During a visit to New Zealand with close friend Jerry Brunetti, I could not resist combining business with pleasure by taping a marathon seven hour interview/conversation for possible inclusion in my next book. Jerry is one of the world’s leading consultants in holistic agriculture and he has become something of a guru in human health in recent years. Here is the third installment of this mammoth effort. I trust you will enjoy it.
Graeme: Now I’d like to move on to another of the “neglected nutrients”, vitamin D. I suspect the average man on the street thinks of vitamin D as the sunshine nutrient. They figure that, if you spend a few minutes in the sun each day, you’ve taken care of that requirement. In Australia, where sunshine is our currency, it is assumed that vitamin D is supplied in abundance. I suspect that you would strongly disagree with this assumption because there’s more to vitamin D than this.
Jerry: Well, first of all, you need good levels of cholesterol to synthesis vitamin D with the skin and you also need adequate amounts of vitamin A to protect your skin from the wrong kind of ultraviolet radiations. This fear of skin cancer, of course, is one of the reasons why people run away from the sun. It’s why their physicians recommend that they avoid sun bathing. In actual fact they are often more at risk from vitamin D deficiency than they are from skin cancer.
Vitamin D is not actually a vitamin. If it was discovered today, it would be recognised for what it truly is – it’s a hormone. This is how it works. It’s located in the troughs of the villi – that is the crevices in between these little finger-like projections in the small intestine. The villi have sites called VDR’s or Vitamin D Receptors, which is where these long vitamin D molecules are able to attach. The double-charged oxygen atom at the end of the vitamin D molecule is able to pick up calcium that is extracted from food (assuming, of course, that the digestive system is functioning properly). This calcium is collected by vitamin D, ionised, and then delivered into the bloodstream.
Once the calcium gets into the bloodstream, the essential fatty acids pick up the calcium. When the essential fatty acids (with calcium) reach the cell membranes, the amino acid carnitine becomes involved. This amino acid delivers the fuel. The mitochondria of the cell is fuelled by essential fatty acids (EFA’s). Remember that the EFA’s are carrying the calcium and calcium, the trucker of all minerals in the plant and in the human body, is carrying all the other elements with it right into the cell. So you can see how this concert occurs and why it’s so important to have the fat soluble vitamins, like vitamin A and vitamin D.
Graeme: It’s one of the strongest arguments for drinking raw milk because these critical fat soluble nutrients are destroyed in the pasteurisation process, along with enzymes that aid with calcium absorption. In some recent research, a group of calves were fed pasteurised milk while the control group drank raw milk. At just six months, the calves drinking pasteurised milk already showed the first signs of osteoporosis. It is a fallacy to think you are getting all the calcium you need from drinking pasteurised milk. It’s just not happening, and people need to be informed of this fact. Anyway, back to the vitamin D story.
Jerry: Yes, well there are only a few places you can get vitamin D. You can’t assume that you will get it from the sunlight. Most of the times you don’t have enough boron to activate it and sometimes you won’t have enough cholesterol to build the raw materials for it. You need to get it from places like cod liver oil or fats from animals that graze outdoors on grass. Raw milk and butter from grass fed cows is a great source or the fat from grass-fed beef. Vitamin D, in adequate quantities, is now recognised as an anti-cancer vitamin. It can actually cause apoptosis in cancer cells. The quantity you need, if you do have cancer, is 4000 to 5000 IUs per day. The RDA is just 400 IUs per day – just 10% of what we actually need. There are a plethora of problems associated with not getting enough vitamin D. If you can’t ionise calcium, for example, then you can’t alkalise the blood and now you’re dealing with metabolic and cellular acidosis. Acidosis shortens the life span of the cell and the environment is less oxygenated, which means pathogens and mutagenic tissue can grow more freely.
Graeme: It should always be remembered that Otto Warburg won his Nobel Prize in 1932 for discovering the root cause of cancer. He claimed that cancer cells developed and flourished in anaerobic conditions based upon acidity. A tablespoon of cod liver oil has around 1500IUs of vitamin D. I don’t fancy trying to down 3 tablespoons of that stuff. I guess if you combined some raw milk, butter, animal fat and cod liver oil in your diet, you would get your 5000 IU per day. I was interested to hear you comment of the link with boron. This is often not understood. Basically, vitamin D is not going to do its job if you’re boron deficient. It’s pretty common to see boron deficiencies when checking out hair test data. Perhaps you could explain how the boron link works?
Jerry: Sure. Boron is critical for the parathyroid gland and the parathyroid gland produces two hormones – calcitonin and the parathyroid gland hormone. 1% of the calcium in the body is floating around in the blood to control the acid/alkaline balance of the blood pH and it is also associated with blood clotting. It might be only 1% but it’s absolutely critical. Those hormones from the parathyroid gland regulate the amount of calcium that’s in the blood which of course affects the pH of the blood. Boron is a precursor to a healthy parathyroid gland and it is also involved in enzymes that activate vitamin D, as I mentioned. So, we have a strong relationship between boron, vitamin D and calcium and there are other calcium synergists which include magnesium, phosphorous, manganese, zinc and strontium.
Graeme: You would also have to include silica in that list of calcium synergists. It’s amazing the parallels with plant nutrition. We have been really pushing the calcium-boron-silica trio in plant nutrition. It’s actually quite difficult to source a boron supplement in Australia and it’s not usually included in the multivitamins at the required 3 mg per day.
Jerry: Yes, 3 mg per day is the absolute minimum requirement. The United States Department of Agriculture did osteoporosis studies which showed that women supplementing with 3 mg of boron per day were able to almost completely arrest the excretion of calcium in their urine. However, higher doses can be very beneficial particularly in relation to prostate issues. Boron has now been identified as one of the trace elements necessary to drop PSA levels. This is the antibody that’s checked as an indication of prostate cancer. High PSA levels usually mean you have prostrate inflammation. If the free PSA levels are rising and the bound PSA levels are not (or dropping) then it’s of less concern, in terms of prostrate cancer. When the bound levels rise and the free levels don’t, then you have a problem on your hands. So boron can affect prostrate cancer along with the other key players, selenium and zinc.
Graeme: I remember several years ago when you and I were in the midst of the Three-Up Tour around Australia and New Zealand. I had just received news that my dad was to be scheduled for an operation to remove his faulty parathyroid gland. There was considerable risk involved as it was possible that his voice box would be damaged in the process. You advised that he should have his boron levels checked before embarking on something so extreme. He did turn out to be boron deficient and very soon after beginning to supplement, his parathyroid returned to normal and the operation was not necessary. It makes you wonder how many hundreds of thousands of surgical procedures could have been avoided if doctors just had some rudimentary training in nutrition! Anyway, thank you for that advice. It’s nice to be able to talk with my dad without the aid of a robotic voice. So where do we get boron from if we can’t readily source it in the health shops?
Jerry: Well the best food sources are nuts followed by fruit. You can’t grow a good quality nut without making sure you have good levels of boron in the soil. Legumes are also boron lovers. You can’t grow good quality lucerne without boron.
Graeme: An elderly German woman naturopath once told me that the best way to supplement boron was to lick the tip of your index finger and dip it into a packet of borax down to the end of the fingernail. She insisted that then sucking the borax from your finger tips supplied the ideal daily requirement. It applied to both children and adults because the smaller finger size equated to the smaller body size of a child and so the dose rate remained self-policing. I’m not sure if it’s responsible to pass on this tip but it had worked for the woman and her patients for decades. What do you think?
Jerry: You probably could take boron as sodium borate which is found in borax. I don’t see any problem with taking these very small amounts of borax. You have to consume a pretty high dose of borax to do any harm. It’s been proven safe and very effective to take between 10 mg and 20 mg of boron in supplemental form.
Graeme: While we are talking about prostate supporting minerals, like boron and selenium, I’d like to discuss zinc. Zinc deficiency is massive in Australia, particularly amongst men. Zinc is used in the production of testosterone and it’s also heavily concentrated in sperm (sperm contains 40 times more zinc than blood). When we test for zinc, using the reasonably reliable Zinc Challenge Test, over 80% of men are seriously deficient in this mineral. I think this might mirror international figures. Often the lack of a mineral in our diet is reflected in leaf tests but while zinc is sometimes deficient, most growers are now aware of its importance in that it governs production of the auxin hormone which determines leaf size. A plant with small leaves is not generally very profitable. So if we don’t see large deficiencies when analysing our food via leaf analysis, why are we all so deficient in the very important micronutrient?
Jerry: There is a lot of antagonism against zinc. Heavy metals like cadmium are big players. On the periodic chart of elements, you find that zinc is in the same family as cadmium and mercury and so both of these heavy metals can displace zinc. We have very large exposure to both of these metals – mercury from seafood and dental amalgams and cadmium from a variety of sources including cigarettes and some petrochemical products. One of the worst sources of cadmium comes from phosphate fertilisers. When you have a zinc deficiency then your uptake of both mercury and cadmium is higher.
Graeme: Yes, it’s like the relationship between calcium and lead. If you are calcium deficient then you are more prone to pick up lead because the body struggles to differentiate between the two minerals. In this instance cigarette smokers and people with a mouthful of amalgams had better make damn sure they keep up their zinc levels or they will magnify the potential heavy metal problems. The link between prostate and cadmium is quite profound. There is a precise recipe where lab rats can be given a specific dose of cadmium and within a specified period a tumour will form on their prostrate gland. Cadmium hangs out in the prostrate gland but so does zinc and zinc can displace cadmium from the prostate gland. The cadmium story is not good news for cigarette smokers. The human body can handle just 3 mcg of cadmium each day. The problem is that each cigarette contains 3 mcg. After your first cigarette in the morning, you virtually pump cadmium into your prostate for the rest of the day. Smokers have a greater need to supplement zinc as a result.
Jerry: I agree. It can be very valuable to look at minerals in relation to the periodic table. We talked about the family of iodine, fluorine, chlorine and bromine – it’s the same situation here. There is antagonism from other minerals when we look at reasons for low zinc levels. In some cases, people have copper toxicity which can come from chlorinated water releasing copper from their plumbing. Copper antagonises zinc. Zinc is probably the most important trace element. It affects 200 enzyme systems in the body. From an enzyme perspective, only magnesium is more important as it affects 300 enzymes.
Graeme: That’s a problem, of course, because magnesium deficiency is about as common as zinc deficiency – these two elements are the missing minerals in most people.
Jerry: Yes and no one gets told about it. Zinc is also important in relation to digestion. If you have poor digestion, then it is often coming from zinc deficiency. If you have poor digestion with dysbiosis and fermentation and you start taking antacids and channel blockers then you have poor secretions of hydrochloric acid. As a consequence of this, the secretions by the pancreas of a compound called picolinate are reduced. Picolinate is a chelating compound which helps the body to absorb not just zinc but other trace elements like selenium, manganese and chromium. So if the picolinate production is compromised, the minerals are not absorbed. The problem is that you can’t make hydrochloric acid without zinc as a raw material. So the digestion gets worse and the picolinate secretions continue to decrease. The uptake of zinc, and its trace mineral cousins, decreases even more and you are trapped in a vicious cycle. The first thing people need to do is take supplemental zinc and improve their digestive capability. Bad digestion is epidemic and acid reflux is as common as headaches.
Graeme: Well, Zantac is the largest selling drug in history, so that says it all.
Jerry: Right! And if you are neutralising hydrochloric acid with Zantac then you’re also creating iron deficiency because with low stomach acid you can’t absorb iron and then the white cells ,the neutraphils, can’t make hydrogen peroxide to secrete against infection. You are simply more susceptible to infections without hydrochloric acid ionising the iron in the diet. All of these elements become compromised because of digestive disturbance. The answer isn’t to quell this malaise in the gut with antacids. You’re not addressing the root cause of the problem. If you don’t sort out the problem, there can be serious consequences with GI Tract problems, immune problems and metabolic difficulties.
Graeme: Yes, a tremendous number of people are deficient in hydrochoric acid but because the symptoms are similar to acidity they take antacids to try and solve the problem. In fact they are compounding the issue. There is a simple home test people can use to check if their indigestion is based on acidity or a lack of hydrochloric acid. If you have indigestion then you put two teaspoons of apple cider vinegar into a glass of water and drink it in small swallows. if you have relief from heartburn within 20 minutes then you are probably deficient in hydrochloric acid and would benefit from supplementing with betaine hydrochloride.
The other issue with low zinc levels which you haven’t touched on yet is the phytic acid link. There is increasing research to suggest that this natural acid, found in cereal grains and to a lesser extent nuts, binds with zinc to form an insoluble zinc phytate which passes through the system and is not absorbed. This is why I always suggest that zinc supplements are taken last thing before bed so that there is no chance of phytic acid neutralisation. Ideally, cereal grains should be soaked overnight or even better they should be fermented. Leavened breads, for example, don’t have a phytic issue. Rosa makes delicious muesli which is soaked with our probiotic product called Bio-Bubble™. If the muesli is soaked for a minimum 12 hours it develops an amazing flavour due to the release of sugars from the grains during microbial digestion. It not only tastes better but it requires less digestive effort because the work has been done by the microbes and of course your breakfast becomes a probiotic supplement because the organisms have increased to huge numbers after 12 hours of eating this food.
Jerry: Yes, the phytic acid is a huge problem. Many nutritionists, like Dr Joe Mercola and the Price Foundation, of which I am a member, frown on the consumption of grain regardless of whether it’s refined or whole because of phytic acid and the enzyme inhibitors present. Phytic acid is found in the inositol phosphate layers of the grain. It’s associated with the phosphate content of the grain. It actually inhibits both trace elements and macro elements.
Graeme: I guess it’s not such an issue with minerals, like calcium, because there is so much more calcium coming into the system than there is trace elements so you don’t notice the loss to the same degree.
Jerry: Yes, basically the more grain you eat the less minerals you get. Grain is already low in minerals. It’s part of a bigger picture of mineral decline. If you study USDA records going back to 1914 you will recognise the serious drops in mineral levels. There were serious concerns in the early 1900’s, again in the 1930’s, again in the 40’s, again in the 60’s and again in the 90’s. Every time they do large scale comparative analysis of food, whether its meat, grain, fruits or vegetables, they are all precipitously low and getting worse. So our soils are demineralised and therefore our food lacks nutrition and we keep eating all of this grain. More and more grain and most of it based on white flour which is contributing to the diabetes epidemic.
Graeme: The other problem is that more and more grain is fed to animals, who are also not really equipped to digest it.
Jerry: Yes, only birds are really designed to manage grain. The bottom line with animals and humans is that we are compromising the uptake of what little minerals are left in our food, by eating so much cereal grain which we were never designed to digest.
Graeme: So just reiterating – it is only through soaking or sprouting grains or fermenting breads that we convert this very ordinary food into something worth eating?
Jerry: Yes, I always eat bread called 'Ezekiel' which is made with no flour at all. It’s made from the sprouts of seven different grains. Sprouting eliminates both phytates and enzyme inhibitors so it’s a lot less problematic to eat this bread. Yes, fermentation is the other way. The sourdough breads were made for this reason. If you look at the traditional cultures that’s what you’ll find. That they found a way to deal with this grain problem by either fermenting the bread or sprouting the grain before consuming it.
Graeme: The demineralisation of our food involves a lot more than the minerals that are now missing from our soils. Food processing is a major culprit. When you take wholemeal flour and convert it to white flour, you lose around 80% of the nutrient value in the process. In fact, the white flour officially becomes an “anti-nutrient” – something that takes more from your body than what you put in. In Australia, 90% of the bread sold is white bread and most parents simply don’t realise that when they send their precious children off to school with their white bread sandwiches, they really are not doing them any favours. If we were going to get serious about protecting our children then perhaps we should be banning white bread because children will always favour it over wholemeal. They need to be protected from their own misguided taste buds.
Two of the biggest losses associated with removing the fibre-based outer layers of grain are magnesium and vitamin E. 85% of both nutrients are lost during processing and these are the two nutrients most closely linked to heart health (remembering that heart disease is our biggest killer). You mentioned a benefit of sprouting – sprouting is really an amazing, almost miraculous phenomenon. The seeds contain enzyme inhibitors to prevent inappropriate or premature germination. These inhibitors can negatively affect our digestive enzymes and compromise the most energy-intensive process in the human body. Soaking the seeds during sprouting allows proteases within the seed to neutralise the inhibitor releasing the full suite of enzymes from bondage. Enzyme activity after sprouting increases by up to 600% and as you mentioned, the mineral-inhibiting phytic acid is also neutralised.
You mentioned that many cultures had previously developed techniques to neutralise the two key downsides of grain but there was also something else involved. Prior to the advent of the combine harvester, grain was always partially germinated. Originally, the sheaves were put into shocks and gathered up into stacks where they stood for several weeks in the field before threshing. Rain and dew initiated germination so the negatives were removed. I noticed during my recent visit to India that these stacks are still a feature all over the Indian countryside.
Anyway, there is also a heap of other benefits from sprouting. Vitamin C is produced during sprouting. Chinese sailors used legume sprouts to prevent scurvy. Sprouting increases the content of the B group vitamins, particularly B2, B5 and B6. Carotene levels increase up to eightfold. Complex sugars responsible for intestinal gas are broken down and sprouting inactivates toxins, including carcinogenic aflotoxins. The two best sprouts are radish sprouts and broccoli sprouts. Our current affairs shows have been recently reporting exciting new research about the cancer-fighting potential of radish sprouts, based on certain phyto nutrients but aside from that, these sprouts have 29 times more vitamin C than milk and 4 times more vitamin A. They also have 10 times more calcium than a potato. Broccoli sprouts contain up to 40 times more sulforaphane than broccoli heads which, as you have discussed, has been shown to promote cell-cycle arrest and apoptosis (death) of cancer cells. This amazing compound also acts as an indirect antioxidant by linking free radicals to other molecules which are then excreted. Sorry for the rave but this is obviously a good opportunity to share the best that both of us can offer, to help out the readers.
Jerry: I agree completely; that’s what we will endeavor to do.
Graeme: I’ll move on with some of my other questions now. I can see a book coming out of this single interview because I have several hours of questions and discussion planned. Anyway, I recently researched a comprehensive presentation on detoxification. In the process, I was surprised by the critical importance of vitamin C in the detoxification process. I had assumed that I was surely getting enough by consuming four or five pieces of fruit each day and having salads with every evening meal. I’d never tested myself because I never thought I needed to. However, as I recognised the profound role played by this nutrient I realised that you could peel oranges until your wrists seized but you would always struggle to get enough vitamin C to manage the 74,000 registered chemicals in our environment. Each time vitamin C neutralises a toxin, a molecule of vitamin C is removed, although you can extend its potential with a recycler like Alpha Lipoic Acid. People might suggest that it’s not natural to take large doses of supplemental vitamin C but the bottom line is that we do not live in a natural world anymore. My question in relation to this issue is, do you think that people need to supplement with vitamin C- perhaps from cradle to grave?
Jerry: Well, vitamin C is one of the most researched supplements out there and one of the things that have become obvious with this nutrient is that it’s involved in everything. The adrenal glands have the highest concentration of vitamin C and these glands produce the anti-stress hormones adrenalin and cortisol. Here we are in a society that features wall to wall stress, so that alone heralds the importance of this nutrient. The second organ, in terms of highest vitamin C concentration, is the brain. It turns out that vitamin C is required for the metabolic pathways that produce things like dopamine, serotonin (the "feel-good" substance) and melatonin – the hormone that allows you to sleep at night.
Graeme: So it has a double whammy from a stress perspective. Low vitamin C levels might contribute to adrenal exhaustion so you are already stressed and then you’re depressed or having a hard time sleeping and perhaps you might have neurological issues linked to these compromised hormones.
Jerry: There’s another issue with vitamin C. When vitamin C teams up with the amino acid lysine and the trace mineral iron, it forms another amino acid called carnitine. Carnitine is the vehicle that takes the fatty acids into the furnace of the cell – the mitochondria. If you don’t have enough carnitine then your muscles get fatigued, which means you feel exhausted or your heart muscle becomes fatigued, which means you are a candidate for congestive heart failure. So you need protein and iron and that’s best sourced from animal foods where you’re getting your protein but you also need a good supply of hydrochloric acid to release both of these nutrients so the body can use them.
Graeme: That touches on something close to home. My ex-wife, Rosa, has suffered from borderline anaemia for a long period and her exhaustion was recently linked to an ongoing iron deficiency. They did what many people do when iron shortage was identified – they supplemented with iron for a couple of months and then thought the job was done. Unfortunately, it’s rarely as simple as this. Why was she lacking iron when she enjoys an exceptional diet? The issue was with the absorption of iron. Part of the root cause was a lack of hydrochloric acid, as you pointed out, but she was also deficient in B12. It didn’t end there because simply supplementing with B12 couldn’t do the job because she was also lacking ‘intrinsic factor’ (a common problem) which limited her B12 uptake. The bottom line is that it’s often not a simple thing to sort out health problems. It’s like peeling an onion and it can become so complex that the average person can think “just give me that prescription – give me the magic bullet”!
Jerry: It’s true, but it’s why people have to recognise that you have to normalise a lot of this stuff with good foods as much as possible. Supplements are important but if you’re not eating the good foods you have problems. Really, it’s like treating symptoms with drugs. It can be incredibly expensive and one supplement can beget another. You can’t take handfuls of supplements while you’re still eating at McDonalds. That’s not going to solve the problem. There are initially important co-factors that are in whole foods but not in individual supplements. You must eat the fruit and vegetables and the foods rich in the fat soluble vitamins A, D, E and K. You need the high quality protein from meat and the essential fatty acids and the co-factors that put all of these things together. The shin bone is connected to the knee bone and that’s why solving the problem with supplements alone often won’t do it. Taking supplements is critical but making sure you have the good food is imperative.
Graeme: And of course there is the link to beneficial gut organisms to make sure the good food is absorbed.
Jerry: Yes, the aim is to get the nutrients into the cells. To get there you have the hollow tube that runs from the mouth to the anus, inhabited by trillions of micro organisms which help to release nutrients. That hollow tube is really like the outside of the body – you have to get inside the body through absorption, which is proper digestion. Then, of course, there is assimilation in the small intestine through the villae – where everything gets into the bloodstream. The next step is to get through the cell membrane and this is where toxins can come into the picture. If toxins are present, then we have problems with delivery of these essentials into the cells.
Graeme: The villae are almost comparable to the root hairs which the plant uses for nutrient uptake. The parallel to the soil is really quite profound with minerals and microbes determining uptake in both instances. The billions of organisms, lining every centimetre of plant roots, perform a similar function to the 100 trillion organisms that should inhabit a healthy digestive tract. In both cases, we’ve knocked the hell out of them and we are reaping the consequences. Both sets of micro organisms protect us from pathogens, facilitate nutrient delivery and produce a whole suite of beneficial exudates including many of the B vitamins (in the soil and the digestive tract).
Jerry: I agree, the root zone has a very similar architecture to what goes on in the gut of the animal or human. The rhizophere or the root ball is the digestive system of the plant. An annual, like rye, is capable of producing six thousand miles of root hairs in a single season. The root hairs constantly die and grow again for the purpose of feeding microbes who colonise this zone awaiting their other source of food, which is root exudates or glucose-based secretions from the roots. The plant is feeding the microbes as it does not produce its own enzymes for digestion. It is reliant upon this vast microbial workforce.
Graeme: It’s a fascinating parallel. I’d like to move on now to discuss some of the phytonutrients which have been recently identified in relation to protection from cancer.
Jerry: Yes, there is some great research here. One of these compounds is called resveratrol which is found in the skin rather than in the juice of grapes and other fruit. It is also found in high concentrations in an invasive weed which is growing all over the water ways in the United States. This is called Japanese Knotweed. The root is loaded with resveratrol, according to the University of Illness at Chicago. Resveratrol is possibly one of the most potent anti-carcinogenic compounds they’ve discovered. It actually causes a reversal in cancer. It seems to be an anti-oestrogenic substance to halt that oestrogen feeding cancer. It can lessen brain damage from stroke. In fact, there’s a whole array of anti-oxidant and immune-augmentive properties associated with reveratrol that are astounding and now you can get it as a supplement if you don’t want to drink large amounts of red wine, although I would prefer the latter if it could give me enough.
Graeme: You don’t actually have to drink red wine to get reveratrol. A host of wine guzzling doctors have embraced this concept to rationalise their own bad habits (laughs). There is an equal amount of the compound in red grape juice. Do you feel that either option actually contains genuine therapeutic levels without becoming an alcoholic or obese from gallons of sugar-filled grape juice?
Jerry: It’s beneficial but there’s really not enough. You probably want to take a minimum of 20 mg per day. If you are suffering from cancer, particularly prostate or breast cancer, then you should probably take 40 – 60 mg of resveratrol a day and it’s not overly expensive.
Graeme: I guess we should take a bit of a break and enjoy some of this beautiful country. We’ll talk again soon.
To read Parts 1 & 2 of this interview, please click here.