Monday, July 05, 2021

Mongongo nuts

Just recently Raphi had a very interesting and very thought provoking chat with Herman Pontzer.

They touched upon honey and the Hadza but didn't mention mongongo nuts and the !Kung San people.

So I will. I might get back to honey in another post.

Mongongo nuts are a major problem for the ROS hypothesis of obesity.

The !Kung San people live on the edge of the Kalahari Desert, as do mongongo trees. The nuts are freely available, storable and edible cooked or raw. They sound quite nice. They go by several names, Manketti nut is the one used in this paper:

With a linoleic acid content just over 30%, and frequently providing a large proportion of the !Kung San people's calories, they should cause obesity, by the ROS hypothesis. If you read the abstract and look at the commas very carefully it almost suggests that the LA is actually conjugated linoleic acid but absolutely doesn't confirm this in the fine print of the full text. With the locations specified for double bonds at 9 and 12 this really is your normal, common-or-garden LA.

So the !Kung should be obese and/or hungry. And they're not.

How come? Another 30-ish% of the fatty acids in the nuts are from alpha eleostearic acid, a triple double bond isomer of alpha linolenic acid. This really is a conjugated fatty acid with double bonds at 9, 11 and 13. Conjugated means the double bonds alternate with single bonds. For ordinary PUFA there are two single bonds between each double bond.

Alpha eleostearic acid is something of a wonder drug, curing everything from cancer to whatever you fancy. It also is very easily converted (by rats at least) in to conjugated linoleic acid (CLA), presumably by hydrogenating the 13 double bond to give cis-9, trans-11 CLA:

Alpha-eleostearic acid (9Z11E13E-18:3) is quickly converted to conjugated linoleic acid (9Z11E-18:2) in rats

CLA is, undoubtedly, a weight/fat loss drug. I glossed over it when it was reported in this paper

but it seems to be real as in

The CLA/safflower paper was using 6.4g of mixed CLA isomers per day, on a high linoleic acid background (by definition, the subjects were type 2 diabetics with BMI >30, ie LA intoxicated), and got steady weight loss over 18 weeks from this small supplement.

Eating a 1000kcal portion of mongongo nuts would give around 30g of alpha eleostearic acid to convert to CLA. Subsisting on primarily mongongo nuts might supply twice that. Sixty grams of eleostearic acid being converted to just under 60g of cis-9, trans-11 CLA might be enough to offset the LA content.

The situation for the !Kung San seems quite unique and I can't quite imagine any other nut providing an almost year round supply of high fat calories. Any examples gratefully received. In temperate climates nuts are very seasonal and largely supply linoleic acid.


Addendum from Tucker via twitter; it's not completely clear how important mongongo nuts really are to the !Kung:

Mongongo: The ethnography of a major wild food resource

however there will always be a roughly 1:1 ratio of LA to CLA precursor when they are consumed, in whatever quantities.


Abu Dhabi said...

Here's another analysis of mongongo oil.

Peter said...

Cool, same ball park...


Passthecream said...

76% fat 59% mono inc palmitoleic, but toxic to dogs for unknown? reasons. Seems to be in the grevillea family and many are allergic to those including me. That's probably why macadamia oil disagrees.

cavenewt said...

1. But what about the other adverse health effects of mogongo nuts? Severe enough to cause long-term unconsciousness? "If you read the abstract and look at the comas very carefully..."

Seriously, though, most writers are so careless about their comma deployment that any interpretation therefrom should be suspect.

2. "CLA is, undoubtedly, a weight/fat loss drug." I looked up the fat content of goat milk once and remember there was a lot of CLA. Makes me feel better about my weekly 3-quart consumption.

Peter said...

Haha! Thanks cave, fixed. Pass, macadamias do induce a comma in dogs, which might give pause or even a coma. From what I've read it's not been reported as lethal. At least not grammatically lethal.


Hap said...

How is this significantly different from the modern (heavily bred for leanness) hogs described by Brad Marshall who end up with concentrations of LA similar to corn oil, but without obesity? Perhaps certain selection pressures have adapted to the !Kung.

Would the !Kung become obese and sick if another PUFA species (ALA) appeared in their diets?

Passthecream said...

I also notice that Mongongo is a close relative of Castor Oil bush, in the Spurges or is that Splurges? Does the Mo. nut contain any ricinates?

Peter said...

Hap, I've not looked at that in detail. Di you have a link?

Pass, again, I look through a certain set of biases rather than with an overall view of the M nut. I've not seen any suggestion of a laxative effect to induce energy malabsorption...


Passthecream said...

Ricin would go a bit further than a laxative ... and castor oil is not completely free of it either.

IMO plants will often make you ,tose before bringing you to a .

Scrivener said...

And what about commas and cats? The difference between the cat and the sentence:
A cat has claws at the end of its paws, while a sentence has a pause at the end of its clause.

Peter said...

Not sure I'll ever hear the end of this!


cavenewt said...

You guys are cracking me up.

cavenewt said...

When I was a kid in Indiana, we would plant our hills of corn with a castor bean in each. Invading moles would be killed by the castor beans.

Passthecream said...

It is a bit nutty. I have an uneasy relationship with commas, they don't always bend to my will like curly braces do.

Cavenewt, does that amount to a hill of beans in this crazy world?

Boom Tish.

Passthecream said...

Moving on from commas and on to the colon (yes really and I'll probably regret this later) it seems that if you have the right combination of bugs CLA can be made from LA and CLA used to transform LA into Vaccenic Acid and possibly from that to Stearic acid if the unsaturated fatty acids don't kill the bugs first. I wonder how much LA you have to consume before some of it gets as far as the colon but not too much? The Mongongo nut might tick all the right boxes in terms of quantities and qualities.

Justin said...

Pass, that's an awesome paper! Thanks for sharing. Interested to see if my wife's SBO probiotic has any of those strands.

cavenewt said...

@Pass "I wonder how much LA you have to consume before some of it gets as far as the colon but not too much?" This could be the semicolon effect...

Fascinating paper about the intestinal bugs. It was interesting to see the inclusion of L reuterii, since this is the probiotic I use to ferment goat milk into pseudo-yogurt every week. But I have no idea how much difference the individual strains make; mine is Lactobacillus reuteri DSM 17938 and ATCC PTA 6475. Whatever that means!

I am curious, though, despite ruminants having all this ability to transform LA into more saturated fats, why industrially-raised livestock still has such a high LA content in their milk and meat. I guess even the bugs' superpowers can be swamped by too much evil LA. "Searching for stearate producers in the rumen has been difficult, largely because these organisms are extraordinarily sensitive to the toxic effects of unsaturated fatty acids..."

Especially for an article from 2007, it was very refreshing to read something that refrained from tossing in comments about saturated fats and heart disease.

Justin said...

Cavenewt, I have made kefir on and off for years. I just recently started keep Nigerian dwarf goats and breed them. Looking forward to stealing milk from them next kidding season.

I have been praying that one day Peter would eventually have a post on the optimal chicken feed. I have been noodling this lately especially seeing that Brad is now going to be offering low PUFA chicken. I would think barley, coconut along with whatever vitamin mineral mixed would be a good start especially if they are already free ranging a lot like mine do.

Justin said...

I've also been keeping hair sheep for a numb r if years now too. Both the sheep and Nigerians are supposed to have real high butterfat content in their milk.

I always like feeding my chickens surplus kefir grains too. Looks like I'll be ordering some today. Lol!!!

Gyan said...

How high do you mean? In India the ghee is typically 1.5-2 percent PUFA if we go by the producers'

ctviggen said...

Supposedly, the difference between grass-fed and "industrial" beef in terms of PUFAs is not much.

Peter Ballerstedt discusses this here:

Sorry, I can't find a transcription.

But basically, if you're concerned about PUFAs in "grain finished" beef, don't eat nuts (or other massive PUFA sources) and eat fish every once in a while.

And, what cows eat when "grain finished"...isn't a lot of grain. Some, but mainly plant matter. It's also higher quality feed, so they emit less "greenhouse gases".

(Not sure if Peter B. addresses this here, as I've also been listening to his podcasts for a long time.)

In this context, this is a fun discussion of this, by Dr. Eades:

This example uses walnuts, and you'd have to calculate other nuts like almonds.

cavenewt said...

Sorry, I'm just going by a general awareness of various things I've read over the years. And as ctviggen points out, some authorities say there isn't a whole lot of difference in the PUFA between grassfed and "industrial" beef. I also follow Peter Ballerstedt and would tend to trust what he says, but my first thought is maybe there's a difference between CAFO cows and grain finished cows. And the differences of opinion makes everything confusing, but then what else is new. I agree that avoiding vegetable oils and nuts, etc., will make a whole lot more difference than whatever source your meat comes from.

Actually my primary motive in avoiding industrial meat is the appalling way the animals are treated; my own personal health is important, but secondary to that.

Passthecream said...

Cavenewt, are feed-lot cattle dosed up on antibiotics in your country? Maybe other creatures, wherever birds and animals are confined to close quarters? In light of that bacteria paper I quoted antibiotics could play havoc with bacterial ecosystems in stock and in humans.

It seems that the majority of PUFA have their origin in plants or simple plant digesting organisms and get concentrated or modified moving up the food chain.

Passthecream said...

The Michael Eades link is a good read, thanks, CTV. He wrote about almonds similarly a few years ago after which I got rid of all my almond flour! I have some mature almond trees --- almonds also are a lot of work to harvest but it has been very difficult to keep other critters from harvesting most of them. Possums eat the leaf buds and flowers, parrots and possums eat any nuts when they are still green. Now I let them. I don't know what the ancestral almonds were like but our ancestors would have been better off eating the creatures which ate them.

cavenewt said...

@Passthecream "Cavenewt, are feed-lot cattle dosed up on antibiotics in your country? Maybe other creatures, wherever birds and animals are confined to close quarters?"

I live in the U.S., so the answer to your question is a resounding "Are you kidding? Of course they are!"

Yet another reason, of course, to avoid industrial meat.

Holly said...


Not sure how pertinent this is to your request for a feed for chickens but Healthy Traditions sells soy/corn free eggs. Have not purchased the eggs so cannot comment on flavor etc. but have have been hoping their feed, or one similar, would become more widely available. Here in US there's probably restrictions (to protect the soy/corn farmers) so they can't sell the feed but maybe they'd sell the recipe to interested farmers.

LA_Bob said...

Hi, Holly.

From the website, it appears they haven't shipped eggs to California since 2017, apparently because they don't ship the eggs under refrigeration.

Justin said...

I reached out to them a few years ago and was ready to roll on their coco feed. They said it wasn't available anymore. Great idea to ask them to share the formulation though!

Justin said...

Maybe they don't wash them. I don't and that's how I sell them to my customers. Of course so keep them in an air conditioned house until I deliver them. Lol!!

Peter said...

Pass and cave, no one doses ruminants with antibiotics by mouth, this kills their rumenal bacterial and usually the animal as a follow on. Other interventions can affect the carcass lipids and much of the world does not consider USA beef fit for human consumption. Welfare is my biggest concern re factory farming. Health-wise factory beef seems to work rather well, even in the USA.


Passthecream said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Passthecream said...

Justin, are you missing an important nutrient?

Chicken brains, and chocolate.

Basti said...

So CLA protects against the effects of LA?
So supplementing CLA would be the logical consequence!
It would eliminate the weight gain and metabolic consequences of high LA diets...
Is this true?

Tucker Goodrich said...

h/t to Stephan:

"Glucose Tolerance in Non-industrial Cultures"

The !Kung san are hypoinsulinemic type 2 diabetics!

"Mean glucose levels were higher in the Bushmen at all stages, with significant differences at 0 and 120 minutes. Indeed, by lax criteria of evaluation (Jackson et al., 1970), their mean two-hour post-glucose level of 121 mg/ 100 ml could be regarded as falling within the "diabetic" range. Conversely, the Bushmen exhibited insulinopenia throughout the test, and this was significant at 0 and 60 minutes."

"Metabolic Responses to Oral Glucose in the Kalahari Bushmen"

Luca said...

Hey Peter, so would you suggest to supplement with CLA?