Thursday, April 14, 2011

Egyptian Mummies & Heart Disease Confuse Researchers

It is funny how the wheel keeps spinning and we keep coming back to the same place when it comes to understanding theories of nutrition. Why? Because the wheel is broken; you can't stop the spin, it seems. That's how I felt this morning when reading the newspaper's article "The princess and the heart disease" written by Alan Bavley imported from Kansas City - yes, the Vancouver Sun grabbed hold of this article, thinking that, perhaps, it would offer insights into our current health problems.

The article's opening words were as follows: "She didn't smoke. Never ate a double-bacon cheeseburger. Never sacked out on the couch watching cable. Yet by the time she reached her early 40s, she was a candidate for a heart attack." Bavley was referring to Princess Ahmose-Meryet-Amon of Egypt's 17th Dynasty, some 3,600 years ago, whose mummified body turned out to be the oldest known case of coronary heart disease. This was part of a research that was presented at the annual meeting of the American College of Cardiology. The researchers discovered that 45% of the 52 Egyptian mummies they passed through a CT scan had signs of atherosclerosis. But the researchers wondered why such events occurred. Were not such diseases part of modern diseases of civilization? Why did it take place some 3,600 years ago? Randall Thompson, a cardiologist at St. Luke's Hospital in Kansas City said, "It looks like atherosclerosis you see on a CT scan of modern patients" yet "they didn't smoke" and they "didn't eat trans fat." Doctors like Thompson are puzzled because they see this as a modern disease yet their habits were not modern. So what gives?  There is a genetic factor. This is their way of explaining it. That was their spin on the issue. Perhaps, there were more infections the article said.

The difficulty of coming up with a reasonable  hypothesis about a disease that takes place thousands of years ago, is rooted in their ignorance of what low-carb researchers and thinkers have been saying for years. They are operating out of a paradigm whose foundations are no longer deemed to be solid - at least by the low car researchers & thinkers.

In November 2009, there was a study (BBC NEWS | Health | Ancients 'had heart disease too') that showed that 15 Egyptian mummies had developed atherosclerosis and challenged the view that such diseases were diseases of modern humans. Again, the conclusion was similar - "So humans in ancient times had the genetic predisposition and the environment to promote the development of heart disease," said Dr. Gregory Thomas of the University of California. The researchers based this on the fact that the Egyptians did not smoke, did not eat processed food, nor were they sedentary. The wheel of hypothesis keeps spinning.

Did it occur to researchers that the Egyptians ate the same diet we are being asked to eat - fruit, vegetables and plenty of grains? And avoid processed food? And lower the consumption of fat? It probably did occur to them. That is why they keep proposing the wrong explanation. They had to come up with something that cannot contradict the current dietary guidelines as set by government policy.

When it comes to nutrition & diet, the Egyptians were indeed modern because they were of the Neolithic period. After the transition to that agricultural moment in history, the diseases of civilization began to emerge. Hunter-gatherers of the Paleolithic period were free of these diseases - this has been pointed out many times by low-carb researchers, only to be ignored by the  mainstream researchers & media. Dr. Michael Eades once referred to the Egyptian diet as a modern "Nutritionist's nirvana." Low fat, high carb.

The diseases of civilization are a result of the high consumption of carbohydrates and these include grain and vegetables and fruits, not just sugar. Dietary fat - saturated & monounsaturated - are not even associated with cardiac events. The critique of the diet-heart hypothesis continues to be ignored by mainstream power brokers.

Year-long availability of carbhydrates coupled with a reduction of animal fat/protein emerged in the Neolithic period which transitioned the growth of civilizations. Ancestral/primal societies, who remained hunter-gatherers, were spared these "diseases of civilization." The hunter-gatherers remained on the Atkins diet.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Low-carb Solution is Nowhere in Sight

I just want to find closure on the week's six part series on sugar in the Vancouver Sun newspaper. In fact, from what I've read, the newspaper is pretty much in the dark about obesity and a solution for it - this is typical of mainstream thinking. It is locked into a paradigm that emerged some 45 years ago and can't seem to get out of that box.

 Wednesday's articles were pretty well standard - Tiffany Crawford's article "Juiced: Sugar in a bottle" reminds us that, although soda was banned - the first in Canada - in the province's schools a couple of years ago, kids continue to gulp the pop bottles. Slurpees, sodas, and other designer bottles and cans that attract kids are getting larger; some are filled with vitamins, and caffeine - the market is certainly attractive and seductive. The 2008 guidelines had justified its ban of junk food from vending machines and the cafeteria because in their words quoted in the article, drinks with no nutrients are  "clearly linked to obesity and tooth decay in children." But the kids are not deterred. However, new guidelines are slated for a revision in the fall of 2012 in the light of new products and new information.

Crawford's article points out that the Canada-U.S. Dietary Reference Intakes, which is a system of recommending nutritional intake taken from the Institute of Medicine that actually offers input to Health Canada's Food Guide, recommends 48 grams or 12 added teaspoons of sugar a day for a 2, 200 caloric diet. This excludes sugar found in milk and fruits. But, as Crawford points out, two 590 ml bottles of Mountain Dew gives you 60 grams of sugar - so, things are tight for the kids if they have to count calories. Bottom line here is that calories are a problem because these calories have no-trade off value -they are empty. Better to eat fruit, at least there are vitamins and anti-oxidants although the low-carb community has often enough pointed out that the vitamin and anti-oxidant buzz is much ado about nothing. Pound for pound, animal products out perform fruits and vegetables when it comes to offering nutrients. But that's an important issue for another day. It is a topic area that mainstream dietitians and so-called nutrient experts fail to note - they avoid the issue like the plague because, to them, animal products are saturated with fat and fat is evil.

The other article in the same paper is by Randy Shore titled "Morning treats can pack a high-calorie punch." Take note - the "treats", meaning sugar,  are associated with calories - the focus here is on muffins, doughnuts, and cookies rather than sugar in the pop/liquid form. This pretty well continues the general thrust of the series on sugar, namely its caloric content via sugar. The implication is that it will make you fat and has no nutrients. I have no problem with that. My problem is this: what are they going to replace these empty calories with? For biological reasons, I do not think that grains, fruits, and vegetables are a reasonable "healthy" option. Readers of low-carb/paleo blogs as well as readers of  the growing scientific literature on the matter should know the negative effects these carbs have - lectins and phytates prevent the absorption of nutrients, anti-oxidants are nature's organic pesticides, fruits contain fructose, and we all know about the effects of gluten. Furthermore, carbs turn to glucose in the body. Do they have an answer for that?

Randy Shore, with another article the next day, opened the question - "Is the fat tax the answer?" The Canadian Medical Association and the B.C. Medical Association are in favour of such an approach, thinking that since it worked for tobacco it should work for sugar. Somehow I doubt it. Contraband doughnuts anyone? Not everyone agrees. The debate is on. I think the industry would make the products cheaper to balance the tax hike so that kids can keep buying the product.  Of course, Shore leaves the last word for Dr. Perry Kendall, the provincial health officer, who says that tax alone as a control measure will not work - it has to be tied with physical activity and parents have to be on board with being role models and promoting awareness. Folks, this is the same advice of the last 45 years. I challenge anyone to go back to the archives and see what was said. It is old advice; it has not worked. The same mantra over and over, again and again for 45 years. And what has happened in the last 45 years - an epidemic of obesity, diabetes, heart disease and other diseases of civilization the likes we've never seen before. The American Standard Diet (SAD) being advocated is not a proper diet; it is based on the food pyramid we've all seen. The pyramid continues to be the model on how to eat - avoid sugar, eat grain, fruits and veggies (plenty of it) avoid fats. Oh yes, exercise. Telling people to cut back on saturated fat didn't work; now they have a new demon - sugar. It is a start in the right direction but the missing calories (when one eliminates sugar)  have to come from somewhere. People need calories for energy; we want to exercise and so we need calories - if not from sugar, then, from where? Fat? It is nutrient-dense; it satiates. But the medical profession does not want to go there. Other carbs? The low/carb/paleo community knows better than to go there. We are at the crossroad and we are stuck - there is no end in sight.

The final epistle comes from the editors of the Vancouver Sun newspaper - they refer to it as "the newspaper's view" and the title of the editorial is "Walk the walk on childhood obesity crisis." Here the paper displays a pathetic paternalistic arrogance - "If there's one thing we know, it's that childhood obesity is a serious problem in Canada. And if there are two other things we know, it's what causes childhood obesity and what needs to be done to prevent it." Because the newspaper editors know it all they wonder why the federal government has included a website that allows Canadian citizens to weigh in on the issue before proceeding with their report in the near future. Why do we need input from the public "given how much we already know about childhood obesity and how to prevent it?" As I've hinted on occasion, the Vancouver Sun does not understand the issue thoroughly. This is what they recommend: " "As far as diet is concerned, we know that children and youth should eat between six and eight servings of fruits and vegetables a day...." Really? There is no biological need to do that according to the low-carb/paleo community; I've hinted at the negative implications of doing such a thing.  They also say that "we know that kids who are physically active perform better both physically and mentally, yet more than half of children and youth between six and 19 are not active enough for optimal healthy growth and development." The fallacy of confusing cause and effect is being made here. It is mentally fit and alert kids who get physical and active. Those in a "mental fog" do not feel like engaging in physical activity. The mentally fit ones are fueled by proper nutrients. Mental events determine if one is to be active or not -not the other way around. As the low-carb/paleo community knows, the lack of exercise does not make us fat; being fat inhibits our desire to exercise & play sports.

Once again, the urgency displayed by the newspaper editorial group seems to be like the George McGovern senate committee, which would not listen to the debate over whether fat/cholesterol does or does not cause heart disease & allow it to be resolved by discussion from scientists, but forged ahead to create the mess we are in by making it government policy to demonize fat and allow the food industries to change our eating habits - remove traditional fat & replace it with inflammatory fats (polyunsaturated) and replace the calories lost from fat and be replaced by carbs - the ones I've demonized. The current advice suggested by the newspaper is wrong and the government should know about it.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

There's More to Sugar Than Obesity

Next in line (Tuesday) with the Vancouver Sun newspaper series on sugar, I've been blogging about, was an article by Pamela Fayerman ("A Weighty issue: How much sugar is too much?") in which she argues that sugar is a double-edged sword - on the one hand it is needed but on the other hand it also makes us fat.

Fayerman begins her article by citing a study of Tufts University in the Journal of Nutrition thirty years ago that showed that sugar, regardless of what form it took, accounts for weight gain. Rats eating sugar gained more weight than rats who didn't consume sugar and they also had larger appetites - it seems that the drive toward a bigger appetite is signaled by blood sugar swings. According to Dr. Michael Lyon, an obesity researcher at the University of British Columbia, cited by Fayerman, maintains that "overweight people tend to have highly variable blood sugar levels and that rapid drop in blood sugar in these people result in frequent, and often inappropriate, urges to eat. Likewise when blood sugar is stabilized in these people, the frequency and intensity of appetite sensation decreases dramatically." Fayerman points out that this negative view of sugar is balanced by its good point, thus making sugar a "necessary evil" - she says, "Carbohydrates, derived from sugars and starches, are as essential as water, fats, and proteins." Wrong, wrong, and wrong.

Fayerman supports the often mistaken view that carbs are necessary for health by pointing out that brain cells depend on glucose - true, but she does not understand that during starvation, fasting, or a ketogenic diet the body makes 120 grams of glucose (not sugar from the table which is half fructose) that the brain runs on from either amino acids or the glycerol backbone of triglycerides. There is no need for sugar or any type of carbohydrates. Dr. Jonny Bowden, often during his seminars, will do the following demonstration  - he will divide his listeners into two groups like the Survivor show and imagine them being on a desert island for a year - one group will be on one side of the island, the other group on the other side. One group will be fed nothing but protein and fat for one year (no carbs) and the other group will have nothing but carbohydrates with zero fats and proteins. What will happen when they are rescued? Only half will be rescued because one group will have all died. The group consuming carbs will not survive. Without fat or protein you cannot live long at all. As Bowden bluntly puts it: " there is no physiological need for carbohydrates in the human diet." This claim is supported from the anthropological literature and molecular biology.

Fayerman's article continues with a quick summary of the linear progression: from carbs to glucose to glycogen and/or fat tissues. She then warns us of the dangers of high fructose corn syrup filed under the umbrella of the metabolic syndrome - basically it means weight gain especially from visceral fat and  increases in blood circulating triglycerides among other things. What is left out by Fayerman - because the focus is on "sweets" - is the fact that grains, fruits, and vegetables contribute to weight gain. Why? Because they all translate into glucose; the body converts them all to glucose not just sugar and/or fructose. And fructose is the sugar of fruits. She misses the whole picture. Where's the forest and where's the trees? Furthermore, there is no mention of what fructose does to the liver. It does what alcohol does -   it fattens it up. It is called non-alcoholic fatty liver disease and it is on the rise among youth just like Type 2 diabetes. The focus on obesity hides the full impact of the "sweets" as expressed in the metabolic syndrome, or better still, the diseases of civilization hurried along by what Dr. Kurt Harris refers to as the "neolithic agents" - the carbs.

Is Sugar Addictive?

Peter McKnight's article ("Sweet on sugar"), in the second of the six-part series on sugar (se previous blog entry), weighs in on the question of whether or not sugar is addictive. He points out that the topic attracts a lot of people, especially professionals in the medical business. And the topic of addiction is found on all fronts: shopping, exercise, video games and so on. This is because the definition of addiction is vague - it could apply to anything. But  the world of psychiatry and psychology have identified underlying aspects such as changes in brain chemistry. To illustrate, if sugar is addictive, one can simply demonstrate that it produces those underlying elements (changes to brain chemistry) that identify it with addiction.

McKnight refers to a "comprehensive" study produced by a team of psychologists at Princeton University led by Bart Hoebel which is often cited as proof that sugar is addictive. This was a study that divided rats into several groups. One group (experimental)  had 12 hours of free access to their daily food with sugar water, then deprived them of anything for another 12 hours. This group was compared with three other groups - rats who always had access to the food and sugar; rats who had access only to food (no sugar water), either  all the time or in periods of 12 hours. The experimental group did display behavours that were in tune with the three stages of addiction according to the American Psychiatric Association - bingeing, followed by symptoms of withdrawal - anxiety & depression - and lastly, craving characterized by pressing the lever that dispenses sugar water more readily than those of the control groups. Changes to brain chemistry in a specific area (nucleus accumbens) were also found among the experimental group - increases to dopamine took place, similar to that of the effect of morphine and cocaine. So, addiction is real with respect to the consumption of sugar. So what? McKnight points out that critics like neuroscientist David Benton argue that music, humour, winning a game, smiling faces and so forth have similar outcomes - the release of dopamine. Benton argues that the dopamine becomes "habituated" - hence, it subsequently releases less and less dopamine. What is important is that destructive drugs never produces "habituation." A drug like morphine is alien to our bodies, carbohydrates, not so. But the study did show that the experimental rats never got habituated - the control group did not display signs of addiction. Hoebel admits that addiction to sugar is possible if we approach it like the experimental group. McKnight concludes that, since most humans do not eat that way, then "the risk of developing an addictive to sugar is effectively nil."

 What McKnight fails to grasp is that obese people are not like slim people; diabetics are not like non-diabetics. McKnight says that those who eat naturally won't become addicted to sugar. The answer needs to be qualified - in the short term - because what McKnight fails to understand is that the problem is not sugar but carbohydrates; starches, like sugar, enter the bloodstream as glucose (sugar is half fructose -which is works differently than sugar but more insidiously). Furthermore McKnight says that "surveys suggest that most people don't crave sugar per se. Rather they tend to crave foods high in both fat and sugar, with a majority of the energy coming from fat." Uhh? Sugar is not addictive but only if combined with fat? Ice cream? McKnight's logic fails him here - taste is confused with addiction; fats are not addictive at all; they are needed by the body much more so than sugar; they carry the fat soluble vitamins and minerals and fat soluble phyto-chemicals needed by cells in the body. Sugar does none of this.

 Here's the statement that tells me McKnight does not comprehend simple biology - "research suggests that cravings for sugary foods tend to decrease the longer people stay on low-calorie diets." Combine that statement with this one: " Since cravings ought to increase when people abstain from sugar, this provides further evidence that sugar isn't addictive in and of itself." First of all people on low calorie diets are on high carb diets - fruits, grain, and vegetables are all treated by the body (insulin) as a sugar. Glucose by any other name is still glucose; the body does not play semantic games. It is the instability of blood glucose that stimulates the craving - it may not be sugar; it may be pasta, bread, fruit. Want to eliminate the craving? Try low -carb. Blood sugar will stabilize and become normal - craving for sugar (and other carbs) will disappear. McKnight's  view, that those who eat in a natural way should not fear becoming addicted to sugar, is correct only if the natural way is the low carb way of eating. Somehow I doubt that that is what he means.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Sugar -the media's latest demon

Starting on Saturday March 12th the Vancouver Sun newspaper ran a six-day series of articles on sugar. It seems that everyone is hooked on this topic these days. But as I'll point out, half the story is missing. An interesting thing to note is that these articles were all written by journalist/reporters of the paper - no dietician, no nutritionist. In general most of the information was correct but they did leave out what I consider the relevant stuff - the inside scoop -  what goes on at the molecular level of the body. Looking at sugar from the  lens of sociology is fine but it does not get to the crux of the matter - how to conquer the demon, sugar.

The first article ("Sugar: The new pariah") by Randy Shore begins the series by looking at statistics that confirm the high cost of obesity ($30 billion in Canada in health cost and lost productivity) and equates it with the high consumption of sugar in the form of pop - the average Canadian consumes 24 kg. of sugar & 36 two-litre bottles of pop a year. Shore points out that, although sugar consumption has deceased from 33 kilos a year per person (1960s) to the current 24 kilos, 90% of of sugar consumption comes in packaged processed foods - Shore seems to hint that processed sugar is bad but the traditional "home" cooking with sugar makes it good. Sugar is sugar.

Shore points out that the data from Statistics Canada does not include high fructose corn syrup -after the introduction of HFCS in the 1980s consumption rose to 96 litres a year (2001) but has dropped to 72 litres per year yet obesity levels in the last ten years has increased. Why? According to Shore, the problem is not sugar!!!! It is "our relationships with food and with each other." Uhh? Shore is supported on this by Sheila Innis, director of nutrition and metabolism research program at the University of British Columbia. The point here is that the makers of processed food have eliminated fat from products, due to pressure from a fat-phobic society and replaced it with sugar for flavour. Hence, the major portion of sugar is not from home but from packages - the consumption of sugar has been taken away from our control. But Innis refused to point at one specific factor to account for the obesity epidemic - to her it is "a good energy source" and "has a lot going for it." But if it is a good energy source what's wrong with it? And if obesity is equated with couch potatoes, then why are the couch potatoes just sitting there? Wouldn't they jump up from the couch and run because they are energized? Sugar is energy. Why are the obese so sluggish? Innis claims sugars are a good source of energy. Clearly, the biological explanation of the sapping of energy by high consumption of sugar is missing here or it is not understood. What Shore or Innis do not understand is that obesity is a disease of the mis-management of energy - we become tired and lack energy because that energy source (glucose)  derived from carbohydrates is stored as fat. We do not get fat because we are not active, we are not active because we are fat - over consumption of  sugar depletes us of our energy - it gets stored as fat.

Shore continues on to say that sugar in the form of pop and snacks offer calories without the nutrition. For Shore, sugar at "home" is better because, at least, it is used to make nutritious food. Umm. This is like saying that a criminal is not so bad if he robs a rich guy rather than a poor guy. Sugar is good if you eat it with  a home-cooked pie but not when the pie is bought at the super market. Shore ignores the biological fact that any sugar stimulates the production of insulin no matter where it comes from. Innis explains that the body handles sugar differently if eaten with protein and fat. So what! The article started by lamenting that the over-consumption of sugars as being associated with the current epidemic of obesity - wouldn't avoiding it at home lead toward a solution? It really doesn't matter if sugar is consumed with or without protein and fat.

Shore finishes off his article by asking whether sugar is addictive or not. Why do we crave the "rush that sugar gives us?" Shore refers to a psychological theory that sugar fills a void in our life - "we eat out of a sense of meaning" according to Bruce Alexander, professor emeritus at Simon Fraser University. Alexander suggests that food makes us bond as a family as a society - those addicted to sugar are not connected to society. It is funny how the article trails off on this note and yet does not get to the crux of the matter - unstable glucose in the blood is the catalyst of that craving. Putting things in our body is not like putting on clothes; molecules and hormones are activated.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Fibre is a Wrong Solution for Weight Loss

Lately I've been afraid of opening the newspaper because I know that the Vancouver Sun runs, on Mondays, a whole section of the paper on Health with sub-sections on nutrition, aging, healthy lifestyles and so forth. Today was another of those awful days where I am exposed to junk information by that dietician-in residence, so it seems, Patricia Chuey. This time her article reads: "Control weight with high-fibre carbs." Neat, eh?

 What bothers me is how a newspaper, based in Canada's third largest metropolitan area, allows itself to promote a point of view that is so yesterday - the dietary advice is more than 45 years old; it really took root in the 60s. and became a government policy in the 70s. That advice has been adhered to -the stats say so -and yet we are stuck in the eye of a metabolic storm that we have never seen before.  The very advice that people like Patricia Chuey is giving us in 2011 has been responsible for the growth of the diseases of civilization - obesity, diabetes, heart disease, cancer, myopia, sub-cutaneous papilloma, non-alcoholic fatty liver disease, diverticulitis, gallstones etc.... And prior to 1960 there were no gyms in America; nobody owned a treadmill; running and jogging as a form of exercise/lifestyle had not even captured the imagination of nations -yet, it is only after these were institutionalized that the rise in obesity, diabetes, cancers, heart disease began to rise in an unprecedented manner. So much for healthy living.

Today's newspaper article promotes another aspect of healthy living - eat high fibre carb to uphold weight loss. Here's Chuey's own words: "Since a key weight-loss strategy is to make half the plate vegetables in most meals, eliminating carbs is illogical. Eating an abundance of vegetables boosts fibre intake ....A high-fibre diet of quality carbs assists in long term weight maintenance." She warns us that "wrong carbs are everywhere" - but advises us that we can't go wrong with "whole wheat, barley, oats, rye, quinoa, amaranth, millet, and brown rice." These are quality carbs along with the fruits and vegetables. Why? Because they promote satiety and this results in less over-eating. Let's review the history of why the need for fibre is so ingrained in mainstream thinking -it goes along side by side with fat phobia. Fearing saturated fats ranks right up there with the fear of terrorists; previously it was communism. Fibre is the answer to avoiding being clogged up by fat; as if the plumbing metaphor were true - it is not.

Barry Groves (in his book Trick and Treat) says the idea that fibre is essential for health goes back to 1932 when the "New Health " movement suggested that roughage could increase the passage of stools and this would decrease intestinal disorders but thirty years later, while working in Africa, a doctor by the name of Denis Burkitt took note that rural African people had much less cases of colon cancer than Europeans and Americans. He thought that this was due to their diet, specifically vegetables, on the assumption that food remaining in the gut for a long time would result in cancer, for which there was no evidence. Later when these rural folks migrated to urban areas these incidence of cancer was still very low - they had shifted to a low fibre diet.  In any case, Burkitt's thesis was quickly hijacked by the media & was given sensational newsworthy headlines. Gary Taubes, (in Good Calories, Bad Calories) points the finger at Robert Rodale, a nationally syndicated columnist, who wrote a series of articles in the early 1970s in the Washington Post, "touting fiber as the answer to heart disease and obesity." Later, studies showed that Mormons in Utah ate a low -fibre diet yet had very low rates of  colon cancer but the media ignored this (Sounds familiar?). Burkitt's hypothesis was also hijacked by those with commercial interests - bran soon became the darling of the healthy crowd since it has a higher fibre content than vegetables; bran had been a useless by-product of the milling process, now it was a "healthy" food; the African folks never ate it. It is ironic that Burkitt died of colon cancer.

Throughout the 1980s up until the 1990s no studies had shown that fibre protects against colon cancer. In 1999 the New England Journal of Medicine confirmed this with a study that included over 88,000 women. What they found though, unexpectedly, was an association between consuming a high vegetable derived fibre and a 35% increase of colorectal cancer. Six years later a cohort study published in JAMA suggested that fibre, indeed increased the chances of getting cancer. But what is important, and this seems to occur more often than not, was that the researchers wrote an opposite point of view in the abstract - they denied what the data suggested. As Groves writes: " "Although the abstract of the study said that people with the highest intakes of fibre had a reduced risk of colon cancer, that was exactly the opposite of what the study data showed." In his book Good Calories, Bad Calories, Gary Taubes came across many similar studies where researchers, in blatant fashion, denied the very thing that their studies show.

It all comes down to this: poop has to remain in the intestines in order for the nutrients to be absorbed; removing it out too quickly will lead to the body getting less nutrients,, especially the fat soluble ones. The poop has to be large to slide down touching the intestinal wall at a slow rate for proper absorption - it has to be binding; it cannot be mushy. This allows the gut wall to absorb zinc, iron, phosphorus, magnesium and a bunch of other nutrients. This happens on a low-carb diet, not one that is full of fibre.

  Fibre has no place in a healthy diet. Constipation is not a by-product of the low carb diet - in fact, in may take place initially when the gut flora is trying to adjust to a new dietary style but in the long run, one will use less toilet paper and be in the loo a lot less. The poop should be quite long in length and be in the shape of the intestines - cylinder shape.

Another reason to avoid fibre is that it contains phytates - phytic acid is found in cereals as well as soya and other legumes and what this does is prevent the absorption of nutrients, especially zinc, iron, and calcium. They take away nutrients from the body. In addition, large amounts of fibre "scratches and tears" cells of the gut wall and when it is constantly being assaulted the cells cannot repair themselves. As Robb Wolf (in The Paleo Solution) points out, "once the gut lining is damaged, we are at exceptionally high risk of autoimmune disease ... and several types of cancers, including non-Hodgkin's lymphoma." Fibre does not confer any long term benefits - in fact quite the opposite. Fibre makes nutrients unavailable to us in more than one way - by avoiding animal products we are deprived of seriously needed nutrients.

 Until 10, 000 years ago, grains were never part of the human diet; evolution never got the chance, through natural selection, to design our bodies to consume them; it may, but it would take at least  hundreds of thousands of years. Mother Nature has designed us to be meat eaters primarily. To think that fibre is healthy is laughable in the light of science (I've barely touched the surface)-  the dogma of fibre has no scientific basis; it is grounded in speculative thinking, fueled by commercial interest, absorbed by a fat -phobic gullible public, misunderstood by a medical profession, and promoted by an ignorant and biased media. The low carb community may argue over the pros and cons of dairy, nuts, vegetables with respect to quality and quantity but it seems to be unanimous over the issue of grain - leave it to the birds.

Monday, January 31, 2011

Scientific American Magazine: Looking at the Wrong Solution for Obesity

You could forgive the media for its often ignorant position concerning obesity and nutrition but when the same ignorance is displayed on a magazine that is oriented toward the scientific community and its adherents, one has to wonder to what extent does this ignorance steer people away from exploring the right questions and answers.

The recent issue (February 2011) of Scientific American takes a stab at the scientific view of obesity and offers a remedy. In the article "How to fix the obesity crisis" author David H. Freedman wonders why is it so hard to lose weight and keep it off if the way to do it is simply "consume fewer calories than you expand." The low-carb community will recognize this as the "calories -in/calories-out dogma that is questioned by a number of reputable researchers. yet he admits that not much of a dent has been made in dealing with the current epidemic. Freedman tells us that the best approach to solving the obesity epidemic would be "to build on reliable behavioral-psychology methods developed over 50 years and proved to work in hundreds of studies."

It is interesting that in recent years the behaviorists have zoomed in on another area of human failures  - obesity and ready to treat it as if it were merely a psychological/behavioral problem. The behaviors to be corrected are over eating and maintaining a sedentary lifestyle. Forget biochemistry, forget molecular biology, forget that we are organisms pushed and pulled, twisted and re-twisted with molecules, hormones, and various chemicals. No, we are nothing but a series of behavioral events being manipulated by the environment - on the outside - and therefore obesity can be remedied through behavioral therapy. But don't carbs cause insulin to behave in a certain way? What about the regulation of lipoproteins? Are they behavioral events in and of themselves? The behaviorists don't seem to care - we are an event in an outside world - the inner world does not matter. It is all about friends, economics, food shelves, predispositions, taste buds and so on.

Freedman points out that as early as the 1960s studies based on behaviorism recognized "some basic conditions" that link themselves to the success of losing weight and keeping it off - measure calories, exercise, make small changes, eat balanced meals, and lower fats. Is he confusing correlation and cause? What Freeman does not look into are the numerous studies that show this so-called link to be at the root of the current epidemic. The link is a lie; it is a myth that we have been inundated with. Counting  calories, replacing fats with carbs, and exercising have all come under attack in recent years. Unfortunately Freeman seems to be unaware of it. He wants to fortify that very wrong approach with behavioral modification in order to correct the shortcomings of approaches like Weight Watchers by tailoring it for individuals rather than take the traditional "one fits all" approach. Are we supposed to hire our own behaviorist to deal with our obesity issues in the same way that psychoanalysis has always operated one on one? It would seem so when reading this article.

For Freedman, it seems that only behaviorists can get us to do a better job of counting calories, be motivated to exercise, avoid fats and so on. That is, until the pharmaceutical companies find the solution. As he says, "someday biology will provide us with a pill that readjusts our metabolism so we burn more calories or resets our built-in cravings so we prefer broccoli to burgers."

It is obvious that Freedman is out of touch with recent developments in the low-carb scientific community. Perhaps, he chooses to ignore it but, in any case, the article diminishes the stature of Scientific American. To uphold a dogma that has failed us and say it only needs to be improved with a new twist puts the brakes on critical thinking and innovative research.

Freedman supports a point of view that has been a monumental failure for more than 40 years and it comes just when the new updated 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans comes out, once again, in favor of this misguided and wrong approach to obesity. The guidelines will continue to fuel this wrong approach and Freedman's solution will not help. The root cause is not understood. Knowing the cause is the first thing needed before one embarks on a remedy. This failure is given tacit approval by Scientific American magazine.

At the end of the article under the heading of "more to explore" Freedman cites the following works: B.F. Skinner, About Behaviorism, Vintage 1974; Michael F. Rozen and Mehmet C. Oz, You on a Diet: The Owner's Manual for Waist Management, Free Press, 2006; Nia S. Mitchell et al., Determining the Effectiveness of Take Off Pounds Sensibly (TOPS), published online; the National Institutes of Health website:  That says it all.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Nutritional Stupidity - it is everywhere, especially in the news.

Here we go again - I opened the morning paper and there she was - again. A media darling, she is  British Columbia's go-to dietitian when advice is needed. She is up-beat, charming and so on but .... woefully ignorant or misinformed about nutrition. She is a spokesperson for the "lie" that I mentioned in previous posts. A few days ago I posted my rant about how she upholds the misguided mantra that carbs cause no harm - not even diabetes.

Today Patricia's little sidebar nutritional advice in the Vancouver Sun newspaper counsels us that we should consume healthy fats and reduce intake of bad fats. Because we should consume the fats that "nourishes cells, provides key nutrients and helps our heart instead of the kind that adds unwarranted weight or clogs arteries." Notice how she uses the same word that has been used for more than 40 years to illustrate and paint or draw a picture in your mind about what "bad" things saturated fat do - "it clogs arteries." She then babbles on about oatmeal, whole grain toast, whole grains blah blah blah ....

The newspaper is the worst place to learn about fats and these little sidebar tidbits that passes itself as sound advice is relentless in its recital of 40 years of dietary nonsense. Patricia, here's an inconvenient truth for you: beef fat is 45% unsaturated; chicken skin is 70% unsaturated; butter is 30% unsaturated; lard is 60% unsaturated. They rank right up there with your beloved olive oil.

Here's a bit of history taken from Gary Taubes' research - by the early 1960s there were two competing hypotheses that needed to be tested. The American Heart Association had, by 1961, sided with Ancel Keys' view that fat/cholesterol were at the root of heart disease. The other hypothesis was the view that high levels of triglycerides were at the root of heart disease as well. It was already established  that triglycerides are raised by the consumption of carbohydrates. The research was dominated by those who held to Keys' hypothesis; not surprising considering the difficulties of measuring triglycerides (with a paucity of facilities to do so) as opposed to measuring total cholesterol.

Meanwhile, with advances in technology, research uncovered that there are a number of different types of lipoproteins: VLDL, LDL, HDL, and chylomicrons; from this came the classification of metabolic lipoprotein disorders - low fat diets could remedy high LDL and low carb diets could rectify abnormally high triglycerides. Soon HDL was able to be measured in large populations and it confirmed studies conducted in the 1950s - that when HDL is high, triglycerides are low and vice versa. This meant that triglycerides and HDL are more important factors or markers for heart disease than total cholesterol. It was obvious that a low-carb diet would be beneficial if one did not want to have a cardiac event. Raising HDL would seem to be a better way than to lower LDL or total cholesterol - but there was too much money invested in Keys' hypothesis.

January 17, 1977 was when the studies on HDL, which were so promising in terms of offering salvation against heart disease, came three days after the U.S.A. government announced the publication of the Dietary Goals for the United States in which it promoted a low-fat , high carb diet for all Americans based on Keys' fraudulent research and a lack of further evidence. Like lemmings, the rest of the world followed.

There were critics that railed against Keys' position, rightly so, but George McGovern and his committee  could not wait any longer - he had to show the American people that the government was going to do something/anything. Politics ran over science. Replace fats with carbs was the order of the day. What had been discovered about HDL was ignored but problems arose.

The researchers were faced with a dilemma. Replacing fats with carbs would increase triglycerides. But this would also decrease HDL - the good cholesterol; so, replace fats with polyunsaturated fats was the decision. But these industrial oils were suspected of being carcinogenic. So reducing fat became the advice. By 1980 any discussions of the effect of carbs on HDL were silenced - the advice now was to raise HDL through exercise and losing weight. The way to lose weight was by implementing the low-fat, high carb diets.

Then a way out of the dilemma appeared when it was discovered that there was a way to lower LDL while at the same time raise HDL. And this could happen without adding more carbs or fat to the diet - monounsaturated fats such as olive oil with its oleic acid content was the answer. Monounsaturated fats were neutral. Saturated fats raise both LDL and HDL; carbs lower HDL but also lowers LDL. monounsaturated fats raise HDL and lowers LDL. The Mediterranean diet was "in" but they could not figure out if it was because of a rise in HDL or a decrease in LDL that benefits could be acquired.

But here's the stinker - let Gary Taubes finish it off:

     "The observation that monounsaturated fats both lower LDL cholesterol and raise HDL also came with an ironic twist; the principal fat in red meat, eggs, and bacon is not saturated fat, but the very same monounsaturated fat as in olive oil. The implications are almost impossible to believe after three decades of public-health recommendations suggesting that any red meat consumed should be at least lean, with any excess of fat removed.
     Consider a porterhouse steak with a quarter-inch layer of fat. After broiling, this steak will reduce to almost equal parts fat and protein. Fifty-one percent of the fat is monounsaturated, of which 90 percent is oleic acid. Saturated fat constitutes 45 percent of the total fat, but a third of that is stearic acid, which will increase HDL cholesterol while having no effect on LDL (stearic acid is metabolized in the body to oleic acid, according to Grundy's research). The remaining 4 percent of the fat is polyunsaturated, which lowers LDL cholesterol  but has no meaningful effect on HDL. In sum, perhaps as much as 70 percent of the fat content of a porterhouse steak will improve the relative levels of LDL and HDL cholesterol, compared with what they would be  if carbohydrates such as bread, potatoes, or pasta were consumed. The remaining 30 percent will raise LDL cholesterol but will also raise HDL cholesterol and will have an insignificant effect, if any, on the ratio of total cholesterol to HDL. All of this suggests that eating a porterhouse steak in lieu of bread or potatoes would actually reduce heart-disease risk, although virtually no nutritional authority will say so publicly. The same is true for lard and bacon." (Good Calories, Bad Calories, pp. 168-169).

Sunday, January 23, 2011

What's in a Myth? Stupidity.

Recently I opened my morning paper (Vancouver Sun, Saturday, January 22, 2011) and was jolted out of my seat when my eyes glanced at the title of a article: "Hands off my statins (and please pass the steak)." The article simply underscores the stupidity of mainstream thinking when it assumes that (saturated) fat leads to cholesterol which, in turn leads to a heart attack. This myth is so saturated (pardon the pun) in our mindset that we actually believe it - it has become mainstream dogma. The result can lead one to embrace a stupid way of living.

Andrew Brown, the author, admits to taking a statin, knowingly that he may be "imperiling" his health because of various possible side effects. On the advice of his doctor, because he had "raised cholesterol" and a family history of heart disease, Brown readily buys into the belief that a pill is the answer to avoiding future cardiac events - as he says, " I believe in it .... I'm more inclined to welcome wonder drugs with enthusiasm than to be skeptical ... I listen to the good it can do and tune out the stuff about side-effects." He also readily admits that "I'm temperamentally inclined to trust the latest products of the pharmaceutical laboratory."

 Is this what the modern world has come to to be? Yes, this is indeed the world that pharmaceutical companies are trying to create. Have you noticed the advertisements these days? Pills are offered for everything. Perhaps it is a noble idea; after all, we wear glasses to see better (if needed), we use binoculars to see distance, scientists use microscopes to overcome the limitations of our eyesight. But Mr. Brown says that he has been on statins because it  is "massively more convenient for me to have this backup that somehow mops up some of the fats in my diet." This is a better option than "to enforce on myself the strictures of an unpalatable low-fat diet." Brown goes on to say that "I love my food. I enjoy a varied diet that does contain cheese, cream, red meat, and butter." What???

He seems to want to eat the "low-carb" way - yet he is very afraid of its outcome. I could just see Dr. Atkins turning in his grave as if experiencing a bad dream. It sort of reminds me how often doctors allow their patients to lose weight on the low-carb diet while at the same time warning them of long-term consequences. That fat results in "cardiac events" is the prevailing myth. But in this case Mr. Brown is deprived of worry - he's got the statin; the future looks bright. Why fear heart attacks? The statin is preventive medicine. There is no mention in the article that he has a weight problem and he does admit that "I haven't, to my knowledge, had any cardiac events."

Is it possible that Mr. Brown has made this up? Could he be trying to bait the readers to write in and offer their opinions on the matter - certainly the article raises more than just health issues. It raises ethical questions regarding the artificiality of the modern world - he may take statins but others take botox. Are pills the answer? Is it as smart as putting on a helmet when riding a bike -that seems to make sense; parents watching their kids my not dispute that. But the comparison is not similar. Riding a bike does pose its risks. Eating fat does not - at least not in an absolute way.

The causal link between fat and heart disease goes back to the work of Ancel Keys and his diet-heart hypothesis. Dr. Jonny Bowden (in his book Living Low Carb) summarized the history of this notion this way: " Keys concluded that cholesterol is a cause of heart disease, saturated fat causes a rise in cholesterol, and therefore saturated fat causes heart disease. Key's seven-country study became the basis for dietary policy for more than three decades, indirectly birthed the fat phobia of the 80s, and indirectly spawned an entire bureaucracy devoted to lowering cholesterol (the National Cholesterol Education Program) and also to producing some of the most profitable pharmaceutical drugs in history."

 The diet-heart hypothesis has been discredited - but the media and the majority of doctors still uphold the dogma. Why? Because they refuse to look at the history and scientific studies from that point onwards and even going backwards to uncover its threads - it has been ignored. Why? Too many careers are at stake. For doctors and the media and the drug companies and governments to suddenly turn around and say "yes, we were wrong, we take it back" amounts to career suicide and a questioning of the integrity that is demanded of our health care practitioners. Litigation would be the order of the day. For more than 40 years we have been presented with a lie- the one believed by Andrew Brown and his doctor. The scientific studies and books that are currently being published suggest that it has all been a big fat lie as Gary Taubes has boldly been asserting since his 2002 article in the New York Times. The current position of the low-carb community is this: fats (saturated & monounsaturated) are good; avoid polyunsaturated types - they are inflammatory; refined carbs are bad - avoid grains and sugar/fructose.

The way that Andrew wishes to eat - loaded on fats - is good. For millions of years of our evolution, fat has been the preferred dietary staple, supported by plants. Our bodies never evolved to eat out of a box, or a package. My advice to Andrew - throw away your pills, eat two steaks a day (with eggs), drink water, eat organ meats, once or twice a week; eat some veggies (a few berries); enjoy the sun. That's it. Oh yes, I forgot - tell your doctor to take a hike.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Defining Low-Carb

The concept of  "low-carb" should be easy to understand but there have been times when researchers have missed the point. We have seen instances where the clinical trials held 100 grams of carb/day as "low-carb."Of course, the results are not what they should be when such a diet is compared to the Standard American Diet in these studies. The low-carb way of eating means that fat is being consumed in the place of carbs. Hospitals and doctors, who are currently treating children for seizures using the "low-carb" approach, are generally worried about the long-term results. The seizures go away but they worry about what looms on the horizon for these kids. They worry that the price for success in one therapeutic outcome will exact a price somewhere else on the horizon. After the seizures are gone along come the heart problems - that is what they think.

The low-carb community consists of those who are trying to promote the view that, since the 1970s, the American Standard Diet, supported by multinational corporations, health agencies, and governments, has impacted the health and well-being of countless people in a negative way - the results are the diseases of civilization - obesity, heart disease, diabetes, cancer, and a host of others. Researchers are scared of experimenting with very low-carb intake; researchers, eliminating seizures through the low-carb diet, are afraid of the long term effects; doctors, who have long noted that low-carb diets reduce tumors, are afraid to support it in public. Mainstream society seems to think fat is bad and to be avoided; the low-carb community has an opposite view - it is not fat that is the problem, it is the carbs - the foods that are not in tune with our evolutionary journey.

The idea of eating fat in place of carbs is the universal maxim of the low carb lifestyle, often referred to as "paleo." The differences between the two are minimal -paleo avoids dairy because the "caveman" didn't drink it. They have to be understood within a context. To illustrate this, I've gathered (in no special order) a number of low-carb advocates from my blog list and see how they are similar and different in their presentations of what constitutes a low-carb diet or a low-carb way of life.

Some blogs lay it out in detail and some don't, but the gist of what low carb is actually does clarify itself. Robb Wolf starts off his blog by saying that the "Paleo diet" is "effective for fat loss and halting or preventing a number of degenerative diseases." The building blocks of the Paleo meals are meat, fowl, and fish -wild and grass fed; fruits and veggies in season and "healthy fats such as nuts, seeds, avocado, olive oil, and coconut oil." Operating under the shadow of his mentor, Loren Cordain, animal fat is not mentioned here. Elsewhere he suggests lean meat.

At the blog of Dr. Art Ayers (Cooling Inflammation), the emphasis is on the contrast - what not to eat. These are starches, simple sugars, and high fructose corn syrup. He says the focus of our diet ought to be "meats, fish. eggs, and leafy vegetables." Trans-fat are a no-no but probiotics are good as well as saturated fats - in fact he says that "saturated fats are healthy and reduce the peroxidation of omega-3 fatty acids at sites of local inflammation." He seems to emphsize that "saturated fats should be the major source of dietary calories."

Over at the PaNu blog of Dr. Kurt Harris we find a 12 step solution that will "remove the neolithic agents of disease in an efficient and practical manner." The steps are to be followed in the order as they are set out - you get healthier the further you go along this path: 1) get rid of sugar - fruit juices, sport drinks - and foods that contain flour; 2) eat proper fats -animal, coconut oil, and whole cream; 3) get rid of gluten grains - limit grains like corn and rice; 4) get rid of "grain and seed derived oils" - those are "cooking oils" that should be replaced with coconut oil, butter, animal fats, or ghee; 5) eat meat from ruminants & include eggs and some fish; 6) get sun & supplements for Vitamin D; 7) two or three meals a day is all you need; 8) adjust the omega 6 and omega 3 ratio; 9) exercise using resistance and interval training instead of aerobics; 10) ease up on fruits because of fructose - emphasize berries; 11) get rid of legumes; you may want to avoid dairy, if allergic or concerned with casein - stick to butter and cream. He is not concerned about numbers but says that Paleo should range along this ratio: 5-35% carbs, 10-35% protein, 50-80% fat. This depends if you are dieting or maintaining your weight. One point he makes is that the issue is not fat vs. carbs but "neolithic agents of disease versus everything else."

These views are succinctly summarized by Mark Sisson (Mark's Daily Apple) where, on his blog, he says the following: "Focus on quality sources of protein (all forms of meat, fowl, fish), lots of colorful vegetables, some select fruits (mostly berries), and healthy fats (nuts, avocados, olive oil)..... Eliminate grains, sugars, trans - and hydrogenated fats from your diet."

From Richard Nikoley's Free the Animal blog we get a five-point summary: one should eat "real foods" and by that he means meat, fowl, fish, natural fats from animals, coconuts, and olives; veggies, fruits, and nuts. He points out that one should remove grain, sugar, and vegetable oils from one's diet, supplement with omega 3 fats, and engage in intermittent fasting; get sunshine, supplement it with Vitamin D, and do short intense exercises.

From this we can come away with some universal maxims: eat animal fat, tropical oils (coconut/palm) & avoid industrial oils (vegetable -canola, safflower etc...); get rid of all carbs (starch/sugars) except for some nuts, some vegetables & minimal fruits; get into the sun, supplement with Vitamin D; exercise briefly but intensely. The bottom line is to eat like the human race has done for millions of years or  at least the last 200, 000 years, since our last migration out of Africa. We did not evolve to eat synthesized, processed, boxed, packaged, wrapped, and canned foods.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Another Low-Carb Blog?

Here we go - another low carb blog. Why? Because I'm fed up with the misinformation, incomplete facts, distortions, & misinterpretations I see and read in the media about diet, nutrition, obesity, & diabetes on a daily basis. It has become an irresponsible and unethical sport.  People are victimized, the science is shoddy, policy-makers are hoodwinked, corporations run a scam, physicians are confused, and the health of nations have never been worse. This is just one more blog to poke, prod, prick, and mock the so-called authorities of health and nutrition who have fed us lies, deceit, and terror and, in doing so, have inflicted suffering and death to countless folks.

Recently in the Vancouver Sun newspaper's Health section  (Monday Jan. 17, 2011) SportMedBC's Dietitian Patricia Chuey offered her food and nutrition insights in order to help the readers achieve their sport and well-being goals.

The first thing she wanted to get across was that she was debunking the idea that carbs make you fat - she was adamant they they don't. To quote her - "Too many calories from any food will cause your body to produce and store excess fat." What have we seen in the last few decades, Patricia? A decrease in fat consumption (low-fat yogurt, low-fat milk, low-fat this and low-fat that) with the added carbs. And what has happened, Patricia? An epidemic of obesity and diabetes.

Oh yes, she also debunks the idea that carbs cause diabetes. What? In her own words: "Sugar and other carbohydrates do not cause diabetes. However, an excess of refined, low-fibre high sugar carbs can negatively impact blood sugar control." So Patricia, can't you link the dots?

What does Patricia want us to do with carbs? She wants us to pick "quality" carbs and make changes such as switching to whole wheat in place of white bread; whole wheat pasta should replace white pasta. Hey Patricia, a carb is a carb and a carb in the bloodstream is glucose. Don't call it "blood sugar" -  it isn't. It is glucose. Sugar is in the pantry or on a teaspoon. Excess insulin is at the heart of diabetes (type two - the recent epidemic type). Insulin provides escort service for glucose and fills the cells with it until the day those cells put up a resistance - like "not in my backyard." The overload of glucose draws an excess of insulin. Then you are in trouble. The insulin scrapes the endothelial cell linings of arterial walls and leads to further damage - clots, blockages and so on. Soon you crave more carbs and the vicious cycle becomes permanent. At some time the pancreas crashes, like an overused computer. Then you need insulin as in Type One.

Chuey believes that "diabetes is a complex condition with many genetic and environmental contributors." So Patricia, why do the good doctors offer us insulin as a remedy? Which is stupid anyway - just remove carbs from the diet - hey, it's free. And they are not tweaking our genes or sending us to sunny Florida as a cure. But maybe you think they should.

Well Patricia, let's give Dr. Andrew Weil the final word. In commenting on Gary Taubes' book Good Calories, Bad Calories on Larry King Live (Oct. 19, 2007) he says that the book is full of big ideas, such that "there is absolutely no scientific evidence for the belief that fat is the driver of obesity.... its (sic) carbohydrate which is central to this process ... in which insulin is a central player ... that overeating and under activity are not causes of obesity." (transcript from Alan L. Watson, Cereal Killer: The Unintended Consequences of the Low Fat Diet).