Editor's Note: If you don't know whether you are a farmer or hunter food type, first read the article The Hunter-Farmer Food Types: Which One Are You? which has a questionnaire to help you differentiate between the two.
The Farmer needs more frequent meals and snacks compared with the Hunter. The varying dietary needs of Farmers and Hunters also means they are different when it comes to their most common health problems and diseases.
How Alcohol Affects Hunters and Farmers
Most people think of alcohol as being a source of sugar, but the effect of drinking alcohol is the opposite: it drops blood-sugar levels. Alcohol temporarily spikes insulin levels, which lowers blood sugar. That effect occurs fairly quickly—within ten minutes or so of drinking two ounces of alcohol. Farmers are already prone to hypoglycemia and sensitive to the effects of insulin . . . if you give a Farmer a drink, he or she will be hypoglycemic within ten minutes and will be looking for something to eat!
Hunters are much more resistant to the effects of insulin, and they also have higher blood-sugar levels. So the effects of a drink are much less noticeable in terms of its impact on glucose levels. If you give a Hunter a drink, he or she will likely be looking for another drink!
You can imagine that the Hunters and Farmers would sort themselves out at a cocktail party: Hunters at the bar, Farmers at the hors d’oeuvres. Sheer calories are among the many reasons it’s wise not to drink excessively.
What about Salt?
The news about salt intake might surprise you. We’ve been told for years that too much salt (sodium) intake is bad for us and will raise our blood pressure and lead to heart attack and stroke. That would seem like bad news, especially for Hunters already at increased risk because of their insulin resistance.
But oddly, studies don’t always support the advice to cut back on sodium. Years ago the results of a large national nutritional study NHANES-I involving over 20,000 participants between 1971 and 1975 revealed interesting data. During that time there were almost 4,000 deaths, and those with the lowest sodium intake had the highest death rates, and those with the highest sodium intake the lowest death rate. Subsequent surveys NHANES-II and NHANES-III continue to show the same results.
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A recent study of a population of 638 diabetics over ten years found the same results; those with the lowest sodium intake had the highest mortality, compared with the highest sodium intake showing the lowest mortality. Even more recently, results of a study of 3,681 healthy participants followed over almost eight years showed the same paradoxical results. In these last two studies, sodium intake was estimated by measuring urinary sodium excretion with 24-hour urine collections. Those with low sodium excretion consistently had higher cardiovascular mortality. It seems that being able to dump sodium is especially important.
The ability to excrete large amounts of sodium seems to be protective for cardiovascular disease. Perhaps the lack of that ability is contributing to increased cardiovascular disease.
The name of the condition diabetes mellitus comes from the Greek meaning essentially “sweet urine,” because ancient Greek doctors found the urine of diabetics to be sweet from glucose. It seems we may need another form of diabetes—“diabetes exsalsus,” or urine without salt—to describe the people more prone to cardiovascular disease. Salt excretion may partly explain why some people might be “salt sensitive” while others not so much.
Of course the results are never too clear. In other studies, salt intake has been associated with higher blood pressure and higher cardiovascular mortality. Increased sodium excretion has also been linked with osteoporosis, because sodium loss in the urine also causes calcium loss.
So the final chapter on the sodium story can’t be written yet. No doubt research will soon shed more light on this important topic. But at the moment, we’re in a bit of a bind. Low sodium intake is not good, but then neither is high blood pressure. Those able to excrete sodium well and maintain a normal blood pressure are in the best position, regardless of their Hunter or Farmer type.
What about Gluten?
Gluten-free diets are the current rage. They’ve been touted to be the magic bullet for everything from weight loss to inflammatory and autoimmune diseases.
What is gluten? Gluten is a sticky protein found in some grains—primarily wheat, but also barley and rye. It is a particularly allergenic protein for some people and they can become allergic to it. A severe form of gluten allergy is known as celiac disease, which can be a serious health issue that causes bowel and digestive symptoms along with poor nutrient absorption and inflammatory symptoms.
Less severe forms of gluten sensitivity may also contribute to digestive intolerance or milder symptoms such as bloating, gassiness, or fluid retention. Those with inflammatory conditions may have improvement in some of their symptoms when shifting to a gluten-free diet.
Gluten-free diets are also a new twist on low-carb diets. Since gluten is in wheat, rye, and barley—three common grains—avoiding gluten will also often mean reducing carbs, since those grains would no longer be eaten. It’s still not known why some people develop an allergy or sensitivity to gluten. Genetics certainly play a role, and research has identified at least two genes that are present in over 90 percent of individuals with celiac disease.
Nurture plays a role, too, and the timing of the introduction of gluten into an infant’s diet may influence the likelihood of gluten sensitivity. Introducing wheat-based grains before three months of age was shown to increase the likelihood of celiac disease by a factor of five. That’s probably because it takes about three months for the protective lining of the digestive tract to fully form in babies. Breastfeeding may also protect against gluten allergy and celiac disease, because babies benefit from protective antibodies passed on in their mother’s milk.
It’s not clear whether gluten sensitivity is more common in Farmers than Hunters. Either may have gluten sensitivity if they have the right combination of genetics and exposure. For Hunters, gluten sensitivity shouldn’t present much of a problem, since they’re better off avoiding gluten-containing grains anyway. For Farmers, gluten sensitivity means having to substitute gluten-free grains like rice, oats, and corn for wheat, barley, and rye.
Gluten sensitivity can be diagnosed with a variety of blood tests, stool tests, and direct examination of the bowel lining with endoscopy and biopsy. Even without going through testing for gluten sensitivity, a trial of a gluten-free diet for a few weeks is an easy way to learn if gluten might be causing a problem for you. Most supermarkets today have sections with a wide variety of gluten-free foods.
©2012 by Canyon Ranch LLC and Mark Liponis.
Reprinted with permission of the publisher,
Hay House Inc. www.hayhouse.com. All Rights Reserved.
This article was adapted with permission from the book:
Research proves what many men and women have learned through trial and error: some do better on a low-carb diet, and others do better on a low-fat diet. This is because some people have the metabolism of a hunter, while others have the metabolism of a farmer. In this groundbreaking book, Dr. Mark Liponis, a leading expert in preventive and integrative medicine, will show you how to determine which type you are so that you can lose weight and improve your health at the same time.
About the Author
Mark Liponis, M.D., is the Corporate Medical Director at Canyon Ranch Health Resorts and has been a practicing physician for more than 20 years, including extensive experience in emergency departments and critical care units. The co-author of the New York Times bestseller UltraPrevention and the author of UltraLongevity, Dr. Liponis is internationally recognized as a leading expert in preventive and integrative medicine.
Watch a video with Dr. Liponis (excerpt from a PBS special): The Hunter/Farmer Healthy Weight Solution