By Tom Cowan, M.D.
Two studies published in major peer-reviewed medical journals within the past decade should be, in my opinion, major breakthroughs in the use of natural medicine in the treatment of chronic disease. The first, published in The Journal of Cancer Therapy in 2011, showed that men with stage 4 prostate cancer who drank deuterium-depleted water had a mean survival time of 11.02 years as compared to historical norms of about 18 to 24 months. The second study, published in the prestigious journal Medical Hypothesis in 2016, indicated that a ketogenic diet improves cellular energy generation because of metabolized fats’ ability to generate deuterium-depleted water in the tissues.
So, what is deuterium-depleted water, and why are these studies so revolutionary for our understanding of the diet–disease connection?
Deuterium is a naturally occurring isotope of hydrogen. Deuterium weighs twice as much as hydrogen because it contains a neutron that is not present in the hydrogen molecule. Because deuterium is electrically identical to hydrogen, it, too, can bind to oxygen to form water, in this, case D2O. While D2O seems a bit like normal water (which is H2O), it has many properties that differ from normal water, such as a higher freeze point.
Even though deuterium is found naturally in all water, it cannot be incorporated in the healthy gel-like structure that water forms in our bodies; therefore, once deuterium reaches a certain concentration in our cells, our ability to generate energy goes down. Also, as the deuterium levels rise, our mitochondria start to function poorly, and our protein/DNA-folding begins to unravel. These defects are increasingly being linked to such diseases as diabetes, cancer, Alzheimer’s and heart disease, to name just a few. The bottom line? Rising deuterium levels in the water in our cells is the hallmark of an aging, deteriorating body.
The exciting finding of these studies is that an active attempt to lessen the deuterium levels in our bodies has profound effects on the above diseases and metabolic aging. The two predominant ways we can lower the deuterium levels are by drinking deuterium-depleted water (more on this in a future blog) and eating a diet in which the predominant foods are grass-fed fats and a wide variety of vegetables, especially green vegetables. It turns out that the chloroplasts in the leaves of plants excrete deuterium from their tissues, leaving them naturally deuterium-depleted. When any animal eats a diet based on green leaves, meaning, grass-fed animals, or humans eating greens, they become naturally deuterium-depleted and hydrogen-water replete. This condition is the opposite of metabolic aging and is perhaps the molecular basis for the dietary approach I outline in How (& Why) to Eat more Vegetables.
Obviously, with dehydration, vegetables lose water; the deuterium-depleted nature of the plant tissue itself, however, doesn’t change with dehydration.
The story of deuterium-depleted water is just one more reason why the Nourishing Traditions diet of liberal amounts of grass-fed animal fats and fatty organ meats, mixed with a wide variety of organic, biodynamic or wild greens, should be the foundation of everyone’s healthy approach to eating.
We, at Dr Cowan’s Garden, are happy to offer a wide variety of the best-quality green vegetables to supplement your usual vegetable intake.
For many of us, our relationship to food is a never ending journey. Sometimes to move forward one finds themselves looking back. For bread and specifically the grains used to make it I find that the best results are indeed found in reflection. It is sometimes true that modern ingenuity has value for us, but that is usually only when paired with ancient wisdom. For grains, that wisdom is in the ancient varieties that have been grown for thousands of years.
During this time of relative uncertainty, we have decided to renew our commitment to gardening. Dr. Cowan’s Garden was originally a place, located in Napa Valley on a plot of land generously donated by a friend. It embodied our ideals and was a sanctuary for growth and learning.
The garden was our muse for new product offerings and for improving existing ones. The garden kept our ambitions grounded to certain fundamentals, as the practice of gardening can be challenging.