18

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For the sake of people new to paleo, do we need to raise awareness of "rabbit starvation"?

Answered on August 19, 2014
Created August 05, 2011 at 8:59 PM

I was doing some searching around last night trying to find a new source for grassfed beef because my beloved Thundering Hoooves went tits up, and I stumbled across this interesting article by Sally Fallon and Dr. Mary Enig:

http://www.whiteoakpastures.com/Its_the_Beef.html

"The groups that depend on the blubber animals are the most fortunate in the hunting way of life," wrote Stefansson, "for they never suffer from fat-hunger. This trouble is worst, so far as North America is concerned, among those forest Indians who depend at times on rabbits, the leanest animal in the North, and who develop the extreme fat-hunger known as rabbit-starvation. Rabbit eaters, if they have no fat from another source - beaver, moose, fish - will develop diarrhea in about a week, with headache, lassitude, a vague discomfort. If there are enough rabbits, the people eat till their stomachs are distended; but no matter how much they eat they feel unsatisfied. Some think a man will die sooner if he eats continually of fat-free meat than if he eats nothing, but this is a belief on which sufficient evidence for a decision has not been gathered in the north. Deaths from rabbit-starvation, or from the eating of other skinny meat, are rare; for everyone understands the principle, and any possible preventive steps are naturally taken."

Normally, according to Stefansson, the diet consisted of dried or cured meat "eaten with fat," namely the highly saturated cavity and back slab fat that could be easily separated from the animal. Another Arctic explorer, Hugh Brody, reports that Eskimos ate raw liver mixed with small pieces of fat and that strips of dried or smoked meat were "spread with fat or lard."30 Pemmican, a highly concentrated travel food, was a mixture of lean dried buffalo meat and highly saturated buffalo fat. (Buffalo fat, by the way, is more saturated than beef fat.) Less than two pounds of pemmican per day could sustain a man doing hard physical labor. The ratio of fat to protein in pemmican was 80% to 20%. As lean meat from game animals was often given to the dogs, there is no reason to suppose that everyday fare did not have the same proportions: 80% fat (mostly highly saturated fat) to 20% protein - in a population in which heart disease and cancer were nonexistent.

I've been noticing a lot of posts by people saying they are eating tons of lean meat and veggies and then get sick, and blame it on "paleo". Are they perhaps suffering from fat hunger aka rabbit fever? People are usually quick to chime in with suggestions of adding enough fat to restore wellness, but I feel like some sort of "paleo psa" could avert the suffering to begin with. Or maybe people are just too socially conditioned to fear fat and it takes a lot of personal experimenting and even illness to overcome that fear.

6120c989fd5b69f42a0834b69b87955b

(24553)

on August 07, 2011
at 06:47 PM

Good point, maybe we need to just try and steer people towards at least some red meat. The people I'm concerned about are the ones eating only canned tuna in water and skinless chicken breast because they are worried about all dietary fat.

1d0497f8781845ab371b479455bfee8e

(11157)

on August 07, 2011
at 04:08 AM

I agree, Jakey. I think a lot of it has to do with "too much information can be a bad thing", in that people tend to fixate upon a single issue O6) and neglect the whole picture (like, we need it!).

6120c989fd5b69f42a0834b69b87955b

(24553)

on August 06, 2011
at 05:51 AM

This is a big part of it, and is probably what is happening with most people. When you take grains and legumes off of your dinner plate it takes a big pile of greens and meat to equal the calories. I just keep seeing symptoms posted that would indicate something beyond undereating.

6120c989fd5b69f42a0834b69b87955b

(24553)

on August 06, 2011
at 05:45 AM

I did originally post it as "rabbit fever" because the article I was reading used it interchangably with "rabbit starvation", so maybe that is a common usage. I changed it hoping to make a clearer point just in case it would be confused with a disease.

7d0c3ea9bf8be00b93e6433d8f125ac3

(7540)

on August 06, 2011
at 05:13 AM

The OP meant rabbit starvation, they edited the title. Rabbit fever only refers to the disease tularemia AFAIK.

77877f762c40637911396daa19b53094

(78467)

on August 06, 2011
at 05:05 AM

2 things: we do need omega-6, people treat it like the plague here! and chicken breasts are great... when you add fat!

B14dc4aa1ddefbec3bc09550428ee493

(3909)

on August 06, 2011
at 04:45 AM

Interesting idea. We hear so much about omega-3's that we tend to forget that omega-6's are EFAs too. It's about having a good ratio of the two rather than omega- 6's being "bad" and I think people get confused on that point.

Be1dbd31e4a3fccd4394494aa5db256d

(17969)

on August 06, 2011
at 04:23 AM

That is a good point, when a lot of people start paleo they don't really know what to expect and so they're hesistant about diving in, but they have this list of paleo foods and they eat from it but don't really delve into good nutritional practices. Breakfast is like 3 eggs cooked in coconut oil and maybe some berries. That's not enough energy! FFS.

Be1dbd31e4a3fccd4394494aa5db256d

(17969)

on August 06, 2011
at 02:44 AM

And excess tryptophan likely causes bacterial overgrowth http://perfecthealthdiet.com/?p=1530 and brain aging (also serotonin is probably the explanation for T lowering) http://raypeat.com/articles/aging/tryptophan-serotonin-aging.shtml and cysteine is a pro-oxidant http://www.westonaprice.org/blogs/2010/09/11/the-biochemical-magic-of-raw-milk-and-other-raw-foods-glutathione/. I'm not trying to tell you what to do, but in general there are some principles that newbies should follow for best results and sustainability. Nobody needs that much protein and it is detrimental after a point

Be1dbd31e4a3fccd4394494aa5db256d

(17969)

on August 06, 2011
at 02:31 AM

How do you know that protein can be dominant with no problems? I just ate a fudgecicle and I'm not dead, doesn't mean it wasn't bad for me. Anecdotes mean nothing to me, I care about optimal health for life, not whatever it is someone happens to be doing right now that hasn't put them in the hospital thus far. Like I said, protein lowers T in excess of what is needed for nitrogen balance http://jap.physiology.org/content/82/1/49.abstract Even Robb Wolf and Mike Eades say 30% maxiumum. And just because someone isn't suffering from rabbit starvation doesn't mean the ammonia is benign.

667f6c030b0245d71d8ef50c72b097dc

(15976)

on August 06, 2011
at 01:25 AM

@stabby, while I agree with everything in this thread I just wanted to mention that one can indeed make protein the dominant macro with no problems. That does not mean you go into rabbit mode. I do a 40-40-20 pro-carb-fat paleo WOE, so you could say protein (or carb) is my dominant macro. I don't fear fat and I don't go into rabbit starvation. Just clarifying.

7d0c3ea9bf8be00b93e6433d8f125ac3

(7540)

on August 06, 2011
at 12:50 AM

yep, wouldn't want newbies thinking that Paleo might give them Tularemia :)

6120c989fd5b69f42a0834b69b87955b

(24553)

on August 06, 2011
at 12:05 AM

Thanks! I just heard about this last night and had "rabbit fever" and rabbit starvation confused. Edited and taken care of.

1d0497f8781845ab371b479455bfee8e

(11157)

on August 06, 2011
at 12:05 AM

Whoo-hoo! Thanks Rose! :D I think we're so used to having juicy, tender, grain-fed beef (and how to best prepare it) that when we apply those same methods to wild game it turns out bad. I think game is MUCH less tender than we like to think it is. Except for when they're fattened for winter ;)

3aea514b680d01bfd7573d74517946a7

(11996)

on August 05, 2011
at 11:36 PM

According to this website, you're right on the money, Nemesis: http://www.theyakranch.com/yak-recipes/

3aea514b680d01bfd7573d74517946a7

(11996)

on August 05, 2011
at 11:07 PM

I think this is probably true in most cases. Keto-adaptation takes up to a few weeks, and a lot of folks don't do it whole hog, so to speak. And the calories issue is a good point, too. When I did a no-red-meat experiment recently (just fish and birds), I felt pretty crappy. I assumed it was because I lowered my fat intake, but when I put my numbers into Nutritiondata.com, I discovered I was not just low fat, but eating around 800-900 cals a day. Not enough energy in that diet to fuel this Amazon ;D.

1d0497f8781845ab371b479455bfee8e

(11157)

on August 05, 2011
at 10:23 PM

Maybe yak is something that needs to be slow-roasted, much like tougher cuts of beef and pork?

7d0c3ea9bf8be00b93e6433d8f125ac3

(7540)

on August 05, 2011
at 09:58 PM

It's actually rabbit starvation. Rabbit fever is an entirely different disease.

34a367e60db77270bd7096dc04270fdc

(4171)

on August 05, 2011
at 09:45 PM

I'd just like to comment that my local grocery store (Publix in FL) stocks White Oak Pastures ground beef - and it's delicious.

Be1dbd31e4a3fccd4394494aa5db256d

(17969)

on August 05, 2011
at 09:28 PM

Totally. Big ol' source of faileo right there. You can't make protein the dominant macronutrient in the diet, you get ammonia poisoning and your T plummets. Eat the fat.

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5 Answers

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2
62ed65f3596aa2f62fa1d58a0c09f8c3

(20807)

on August 06, 2011
at 01:58 AM

I've heard the innuit refer to this lack of fat as rabbit fever, because rabbits are low in fat, but I think when others hear that, they assume it's the rabit fever that has to do with a disease vector. Having the words 'rabbit fever' refer to two different problems I think may also be contributing to our problems. Every time someone hears that eating rabbits can give you rabbit fever, they immediately tend to assume it is the disease vector, because that is an issue that is much more well known and accepted. A local survivor preparedness group, including some of them into nutrition, was happy to assume we could all live well on nothing but vegetables and locally shot rabbits and deer. WHen I pointed out to them that they could not survive without adequate fat, they acted like I had gone insane.

6120c989fd5b69f42a0834b69b87955b

(24553)

on August 06, 2011
at 05:45 AM

I did originally post it as "rabbit fever" because the article I was reading used it interchangably with "rabbit starvation", so maybe that is a common usage. I changed it hoping to make a clearer point just in case it would be confused with a disease.

7d0c3ea9bf8be00b93e6433d8f125ac3

(7540)

on August 06, 2011
at 05:13 AM

The OP meant rabbit starvation, they edited the title. Rabbit fever only refers to the disease tularemia AFAIK.

9
7d0c3ea9bf8be00b93e6433d8f125ac3

(7540)

on August 05, 2011
at 10:30 PM

I sort of think that a lot of those people who complain of not feeling well on the lean meat/veggies version of paleo are suffering more from lack of calories and/or suddenly slashing carbs than from true rabbit starvation.

3aea514b680d01bfd7573d74517946a7

(11996)

on August 05, 2011
at 11:07 PM

I think this is probably true in most cases. Keto-adaptation takes up to a few weeks, and a lot of folks don't do it whole hog, so to speak. And the calories issue is a good point, too. When I did a no-red-meat experiment recently (just fish and birds), I felt pretty crappy. I assumed it was because I lowered my fat intake, but when I put my numbers into Nutritiondata.com, I discovered I was not just low fat, but eating around 800-900 cals a day. Not enough energy in that diet to fuel this Amazon ;D.

Be1dbd31e4a3fccd4394494aa5db256d

(17969)

on August 06, 2011
at 04:23 AM

That is a good point, when a lot of people start paleo they don't really know what to expect and so they're hesistant about diving in, but they have this list of paleo foods and they eat from it but don't really delve into good nutritional practices. Breakfast is like 3 eggs cooked in coconut oil and maybe some berries. That's not enough energy! FFS.

6120c989fd5b69f42a0834b69b87955b

(24553)

on August 06, 2011
at 05:51 AM

This is a big part of it, and is probably what is happening with most people. When you take grains and legumes off of your dinner plate it takes a big pile of greens and meat to equal the calories. I just keep seeing symptoms posted that would indicate something beyond undereating.

7
1d0497f8781845ab371b479455bfee8e

(11157)

on August 05, 2011
at 10:22 PM

Absolutely! Our society's anti-fat dogma DOES NOT APPLY ON PALEO. I blame Cordain and other Paleo bloggers/authors for focusing on foods low in saturated animal fats, because it's this misinformation that is giving those new to Paleo a tough time. Hurr durr, but we're supposed to get our fat from coconut and walnut oils? How can that stuff even remotely be associated with Paleolothic man? The only reason nut oils are encouraged is because a lot of people need something to transition to using more animal fat.

A lot of people like to refer to Paleo/Primal as a version of Atkins. /facepalm

4
C2502365891cbcc8af2d1cf1d7b0e9fc

(2437)

on August 06, 2011
at 11:46 AM

For this to happen, you have to be eating extreme lean meat, such as what rabbits are. It's of no concern if you're eating beef, lamb or pork.

6120c989fd5b69f42a0834b69b87955b

(24553)

on August 07, 2011
at 06:47 PM

Good point, maybe we need to just try and steer people towards at least some red meat. The people I'm concerned about are the ones eating only canned tuna in water and skinless chicken breast because they are worried about all dietary fat.

1
Medium avatar

on August 05, 2011
at 09:41 PM

I wonder if this is due to a lack of essential fatty acids (omega3/6). Most people are trying to get omega 3s, so I suppose it's possible that someone not eating chicken, pork or common types of nuts could be missing out on linoleic acid. You see so much anti-linoleic acid talk in the paleosphere, but let's not forget that it's absolutely essential.

"Lean meat" is kind of a misnomer though unless it's chicken breast, which is almost inedible in my opinion. If the meat tastes even remotely good, it likely has a fair amount of fat in it. Removing visible gobs of saturated fat from a steak won't make it as lean as rabbit I would guess. I did buy a couple yak steaks once (seriously) that were so amazingly tough that I had to pitch the second one. Before trying it, I really had high hopes that I could become a regular yak eater, but such was not the case.

1d0497f8781845ab371b479455bfee8e

(11157)

on August 05, 2011
at 10:23 PM

Maybe yak is something that needs to be slow-roasted, much like tougher cuts of beef and pork?

77877f762c40637911396daa19b53094

(78467)

on August 06, 2011
at 05:05 AM

2 things: we do need omega-6, people treat it like the plague here! and chicken breasts are great... when you add fat!

3aea514b680d01bfd7573d74517946a7

(11996)

on August 05, 2011
at 11:36 PM

According to this website, you're right on the money, Nemesis: http://www.theyakranch.com/yak-recipes/

1d0497f8781845ab371b479455bfee8e

(11157)

on August 06, 2011
at 12:05 AM

Whoo-hoo! Thanks Rose! :D I think we're so used to having juicy, tender, grain-fed beef (and how to best prepare it) that when we apply those same methods to wild game it turns out bad. I think game is MUCH less tender than we like to think it is. Except for when they're fattened for winter ;)

1d0497f8781845ab371b479455bfee8e

(11157)

on August 07, 2011
at 04:08 AM

I agree, Jakey. I think a lot of it has to do with "too much information can be a bad thing", in that people tend to fixate upon a single issue O6) and neglect the whole picture (like, we need it!).

B14dc4aa1ddefbec3bc09550428ee493

(3909)

on August 06, 2011
at 04:45 AM

Interesting idea. We hear so much about omega-3's that we tend to forget that omega-6's are EFAs too. It's about having a good ratio of the two rather than omega- 6's being "bad" and I think people get confused on that point.

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