing. (Oh, and I also smooth some onto my hair, scalp, doncha know!)

        Do I smell strong? Uh, yeah. Is it worth it?! O.M.G. YES! Requires a shower and hair-wash when I come in, but I’d be doin’ that anyway. Gardening clothes get washed anyway. (Gardening) Sandals stay in the garage, so no problem with the smell — and really, the smell is NOT bad; kinda citrusy… But the ‘squitos DO NOT LAND! Oh oh oh! I am SAVED! (‘specially cause there are some horrific mosquito-borne diseases down here! West Nile and the like — or worse!) (Alas, doesn’t seem to do anything about fire ants… S’pose they can’t smell?)

        1. We don’t get mosquitos where I live, thank God. That’s not to say you can’t find them if you look in the right places. They just aren’t prevalent in my neighborhood or metro area. We do get houseflies and a few horseflies, along with wasps, yellowjackets, etc., but they mostly leave you alone.

          I’ve been in the northern Minnesota woods, where ‘squitos are practically the state bird. I wore long sleeves and long pants with socks and boots and a floppy brimmed hat. I sprayed my clothes and hat heavily with “Off” (lacking anything else), but didn’t put it anywhere on my skin. It was enough to keep them off my face, neck, and hands. They circled around me at times but I didn’t get bit once, and I’m usually a real magnet for mosquitos. Didn’t get any ticks either.

          1. Thanks for all the great advice. Getting either Lyme disease or a red meat alkergy are at the top of my “Worst nightmares” list!

        2. Great post.
          There are quite some essential oils that keep bugs away.
          And eating garlic helps too
          A bulb a day keeps mosquitoes away. 🙂

  7. I have been Keto for one month now. Lately I noticed I am experiencing night time leg cramps. Could that be the result of low magnesium?

    1. “More fat, more water, more salt” is your rule of thumb on keto. One (or more) of these is usually the answer to any issues on a keto diet, especially in the early stages. I’ve been prone to nighttime leg cramps all my life (even before going low carb), and increasing my intake of both salt and water helps me tremendously.

      1. funny, I used to get nighttime leg cramp all the time when I was a vegetarian. Since I’ve been primal and gradually became keto they are a thing of the past. It has been years since I have had them.

      2. You need Potassium not salt. That’s what happend to me. Did a carnivore diet for 30 days. I had a short fuse, hungry, got pissed really easy, leg cramps and my arms had pins and needles feeling and lots of premature ventricular contractions. Plus I was adding lots and lots and lots of salt to my meat.
        Once I added about a 1lb of vegetables a day along with chicken, yogurt and a pice of steak problem solved. I do not salt any of my food anymore. You need lots of potassium and less sodium.

        1. I’m not sure whether potassium is the magic pill, either. I’ve had cramps at times, for reasons that aren’t clear. I got them more while eating more plant food, and less with less plant food. I tend to get them now (I eat plants for dinner, sometimes) when I fast for >20 hours, or even the day after fasting for >36 hours. If I eat, I tend not to get cramps. I’ve taken magnesium, and can’t figure out whether this helps or not. Sometimes it seems to; sometimes not. Sadly, I am not supposed take potassium due to certain drugs I’m taking.

          I’m upping my salt intake on fasting days, to see if this helps.

          Now, I’m only about 80-100% carnivore, depending on the day. So maybe the few plants I’m eating provide enough potassium for me, but I tend to doubt it. (Not to mention that plants have so many anti-nutrients that even if they have potassium, I’m not sure how much of that gets absorbed.)

    2. I suffered from nightime leg cramps before going primal, and still do if i do not take magnesium. Especially if i imbibe in a single glass of wine. I have upped my salt(himalayan) intake and drink lots of water. Even with all these things, once in a while i will wake up with leg cramps in the night….so i keep a small bottle of himalayan salt and a glass of water by the bed. Just put a couple of pinches of salt on your tongue and swallow with water….within a minute the cramps will disappear!

    3. As soon as I go into Ketosis I get leg cramps, so now I put a pinch of salt in each glass of water I drink. Works great, I’ve tried all the other cures to no avail, just needed more salt

  8. Very interesting things about the Adventist lifestyle. Never quite realised they are such adepts of healthy living. Gonna look into this more. Great post, thanks! Not sure I quite understood everything about the tick red meat allergy. Is there another post on this?

  9. One thing I have not seen about the alpha-gal allergy is transmission rate. I know some tick-borne illnesses require some 48 or so hours to transmit after the tick has bit in you, and even then you may not contract what it carries. But, with alpha-gal being a saliva thing, I’m thinking it’s pretty much instant to the bite (vs say, requiring a day or two attachment period), and much higher transmission odds (as the sugar is always in the saliva). I was interested to discover that after the bite you don’t seem to develop the allergy for over a month – that’s interesting, and I wonder if that’s an every-time thing or if some get it sooner.

    I pulled a lone star tick off of me the Friday before Memorial Day – I suspect it had been there less than 24 hours – but it looks like I got two welts off of it. I’d had red meat shortly around the time I got bit and didn’t react, but haven’t touched any sense – though I did have dairy. Wondering if going tee-totler on the mammal stuff for a month or so would improve my odds of maybe not developing the allergy.

    1. I was diagnosed with alpha-gal three years ago. At the time I developed the allergy, I was only eating red meat a few times a year (since my husband is a vegetarian and I liked to cook dinners that we both could enjoy). But I was eating dairy with almost every meal. And guess what — my immune system zeroed right in on those dairy foods, and I got really sick.

      The problems started with just gastric symptoms, and multiple doctors blew off my concerns. So I tried an elimination diet on my own, which is how I found paleo/primal in the first place! I tried it for a month and felt fantastic. I was so sure that gluten would turn out to be the problem. I couldn’t believe it when I tried some re-introductions, and dairy turned out to be the trigger.

      For the next year, I ate tons of beef and pork, roasted my veggies in lard, etc. It was awesome! But my reactions to accidental dairy exposure kept getting worse and worse. I was now getting shortness of breath, racing heartbeat, and facial swelling. Finally I understood that this was not some nebulous gut problem, this was a real allergy. I got a referral to an allergist, and boom: alpha-gal.

      One of the many bizarre things about this allergy is that the antibodies don’t always seem to recognize the chemical in every context. For example, some people react to beef, but not pork. Many people react to meat, but not dairy. I happen to react to dairy, but not meat. But the allergist said that that can change at any time, and sometimes the first reaction to a previously-safe food can be really bad one. So all mammal meats are off the menu for me.

      I get re-tested once or twice a year. My antibody levels drop slowly over time, but every time I get another tick bite they shoot up again. Ticks are EVERYWHERE where I live, and I am a super tick magnet. The only way to be totally safe would be to stay inside from April till November every year. It is a really depressing situation.

      1. I ended up contracting the red-meat allergy, as it turns out. Skin-prick testing seemed to show Lamb as significantly more reactive than the rest. Nothing on dairy. A follow-up blood test confirmed alpha-gal allergy. Fortunately for me, I knew what that tick was when I pulled it off so I’d gone “cold turkey” on red meat immediately after, so I never suffered a reaction of any sort that I could tell. A year on and I’m still allergic so I’m just going to continue avoiding the stuff.

        A former coworker had been bitten a few years back and developed the symptoms (hives for him). Two other people I know were bitten and have no reactions. Very inconsistent “disease” to say the least.

  10. Mormons, who are definitely not known for veganism, tend to live comparably long lives. According to a Deseret News article about a 2008 UCLA study by non-Mormons James E. Enstrom and Lester Breslow:

    “The study, conducted from 1980 to 2004, included information from questionnaire responses by more than 9,800 faithful Mormon couples and concluded that practicing Mormons in California had the lowest total death rates and the longest life expectancies ever documented in a well-defined U.S. cohort.”

    Purely on an anecdotal level, the handful of Adventists I know are neither vegan nor vegetarian, although they do tend to avoid pork. Of course, none of these people live in Loma Linda.

    Perhaps family and faith play major roles in people’s health?

    1. This is correct. Leirre Keith documents this extensively in her book, The Vegetarian Myth. Well worth the read!

  11. Based on the above, one may conclude that the Seventh-day Adventists like the Okinawan are shielded from disease. The above science based article however, says otherwise and they die and get sick from the same metabolic diseases that effect the western world. These are just 2 of many articles on the subject. If anything, I would say the Japaneses lead the way in terms of health and longevity, beacuse – not in spite of their consumption of animal foods in general and sea food in particular.

    I didn’t go read the entire 2nd paper but it interesting…

  12. No, ruminants and squids do not get B12 from eat soil-infested plants. The bacteria that live in their capacious fermentation chambers produce B12. The chamber owners suck up the B12 for their own needs and accumulate it in their tissues. Humans also have gut bacteria that produce B12 – but it appears to be manufactured too low in the gut for us to absorb it.

    Some soil bacteria may spin off B12 – but by far the greatest amount of the B12 in the zebra steak or the elephant jerky comes from the bacterial powerhouses inside the animal.

  13. Hi everyone, I rarely comment but this time I feel compelled to share my story. I initially wanted to make that comment on the carnivore post but lacked time to do so.

    By all means, if you want to live the ”carnivorous lifestyle”, at least eat the animal from head to tail with some raw organ meat. Add to this some fermented meat & hard-to-chew bits. Most people are just eating steaks day in day out. Personally, I been on a mostly carnivorous diet (steak only) for 1.5 years and got Seborrhoeic Dermatitis in the end after 3 days of binging heavily on alcohol (hey im still in college, lol). Even with a very very low carb diet I couldnt get rid of it and I knew it was related to yeast. I only fixed my skin problems 1 year later after healing my gut. I will outline what I did at the end of this comment.

    My theory is that the benefits people see from a carnivorous diet is mainly related to two things :

    1. They finally give themselves a good supply of easily absorbable nutrients that they probably lacked.
    2. They starve the pathogenic flora in their guts with near 0 fermentable fibers.

    The problem is, the bad bugs are way more resilient than the good flora. They are just there waiting to be fed again. The symptoms that went away with the carnivorous diet will probably come back as soon as they introduce fermentable fibers in their diet. In the end, people on a carnivorous diet are not cured. They are just managing their symptoms. A healthy flora is required to keep the bad bugs in check. To do this, you need to feed the good bugs regularly with fermentable fibers. I learned it the hard way. I mean, there is a reason why we have complex taste buds and so many bacterias in our colon.

    I cannot really describe the feeling I had after introducing resistant starch and fermentable fibers in my diet (after getting rid of the pathogenic flora). It’s like my perception of life changed. I am way more optimistic about my future & I am eager to take on new challenges. I can binge on alcohol & sugary cocktails and eat lots of shit like fried chicken, fries, pizza and what not, I just became resilient to toxins like normal people. Before I fixed my gut, I was so sensitive that even a fruit like an orange would flare up my Seb Derm. Note that when I eat bad stuff it is only because of social obligations. I try to keep it to a minimum.

    Sorry this is getting a bit longer than I expected. I will now tell you what I did to fix my gut. First of all, I would like to credit my healing to some amazing people : Mark, Dr. BG and Paul Jaminet. They gave me the information I needed to cure myself. The steps outlined below come mostly from Dr. BG’s blog with a bit of my personal experience. You should eat a paleo diet while doing this (and for the rest of your life, for that matter).

    Step 1 (1-3weeks) : Getting rid of pathogenic flora (reducing would be a more appropriate term, as some will always remain). Very low carb diet with almost 0 fermentable fibers. Essentially meat-only with anti-fungals like garlic, pau d’arco and some others (plenty of choices). Some cooked low-fibers vegetables would probably be OK. It would be a good idea to take a biotin supplement with it. Biotin is usually synthetized by good flora. Doctors say you only need like 30mcg (based on average dietary intake) but my personal opinion is that our flora normally produces way more than the recommended amount, it is just too hard to study because of the complexity of our microbiome. A slight headache is a sure sign that you are getting more than enough biotin. Personally I never had a headache with it but I also never went over 10mg/day. You should also take activated charcoal (20-30g/day) for the duration to soak up the toxins.

    Step 2 (at least 2 weeks) : Seeding your gut with good bacteria by eating fermented food and taking probiotics. You can do step 3 at the same time after like 2-3 days into step 2. Personally I am doing steps 2 & 3 forever.

    Step 3 (forever) : Feed the good flora. My staples are cooked-cooled potatoes, cooked-cooled navy beans (dont care if it’s not paleo I just feel good eating them and my bugs like it) and avocados. Basically anything with FODMAPs will do the job.

    So this is it, I hope this information can help some of you achieve optimal health. Wishing you all a happy journey.

  14. The Seventh Day Adventists are the longest lived people in the US? What is the evidence for this statement?

    SDA in the US have “modest cardiovascular benefit, but no clear reduction in overall mortality.” [1] SDA in Denmark are no healthier than Baptists (who also don’t drink alcohol or smoke, but eat meat) and neither live longer than the average Dane. [2] As for cancer, again, no difference between SDA and Baptists who eat meat, and the biggest difference between both and the general public is lung cancer (again, neither smoke). [3]

    As for the assertion that humans get B12 by eating soil: nope. Humans don’t have a rumen, and digestion of B12 in humans occurs in the stomach and small intestine, not the colon like apes. Enough with this meme.


  15. What about ammonia production from metabolizing high amounts of protein? Whenever I ask this question in carnivore diet circles it always gets overlooked…

  16. IMHO the Loma Linda SDA’s stellar health outcomes are attributable more to copious consumption of fresh fruit and vegetables than the nonconsumption of meat.

  17. I just love to read your Q/A session because it clear various doubts and help people to know more about the healthy eating. Thanks for dealing questions like what causes red meat allergy, what are the 7 day adventists that keep you healthy? It’s also useful to know about the magnesium requirement in a carnivorous diet.