The nutritional factor

John johnhkm at
Wed Sep 8 08:35:38 EST 1999

Roman Deambrun <instinctively at> wrote in message
news:7quo4r$jt3$1 at
> I would like to share an hypothesis with specialists on this newsgroup.
> I'm an avocalist and neurobiology is far from being my field so please
> forgive some potential irregularities in my expose. I would like to have
> latest ideas in neuroscience regarding this hypothesis.
> Suggestions and corrections are very welcome.
> The nutritional factor
> I would think most people agree that any intake of a specific chemical
> substance can have an effect on the way we think, the way we act and can
> influence the way we perceive the world. Drugs, for instance, strongly
> modify an individual's perception of the world, especially hallucinogens,
> but even more "light" drugs certainly do. (Strassman)
> Liquors are also have an influence on the way we act, we simply have to
> observe a drunk person. Even coffee can excite a persons nervous system
> make her act differently than she would have without coffee. (Mackay,
> Rollins)

We use substances of various kinds to make slight alterations to our
metabolism which may prove beneficial under certain circumstances. For eg,
an old sociological study indicated that peasant farm workers actually
worked better high on marijuana, probably because the drug alleviated the
boredom of the work and allowed one to become quite focussed on the
seemingly completely uninteresting. Ever noticed how slow potheads are? True
generally but damn it there are exceptions. Therefore and unequivocally the
rise in drug use is TV's fault.

In the above sense it could be said that most humans absorb substances to
help them adapt, although all too often and easily this can lead to trouble.
A co-worker once said to me that the staff had learned not to talk to me
until I'd begun my second cup of coffee. I hate mornings, often not doing my
best work til post 9.00pm (even in high school) so I need something to get
through the morning horrors.

It's a two way street here, diet probably can have a significant impact on
the "ambience" of a given culture, but in the modern world no two people in
any given geographical region are eating the same diet, although the
pervasiveness of so many unknown chemicals makes it possible that certain
widescale unseen effects are present(eg. ongoing debate concerning endocrine
disruptors: I have a terrible suspicion about this.) On the other hand
culture probably drives drug use, so the "businessman's lunch" (cocaine)
makes good sense if you have to go that extra mile but only on occasion ...

> When we process food we do nothing more than provoke chemical reactions. A
> kitchen is nothing else than a chemical laboratory. Maillard's
> French chemist from the beginning of this century, showed that the simple
> fact of cooking a potato in water creates 400 new molecules that do not
> exist in nature, and what is more important, that never existed in nature
> the past 3.5 billion years of genetic evolution.
> Now, if we prepare a whole recipe, we might end up with millions of new
> molecules which never existed in nature, at least not before humanity
> started processing food on a regular basis, 10.000 to 40.000 years ago.
> (Finot et al.)
> Since Maillard we discovered so many new chemical substances in modern
> processed food that chemists have not been able to classify all of them or
> even name them. Some of these molecules, new to life history, have been
> classified as aromatic (Thomas), others as toxic (Derache) and some as
> opiate.

Vaguely, a reference to grain foods possibly containing lightly psychoactive
substances that may impact on an overall culture.

> This leads to a very important question:
> how do these new chemical substances affect our bodies, our neurological
> functions, our senses and finally our actions ?
> How would human beings act, think and perceive their world when immersed
> a 100% non processed food environment ?
> Through basic and simple experiments we can observe that an animal placed
> a processed food environment has its instinctive behavior modified even
> disturbed depending on what it eats (emphasized aggression, inappropriate
> sexual behavior, abnormal fears,etc...). A general miscoordination between
> instinctive impulses and environmental triggers is very common to be
> observed in this case (mating impulses of dog towards the leg of his owner
> is a typical example). If the same animal is returned into a 100% non
> processed food environment (2), which is the natural environment for every
> animal on the planet, we can easily observe a normalization of its
> instinctive behavior within a few days or at least a few weeks. This
> experiment can be repeated and always leads to the same results.
> The best possible conclusion for these experiments is the following:
> specific molecules contained in modern processed food seem to disturb the
> nervous system, neurons and brain functions, and lead to inappropriate
> instinctive behavior. (Dohan)
> In humans new chemical substances from food have a direct effect on brain
> functions. (1)

You don't need processed food for instinctive behaviour to go awry. The
criterion "processed food" is too wide and so useless. Who cares about
normalisation, the 19th century and brilliant mathematician Hamilton died of
alcoholism early 40's, and I think the "prince of mathematicians" Guass led
a poverty stricken life and very poor diet. There's the Indian Ramujan, on a
strict Hindu diet and constantly undernourished ... . Most people I know
live on processed food and no-one's hit me lately.

> Instincts and genes have always been connected to a non processed food
> environment, since the beginning of life on earth. Approximately 99.089%
> 3.5 billion years of instinctive and genetic evolution have been performed
> in a non processed food environment. Only for 0.011% of this amount of
> we find ourselves in contact with processed food as we known it today.
> Genetics in species are evolving relatively slowly. Humans have changed
> their dietary habits extremely fast, a few thousands years only.

Too narrow. Human beings have been constantly exposed to a whole range of
varying foods and chemicals for their history. We move about the planet,
things are different over there, as is the food. Sure, one could argue that
processed food causes alterations in brain activity (yes, and?) but any diet
can cause changes in brain activity. Do not assume that we have adapted to
all natural substances, its an ongoing synergism, processed food is just
another cake to taste. I can think of a lot worse and would gladly take
processed food over most of the diets humans have relied upon throughout
history. We do far better than most other cultures have ever done, our
intellectual power alone is proof of that. No other culture even comes close
in that regard.

Socially, Western civilisation with all its processed food has achieved
something of a miracle. We risen apes apparently have a cerebral volume by
yet another measure of cerebral activity that indicates our ideal group size
is circa 150 individuals and here I am communicating with thousands. The
miracle of Western Culture is that it does hang together so well, albeit
with some nasty wounds needing attention.

> Is the human brain genetically adapted to handle new chemical substances
> contained in modern processed food ?
> Seen that genetic evolution is relatively slow, it would probably have
> possible for the human brain to adapt to one changing factor, one or maybe
> few new chemical substances, over the last 10.000 years of important
> changes (Neolothic), but we are confronted with thousands of new chemical
> substances in modern processed food. (Eaton. Konner)

As we moved across the world new foods and environments probably had
significant effects for certain individuals, the trouble with extrapolating
this to entire cultures is that each has a individual metabolism and even in
closely related kin there exists the possibility of sufficient variation to
make such an extrapolation dubious. You have to find something concrete
here. Eg. Lithium is used for the treatment of depression. A study in Texas
once concluded that overall rates of depression could be correlated with
lithium levels in the soils of the consumed produce. Interestingly,
apparently Africa has very high levels of lithium. Maybe that's why the
negroes sing so well ... .

A diet high in carbohydrates can slightly raise serotonin levels, I'm not
sure the effect is that significant in individuals but across a culture
perhaps. Tryptophan depletion can cause mild depression in some individuals,
T being an amino acid that is an essential precursor for serotonin
production. So one would expect those who eat lots of fish to be happy but
it doesn't pan out that way.

I would be more inclined to look at childhood diets, particularly pre 5
years. This is the important time for cerebral development (from day one of
conception virtually). Embryos lacking vits (b group particularly) will have
altered cerebral chemistry as a result. A recent study (I posted the ref
here some time ago) indicated the high fevers in childhood can permanently
alter brains structure and increase risk of neurological disorder. As does
many contact sports, all the heading the ball in soccer!

> A hypothesis of a possible genetical non-adaptation to substances
> in processed food can not be excluded especially not if we study behavior
> directly generated by the brain, organ which is the most sensitive to
> chemical changes.
> (For a definition of non processed food please go to notes (2))
> Empirical methodology
> Alternative experiments on total immersion in a 100% non processed food
> environment have been done in Germany, France, Australia and Hawaii for
> past 25 years.

I remember an old study in Australia (1984, Julian O'Dea possibly) where
aborigines were returned to the natural environment and diet whereupon many
chronic debilities (diabetes being a key one here) quickly alleviated. I
suspect an immune system association here.

> The creation of experimental human groups made it possible to observe
> important changes in social behavior when switching from a traditional
> environment to a non processed food environment and vice versa.
> Each time a processed food product has been introduced, by decision or by
> accident, in the food choice of  an experimental group it resulted in an
> immediate response within the balance of this group.
> Increasing tensions between individuals, increasing conflicts, increasing
> communication problems, reinforcement of ego-centered type behavior,
> confusion in sexual impulses, etc... have been the result.

I'm not buying into this at all. Read some anthropology or history. We have
been at each others' throats long before processed food came along. Even in
our most natural state we are natural born killers, there are no angels
here. Be wary of those who claim to be so. The first time I heard of
Rousseau I knew he was a fool.

Cooking makes many chemicals and makes many more foods accessible to us.
Cooking revolutionised human diet in too many ways to count here. I don't
care about the lack of evidence, I believe we began cooking with homo
erectus, take a stab at a million years, it may have been the step that
opened the bottleneck to that final leap of encephalisation over the last

> Sometimes a processed food product has been introduced by accident (for
> example nuts dried at high temperature and nobody knew about it) and the
> effects were exactly the same. This was some kind of an accidental double
> blind test, very conclusive by the way.   Only one processed food product
> enough to create disturbing effects in previously balanced groups. Some of
> the molecules contained in processed food products seem to affect
> neurological circuit linked to human instinctive behavior.

Forget about this processed food\natural food dichotomy. The sword needs to
be much sharper than that.

> Humans today usually don't live in this type of 100% non processed food
> environment. Processing food is a planetary phenomenon. The last human
> ever ate that way lived approximately 100.000 to 1 million years ago
> according to some, before cooking, before mixing, before any use of dairy
> products and before any use of grains. Going back to this primary state
> experimental reasons provides a sort of ground zero in terms of influence
> through new chemical substances or maillard molecules and give the
> opportunity to observe human behavior with a complete different point of
> view.

Processed food is not a planetary phenomenon, probably still less than 50%
eat processed foods, the greater part of the world is cerebrally

> Dietary instinct and sexual instinct have been the foundation of animal
> activity since the beginning of life and they still are a part of human
> activity today. Even the social structure of human society is basically
> built on the sexual reproductional instinct, couples, families are one
> expression of it. If instincts are disturbed by a new chemical substances
> can now easily understand how even social structures, social interactions,
> relationships can be affected by it. The human reproductional instinct
> itself can probably at some point be disturbed. At least there is no
> to exclude such eventuality.This might also explain why many people
> often instincts as bad and intelligence as the absolute good of modern
> societies, maybe we simply often observe instinctive behavior with the
> inadequate glasses. Instinctive connected behavior we are use to see in
> people and animals(pets) surrounding us can somehow be a deformation of
> natural instinctive behavior partially due to a non adapted food
> environment.

Instinct are antithetical to large societies, I can't see we should be so
anxious to return to a normalised instinctive response. Screw Freud I'll
happily and un-neurotically repress mine and don't know a soul who doesn't.
What's your point? You seem to be assuming "the more natural the better".
I've read history and anthropology and don't like that idea at all.

> In going back to the life condition of hunter-gatherer before food
> processing a human experimental group can provide new information in
> research fields related to human nature exploration. Such empirical
> makes it possible to separate cultural influences from pure instinctive
> behavior. Cultural influences are changing from one country or region of
> world to another. Instinctive behavior is common to the human race
> regardless of  location and culture. This is the part which is the most
> interesting to study in our case.

There is a (or was) a very good paleodiet discussion forum on this:

In relation to human beings at least, what constitutes a pure instinctive
behaviour? I don't see how such a thing can exist in such a messy brain.

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