Welcome all seeking refuge from low carb dogma!

“To kill an error is as good a service as, and sometimes even better than, the establishing of a new truth or fact”
~ Charles Darwin (it's evolutionary baybeee!)

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Revisiting the "Cafeteria Rat" Study -- Why Doesn't Everyone Get Fat?

I was thinking these past few days a lot about scatter plots ... yeah, I'm a geek.  But in that recent n=21 Ebbeling study, as chaotic as the plots (and connecting lines in that case)  were, they are still instructive.  And apparently some think I should be on a mission to cure obesity by finding out why their wives can eat crap and not get fat, I was reminded of the scatter plots in "Cafeteria Rat" study:  Cafeteria Diet Is a Robust Model of Human Metabolic Syndrome With Liver and Adipose Inflammation: Comparison to High-Fat Diet.  

To summarize that study, they took four groups (n's varied for various legs of this study) of a normal strain of rats (Wistar, not genetically predisposed towards obesity) and fed them ad libitum on one of four diets, for 10-15 weeks.
1.  SC control (estimated <5% simple sugars, 12% fat)2.  HF chow - 45% fat, lard3.  LF - low fat (10% lard & soybean oil) matched to HF chow with sucrose substituted for fat content4.  CAF = SC + 3 human snack foods varied daily from a list
Both the regular chow, SC, and LF diets were low in fat, but I think the LF diet would be better described as HS = high sugar, because it was 35% sucrose.   Click the table at right to enlarge to see which human snack foods were included.  Everything from pork rinds (I'm sure that will bug the LC'ers) to candy to pepperoni to cheese puffs.  When offered this and SC, the rats only consumed 15% of their diet from the chow.

Here's one graphic from the paper I haven't discussed before - the food intake:  

The caption for this Figure 1 reads:  Cafeteria diet (CAF) drives food and fat consumption.  Firstly, in "a" we see that SC, LF and HF rats consumed roughly the same calories.  The weekly caloric intakes were actually slightly lower for HF (559), essentially equal for SC & LF (~690), but over 30% higher in the CAF rats (908).

How do you make a rat really fat?  You feed it foods it will overeat.  But this study also has me seeing Lustig smugly scolding us over the evils of how sugar makes us fat, and how they took the fat out of our foods and replaced it with sugar which turned an entire nation into a nation of fructose addicts.  Well, in this study, the LF vs. HF rats tests this hypothesis because they could have just used SC for a low fat diet, but they specifically formulated the LF to match the HF diet, but exchanged 35% of the fat content in HF with sugar.  Both LF & HF rats got somewhat fatter than SC, despite similar caloric intake, but they didn't become super fat.  This might appear to violate CICO, but the efficiency of high fat diets in rats is known, and in that 25% of the diet as fructose study in humans, chronic consumption depressed metabolic rate significantly.  

But to get really fat, the rats had to eat a ton of crap.  What's interesting, is that total fat intake for the CAF rats exceeded that of the HF rats (around 44 vs 28 grams per week).  Now this is because they ate more of everything, but remember, they were offered low fat SC and a variety of junk, like Cocoa Puffs that is that sugar bomb we're told has addicted us to junk food.  The macro percents they ended up eating were 44% fat / 46% carb / 10% protein.    I can't help but notice the low protein content and am pretty convinced it is one factor driving the overeating.  Consume foods with a low protein:calorie ratio and you consume more of them.  Fats do not appear to be satiating.  

But let's look at the weights.  Below on the left, are the weekly mean weight differentials vs. SC (error bars are likely SD, I don't see that in the caption) and the scatter plots of final weights at 15 weeks are at right.    Keep in mind, these rats are bred for laboratories and are much more genetically similar than the human species.  They were also housed and treated the same, regular light cycles, etc.  

Now these are small groups, so doubtful we could draw anything statistically significant if I tried to test some of the things I'm about to point out, but I think its instructive nonetheless.  Look at the SC rats -- all clustered right around the same weight.  Eating a chow, however CIAB it is described by another blogger, designed for rodents, there is a pretty uniform response.  From my past I can attest that normal rats (usually Sprague Dawley and Long Evans) do grow in body weight pretty predictably.   Now, give them an unnatural diet -- either replacing 35% mostly starch & fiber carb with fat or sucrose -- and they respond less predictably.  But look at the individual data -- several rats in each group gained less weight than some of the SC rats.  It's also interesting to note that the distribution is skewed and they are mostly clumped at the low end of the scale with a few high "outliers" (not technically, hence the "").  Most of the rats didn't respond that negatively to these diets, but a couple-three really responded.  One might conclude that high fat or high sugar has the potential to dysregulate homeostasis, and when things do go bad, they go really badly.  And now look at the CAF rats.  Their weights are uniformly distributed.  They all got fatter than SC because they ate a lot more.  But the response was far more varied -- the  biggest  CAF rat is almost 3X the size of the smallest SC rat.  

Some of these rats are more susceptible to fat or sugar, the rest escape.  All of these rats are susceptible to palatable fat + sugar (+ salt/flavors) but some more than others.  It's no mystery to me why they would eschew the yucky bland chow for the junk foods.  The rats don't know the junk is junk, that it's not good for them, and they don't much care if they get fat.  They eat more of the crappy food because it's there 24/7 and nobody's stopping them.  What group in our population that's struggling with obesity might resemble these rats the most?  Children, and to a lesser extent, young "immortal" adults.  

The food, if you can call it that, is clearly obesigenic.  But there's a few differences in us humans such as societal norms and daily reminders (clothing fit) of changing girth.  We also have the intelligence and ability to control our diet, choose appropriate foods.   So while I might come off (get the feeling I am) as holding Big Food blameless and individuals entirely responsible for this mess, I'm actually somewhere in the middle.  Clearly advertising and deals entice us to consume more food, but I'd say the cat is out of the bag on this -- if we banned all ads tomorrow it might help the parents who are highly restrictive already control their children, but I've known about the existence of the delicious Scooter Pie since, well, since I have memories.  Ad bans would have some effect, perhaps, but I think those who believe they are a solution are being overly optimistic in their projections of what it would do.  Then you have the taxing and regulation options ... not a fan.  What we need is education, but the various factions will forever argue what the right education is.  I'm one who feels that the "breakfast is the most important meal of the day" and all these studies about hungry kids who won't eat if the school doesn't feed them just got out of hand.  And because we don't want to stigmatize little Johnny whose mom can't afford to send him to school with a PB&J for lunch, we'll provide the school lunches for everyone -- there are schools that mandate that and don't allow kids to bring lunch from home.  And since we can't know if Johnny ate breakfast, well, we'll just provide that too.  Enough!  What began as a well meaning effort to ensure against under-nutrition has clearly backfired.

Bottom line, CLEARLY the SAD foods have played a huge role in this obesity epidemic.  How we stem the tide -- if there is a community that wants to unite behind this -- is to champion real whole food BASED diets in a real world.  Probably 80/20 is too permissive for whatever the chosen approach, but 85/15 so long as the 15 isn't going overboard will work.  That's 1 day a week.  

Unfortunately there are millions of humans who are obese.  To us, hand-wringing over singular theories of how we got that way is mostly wasted energy.   And I'm sorry, but trying to find why a "naturally thin" person stays that way and can even have a hard time gaining when they try just doesn't help me.  For one, it's decades too late for that -- but remember, I was a lean kidlet.  For another, if anyone ever figures this out (as if there's only one thing anyway) the solution will be pharmaceutical.   Obesity is not fun to begin with.  I think preventing it in childhood is paramount, because reversing it is so darned hard and I think behaviors learned young are the most difficult to change as we mature and age.  I just think all the things we as a society are doing or want to do about it are missing the mark.  It needs to start with the parent, and we now have a generation or three of parents who came of age in this epidemic, so how are they to guide their children (presuming they want to -- abdication to authorities is easier).  Oh lookey there, I went off on a tangent.  

Happy Sunday!


Beth@WeightMaven said...

And I'm probably not as much of a Big Food blamer as I come off here. Oh what the heck, I probably am ;).

I am a little older than you, and was probably heavier earlier (Mom took me to my first weight loss doc appt in the 4th or 5th grade). Yes Scooter Pies were around back in the day, but access to foods like that just wasn't the same then as it is now. I also think that food chemistry is way, way different now too.

That said, I'm actually with you that the options being discussed leave a lot to be desired, largely because, as you've also pointed out (and I totally agree), people *want* these foods. As with cigarettes, paying the piper comes way late in the scheme of things, so what's a little diabetes or heart disease or cancer decades from now when that 2300-calorie carrot cake from The Keg is calling my name now?

I did my masters thesis using diffusion of innovation as the framework. What I think has the best prospect of working is getting to a tipping point (ref Gladwell) re a real whole foods based diet. The one advantage here is that, unlike cigarettes, if this approach is successful, it will be *visible* as people lean down. And they tell two friends, and so on, and so on.

A little simplistic for sure, but the one advantage this approach might have is that it has the best potential for putting pressure on Big Food as a new market emerges (ref Hank Cardello).

I am completely with you as well over the hand-wringing of singular theories (one of the reasons I've not really dug into the weeds re the recent JAMA study). I can't wait for the academic community to come to a consensus on this.

Re the parents thing, yeah, well big problem there. One of my guilty pleasures is watching all the weight loss reality shows, including occasionally the teen one on MTV, where more often than not, the kid trying to lose weight has obese parents. Good luck kid in maintaining after the trainer who kicked your ass for 3 months is gone.

Princess Dieter said...

I watched a close relative feed the very young kidlings donuts for breakfast, McDs for lunch, etc, and actually begged her to reassess their diet and try to get them to like REAL food while very young so they didn't end up obese like EVERY SINGLE one of us raised in this country (in contrast to my siblings and parents, raised in the old country, and used to home-foods, simpler cooked from scratch fare). They are lean now, but young and like to run, play , etc. But the previous generation was lean when young, then fattened up on that diet. Right up to morbid obesity. To readapt diet as an adult is tough--doable, but tough--and I just wish these kids could just get a better start. It's a difficult cycle to break, but when I see kids given sugary-non-nutritious snacks during the day--not once, or twice, but ad libitum--it terrifies me.

eulerandothers said...

Fiber counts too, as well as protein, when it comes to satiety. If a food has a low protein/ calorie ratio but high fiber content, you don't want to eat more of it. You may smell something tantalizing and want to have just some of it, and that overrides feeling full. At least, in my experience! I'm a person who has had to LEARN to say, 'I'm full' because in the past, the challenge was to make myself feel even 'more full' (sounds like an oxymoron!)

MM said...

As a mom of three, I hear a lot of conflicting diet advice for kids. On the one hand I'm supposed to feed my kids real, whole foods, and not let them have junk food. On the other if I'm not supposed to be too restrictive or my kids will go crazy when they leave home, binge on Cheetos and Coke, and become obese. It is such a balancing act, and extremely difficult to know how much junk is too much or oddly not enough. I often get the feeling that whatever I'm doing, it's the wrong thing according to some expert somewhere.

Nigel Kinbrum said...

"I think preventing it in childhood is paramount, because reversing it is so darned hard and I think behaviors learned young are the most difficult to change as we mature and age."
This is one reason why I want to see Point-Of-Sale displays of CIAB banned as per tobacco products. I used to buy lots of CIAB from newsagents with my pocket money, as I wanted things that I could see. Parents are also subjected to unwanted pestering by their kids. Overworked/tired parents are less likely to resist and feckless parents can't be bothered to resist. Banning other food ads will be mostly ineffective for those already hooked on CIAB, but I still feel that it's a good starting point to protect those that aren't yet hooked.

Over-sweetened baby milks probably habituate babies & toddlers to overly-sweet tastes, so they should be regulated to be as similar to human breast milk as possible. Baby foods should also be regulated to not be over-sweetened.

I have no experience of bringing up kids, so I have no idea whether "anti-marketing" techniques work e.g. "Look at that advert for *name of CIAB*. That stuff is absolute garbage. *Name of MOCIAB* will do anything to get their hands on your pocket money, the greedy so-and-so's".

ProudDaddy said...

I just don't understand why the "perpetually thin" can't "help you". Have you reached the certain conclusion that weight gain is all lifestyle choice? That there's nothing different in the bodies of people who gain and those who do not? Or do you believe that homo sapiens' natural undiseased state is obesity and therefore the thin are ill and can't be the model for the way metabolism/hunger should work? Or what?
I just don't understand. (I know, it's not the first time.)

Evelyn aka CarbSane said...

Wayne, You were one. And it doesn't help you. Right? Something changed for you metabolically. For me, I effed with my own head more than anything metabolic, though now I suffer the consequences of what I pretty much did to my body.

Trying to figure out what keeps OTHERS slim when you and I both were, and are not now, is worse than obsessing over the metabolism of our own 20's 30's or whatever. I can't get back my metabolism. I can only deal with what I have now.

Evelyn aka CarbSane said...

euler, I think this is why Zoe Harcombe gets so under my skin. She rants against "5 a day" and grains, yet that's how she ate. Fiber is BS to her? Yet she eats a giant salad every day and squash and brown rice and whatnot (I don't care what she claims now, what kept her slim all these years was a vegetarian diet)

Clearly "fullness" plays a role, but it's not everything. I didn't continue binging beyond fullness out of lack of satiety. Nobody does. Why can't we be honest about this?? Most modern humans don't eat only when hungry and stop when full. I've witnessed skinny folks that don't either.

Sorry for that rant. :) Fiber is huge and it's missing in many paleo diets where folks douse everything in coconut oil. Coconuts are full of fiber. So we're to decry sucrose refined from fibrous canes but oils refined from fibrous orbs is OK? Ha!

bentleyj74 said...

"Clearly "fullness" plays a role, but it's not everything. I didn't continue binging beyond fullness out of lack of satiety. Nobody does. Why can't we be honest about this??"

A very good question. True for me as well obviously. I saw something interesting that this reminds me of. Some BBC program that pairs up a thin person and an overweight person and has them eat each others diets. I only caught about the last 20 min of the program but during one of the meals the thin person was struggling with the portion size and the overweight person offered her some advice... "sit up straight and take a few deep breaths".

The thin person asked why she wanted to keep on eating if she was full...and the overweight person responded [directly on the heels of her former advice] "Well...I guess I never feel full".

Cognitive dissonance? If you know what to do to get around it...clearly you are familiar with the sensation. Something else is going on there.

ProudDaddy said...

But if I had the wherewithall to measure every aspect of my metabolism at age 35 and compare it to age 45, wouldn't that tell me a lot more than average measurements of obese people? And couldn't that be helpful to a subset of people struggling with unwanted weight gain with similar parameters? It seems to me that somewhere in all that data might be a clue to, if not the actual cause, of what goes wrong (for said subset only, of course).

If I were trying to fix a malfunctioning tractor and had a perfectly functioning one to examine, the odds of my fixing it would increase significantly.

MM said...


I'm dubious that banning junk food ads would really help. My kids watch very little commercial TV. However, when I take them to the store they see the no-name, bakery made doughnuts and will start asking for them. I don't think the store should have to go so far as to prevent kids from entering the bakery/cookie isle just to avoid this confrontation. I breast fed my kids for much longer than is recommended, and they never had formula at all ever, nor did they ever have sweetened baby foods. I think that sort of thing may be irrelevant for deciding the taste for junk food later in life. My kids want the packaged cookies, and they don't care if they come from Keebler or Nabisco. I have made it Very Clear to them that I will not buy them cookies, especially if they're whining. I make them at home and I hope they're better than the packaged junk, but I may be fooling myself on that head. Anyway, my point is that kids see both the packaged and fresh bakery junk in the store and want it. It has nothing to do with seeing ads for the stuff at home.

ProudDaddy said...

You probably don't like my tractor analogy, so here's another thought experiment. I examine all the data on my pre vs post easy-to-gain self, and lo and behold there's a big difference in daily AUC GLP-1 serum levels. The rest of the parameters (except maybe PYY) are comparable. I would then say that if you put me in an exenatide trial, I would probably end up in the group that loses weight. I might then want to learn all I could about how incretins are produced and what might have caused the change. Aren't I then farther down the road in explaining easiness in gaining for ONE subset of easy gainers?

MM said...

Oops. I meant to say *my* kids see the packaged junk and want it. I really shouldn't be speaking for other people's children. :)

Harry said...

Very nice observation, bentley...that certainly was a telling non sequitur.

IME, it comes down to hyper-palatable foods being so pleasurable (not tasty 'in the mouth' necessarily, but potent in the pleasure centres of the brain) that the unpleasant distension of the stomach is overwhelmed by the desire for further pleasure.

Only when the distension (and sometimes nausea) becomes severe, does the behaviour modify towards eating cessation. By then, the calorific horse has bolted, and the energy consumed is well on its way to a restful repose in "Adipose Havens".

The literature clearly shows that obese people get more 'brain love' from hyper-palatable foods (even from merely thinking about them) than slim people. It stands to reason, therefore, that they are willing to endure the physiological discomfort associated with fullness in order to get some more of that love.


bentleyj74 said...

I liked the tractor analogy. I think it's useful before we even get to a cellular level.

If you specifically looked at a person who does not struggle and a person who does you *would* see obvious lifestyle differences without having to even break out the fine tooth comb.

v/vmary said...

i think i see what you are saying proud daddy. it's like if you had dexa scans from your 20s and then from your 40s and you saw on the scans that gradual loss of muscle mass through the years was the cause of weight gain as your metabolic rate slowed.

v/vmary said...

in scientific american (i think from june 2012) they have an article about how stress overrides the self control centers in the prefrontal cortex. could it be that some people are under so much stress that their cravings skyrocket and they binge? become alcoholic etc? we all know about stress eating already, but maybe for some this mechanism is more extreme because some people are less stress resistant genetically or because of abnormal stress levels in childhood?

ProudDaddy said...

I really don't want to go there. First, it sounds too much like the gluttony and sloth argument. Second, it's a lot like saying we gain because we eat too much, without identifying WHY we do so. Third, it doesn't explain my own situation - less sedentary, more good food choices during middle age than before, yet an easier gainer.

I'll take your point to the extent that I think all these isocaloric and eucaloric diet studies can't tell us much about what is happening in "free living" conditions. How many patients told to ELMM can actually do it over the long term? However, until there's more evidence that ELMM doesn't require almost heroic willpower, I'll still suspect mechanism failure. Back to the tractor - it was running rough because there was sand in the gas line.

ProudDaddy said...

Yep, although some other element must be found to explain why my energy intake didn't automatically lessen as it would in a perfectly functioning former self.

ProudDaddy said...

I'd agree to the extent that some people encounter brain conditions that will cause them to eat when they are not hungry. Bringing genetics into it wouldn't seem to explain much about the "epidemic". Our population couldn't have been under more stress than during the Great Depression and WWII, yet obesity didn't increase. (I know, food availability, and for some this was a problem, but a big percentage of us had all we wanted to eat and, so the statistics should have showed more obesity (from stress) and more underweight (from starvation)). I trust you'll agree that our genes didn't change to any significant degree in 50 years, so perhaps something else was going on in 1970. My personal theory that the Ruskies put Factor X in our water supply so that we would all get fat and not be able to fight doesn't seem to be gaining much of a foothold in the scientific community, however!

bentleyj74 said...

I suspect mechanism failure too, I just think it's easier to see than you might expect.

I agree with Stephan Guyenet that the brain is the place to be looking primarily...and I'm conflicted about the chicken and egg nature of influence re lifestyle and the brain. Obviously there are things people can do to influence both positively and negatively [what you say getting hammered and staying awake all night before my big test might be a bad idea? lol]...but they are also influenced subconsciously and that may play a larger role in overall perception which would in turn affect decision making which would again influence the brain and around and around.

Any reliance on willpower = epic failure. People who are functioning are NOT relying on willpower. They just aren't. I don't know why or how that keeps coming up but it's as offensive to the functional as the gluttony and sloth thing is to the dysfunctional. Environment, conditioning, and reinforcement are not willpower, not even close. There's a lack of empathy from both perspectives.

During my little detour through suckville I could sleep until noon and still be groggy. I'd literally stumble out of my bed to turn off the alarm half blind and disoriented with exhaustion. Now I am roused by all the subtle signals of light change and bird sounds etc before the alarm goes off and I go to bed at the *same* time. It's not because I always just get a fabulous nights sleep either. In fact I had *less* demand made on me at the time than I do now. There is something different to the nature and chemistry of my responses to things that I so missed and longed for and never really appreciated the relevance of when it was a given until it went away and I tried to function at the same level of demand without the resources I was accustomed to.

For me personally there is no question that there's sand in the gas line when people can't even be relied on to act in their own self interest, but a LOT of that sand can be removed manually to improve function right now today even if the precise nature of the exact mechanism failure isn't yet well understood enough to create an actionable plan from a medical or pharmaceutical standpoint.

ProudDaddy said...

I agree with Stephan that most weight control malfunctions go through the brain, but other than maybe hypothalamic leptin resistance, I see most problems originating elsewhere. Can anyone deny that a malfunction in the incretin producing mechanism in the gut, not brain, can have an effect on energy intake?

Can I assume that in your last paragraph, you are talking about solutions like eating higher satiety foods and finding enjoyable ways to move more? I could easily agree, because that is essentially what I do, somewhat successfully. But it seems to me that until a more precise cause is found for each of the 19, or however many there are, subdiseases of obesity, it is still pretty hard to prescribe something that helps a broad category of people.

Evelyn would jump all over me for this, but some people WILL just get hungry and eat more following exercise. Maybe not a majority, probably the not the mean, but certainly some. Okay, bad example, because exercise should be prescribed for health even if you don't drop a pound of fat.

I guess what I am trying to say is that it would be nice someday to be able to be diagnosed as having Type 27 weight gain for which a lowish carb diet is usually helpful instead of having to listen to so many idealogues tell me that their solution will work for everybody. Meanwhile, methinks a lot of us are going to remain confused.

bentleyj74 said...

"Can I assume that in your last paragraph, you are talking about solutions like eating higher satiety foods and finding enjoyable ways to move more?"

I don't know...maybe if you tilt your head and squint just right but I tend to see the eating less and moving more as an effect or possibly a symbiotic relationship. I might go into that more later if I have time.

I might agree about the "Type 27 weight gain"...I have more ideas about that sort of thing too :)

P2ZR said...

'Any reliance on willpower = epic failure. People who are functioning are NOT relying on willpower. They just aren't. I don't know why or how that keeps coming up but it's as offensive to the functional as the gluttony and sloth thing is to the dysfunctional.'

And yet for a 'functional' person to assert this results in the response of either being (a) pooh-poohed for (false?) modesty, or (b) reviled for being disingenuous. Dominoes fall in an effortless cascade if you set them up properly, and being 'functional' is simply setting them up properly, NOT painstakingly using the pinky finger to poke down cast-iron dominoes one by one. The only painful part is sitting down and very honestly determining what things/circumstances trip you up, and figuring out ways around them.

I almost feel that people purposely *want* to envy 'functional' individuals because they want to indulge this self-righteous anger at being gypped by Mother Nature (in 'natural' leanness/intelligence/[any desirable trait], or in some genetically-determined stock of willpower). It's like the S&M of those who perceive themselves as the disenfranchised.

P2ZR said...

Hi MM,

I hope I didn't scare you in a previous thread where I recounted childhood under a 'food Nazi' parent. I don't think the main point is even how *much* junk you allow/don't allow them to have. Probably, it's about the attitude the parent expresses towards *why* 'bad' foods are bad, and how they react when their children inevitably eat some, anyway. My extremely authoritarian parent never bothered even trying to rationally explain the 'badness' of off-limits foods (wrt. physical health, mental health); they were just BAD and would KILL you. And while we kids usually had 'bad' foods at other people's houses, occasionally we had some at home that a visitor brought or my mother stashed in the house/fridge for us. Being caught red-handed eating so much as half a serving of an off-limits snack resulted in inexplicable and seemingly impossible disappointment and anger and in general, hell like it was some kind of mortal failing.

I don't know, I would like to imagine that most parents are more moderate, but in adulthood, I've seen otherwise. But I don't imagine that moderate parents leave their child with major emotional issues over small amounts of 'crap' food.

Kade Storm said...

Thanks, MM. We really shouldn't be speaking for each others children. ;) Although kudos to you for getting quite a few things right that a good few parents neglect these days.

"Over-sweetened baby milks probably habituate babies & toddlers to overly-sweet tastes, so they should be regulated to be as similar to human breast milk as possible. Baby foods should also be regulated to not be over-sweetened." - Nigel

You bring up some interesting points, and I would be inclined to agree. However, to be fair, our baby food here in the UK is modest in terms of taste and palatability. Formula milk is feeble. Of course, these are my opinions. You did a blog post about parental responsibility, and I think that brought up another problem: the attitude of the parents, which is also driven by -- as with anything -- a plethora of external elements.

Anyway, I agree with the reasonable middle-ground attitude towards Big Food/Corp/Whatev., on this blog. It's not exactly in line with my thinking and understanding of things -- I think Evelyn is a bit too generous -- but certainly a solid step above some of the knee-jerk reaction floating around the blog sphere. With regard to this post, what I find interesting, and somewhat ironic, is the underlying inference that people supporting 'a solution' are oversimplifying, which implies that 'a solution' is apparently '*the* solution'. It is this perception of the supporters that might not be entirely accurate, and it does foster a bit of a false dichotomy.

I don't speak for Lustig and his ilk, but just from the point of view of an individual who agrees on the effectiveness of commercial media in shaping attitudes (they do, and children aren't the only subjects here). Of course this is a multi-faceted issue and individual responsibility will be a crucial -- if not baseline -- component in ultimately getting on the right track. Dealing with just ads won't magically dissolve the problem into nothingness as even from a media and commercial standpoint, ads are just one small element of the equation. We still have cultural factors and conditioning from prior generations to contend with as well as the social climate and the parental frame of mind. Nevertheless, taking some steps towards dealing with any one of these problems in some way, still isn't a bad thing. I'd rather see some kind of start, and as much as we like to celebrate the liberty and individualism for the individual in certain parts of the world, that ideal too, much like the proposed solution to this problem, is far too simplistic on its own -- authorities and collective bodies will have to play some kind of supportive role before individuals can become fully acclimatised to such an ideal.

MM said...

Oh, wow, P2ZR. No, I didn't see that comment of yours, but wow I hope I'm not that much of a Nazi. I think I used to be when I was low carbing. I thought sugar was the devil, you know, but then I never would have had anything in the house for the kids to sneak. Now, I've relaxed quite a bit. I even bought frosted, decorated birthday cakes this year, which was a first. But I do make it clear that it's a special treat and when it's gone, it's gone. I think I'm still trying to find the right balance, and I probably will always feel that way.

RRX said...

Your concluding paragraph is my sentiment exactly.

Galina L. said...

I solved such problem by not having any junk at home including cookies and chips for adults, sometimes but not often I bought Hagendass, however I never restricted any food choices outside our house, taking my son to fast-food places couple times a month, sometimes weekly(McDonald's is a perfect place to take a child to let some steam out, especially when outdoors are too hot or cold) and offering a choise between lunch money or packed lunch for his school, when we went to a restaurant, he always drunk at least 3 huge caps of coca-cola without any attempts to restrict him from our side. So,no food was forbidden , but most of the time it was home-made, often cooked in a very plain way. I noticed it was a problem for people who ate too much bought food - they consider natural food tasteless. I remember offering blanched raw almonds to a co-worker who complained on being hungry, he ate couple nuts, made a face and told me me couldn't have a food without any flavor. After eating home-cooked food most of the time, my son couldn't eat cafeteria food at university because it was over-flavored. He also grew-up without cavities.
I commented about all that before,and probably I sound as a broken record, but I came to such solution not because I was a member of some paleo-group, but in a process of looking for a compromise between the environment which was strange for me (we were immigrants) and a desire not to make my son to be complete alien to people he grew-up with.

Galina L. said...

Some children just belong to a category "overactive child who loves sugar and hates food"(Wooo's), mine was like a sugar-obsessed super-energized monkey without being feed super-sweet things as a baby, with devilish trickiness he managed to find any sugar-containing eatable things, ate sugar with a spoon if it was within his reach. It is exhausting to be at war with own child, it is unpleasant to feel guilty giving him something you know is a poor choice. A compromise is needed.

RRX said...

I get your point, ProudDaddy. And I am sure, from my own research experience, that there are scientists out there examining normal metabolic functioning such that it can then somehow tell us something about what happens when things are not normal.

Outside of that, you and I and everyone else sitting here have no tools or parts that we can use to fix our metabolisms/brains so that we become like the thin folk in the same way that you could the tractor.

Galina L. said...

I don't agree with SG that a brain makes somebody hungry (at least in my case it is wrong) because me being hungre all the time was healed with limiting carbs in the diet and getting adopted to IF. Actually, my appetite is so low now, I started to guess how normal it is.

RRX said...


I can see how you would go straight to being concerned that lifestyle factors turn into judgments. I ask, though, why does that have to be the case? Are you really going to deny a possible potent factor because you don't like the social nonsense that has been put onto it? Nature/natural processes don't care about our emotional baggage. Any issues we layer onto the resulting weight gain for someone that moves less than they had before is nonsense to me. I am interested in what actually is and not how we judge it. I am interested in knowing how something actually works, regardless of whether we like the processes or not. If ELMM and availability of hyper-palatable can explain most weight gain or loss, why would you let sensitivity to judgments make you deny it?

In response to your third statement, I ask you to show us the data. You have anecdotal claims about the course of your life. Do you have your TDEE, REE, EE, amount consumed etc. documented from before middle age and now? Because if you don't, then your anecdote does not rule out that you actually ate less calories than you expended when you were younger and the reverse happened when you got older. Until you can show otherwise while study after study can show that energy balance does matter for weight gain/loss, I don't see how your anecdote refutes anything about calories or ELMM (aka lifestyle).

RRX said...


How can those studies NOT show anything about free-living situations? I ask what that has to do with this? I cannot tell you how many people have claimed to my face this that or the other metabolic situation but lacked evidence of such a thing when asked for it. Until someone has actually tested and documented some dysfunction, they cannot claim that such is the cause of their weight and be taken seriously by me. Whatever the factors involved in metabolism, those ward/diet studies do show that ELMM DOES cause weight loss. Whether it's perceived as difficult or not does not change that EL (and/or MM) will get the job done. I say, forget about claiming one way of eating less is better than another. If you eat less by cutting carbs then you still freaking ate less! No matter what the diet, EL is STILL what caused the weight loss. THAT is what these ward/diet studies have shown and why they matter in "real life". The mechanism of less calories consumed than expended is what gets the lbs to drop. The method, on the other hand, can vary widely and I think is fine to choose based on ease. But do not refute the mechanism that has been tested and shown time and time again in these studies to be what causes the lbs on the scale to trend downward.

RRX said...

As for lifestyle vs the brain, I think that it is likely a combination of both factors to degrees that vary differently person to person. And that is why any one person will not easily agree with any other person in this realm (and perhaps in many/most areas of life).

RRX said...


How does one determine if there is a malfunction in the incretin producing mechanism in the gut? Until you've shown that to be a factor in YOUR or any individual's weight gain, why should that be a concern? Until that is shown to be a factor in the broad category of obese people, I don't know why I should care about it. And it still doesn't change that energy balance is what moves the scale and causes fat gain/loss. It can mean that REE is less than otherwise would be, but whatever the REE you still have to intake less energy than the TDEE to lose weight.

Your statement about wanting to be able to diagnose the exact cause for each individual and thus the treatment is the same thing I would like. To do that, though, would require people to actually go and get tested. When people talk to me face-to-face about their hypothesized reason for being overweight, I always ask if they tested for that or not. To date, I don't recall anyone answering with "Yes." So, such claims are nonsense as far as I'm concerned. And further still, the prescription will not differ to lose weight. Find a way that works best for you to consume less energy than you expend. No explanation changes that prescription. THAT is why those ward/diet studies matter in "real life." Don't get hung up on judgments or diets. Just find what works for you to expend more energy than you consume and go with it.

Evelyn aka CarbSane said...

@MM: I don't envy parents these days! It sure does seem to be tougher to control their environment as it should be. This is why I cringe when I see discussions in places like PaleoHacks from time to time where people see "only junk" in people's carts and feel like saying something to the parent. Ummmm ... Because what they determine to be junk is not always so either.

I agree with what P2ZR said, it's not so much that kids need exposure to "junk" as the attitude towards food. I also don't blame my parents ... who knows, had they been more permissive maybe I would have been a fat kid? I doubt it, clearly my body is permissive of obesity but I'm highly genetically similar to my Dad -- who is lean and will get a little pot belly if he snacks too much and whose pants will be falling off a few weeks later with no deliberate effort to restrict.

@Galina: I think this is key: "I noticed it was a problem for people who ate too much bought food - they consider natural food tasteless." I think this is a large part of Jimmy Moore's continuing problems (not all, but large part) -- he smothers everything with so much "other" he doesn't taste the food anymore (like that infamous n=1 sweet potato experiment, and when he used to eat berries it was with AS or xylitol and whipped cream). A friend of my hubs usually gets carepackages of my cooking. A few years ago he would remark how I had a "very heavy hand" with the salt. Nowadays he sometimes has to salt the very same foods to his taste. Berries and fruit are very sweet to me these days, and most candies or cakes are prohibitively sweet -- 65% dark chocolate is about right for me now ... but it's not food!

ProudDaddy said...


I don't know why you are jumping all over me, or am I just oversensitive? You make it sound like I am just an overweight whiner bemoaning my state and waiting for a magic pill. Not true. I know that strength training, HIIT, and a modicum of food quality and quatity choices will keep me out of the overweight category. So, that's what I do.

So, you couldn't care less about incretins. Not even a little intellectual curiousity? One of the great pleasures of my life has always been learning how things work. I hope I never lose that.

Of course my life experience with body fat proves nothing, and of course I don't have any hard facts on my daily REE, etc., to prove that something changed when I hit middle age. Neither do the millions, yes MILLIONS, of other people who went through the same thing. Until you've walked a mile in my shoes...

I'm thinking that in a couple of weeks, I'll announce that the docs have just discovered I have a tumor of the xxxx gland, probably had it for the last 30 years, and it's why I became an easy gainer. I think I'll also announce that it's cancerous and spreading, and thus I will be participating no more in all these wonderful discussions where people call each other idiots instead of trying to tease out a little truth.

Kade Storm said...

I can sympathise with the feeling, but I disagree to the point of outright compromise.

This goes to the self-responsibility factor. If there's a detrimental habit at play, I will not compromise with the child, I will work diligently -- while I still have the advantage -- to condition as strong a response against such a habit as possible within my capacity.

Eric said...

As a parent of 2 young children it hasn't been too hard to keep them lean.

1) They don't watch "TV". Sure we have netflix and other on-demand style video viewing, but they are not exposed to commercials.

2) I kick them out of the house often. They run around *a lot*. My wife has some issues with this, but I try to keep her neurosis at bay.

3) They eat the same basic foods we eat. Often I will just take the components of our dinner and break them up for the kids. They use small glasses and are usually only filled half way.

4) Assuming they ate their dinner they get a treat every day, usually a small candy. They understand that it's ok to eat treats on occasion. They get to pick out cookies or other treats from the grocery store and understand that when they go through it, then it's gone.

5) More than 90% of the meals my family eats, I prepare.

I'm also the primary cook so I don't tend to prepare huge portions, heavy handed calories, or mindless sides with meals. When I'm eating to lean out, the weight of my family goes down. That's one to think about, has the weight of the nation paralleled the weight of the primary household cooks, does the BMI of the cook affect the BMI of the consumers?

Galina L. said...

My compromise was not to have a food that I suppose to hide at home (except for a sugar container) , so I had no war at home. I didn't place any restrictions for outside world and not alienated other parents by "junk-free" requests, so no war about food choices at all. It is important to pick battles you can fight. Our job as parents is to prepare children for future life and to pass our values on them. Militant attitude may have opposite effect and will stress up parents for sure. I am an easy-going person, and just incapable to be super-strict all the time, it is in my nature to find how to do things without supernatural effort. I cook pretty well, know how to do it with minimal effort, and it was to my favor.

Nigel Kinbrum said...

@MM: Do bakery made doughnuts smell particularly attractive? I have no idea, as I avoid (as much as I can) places, sights & smells that are likely to tempt me to eat CIAB and my local supermarket doesn't have them.

If I ruled the world, Point-Of-Sale displays of doughnuts would be banned, as IMO they are sugary Crap (and are usually sold in Bags).

Galina L. said...

I felt like I was giving-up on GM after reading about his sweet potato "experiment". The poor guy just doesn't understand what food tastes like, in a taste sense he is an analog to hearing-impaired person. Could we say a taste-impaired? I also think that getting used to natural tastes of food and understand what is normal is important. It is like a build-up protection against tricks of a food industry. I recently was offered some food sample in a local store - it looked like a normal food - a broccoli with some beef, but it felt like a taste explosion in my mouth - too much MSG, some sugar , very salty, definitely contained starch. It was tasty and wrong at the same time. No, thanks.

RRX said...


First off, let me apologize. I don't have any ax to grind and I certainly do not have it out for you. So please don't think that and feel like that was what my comments were going for. The multiple comments were more to break up the subjects of each one. I was away for a bit from the blog and have just started back reading and looking at the comments. My own comments were based out of reading those that spoke to me and got my interest and, I think, had not been addressed by anyone else. So if anything, you could always take my commenting on yours as a compliment that they struck me as interesting and worth discussing! :-) Like I said, don't think I have anything out for you because I definitely don't. My comments are purely for the discussion. Despite this being the interwebs and all, I want to make sure my comments were as though we spoke face-to-face and if so I would have made sure you understood that I was not trying to attack you. I'm polite and civil and not out to get anyone as can usually be the interpretation on the web. Don't think yourself over-sensitive. People do get that way.

That said, I honestly can't control how you decide to take my view on the matter. If my decision to focus weight loss efforts on what gets results leaves you feeling like the implication is that you're just bemoaning the situation, then so be it. I again defer here to not wanting to think about what sentiments could be layered onto this topic. What truly matters to me is what gets results. In this case, while I think that the statement about walking a mile in another individual's shoes is usually nonsense, I will simply say the same. I doubt I would have lost 150 lbs if I had not just concerned myself with getting results. I lucked out and found that the first thing I tried was low carb and it got results. I did that until it stopped. Then I lived my life and enjoyed the loss I had and when I became dissatisfied again I happened to luck out again with this blog and another. This blog and another gave me the first set of papers that sent me down a rabbit hole of papers that resulted in me personally seeing the weight of the evidence that calories is what causes weight loss. THAT is the mechanism. The method can vary and our perception of the difficulty of each method can and does vary from person to person, but expending more energy than consumed is what causes a loss of mass. Consequently, I changed my method to lose the rest of the weight that I wanted to lose. If low carb is not causing me to lose weight, then why would I ever stick to it?? For ideological reasons? I thought this was about science and diets, not religion. If that is not working, change it up! The carbs don't matter. Find another way that is easiest for you to achieve that change in energy balance, I say. Don't get stuck on a particular macro-nutrient.

THAT is what I have to say about it after walking a mile in my own shoes that ended with a weight loss of 150 lbs and being ~10% bodyfat (not that my anecdote means anything more than yours on the science of the matter).

RRX said...

As for caring about incretins, only for the sake of intellectual curiosity. I could care less about them practically-speaking. Nothing changes with how I live my life. How they matter for each individual varies and we all have to discover for ourselves what sates us and what doesn't regardless of our incretins. My process of discovering the best foods for me occurred without knowing a single thing about my incretins. That's what I mean when I say that I could care less about them. I mean it practically-speaking. Outside of that, yeah sure intellectually-speaking.

As for the comment about millions of people having never measured their expenditure, I again say so what? How many studies does it take for that to not matter? I would say that there have been plenty of studies to date that have measured that in many people of many nationalities. And if expenditure has not been measured from a specific sample going through a specific circumstance that interests you, then I have two responses. One, what evidence do you have that their expenditure would be different from what all of the other studies on it has shown? What would be the value of spending that money? Two, let's do it! I am a researcher, fyi. I love science for science's sake. Don't get me wrong. If someone will pay for it, then I say hell yeah let's do it. I also know how tight funding is and how difficult it is to convince funding organizations and my response #1 is what they would want explained. That is why I bring it up.

In conclusion, please don't take my tact or lack thereof as any reflection of you. That is not my intent at all and I do not mean to conduct myself on here any differently than in person (which can be brash at times, I admit).

Best, and happy 4th! Enjoy the holiday and don't worry about the carbs. Live free!

ProudDaddy said...

RRX, my "millions of people" remark was about people who hit middle age and find that they gain weight more easily. I don't think I'd get an argument about that from most people, but...

I'd promise to try to be more precise in my comments in the future, but I don't think there will be any more.

Evelyn aka CarbSane said...

Nigee, You want my hubs to be unemployed?? LOL. He's in retail management and though not directly involved in sales of any particular commodity, almost daily involved in that POS displays. Should stores have regimented quantized space with products randomly displayed all the time? No ability to sell something on sale? Especially, never ever, food? This is not reality of market forces.

Dollar stores (do they have these in the UK?) and such get "buys" from groceries that go out of buisness or find themselves with overstock they cannot sell before the product expires. What to do what to do? These stores buy this up and sell it. One step up from that store is discounters -- Big Lots may be a familiar name you might recognize. These stores LIVE on the big buys and ADVERTISING them. Often food.

I have no doubt that the supplier of the market where I bought my pork butt boneless steaks for $2/lb got a deal on that last week. I bought a crapload cooked it up and am still now converting the product to soups for the freezer (and dinner last night). I don't even need bones, I get those free from the butcher (not advertised).

I strongly disagree with your food ad rules. Not workable, stupid ultimately. You are not stupid, but you are allowing some sort of bias to keep yourself from seeing the utter impossibility of what you propose. You don't want POS displays of donuts. OK. Well, first define POS display? I'm sure you mean promo displays or product placed on the "end caps" to highlight sales. By your response to my soup business query, no such displays are allowed. So everything in the market is shelved in generic fashion, the same amount and number of product "displayed" regardless of how much you sell of that brand, type, with identical price signs? That would be ABSURD.

So you would have to apply those "confusing" arbitrary criteria. The produce manager gets a deal on melons so he can advertise that with a larger price or different color on the sign, or maybe you'll allow a promotional bin of melons by the In door? Or not. Sounds like you say not. Because dastardly donuts should never be advertised to anyone for any reason.

No thanks.

bentleyj74 said...

"As for lifestyle vs the brain, I think that it is likely a combination of both factors to degrees that vary differently person to person. And that is why any one person will not easily agree with any other person in this realm (and perhaps in many/most areas of life)."

My primary objection to *most* diet attempts would be that they set up the false paradigm of "vs". It involves that "going to war" mentality which...were it true...would be a miserable, stressful, and exhausting experience that was pretty much doomed to fail from day one. Getting your lifestyle, environment, diet, and brain on the same team is golden.

Kade Storm said...

@Galina, I am the most non-orthodox and easy-going parent in my side of one of the world's largest capital cities. So I understand what you're talking about. However, this rhetoric about 'picking battles', while accurate, is defeatist in the sense that quite a few parents (not saying you) resort to such thinking in order to avoid taking essential steps that will in fact, make their lives easier in the long run.

If my local nursery can ban beef and pork from the menu on grounds of religious minorities objecting to these perfectly okay foods, then I am sure as hell in my right to object to the junk crap served as well. Of course, I have the added benefit of dealing with the matter at that fundamental level where my children reject these things anyway (but I just go that extra mile because if others can assert their orthodoxy, then I will certainly take my turn as well). Why? Because I am an avid supporter of some essential ideas of behaviourism, and put little stock in 'this is just the way they are' thinking, because as true as that might be, it only applies to fundamental degrees of personality traits, and is certainly not a hindering factor towards shaping the child's complex decision making abilities. Good training and standards from the get-go seriously hamper the need to even get into unpleasant battles.

RRX said...

Won't be any more?

RRX said...

"Getting your lifestyle, environment, diet, and brain on the same team is golden."

I totally agree. And I think that getting each of those things in-line with your goals will make the whole process and progress seem easier than it otherwise would have.

Galina L. said...

I think I would raise a hell about banning pork or beef at nursery as well. I didn't require at job to translate meetings in Russian for me! If you can't eat pork, live at the place where that pork is out of picture. I can't require people in US to stop eating pizza and drink soda. When I was talking about picking battles, I was talking about that it is impossible to isolate a child from the environment, the older he/she gets the harder it becomes. The only thing that could be done - is passing your own attitude on your child, it works better on a long run than just sticking to rigid rules. I actually pat myself on a back for doing so. My son is in a college now, he choose by himself to cook his own food, not to buy soft drinks and store snacks. Actually, me and my husband tried to tell him that at his age getting education without much interruption was more important that thinking about eating healthy, and cooking may require some time-spending, but he managed by doing simple cooking. During test period he lived on stakes cooked on foreman grill , microwaved potatoes and my sauerkraut.

Nigel Kinbrum said...

@Evelyn: Sorry about your hubs - he would have to find alternative employment in my world if he works in food sales. Everybody needs to eat, so there will always be a demand for food.

My problem is that certain "foods" are put in flashy packages or contain toys to make them attractive to kids. Other "foods" (doughnuts?) give off smells which make them attractive to many customers, including kids. These "foods" are usually the hyper-processed, hyper-rewarding ones that contribute to the obesity problem. Yes, that includes dastardly doughnuts!

I can see the problem you've raised. If, according to my rules, all displays are POS ads, then all food displays are POS food ads, which means that they all have to be banned. This of course is quite impossible. I'm referring to tactical displays, away from their normal store position e.g. stuff by the entrance doors and stuff by the checkouts. But yes, there are grey areas. Life is complicated. I don't object to special offers having a "special offer" sign by the price to inform people that the price is lower than usual.

We have Pound Shops in the UK (not in my small town) but I've not heard of Big Lots.

Lauren said...

Grocery stores in Ontario are - I believe - no longer allowed to place candy at the checkouts. In Victoria, Australia, signs are mounted on the checkout number post indicating "no candy" or "no cigarettes" (in Germany all cigarettes are in a cage which only opens with the press of a button well above child height). It can be done and is being done. Of course it has no bearing on end cap displays or printed advertising, but it reduces one major hurdle to getting out of the store with only what you came for. I do try to shop alone for various reasons not restricted to lack of fights, but the learning experience of a guided tour through the grocery store, if limited in time and stimulation, has been valuable for our kids.
We categorise foods broadly as "fake" or real, "fun" or growing, and occasionally as "sometimes" foods (a la Elmo). There are no reward foods, and there's no such thing as being "hungry for" something. Anything in bright packaging, anything using characters on the label or advertising, is fake. My 3yo identifies this herself. This is also the age for learning that fake food can taste pretty great, which is why we also talk about eating growing food before all other kinds, and that every day is not "sometimes".
I don't have it here to reference, but there's a line in the Slow Food Manifesto where the author rhetorically asks when kids are meant to wake up knowing that the brown fake foods of their childhood are inferior in taste and quality to aged cheese or wine. Of course the man is Italian, but his point seems reasonable to me: we shape our childrens' palettes by what we feed them day in and day out, making comfort food in adulthood that which you grew up with, be it McDs or sauerkraut.

Kade Storm said...


Just to be clear, this is not about being super strict. I hope you're not interpreting that from the posts. It's about being proactive and situational awareness. I believe there is a significant difference at play.

As you said, the task becomes harder with the child's age. Well, of course. This is why parents need to be acutely aware of the window they have earlier on in the child's life to instil some ideas and reinforce them diligently, which has nothing to do with being wound-up and super strict. People end up super strict because initial opportunities are missed. Culture and attitudes are an acquired matter, and parents can play a huge role in this process. Many parents who I have seen, with very young children, seem to miss this opportunity, and those children develop a more balanced personality once exposed to school, which is a shame and an opportunity lost.

As for society and the pork example. Well, I guess we agree. The point here wasn't what should or should not be banned. But rather this: society has a constantly evolving culture. Isolationism and absolute conformity are two utterly lazy extremes -- there is a realm in between where individuals can be conditioned to exist in a society, but also remain relatively immune to acquiring negative aspects of said society. In our neck of the woods, a general acceptance of foreign cultural taboos has become one such aspect of culture that I question quite often. So these young children going to nurseries -- experiencing their first taste of social interaction and attitudes -- start to develop a somewhat awkward attitude towards certain things, even if they come from a house where such taboos don't exist. So in these equations, the conditioning of the home environment needs to take precedence over that of the external environment, which might not necessarily be correct, or even healthy.

Anyway, congratulations to you and your husband as you've both raised a very fine young lad.

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