Fred Provenza, PhD

Animal inner nutritional wisdom

Aired on: June 7, 2019

Episode Description
Provenza presents discusses the wisdom body, a wisdom that links flavor-feedback relationships at a cellular level with biochemically rich foods to meet the body’s nutritional and medicinal needs. What can we learn from animals’ inner nutritional wisdom? Animals, including humans, develop nutritional and medicinal memories in utero and early in life. This takes place at a cellular level as evidenced by Claire Sylvia and her book A Change of Heart. When she received a heart and lung transplant, she also received the taste preferences of the donor. Young children select foods containing nutrients that the individual needs. This nutritional wisdom concerning food preferences is lost as the child ages. Has this inner nutritional wisdom been hijacked by nutritional “authorities”? Consumers eager for a “quick fix” have empowered the multi-billion-dollar-a-year supplement industry, but is taking supplements and enriching and fortifying foods helping us, or is it hurting us?

Key points

  • Animals responded to fix the nutritional deficiency
  • What mother eats when animal is in utero affects dietary habits and gene expression
    • Animals tastes are influenced by what their mother eats in utero
  • What children exposed to affects preference
  • Children are born with nutritional wisdom is hijacked with processed foods at any age
  • This healthy preferences can be regained
  • The most effective way to mitigate climate change is to stop mono crop production and encourage biodiversity
    • Animals, herbivores, humans and planet will be healthier
    • Pesticides defy nature
      • For example, some people don’t want dandelions in lawn
    • He states if start carbs at end of meal vs at beginning minimizes insulin spikes
    • He also states hi energy meal for breakfast helps control insulin levels


He has been fascinated by natural environments since a child

  • Curious why animals do what they do

Nutritional Wisdom

  • He believes animals possess nutritional wisdom and what to eat
  • The notion was that domestic animals had lost this
  • He studied what animals did when having a mild nutritional deficiency
    • Animals responded to fix the nutritional deficiency
    • If animals are deficient in phosphorous, animals seek foods with phosphorous
    • For example, if infuse phosphorous into animal’s gut when animal is consuming phosphorous, animal prefers apple flavor
      • This happens at a non-cognitive level

Three items needed for Animal Nutritional Wisdom

  • All three are needed for animal nutritional wisdom
  • Flavor feedback relationships
    • Palatability is more than a matter of taste
    • Animals Change liking as a function of need
    • Animals are ultimately feeding their cells (and microbiome) responding to:
      • Primary compounds
        • Energy, protein, minerals, proteins
      • Secondary compounds
        • Phytochemicals
          • Produced by all plants
          • Important in all animals including humans
        • Feedback entails hormones, peptides, neurotransmitters produced in organ system and cells that are altering liking
    • What is available to the animals
      • Biodiversity on landscape is important for animals
      • They can “medicate” (select foods to help when ill)
      • Animal morbidity and morality are increasing as biodiversity decreases
    • Social, cultural and transgenerational linkages

Learning is important to animals

  • As environment changes
  • Epigenetics genes being expressed as a function of what is being learned
    • Genes expressed as a function of environment
  • Young animals learn what to eat, where to eat from mother
  • What mother eats when animal is in utero affects dietary habits and gene expression
    • In womb the offspring begins to learn about food flavours
    • This continues in mother’s milk
  • Throw an animal in a strange environment, and animals make a lot of mistakes
  • Animals born in feed lots have different meat, fat, milk composition that an animal fed in a pasture
    • Can reprogram tastes

Claire Silvia’s book: Change of Heart

  • After heart and lung transplant, her food preferences broadened to those of the heart donour
  • It also kept her food preferences
  • Most behavior issues were altered
    • She had increased energy from her younger donour
  • The heart is more than a pump
    • These reflect their history

Foods have been hijacked by industry

  • Processed foods, high sugar levels, high fructose corn syrup
    • These are addicting
    • This begins at conception and goes from generation to generation
    • If fetus is exposed to these, offspring will prefer these
      • Will have metabolic syndrome
      • The outcome can be seen in the crisis of obesity and diabetes
        • 50 % of US population is either diabetic or prediabetic
      • He states if start carbs at end of meal vs at beginning minimizes insulin spikes
      • He also states hi energy meal for breakfast helps control insulin levels
    • Study: animals that received a blast of energy when eating straw preferred the straw
      • Animals that did not receive the blast of energy with the straw did not prefer eating straw
      • This is what happened with processed foods
    • Vegetables have less nutrition and less flavor
      • Fruits are bred for sweetness
      • So have to be careful in the grocery store to get richness of flavor
      • We selected away from flavor and phytochemical richness in foods and animal
      • Processed foods come with blast of energy which addicts

Claire Davis Studies on Six year olds’ nutritional wisdom

  • Children had nutritional wisdom until they grew up
  • Six year Studies in orphanages where six year old children could select whatever foods they wanted
  • Children chose foods that ameliorated their nutritional deficiencies
  • Pediatricians followed these children
  • It appears at age six, children can be hijacked by processed foods

Are animals / meat production destroying the planet ?

  • Need to look how is produced, soil health
  • Depends whether animals are finished in feedlots or landscapes
  • Frontiers of Nutrition article (his last name)
    • Is more costly to the health of soil, plants, herbivores, humans and climate to run through the feedlot system as opposed to phytochemically rich landscapes
    • When animals are properly grazed will not hurt climate
      • Encourage biodiversity of landscape
      • Number one production of carbon dioxide out of atmosphere
        • Biodiversity of landscape
        • Use cover crops not mono crop production
      • Other paper
        • When change farming practices can reduce CO2 and climate change