Your Diet Could Be Hurting the Planet with Dr. Peter Ballerstedt

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Adapt Your Life® Academy

Peter Ballerstedt

Why Your Diet Could Be Hurting the Planet: A Deep Dive with Dr. Peter Ballerstedt and Dr. Eric Westman

Introduction to Dr. Peter Ballerstedt

Dr. Eric Westman: It is my great pleasure to be with Dr. Peter Ballerstedt. You are not the typical doctor or nutritionist that I interview. You are a PhD doctor. How did you get into this and how did we cross paths?

Dr. Peter Ballerstedt: I had my own health experience. In 2007, I was a 51-year-old, balding, obese, pre-diabetic. I fortunately had a wife in the house who was reading what was available and trying to apply it in her own life. She introduced me to things like the Protein Power book, Drs. Michael and Mary Eades, and that got me started. I was working in high-tech at the time. I was out of agriculture, and I saw that this conference was going to be up in Seattle, which is a five-hour drive for me, and all these people whose blogs and books I had been reading were going to be there. I decided to attend. It was the first time I had attended anything like this, a professional society. When you asked questions, you were asked to introduce yourself where you were from, and what your specialty was. For the first time, I introduced myself as a forage agronomist and asked questions.

Forage Agronomist

Dr. Eric Westman: What is a forage agronomist?’

Dr. Peter Ballerstedt: Forage are those plants that are grown to be eaten by animals. It does not include the mature seed of, say, wheat. At times we could graze wheat, so it would be considered a forage in an immature stage. It could be pasture. It could be hay. So hay, pasture, silage. Silage is when we ferment plant matter, put it in an oxygen-limiting environment, and it pickles, essentially.

Dr. Eric Westman: The silos I grew up watching in Wisconsin.

Dr. Peter Ballerstedt: That is right. I had a minor in ruminant nutrition. And so ruminants are animals that have a multi-compartment stomach, four compartments, essentially three in front of their acidic stomach. That is what enables them to utilize all this plant fiber and access the energy that is in cellulose. No vertebrate animal makes cellulase, the enzyme to break the glucose units apart in cellulose and get at that energy. These are the animals that are this critical link in the energy flow of the entire biosphere that we have.

Cellulase and Cellulose

Dr. Eric Westman: If we don’t have cellulase, then a human can’t eat cellulose and use it as energy. It goes in and out. These are the fibers that enable people to defecate.

Dr. Peter Ballerstedt: These microorganisms that live within the rumen of these large families of animals that long predate primates, evolutionarily speaking, that allow for the utilization of this stored energy that is in cellulose, which is the most abundant carbohydrate in the biosphere.

Dr. Eric Westman: What is cellulose found in? What kinds of plants?

Dr. Peter Ballerstedt: The cell walls and wood. There are some other compounds that associate with it, like cotton. This is a plant cell that has a wall. A human cell has a membrane.

Dr. Eric Westman: If I eat a plant, there is going to be cellulose in that cell that I can’t digest. I watched a video of a young man who had a colectomy. He had his colon removed for a condition. He was very honest and said when he ate celery or plants, it came out the other end undigested. When he ate meat, it was all gone.

Do we cook the meat to break it down?

Dr. Peter Ballerstedt: I would think cooking would be more effective. If I ingest an enzyme, it would have to bypass the stomach, because otherwise it would be denatured in the acidic stomach.

Ruminant animals

Dr. Eric Westman: I want to dwell on what a ruminant animal is. What are we talking about in terms of ruminant animals? So I can have that in my head.

Dr. Peter Ballerstedt: Cows, sheep, goats, deer, bison, buffalo, antelopes, and giraffes, there is a huge family. Some have horns and others have antlers. Antlers shed; horns don’t. They all have cloven hooves. The ruminants make up the majority of our domesticated animals.

Dr. Eric Westman: I now know the kind of animals we are talking about. Backs to the stomachs. In modern medical terminology, we call this the microbiome, the microbes or bacteria that are in the gut. There are enough bacteria to change the cellulose into what? What is ruminant agriculture, biochemistry and physiology?”

Dr. Peter Ballerstedt: There are two principal products, besides the microbes themselves. That is one, and I will talk about that.

Fats

Dr. Eric Westman: A lot of the protein that a cow gets is from the microbiome, the bacteria that die, and get absorbed. That just blew me away when I heard that the first time, in the context of a video. Homo Carnivorous, by Barry Groves took apart the diets and concluded that all mammals absorb a 70% diet, even though it is not 70% fat in what they eat. It is because of these microbes. That blew me away. The bacteria themselves get absorbed, but the cellulose gets transformed into volatile fatty acids. We are called not to eat fat. This is the cow’s stomach.

Dr. Peter Ballerstedt: It is not just cows, it is all ruminants. Fat is toxic in the rumen environment, it interferes with fiber digestion, and so you can only put in about 5%, maybe 6% ether extract is one estimate of lipid content, fat content in feeds, and so somewhere in that 5–6%. Interestingly enough, the more polyunsaturated fat, the lower the total can be because polyunsaturated fats are more toxic than others. There is this process called biohydrogenation in the rumen, in which those double bonds then get saturated. So, 4–5–6%, call it 5%, 70 plus percent of the energy the host ruminant gets, specifically a cow, I heard in the example, is going to come from these volatile fatty acids.

One of the slides that I use is to show two groups of mammals. In Group A is the ruminant, we have sheep, cattle, and a mountain gorilla. Gorillas are not a ruminant. In Group B, and this is directly from Homo Carnivorous, are the polar bear, the lion, and Homo sapien (humans). The question is which group is designed to digest a low-fat diet? It is a trick question because none of them are designed to digest that. There is a difference between ingest and digest. In Group B, those organisms don’t have the machinery that the Group A mammals do, and they can’t turn fiber into fat. They do it differently because the mountain gorilla is a hindgut fermenter, and the ruminants are pre-gastric fermentation.

Dr. Eric Westman: That is a really important point. I have seen this mistake made by those who think, ‘You should eat plants.’ They say, ‘We should be like gorillas.’ Our internal intestines are not the same. There is a difference between a ruminant and a gorilla in terms of inside, but there are similarities, too.

Dr. Peter Ballerstedt: The hindgut and the large intestines in both. In the gorilla, they are much larger in a normalized body weight situation than humans, far bigger. That is where this post-gastric fermentation takes place. There is also a little practice called coprophagy, that they will eat their own droppings. If you are going to eat like a gorilla, you might want to know about that.

Dr. Eric Westman: Why would that be important for the gorilla?

Dr. Peter Ballerstedt: It allows them to utilize the products of the microbial fermentation that took place in their cecum, large intestine.

The importance of having a ruminant animal in the chain of life

Dr. Eric Westman: That is why the gorilla has a big belly. When you look at them from the side, that is to house this bacteria, the fermentation. They are hindgut fermenters rather, meaning the food comes through the acidic environment first. That would be more like the human where at first you have the stomach and then you have the small and the large intestine. But our cecum is really small, and the appendix is very small. Some have argued that it is the vestigial area of millions of years of evolution. Why would it be important to have a ruminant – a cow or another ruminant animal – in the whole chain of life if you will?

Dr. Peter Ballerstedt: I have a definition of agriculture, which is the history of humanity modifying its environments to produce more biomass than they would without those manipulations. Wherever humanity has gone, there are various practices that we can see from records and archaeological evidence or written records where they do things to suppress some vegetation and favor others. There are all kinds of things we could talk about, but the vast majority of that biomass is not human-edible. If I grow a crop of corn or a crop of wheat, more than half of that above-the-ground biomass isn’t edible by humans. If we look at all the domesticated ruminants worldwide, 96% of their feed consumed is not human-edible. That is why they are key – because they upcycle the microbial protein. Because of the microorganisms, any nitrogenous material, that nitrogen-containing material that comes into the rumen, if it can be degraded in the rumen, that nitrogen is available for the microorganisms to capture and use to make protein. Then you have that body of microorganisms flowing down into the acidic stomach where they are digested, harvested if you will, by the ruminant animal. If you think about essential macronutrients, there are essential amino acids in the human diet. There is no such thing as an essential amino acid in a ruminant’s diet until we push their production.

Dr. Eric Westman: Meaning you have to eat it, you can’t make it yourself?

Dr. Peter Ballerstedt: Correct. It must be in the diet. We lack the ability either completely to synthesize it or synthesize enough of it. Then there are such things as essential fatty acids in the human diet. There is no such thing as an essential fatty acid in a ruminant diet. There is no such thing as an essential carbohydrate in the human diet. Two forms are essential in a ruminant’s diet. You have to have both the cell wall and the cell contents – carbohydrates, two different kinds, in proper balance, for the rumen to function properly. It is a nice ecological fit within this energy flow that starts with sunlight captured via photosynthesis to produce carbohydrate and other organic compounds that then flows through the heterotrophs, the organisms that can’t make organic compounds out of inorganic materials. Starts with the herbivores, the plant-eaters. Ruminants are the most specialized forms of herbivores and then it goes through omnivores like ourselves with varying amounts of animal-sourced food in our diet, but we are then able to access that energy that was originally captured by photosynthesis.

Antibiotics in ruminants

Dr. Eric Westman: That leads to the argument that it is helpful to have meat. It is helpful to eat meat and beef. I am still intrigued about the microbiome in the animal. If a ruminant is so dependent on these microbes, what if they get antibiotics? What if the antibiotics kill the wrong microbes, or is it so robust that it doesn’t cause a problem?

Dr. Peter Ballerstedt: It would be a function of how those antibiotics are used, which ones are administered, and how severe the illness is that they are trying to treat. There is a significant amount of antibiotics and antimicrobials that are used in beef production in the US, called ionophores, and they have no use in human medicine. One of the things they do is they impact the microbial population in the rumen, and part of that is they shift the population so less of the energy goes in one way that leads to improved feed use sufficiency by impacting that microbial population. There are a whole lot of things. Now they are looking for feed additives that would suppress methane generation, which is a natural process within the rumen of all ruminant animals. If I give an antibiotic intramuscularly, then that is probably not going to have a significant impact within the rumen, which in a mature cow could be like 40-50 gallons of volume.

Dr. Eric Westman: In the human using antibiotics, I never considered that it might interfere with energy absorption or alter it, but a lot is being learned, and you definitely change the microbiome in the human by what you eat and the more carbs, the more plants, the more it seems the more microbe you have, perhaps, to try to digest all that.

How did you get interested in forage agronomy?

How Dr. Peter Ballerstedt got interested in forage agronomy

Dr. Peter Ballerstedt: I grew up in suburban Philadelphia, Lower Bucks County, Pennsylvania. I discovered I would rather live in the country, which I did not understand. I just knew I liked those landscapes better. There are choices, there are situations, and you end up following them. I ended up at a two-year school in Upstate New York. I needed an elective. I could not get into the program I wanted to get into. They said to take some requirements and take some electives, and then come back next term. The elective I took was field crop production, and that got me out on a dairy farm where we went through the soil maps, the cropping history, and how many animals. Planning the rotations and what crops we are going to plant where, and the fertility and all of those things. I was fascinated and had no idea about any of this.

I then went to the University of Georgia because the man who taught that class was an alum. He directed me down there. I got my bachelor’s and I finished my master’s. I was accepted at the University of Kentucky to do some work but I took a class while at Georgia from a man who was a pastoral ecologist and that changed what I was going to do. I was far more interested in following that than what I had already been accepted to do and was able to swap over to another professor. It is one of these things where you look at those pivotal people in your life that had a big impact. Since I was interested in forages, it makes sense to know about the ruminants, nutrition, and the animals you are going to be feeding.

Dr. Eric Westman: One of the dramatic telling of this kind of story is in a movie called The Biggest Little Farm, that I saw a few years ago, where they transformed this hard, dead soil into lush vegetables and trees. It was through manure, the animals, and then regenerative agriculture being the model of having a farm and thoughtfully using and managing it.

Myths surrounding eating meat and metabolic targets

Dr. Eric Westman: Let us get to some of the myths. Why is it that it is being planted in the brains of people and our youth, especially, that if I want to save the planet, then I should not eat meat? How do you define meat? They will say red meat, cows. If cows are amazing, turning indigestible food for humans into something a human can use, very high-quality protein, how is this myth or different narrative being spread, and is it true?

Dr. Peter Ballerstedt: It is not true. There are a couple of points and I want to hit them quickly. One is, it is my belief based on my studies and the evidence and the people I respect, that some amount of animal source food is essential for proper human development and function and health and flourishing. We could argue about how much that is, but there is clear evidence of human beings being harmed by too little. We can look around the world and see that evidence and good work is being done to try to address that.

Dr. Eric Westman: The quality of the protein from animal sources is different from the quality from plant sources.

Dr. Peter Ballerstedt: It is also the availability of vitamin A and zinc, and iron and other nutrients, carnitine and choline, and vitamin B12 and these are nutrients that are best sourced or solely sourced from animal foods.

Dr. Eric Westman: If you do a vegan diet, they say to supplement with vitamin B12 because there is no B12 in that diet. It is said that when you eat animal-source food, you are eating the nutrition, vitamins, and minerals that it takes to properly utilize that energy, whereas if you have a protein shake you are not getting all the other nutrients that come with it.

Dr. Peter Ballerstedt: 80% of people need to address a whole food diet that aligns with meeting metabolic targets. The highly processed extracts (like protein powders) I recognize have application under certain conditions. I am concerned about feeding populations, so what is the 80% of the issue, and then we can worry about the 20% later on.

Casting aspersions or trying to understand what the motivations of people are is probably something I should try to avoid because I am sure I can’t read other people’s minds. We could turn it over and say why do people believe that fat in the diet causes heart disease? There has been half a century of public messaging about that, and it started in a couple of places that you are familiar with. People within the Adapt Your Life Academy have heard from people who documented that. That is part of it. We know that there is a certain philosophical movement that supports that kind of message. I know that some of these personal choices then become who we are. To confront those is then something that we need to be very respectful and conscious of because I am not going to convince anyone in one conversation. Hopefully what I don’t do is create roadblocks to adoption later. I want to throw some seeds on the ground, pardon the expression, and maybe they’ll sprout this time, or maybe they’ll be dormant and come to life later. But the fact remains that there is no sustainable food system without livestock agriculture in general and without ruminants in particular.

You can’t have plant agriculture without animal agriculture. There are details we can get into. The World Health Organization says that the best source of the essential nutrients for children 6 months to 36 months of age are supplied by meat, eggs, dairy, and seafood. But UNICEF says 60% of children 6 months to 36 months of age do not get to eat meat, eggs, dairy, or seafood. There is a certain aspect to this where people in the high-income Western world can entertain notions because they have choices that aren’t available to the vast majority of humanity.

I gave another college lecture where I had to update the slide because it is now only 26 years to 2050. I have been doing it long enough that I have to keep changing that number, and we are going to have two billion more people, but they are going to be an older population. An older population needs a higher quality diet than a middle-aged population. It is not going to be more children, the same number of children 15 years and under in 2100 as there are today. So the population growth is coming from people getting to live into their 70s and 80s and that is primarily in Africa and Asia. 70% of humanity is going to live in urban areas. We are producing food somewhere, we are shipping it in. We have got all of these facts and most of humanity is going to live in the tropical areas of the world which is like only about a third of the landmass. All of these are issues and I am trying to tell people who are where I was so many years ago, this is something you can work in and make a dramatic impact. That gets us back to this idea of course, that it is reasonable to be concerned about the environment just like it is reasonable to be concerned about your own health and it is completely reasonable to be concerned about animal welfare which is different from animal rights and it is completely reasonable to be concerned about your fellow man. You take those reasonable concerns, you couple them with bad information and you end up making bad decisions.

Last December, the Food and Agriculture Organization put out a Pathways report on options currently available and in the research pipeline to reduce emissions, the greenhouse gas emissions from global livestock agriculture and they listed several things. The least impactful was personal dietary choices. Far more impactful would be things like feed quality, better nutrition, improved genetics in the animals so that they are more productive, and reproductive efficiency in the herd health. Something like 20% of the meat that is produced every year is lost because of animal disease. You have that environmental impact of producing these animals and then there is no harvestable yield because you have lost the animal. You can think about the impact that would have on the people who own the animal. They are trying to make a living and now it is gone, that is a loss.

There are many factors here. Hall and White I believe, produced an estimate. They asked the question of what the impact would be on greenhouse gas emissions if the US eliminated livestock agriculture. By their estimate, you would see something under two and a half percent reduction in total anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions in the US. It would be like four-tenths of a percent globally. There are no solutions, there are only trade-offs.

How to eat to save the environment

Dr. Eric Westman: I remember at a conference you presented the reality that modern medical care produces a lot of greenhouse gas emissions and the whole idea of cow farts and burps and all the gas emissions… It has been popularized and sensationalized.

If I am one individual and yes, it is a minor player in terms of the big thing, but if I can do everything I can by my food choice to save the planet and I am feeling bombarded by the messaging, how do I handle a patient who came to me naively doing a vegan diet? He was not feeling well and wondered if it might be the diet. I asked where veganism came from and he said he didn’t know. We looked it up and the term was developed in the 1940s. It is something really new and we do not understand the long-term health implications like we understand for the meat or animal source food health, which looks good. How would I eat for my environment if I wanted every dollar that I spent to go to save the planet?

Dr. Peter Ballerstedt: I have a paper that estimated that the US healthcare industry is a significant source of pollution. For example, the medical waste from kidney dialysis. That included an estimate of medical waste – 10% of the total US greenhouse gas emissions. All agriculture in the US is somewhere around 10%. Animal agriculture is 4%, and beef is 2%. It is completely fair to point out that these are not apples-to-apples comparisons. They did their estimates differently. The point is that it has an impact and we are not talking about it.

Another estimate looked at the emission intensity of the global pharmaceutical industry and they came up with a statement that said that the global pharmaceutical industry is a higher intensity emitter than the automotive industry. There is a greater variation across industries, which makes sense depending on where it is located in the world. Someone else took the values from that estimate and they looked at it and said if the average adult American with type 2 diabetes could eliminate their medication use, they would lower their carbon footprint 29% more than if they shifted from a high meat to a vegan diet. Imagine that a thing like drug-free remission was even possible.

Dr. Eric Westman: That is possible. Not all people watching or reading this will realize that diabetes is reversible and we are teaching that at my teaching company. Let us go converse. I am someone who eats to save the planet. If I do eat plant-based sources and get the Impossible Burger, am I doing less harm than if I am eating meat?

Dr. Peter Ballerstedt. No, you are not doing less harm and who knows, be doing more harm to yourself because we now understand that the food value of those plant pucks is much lower than the marketing pitch is. The Impossible Burger, plant pucks, and Beyond, they are both. Those products were sold on their nutritional equivalency or superiority. Because that nasty animal source food has saturated fat. That has been part of the messaging all along and all these stories have come along and you start pulling them apart and you realize that what looked like a strong rope is now down to one strand left intact and you begin to look at that a little.

The environmental impact has been dramatically undersold and there have been some estimates looking at that. There is a method of estimating the protein quality that has been more recently advocated called DIAAS – Digestible Indispensable Amino Acid Score – and it looks at the individual amino acid digestibility rather than looking at protein digestibility. It looks at specific amino acids so it can then say how well this meal or diet meets those estimates of requirement. They ran those with the plant pucks and what they found was that because Impossible Burger is made with soy it does qualify for a good protein source label claim. The Beyond Protein, at the time, was made with pea protein extract and that does not qualify as a good source of protein label claim.

Nobody eats those things by themselves. You are going to slide it between two pieces of wheat bread. There is not enough lysine in the Impossible Burger to make up for the low level of lysine in the wheat bread. As a meal, it cannot be called a good source of protein. A lot of this messaging has been developed with what we can call an unjustifiably oversimplified dietary message where they treat calories from plants as if they are equivalent to calories from animal-source food. They treat other nutrients interchangeably between the two. They are still believing a lot of the mindset and narrative about what constitutes a heart-healthy meal. All of that now becomes conflated.

Back to your patient. I’ve thought about this and I don’t have a good answer. The simple thing is, when you improve your health, you are improving the world. When you make these other choices, you are doing it based on somebody saying that it will do something. The patient is not feeling well. You want to feel better, what are those goals? How can we measure if you are making progress? Make this change and see what happens. If you have a family, what impact does your feeling better have on your family? What impact does having to pay less for drugs or supplements have on your budget? 90% of our healthcare spend in the United States is on chronic illness. What percent of that chronic illness is metabolic, therefore nutritional in nature? That spend is somewhere north of four trillion dollars.

Greenhouse gas emissions

Dr. Eric Westman: Let us go to human metabolism. They focus on cholesterol level. That is not what we are trying to prevent. We are trying to prevent atherosclerosis, heart attack, and stroke. However the whole medical world is focused on cholesterol. Greenhouse gas emissions and this whole story, we are measuring surrogate things, not the outcome.

Dr. Peter Ballerstedt: Animal agriculture is not the driver of emissions. It is a number. It could be addressed and it should be addressed. It is fair to point out that the EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) in its sources and sinks budget for anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions in the US, agriculture shows up in land use, that is the bucket that they then have energy and then they have transportation, etc. All of that is somewhere 10% to 11% a total that includes forestry and some other things. In the last report, it was sequestering 12%. So already, land use is carbon negative, balanced to carbon negative in the United States. It is the only sector that is. We need to work globally to improve those systems to reduce their impacts. Then you look at the energy globally and you come to realize that if you were to replace 5% of global coal power plants in the world, that would be an offset if you could replace them with a carbon-zero carbon energy.

That amount of emissions is 150% of the total present livestock emissions from 5%. What is happening in the world now is you have parts of the world that are trying to modernize. To modernize, they need electricity. What are they going to use to do that? Coal is the fuel of choice now and in the future, or maybe we could help them get there, but so whatever we entertain in our part of the world isn’t going to be reflected in global reality because of these other trends that are taking place.

To get back to the personal – and understand that anytime we talk about sustainability, we have to consider three broad categories: economic sustainability, societal factors of sustainability, as well as environmental factors of sustainability. One of those environmental factors is greenhouse gas emissions. Too often this whole conversation gets reduced down to just the greenhouse gas emissions. It is estimated that in 6 years, global spending for chronic disease care is going to be $37 trillion. What else could be done with some of that money or the limited healthcare resources if 90% of them in the US were not going toward addressing what might well be addressed through an effective lifestyle intervention that I have trained myself to call Therapeutic Carbohydrate Reduction? It is not merely diabetes. It is all these diseases that all have cost and impact on people and the quality of their lives. It is one of those things that for me is so obvious. I keep looking around, saying, what am I missing, because other people are not catching that message yet.

Treatment of animals

Dr. Eric Westman: Making more people aware of the fact that drug-free remission of type 2 diabetes is a real thing, it is in the literature.

This is the hardest question for me to answer and to respond to, and that is the treatment of the animals. How do I respond? I know that other animals have to die for me to live if I am eating animal source foods. What would your response be to the visual display of all the animals being cruelly raised?

Dr. Peter Ballerstedt: It is unfair to judge any group of people by a few outliers who, for several tragic reasons, behave in the way that they do. We would not support people doing that. The vast majority of people involved in animal agriculture understand their role as someone who is in charge of these animals, and they go to great lengths to ensure their welfare. To the point where ranchers in the western US and other parts of the country frequently put their lives at risk to ensure that the animals are cared for.

Think of going out in the middle of a blizzard to make sure that the animals are brought to shelter, have access to water, and have access to feed. The best example is a family medicine practitioner out of Dillon, Montana. He gave me the story of having the local emergency department call him up and say, “Would you please come talk sense to your patient?” He comes in, and there is this 60-year-old rancher, and he has had signs of having had a heart attack and they want to admit him to the hospital. And he’s saying, “No, I can’t. I can’t.” The doctor’s job was to try to talk him into that, and the rancher was saying, “Doc, I’ll sign whatever it takes, as a waiver. I will be here tomorrow. We will take care of it. But I have to take care of the cows tonight. Cows come first.”

We understand that chronic stress in a human being does not help us, and may lead to greater susceptibility to disease. We don’t perform the same, and the same is true for animals. The ranchers understand this. At the end of the day, without profit, there is no sustainability. That is a concern within the livestock industry. It is profit. There is lots of work going on with stress-free handling of livestock and how to accomplish those necessary practices with a minimum of stress on the animals. Big fish eat little fish. We are heterotrophs and we have to consume other organisms and we have talked about why some of those need to be animals.

Dr. Eric Westman: Another person that I asked that question said, “Tell your patient to go out to the farm and take a look. Don’t use the stylized or the worst-case scenario. Go out and see how the animals are treated for yourself.”

Eating animal-source foods makes me less worried nutritionally because of the things that we know and what you have said. I am optimistic that there will be a balance of these different things or maybe a technological answer that we have not come up with for global warming or greenhouse gas emissions. To put it in context is important and to tell people that because you are eating a certain way does not mean you are saving the environment when everyone says you are. Any last thoughts on therapeutic carbohydrate reduction and the things that can happen in your world? What sort of barriers do people see and talk about and what would you say to folks not sure about it or on the fence or worried about animals?

Barriers and challenges

Dr. Peter Ballerstedt: Thank you for what you have been doing and how you have been helping the community of researchers and clinicians expand this. We will not be able to meet the needs of the world in 2050 if we don’t improve the productivity and efficiency of our global livestock systems and what we are facing globally is an epidemic of malnutrition. It manifests itself differently but it cuts across all income-level countries. It is important for us to get that message out that this pandemic of chronic illness is actually malnutrition. Part of the challenge I think within some of the agricultural communities is for decades, they have been hammered by various voices saying things that are not well-founded.

They have come to rely on support from organizations like USDA, and now to come to them and say, “Well, that dietary guideline might not be as well-sourced.” On the other hand, I think that these are populations that “I have known that that was probably not the best”, so it is very much a mixed thing. At this point, I just keep wanting to get more and more people aware of that most important message. Then, as we learn we no longer need to fear the fat that naturally occurs in our products, that will help differentiate. I keep advocating that they need to stop talking about themselves as the protein industry because that puts you on par with the plant puck industry or the plant juice beverage. Embrace everything that comes as the nutritional package that is meat and why that is vital and the world needs more of it.

I think that is very much a two-way bridge. The times that you have come and addressed the National Grazing Lands Coalition, and the American Forage and Grassland Council, those are things I want to see what I can do now that I am retired. To build these bridges between all these different disciplines. Somebody gave me the quote that we need to stop building silos and start building lighthouses. I am in the enviable position of I don’t have to do the research, I can just make sure people know that there are people like you doing the research and then there are people like Eric Berg out of North Dakota State University doing the research, or any number of others.

We have really good news, and I think we need good news these days, and finding a way to get past the us-versus-them, the diet wars kind of thing. I don’t want to do any of that. I want people to know that if they are facing any of these health challenges, there is good news. You could try this, and if you find that you need to eat more or some animal source food as part of this, I hear people say it is not a requirement, I do not know, I am not that kind of doctor, but if you end up wrestling with this idea, then I am glad to introduce you to people that can help set your mind at ease about environmental impact or any of those other issues because the most important thing is for people to do what they need to do to improve their own health.

Where to find Dr. Peter Ballerstedt

Dr. Eric Westman: How do people find you? What is your internet presence or how would someone find you?

Dr. Peter Ballerstedt: You can find me on X, and Instagram as @grassbased, on Facebook the name is Grass-Based Health, and on LinkedIn and YouTube by my name. If you Google my name, you will probably find me.

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