A study published in the International Journal of Tryptophan Research by Drs. Adrian Williams and Robin Dunbar of the Institute for Cognitive and Evolutionary Anthropology, University of Oxford, Oxford, UK, suggests that meat eating was a game changer for human evolution, including brain development.
They suggest that lack of meat can cause deficiencies of nicotinamide (NAD), which is also know as niacin (vitamin B3) and tryptophan, necessary for brain health and energy.
To date, the vast majority of research and articles have been published on the ills of excessive meat consumption. The ills include obesity, heart disease, diabetes and cancers. In contrast, the consequences of eating too little meat and way too much grain are now being published in major scientific journals.
Meat intake was high among the Neanderthals and was important for anatomical and behavioral advancement of humans. Sustaining an optimal supply was a recurrent problem with early man until they developed ways to hunt and kill animals for their food supply. Unfortunately, poverty is directly related to low intake of quality meat, as is choosing a vegan lifestyle. Obviously there is also too much of a good thing, which is evident in cases of economic affluence and gluttony.
Meat consumption has become a societal issue because frequently out of necessity we are building brains with cheap, overprocessed foods, reducing the physiological capital needed to handle any type of brain trauma, hypoxia or other nutritional deprivation, which is proving to affect long-term cognition and survival. A growing amount of evidence suggests that even mild and intermittent shortages of meat can have adverse consequences for energy and micronutrient-sensitive tissues like the brain that requires food for thought. Inadequate meat consumption can constrain brain size, internal connectivity and behavioral flexibility required to cope with stress, to innovate and to take on challenges.
The learned authors of this article also suggest that lack of meat in the diet led to the acquisition of specialist hedge mutualists as back-up and that one of these, initially nonantqgonistic, symbionts was Mycobacterium tuberculosis.
NAD (vitamin B3) is a coenzyme found in all living cells and responsible for redox reactions that carry electrons from one reaction to another. It consists of two nucleotides joined through their phosphate groups. This reaction forms NAD+, which can then be used as a reducing agent to donate electrons. These electron transfer reactions are the main function of NADH, which is necessary to synthesize adenosine triphosphate (ATP) energy via either glycolysis or via the mitochondrial respiratory chain.
In metabolism, NAD consumption, along with vitamin B12, folate and choline, is necessary for brain developmental and repair circuits. Inadequate supplies result in de-evolutionary brain atrophy, as seen with pellagra and all of the dementias.
NAD is one of the few vitamins that is best satisfied from meat or animal products because they naturally produce the appropriate balancing amount of tryptophan required to best accomplish the vast amount of biochemical pathway reactions dependent on NAD.
Brains are expensive to run because of their constant need to balance tight energy budgets, given the high NADH costs incurred during the processes of mitochondrial oxidative phosphorylation necessary to process information.
Evolutionary-involved circuits are always on the razor’s edge, with exceptionally complex wiring and synaptic connections and long axons that die back if or when the NAD energy supply fails.
Notably, these neuronal connections include prefrontal top-down executive and inhibitory social pathways, visual attention and working memory circuits in the hippocampus and hypothalamus, which are both affected in the dementias.
Williams and Dunbar suggested that these connections may commit suicide if they are not adequately used, given that there are many neuronal mouths to feed that, in effect, compete for the flow of NAD all through the human lifespan.
Their article suggests that meat intake across the globe varies at least eight-fold, typically averaging less than 20 to 40 grams per day in sub-Saharan Africa and exceeds 300 to 400 grams per day in the U.S. with a recommended dose of 100 grams per day to attempt to satisfy the protein, vitamins B3 and B12, iron and zinc requirements that are known to have beneficial effects on brain and body development.
Even this small amount can become expensive. Hopefully, the new science around the important role meat plays in brain and body health will encourage our legislators to find ways to make GMO, hormone- and antibiotic-free organic grass-fed beef and chicken more affordable for the general public.
Ellen Troyer with Spencer Thornton, MD, and the Biosyntrx staff
PEARL: The epidemic of pellagra in the U.S. during the early 1900s was largely triggered by a socio-economic collapse in the cotton industry. Poverty induced a monophagic diet that relied on corn, and corn based products and little or no meat, not unlike today. According to Williams and Dunbar, corn is naturally low in nicotinamide and tryptophan and ingestion of corn protein further decreases plasma tryptophan levels and brain serotonin. Wheat protein (gluten) does little better.
Biosyntrx multiples Macula Complete and Oculair both include 50 mg of niacin (as niacinamide) in each recommended daily dose. References for today’s Friday Pearl, plus a surgical instrument announcement from our friends at Crestpoint Management can be found here.