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All that goodness gone to the rats

The widespread malnutrition trend in the United States isn't caused by lack of food, but by people's inability to assimilate those plentiful foods because dietary fiber disrupts digestion. You can't help it even if you take high-grade supplements — when foods don't assimilate, neither do supplements!

Well, at least the rats are happy — they get to feast on the nutritious stools at the sewer's end of this compromised food chain.

Dietary fiber is known medically as “hydrophilic mucilloid,” which can be roughly translated as a moist, sticky substance with an affinity for water. This is, after all, fiber's most heralded asset—a property that makes it a bulking agent, potent laxative, blood sugar regulator, and cholesterol reducer.

Here is an example of these properties promoted on Proctor & Gamble's Metamucil® web site (screen capture modified to fit this page, highlights are mine; click the picture to open actual web page):

Top 10 reasons Metamucil

Indeed, fiber does all that — no question about it! But have you ever asked yourself how an indigestible substance with zero nutrients, and which isn't a pharmaceutical agent can “lower cholesterol,” “modulate blood glucose,” and “relieve constipation?”

Well, if you haven't, here are the explanations:

That's pretty much all you need to know about fiber's effect on digestion, and why it's causing malnutrition — water and fats are the sole carriers of nutrients past the intestinal membrane into the blood and beyond.

If fiber blocks water and fats from absorbing, then it blocks all the nutrients dissolved in water and fats too!

No amount of deception can overcome this basic fact of physiology of digestion. If someone tries to tell you otherwise, then you are dealing with a liar or a fool, period. Denying this is like insisting that the Earth is flat.

What a dangerous morning...

Here is a brief excerpt from Fiber Menace that sheds further light on malnutrition by deconstructing the typical “healthy” American breakfast — a bowl of high-fiber cereal with low-fat milk and a glass of orange juice:


» Morning cereals

Wheat cereals, nutritionally speaking, are useless — just starch, added sugar, and extra fiber. To make cereals a “health food,” synthetic vitamins B1 (thiamin), B2 (riboflavin), B3 (niacin), folic acid, and iron (ferrous sulfate or fumarate) are added to flour during milling.

The fortification of wheat flour is mandated by the U.S. government in order to prevent deficiency-related diseases, particularly birth defects, iron-deficiency anemia, and developmental problems in children.

Ironically, the widespread allergy to gluten — a protein in wheat —blocks the digestion of iron and folic acid, and is one of the leading causes of pernicious anemia among millions of young and old Americans alike.

That‘s on the one hand. On the other, if gluten causes you no harm, according to the research team from the Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition (a division of the Food and Drug Administration), the remedy is worse than the problem:

“Twenty-one of the 29 breakfast cereals had iron levels of 120% or more of the labeled value, and eight cereals had values of 150% or more.
[...] It is possible that iron overload may outweigh iron deficiency and may be a more serious problem in adult males and non-pregnant females in the U.S.
[...] with recent increases in fortification, public health officials in the US are concerned that excess intake of specific nutrients such as iron and folic acid may result in toxic manifestations [3]. ”

And these are problems on top of the already certifiably harmful content of breakfast cereals: gluten (allergies), sugar (obesity), fiber (digestive disorders), and trans fats (cancers). Some “health food,” isn‘t it?

» Low-fat milk

Skim and reduced fat milk is fortified with synthetic vitamins A (retinyl palmitate) and vitamin D3 (7-dehydro-cholesterol), because natural vitamin A is lost during the removal of fat, and milk is naturally low in vitamin D. Some dairy products are also fortified with calcium, because natural calcium is bound by milk proteins, and digests poorly.

The fortification of dairy with vitamin A is mandated by the U.S. government in order to prevent blindness and poor immunity, both vitamin A deficiency disorders. Vitamin D is supposed to protect children from rickets, teenagers from scoliosis, and adults from osteomalacia.

Ironically, the fat-soluble vitamins A and D found in skim and reduced fat milk are mostly useless, because they don‘t digest without fat. Adding insult to injury are widespread allergies to casein (milk protein), and lactose intolerance, which affects tens of millions of Americans. Both conditions cause intestinal inflammation, and render vitamins A, D, calcium, and everything else futile. In addition to zero health benefits from drinking skim or low-fat milk, kids are getting fat:

“Children who drank the most milk gained more weight, but the added calories appeared responsible. Contrary to our hypotheses, dietary calcium and skim and 1% milk were associated with weight gain, but dairy fat was not. Drinking large amounts of milk may provide excess energy to some children. [4]”

That‘s the conclusion from a survey of 12,000 children between 9 and 14 years of age, conducted by Harvard University researchers, and published in the Journal Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine in June of 2005.

» Orange juice

Orange juice is routinely fortified with synthetic vitamin C to compensate for oxidative losses of natural vitamin C during its manufacturing, packaging, storage, and transportation.

To make additional health claims, some producers of orange juice have begun adding supplemental calcium. There is a trend toward adding vitamin D to orange juice as well, even though it wouldn‘t get absorbed from a zero-fat beverage.

Besides, the high sugar content and high acidity of orange juice causes more minerals to get depleted through the urine than what‘s added at the factory. The problem is so acute that the American Academy of Pediatrics has been telling parents to avoid excessive juice consumption:

“4. Juice is not appropriate in the treatment of dehydration or management of diarrhea.
5. Excessive juice consumption may be associated with malnutrition (overnutrition and undernutrition).
6. Excessive juice consumption may be associated with diarrhea, flatulence, abdominal distention, and tooth decay.[5]”

The authors don‘t specify what‘s excessive. Well, here‘s the math: on a body weight-basis, a glass of juice for a three-year-old at 40 lbs is equivalent to four (4) full glasses for an adult at 160 lbs.

It doesn‘t sound like a description of a “health food,” does it? Nonetheless, a bowl of cereal with skim milk and a glass of orange juice has become more American than the proverbial apple pie.

If that‘s your breakfast, check out the table below:

What's for average breakfast?

Unit Orange Juice Skim milk All-Bran
NDB No: 09206 01085 08253
Servings 1 cup 1 cup 0.5 cup
Weight g 248.0 245.0 30.0
Water g 218.9 222.6 0.9 442.4
Fat g 0.5 0.2 1.0 1.8
Protein g 1.7 8.3 3.4 13.4
Carbohydrates g 25.8 12.2 23.1 61.0
Fiber g 0.5 0.00 15.0 15.5
Iron mg 0.5 0.07 5.4 5.9
Calcium mg 27.0 306.0 124.0 457.0
Vitamin A IU 496.0 500.0 614.0 1610
Vitamin D IU 0.0 101.5 63.0 164.5
Vitamin C mg 124.0 0 7.5 131.5
Thiamin mg 0.22 0.11 0.5 0.8
Riboflavin mg 0.07 0.44 0.5 1.0
Niacin mg 0.99 0.23 6.0 7.2
Folate mcg 74.0 12.0 126.0 212.00

*Kellogg‘s All-Bran With Extra Fiber;

As you can see, along with a meager fix of mostly synthetic vitamins, inorganic iron, and supplemental calcium, this kind of breakfast also “delivers” 15 g of fiber and 61 g of carbohydrates, or the equivalent of 5 tablespoons of sugar. That‘s over one half the daily total requirement for an active 7-year-old, and over one third for an adult, all from just one breakfast which, by conventional standards, is pretty paltry and more like a sustenance ration for prisoners of war than your average American breakfast.

Not surprisingly, most adults who start their day with this kind of “healthy” and “natural” breakfast are fatigued from hypoglycemia by the time they get to work, while many children can‘t concentrate or sit still at school because they‘ve already ingested over half of their daily energy requirement. Adults counteract this problem with a cup of strong coffee, children — with Ritalin.

» Conclusion

It‘s easy to understand and appreciate the intentions behind the fortification of basic food. A humane society must take care of all of its citizens, no matter what their income, social status, education, or age. So, beginning in 1941, the U.S. government started formulating paternalistic nutritional policies for society‘s most disadvantaged—inmates in prisons and psychiatric asylums, children in orphanages, patients in nursing homes, conscripts in the army, underprivileged kids in urban ghettoes, and so on. Had the government failed to provide its less fortunate citizenry with a sustenance ratio of essential nutrients, the budgetary burden of treating scurvy, rickets, and birth defects, providing dogs for the blind, or funding more and more nursing homes would be enormous.

That‘s what the standard “healthy nutrition,” promoted by the so-called “Dietary Guidelines for Americans[6],” represented by the Food Guide Pyramid (called MyPyramid, after 2005) is all about—sustenance, and the prevention of birth defects and degenerative diseases. It isn‘t about maintaining good looks, youthful bodies, vibrant sexuality, ageless minds, boundless longevity, and, of course, a healthy and functional large intestine. There is absolutely no way to get “quality out” of a diet developed for the impoverished.


*Excerpted from Fiber Menace, page 232-235;
reformatted to fit this page.

— Okay, Konstantin. I am convinced. But before I start singing “what a beautiful morning,” what am I actually going to eat?

Well, for starters, think about this: cereals were accidentally “invented” in 1898, and became popular a few decades later. Pasteurized orange juice became available only after 1954. Until very recently, bran was fed only to the cows, and skim milk went to the pigs or into the sewer. So it's not like you are going to sacrifice a fundamental part of human nutrition by giving them up.

Second, the last three chapters of Fiber Menace address in depth the perils of transition to a low-fiber lifestyle, particularly for people with assorted digestive disorders. If you are healthy and unaffected, keep eating what you've been eating all along—just reduce the fiber.

Third, I am not implying that natural oranges, or whole milk, or even some cereals are all bad — a fresh orange in season is fine if you aren't allergic to citrus, a glass of organic whole milk is fine if you aren't lactose-sensitive, and corn flakes or a cup or rice are fine if you aren't overweight or diabetic.

Fourth, each person's diet depends on many diverse factors, such as age, health, gender, ethnicity, religion, workload, ability to cook, personal preferences in food, and many other factors. Hence, a “one size fits all” diet simply doesn't exist and isn't necessary.

Finally, if your food (even organic) comes from a supermarket, and your drinking water comes from a municipal water supply or plastic bottles, and you live in the northern United States (or use sunblock in the South), the likelihood of your diet providing all essential nutrients is just as high as my likelihood of becoming a rodeo champion.

Consequently, the kind of diet you'll end up choosing and staying with will depend on your long-term goals. Essentially, there are four types of general, non-interventional (not for specific health concerns) diets:

(1)  The Sustenance diet is intended to prevent obvious degenerative diseases such as anemia, rickets, pellagra, scurvy, night blindness, amenorrhea, arrhythmia, arthritis, osteoporosis, and many others. This is the kind of diet recommended in the Food Guide Pyramid and relies on fortified grains, dairy, and fruit juices for essential nutrients. This type of diet is consumed by most Americans.

(2) The so-called Healthy diet goes a step further. It attempts to prevent common degenerative diseases and improve health. This is, essentially, a sustenance diet combined with basic supplements, and/or increased consumption of vitamin-dense vegetables, fruits, and fruit juices. This is the kind of diet promoted by Dr. Moms and assorted writers, too many to mention. The vegetarian-, protein-, fat-, and fiber-dominant diets are variations on the “healthy” diet scheme.

(3) The Performance diet is intended to accommodate “hard work and play” without breaking down the body along the way from the overload. It is accomplished by matching essential nutrients to age, gender, and objectives. Sports nutrition is a good example. Performance diets are promoted and supported by specialized dietitians, nutritionists, and physicians, who are closely familiar with their patients.

(4) The Longevity (functional) diet. Along with providing all essential nutrients, a longevity diet concentrates on avoiding physical harm and addictions caused by foods such as excess fiber, excess alcohol, excess carbohydrates, excess caffeine, excess fruits, vegetable and trans fats, processed food of any kind, overhydration, excitotoxins (MSG, aspartame, soy proteins), artificial additives, and others. This is the kind of diet I adhere to myself and advocate in my books and on this site. [7]

If sustenance, “healthy,” or performance diets are what you are after, just drop the fiber and you don't need to read this any further. If, on the other hand, you are after the longevity diet, keep on reading.

Undoing the damage and “eating” forward

If you've been on a high-fiber diet for very long, then even if taking supplements, your body may be depleted of some or all essential minerals, microelements, and vitamins. The symptoms of malnutrition — from minor ones such as brittle nails or hair loss, to major ones such as anemia or osteoporosis — are well described on endless numbers of web sites and books. These aren't the focus of my work. If you have any, you probably already know about them by now.

In this case, I suggest the following approach:

Depending on your age and the degree of prior damage, it may take from as little as a few months to as long as a few years to rebuild mineral stores and rejuvenate affected organs.

If, on the other hand, you are still relatively young, fit, and have no discernable health complaints, then keep the following points in mind while transitioning to a low-fiber lifestyle:

That's really all there is to it. The idea that you can get all of the essential nutrients from the supermarket diet is great—but, unfortunately, such a utopia doesn't exist and never existed, particularly for urban dwellers in developed countries.

Just a few generations ago, before quality supplements became widely available, affluent Americans used to trek once or twice a year to mineral water spas to restore and rejuvenate. Many in Europe and Asia still do it today, and they enjoy considerably longer and healthier lives than do Americans of the same age and social status.

And here comes the sacramental question:

— Konstantin, some of our ancestors lived long lives without any supplements. Is it at all possible to enjoy health and longevity while eating just regular food?

Yes, in an optimal environment you don't need any supplements. In fact, this Eden or Earth exists even today in many places. If you are still healthy, can afford to move there, live the local lifestyle, and give up some Western comforts — then you won‘t need any supplements.

I am referring to Sardinia, Italy and Okinawa, Japan — the two islands that enjoy the largest number of living centenarians per capita [8]. Here are the primary reasons for their good luck:

If you start healthy and can imitate this kind of lifestyle, climate, nutrition, and family and social matrix wherever you live, then sure, you can get away without supplements, and are likely to enjoy a long, disease-free, and productive life. If you can't recreate Sardinia or Okinawa in your backyard, but still aspire to live long and well, at the very least read Fiber Menace and follow the suggestions in the Ingredients of Longevity Nutrition essay.

That's exactly what I've been doing for the last decade. So perhaps one day, I too can live in a place just like Sardinia or Okinawa. And I plan to get there in good shape, so I have something to look forward to. Who needs a long life if by your late sixties you are already in pain, demented, hooked on prescription drugs, wearing XL-diapers, walking on titanium joints or “driving” a wheelchair?

Q. Konstantin, what's the connection between malnutrition,  fiber, and obesity?

Well, have you ever heard of cravings? It's a survival instinct and an innate physiological trait, not something that you can easily suppress by will.

The cravings are especially profound among toddlers who aren't yet inhibited by social mores. That‘s why they'll eat just about anything — from feces to plaster — to satisfy their needs for particular substances, be it calcium in plaster or B-vitamins in feces. Ditto pregnant women, though not as extreme.

The overweight satisfy their cravings for essential nutrients with cheap and plentiful fortified foods such as cereals, bread, juices, fruits, and dairy — all loaded with carbohydrates, and most with fiber. In turn, carbohydrates destabilize blood sugar and insulin to incite even more cravings. On top of that, water-absorbent fiber gradually distends the stomach, and its increased capacity allows the owner to consume more and more food.

The craving for fat contributes to obesity even more than does the craving for carbohydrates. This fact was effectively obscured by the late Dr. Atkins, who deceived the public into believing that fat is essentially “fat-free.” Of course, it isn't:

(1) Vegetable and animal fats alike are 225% more energy-dense than carbohydrates

(2) Fat digests as efficiently as carbs — up to 98% gets assimilated into the blood

(3) Absorbed fat deposits into the body's fat cells as is, while a large part of carbs is used up for energy before converting into body fat.

Back to the cravings — the body requires a continuous supply of eicosapentaenoic (EPA) and docosahexaenoic (DHA) essential fatty acids (EFA), which are naturally available only in fish oil.

Since fish oil isn't always available or consumed, the body can convert α-linolenic (ALA) fatty acid into EPA and DHA. ALA is available only in vegetable oils, such as olive, flax, canola, and others.

All three — EPA, DHA, and ALA — are commonly known as Omega-3 fatty acids, but chemically they are as different as a sedan, SUV, and flat-bed truck. That doesn't stop the promoters of vegetable oils from marketing them as “essential,” even though they are clearly not.

The conversion factor of ALA to DHA and EPA is quite limited — 5% and 15% respectively —under the very best circumstances. So you need to consume 10 to 20 times as much vegetable fat to satisfy the cravings.

And that's what people do, particularly the poor — they consume vegetable fats with a vengeance in fried foods, spreads, margarine, salad toppings, dressings, sauces, mayonnaise, and processed dairy. Not surprisingly, the obesity epidemic has affected minorities the most. They are the most disproportionately poor, and can't afford to eat fresh fatty fish often.

There is also a genetic aspect to this tragedy. Most of the Africans (the forebears of African-Americans), Native Americans, and indigenous Latin Americans had historically resided near large bodies of water, so fish and seafood were their regular staples. They also had never consumed vegetable oils because until very recently they weren't available. Hence their descendants hadn't developed the genetic ability to convert ALA as efficiently as the majority of landlocked Caucasians.

It's generally well known that Omega-3 deficiency causes diabetes and obesity among minorities. Yet to the best of my knowledge, that particular genetic-craving-vegetable-fat-abuse connection hadn't been made until now.

To add insult to injury, when minority populations are urged to consume Omega-3 fatty acids, it's usually the vegetable varieties, not fish oil. And even when they are told to consume fish oil, it's often useless capsules, not liquid fish oil — to obtain a minimal daily amount of essential fatty acids one needs to swallow 10-20 capsules at the very least. Obviously, nobody does it...

In the matter of health, a false sense of security is even worse than no security!

To summarize: All these factors — the cravings for missing micronutrients, unstable blood sugar, excess carbohydrates, distended stomachs, and overconsumption of vegetable oils — are the cornerstones of weight gain and obesity.

Naturally, to stop gaining and start losing weight, you first need to eliminate the causes of those cravings, which means:

(1) Reduce carbohydrates to stabilize blood sugar and insulin

(2) Eliminate fiber to normalize digestion and reduce stomach capacity

(3) Consume essential fatty acids from primary sources (i.e. fatty fish, cod liver oil) to eliminate cravings for vegetable fats

(4) Take high-grade supplements to satisfy cravings for vitamins, minerals, and microelements without consuming fortified foods in excess.

Attempting to control appetite and weight by will is a futile exercise, a major diet-breaker, a contributor to malnutrition, and ... a primary cause of obesity!

It goes without saying that better digestion leads to less food of all kinds to satisfy hunger, appetite, and the need for nutrients. And less food equals weight loss first, and stable weight second.

The first and easiest step toward losing and maintaining normal weight? Read Fiber Menace and reduce fiber consumption. This book also devotes a great deal of attention to the technical aspects of weight loss, not yet covered by any other author or diet.

In fact, for dieting and weight loss, Fiber Menace is a breakthrough (a true revolution), because it explains the key errors of the Atkins diet, the mechanisms behind weight loss during the induction stage, and the reasons for a weight loss plateau. (Hint: Atkins diet was a fraud from the get-go. So are the other low-carb diets that promise “instant gratification.”)

I knew you would ask me about chocolate... It satisfies cravings for magnesium, sugar, caffeine (via theobromine), and tryptophan — an essential amino acid. That's, of course, if it‘s real chocolate. That supermarket junk called “chocolate” satisfies mainly sugar and caffeine cravings.

Author's note

While watching television, I often play a mental game of connecting celebrities and prominent national figures with nutritional disorders, apparent from their airbrushed and diffused visages.

These are the people with everything — unlimited means, unlimited access to medical care, unlimited comforts, private jets standing by to whisk them to paradise for hassle-free R&R — and yet many are in worse shape than simple peasants in a God-forsaken, war-ravaged Sudan or Afghanistan, also shown in the news.

While pegging celebrities on TV is mainly for laughs, a trip to the local supermarket in our affluent New Jersey community a stone‘s throw away from mid-town Manhattan is outright depressing — anemic children, prematurely aged young women, worn-out middle-aged men, ravaged seniors, unhappy and fatigued faces, and obesity, obesity, obesity...

Obesity — one of malnutrition‘s most prominent markers — is so pervasive that other people stare at us as if we are aliens. Other than a few high-school kids manning the registers, my slender wife and I are often the only two normal-weight, healthy, and happy-looking middle-aged adults among the crowd. And, bizarrely, when we see another person of our age in good shape, we stare too, as if witnessing a rare white tiger.

Welcome to the United States, circa 2008. With nutrition like this, who needs enemies? We are already committing mass suicide and waging nutritional genocide against our own children.

Please let others know about this site and Fiber Menace. This is all that's needed to start the change.

Konstantin Monastyrsky


1 Dietary Reference Intakes for Energy, Carbohydrate, Fiber, Fat, Fatty Acids, Cholesterol, Protein, and Amino Acids (Macronutrients) (2005) National Academy of Sciences. Institute of Medicine. Food and Nutrition Board. Ch. 9. Cholesterol; Physiology of Absorption and Metabolism; 9:543-546; [pdf]

2 Linda Van Horn, PhD, RD; Fiber, Lipids, and Coronary Heart Disease; A Statement for Healthcare Professionals From the Nutrition Committee;[link]

3 Paul Whittaker, et al.; Iron and Folate in Fortified Cereals; Journal of the American College of Nutrition, Vol. 20, No. 3, 247–254 (2001); [link]

4 Catherine S. Berkey, et al.; Milk, Dairy Fat, Dietary Calcium, and Weight Gain: A Longitudinal Study of Adolescents; Archives of Pediatric and Adolescent Medicine; 159: 543–550. [link]

5 The Use and Misuse of Fruit Juice in Pediatrics; American Academy of Pediatrics; Committee on Nutrition; Pediatrics 2001;107:1210–1213; [link]

6 Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2005. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services; [link]

7 I deliberately repeated the word “excess” to convey that alcohol, coffee, carbohydrates, fruits, and natural fiber in moderation are perfectly compatible with a longevity diet. In other words, eat whatever you like as long as it doesn't harm your body.

8Okinawa and Sardinia are the two longevity regions collectively known as the Blue Zones. Other regions are Nicoya, Costa Rica and Loma Linda, California. The term “Blue Zones” was coined by Dan Buettner, a National Geographic writer and the founder of the Quest Network — a Minneapolis, MN-based eco-tourism and promotional company.

Unfortunately, nutrition-related generalizations and attributions in Mr. Buettner's analysis are distorted and deceptive. His core claim that the diets of those who populate these regions is “plant based” is an outright fabrication — considering that fishing and sheepherding are Sardinia's main trades, that Okinawa is known throughout Asia as “the pork island,” and that fish and seafood are the main staple for the residents of the Nicoya peninsula.

Other known longevity pockets are the mountain regions of Caucasus, Pamir, Tibet, and rural regions along the shores of Cuba and Turkey. All of them share similar characteristics: mountainous regions, proximity to ocean (or both), hard drinking water, year-round sunshine, relative isolation, sustenance on small grazing animals and fowl, plentiful fish and seafood, natural daylight living, no arable land to cultivate grains, and low-carb, low-fiber nutrition. I am planning to address this subject in more detail soon.

9 Most, if not all, centenarians are of slight build, below average height, and normal to underweight. Every extra inch of height is advantageous for mating, fighting, and employment, but not for good health and longevity. The explanation is simple — tall people don't necessarily have larger internal organs to service their oversized bodies, hence these organs wear out much faster, particularly on inadequate diets. Thus, if your height and build are above average, you need an above-average diet and supplements. Otherwise your good build will get wasted twice as fast as that of a pigmy's.