I've been musing a bit in comments and asides lately over the low carb movement. When I discovered the LC internet community in early 2009 those were some still heady days. In retrospect I'm not sure how much it was really growing vs. the hype of same, but it was a thriving community with well traveled blogs and discussion boards. The number of "big names" touting Taubes' alternate hypothesis was staggering, really, and reports of how the mainstream was finally catching on were frequent. Looking back, it seems the year or so before were even headier times for low carb. Fast forward and in 2011 many big names jumped ship, not to mention the readership of blogs like this one increased dramatically. Even many who remain wedded to LC as the only superior answer to all ills no longer believe TWICHOO to be correct. Many have retooled their message, clarified their positions, etc.etc. This is clearly more difficult for some than others -- it's hard to shift gears when your entire persona is inextricably linked to Livin La Vida Low Carb after all. So in a way, while it by no means excuses their behavior, those like Jimmy and Gary, Feinman and Westman, Carpender and Naughton, etc.etc. at least make sense to me. These folks have built careers on, and their livelihoods are sustained by LC. Most of the aforementioned are not about to do a Don Matesz any time soon, and many have reflexively dug in their heels to forge forward -- I hope they at least put blinders on their one trick pony for the sake of humane treatment.
So ... these stalwarts I understand. The new kids on the block, I don't get. I think one has to be particularly blind or (pessimism alert) opportunistic these days to take up the cause of low carb as the magic solution to the obesity epidemic and all that. For the sake of brevity, I won't address the greater paleo community/figures other than the new breed of LC'ers seems more enamored with the evolutionary argument than those who learned at Atkins knee.
Enter Jonathan Bailor of "The Smarter Science of Slim". ( I gotta love the blurb from WheatBelly: "A masterful complication disproving the theory of 'eat less move more' "). The website subtext:
A proven lifestyle for long-term health. Evidence that eating less and exercising more is harmful. Backed by the largest scientific analysis of wellness ever conducted. Endorsed by the world-wide scientific community. Approved curriculum for registered dietitians by the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. Eat smarter. Exercise smarter. Live better.
Well, I think the jury is definitely still out regarding long term healthfulness of the modern very low carb approach. And I do take issue with ELMM being harmful -- yes it can be, so can eating less carbs and moving incorrectly for your stature just because someone says that's the "smarter" way to exercise. But this is besides the point for now. Let's just focus on how Mr. Bailor has taken the baton of cherry-picking from Gary Taubes, shall we?
In a post entitled The Simple Scientific Cause of the Obesity Epidemic, Bailor writes:
Let’s clear up this unnecessary confusion by looking at the history of eating using a scale of one day. Say 12:00am last night was the dawn of our first ancestors, and right now it’s one second before midnight. For 23 hours and 57 minutes (up until 11:57pm) our ancestors stayed healthy and fit, eating vegetables, seafood, meat, eggs, fruit, nuts, and seeds. At 11:57pm, people started farming, became “civilized,” and began eating starch and a small amount of sweets. Two seconds ago, people started eating processed starches and sweets. Only right now—one second before midnight—did people start getting most of their calories from manufactured starch- and sweetener-based food products. That means the diet recommended by the government’s Dietary Guidelines was not possible for 99.8% of our history.
|The Eocene Plate|
image link from WholeHealthSource
Ha! I suggest if you're really mired in this notion that we can even try to discern, let alone come close to replicating the human diet from millions of years ago -- to fix a problem that has only manifested itself some 35 or so years ago -- you need a humor break. For that, may I suggest you read Stephan Guyenet's Eocene Diet and have a good laugh. And then read his follow-up and grasp the take-home message.
Our metabolisms and genes are clearly suited to processing starches, especially from whole foods like tubers and the like. To use Bailor's time-line, if it's 3 minutes to midnight when the Neolithic agricultural era began, what time is it when it finally produced burgeoning obesity? Like 3 milliseconds to midnight?
It is an unarguable anthropological fact that for the vast majority of their existence, our ancestors did not consume much starch and did not consume any added sweeteners. They did not eat whole grains. They ate no grains. They did not cut back on added sweeteners. They did not know what added sweeteners are. Emory University researcher S.B. Eaton tells us:
“During the late Paleolithic [the vast majority of human history], the great majority of carbohydrates was derived from vegetables and fruit, very little from cereal grains and none from refined flours.”
Before discussing S. Boyd Eaton, however, Bailor's certitude of *fact* is disturbing. Whether one agrees or not, how to overlook folks like Dr. Nathaniel Dominy? But,
Ah, S. Boyd Eaton. I've blogged briefly on his works here and here. Whether or not one accepts his works as the be-all and end-all of what constitutes the paleo diet, from the second link we have a summary table at right of the changes through the years. Now in the seminal paper (even invoked in The New Atkins) referenced in the first post, the values are a bit different, one would expect to at least address this review showing % carb over 40 repeatedly, no?
In that first paper, Eaton writes:
Contemporary Americans obtain about 50% of their daily energy from carbohydrate, of which about 15% is contributed by added sugar (sugars added to foods during processing, preparation or consumption). In regions in which behaviourally-modern humans probably originated, ancestral carbohydrate consumption is thought to have made up about 35% total energy intake (Cordain et al. 2000), of which perhaps 2–3%, on average, came from honey, the closest Palaeolithic parallel for added sugar (Cordain et al. 2005). Cereal grains (% total; refined grain 85, whole grain 15) are currently the largest single carbohydrate source, with dairy products another important contributor (Cordain et al. 2005). Man’s ancestors had no dairy products after weaning, and rarely used cereal grains, so most of their carbohydrate came from fruits and vegetables, which generally have more desirable glycaemic responses than do cereal grain and dairy products. Fruits and vegetables now provide only 23% total carbohydrate intake.
Again, whether or not one is a fan of Eaton (and Cordain), this is what was written. So when Bailor makes the following statement, it floors me!
This idea is interesting to think about when it comes to our health. Obesity, diabetes, heart disease, and cardiovascular disease are called “diseases of civilization.” They did not become issues until agriculture enabled production of starches and sweets about 12,000 years ago. And they did not reach epidemic status until starches and sweets made up 43% of our diet.
Amazing, huh? Look back up at that table from Eaton! The promo about Bailor reads:
For more than a decade, Jonathan Bailor immersed himself in 1,100+ studies and 10,000 pages of scientific research. Now comes his new book, The Smarter Science of Slim, that simplifies this research, proves that eating less and exercising more is harmful, and provides a proven lifestyle for long-term wellness.
Bailor’s Smarter Science of Slim is the single largest scientific analysis of long-term health and fitness ever conducted, is endorsed by top doctors at the Harvard Medical School, John Hopkins, and UCLA, and is approved by the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics as curriculum for registered dieticians.
Somebody oughta alert Gary!! Maybe Bailor stole the baton instead of having it handed over. But this largest scientific analysis schtick sounds all too familiar. Somehow Bailor has never heard of the traditional Arizona Pima, the Kitivans, the Japanese and Okinawans in particular, or countless other traditional societies who exceeded 43% starch and/or fructose (albeit unrefined) long before the 3 millisecond mark.
It's fitting somehow that his curriculum has been approved. Seal of approval, or seal of shame? I know this, his *facts* are cherry-picked rivaling, and perhaps even surpassing the LC Master himself. Sad.