Fermented dairy, lactic acid, and CLA: a response to James

James left a good comment on the Fermented dairy, lactic aicd, and CLA post. I started to reply as a comment but then it I felt it should be in a post as it was getting rather long.

James I always appreciate your comments.

There are reliable reports on the Maasai/Masai. For further exploration: Peter Dobromylskyj, Stephan Guyenet, Chris Masterjohn have all written on the Maasai. Ray Peat has also commented on the health of the Maasai:

“Many people advocate a low protein diet, specifically to prevent or treat osteoporosis, but the cultures that traditionally have had extremely high protein diets, such as the Masai, are very healthy.” (Peat, n.d.)

There are also interesting studies isolating the impacts of different types of fat in mice (Horn, Laver, & Wood, 1981; MacQueen, 2011).

The question of healthy, healthier, and healthiest is relative. There are many optimums in health and there is plenty of observational evidence to support this position; in the literature and anecdotal.

If I am in Europe and then go to the United States and see that the average population of Europe is healthier than the average population of the United States-clearly Europe is doing something different to achieve those results. Is Europe’s approach optimal, not necessarily, but one could argue that it is a step towards something better (a degree of improvement towards something optimal). If I am in an area of the world that has a high concentration of 90+ year old inhabitants and then move to an area where the phenomena is absent–regardless of the factors–if longevity is your goal, then in my opinion it is worth further exploration.

Another example: If I look at the longest lived and see that sucrose is relatively low, and I see evidence in the literature that sucrose is healthful, then the next question to be asked is if sucrose is a negative, neutral, or positive contributing factor to longevity and good health. If I see that some people who live a long time eat relatively little sugar and I see that some people also live long lives eating more sucrose, then I can see that there are apparently two different paradigms at work that perhaps achieve the same results. You can look at a pattern and develop a theory, but as soon as the pattern is broken it means the foundation on which the theory is based is flawed.

A comical example is if someone tells me that bacon is unhealthful and that industrial bacon is even more unhealthful. We walk away thinking bacon is unhealthful but industrial bacon is worse. But then we find a woman who is 100+ years old who gives responsibility of her longevity to the high quantities of bacon she eats that is more than likely less than pastured. So not only is she eating “harmful” bacon,  she is eating the worst of the worst. Is there a protective factor that protects from the negative factors of bacon? Or is it such that bacon, regardless of the source, is either a neutral or positive factor towards longevity?

Good health is usually a balance between the concepts of security and freedom.

I agree:

“I’m a bit skeptic about inferring that a habit or food is good based upon the apparent health of a population.”

However, the question I am raising is not a matter of health, it is a matter of toxicity. When a food dominates a particular diet and the population is in good health and it is claimed that same food is harmful, there is an irregularity. For example, if smoking is harmful and/or toxic, and the oldest person on earth smoked (as well as others in the record books) there is an irregularity. Either the toxin is indeed harmful and there is a protective factor or the toxin is not harmful; or the mechanism for harmfulness is incorrect or there are contextual considerations. A further example would be fatty acids such as those found in breast milk and coconut oil that are ketogenic. These fatty acids are ketogenic in their nature. If we agree that breast milk and coconut oil are good even though they produce ketones (or in the case of breast milk which enhances ketogenesis) then there are now at least two contexts for ketosis. One that is stimulated by metabolic substrates, and one that is produced in certain physiological situations (self-induced or as a result of disease). In a baby who is in ketosis we do not say that ketones are harmful, yet ketoacidosis in a diabetic is harmful. Clearly ketones are protective. But the context (physiological states) in which they are measured might lead some people to throw out the baby with the bath water. My opinion is that lactic acid and lactate have different contexts as well.

Your last question:

“But Ray Peat seems to think carb (esp. sugar – but let’s leave alone the debate on starch and endotoxin for now) is needed for good thyroid even once in good health – do you disagree and if so why?”

I think glucose is probably wise. How much is required for good health and stress resistance? I don’t know, but I think the requirement is rather low. I have a post on this topic that I have not yet had a chance to finish. Fresh meat contains glycogen which indeed is a source of glucose. That is something that I think is important which most miss when gauging carbohydrate requirements. Even then I have no idea how much glycogen is available in fresh meat.

Personally I recovered predominately on a high saturated fat diet similar to the Maasai pattern (I suppose a “what do I eat?” type of post is overdue). In my toolbox, however, were varying amounts of sugars and thyroid along the way (Cynoplus and Cynomel I no longer need, and my CO2 always falls somewhere between 29-32 mEq/L). Another kind of quirky thing about me is that the only carbohydrates I trust are those produced from animals. Namely those found in milk and honey. Maybe that is silly, maybe not. How much of the sugars we actually use after gut fermentation from milk is questionable. How much sugar? I have no idea but overall rather low, sometimes I put sucrose or honey in my coffee or tea sometimes I don’t. I like the occasional scoop of vanilla ice cream with bits of chocolate or if I’m feeling wild chocolate syrup. I also like cheesecake. I usually have absolutely no sweet cravings. But there were periods where I attempted to force feed myself large amounts of fruit. Virgin coconut oil was useful for slimming down at some points but refined was not. Sometimes I gently melt the coconut oil down and pour it over a bit of ice cream to make the chocolate syrup I make crispy.

My body temperatures are rock solid stable on high saturated fat 98.6-99 F. If I get a little wild with the sugars my body temperatures get wild as well which tends to agree with this.

On another note:

There is also another post I have in the pipes about mucin deficiency, which some have said is a lack of glucose in certain low carbohydrate promoting circles, whereas I believe it to be a deficiency of certain amino acids in the context of a diet that is high in muscle meats-namely glycine, which mucin is partly made up of.

Another topic I plan on writing about is methionine restriction. Obviously in some animals methionine restriction leads to increased lifespan, but I haven’t seen anything that would convince me that outright restriction in humans would have the same effect, and I think it is because there are certain species of gut bacteria that digest methionine. In fact there is some evidence to suggest that methionine deficiency causes gray hair. Anecdotally when I was in Santa Fe, NM at altitude there is a large vegetarian population there, and I noticed that a lot of young vegetarians 30-50 years old had rich gray hair.


Horn, P. L., Laver, J. J., & Wood, J. T. (1981). Changes of aging parameters among rats on diets differing in fat quantity and quality. Journal of Gerontology, 36(3), 285–93. Retrieved from http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/7229275

MacQueen, H. A. (2011). Age-Related Biomarkers Can be Modulated by Diet in the Rat. Food and Nutrition Sciences, 02(08), 884–890. doi:10.4236/fns.2011.28120

Peat, R. (n.d.). Calcium and Disease: Hypertension, organ calcification, & shock, vs. respiratory energy. Retrieved March 29, 2014, from http://raypeat.com/articles/articles/calcium.shtml

Fermented dairy, lactic acid, and CLA

I consume a lot of full fat dairy. A good half of it—probably more—is fermented in some bacterial cocktail. In some places there has been resurgence in the idea of drinking lots of milk. I think anything coming from a cow is healthy. But some people believe that the lactic acid in fermented bacterial cocktails is harmful.

As well, people talk about how much milk the Maasai drank. Now the Maasai and other dairy herding cultures are healthy. Thriving off of cows and their milk and the products produced from their milk no doubt is a high saturated fat diet. I think dairy, as far as food sources go, is probably the best and safest food source. I think the rest of the cow is good, too. But with how bad fermented foods are supposed to be and limiting yourself to maybe two tablespoons of yogurt, well that sounds rather…

Thriving off of cows and their dairy is like extended breast feeding

Babies seem healthy to me and they seem to like breast milk. How dare a mother poison her baby with lactic acid producing bacteria (Martín et al., 2003).

I’m a big believer that a theory should—if it has any ounce of credibility—reflect what we see in reality. Most of the milk drank by the Maasai was fermented. There is a problem there. Given their good health and the fact they smoke a lot gives us a couple of angles to work from. No science required, just a little logic and common sense. First, the traditional Maasai were healthy. Second they smoked a lot. In modern culture we view smoking and/or nicotine as unhealthy, so if the Maasai have an unhealthy lifestyle factor then they must be protected by something in their diet (or some other factor). But we’ll avoid the complexity of those other factors for now and focus on the diet. So the Maasai smoked, and according to those who believe that lactic acid is harmful, that is also another risk factor for disaster.

The real question is: if lactic acid is harmful despite the fact that the lactic acid producing bacteria modulate endotoxin (Schiffrin, Rochat, Link-Amster, Aeschlimann, & Donnet-Hughes, 1995), and if smoking is harmful despite the fact that nicotine modulates endotoxin (Wittebole et al., 2007), well then…we have a big problem considering that most of the calories in the traditional Maasai diet are coming from fermented milk. These guys, according to some paradigms, are literally waiting to burst giant lactic acid secreting tumors out of their eye sockets, earholes and rectums. But they don’t. Of course, we could forever go down the road of different arguments, but really the simplest answer, and an answer that agrees with other traditional healthy cultures that ate fermented dairy, is simple: lactic acid is not harmful. Much like people who eat more saturated fat tend to be healthier. Yes, people who eat butter are healthier, faster, and stronger.

Of course, what is more interesting about fermented dairy is some of the special properties those bacteria provide us with. For example, Lactobacillus plantarum found in some fermented dairy products (but mostly in fermented plant concoctions) converts linoleic acid to CLA (Kishino, Ogawa, Yokozeki, & Shimizu, 2009; Ogawa et al., 2005). Of course, CLA is useful (Belury, 2002).

I don’t know. If you are eating a low PUFA diet and you are worried about PUFA, I kind of like the idea of a little flora mopping up what I can’t humanly avoid and turning it into something useful and probably healthful.


Belury, M. A. (2002). Inhibition of Carcinogenesis by Conjugated Linoleic Acid: Potential Mechanisms of Action. J. Nutr.132(10), 2995–2998. Retrieved from http://jn.nutrition.org/content/132/10/2995.full

Kishino, S., Ogawa, J., Yokozeki, K., & Shimizu, S. (2009). Metabolic diversity in biohydrogenation of polyunsaturated fatty acids by lactic acid bacteria involving conjugated fatty acid production. Applied Microbiology and Biotechnology84(1), 87–97. doi:10.1007/s00253-009-1949-0

Martín, R., Langa, S., Reviriego, C., Jimínez, E., Marín, M. L., Xaus, J., … Rodríguez, J. M. (2003). Human milk is a source of lactic acid bacteria for the infant gut. The Journal of Pediatrics143(6), 754–8. doi:10.1016/j.jpeds.2003.09.028

Ogawa, J., Kishino, S., Ando, A., Sugimoto, S., Mihara, K., & Shimizu, S. (2005). Production of conjugated fatty acids by lactic acid bacteria. Journal of Bioscience and Bioengineering100(4), 355–64. doi:10.1263/jbb.100.355

Schiffrin, E. J., Rochat, F., Link-Amster, H., Aeschlimann, J. M., & Donnet-Hughes, a. (1995). Immunomodulation of human blood cells following the ingestion of lactic acid bacteria. Journal of Dairy Science78(3), 491–7. doi:10.3168/jds.S0022-0302(95)76659-0

Wittebole, X., Hahm, S., Coyle, S. M., Kumar, A., Calvano, S. E., & Lowry, S. F. (2007). Nicotine exposure alters in vivo human responses to endotoxin. Clinical and Experimental Immunology147(1), 28–34. doi:10.1111/j.1365-2249.2006.03248.x