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The closer people live to towns and the more access they have to stores and cash-paying jobs, the more likely they are to have westernized their eating. And with westernization, at least on the North American continent, comes processed foods and cheap carbohydrates—Crisco, Tang, soda, cookies, chips, pizza, fries. Shaped by glacial temperatures, stark landscapes, and protracted winters, the traditional Eskimo diet had little in the way of plant food, no agricultural or dairy products, and was unusually low in carbohydrates. Mostly people subsisted on what they hunted and fished.

Coastal people exploited the sea. The main nutritional challenge was avoiding starvation in late winter if primary meat sources became too scarce or lean. How could such a diet possibly be adequate? How did people get along on little else but fat and animal protein? What the diet of the Far North illustrates, says Harold Draper, a biochemist and expert in Eskimo nutrition, is that there are no essential foods—only essential nutrients.

And humans can get those nutrients from diverse and eye-opening sources. One might, for instance, imagine gross vitamin deficiencies arising from a diet with scarcely any fruits and vegetables. What furnishes vitamin A, vital for eyes and bones? We derive much of ours from colorful plant foods, constructing it from pigmented plant precursors called carotenoids as in carrots. These dietary staples also provide vitamin D, another oil-soluble vitamin needed for bones. As for vitamin C, the source in the Eskimo diet was long a mystery.

Most animals can synthesize their own vitamin C, or ascorbic acid, in their livers, but humans are among the exceptions, along with other primates and oddballs like guinea pigs and bats. In the United States today we can get ample supplies from orange juice, citrus fruits, and fresh vegetables. Scurvy—joint pain, rotting gums, leaky blood vessels, physical and mental degeneration—plagued European and U. However, Arctic peoples living on fresh fish and meat were free of the disease.

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Impressed, the explorer Vilhjalmur Stefansson adopted an Eskimo-style diet for five years during the two Arctic expeditions he led between and The pair ate steaks, chops, organ meats like brain and liver, poultry, fish, and fat with gusto. Native foods easily supply those 10 milligrams of scurvy prevention, especially when organ meats—preferably raw—are on the menu.

For a study published with Kuhnlein in , Fediuk compared the vitamin C content of gram 3. Still higher levels were found in whale skin and muktuk. As you might guess from its antiscorbutic role, vitamin C is crucial for the synthesis of connective tissue, including the matrix of skin.

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Traditional Inuit practices like freezing meat and fish and frequently eating them raw, she notes, conserve vitamin C, which is easily cooked off and lost in food processing. Hunter-gatherer diets like those eaten by these northern groups and other traditional diets based on nomadic herding or subsistence farming are among the older approaches to human eating. Some of these eating plans might seem strange to us—diets centered around milk, meat, and blood among the East African pastoralists, enthusiastic tuber eating by the Quechua living in the High Andes, the staple use of the mongongo nut in the southern African!

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  • Kung—but all proved resourceful adaptations to particular eco-niches. The unusual makeup of the far-northern diet led Loren Cordain, a professor of evolutionary nutrition at Colorado State University at Fort Collins, to make an intriguing observation.

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    Four years ago, Cordain reviewed the macronutrient content protein, carbohydrates, fat in the diets of hunter-gatherer groups listed in a series of journal articles collectively known as the Ethnographic Atlas. These are some of the oldest surviving human diets. In general, hunter-gatherers tend to eat more animal protein than we do in our standard Western diet, with its reliance on agriculture and carbohydrates derived from grains and starchy plants. Lowest of all in carbohydrate, and highest in combined fat and protein, are the diets of peoples living in the Far North, where they make up for fewer plant foods with extra fish.

    This ceiling, Cordain thinks, could be imposed by the way we process protein for energy. But if the body is out of carbs, it can burn fat, or if necessary, break down protein. The name given to the convoluted business of making glucose from protein is gluconeogenesis. It takes place in the liver, uses a dizzying slew of enzymes, and creates nitrogen waste that has to be converted into urea and disposed of through the kidneys. On a truly traditional diet, says Draper, recalling his studies in the s, Arctic people had plenty of protein but little carbohydrate, so they often relied on gluconeogenesis.

    Not only did they have bigger livers to handle the additional work but their urine volumes were also typically larger to get rid of the extra urea. Early pioneers and trappers in North America encountered what looks like a similar affliction, sometimes referred to as rabbit starvation because rabbit meat is notoriously lean.

    Forced to subsist on fat-deficient meat, the men would gorge themselves, yet wither away. Anyone eating a meaty diet that is low in carbohydrates must have fat as well. Stefansson had arrived at this conclusion, too, while living among the Copper Eskimo. A typical U.

    S diet provides about 35 percent of its calories from fat. No discussion about diet these days can avoid Atkins. Like the Inuit diet, Atkins is low in carbohydrates and very high in fat. But numerous researchers, including Klein, point out that there are profound differences between the two diets, beginning with the type of meat and fat eaten. But all fats are not created equal.

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    This lies at the heart of a paradox—the Inuit paradox, if you will. Their cardiac death rate is about half of ours, he says. Much more important, the fats come from wild animals. Read more about his transformation here. Gordon Gauss is dedicated to one thing, and one thing only: living a longer life for his two-year-old son.

    But for a guy whose weight crept up to more than pounds, the goal didn't always feel achievable. Throughout his college years, Gauss found himself going outside less and less, performing fewer physical activities and simply eating more. By the end of college, he was about pounds and experiencing depression.

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    I really just stopped caring, so I just put back on all the weight, and then some," he said. By January of , his weight hit pounds. Spurred by the anniversary of his father-in-law's death, Gauss decided to lose weight. He had the help of a mental health professional to help manage his depression , a trainer to help push his body, and his son and wife as the reason to keep going.

    In just 10 months, all of these habits helped Gauss drop down to pounds, accounting for a pound weight loss. Read more about Gauss' weight loss success. When he was in high school, Alexander Graf's doctors used to tell him that he would eventually grow into his size. Even as a teen, though, Graf could sense they weren't exactly being truthful. At his heaviest, in the summer of , Graf tipped the scale at nearly pounds, owing to a combination of inactivity from playing video games all day and eating, well, like your average year-old.

    Graf, who is now 19 and attending college full-time in Phoenix, Arizona, eventually had a wakeup call courtesy of some tough love from his dad. I was also having a lot of back and leg pain. The future did not look good if I was going to stay where I was.

    Use up at least as many calories as you take in.

    Read more about Graf's weight loss story. Twenty-year-old Hunter Croteau is still getting used to his new body. After all, he recently achieved one of the most stunning physical and mental changes humanly possible: In just eight months, he's dropped an astonishing pounds with the help of weight loss surgery. By the time he graduated, he tipped the scale at pounds.

    But, one day, a stranger entered his life at his grocery store job. So that kind of like planted the seed in my brain. Just a few months later, Croteau received a gastric sleeve and stuck with the advice of both his mental health and nutritional advisors, which helped him drop to a staggering pounds. Take the steps—even if they're baby steps.