Friday, January 28, 2011

Micro Vs Macro

Last blog post of the day and I'm hoping to keep this one short...

So I've been reading some objections to Gary Taubes' books from someone calling herself CarbSane and at first I was curious, wondering if somewhere in what she was saying in between the ad hominem attacks. She spells his name Taube$ to try to highlight that he is saying what he is saying for the money because God forbid someone who puts in the amount of effort he has for the last decade or so should get some remuneration for the effort. Anyway, there's a lot of complicated bio-chemistry on her site that looks impressive and makes it seem like she knows what she is talking about, although I have no background in the material so I cannot judge.

Gary Taubes appeared on the Living La Vida Low Carb podcast yesterday and answered some of her criticisms and, while I won't go into what he said, after hearing CarbSane on the same podcast going off on a rant that was very hard to follow and seemed quite emotional at times, I tend to buy into what Taubes is saying. I think his great advantage in a debate (this one as well as the La, rry King show he was on years ago with Dr. Oz and Jillian Michaels) is that he seems to be very good and remaining unemotional and is very good at conveying his thoughts in an organized and clear manner. That doesn't make his arguments correct and CarbSane wrong, but it does make it very hard to judge the opposition if they can't make you understand what they are saying.

Anyway, that's not what this 'short' blog was supposed to be about. I wanted to talk about the fact that CarbSane's objections, while science based, seem to cover the micro aspects of things. Does this hormone or that enzyme control fat storage and release? While this is probably important in understanding the 'how' of the fact that low carb diets work, does it really matter? Study after study comparing weight loss approaches show the safety and efficacy of low carb dieting and even the effectiveness as compared to the more traditional approaches. The mechanism behind that, whether it is ASP or insulin that controls fat storage and to what degree is less important to someone who want to lose weight, lower blood pressure, blah blah blah. The 'how' the diet works may be interesting to give someone clues as to how to tweak things but with that clue, you would have to study the macro. In other words, if understanding the biochemical reactions clue you in that a tweak 'may' work to get better results, it has to be actually tested to make sure there isn't a compensating mechanism that would override the benefit of the tweak.

A good example of this is the low fat diet. It seemed to make sense that lowering fat intake would cause weight loss. Either from the logic that 'fat makes you fat' or that fat contains more calories so removing fat should lower calories more than lowering the other macronutrients. However, the conventional wisdom never really tested that theory and as a result, people at low fat cheeses in moderation, lots of whole grains, lots of 'low fat' products and did not see the results. What happened? Well, eating few calories can cause compensating mechanisms in the body to slow down metabolism to maintain body weight and keep the body at the same weight. So we blame the dieter for eating too much and the cycle continues.

Anyway, because the debate has been bugging me for a while I wanted to get that out. I could go on for longer but I think I'll stop here.

What is wrong with Low Carb diets?

So this has been in my head for a while and I thought I'd get it down. I hear the same objections over and over again to low carb and no matter how often you swat down the objections with facts and studies, the same things come up over and over again. So I thought I'd get a blog post out so maybe next time someone uses one of these, I can just point them in this direction. This post may get edited from time to time to add new information I glean during my readings and such:

1. Low carb diets, you only lose water weight - This objection has a basis in truth, you do lose water weight initially as your body depletes it's glycogen stores. However, who wants to be carrying around excess water weight? One of the things that is thought to cause high blood pressure is excess water in the system that puts pressure on blood vessels.

2. Low carb diets are bad for your kidneys - This comes from the idea that excess protein in a diet can put stress on kidneys causing damage. May be true but traditionally low carb diets are not high in protein but high in fat. Yes they may be slightly higher in protein than a low fat diet but the amount of protein in the diet is still in the safe range.

3. Low carbs are high in saturated fat and that'll increase your risk of heart disease - Well, in 2010 Ron Kraus released a meta-study of saturated fat and concluded there was no real evidence of the link of saturated fat to heart disease. In fact, saturated fat has been shown to, in the absence of excess carbohydrates, lower blood triglyceride levels, raise HDL (good cholesterol) and improve the LDL profile (large fluffy LDL increases, small dense decreases).

4. Low carb diets only work by restricting calories the same as other diets - Pretty much every study I've seen that honestly is testing a low carb calorie unrestricted diet against a low fat calorie restricted diet shows the low carb produces better results in terms of weight loss and blood lipid profile. Now it MAY be that the subjects on a low carb diet ate fewer calories than the low fat group but the important part of this is that the low carb group are told not to restrict calories whereas the low fat group are told to restrict calories. So that tells us that IF the low carb group is eating less calories, they are doing so voluntarily. IF the low carb group are eating as many or more calories than the low fat group, well that means there is a metabolic advantage to eating low carbohydrate, otherwise why would they lose more weight?

5. Atkins has been around since the 70's so if it worked, why do we have an obesity epidemic - I LOVE this one which I've read recently in a couple places. It makes no sense whatsoever. The prevailing wisdom has been to cut calories and fat from your diet since the 70's. The Atkins diet was derided as unsafe and ineffective by the media and medical community. This is probably the dumbest thing I've read to try to show that a low carb high fat calorie unrestricted diet doesn't work.

6. Low carb leads to Ketosis which is dangerous - This is easy. Ketosis is fine, Ketoacidosis isn't. I have read one study (don't have it at my finger tips) that showed low carb with Ketosis isn't as effective as a low carb diet without ketosis. I think there may be something there. However, I should also note that it is ketogenic diets that are being studied as a possible treatment for cancer and Alzheimer's disease and are currently being used to treat epilepsy. I don't know of low fat diets being looked at for any of these...

7. Low carb diets don't have enough fibre - Well, that's almost up to the person following the diet but in low carb we are encouraged to get our fibre from vegetable sources rather than grains and in the absense of sugar and grains in the diet, it is possible that the fibre needs aren't as great as they are when those things are in the diet.

8. Sure you lose weight on a low carb diet, but you gain it back afterwards - Really? If I lose weight on a low carb diet, after I go off the diet and return to 'normal' eating I will gain the weight back? Phew, thank god that's not the case with calorie counting and/or low fat diets. I mean we've had such great success with people counting calories, losing weight and NOT gaining back weight when they stop watching what they eat and go back to their old habits. This is another of the dumbest reasons for thinking low carb diets don't work.

That's it for now but I'm sure I'll think of something and add to this blog later or have a part 2.

My Primal Blueprint Experiment - Week 1

So week 1 of my primal experiment has gone by and the results are less than spectacular but not terribly unexpected.

First, what did I do differently this week. Well, I ate berries 3 or 4 times. With some home made whipped cream sweetened with a drop or two of Stevia. I'd argue that stevia could be considered primal because it is an extract of a natural plant that has been used for a long time in South America to sweeten things. I also tried to do primal workouts. I was more successful getting in the low intensity cardio and I did do one 'lift heavy things' workout that felt great but as the week progressed, I wasn't feeling so good. I had some headaches and my face felt very hot. Either I am getting a bit of the induction flu or am fighting a real one. Anyway as per the primal blueprint, I listened to my body and rested more than getting in the activity. Oh and one other thing, I made an effort to get more sunlight, although with the winter weather, it means my face is the only part of my body exposed, but at least it's something.

And the results? Well, according to the scale and body fat measures, not much changed. I weight in between 212.4 and 213.2 and my body fat was between 24.4 and 24.9%. So pretty much within the margin of error for the measuring equipment I have. with the small increase in weight and the small decrease in body fat, it may be that things have shifted a titch but who knows.

So this week I'm adding a small change. I am going to diligently enter my intake into (I use this instead of fit day because of the iPhone app that you can use as well as the website. I originally thought to try to eat the same as I have this week but I know myself and if I'm entering the food, my consumption will change. Anyway, I'm going to see what I eat in a normal week and see where the carbs and calories are, not to mention the protein. That may give me some clues as to why things are not moving. I'm also going to try and exercise as I intended to this week and see what happens.

Anyway, that's week 1. I have a couple other blog posts in my head and while I'm here at Starbucks with my coffee and laptop (shit, I'm now one of 'those' guys) I might as well get those down too...

Sunday, January 23, 2011

The New Paradigm of Obesity

So I've been thinking about what Gary Taubes is saying about obesity and what it means. What I have come to is that there is an alternative paradigm to how we traditionally view obesity. The current paradigm is obesity is caused by eating too much and not exercising enough (calories in, calories out). Now I've beat the dead horse on that on a previous blog but I wanted to talk about what could be a new paradigm.

As Gary Taubes is trying to say, obesity isn't a disorder of energy imbalance, or eating too much and exercising too little. Obesity can be thought of (and at it's root is) a disorder of fat accumulation. The body accumulates more fat than it needs. Period. So the question is, why? Is it simply because we are lazy gluttons? Or is the mode of the body to shuffle more calories to fat storage than required a driver of eating more and moving less?

He uses the metaphor of a child growing. The calories taken in by the child are not the cause of the growth but are driven by the growth. Indeed, we can stunt a child's growth by starving them. Could we not think of calorie restriction (conscious calorie restriction) as 'stunting' the body's drive to gain weight? So that as soon as calories are added back into the diet, the body's drive to gain weight continues to add fat back on?

Now most people I know who have had success restricting carbohydrates (but not calories) report that they are not as hungry. They are eating enough to satisfy themselves. And yet they lose weight.  As well, the studies that have honestly tested Atkins show a couple things. People lose more weight either by voluntarily eating less calories (they are not told to restrict them but they do so naturally) or they lose more weight eating more calories than someone losing the same amount of weight on traditional calorie restricted diets. Could we not potentially explain this phenomenon that whatever (insulin and insulin resistance) is driving the body to grow and therefore driving the behavior of eating more and exercising less has been removed from the equation and therefore the body is able to get more energy from the food ingested and is able to make up the rest of the required energy from the body? I don't know of another explanation. I'd like to hear what other people say.

So a lot of the criticism I've read of Taubes' books has said, well it's just calories in calories out. Then they go on to quote studies that had people supposedly following a low carb diet but really aren't when you look at the tables outlining the macronutrients that they ate. But what about those studies that show people eating low carb voluntarily eat less. Is that not showing that the drive to eat more and more calories is not there in people eating low carb?

It seems reasonable at least to look at the evidence that is there that people eat less when they don't have significant carbohydrate in their diet. Instead, the mainstream says it's all eat less and exercise. They ignore that there may be a biological reason that people eat too much and don't want to move. Why must it be weakness of character? My personal experience is that of someone who, when he restricts carbohydrates, loses weight without hunger and, when he does not, he is only able to lose weight through shear will power, fighting hunger and the drive to eat, and usually giving into tempation very quickly.

In a future post I'll go through the objections to a low carb diet. The ones that just turn my stomach with their stupidity.

Friday, January 21, 2011

My Primal Blueprint Experiment - Week 0

So I started reading the Primal Blueprint by Mark Sisson.. So far, it is a very easy read and makes some logical arguments for eating and living the way that homo sapiens evolved to eat and live (at least as much as possible in the modern context). Now I do take issue with logical arguments being anything other than the start of a argument for how one should eat or live. The reason for this is is that just because it seems logical, those theories should be tested before we have any level of certainty that that logic holds up to reality. After all, when it seemed logical that 'fat makes you fat', the entire world went nuts for this and we ended up where we are, fatter than ever, unhealthier then ever and even more confused about what is the 'right' thing to do to get healthy.

Where I think the Paleo movement (which the Primal Blueprint seems to be a part of) has some merit is the fact that it agrees in large part with the low carb movement. The low carb movement has had years of experiementation that seems to back up it's philosophy of weight loss (especially for those obese and insulin-resistant people). Where Paleo and Low Carb seem not to agree is largely in the area of fruit. This is a bit of a questionmark for me as well. I don't know how much fruit one should eat while losing weight and I would assume that it would be dependent on how insulin resistant and carbohydrate sensitive one is.

They also emphasize trying to get the freshest, most naturally grown and harvested food available. So organic and local when possible. I haven't read any studies that say organic is significantly healthier than conventional food, but I don't believe it can be less healthy, right?

The thing I do like about the Paleo movement is it adds some lifestyle advice along with the dietary advice. Sleep and sunlight are discussed as being very important to health and from what I've read they have a strong point on this. Their ideas about exercise is very different from the 'exercise until you puke' mentality that seems to be out there right now. So far I've just read the summary of the advice but in general it is, exercise at a very low intensity frequently (walking, playing, etc), occasionally lift heavy weights (still have to read what occasionally means but I'm told it's at most 2 or 3 days a week), and once in a while sprint. When they say sprint it seems to be a very short all out sprint (5-10 seconds) rather than the HIIT sprints of up to a minute.

So here's my plan for my Primal Blueprint Experiment:
1. I plan to slowly introduce low carb high fibre fruits into my diet. Mostly berries. I'll still avoid the more sugary stuff, like bananas.

2. I plan on trying to get my food from organic sources where practical. It's inconvenient as the organic grocery store near my place doesn't sell meat and the one that does is a ways away but I'll try.

3. Once I've read the advice on exercise to see some specifics on the resistance training, I plan on doing that as well. Since it's so freaking cold here, I'll do the low intensity at the gym for now on the treadmill but once it's possible to walk outside, I'll go outside for a walk (my wife will enjoy that as I tend to beg off walking outside).  I'm hoping that since I'll be doing less intense exercise, it'll be easier to make it more consistent.

4. I'll try to get a bit more sunshine, when there is a sun out there. I don't know exactly how I'll do that. Possibly go for a walk around the block for a break at work when the sun is out. I'll see if there is another way to do that.

What do I hope to accomplish? Well, I'm hoping that a bit more weight will come off but that is secondary and I'm relatively happy where I'm at now. I'm also hoping my energy level will increase, my body composition will improve and that I will feel healthier. Not that I'm not feeling relatively healthy now but I'd like to have more energy.
It really isn't that much different from the lifestyle I'm currently leading except for the fruit and the consistent exercise. I started this morning by adding a small amount of blueberries (1/3 cup non-organic frozen ones heated in the microwave so not terribly paleo) to my almond flour/coconut milk pancake. It tasted good but I was surprised at how little sweetness there was in the berries. Probably because of them not being organic. It's about 2 hours afterwards and I do not have any cravings so that's a plus.

I weighed in at 212.2 and 25% BF. I'll weigh in again on Thursday and Friday next week and see what happens. I weigh in two days in a row each week because the daily fluctuations can change by a pound so I think doing it two days in a row gives a better picture of where I am.

I'll try to check in on my blog for a while, more for my own benefit but who knows someone might find it worth reading.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Is it all just Calories In Calories Out?

So I had a debate the other week with some friends about whether or not Calories In - Calories Out works to explain weight gain/loss. I, in general, agree with Gary Taubes in that saying that you eat more and excercise less when you gain weight is stating the obvious but also does not necessarily show a cause-effect relationship (ie. do you eat more and therefore gain weight or is your body in weight gain mode and therefore you are compelled to eat more?).

Lately we hear every day about the twinkie guy who lost weight on a diet of twinkies. Now, for now I will ignore the possibility that his diet was a moderate carb diet and just say, so what? This proves that one guy can lose weight at a calories intake of 1800 calories. It says nothing about an advantage to different macronutrients ratios, it says nothing other than that this one guy did something and got a result.

So anyway, I had the brilliant (?) idea this morning to tackle the calories in calories out debate in a blog this morning because I'm getting so tired of the sanctimonious slim people telling the fat people 'just eat less and exercise you stupid slothful glutton'. To me this is like someone born to a wealthy family telling a poor person to just make more money and spend less. As a much slimmer person who used to be a fat person (300 pounds down to 210 and planning on losing some more), let me tell you, if fat people could get slim and more importantly stay slim simply by concentrating only on eating less and exercising more, they would do it. The ridicule and scorn overweight people face on a daily basis can be intense. The source of that scorn and ridicule is both internal and external. Going into a clothing shop and having staff come up to you with the 'Can I help you' but the look in their face saying 'there's nothing that'll fit you here' is enough to make anyone want to eat less and exercise if that were all it took.

So here's what I'd like to do. I'd like to look at Calories In/Calories Out and show some of the complexity of the equation. To start, the idea of CICO comes from the first law of thermodynamics which states:

Energy in a system = Energy put into the system - Energy removed from the system.

Pretty basic. Energy cannot be destroyed.

How does this apply to a human body? Well it means:

Calories stored  = Calories Eaten - Calories Burned - Calories Excreted.

That last bit I added because frankly you can't tell me our waste products are devoid of energy. Otherwise, insects and bacteria that feed off of them would not be able to otherwise. We can debate about the effect of excretion but it should be included. I'd also like to expand the Calories Burned to make the equation:

Calories Stored (CS) = Calories Eaten (CE) - Calories Burned through Conscious Movement (CBCM)  - Calories Burned through normal base metabolic processes(CBMP) - Calories Excreted (CX)

I think this is a relatively complete formula.  It seems simple but when you look at it a little deeper you see how each component is not independent of the other, and how other external factors besides just weakness of character can play into things.

Psychology - Is it possible that people eat too much and exercise too little because they are lazy gluttons? Yes, I suppose it is. But what other psychological factors can contribute?
  • Depression can be a powerful motivator that paralyzes people. I can say from experience, when depressed, getting myself to exercise takes a herculean effort that is successful sometimes but unless the depression alleviates is difficult to maintain with a level of consistency.
  • Sugar (and probably refined carbohydrates, rice, potatos, etc.) affects the reward centers of the brain in a similar way as some recreational drugs. This can create a bona fide addiction. Given that CW tells us that these things are healthy because they are low fat, the addiction is reinforced by the message we receive from the mainstream.
  • Any emotion can be a trigger for people to eat. We eat because we are happy and celebrating, we eat because we are sad and commisserating, we eat because we are bored or stressed. I don't know for a fact but I suspect some but not all of this emotional eating may be precipitated from the addiction mechanism I mentioned above, and also by the blood sugar fluctuations resulting from a high carb diet.

Calories Stored - How can the calories stored affect the other components of the equation?
  • Well, we know that leptin is the hormone sent out by our fat stores to receptors in the brain to signal when to stop eating. So, that is one way in which the calories stored can affect the calories eaten.
  • Also, if leptin levels are chronically high as they are in obese people, these receptors can get resistant to the signal so the cutoff signal can get lost and an obese person can remain hungry long past when they have eaten enough.
  • Calories Stored (either as fat or muscle) also affect the calories burned through normal metabolic processes. The body has to burn more calories to maintain body mass. the difference between fat and muscle burning is small (five pounds of muscle burns 24 calories a day more than five pounds of fat) so it's not much of a difference in the form of mass. This is also important as we lose weight.
Quality of the calories eaten - While CW says a calorie is a calorie is a calorie, the effect of those calories on the body can be significantly different.
  • Protein when ingested is first used to rebuild cells, then it is converted to glucose and can be burned or stored as fat. This process of conversion takes calories making it inefficient.
  • Carbs (especially refined carbs and sugar) when ingested cause blood sugar to rise first. They are then burned first (before stored fat) and if the body cannot burn it off fast enough, it stores it as fat. More on this in the next section on insulin.
  • Fat, this is converted to fatty acids in the system and either burned if there isn't enough glucose in the system to supply the bodies needs, or stored, if there is enough insulin to store it all.
  • It is possible that the quality of what we eat affects the number of calories that are wasted through excretion. When fat is converted to glucose for the body to use, there is a by product created called ketones which can also be used for fuel. If there are more ketones in the system then are needed, these get excreted. It is also possible that increasing fibre intake may cause more calories to be wasted through excretion. I've seen some discussion about the idea that why a low carb diet works as well or better than a calorie restricted diet even when more calories are eaten is a result of a greater proportion of calories being excreted.
Insulin - Insulin affects a few parts of the equation.
  • Calories Stored - Insulin is the storage mechanism for blood sugar to fat (amongst other things). Chronically high insulin levels (caused by insulin resistance) can cause a disproportionate amount of calories to be stored as fat than normal leaving less calories available to burn. It also prevents the fatty acids from leaving the fat cells since higher insulin levels are a signal to the body that there is excess glucose in the system that must be burned first before fat.
  • Calories Eaten - Since high insulin levels cause a disproportionate number of calories to be stored and prevents the release of energy, it is possible that the body will feel a deficit in the number of calories available to burn and the number of calories needed by the body to support it's energy needs. As a result, the person will feel the discomfort of hunger driving them to eat more, even if they have enough fuel in their fat stores to service their needs.
  • Calories Burned through Conscious Movement - If the person does not eat more as a result of insulin preventing energy from being available to burn, the body may respond by feeling lethargic.
  • Calories Burned through Metabolic Processes - If the calories available to burn drops too low, the body can respond by slowing down it's metabolic processes. One study I read a review of (in Gary Taubes book) showed the body of obese rats pumped full of insulin shut down organs before giving up any significant amount of it's fat stores.
  • Calories Eaten - I am mentioning this again because there is another way insulin affects the calories eaten, and that is by suppressing leptin receptors. Chronically high insulin can make a body leptin resistant as well as insulin resistant. This means the receptors are unable to read the signal from the fat stores that enough calories have been stored and eating should stop.
Calories burned through conscious movement - The exercise we do can also affect other components of the equation:
  • Calories Stored - If the body is functioning well, exercise can cause pull fat out of storage to be used to burn in exercise. Of course if insulin levels or high, this release of fat stores is suppressed.
  • Calories Eaten - Exercise can also make us hungry, this increasing the drive to eat more.
  • Calories burned through normal metabolic process - Exercising (especially resistance training) causes muscles to break down and be rebuilt. This causes the background metabolism to increase the number of calories burnt to make these repairs.
  • Overtraining can also cause the body to shut down, cause a person to become depressed, and cause a person to want to give up and have a milk shake.
What am I missing here? Well I know there is probably alot. I didn't mention the media with it's re-inforcing of the low fat, calories in calories out, exercise until you drop mentality coupled with the constant displays of processed packaged convenience food and the myriad of real fad diets (lemon juice and cayenne detox, the grapefruit diet, etc). There are probably a billion metabolic processes that I missed as well.

All this to say, telling people to eat less and exercise and calling them lazy gluttons is doing us no good. While the first law of thermodynamics holds, it tells us nothing about the interplay of the different components of the real equation within the body. If all we had to do was eat less and exercise to lose weight, we probably wouldn't have an obesity epidemic. However if we realize what affects the behaviors of eating more or less, of having the energy to burn and wanting to burn it, of optimizing how we eat (not just how much) so the body is more predisposed to burning calories than storing them, we would be on a far more successful path on getting past the obesity epidemic.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Why am I blogging Pt 2

Why am I blogging? Well, if you noticed the rather sporadic nature of my blogging you'd wonder if I was at all. I've decided that my reasons for blogging are changing. Frankly, I'm giving up on politics for the most part. Regardless of whether or not you live in a 'democracy' or a dictatorship, it's all so damn corrupt and frustrating.

So what else? Well, lately I've had a number of discussions about my low carb approach to getting and remaining healthy. Believe me, I've tried many things. Counting calories, extreme exercise, veganism, low carb, low fat, etc. etc. And if I'm honest with you, the low carb thing has been the most successful in terms of adherence (as far as I'm concerned, the most important thing) and actual successful results. When I was close to 300 pounds and lost 90 of that, I did do low calorie. But I have to say, I was constantly fighting cravings. When I got close to my goal weight, I tried to continue fighting the cravings but eventual gained back some of the weight (about 30 pounds) and have been bouncing back and forth with that.

Anyway, what do I want to do here. Well, one is try to document the rest of my journey (wish I had started at the 300 pounds but that was in 2003 and I didn't really blog at all then). The second is try to organize my thoughts around the science of it all, and the politics of nutrition and dieting.

Politics I say? Yes. It's funny reading some of these blogs (like the review I posted last time) and reading the comments as well. People are so intrenched in their dogma that they often do the very things they accuse others of. Using logical statements like 'eat less and exercise has to be it' without being able to quote studies that prove that point, quoting parts of studies that prove their point but ignoring the parts of those same studies that counter their point (the atkinsexposed site is really bad for this), quoting opinion without foundation.

So, where does the science sit on what diet is the most effective? Well, I think there are some points of agreement for most if not all diets:

1. Sugar - bad. I can show some studies of this but everyone from Ornish to Atkins would agree on this one.
2. Refined carbohydrates - bad. Again not much controversy.
3. Non-Starchy Vegetables -good. Even the latest iteration of Atkins (I can't speak to the original) encourages 'foundation vegetables'
3. Exercise - good. This one is actually more controversial then one might think in terms of weight loss. I don't believe it is a huge contributing factor to weight loss itself. I do believe (although I'd have to research the science to be sure) that there are many other health benefits to reasonable amounts of exercise such as body composition, heart health, flexibility, strength etc. Oh and yeah, I said 'reasonable' now the definition of what's reasonable is also controversial...

So what is controversial?

1. Fruit. So this isn't that controversial. Even Atkins suggest introducing some low sugar fruits later on. I think the amounts and types of fruits one should consume depending on the situation is controversial. For myself, with about 20-25 pounds left to lose, fruits would probably slow down the fat loss, but I cannot prove that. I think the intake of these is probably best tailored to one's own situation and body. If they cause cravings and weight gain, back off. If not, they are probably at a minimum harmless or even helpful. Of course, that statement is not scientific and I'd have to see the science to be sure.
2. Potatos and Rice - This one is controversial. But I have yet to see where they have a benefit in the diet so what's the harm in avoiding them?
3. Whole Grains - I'd say the same thing about these. There's potential for harm. Insulin going up too much in those most insulin resistant. I've heard things about whole grains reducing the availability of nutrients in other foods.
4. Meat and Animal products - I think this one is controversial for a few reasons. One is ethics and environment but that has nothing to do with individual health. The second are the health concerns but whenever I see a study about these, the science is so bad as to not tell us anything. One study of a low carb approach using vegetarian sources and animal sources 'proved' that vegetable sources were better and animal sources helped cause cancer. However, if you looked at the numbers, both groups were consuming animal sources, just by different amounts and the 'animal group' had more smokers in it. Doesn't strike me as particularily controled or valid.

Friday, January 7, 2011

This is what makes me mad.

Hi all
Sorry to rant here but I can't resist. Please ignore if not interested.
Ok, so this is what just enrages me. Check this site out:
His arguments (badly formatted and all but that's not important) are as follows:
1. Atkins popularized the low carb diet in 1970, millions bought into it and the weight problem worsened. Again in 2002 this happened and the weight problem worsened. Therefore, it must not work.
2. He mentions a Hirsh Leibel 'study' from the 1950's and 60's which tested calories from different sources. So therefore a calorie is a calorie is a calorie.
3. He asks "please show me someone who, for an entire month, consumes 1,000 extra calories a day — without burning them off — solely from fat and protein and does not gain a pound. " Since no on has shown him this, it must not be true.

4. He says "If sugar in and of itself, regardless of how much was consumed, is the cause of obesity, why have rates in the United States skyrocketed only over the past twenty years?"

5. He talkes about total meat consumption going up along with total sugar consumption which resulted in higher total calorie count went up and must be the cause of excess obesity.

So the interesting thing is he is responding to an email in which the righter says every rebuttal to Taubes claims that obesity cannot be attributed to calories in - calories out has been 'high on rhetoric and low on science'. And his entire response is both (with the exception of the one study he sites which is not applicable).

To respond to his major points;

1. His argument that Atkins promoted the diet in the 1970s, and millions bought in but obesity increased on a macro level is completely ridiculous. The media, medical establishment, and nutritionists have all been giving the 'cut calories and exercise more' advice for the last 30 years and the obesity epidemic has worsened. By the same logic, that must be false as well.

2. The Hirsh Leibel study which he says proved that it is calories that matter doesn't apply (as I mentioned in a response). The study fed people diets of different macro nutrients and analysed the results (actually it is a 1992 review of a data from the 1950's and 60's). They excluded anyone that did not maintain a stable weight and as a result says NOTHING about the affect of different macro nutrient levels on weight loss. Again, ridiculous.

3. Gary Taubes does not say that you can consume an extra 1000 calories a day without burning them off and not have those calories stored and gain weight. What he does say is that in the absense of high levels of insulin, more of these calories will be available to burn and the result will be either you won't want to eat more (therefore you won't eat the excess calories) or your body will prompt you to be more active. That's a paraphrase.

4. I don't even understand what he is saying about the sugar thing. He says why have the obesity rates shot up only in the last 20 years and this is a reason sugar in and of itself cannot be the cause of obesity. It's actually be the last 30 years (since the 70's) which (at least according to the Sugar the Bitter Truth lecture by Robert Lustig) this corresponds with the increase in consumption of sugar and fructose). Weird argument.

5. He sites that increase meat consumption and increased sugar consumption = increased total calories (which is true) and therefore it is the increased total calories that is causing the obesity epidemic. I think, from reading both of Taubes books, he would argue, that the increase in the consumption of both can be explained by the increase in sugar (and other fattening carbohydrates) which caused the body to store more calories as fat and therefore have less energy available to burn causing people to want to eat more and not be active.

The basis of Taubes' books is that we are not getting fat because we are eating more and are less active, we are eating more and less active because we are eating fattening carbohydrates. These carbs are causing our bodies to store a greater proportion of the calories consumed as fat as opposed to making them available to the body to burn for energy and therefore we crave more calories. As a result of the craving we can eat more and/or conserve energy by not being active. He is arguing that it is the hormonal response to the food we eat that is driving weight gain and therefore driving the increased consumption and conservation of calories by our body in the form of eating more and exercising less. He (I believe) is arguing that while we can lose weight by eating less, our body will slow down it's energy usage and cause cravings before giving up the fat and unless we deal with the insulin, we are pretty much doomed to gain the weight back as soon as we stop forcing ourself to eat less and exercise.

I know from personal experience that trying to eat less and exercise without dealing with the carb issue is very hard and has definite pitfalls. I also know from personal experience that if I do deal with the carbs, eating less is very easy. I make an effort to deny myself anything but carbs and when I have calculated my intake, it is less than I take in with carbs.

I don't believe that this form of eating is for everyone. As that Chris Gardner in the "Battle of the Diets' video points out, it is alot better for those with insulin resistant. And frankly, those who need to lose weight the most (the obese) are far more likely to be insulin resistant. And in the end adherence is the most important thing.