Behind the home where my parents used to live there was a wood of, oh, maybe 500 acres. It was heavily treed, very rocky, but littered with little open areas called fields. Connecting the fields and lakes and rocky outcrops were these obvious man-made features called paths. These pastoral havens were idyllic getaways in the midst of a city, and many people used them: drug dealers, teenager binge drinkers, young children on hikes, and moi.

When my wife and I were dating, we’d sometimes walk through this wood, during the daytimes of course, when it was safer. It was a getaway for us. Young lovers need getaways.

As we’d walk along the trails, we’d find side trails or splits. Should we continue the main path or head down that side trail? Of course we explored the little paths. Some would lead to nice places and some to not so nice places. Still others would bend back and rejoin the main trail. Usually somewhere along these trails were obvious resting areas, say a circle of logs surrounding a dead fire, a litter of empty beer cans, a few condoms, and a bra. Sometimes we’d find an open rocky area where we could see all around for hundreds of feet. We could even look down on the forested main path, even see the tops of the trees lining it. We could view other explorers while remaining hidden. Still other times these paths would lead to small, open meadows filled with wildflower, sunshine, and wild porcupines. I’ve been chased by more porcupines … We discovered the main path led to a lake, and along the lake was a rocky stage, a larger area of rocks perfect for hosting bonfires, beer bottles, and even lawn chairs under a setting of open sky and power lines.

Bunny trails and rat holes.

Bunny trails are trails breaking off the main paths that don’t lead anywhere meaningful. They are nice sidelines, might present a nice little diversion, but they don’t get you to your destination. Have you ever been to a class at school where you expected a deep lecture, say on the seven networking transport layers, and the professor decided his wife’s sister’s wedding fiasco was much more interesting and important? Light, interesting, fun, but completely off topic. Bunny trail.

Rat holes are dark and dirty dead ends. A former coworker named Peter used this term in meetings. When discussion starting heading into a rhetorical argument, one that couldn’t be solved then and there, he’d say “we’re heading down a rat hole.” Everybody knew what he meant and would stop and nod. Yes, he used the term effectively to keep meetings on track.

In my recent blog about high fat diets and cholesterol, a responder raised a concern about endotoxins. Basically when you feed a type 2 diabetic a bunch of fat, they have negative responses. They get filled with inflammation. I don’t dispute the results of this study, but I question whether it’s the final destination, the final say in the matter, or is it a bunny trail or a rat hole.

Inflammation seems to be a commonly accepted cause of disease, especially heart disease; though when you listen to the more knowledgeable talking heads — the Chris Masterjohns of the world — you get the idea that oxidised LDL is the real culprit. Are they related? Perhaps. It’s not for me to decide, but lets say they are. Let’s say inflammation is the culprit.

I think everybody agrees that it’s not the fat in these cases that causes the inflammation. All seem to agree, even the vegans, that it’s the bacterial response in the gut. The bacteria see the consumed fat as foreign and attacks it which produce these nasty endotoxins. Sounds very plausible, and the science seems well thought out and demonstrable. By the way, it’s important that we are able to demonstrate science. It’s great to do a study that A is associated with B, but we have no right saying A causes B unless we can demonstrate it. Too many people say cholesterol causes heart disease because it’s associated with it. Nevermind nobody has ever been able to demonstrate how it happens. It’s associated, so it must be the cause. Such thinkers should be strung up by their ankles and whipped with bacon.

Sorry, I ran down a bunny trail, back on the main path now.

So is this endotoxin story the end of the path? Have we explored the whole wood? Are you ready for you and your partner to do what you came in here to do? Is this the field you will lay the blanket down in, open that bottle of wine you packed, and strip all your clothes off in?

Ask any established high fat eater to get their inflammation tested. I had a H-CRP test last year, and it was 1.0 which is low, not the lowest, but it’s very low and not considered an indication of risk. Other’s I’ve followed have also been low. There may also be other similar tests for inflammation, but I really don’t want to explore that trail at the moment. Let’s assume there are, and that all high fat eaters test negative for inflammation. It’s what we claim. What’s going on?

Herbivores can’t eat meat, and carnivores can’t eat plants, not as primary sources anyway. What’s going on? The answer seems simple. It’s the bacteria. We rely on bacteria to break down our food. There are many types of food breaking down bacteria, but lets divide them up into two groups: carnivore and herbivore. One group is great at breaking down plants and the other group is great at breaking down animals. If you throw animal matter into plant bacteria, you’ll get a negative reaction, whatever that means. If you throw plant matter into animal bacteria, you’ll get a negative reaction.

Humans are omnivores. We have bacteria for both types of food. But it also makes sense that our gut bacteria will adjust to our diet. If we eat all plant food, we’ll nurture plant bacteria. If we eat all animal food, we’ll nurture animal bacteria. The modern, western type 2 diabetic eats mostly a plant diet. Sorry PETA people but they do generally follow the food guidelines which say to limit saturated fats to 7% of the diet. Arguably as much as 93% of the diet is designed to nurture plant bacteria. Now throw a huge meal of animal fat into the pot. What do you expect to happen?

Let’s take another bunny trail. It’s very common to read in HF threads that “I just can’t eat high carb meals, and I can’t eat gluten at all.” Why? “It makes me sick.” It’s true in my experiences. I tried three gluten-based meals this spring and winter. I can’t even remember what the were except for one. For a meal at Valentines Day I ate a dozen sugar cookies. Yup, John splurged big time. And while you could argue that this meal would make anybody feel sick, believe me when I say I felt miserable for three days. I felt like puking but not like puking. My head pounded and my body ached. It took three full days for the symptoms to go away.

I used to eat high carb like I was taught. I never felt this way before. I and others shake our heads in wonder at these experiences. We assumed we were just not in tune with our bodies. The more I think about it and the more I experience reactions — I ate some low carb black bean chocolate cake last night. It tasted fine, but I feel sick today — the more I suspect it’s our gut bacteria at work here.

John’s subjective conclusion: feed a vegan animal food, they will get sick. Feed an animal eater some plant food, they will get sick.

Before I finish, I want to mention that endotoxins ar by no means the only sources of inflammation. Sugars, especially fructose are known to oxidize tissue through glycation, AGEs and RAGEs. But these can also be made through burning meat. And then there’s fat. Did you know that if that bottle of canola oil wasn’t deodorized, you wouldn’t be able to go near it because of the odor? PUFAs are extremely oxidized when you buy them. Why do we refine wheat? We don’t refine it for better taste. We refine it to remove the fat content. Wheat contain PUFAs, and if it is stone ground, it goes bad very quickly. Industry developed grain rollers to remove the natural fats so that wheat wouldn’t go bad. The whiteness was a bi-product.

We do not know where the trail leads, and if you don’t admit that, don’t even bother commenting here. We do not yet understand the mechanisms behind modern diseases, and we need to know. Perhaps both Vegans and Paleos are right. Perhaps it is the mixture that kills, the mixed, balanced diet our governments push on us as healthy.