by Dr. Joseph Mercola
April 04, 2021
Dr. Paul Saladino
The Hadza tribe are among the best still-living
representations of the way humans have lived for
tens of thousands of years. They're nomadic
hunter-gatherers whose diet is primarily meat-based
Chronic disease is rare among the Hadza, who remain
vital well into old age
The Hadza primarily eat meat, including organ meats
and connective tissue, tubers, berries, and fruit
from the baobab tree. As such it is
relatively low to moderate in fiber
Raw honey contains nitric oxide metabolites that are
converted back to nitric oxide when consumed.
Research shows honey increases nitric oxide and
total nitrite concentrations and improves
endothelial function. Heating decreases the nitric
oxide metabolites in the honey
There's an intrinsic happiness that spontaneously
arises when you engage in certain types of
behaviors, and topping that list is the regular
immersion in the natural world
Interviews the Experts
In this interview, Dr. Paul Saladino, author of "The Carnivore Code"
- a book on nose-to-tail animal-based eating - reviews what it means
to be healthy at the most foundational level and shares his findings
from a recent trip to Africa where he visited
the Hadza people, who are among the
best still-living representations of the way humans have lived for
tens of thousands of years.
!Kung tribe in Botswana, the Hadza
live a hunter-gatherer life amidst the encroachment of modernized
"I see the Hadza as a
time machine. They're like a time capsule," Saladino says.
do not suffer chronic disease like we do in Western society, and
that alone makes them infinitely fascinating.
They do not suffer
cancers like we suffer cancers.
They do not suffer autoimmune disease, which is a huge spectrum
of disease, and they do not suffer depression, mental illness,
They do not suffer dementia anywhere near the rates
that we do. They age with grace. This is called squaring of the
If you look at a graph of their vitality across the lifespan, it
is essentially flat and then drops off very quickly at the end.
It's like a square.
They lose their vitality within the last few
weeks of life, but until they're 70 or 80 years old, they are
If we look at Western
society, the morbidity curve has a very different look.
It's like a
ramp that steadily declines.
In the Western world, people lose
vitality consistently throughout life. This doesn't happen in native
hunter-gatherer societies, primarily because they do not suffer from
the debilitation of chronic disease.
The Hadza Diet
Saladino primarily wanted to find out how the Hadza eat, what foods
they prioritize and how it affects their health.
have analyzed the Hadza diet, but he wanted to confirm it for
himself. For example, one 2009 study 1 found the Hadza ate a lot of
meat, tubers, berries, and fruit and
honey from the
According to this paper, the Hadza don't eat vegetables.
"That supports a hypothesis that I had advanced previously in my
work, which was that maybe vegetables, meaning roots, stems, leaves
and seeds, are not that good for humans in the first place,"
"I wanted to see this firsthand."
The study in question also asked the Hadza to rank how much they
liked each food.
Honey was ranked the highest, followed by meat
the eland, a very large type of antelope, baboon and bush
pig), baobab fruit and berries.
Tubers were their least favorite
Saladino's investigation supported these basic preferences as
Meat-Based Diet Make Man Smarter?
Essentially, the Hadza favor meat and animal organs, while tubers
are looked upon more as survival foods that don't make up the
majority of the diet.
Saladino reviews how during
going back some 2 million years, the human brain suddenly got a lot
larger, and evidence suggests the reason for this was an increasing
presence of meat in the diet.
"We really became human in the last 2 million years," he says.
"Before that, there was Australopithecus and a divergence, a sort of
a schism of the evolutionary tree with a species called Paranthropus
boisei, and then Homo habilis and Homo erectus.
That branch point was super fascinating because that was a branch
point between meat and plant. This is about 4 million years ago in
human evolution, and Paranthropus boisei ate more plants.
tell this based on stable isotopes, looking at the teeth.
Homo habilis and homo erectus ate more and more meat... The unique
nutrients found in that meat and those organs allowed our brains to
grow - nutrients like choline, carnitine, taurine, B12, K2,
essential fatty acids [and carnosine] …
I think the
prevailing thinking now, which is quite compelling in my
opinion, is that eating meat and organs made us human, and the
species that chose to eat more plants went extinct...
anthropologists believe the Hadza are some of the direct descendants
of the original Homo sapiens who remained in the Rift Valley in
When asked why they choose to maintain their hunter-gatherer
lifestyle, being well aware of modern civilization all around them
and other tribes that have chosen to farm and keep herds of cattle
and goats, the Hadzi replied,
"We want to be free. We like to eat
meat. We want to be able to hunt and we like this lifestyle."
Another question that arose was what makes the Hadza happy?
Interestingly, this is more or less a non-issue.
their default state of mind.
"That is their default mode when they are in nature doing what
humans have always done," Saladino says.
"This is so interesting to
me. Here's this group of hunter-gatherers. They live in the bush.
They do not sleep on beds. They sleep on the ground in these
thatched huts that they build in a day. They're nomadic.
They have little camps... The camp that we went to was about 40 to 50
men and women with children, and they moved the camp three or four
times a year.
They have three or four camps that they've
established, and they know spots in the Lake Eyasi region.
them are better for the rainy season, some of them are better for
the dry season, and so the whole camp will move throughout the year
at different times …
They have fires for men and fires for the women. They live under
rock shelters. They sleep in the auspices of rocks and they are
profoundly healthy individuals.
They love their life because every
day they get to go play. For them, play and fun is hunting. The next
day, we got to see this because we went on a hunt with them. It was
It was so joyous and so simple."
of Organ Meats
Saladino recounts the hunt, noting how the organ meats were consumed
in the field.
After hunting down a baboon, the men created a fire to
burn off the hair, after which the animal was gutted. Intestines
were given to the hunting dogs, while all the other organs - heart,
liver, lungs, spleen, kidneys and pancreas - were cooked on the open
fire and shared among the hunting party.
Nothing is wasted, not even
the bones, which are broken to extract the marrow.
They also eat the connective tissue, which is high in collagen, and
the skin. The internal organs, which are the most highly prized, are
called epeme, and according to the local lore, the epeme must be
shared among all the men of the tribe.
If a hunter chooses not to,
bad things will happen to them.
The hunter responsible for the kill
is rewarded with the most valuable organs, however, such as the
brain, which Saladino says was "delicious."
While they might not understand individual nutrients, they clearly
know that if you eat these organs, you will be more vital.
why I think it's so important for humans to get back to eating nose
to tail, to eating those organs," Saladino says.
while the Hadza diet has been described as high in fiber, Saladino
The tubers they collect are extremely fibrous. So much so, you
cannot actually swallow it. You have to chew it and spit out the
fibers, so in reality, their diet is low to moderate (at best) in
"The other thing I want to mention about eating the tubers was that
there was no bathroom to wash my hands in.
Nor did I want to because
I'm very interested in soil-based organisms and the interaction of
our microbiome with our environment.
Everyone believes that the Hadza have a healthy, diverse microbiome because they eat a
Well, No. 1, they don't eat a high-fiber diet. No. 2, they probably
have a healthy, diverse microbiome because they live in nature and
they are inevitably taking inputs, information from nature, in the
form of dirt and soil-based organisms.
This is something that I've always expected and it's a complete
paradigm shift. And, as we know, adding fiber to the diet does not
increase alpha diversity, and removing fiber does not decrease alpha
What does increase alpha diversity?
Well, living in nature increases
alpha diversity probably because you're eating dirt, and there was
definitely dirt on my hands and my fingers, and dirt on this tuber
as I'm holding it in my mouth.
The Hadza are not a dirty people
They do not smell. They don't use deodorant. They don't have bad
breath. I was really close to them a lot of the time in the bush
hunting. They don't have body odor. Yet they don't bathe that
We were there for a week and they didn't bathe."
Their microbiome is most likely the reason for their lack of body
odor, as malodorous armpits are due to specific axillary bacteria.
The Hadza microbiome has previously been studied in some detail,
showing they have higher levels of microbial richness and
biodiversity than Western urban controls.
The Hadza are also unique in that they have an absence of
Differences in microbial composition between the
sexes have also been found, which is probably a reflection of the
division of labor between the sexes.
"I think that when humans are exposed to soil-based organisms and
live in a natural environment like this, that is what creates high
alpha diversity," Saladino says.
"I think that's what creates the
microbial richness that we really should seek if we're looking to be
healthy, or we want a healthy gut microbiome, rather than trying to
just put a whole bunch of fiber in our guts, which causes problems
for some people."
Fiber Isn't a
Saladino cites two recent research papers, one of which compared
Tanzanian urbanites with more rural dwellers, finding that urbanites
had higher rates of inflammation.
In the second, companion paper,
the authors blamed the higher inflammation in urbanites to a
fiber-poor Western diet.
aladino disagrees with these conclusions,
"What they're trying to say is that the urban people in Tanzania are
eating more saturated fat and less fiber and that is what fuels
their inflammatory phenotype.
What I observed was completely
different than that. In fact, when you go into a grocery store in
urban Tanzania, there are two aisles, there's two sort of shelves of
One of them is a huge shelf of vegetable oil. They call it flower
oil and safflower oil, and many of the vegetable oils that we saw
were actually expired and they're in plastic.
Right next to that is
a whole shelf of beef fat, beef tallow.
The beef tallow is actually cheaper than the vegetable oil, but what
do people buy in the cities? They buy seed oils. So, my observation
is that in the urban cities, people are probably eating more seed
oils and less saturated fat than the rural settings.
In speaking to our guide in Tanzania, he told us he went to his
doctor in Tanzania and his doctor told him that he needed to stop
eating red meat because red meat causes diabetes, and encouraged him
to eat seed oils.
'Gasper, that's completely wrong. Do the Hadza eat animal meat and fat?'
'Do the Hadza look like they have diabetes?'
[I said] 'Your doctor is completely wrong. His thinking is outdated.
His thinking is antique, based on sort of the epidemiology
that has been promulgated in the Western world.'
It's incredible that in this Nature Immunology paper, their
editorializing and trying to claim that it's a fiber-poor Western
diet that contributes to inflammation.
I think it's the seed oils
and processed refined sugars that are clearly doing that and I would
posit that it has nothing to do with how much fiber you eat.
Some people can tolerate fiber, but for a lot of people, it makes
them much worse.
As I have shown, and as I've talked about in my
podcast, which is called Fundamental Health, adding more fiber into
your diet doesn't improve the alpha diversity of your microbiome.
I've even tested my microbiome on zero-fiber diets consisting of
meat, organs and honey, in some ways trying to make a Hadza diet,
and my alpha diversity was very high."
Health Benefits of Raw Honey
Saladino also recounts how the Hadza collect honey made by stingless
bees that burrow into the baobab tree.
It's a common belief that
honey is no different than sugar, but Saladino is starting to
reconsider this notion.
"I went down this rabbit hole recently, and I did a recent
Controversial Thoughts podcast about honey," Saladino says.
of my research, what I found was that raw honey contains nitric
oxide metabolites. How cool is that? And honey actually improves
The assumption is that the nitric oxide metabolites are converted
back to nitric oxide when you eat the honey.
Saladino cites a 2003
"The Identification of Nitric Oxide Metabolites in Various
Honeys," in which they did an intravenous injection of diluted honey
into sheep, showing it increased plasma and urinary nitric oxide
Honey has also been shown to increase nitric oxide and total nitrite
concentrations in humans, Saladino says.
Heating decreases the
nitric oxide metabolites in the honey, though, so for this benefit,
you wouldn't want to add it to boiling liquids.
"Then, there's interventional studies that show honey performs
differently in both humans and animal models relative to sucrose,
which we would sort of expect, but within ketogenic circles, where
people get very dogmatic about carbohydrates, honey is often thought
to be the same as sucrose because honey does contain glucose and
fructose, which is the disaccharide of sucrose.
It's fascinating to me that these whole foods are an informational
package that our body perceives differently than a processed
sucrose/high fructose corn syrup.
Actually, in these studies honey
performed differently than sucrose. Honey performed different than
dextrose, which is not surprising because dextrose is a glucose
Sucrose is a disaccharide of glucose and fructose, and fructose and
glucose are handled differently by the liver and our physiology.
interesting that honey appears to be good for humans potentially
because of these nitric oxide metabolites and other things.
I had Malcolm Kendrick on my podcast. We talked about the way that
nitric oxide is made by endothelial nitric oxide synthase and how
critical that is for endothelial health.
These are the cells that
line all of the blood vessels of our body, and if those endothelial
cells don't have nitric oxide, they can't expand properly.
How interesting that honey contains these foundational things for
humans and it's probably very valuable for us.
That first paper I
showed suggested that the darker honey had more nitric oxide, and I
can tell you the honey I ate in Tanzania was some of the most
iridescent, dark, richly colored honey I've ever had in my life.
I just want to make this point that reductionist thinking in
nutrition doesn't serve us, and I would posit that honey is nothing
The take-home message here is that, provided you're metabolically
healthy, you can safely include honey in your diet.
to realize, though, that if you are insulin resistant or have
diabetes, all forms of sugar need to be cut back until you've
successfully reversed these conditions.
Happiness Are Within Your Reach
In closing, there's a lot we can learn from the Hadza.
As noted by Saladino:
"I spent a week with the Hadza.
I got to hunt for berries with them
and dig tubers with the women and we drank the water out of the
baobab tree. I got to see all of these parts of their life. They are
always in nature, they're always in the sun.
They're always having
low-level activity with spurts of sprinting.
They follow the circadian rhythms of the sun, which was one of the
most joyous things.
One of the reasons I came to Costa Rica was
because I thought,
'I want to do an experiment. How can I live a
little bit more like the Hadza? How can I be more in nature?'
Here in Costa Rica, I basically live in the jungle.
I'm in Santa
Teresa, by the beach. I'm in the ocean every morning. I get to watch
all of the sunsets and sunrises and this has been a real gift. I
think this is another takeaway for people to realize, and it's been
self-evident. This is what humans need.
As I said, the Hadza's
default state is happiness."
So, not only do we need to identify an appropriate human diet, but
also the most appropriate human lifestyle.
Done right, your default
state will also be that of happiness and physical vitality.
You can get more sunlight.
You can avoid blue light devices.
You can eat the diet your ancestors ate
and walk out of
the zoo and find a richer life.
Dr. Paul Saladino
The key message is that there's an intrinsic happiness that results
spontaneously from engaging in certain types of behaviors, and
topping that list is the regular immersion in the natural world.
"I fear that in Western society, humans have been placed into a
little bit of a zoo," Saladino says.
"We've been given these hamster
wheels to run on, which essentially are treadmills at gyms and we've
been given this processed, synthetic food, these rat pellets that
are dropped into our cage every once in a while.
It's no wonder that
we're just not happy.
You know, I'm not a zoologist, but I have heard that when animals
are placed in cages in the zoo, they become fat and unhealthy and
they develop chronic diseases that they don't get in the wild. I've
always found that to be a fascinating parallel with humans because I
think we're exactly the same.
The difference for us is that the door to the cage is open. We have
only to open the latch and walk through. We can get back to these
You can get more sunlight.
You can avoid blue light devices.
You can avoid EMFs. You can eat the diet your ancestors ate and walk
out of the zoo and find a richer life.
Remember, the door is open.
You've just got to walk through it."
To learn more about Saladino and his work, check out his website,
heartandsoil.co (not 'heartandsoil.com'). There, you will find his blog, podcast,
social media links and much more.
and Lifestyle of the Hadza Tribe
Sources and References