More on the folly of the GAPS diet

The preparation and consumption of bone broth is being increasingly recommended to patients, for example as part of the gut and psychology syndrome (GAPS) diet for autism, attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder, dyslexia, dyspraxia, depression and schizophrenia, and as part of the paleolithic diet.

Scientific Evidence

From the blog post of Harriet Hall:

As the Wikipedia article succinctly and politely puts it, “Science is not known as yet to support…GAPS theories, or claims of psychological benefits.”

The author, Campbell-McBride, is not a researcher and has not published anything on the GAPS diet. She might at least have written up a formal case report on her own son and his apparent cure so we could try to understand what actually happened.

Instead, all she has given us is testimonials from grateful patients.

Other Questionable Claims

She says a lot of other things that are odd, questionable, or even demonstrably wrong.

Some examples:

  • If you listen to your desires for food, you will be able to digest that food and it will only do you good because you ate it at the right time, when your body asked for it.
  • Avoid perfumes and scented products because they destroy your sense of smell.
  • Processed foods alter your sense of taste. Brush your teeth with olive oil instead of toothpaste: this Ayurvedic procedure detoxifies the mouth. (No fluoride?)
  • Avoid processed salt and use natural unprocessed salt such as Himalayan or Celtic salt that contains more than 90 minerals. (How much of each? Surely not enough to matter.)
  • The autonomic nervous system shifts back and forth from sympathetic to parasympathetic dominance, which require different foods. One likes meat and fat, the other needs more plant foods. Your body will tell you which you need more of.
  • There are daily and seasonal cleansing cycles and building cycles, each requiring different nutrients: animal foods build, plant foods cleanse.
  • Our needs depend on our heredity. If your ancestors were Vikings or Eskimos, you will need to eat lots of fish.
  • Avoid vegetable and cooking oils. Polyunsaturated fats are bad because they are chemically mutilated. 50% of the fat in our diet should be saturated.
  • Don’t test your blood cholesterol. Testing is pointless and potentially harmful. Old people with high cholesterol are healthier and live longer.
  • Eating cholesterol-rich foods is essential to produce enough vitamin D.
  • Vitamin D deficiency causes cancer, diabetes, heart disease, mental illness, autoimmune illness, obesity, bone and muscle disease, high blood pressure, chronic pain, poor immunity and susceptibility to infections.
  • Instead of cholesterol, test CRP and insulin levels.
  • Our soils are worn out. We would have to eat 2 kilos of apples today to provide the nutrition one apple used to give us.
  • Using volcanic rock dust in organic gardening improves nutrition, and if used on a global scale, it would enable the soil to absorb enough excess atmospheric carbon to stabilize global climate change.
  • The alarming growth of degenerative disease in our modern populations to a large degree is due to relentlessly decreasing levels of minerals in our food.
  • Black elderberry is one of the most powerful anti-viral remedies known to man.
  • Meat, fish, nuts, oily seeds are easier to digest than other foods.

GAPS diet and lead contamination

Bones are known to sequester the heavy metal lead, contamination with which is widespread throughout the modern environment.

Such sequestered lead can then be mobilised from the bones.

Researchers therefore hypothesised that bone broth might carry a risk of being contaminated with lead.

A small, blinded, controlled study of lead concentrations in three different types of organic chicken broth showed that such broths do indeed contain several times the lead concentration of the water with which the broth is made. In particular, broth made from skin and cartilage taken off the bone once the chicken had been cooked with the bones in situ, and chicken-bone broth, were both found to have markedly high lead concentrations, of 9.5 and 7.01 μg L(-1), respectively (compared with a control value for tap water treated in the same way of 0.89 μg L(-1)).

In view of the dangers of lead consumption to the human body, we recommend that doctors and nutritionists take the risk of lead contamination into consideration when advising patients about bone broth diets.

In addition, bone marrow is also very high in saturated fat.

Monro JA, Leon R, Puri BK. Med Hypotheses. 2013 Apr;80(4):389-90. doi: 10.1016/j.mehy.2012.12.026. Epub 2013 Jan 31.