Archive for the ‘Low carb’ Category

Sugar v fat

Across the pond, twin doctors Alexander and Chris Van Tulleken attempted to “answer the hottest question in nutrition” for the BBC documentary Sugar v Fat. In a piece for the Daily Mail, they share their take on the sugar vs fat question:

The most interesting thing we found was that we were asking the wrong question. It’s not which is worse for you, fat or sugar, but rather which foods are making so many of us gain weight and why? …

What we discovered is that the real reason we’re all getting fatter isn’t fat or sugar.

Furthermore, sugar alone isn’t very addictive – only horses snack on sugar cubes and very few people gorge on boiled sweets or dry toast.

And fat isn’t really addictive either: when did you last sneak a spoonful of butter from the fridge late at night?

The modern processed food industry knows this and that’s why you’re rarely sold the two separately – what is addictive is the combination.

As it turns out, the relatively short duration of the experiment — one month — meant that the low-carber had issues with adaptation (ref his comment that ketones aren’t “great brain food” or his performance problems in tests against his twin). OTOH, he had more weight loss thanks to the loss of his stored glycogen.

But it turns out that neither diet was palatable to either twin: “both of these diets were miserable.”

Their conclusion?

If you want to lose weight it will be much easier if you avoid processed foods made with sugar and fat. These foods affect your brain in a completely different way from natural foods and it’s hard for anyone to resist eating too much.

And any diet that eliminates fat or sugar will be unpalatable, hard to sustain and probably be bad for your health, too.

Their experiment has its flaws, but on the other hand, I think it does show that for the average person, either diet is too restrictive for the long term. That said, I suspect that the real truth is that any diet that has you minimizing hyperpalatable foods is a step in the right direction. Here’s hoping this program helps get that message across.

HT Stephan Guyenet

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Chris Kresser has a great post today for folks concerned about David Perlmutter’s new book Grain Brain, and its assertion that we should eat a ketogenic (i.e., very low carb) diet to avoid Alzheimers and other neurological diseases.

In Do Carbs Kill Your Brain? Chris suggests that Perlmutter’s is an “unnecessarily restrictive and unhelpful” approach:

It’s important to realize that just because a low-carb diet can help treat neurological disorders, doesn’t mean the carbs caused the disorder in the first place. While I don’t argue with the idea that refined and processed carbs like flour and sugar contribute to modern disease, there’s no evidence to suggest that unrefined, whole-food carbohydrates do.

Chris points out three “compelling reasons” that unrefined carbs aren’t the problem:

  1. We evolved eating whole-food carbohydrates.
  2. There are many traditional cultures with high carb intake and low or nonexistent rates of neurological disease.
  3. Modern research does not support the notion that ‘safe’ carbs are harmful.

Like Chris, I think people should follow an approach that works for them. If that means ketogenic, great. But I suspect many would likely find that cutting out refined and processed carbs first might be just as beneficial and a whole lot more flexible than going very low carb.

Please go check out the full post for more.

Photo credit: SteffanyF

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Quote of the day

In an interview over at PaleoDiet++, Paul Jaminet comments on the usefulness (or not) of strict low-carbing (emphasis mine):

It is mistaken to think that carbs are inherently harmful, in moderation carbohydrate is nutritious for us. The body’s ability to generate some glucose from amino acids doesn’t change the nutritive value of carbs, because on very low-carb and high-protein diets, only part of the body’s glucose needs are met through gluconeogenesis (manufacture of glucose from protein) and the rest are postponed, under the evolutionary assumption that carb deprivation is temporary and carbs will soon become available. The metabolic and hormonal adaptations that achieve this postponement of glucose utilization are harmful if persisted in for long periods of time. There is another angle to this: carbohydrates only become harmful at low doses in certain pathological conditions. A negative reaction to carbs is diagnostic of these pathologies. Some in the low-carb community assume that if carbs do cause problems, the proper response is to avoid carbs for the rest of one’s life. No, the proper response is to cure the pathology that has made one carb intolerant. There may be a few genetic conditions where no cure is possible, but commonly the problem is a bacterial overgrowth or infection in the gut and it is quite treatable or curable by natural means. There is no good reason for people to be forced to forgo carbs for the rest of their life. Nor is starving the body of carbs likely to generate long-term health.

Reading this, you might guess that Paul is a 30 bananas kind of guy. But no, the Perfect Health Diet is actually a lower carb diet. In fact, Paul sometimes refers to PHD as a “low-carb” diet … it certainly is compared to SAD (usually in the 150g/day ballpark).

You’re mileage may vary, but I suspect that if you’re on the fence re carbs, you’re probably better off worrying more about the quality of them rather than the quantity of them. Getting rid of processed foods high in refined flour and sugar will probably naturally reduce your carbs.

Standard caveat: if low-carbing works for you, mad props!

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Via Yoni Freedhoff on Facebook, I learned that there’s a new Kickstarter campaign for Carb-Loaded, a documentary looking at “the reasons behind the enormous spike in diabetes and obesity over the last three decades.” Here’s the trailer:

I am cautiously optimistic about this project, though I have a couple of reservations. Like a commenter on Yoni’s FB post, I worry that the title and some of the interviews suggest a TWICHOO frame. While I am on board with the idea that we eat way too many refined carbs, I don’t think the problem is insulin in response to those carbs, nor do I think the answer is removing all/most carbs from one’s diet. Yoni’s response on FB to a similar concern from another reader suggested we shouldn’t worry, since neither he, David Katz, nor Marion Nestle had that view.

Well, the devil is in the details … or the editing, isn’t it?

The other thing that concerns me slightly is the overlap between this project and another Kickstarter project: In Defense of Fat: The Documentary. On the one hand, I think the more the merrier on this subject. But I hope this isn’t the case that it would have been better to combine these projects and limited resources to get the better bang for the buck.

Speaking of which, I’m a backer of In Defense of Fat. And I expect to back Carb-Loaded. I do hope the latter didn’t make the mistake IDoF made, which was asking for too many funds. If they don’t make their goal, they don’t collect anything. IDoF was able to launch their project by creating a new Kickstarter campaign for a lesser amount. I wonder if it’s possible that it’ll be harder for Carb-Loaded to go to the same well(s).


huggerBTW, speaking of Kickstarter, there’s just a couple of days left for this one: Food Huggers. Food Huggers preserve your leftover fruits and veggies with a tight seal (that’s the large avocado hugger at right).

I just tossed a half of tomato because setting it out on a Gladware top wasn’t sufficient. These look pretty cool … and I really hope the avocado hugger works! If not, I’ll be sticking with Wholly Guacamole’s snack packs ;).

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Quote of the day

Robb Wolf weighs in on Low Carb And Paleo (emphasis his):

it is time to face facts. In every damn study it is clear that for fat loss we’d like adequate protein, and a calorie restriction scenario. LC is fantastic for this in that one typically feels satisfied on high protein, moderate fat, loads of veggies. If one is insulin resistant, this approach can be nothing short of miraculous. HOWEVER! If one manages to cram enough cheese, olive oil and grass-fed butter down the pie-hole, this is in fact, a “mass gain” diet.

LC is fantastic for the insulin resistant individual, as it addresses both glycemic load and satiety. But if one manages to bypass normal satiety mechanisms, or if one can find some combinations of highly palatable, but low-carb foods, it’s still a ticket to Fat Camp.

As the carb wars don’t appear to be ending anytime soon, I’m glad to see Regina Wilshire (who I read religiously years ago) is back to blogging over at Weight of the Evidence … she’s a must-read IMO! With her history as a low-carb dieter and a really strong grasp of the science, I think she provides another useful voice to help tease out the hows, whens, and whys of carb restriction. Do check her out!

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Banting on carbs

William Banting, author of Letter on Corpulence, Addressed to the Public in 1863, apparently found he was able to indulge in some carbs during maintenance after low-carb weight loss (p. 35, emphasis his):

I have … frequently indulged my fancy, experimentally, in using milk, sugar, butter, and potatoes—indeed, I may say all the forbidden articles except beer, in moderation, with impunity, but always as an exception, not as a rule. This deviation, however, convinces me that I hold the power of maintaining the happy medium in my own hands.

I found Banting’s comment interesting after reading Sanjeev’s comment at CarbSanity wondering if folks’ “first experience with Atkins worked so well they stay/stayed with it far, far past its ‘best before’ date.”

Many folks seem to do well on a ketogenic LC diet, but if that’s not you, at least you now know that the first famous LC dieter added some carbs back to his diet once he reached his goal weight.

Not only that, but it looks like Banting’s diet also included “safe” starch. From the appendix in the 3rd edition (p 48, emphasis mine):

I can now also state that eggs, if not hard boiled, are unexceptionable, that cheese, if sparingly used, and plain boiled rice seem harmless.

I plan on spending a little bit more time with Letter on Corpulence (thanks to Zoe Harcombe for the pointer). It’s an interesting historical essay and makes clear that obesity, while far more prevalent now, has its roots far before HFCS, seed oils, and the food pyramid.

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Quote of the day

What P2ZR said:

Carbs make you sluggish? Reduce them. LOW carbs make you a miserable nonfunctional wreck? Eat more of them. Acellular/fibrous/FODMAPpy carbs do X/Y/Z to you? Tailor accordingly! And goodness gracious, if LC (or whatever else) prevents you from getting a good night’s sleep–how do you expect your body to move well the next day?!

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