More on Magic Metabolisms ~ Super What?

As predicted, when I posted my challenge a few days ago, the anecdotal magic metabolism or two came out to play.   There is certainly a cadre out there who believes:

VLC  lower insulin  faster fat burning metabolism

Some version of this is the purported Metabolic Advantage championed most prominently by Dr. Mike Eades.  The nutshell version of this is that when you are low carb, excess fat consumed will be "blown off" through futile cycling and uncoupling.  Despite admitting to eating a "starvation calorie level" diet himself, Eades perpetuates this myth of low carb magic.  

What sparked this post, was a very well referenced post by Ambimorph over on PaleoHacks:  Is lowered T3 resulting from a low carb diet problematic?  She, along with another respondent on the thread, provides a long list of studies that show VLC lowers T3.   Dr. Ron Rosedale (of Science Krispie Leptinade fame here at the Asylum)  weighed in.  He believes that this lowered T3 is a longevity-promoting benefit of VLC diets.  Make no mistake, Rosedale advocates what Atkins referred to as a "biologically zero" carb diet - non-dairy protein and leafy greens.  Lower T3 dials down your metabolic rate.  This is seen as a good thing as stated by Andre Chimene in his answer:  "having a fast metabolism is like idling your car at high RPMs... for your life."  Additional comments bring up a good point:  "You don't want your car idling roughly or stalling either."   So this claim is:

VLC  lower insulin  slower efficient metabolism

What we have here folks is a contradiction in claims!  

Those who boast over incredible weight loss/maintenance eating thousands of calories more on VLC are boasting over their exceptionally inefficient metabolisms.  The Rosedales of the world are saying that's just not so -- VLC causes the body to move to a state of optimal metabolic efficiency.  When your metabolism is supremely efficient, you have to eat less to maintain body weight.  He and others contend that this is optimal for longevity.  Rosedale is more correct than Eades here on the matter of metabolism.  When it comes to what a ketogenic diet does to one's metabolism, lowering metabolic rate is where it's at.  This appears to be a direct adaptation to "glucose deficiency".  

What seems counterintuitive, is that ketogenic diets (as seen with caloric restriction) tend to favor higher fat mass to lean mass ratio.  This would be consistent with a lower metabolic rate since lean body mass is what correlates most strongly with BMR.  And yet one of the problems with aging is sarcopenia.  A high fat VLC diet (where "moderate" protein is enforced)  would seem to favor this.   

So ... is the VLC metabolism a Super Metabolism?  If so, super what?  Super fast or super slow?


Sanjeev said…
One speculation (presented as fact of course) I read a while ago on low carb forums when Reactive Oxygen Species came into fashion was low carbers chortling about how much more ROS their mitochondria must be making than low fatters, and because of adaptations to the ROS, how much better the low carb metabolism must be at scavenging free radicals.

Yet now the magical thing is damaged mitochondria incapable of burning fuels properly ...

The Taubesians are becoming famous for the concreteness and "north-starredness" of their claims ... really, it's like trying to nail jello to watermelon seeds sliding in a tub of K-Y.
Anonymous said…
Oy, I am so glad I'm off that crazy bandwagon! And I do wonder if I can thank years of low carbing for my hypothyroidism and scary bout of heart failure a few years back. Booooo!

Evelyn, you, Anthony Colpo and the Jaminets are my heroes.
Swede said…
So tired of hearing this meme from the low carbers.

Comparing the human body to a car is ridiculous. Running a car at high RPMs for a long period will damage the car, requiring a trip to the mechanic.

Fortunately for us, we don't have to take our bodies to a mechanic. The human body repairs itself FROM THE FOOD THAT WE EAT!

Nice attempt at justifying a crappy low carb diet.
Morris said…
'eating a "starvation calorie level" diet' sounds like a criticism. If so, it is mistaken, at least to my knowledge. My caloric intake is ~ 1700 Kcal or 26 Kcal/kg body weight.This does not seem unusual (actually high) compared to self reported values by Stan Heretic & Paul Jaminet. My current values are a result of a year-long experiment, during which calories peaked at 3400 for 6 weeks. I did not think I was overweight at the start although I did lose some weight, was and am healthy and active. My diet is about 60% fats, is quite satisfying, no hunger or cravings. I continue to use a kitchen scale and based on my experience tend to not believe people who claim an ability to guage portion size by eye. I would be interested in comparing notes with others who accurately measure their calories; poking fun at Eades (or anyone)not too much.
Amber O'Hearn said…
That's a great point. Thanks for bringing it up!

My position is that a ketogenic diet results in a more efficient metabolism, *and* a higher metabolic rate, through mechanisms including increasing mitochondrial uncoupling proteins, and reducing ROS production.

The metabolism is more efficient, because it is ketone based, and we can see biochemically that this would be so. See Lucas Tafur's description:

Here is just one example of a study showing that, at least in mice, metabolic rate is increased on a KD:

Although lower T3 in general corresponds to lower metabolic rate, either it doesn't in this case (which would not be inconceivable, since there are other ways in which this lower T3 state is not like hypothyroidism), or it is compensated by something else. We don't have to understand the mechanism to know it is true, if our observations show both higher metabolism and lower T3.
CarbSane said…
Hi Morris: I think you may have missed my sarcasm there. I do not consider 1700 cal/day to be starvation level, but time and again if someone is put on a calorie restricting diet at levels near that (1500 cal/day) this is how it is described in LC circles. In Eades case he argues for some MA -- which should mean one can consume a lot more calories w/o gaining and/or lose a lot more fat eating higher caloric levels -- but is not an example of this metabolic magic!
Andreboco said…
The truth is, not one of you has ever run a diabetes clinic, or worked at one, transforming lives, working in countries like India with thousands of patients and seeing the health benefits that they reap. In defense of Dr. Rosedale, he has run 3 of these metabolic centers for over 25 years with thousands of patients. He has spent the last 4 years working, for free, in India, changing the lives and health of people who could not afford it otherwise. As for me, I have have done time at the Pritikin Centers and Los Angeles Children's Hospital working with obese and diabetic kids. All you can do is cherry pick studies to cite. Sorry, but I'm not much impressed by that kind of experience. Andre Chimene
Anonymous said…
I think it's wonderful that Dr. Rosedale is helping people overcome type 2 diabetes, but my question is, how? Is it because his diet causes weight loss? Great, but are there potential negative health consequences to his approach, such as creating thyroid problems? (Thyroid is my particular bug-a-boo.)

I've been watching some nutrition documentaries (Forks over Knives, Food Matters, etc.) and it seems that they take folks from junk food to a vegetarian, non-processed diet, see health improvements, and then announce that animal products are unhealthy. Really?

As for low-carbing for diabetes, is it really the almost total removal of carbs, or is the success in the removal of highly processed grains, sugar, and other junk, that leads to weight loss and certain health improvements (and possible new health problems)?
CarbSane said…
Welcome Amber! I'm a bit confused by the results of that study to say the least and will definitely be looking into that further. I do think that the terms efficient metabolism and raised metabolism are mutually exclusive. A true uncoupling protein (there's a lot of controversy, for instance, as to whether UCP3 is an uncoupling protein in the true sense of how the term was coined for UCP1 in brown thermogenic fat) is almost by definition inefficient -- equal energy storage with differing caloric intake almost requires inefficiency somewhere along the line.

@Andre: Welcome as well! Are we playing "who is more philanthropic than whom" here? I applaud Dr. Rosedale for his generosity. However, his internet marketing is based on flawed science -- not on some minutia but on the basic premises. How can any doctor read the results of the study I posted for him over at PH (where 50% of subjects remained normoglycemic one year after intensive early insulin intervention) and still claim that insulin has no place in the treatment of diabetics? He challenged me about have I ever measured leptin. No I haven't. But apparently he hasn't done much in that regard either or he wouldn't continue with his absurd claims that carbs spike leptin. It is out and out misinformation that starch intake causes insulin resistance. IR doesn't work that way. It just doesn't.
CarbSane said…
Thank you Steph! I started looking into this because I was concerned about the long term effects of eating VLC. The truth of the matter is that even in the few cases of populations eating such diet, the fat type and fat/protein ratios are far from what one might consume even if they hunted their own wild game, etc. And so then you look at all the populations of long living (and slender) humans and you gotta wonder where this notion that such an extreme opposite dietary formulation (as lifestyle not just temporary corrective intervention) comes from.
CarbSane said…
@Swede: I think the engine analogies are apt to a point. But, as you say, there is a key difference between living systems and non-living ones, even with all the computer controlled injection systems and all that we have these days. Bottom line, we never need a tune up or some such because our bodies constantly repair themselves. The level in our car fuel tanks has no effect on the efficiency of our engines (yeah, running low is not supposed to be a good thing but ...) but seems to have a great deal of impact on our metabolic works.

Then there's the question of what is detrimental here. Using our metabolisms at all? Or is it just resting energy expenditure, etc. Because if "running hot" is detrimental, then we should all just sit around in comfortably temperature controlled climates. But that's not so good now is it?
Tonus said…
Oh I dunno, I'm kind of warming to this idea that with enough charitable giving, I would be allowed a crackpot medical theory or two. I've got a few old suits, and there's a goodwill not that far from us...
Galina L. said…
My guess with at least some cases of the metabolic advantage is the effect of "sudden change". I witness it in my mother, not in my case. She was used to eat a lot on her mixed diet,and continue to eat big amounts of food after changing her diet to LC (on my insistence) because she got used to big portions. She suddenly dropped 23 lb during first month of LC dieting and reached plateau. Gradually she started eating less because she lost her huge appetite, but weight loss didn't resumed. Whatever, she improved her other issues, and 23 lb less is better that keeping those 23 lb.
I eat 2 not big LC meals a day and not hungry. Whatever the calorie content is, if I don't experience symptoms of starvation, it is not a starvation level for me. I don't think that eating less food is negative. (I understand it has nothing to do with "metabolic advantage" and it is the theme of the post). As a person with low thyroid diagnosed 15 years ago, I can tell with assurance, because I have a blood test every 6 month, that my T3 level didn't drop as a result of LC diet. I would like to add that my thyroid situation was affected mostly by switching on natural Armour thyroid one year ago. On the Synthroid my blood work was fine, but I still had symptoms of low thyroid - cold, low energy, wonted to sleep more. Now I feel completely normal. So, guys with thyroid issues, it is worth trying how different kind of the hormone substitute would affect you. I also think for the people with Hashimodo thyroid disease (like me) it is very beneficial to be gluten-free.
Jeff Consiglio said…
I work as a personal trainer and continually encounter people who swear up and down they are not able to lose weight on even very low calorie intakes.

For example, I recently had a client who insisted she was able to maintain her obesity on a mere 1200 calories per day.

But then two months later she goes to Jenny Craig and gets put on what?...a 1200 calorie per day diet of pre-packaged meals which took all "guess work" out of the equation in regards to calorie counting.

What happens to her weight? To paraphrase those cheesy weight-loss infomercials - the fat starts melting off her body like butter being blow-torched!

I find most obese people fully admit they eat too darn much and move too darn little. But some are just flat out deluded and unwilling to buck up, suck up and take personal responsibility for their weight and eating habits.
CarbSane said…
Ahhh Tonus is baaaaaaack! :)