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The Blood Type Diet and Why It Doesn't Work

The Blood type diet has had  many itinerations over the years, most recently becoming popular in a form described in the book "Eat Right 4 Your Type" by Peter D'Adamo, a naturopathic physician.

Unfortunately, this recent version is just as incorrect and harmful as the ones that ancient societies embraced thousands of years ago.

The Blood Type Diet: The Gist

The blood type diet arbitrarily divides the human race into four feeding types based on blood type, a kind of bizarre dietary caste system.

These are:
  • Blood group O is believed by D'Adamo to be the "hunter" class. The author recommends they eat a high-protein diet based on his idea that O was the first blood type to develop, supposedly when a lot of hunting was going on.
  • Blood group A is said to be the "cultivator class," by D'Adamo, who believes it evolved after the dawn of agriculture 10,000 to 20,000 years ago. He suggest these people eat a fruit-and-vegetable-centered diet.
  • Blood group B is called the "nomad" group, and associated with dietary flexibility such as the consumption of dairy.
  • Blood type AB is considered an enigma group by D'Adamo, who suggests these people should eat a diet somewhere between the cultivators and the nomads, which is pretty vague.

The Blood Type Diet: Where's the Science?

Blood Type Diet Eat Right 4 Your TypeAlthough D'Adamo has a bibliography in, "Eat Right 4 Your Type," he fails to specifically cite what science he bases his ideas on.

He claims or implies throughout the book that the biochemists and glycobiologists he mentions support his view, but I find this highly doubtful when the consensus among dietitians, physicians, and scientists is that the Blood Type Diet is not scientifically-based (1). Even the staid Mayo clinic concludes there's no science to back up what D'Adamo says (2).

In fact, there are some significant blunders that bring into question his understanding of nutrition.

On page 53, D'Adamo writes that hypothyroidism "occurs because Type O's tend not to produce enough iodine."  I bet there were thousands of people that read that and started to freak out because they have type O blood.

Iodine, of course, is not produced by the human body, and the only way to get enough of it is to eat food grow in soils containing iodine or animals who have taken it in themselves (6).

The Blood Type Diet Falls Apart When Logic Is Applied

Here's something that many people don't stop to consider: All humans are animals. That we're the most intelligent and prolific species on the planet doesn't change the fact.

Yet every other animal on this planet has apparently been getting along quite well with neither knowledge of their blood type nor what diet it sentences them to. In fact, wild animals are notably free of diseases and generally healthy, unlike our species.

There are generally believed to be three feline blood types (3), yet cats, especially in the wild, eat from the same food groups unless forced to do otherwise by humans or necessity.

All cats need taurine, and without it their health rapidly declines (4). Taurine is found in animal protein (although recently humans have artificially added it as a supplement to grain-based commercial cat foods), and so the idea that some cats could have a vegetarian blood type is absurd.

Blood Type Diet Cells

There are lots of cows in this world, but all of them eat grass. Depending on where they are, they might eat some different kinds of grass, but no blood beliefs will change the fact that they're anatomically set up to digest grasses the best. You're not going to see a subset of them hunting groundhogs.

There are multiple blood groups among apes, monkeys, chimps, and our closest genetic relative, the bonobos (5). Yet each one of these primate species chooses to eat the same type of food.

Bonobos, whose diet comes almost exclusively from wild fruits and greens, will not adapt well to a meat or grain-based diet because they lack the intestinal and enzymatic setup needed to process large amounts of these foods. They may have such a diet forced on them while in captivity, and, unsurprisingly, when this happens their health is often subpar compared to their wild counterparts.

The Blood Type Diet And Humans

We've already established that if humans had some sort of bizarre blood-food division, they would be the only species to have it (or at least be aware of the possibility that they might).

But let's assume for the sake of argument that humans have thrown off the normal biological shackles that keep animals eating the same foods. Where's the evidence?

Surely, if some humans are designed to eat high-meat diets and others are meant to live off of plant food, where would be adaptations that would set each of them apart, right?

For instance, the meat-eating humans should not get heart disease when eating animal protein, just like carnivore species.

"What's your Blood type? AB Positive? I so knew it! So am I! We were fated to be together, and we can even eat the same food!"

Unfortunately, that's not the case. Cholesterol-containing animal foods cause atherosclerosis to develop in all vegetarian-centric species like humans, rabbits and chimps, but it does not do so in carnivore species such as dogs and cats (11). Blood type doesn't have a role.

Similarity, the longest living, most disease-free people on this planet all eat a diet almost entirely composed of plant foods. Those that eat meat-centric diets like the Eskimos die young.

Anecdotally, I'm a type O who has been vegan since 2004, yet I've apparently been fated to thrive on meat. I'm never ill and I've never felt better, which is the complete opposite of my health when I was eating meat. Room for exceptions, D'Adamo?

The evidence points to all humans requiring the same type of diet - a plant-based one.

The Blood Type Diet:

Why I Feel Bad For The Asians

Humans are not equipped with the ability to digest the milk of other species very well. It's estimated that 75 percent of the world's population loses the ability to completely digest lactose after infancy (7).

Blood Type Diet Fruit StandHowever, things are not equal across the board. Decreased lactate digestion  ranges from as little as 5% in northern Europe, to above 90% in some African and Asian countries (8).

Researchers theorize the species originally didn't drink the milk of other animals, but that the adaptation to do so arose in east Africa and northern Europe in response to populations shifting to pastoral food systems to feed themselves (9).

But even though more than 92 percent of them can't digest milk well, the Taiwanese  shouldn't worry, because, after all, there are type B blood types who among them can handle milk with aplomb. Right?

A fair sized chuck -23.9 percent - of them have type B blood, and not all of them can fit into the 8 percent who can digest milk well.

So what are these Asians to do? According to D'Adamo, suck it up and take it slow.

On page 37 of "Eat Right 4 Your Type", he suggests, "Type B's of Asian descent may need to incorporate (dairy products) more slowly into their diets as they adjust their systems to them.”

If you're lactose intolerant like me, you realize the consequences of what he's suggesting. He's basically telling Asians to ignore the camps, diarrhea, and possibly more serious conditions like colitis so they can eat according to the arbitrary blood type diet he's created. Apparently they'll magically adjust over time due to the power of their blood.

The Blood Type Diet: The New Astrology

The Blood Type Diet amounts to a modern day astrology that imposes some strange, unscientific divisions on humanity.

Although our species can manage to digest a number of foods, science makes it pretty clear that we're best equipped to eat plant foods almost exclusively. Our health suffers when we do not.

Ditch the pseudoscience and get on a diet that works. Learn about a healthy raw food diet.

The Blood Type Diet: Following Up

Learn the ins and outs of unhealthy diets similar to The Blood Type Diet here.

Find out what foods are ideal for our diet.

The Blood Type Diet: Sources

1) Human blood cells: Consequences of genetic polymorphisms and variations, pg. 44.
2) What is the blood type diet? And is there any merit to the blood type diet? The Mayo Clinic: http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/blood-type-diet/AN01415
3) Giger U; Kilrain C.G. Filippich L.J. et al. (1989). "Frequencies of feline blood groups in the United States.". Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association 195 (9): 1230–1232. PMID 2584120.
4) Nutrient Requirements of Cats, Revised Edition, 1986.
5) Socha WW. Blood groups of apes and monkeys: current status and practical applications. Lab Anii. 1980 Aug;30(4 Pt 1):698-702. PMID 6775134.
6) Andersson M, Takkouche B, Egli I, Allen HE, de Benoist B (2005). "Current global iodine status and progress over the last decade towards the elimination of iodine deficiency". Bull. World Health Organ. 83 (7): 518–25. PMID 16175826.
7) "Improved lactose digestion and intolerance among African-American adolescent girls fed a dairy-rich diet.". Journal of the American Dietetic Association. 2000.
8) Bulhoes, A. C., et al. (2007-11). "Correlation between lactose absorption and the C/T-13910 and G/A-22018 mutations of the lactase-phlorizin hydrolase (LCT) gene in adult-type hypolactasia". Brazilian Journal of Medical and Biological Research.
9) Coles Harriet (2007-01-20). "The lactase gene in Africa: Do you take milk?". The Human Genome, Wellcome Trust. http://genome.wellcome.ac.uk/doc_WTX038968.html. Retrieved 2008-07-18.
10) Kretchmer N (1972). "Lactose and lactase". Sci. Am. 227 (4): 71–8. PMID 4672311.
11) Harper's Biochemistry 24th edition. Page 280


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