Whole Wheat Breads made with Kamut and Red Fife
A couple of Whole Grain breads. One is made with 25% Kamut, the other is made with 25% Red Fife. The rest of the dough (the 75%) is regular Arva Flour Mill whole wheat, a finer grind than the red fife, but not as fine as the Kamut flour.
As usual, using Tartine math, I add 5% wheat germ to the dough, and 2% salt, and I make it with 20% sourdough. Lately I've been keeping the hydration lower, expecting a denser crumb. Both of these loaves are 65% hydrated. The one with Red Fife flattened out a bit, and I suppose it was the chunks in the dough that kept the gluten from forming extra long strands while mixing, turning, and stretching. The dough with Kamut felt silkier, and in the stage before proofing, tighter.
I've given away half of this bread, and I've put the Red Fife loaf in the freezer for the next few weeks when builders come to tear apart our kitchen and I won't be able to bake as often, if at all.
Fasting Update: the Dairy Connection
I continue to fast a couple of days a week. This is a complete fast from all food except I continue to drink some liquids -- water, and teas. I generally fast from dinner the one day to breakfast 2-days hence, so closer to 36 than 24 hours. Despite my supposed exorphin cravings, this type of fast and its short length don't seem to bother me.
That means, however, that I am taking in roughly 5/7 the amount of calories and nourishment per week than I did prior to starting this fast, and I have been dropping a few pounds. There have been times when my wife, who is also doing this fast, wants to eat a ton of pancakes when it comes time to eat breakfast. But I find I'm somewhat opposite. I don't want extra carbs when I break my fast. Yes, bread -- I always want my homemade, wholegrain, sourdough bread, -- but I don't crave a lot of extra sweet stuff. I've never been that interested in dessert anyway. I want denser food. I want foods that are nutritious. I want vegetables and fruits, nutrient density. I don't want junk, it doesn't feel right.
To recap, the reason for the fast in the first place was to try to reduce the Insulin-like growth factor 1 (IGF-1). I've been learning a bit more about IGF-1 since starting the fasts, trying to understand the biological and metabolic pathways. One of the things I've learned is that we make IGF-1 (mostly in the liver) and it circulates in our bloodstream. But there are also dietary sources of IGF-1. And it makes sense to me, at least on the surface, that if you are going to fast to reduce your IGF-1 levels, you may not want to necessarily eat things that contain a lot of IGF-1 on your non-fast days. It's like doing a brake-stand with your car, jamming on the brake while pressing down the accelerator at the same time. All you do is spin your wheels until they start smoking. That's going to be ultimately expensive when you have to replace the rubber.
And what are the dietary sources of IGF-1? Mostly milk. Dairy. And that is a concern for me. Why? Well, finish this phrase:
"Bread and … "
Yes, if I butter my bread (or put cheese on it, or use yogurt to build a crust...), I'm likely increasing my IGF-1 levels.
The FDA says that it is safe, and 3 servings of milk a day have not been found to unduly increase our risk for increasing IGF-1 levels nor to increase our cancer risk. However, they continue to say this despite a rising tide of evidence to the contrary.
I've been a lacto-ovo vegetarian for about 24 years, with only one of those years as a vegan. I found that after a year with no dairy at all, I began having skin problems. I admit that I probably didn't know what I was doing when I began the vegan diet as an experiment -- does any of us know everything about what we are doing, when we begin something new? But my skin problems began to fix themselves when I went back on dairy products. This is precisely the reverse of what many other people find. So I say, every body is different. Let your body be the guide. Figure it out as you go.
I love cheese, and bread and cheese together has become one of my staples, as a lacto-ovo vegetarian. But I concede that ingesting a lot of fatty cheese may also be causing my IGF-1 levels (and triglycerides, and cholesterol) to go up, which may ultimately cause a whole lot of health problems -- including heart disease, and cancer. Is the answer for me to try becoming a vegan again? Or eat only raw food? Or give up dairy but take up meat? Or give up bread?
To be honest, I can't see myself taking any of these roads, not with exclusion. I suspect that I will be eating less cheese, less butter, less milk product in the next few years, and increasing the vegetables by a factor. I see myself getting into juicing, for example, after seeing what the Gerson Therapy can accomplish. But at this point, I don't see myself giving up cheese entirely. Because cheese is -- or it can be -- a nutrient-dense fermented, living food.
I suspect that might just be the exorphins in milk that is making me say that, I don't know.
Thoughts on Butter, Milk and Cheese
So I've been curious about milk and dairy products this past couple of weeks. This is a hot topic among people interested in food and virtually every kind of dieter and health practitioner. It is controversial, and we have lots of people lining up on every side of the debate. An ordinary person has trouble walking in the minefield, trying to avoid the cow patties.
My wife and I have been discovering how difficult/impossible it is to source unpasteurized whole milk from grass-fed cows (which I've wanted to obtain to try to make my own real fermented cheese from). It turns out that such a resource is illegal in this country. All milk for human consumption has to be pasteurized by law (although some cheese producers do manage to leap through a loophole and can somehow make cheese with unpasteurized milk -- this really jacks the price up, though, as you can imagine). Officials are actively prosecuting those who try to sell unpasteurized milk. Take for example, the story of Michael and Dorothea Schmidt as related by Sally Fallon, of the Weston A. Price Foundation.
I've learned an awful lot from listening to the Weston A. Price Foundation people and their propaganda, and I follow their efforts to obtain whole foods from cows with interest. At the same time, I'm not entirely convinced that milk -- and certainly not the milk we can obtain legally -- is all that good for us. I've recently watched the movie (documentary? road trip?) "Got the Facts on Milk" by Shira Lane.
After watching this popular documentary (and another one, called "King Corn" by Aaron Woolf, which doesn't pull any punches when it comes to examining how cows are treated on a typical corn-fed diet these days), I find it difficult to support any milk producer that can legally supply us with what was once a traditional nutritional food source.
The propaganda put out by the milk marketing boards, that dairy products are necessary for calcium, seems to be ubiquitously believed in our culture. Then one day I heard Charlotte Gerson ask the question, where do mother cows get the calcium to make their milk? Do they get it from milk? No. The calves are weaned. Cows get calcium from the food they eat, mostly grass. But the question we then must ask: can we humans eat enough greens and vegetables to get enough calcium without eating milk? After all, we don't have 2 stomachs like cattle, and we don't spend all day ruminating.
This got me curious, and I began looking into the claims of another book I recently flipped through: "Building Bone Vitality" by Lanou & Castleman. Lanou & Castleman cite tons of studies that show that when too much protein is eaten, it changes the pH of the blood. Note that this is quite different from diets that suggest you should eat foods of a certain pH -- such diets are probably bogus, because the stomach acids are going to change things in vivo anyway.
However, the blood does become slightly acidic due to excess protein consumption, and the body does seek to balance the pH by removing calcium from the bone. So you have a strange situation, where you have people eating lots of milk and dairy products to increase calcium intake, but because of the increased protein ingested, the net effect to bones may be overall bone density loss. Calcium from the bones is pissed away, once it buffers the acidity of the blood.
The few studies on this that I've looked at, this all seems to be true, at least in the short-term. Mid-term increased consumption of extra protein will eventually balance out, according to one study I saw. Long-term studies are missing.
But this much is true: if you eat too much protein (and it can be animal or vegetable protein), your body will bring the pH back to homeostasis by leaching calcium from your bones. There is a name for this: "protein-induced calciuria". This is true of those who eat animal proteins (meat); but is this true of increased protein from cereals (i.e. bread)? Yes it is. If you eat too much bread, the proteins from the bread will change your blood pH, and calcium will be released from the bones to keep the pH in the range required to sustain life. Reaching for more cheese might be precisely the wrong thing to do. It will give you more calcium, but it will also give you more protein.
Chronic diseases and IGF-1
There are more and more paleo-diet proponents like German dermatologist Bodo Melnik, who says that milk is the promoter of many of our chronic Western diseases, including "coronary heart disease, diabetes, cancer, hypertension, obesity, dementia, and allergic diseases." Melnik has specifically focused on dairy's ability to increase IGF-1 levels, and furthermore, he says this is the cause of all of these ill health conditions. Melnik lumps grains in with sugar and milk, as one of the causes of our ill health, but more for the way grains spike the insulin response than what it does to IGF-1 levels. In another article, Melnik uses the studies of those with Laron syndrome to show the connection between cancers and IGF-1.
Never mind that humans have been consuming cow's milk for 10's of thousands of years, since the dawn of agriculture. Those who follow a paleolithic-based diet claim that this was a mis-step, that we haven't got the capability to properly metabolize this form of food. It might help a little if we didn't pasteurize everything, or load our cows with estrogens and milk-producing hormones (mostly an U.S. thing, not so much in Canada where its illegal), or suffuse them with antibiotics (common here as well as the U.S.), or feed them cheap subsidized food (corn) that kills them. But ultimately, even if we could source a more natural milk (and we can't), it simply isn't the right food for us. That's what the neanderthin or paleodieters are telling us.
Paleo Diets on Grain
Incidentally, many paleolithic diets eschew grains entirely, saying that grain is indigestible without milling or grinding, and these tools were not available to pre-agricultural humans. If you can't hunt and gather it using nothing more than a sharp stick, they say, then you shouldn't eat it.
For various reasons, most paleolithic diets shy away entirely from whole grains; some limit them to 2-3 servings/day. Loren Cordain, authors of "The Paleo Diet" (2010) says that when 70% of the total calories comes from grain, illness is the result. The high phytates of whole grains interferes with iron and calcium metabolism, and can cause zinc deficiency; many people find they cause inflammation in the GI tract, and probably elsewhere in the body. The lectins of grains increase the antigens in the bloodstream. Grains lack vitamins C, A precursors, folate is not bioavailable, and vitamin D deficiency can occur in diets high in whole grains. Furthermore, grains have the wrong ratio of omega-6:omega-3 fatty acids.
This is all probably true, but increasing the amount of sharpened-stick-killed meat on the plate is not the final answer to obtaining food for the increasing numbers of hungry humans these days. Too much protein will kill you just as dead. As some have pointed out, there is at least one flaw in the paleo diet hypothesis. The bone record of ancient humans who subsisted on hunting/gathering is good because few paleo humans lived long enough to have degenerative bone disease (and if the protein-induced calciuria hypothesis is true, we would see it). We have greater longevity today thanks to agriculture (not to mention culture, writing, ethics, etc. -- all missing from hunter-gatherer clan social structures.)
I'm not giving up on grain and bread just yet. I haven't a better alternative for myself or for the world.
Bovine Growth Hormone
Dr. Samuel Epstein of the Cancer Prevention Coaltion has been writing and speaking about many problematic things in our diet and environment that cause cancer, and has a couple of books about the dangers of milk, including "GOT (Genetically Engineered MILK! The Monsanto rBGH/BST Milk Wars Handbook," (2001) and "What's in Your Milk" (2006)
Epstein is particularly worried about rBGH, the genetically engineered bovine growth hormone which is regularly injected into U.S. cows to make them increase milk production, but he certainly also has much to say about the dangerous IGF-1 levels and the increased female hormone 17 beta-estradiol which have been found in the bloodstream of those who use Dairy products.
Dr. Terry Etherton, animal nutrition specialist at Penn State, disagrees with Epstein, and maintains that the use of rBGH hormones are safe, both for the animals and the humans who ingest their residue in dairy products.
Specifically, he agrees that the use of rBGH will increase IGF-1 in the bloodstream of the animal, and that this will get passed on in the milk, but that "IGF-1 in milk does not pose a safety risk because it is a protein and is digested like all other dietary proteins. Furthermore, IGF-1 is present in human breast milk, and at levels as high or higher than the levels in milk from bST-supplemented cows."
But Epstein says that IGF-1 does survive the gut when ingested (Canadian studies apparently showed that rBGH does too), and it does increase the levels in the human bloodstream, and increased amounts do show a correlative rise in cancer (breast, prostate, and colorectal), and it does turn off the body's ability to nip cancers in the bud by apoptosis when it binds to certain cell receptors.
Personally, I will not eat any cheese or drink any milk that I know comes from the U.S. -- but despite the fact that Canada simply got lucky (we had three heroes, Chopra, Haydon and Lambert who blew the whistle on Monsanto and advocated for consumer health) when they finally decided to outlaw it here, after a couple of mis-steps, I suspect that a lot of milk products are flooding back over the border to Canada in one form or another. Thank you, free trade pact.
Making a Decision on Milk
So we try to wend our way through the facts and propaganda. We try to learn something, but unfortunately we tend to gravitate to studies that support what we believed from the beginning.
What I believe, for example, might affect the weight I give to these articles:
1. Weaver, C. (2009) "Should dairy be recommended as part of a healthy vegetarian diet? Point." Am J Clin Nutr 89(suppl) pp. 1634S07S
Note that Weaver is affiliated with the Dept of Foods and Nutrition at Purdue University, West Lafayette, IN. She presented her article at the "Fifth International Congress on Vegetarian Nutrition", 2008, and declared that she got her research grant from the National Dairy Council. She did a risk-benefit analysis, and determined that despite studies that show the effects of calcuria, problems of hormone ingestion, and risks of cancer, you must have milk or you won't meet the Recommended Daily Allowance for calcium and other vitamins and minerals*.
2. Lanou, A. J. (2009) "Should dairy be recommended as part of a healthy vegetarian diet? Counterpoint" Am J Clin Nutr 89(5). pp. 1638S-1642S
Note that Lanou is affiliated with the Dept of Health and Wellness at the University of North Carolina, Asheveille NC. She also was invited to speak on her research at the International Congress of Vegetarian Nutrition, and declared that she had her travel expenses covered by them. She is the same author of "Building Bone Vitality", mentioned above. After a 15-year study of the effects of dairy, she ultimately decided that no, vegetarians do not require dairy products, and would be better off without them.
We each have to make a decision, based on what we believe, what we learn, and what is possible. It's time to make the decision without input from the milk marketing boards, which have really fucked things up for us.
I admit it, I buttered this bread and ate it with cheese. And it was good.
But it may one day be just a fading memory of decadence for me.
Notes to Myself
- It seems I must substantially cut back on the milk products -- if I can't omit them from my diet entirely (and I may not be able to, as my year as a Vegan led me to believe). I can cut out all milk products, I think, except perhaps cheese. Damn it, I would miss cheese if I had to forgo it entirely.
- Some day, in one of these blog entries I should discuss butter alternatives.
- If you must eat milk products or cheese, it behooves you to at least try to do it healthily. Low fat will have less IGF-1. Organic milk from grass-fed cows would be better. Unpasteurized would have less IGF-1 (one of the studies I skimmed for this blog's research said so, but right now I can't put my finger on it), but unpasteurized doesn't seem to be a possibility in this milieu.
- * Note that Weaver doesn't tell us how this RDA for calcium was derived. I'll bet you can guess that the Dairy Industry had something to say about that. I'll leave it as an exercise for the reader to examine. I do want to add something about Weaver's analysis, however: She quotes a study saying oral IGF-1 is not absorbed (which I found here: Larsson, S. et al. (2005) "Association of diet with serum insulin-like growth fact I in middle-aged and elderly men" Am J Clin Nutr. 81 pp. 1163-7). But this study certainly does not say that. Rather, it found that the more protein you eat, the higher your IGF-1. In this study, milk is lumped in with other protein sources (red meat, fish, etc.).