Alchemists and Animals
This is the story of Emily and Sarah...
Meet Emily. Emily lives in an empty 300-square-foot apartment. Emily's cubical at her office is so small that her elbows touch each wall and her head is a couple feet from the ceiling. Emily's boss screams at her all day long, causing her to be stressed out nearly always. Emily's constant level of stress causes the habitual release of a hormone called cortisol, often called the stress hormone, which causes her blood sugar to skyrocket many times throughout the day.1
Emily's body is frequently releasing many catecholamines, like adrenaline, that are linked to an increased risk of experiencing a heart attack, high blood pressure, and a stroke, while the barrage of cortisol puts her at an increased risk of heart disease, diabetes, cognitive impairment, and a poorly functioning immune system.2
Emily sleeps terribly at night because she is so stressed. Emily is at an increased risk of cancer.3 To make matters worse, Emily is fed Boost and Ensure every day at work, both foods that are quite foreign to her body.
All of these issues leave Emily sick quite often. She has to take antibiotics regularly, and sometimes even gets antibiotic-resistant infections. Emily has even been given hormones to help her build some muscle on her paltry frame.
Man, Emily's life stinks...
Meet Sarah. Sarah lives on a 15-acre plot of land. Sarah sleeps well and wakes up with the sun. Sarah actually works at home taking care of the land. She also hunts on the land around her home, which she freely roams. She spends the majority of the day running around this land. There is much vegetation around Sarah's home and she gets her daily vitamins and nutrients through her healthy diet. Sometimes she has to supplement it in the winter, but this is a last resort. The animals around her property provide her with the protein she needs.
Sarah gets stressed here and there, as we all do. However, overall she leads a pretty happy life. She exercises everyday by walking around freely. She rarely gets sick and has a strong immune system.
Man, Sarah’s life is awesome.
Emily and Sarah are actually chickens. Emily is stuffed in a cage for life, as she lives in a confined animal feeding operation (CAFO). She can barely move, eats unnatural foods, and is constantly stressed out, secreting stress hormones into her meat.
Each and every day of Emily's life is pretty terrible…
Sarah, on the other hand, lives on a farm where she is raised on pasture. In other words, she runs around picking insects out of the ground and eating grass, her normal diet.
Sarah's life is pretty awesome. Sarah's health is pretty awesome. The eggs that Sarah lays are pretty awesome too...
Whether it's Chickens or People
Few people give thought to Emily and Sarah when they are buying eggs at the grocery store. Emily's eggs are obviously much cheaper, as we would expect. It is much cheaper to stuff Emily in a cage and feed her unnatural food than to let Sarah run around eating worms and insects, some grass, and the occasional supplemental feed. It is much easier to push Emily and Sarah to the back of your head, forget about them, and pay $1.99 for the dozen eggs from Emily's stressed out body.
Emily and Sara's Eggs
Much like Emily and Sarah's health, their eggs are very different from one another. While this seems quite obvious, the differences can be quite significant.
Sarah's eggs actually have double the amount of vitamin E than Emily's eggs, double the amount of healthy omega-3 fatty acids, and 38% more vitamin A. Emily's eggs have significantly more inflammatory omega-6 fatty acids than Sarah's eggs.4
Much like Emily's life, Emily's eggs stink.
Sarah's eggs also contain a much higher ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 fatty acids. In other words, Sarah's eggs have much more anti-inflammatory omega-3s, while Emily's have significantly more omega-6s. The ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 is closer to 4:1 than 1:1, which is what our ancestors consumed for thousands of years.5 A high ratio of omega-6 to omega-3s is associated with an increased risk of diseases like prostate cancer6 and significantly higher amounts of autoimmune disease, inflammation, and circulating inflammatory factors.5,7
Sarah's eggs look better because of their deep golden-colored yolks. They taste better too. They are a great addition to healthy bone broth and a healthy part of the diet.
Much like Sarah's life, Sarah's eggs are awesome.
The Alchemist Chicken
During the Integrative Health Conference in New York City last year, I participated in a debate regarding the optimal human diet. During this debate, Dr. David Perlmutter, author of Grain Brain: The Surprising Truth about Wheat, Carbs, and Sugar - Your Brain's Silent Killers, used the term "the alchemist cow." He was referring to cows that are fed a poor diet, given antibiotics, and stuffed in a small space, yet we somehow believe that their milk and meat would still be as healthy as a cow that is raised appropriately. Dr. Perlmutter commented on how this sounded very much like alchemy.
Alchemy was the ancient practice of trying to turn metals into gold. As Isaac Newton and others found out, it does not work. We cannot make gold out of nothing and we cannot feed animals garbage and treat them poorly and then expect them to magically be healthy.
When thinking about humans, the difference in health between a stressed out Emily, stuffed in a cubicle her whole life, never exercising, never sleeping well, and never eating well versus a stress-free Sarah running around and enjoying life, exercising, and eating healthy becomes obvious to anyone. Why do we ignore this when it comes to animals?
It is time to think about Emily and Sarah when shopping at the grocery store or local farmer’s market.
As Emily knows all too well, there are no alchemist chickens...
To Your Health,
Dr. Colin Champ
Dr. Colin Champ is a practicing radiation oncologist and nutritional expert. He is the author of Misguided Medicine: The truth behind ill-advised medical recommendations and how to take health back into your hands”You can hear more from him as the host of the incredibly popular Caveman Doctor podcast.
1. Smyth J, Ockenfels MC, Porter L, Kirschbaum C, Hellhammer DH, Stone AA. STRESSORS AND MOOD MEASURED ON A MOMENTARY BASIS ARE ASSOCIATED WITH SALIVARY CORTISOL SECRETION. Psychoneuroendocrinology. 1998;23(4):353-370. doi:10.1016/S0306-4530(98)00008-0.
2. Lundberg U. Stress hormones in health and illness: the roles of work and gender. Psychoneuroendocrinology. 2005;30(10):1017-1021. doi:10.1016/j.psyneuen.2005.03.014.
3. Blask DE. Melatonin, sleep disturbance and cancer risk. Sleep Med Rev. 2009;13(4):257-264. http://linkinghub.elsevier.com/retrieve/pii/S1087079208000786?showall=true.
4. Karsten HD, Patterson PH, Stout R, Crews G. Vitamins A, E and fatty acid composition of the eggs of caged hens and pastured hens. Renew Agric Food Syst. 2010;25(01):45. doi:10.1017/S1742170509990214.
5. A.P S. The importance of the ratio of omega-6/omega-3 essential fatty acids. Biomed & Pharmacother. 2002;56(8):365-379. doi:10.1016/s0753-3322(02)00253-6.
6. Williams CD, Whitley BM, Hoyo C, et al. A high ratio of dietary n-6/n-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids is associated with increased risk of prostate cancer. Nutr Res. 2011;31(1):1-8. doi:10.1016/j.nutres.2011.01.002.
7. Simopoulos AP. Omega-3 Fatty Acids in Inflammation and Autoimmune Diseases. J Am Coll Nutr. 2002;21(6):495-505. http://www.jacn.org/content/21/6/495.abstract.