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!)

Tuesday, September 11, 2012


Recently Adele Hite wrote a blog post entitled Just Asking the Question.  In it she posits:
So wouldn’t it be cool if we could ask folks on the street what they think caused the obesity crisis, and then show them this and ask them again?

The implication, of course, is that the misguided USDA Dietary Guidelines obviously caused the obesity epidemic.

The next image was part of a compilation put together by PaleolithicMD Ernie Garcia.    Note: his caption was:
Carb Consumption/Obesity DIRECTLY Proportional 
WOW ... this looks pretty damning for the carbohydrate, a poster to replace Farrah Fawcett on a teenage Gary Taubes' wall!!  I'll come back to this one later in the post.

Currently a version of Adele's image welcomes people to the website of the organization she heads: For a Healthy Nation.  FHN has a noble mission:  Transparency in the formulation processes of governmental nutritional recommendations and, it would appear separation of the guidelines from the USDA.  I'd be full bore behind FHN in this regard, but I'm not swayed by the graph above.  How many such graphs have we seen over the years correlating all manner of things with the obesity epidemic?  How many more could we construct?   It seems to me that the group at FHN believes strongly that Americans took to heart the USDA recommendations for a low fat high carbohydrate diet, and that this is what is making us fat.  We've heard this same meme a lot from low carbers, like that Swedish diet doctor with a penchant for snapping photos of fat Americans at frozen yogurt stands in airports.   But there's little evidence that Americans have actually followed the recommendations.  To claim that the SAD responsible for our obesity epidemic is a low fat diet -- even by percentage -- is to lie.  Sorry, that's a strong word, but it's applicable here.  Especially when put into context of the traditional diets of many cultures.  In particular I'm talking about those Arizona Pima again, who ate a much lower fat, much higher carbohydrate diet before settlers came around.

One of the most offensive ideas (not put forth by Adele TTBOMK) out there is that Americans started drinking Big Gulps because Coke & Pepsi, etc. are all low fat.  That sugar was given a free pass!  Gary Taubes mentioned this in his Big Fat Lie NYTimes piece.  I've heard Jimmy Moore say it, fibbin' through his teeth because he knows when he lost 170 lbs in 1999 on a very low fat diet, he portioned low fat sweets like marshmallows (ahem ... carbs or cals?).  The bottom line is that sugar in all it's glorious forms has always been a targeted culprit for weight gain and obesity.  Vegetarians and vegans are not counseled to live on chocolate and Pixie Stix.   

There are two main culprits of extra calories in the American diet are sugar sweetened beverages and added fats.   Lots of information in:  U.S. Per Capita Food Supply Trends: More Calories, Refined Carbohydrates, and Fats.   Yet these occupy the very top -- as in use sparingly -- of the former food pyramid.  Are all of these headless obese people we see in footage toting large sodas, or sitting down to a meal at McD's following USDA guidelines?  I think to answer yes would be laughable, and yet this is the basis of many arguments.  I recently did the egg survey -- that I'll write up later this week -- because this notion permeates not just the LC community, but much of the paleo community as well.  There's this romanticizing that somehow before our government messed up everything we were all eating these animal protein rich high fat diets and remaining slim and trim through all stages of life.  Below is a screenshot from that PDF comparing the food supply to the recs in 2000.  Notice anythingg?

OK ... let's get back to PaleoMD's graphic shall we?  Firstly, I tend to question it outright.  This notion that on average we consume 500g carb/day is off somehow.  The numbers just don't add up. 500g = 2000 calories which would be more than 100% for many women, and 67% for someone consuming 3000 calories/day.  Yet time and again, when intake is carefully monitored, or even ad libitum human junk foods are fed to rats, the SAD comes out to be more along the lines of 10-15% protein, high30's-mid40's % fat and 40-50% carbs (this blog post discusses the CAF rat and a human study commonly cited by Westman

But let's presume the data is correct.  Where did it come from?  Gotta love, for tracing this image -- Garcia merely attributes to Google Images -- to the following study:  Increased consumption of refined carbohydrates and the epidemic of type 2 diabetes in the United States: an ecologic assessment (free full text).  Let's look at all of the figures from that paper, shall we?  First, below we have the carb intake over a longer timeframe -- Garcia's graph comes from the part of that shown in yellow.  Do I need to comment?  Where's all the concern over the turn of the 20th century carb-induced obesity epidemic??  Memo to Mark Sisson:  Note how for most of the century if these data are to be believed, Americans ate 3X the threshold of carbs you still claim will result in insidious weight gain.  (FWIW my gut feeling is that intakes are/were quite a bit lower, but the relative consumptions are likely still instructive)

They looked at the quality of the carbs in terms of whole grains vs. corn syrup (?)  -- the top figure shows that wholegrain consumption went down as a percentage of carbs while corn syrup remained fairly flatlined until about 1950-5 where it takes off a bit, mirrored by continued decline of wholegrains.  One could make a case for a slight uptick of whole grains circa 1970, but it is not significant, and does not appear to go up much if any following the 1980 USDA Guidelines.  Yep ... Americans listened so well they went out and ate up a bunch of corn syrup when our government told us not to!!    I think the bottom Figure 3 is quite telling as well.  Those who want to tie diabetes incidence to corn syrup (presumably HFCS?) will have a hard time explaining the uptick in diabetes (bars) that precedes the marked uptick in corn syrup consumption.  If there's any mismatch in the correlation, since diabetes doesn't develop for several years, the diabetes should lag the corn syrup, not the other way around.  
Then we have Figure 4 showing total carb intake vs. diabetes incidence.  Pardon the slight incongruence in the horizontal time scale where I've modified the figure to show extended data on the left back to 1908.  You will note that the 1935 and 1955 bars for diabetes incidence come from the above plot.  In 1935, diabetes incidence was under 5 persons per 1000 (less than 1/2 a percent!)

I'd say this is rather compelling evidence that carbohydrate intake does not cause diabetes.  Looking back to Figure 1, we see that fiber was more prevalent in the carb sources prior to 1950.  IMO, the big farce about whole grains is that they are not a particularly good source of fiber.  Add in that most wholegrain products made from flour are rarely even 100% whole grain, and pulverizing grain to dust makes absorption more rapid.  Most wholegrain products differ very little compared with more refined products in terms of glycemic load, etc.

I'd like to see the recommendation of grains as being an essential part of one's diet, or major source of carbohydrates, sidelined.  They simply aren't particularly good staples in their modern forms where we're mostly talking mass manufactured wheat dust made into relatively high calorie/low nutrient breads and cereals.  But let's not forget that grains (and what's the distinction really, when you have people arguing so-called pseudograins, and equating corn with wheat with rice with oats with barley with buckwheat with etc.etc.) have been staples of various metabolically healthy societies throughout the millenia.

I don't think this message is going to go anywhere so long as ardent low carbers (paleo, posers or proud consumers of LC crap) are spearheading the movement.  I just don't see it.  Especially when Hite's organization boasts Adam "you can join me so long as you reject calories" Kosloff as it's Chair of Outreach and Dr.  Robert "Carbs Can Kill" Su on its advisory board.   This notion that we need to somehow reconnect with this fictional low carb high fat eating past is just that ... fiction.  Now whole, real foods we can rally around, but that includes many carbohydrates, and the bulk of innumerable traditional diets.  To be fair, Adele and I had a short exchange in the comments here, and I believe she's sincere in advocating for bioindividuality -- that there is no one diet for each person.  I agree with that, and I'd like to see guidelines -- if they are going to be issued from on high at all -- to focus on meeting minimums (already the supposed underpinning) of essential nutrients and how best to meet those and additional needs with real whole foods.  After that, so long as people are aprised as to what's in their foods, remaining decisions should be made by adults for themselves and for their own children.

But I do think my graphs are food for further thought.  What say you?


Susanne said...

So if I'm looking at the graphs right, it also looks as if increase in diabetes also precedes the uptick in obesity ... interesting. I wonder of much of that might be a artifact of increasing detection as health care became a bit more standardized and organized post WWII. At least at first.

I would love to see a chart of the increasing number of TV channels available to the average American placed up against those too. Not just because of the potential influence on sedentary behavior, but the increasing reach of advertising for processed foods.

Beth@WeightMaven said...

You want graphs? I got ya some graphs ... sorry, I couldn't resist ;).

Susanne said...

Indeed. This, of course, being one of the great classics: Complete with data that hasn't been updated lately, GT-style.

Sanjeev said...

I've seen similar charts (and historical timing) for industrial chemicals.

BPA of course was one, too bad the best controlled study ever smacks that notion down (study needs to be repeated though, & I'm still looking for the full text. May have to visit U ofT's med library)

one commenter's take:

While this clears BPA from its major putative sex hormone mimicking effect[0] I'm personally still curious how's the concentration reduced- fast excretion? is a lot of it destroyed in the stomach? liver? by the gut lining?

[0] I'll avoid the stainless steel canteens, aka the treehugger cowbell

Andrew C said...

Quote of the week:

"this looks pretty damning for the carbohydrate, a poster to replace Farrah Fawcett on a teenage Gary Taubes' wall!!"


Charles Grashow said...

"The percentage of dietary fat in the energy intake decreased, while the contribution of carbohydrates (polished rice and refined cereals) increased from 64% in 1990 to 79.4% in 1993. Availability of essential dietary amino acids and fatty acids declined as a consequence of a reduced availability of animal protein and edible oils and fat. Sugar cane, a traditional source of energy in the Cuban diet, rose to 28% of total energy intake, almost three times that of the fat contribution."

"During the economic crisis, the prevalence of obesity declined by about half, and overweight declined or stayed the same depending on which data you believe. As calorie intake went back up during the economic recovery, obesity rebounded. The prevalence of underweight increased, suggesting that a small fraction of people weren't getting enough calories to maintain weight. Total mortality, diabetes, and coronary heart disease rates declined during the crisis."

"Some of the harmful consequences of eating refined carbohydrate and sugar do not materialize when there is no calorie excess."

Evelyn aka CarbSane said...

Good catch, hmmmmm ... Yeah, I tend to think it might be some combination between increases diagnoses, changing thresholds for diagnoses and/or including pre-diabetics and/or estimates of "undiagnosed" diabetics in the numbers.

I tend to think we'd get pretty good correlations with TV stations for both reasons you state, how about percentage of homes with microwaves, hormonal birth control, abortions, power steering/brakes/windows/mirrors, etc.etc.etc.

Evelyn aka CarbSane said...

LOL ;)

Diana said...

Well...this subject is one that perhaps can't be "won" by graphs alone.

I happen to think that the Food Pyramid DID contribute to the OE, but I can't prove it. I think people took the pyramid as license to gorge on pretty much everything. I remember that 6-11 servings of carbs a day.

I also remember your post on Jimmy from some time ago, where you said that if he had been following the pyramid, and not eating 48 donuts a day, he would not have become obese. And of course, that's true! A guy Jimmy's size would not have become obese if he had stuck to the pyramid, even with 11 servings of carbs a day (calculating that 11 servings = 1100 cals.)

But I think that the old pyramid did contribute to the epidemic.

Diana said...

Rather than deleting my comment let me add to it here. I wasn't clear re:Jimmy. He wouldn't have become obese if he had stuck to the letter of the Pyramid, but I think that his and other people's obesity was indeed facilitated or enabled by the pyramid. I'm saying I can't prove it because the effects of this pyramid were downstream.

Evelyn aka CarbSane said...

There's clearly a problem with building a diet on carbs. It implies that the base of the pyramid is the most important requirement to be met, which I believe is the major problem with it. Replacing that with the fat-based Atkins pyramids I've seen is no better.

I do believe the notion of a serving size is problematic as well. If one looks at a serving of cereal or what is meant by a serving. It's a regular slice of bread -- a 6" sub is more like 4 servings, so are many large bagels, and a normal bowl of cereal is more like 2 servings.

Evelyn aka CarbSane said...

Happy to elicit a chuckle :D

Ben Kennedy said...

On correlation vs causation -

James Krieger said...

The sales of imported cars increased in 1980. Perhaps buying Hondas and Toyatas is responsible for the obesity epidemic?

Gabriella Kadar said...

Evelyn, in regards to data on the incidence of Type 2 diabetes, we have to also recognize that the fasting blood glucose levels which are used to diagnose have been lowered significantly during the mid 2000s. Consequently a whole heap of people who were 'borderline' were given meds to control blood sugar. I think that needs to be factored in on any discussion of statistics.

Secondly, as regards dietary sugar, sometime during the late 1980s sugar was deemed to be a 'nutrient'. I did a 'doubletake' on that one for sure. In a eucalorigenic diet, significant numbers of calories derived from sugar could result in nutritional deficiencies. (One of the comments I posted on Guyenet's blog post of today.)

My pet peeve is how corn on the cob no longer tastes like corn. It's like chewing on sugar cane. If this sort of thing has become 'normal' then people's tastes are getting skewed in directions indicating that super sweet is now the new norm.

Gabriella Kadar said...

How about cheap subsidized grain products and by-products? The human animal is a greedy creature. If a big gulp now costs as much as a regular sized drink, the human will opt to consume the more for less.

Supermarkets are now set up in such a way that a person looking to buy a bag of rice has to walk in an aisle on which the opposite side is filled with utter crapfood. It's hard for most people to stick to what it is they want to choose from that aisle. Supermarkets wouldn't set it up this way if it didn't increase sales of junkfood.

I boycotted the big supermarket chains for exactly this reason. It's nasty product placement.

Gabriella Kadar said...

'Food' is cheap. That's the bottom line. People eat empty calories and are shopping and drooling at the same time.

Takoja said...

Gabriella Kadar said: "'Food' is cheap. That's the bottom line."

This may very well be one of the most important contributors to OE. Can someone find statistics of correlations today versus 1950's, between food prices and the percentage of John Doe's salary that he uses to food? I mean, when food was expensive, your mother would slap you on your fingers when you reached for the cookie jar!

So what are the reasons for cheap food? Industrial farming/food industry sure, but also massive government subventions to farming all over the (OE?) world!

Evelyn, an article please?

Takoja said...

Sorry, I guess the word is subsidy, not subvention ;)

Jeff Consiglio said...

It's interesting that Dr. Scott Gardner in the "A to Z" Diet trial (311 obese females randomized to either Atkins, LEARN, Ornish or Zone diets)says the Atkins diet performed best in ALL areas they measured. Not just weight-low, but also blood chemistry. A stunning and intellectually honest admission coming from a committed "moral vegetarian" such as himself.

But he also adds the caveat that insulin sensitive folks do about as well on a low-fat/high-carb diet as on an LC diet. But that insulin resistant people clearly do better on low-carb.

I actually emailed Gardner to ask him if the Ornish dieters had perhaps been allowed to eat refined "plant based" foods like white rice, etc. He assured me that they had been instructed to eat WHOLE FOOD carbs. But many of the Ornish dieters he's seen would get high triglycerides from all those whole food carbs. He'd have to tell then to ease up on the grains a bit, and eat more nuts and seeds instead.

Now why the heck so many people are insulin resistant these days is an interesting question worth solving, but I'd be loathe to tell such folks to follow a Pima type high-carb diet. And I agree Pima diet was fairly high-carb....NOT an LC diet as portrayed in LC circles.

Jeff Consiglio said...

You don't have enough self-control to not buy the crap at the store, just cause they put it where you can see it? Talk about victim mentality.

Jeff Consiglio said...

Yes context is important. High sugar intake on a low calorie diet may be rather benign. (Though sugar still rots out your freakin teeth)But who lives on a low calorie diet all their life? Much more interesting what happens at more normal calorie intakes.

Jeff Consiglio said...

James is it fair to say that you represent and endorse the "mainstream" food pyramid approach to diet? Or do you believe that at least insulin resistant folks would fare better on some degree of carb reduction?

Jeff Consiglio said...

Of course, what is a "healthy" food is up for debate these days. But I about lost my mind in FOOD INC. documentary when the Hispanic family claimed they were forced to live on fast food, chips, etc cause broccoli is too expensive. And yet beans (Which are NOT taxpayer subsidized)are part of traditional Latin-American cuisine, and are CHEAP as heck. Certainly healthier than chips at least. But I agree taxpayers should NOT be forced to subsidize commodity crops like corn, soy, etc so the food processors can have access to cheap base-ingredients for their crap faux-foods.

James Krieger said...

James is it fair to say that you represent and endorse the "mainstream" food pyramid approach to diet?

Where would you get such a notion from my comment? I feel the food pyramid approach was flawed, but it is also certainly NOT responsible for the obesity epidemic. I was pointing out the correlation doesn't equal causation fallacy that Adele Hit is committing.

Beth@WeightMaven said...

Actually, it's not that insulin sensitive folks "do about as well" on LF as LC ... insulin sensitive folks did *better* on a LF diet. You can see Gardner talk about this starting about the 38:00 mark.

The fact that people did good, bad, or indifferently "within EVERY diet group" (emphasis mine) also led researchers to look at genetic differences between participants, not just their insulin sensitivity (or lack thereof).

Re why people are insulin resistant these days, it's interesting to see that replacing grain in the diet with tubers apparently results in better glucose tolerance among diabetics and presumably insulin sensitivity.

I suspect that perpetual caloric excess is a contributor, but the combo of dense acellular carbohydrates and excess omega-6-laden veggie oils are interesting (IMO) potential culprits.

Beth@WeightMaven said...

Correction: I just was reviewing the PDF I have from one of Gardners' talks. The studies that showed insulin sensitive folks doing better on LF were other studies Gardner discussed in his talk, not ATOZ.

Evelyn aka CarbSane said...

Not James, but I reject the false dichotomy that diets must be either "mainstream" high carb/low fat or LCHF. Protein is both an insulin sensitizer and satiating macro and may well be the factor that's responsible for LC's better results with IR -- that and the spontaneous calorie reduction is often significantly more (especially early on) than is prescribed on most "responsible" CRD's.

Jeff Consiglio said...

No not from your comment here, but rather a general sense I had of your position based on what I've read of yours around the internet. My general impression is that you are somewhat anti LC, and seem to be coming from a "the food pyramid has gotcha covered" point of view. Kinda of the same info one gets from registered dietitians.

But again, that impression has been formed based on just some of what I've seen you say in your limited publicly available writings. If that view is in error, then I apologize for misrepresenting your overall diet philosophy.

And though I'm not a huge fan of "official government diet recommendations" - I would agree that it is ludicrous to say they made people obese. I have NEVER seen an obese person follow a semi-intelligent low-fat/higher-carb diet...they inevitably are eating lots of grease along with their refined carbs and sugars.

I am more in the LC camp than the LF camp for sure...but I cringe when LC advocates use intellectually dishonest reasoning to support their LC views...such as the idea that low-fat diets caused the obesity epidemic. Who the hell is on a low-fat diet these days?

Evelyn aka CarbSane said...

Personally, I remember corn being quite sweet in my childhood -- it's something I've eaten on-the-cob every summer of my life since I can remember (even when low carb I'd have an ear with a steak from time to time).

I do agree that comparing modern diabetes stats to historical ones can be an issue, especially since the fine print these days counts prediabetics and often undiagnosed diabetics. Presumably if carbs caused the diabetes, we're talking very high rates of undiagnosed cases in the early 1900's. Given the increased risk of CVD and other bad things glucolipotoxicity do, incidences of these more overt diseases should have run rampant and health authorities would have been eager to explain them.

Jeff Consiglio said...

@ CarbSane - I tend to agree with you in a general sense about it being a false dichotomy that the only two choices are LF or LC. Plenty of middle ground there for many.

I will say I'd like to see studies comparing LF to LC be done that actually control for protein intake. For instance, that study which compared paleo to Mediterranean diet did NOT control for protein. So can we really say it was the reduced carb content that worked, or was it the higher protein content? Or perhaps a bit of both. Hard to say really.

I will say that many bodybuilders thrive on a fairly high carb diet that is HIGH in protein. But then again, many also do well on paleo diet these days. On, I've seen more and more bodybuilders over the past couple of years rejecting fat-phobic standard "bodybuilder diets" of rice, broccoli and dry low-fat meats in favor of more fat and less carbs.

Interesting what you say about protein actually increasing insulin sensitivity. Could you elaborate, or perhaps write a post on that?

Sanjeev said...

the other thing to note: diets for all of the branches were converging/reverting asymptotically back to the original diet numbers, just with the Atkins branch this convergence was at a slower rate than for the others.

One might conclude that there was something magical about Atkins or about low carb OR one might conclude this particular group of Atkins subjects found Atkins easier to adhere to. The keys are deficit and adherence, not magic chemicals in rat urine, and not ketones.

What would happen if the diets for the other branches were designed not for ideological purity but for ease of adherence?

mortalscoil said...

Jeff said: "Now why the heck so many people are insulin resistant these days is an interesting question worth solving, but I'd be loathe to tell such folks to follow a Pima type high-carb diet. And I agree Pima diet was fairly high-carb....NOT an LC diet as portrayed in LC circles."

This is the area where the lack of exercise in Americanized societies is likely playing a roll in declining health. Many studies show that being "fit and fat" reduce risk compared to "thin and unfit"- likely in part through this very pathway.

I'd suspect that uptick in diabetes rates BEFORE the obesity numbers (as discussed above) may have to do with rapidly expanding automobile use and the advent of TV. My first recommendation to parents of obese children is to take the TV out of their room- watching TV leads to more food image viewing, less sleep, and less activity. In adults it's correlated with all cause mortality, obesity rates, diabetes, everything bad.

bentleyj74 said...

"Re why people are insulin resistant these days, it's interesting to see that replacing grain in the diet with tubers apparently results in better glucose tolerance among diabetics and presumably insulin sensitivity.

I suspect that perpetual caloric excess is a contributor, but the combo of dense acellular carbohydrates and excess omega-6-laden veggie oils are interesting (IMO) potential culprits."

I'm very curious about this as well.

Evelyn aka CarbSane said...

Yes, protein stimulates IGF-1. I think if you check the IGF-1 label here, and/or search on LOBAG you'll find some posts on this. Another classic study dealt with leptin sensitivity, but replaced fat with protein (vs. carb with protein) and this resulted in a spontaneous 400 cal/day caloric deficit.

Lots of people think I am anti-LC because I'm a huge critic of Gary Taubes' pseudoscience and low carb dogma. I'm not. If I were in the dietary advice business, I would recommend (and a friend of ours lost like 60 lbs last year on just such advice!) folks give it a try, especially the very obese. BUT, it is not a panacea, and if folks don't address reasons besides diet for their obesity, there's no better long term track record (and anecdotally the rebounds are worse following this approach).

Paul N said...

The full text of the Ian Spreadbury paper on "dense acellular carbohydrates" that Beth mentions above is here

This paper should be mandatory reading for anyone engaging in the carb debate. The figures are quite intriguing, especially "figure 1", which shows that virtually all processed carb foods are high in carb density than virtually all (non-grain) "ancestral" foods.

A quote from the abstract...
"Crucially however, in humans, low-carbohydrate diets spontaneously decrease weight in a way that low-fat diets do not. Furthermore, nutrition transition patterns and the health of those still eating diverse ancestral diets with abundant food suggest that neither glycemic index, altered fat, nor carbohydrate intake can be intrinsic causes of obesity, and that human energy homeostasis functions well without Westernized foods containing flours, sugar, and refined fats. Due to being made up of cells, virtually all “ancestral foods” have markedly lower carbohydrate densities than flour- and sugar-containing foods, a property quite independent of glycemic index."

His hypothesis is that the carb dense foods cause changes to gut microflora - encouraging yeast, candida, etc, leading to more inflammatory states.

We the people have certainly been eating more carb dense foods since the middle of the century - "fast foods" being a prime example. More people are eating more of them today than before, but we have been eating them for decades.

It would also be interesting on these correlation graphs, to chart the consumption of pro-inflammatory trans fats. McDonalds used to use beef tallow for frying, until the US government told them it was unhealthy, and they should use the new trans fats instead. I think that was in the late 70's.

Many people, myself included, end up at a place of eat "real foods", or WAPF style diets, at which point, you have eliminated almost all the carb dense foods (and a lot of inflammatory ones too...), and are left mainly with the "ancestral" carb foods.

The numerous examples of traditional cultures that ate high carb diets and were quite healthy, until bread, pop and chips came along, lend good support to this hypothesis.

I'd like to see it investigated further.

Paul N said...


Your comment about the sweetness of corn applies to almost every fruit and veg commercially grown today. Most consumers end up preferring "sweet" over other tastes.

Grow/eat any "heirloom" variety of sweet corn, tomatoes, onions, melons, pineapples etc and you will find they are often less sweet, unless at perfect ripeness. Commercial ones are made to be sweet even in the underripe state, for easy transport etc.

of course, many of the useful phytonutrients and antioxidants have tart tastes and so are progressively bred out of the sweet varieties. These sweet varieties are then less able to defend themselves against insects/disease.poor soil and so need fertilisers and pesticides and so on. It is well known in organic gardening circles that heirloom varieties are are typically lower maintenance but also lower yield, and lower sweetness.

That's why conventional and GMO varieties rules the supermarkets - cheaper to grow and most people choose to buy them for their sweetness.

James Krieger said...

******My general impression is that you are somewhat anti LC,

I've never been anti-LC. Like Evelyn, I'm anti-pseudoscience, which is why I've been a vocal critic of Taubes and other pseudoscientists in the past. I wrote about my position on LC diets here:

"Of course, I already sense a bunch of strawmen coming my way, including accusations that I am somehow against low-carbohydrate diets. I am not. In fact, I have attended the Nutrition & Metabolism Society conference (an organization that is heavily interested in low carbohydrate diets), been a reviewer for their journal, and have either met or know high-profile scientists in the low-carbohydrate arena, including Eric Westman, Marie Vernon, Richard Feinman, Jeff Volek, and others. I have also published research on low-carbohydrate diets myself. Low-carbohydrate diets are certainly an effective strategy for some people intending to lose weight…but they are not the only strategy, nor are they the best strategy for everyone. And they do not work for the reasons that some people think they work."

and seem to be coming from a "the food pyramid has gotcha covered" point of view. Kinda of the same info one gets from registered dietitians.

I know many registered dietitians and almost all the ones I know are not big fans of the food pyramid. This idea that somehow all RD's throw out is food pyramid stuff is a total myth. It's a strawman caricature of the RD.

Evelyn aka CarbSane said...

My impression on the O6's is that the jury is still waaaaaaaay out on them. In the context of Western diets in the last half of the 20th century-to-present, it is simply impossible to separate out industrial veggie oil use from transfats in margarine and "partially hydrogenated oil" used in too many processed foods to mention.

The fact that even "healthy" olive oil and walnuts are both laden with omega 6's argues against them as culprit, and the literature is highly conflicting -- with quite a bit of it showing improvements in visceral fat distribution and insulin sensitivity replacing sat fats with PUFA (usually in the form of oils and veggie shortenings in such studies).

I'll have a crack at the acellular paper when I get a chance. I think there's some merit to it, but I'm not sure I get where grains aren't made of cells?

George Henderson said...

The food pyramid contributes to the OE because trying to follow it leaves people craving junk food, and the junk food pretends to "sort of" follow the pyramid (the sugar is low fat, the meat is lean meat, oils aren't fats, most crap is grains).
This is why the junk food producers lobby the guidelines people hard, and fund the dodgy disease charities.
The pyramid is herding people their way.

George Henderson said...

Olive oil is only 9% PUFA - hardly laden, it has more SFA than that.
And who eats that much walnut oil?
Omega 6 and lipogenesis:

George Henderson said...

P.S. not eating some novel food if the jury is waaaaaaaay out on its health effects is probably a wise policy. Almost as wise as not eating novel foods at all.

Unknown said...

Glad to hear RD's are not as pro-food-pyramid as it seems. I suspect part of that impression of them stems from their association with providing processed foods in institutional settings where budget constraints rule over sound nutritional choices. Nursing homes, hospitals and prisons usually have an on-staff dietitian making up the menu, and it usually sucks from a nutritional standpoint. But again, perhaps more a reflection of budget limits than their personal nutritional ideology.

But don't all of them have to at least pretend to believe in the "artercloggingsaturatedfat" meme to pass their certification tests?

bentleyj74 said... exactly does it leave people "craving" and what is the functional definition of craving in this context? People just can't get enough broccoli and raw carrots? They are lining up to eat intact water logged whole grains with no added sugar or salt? I'm no fan of the food pyramid but that's a pretty extraordinary claim.

Gabriella Kadar said...

That's not the reason and I am not a victim.

Gabriella Kadar said...

So, if people's taste buds and their familiarity with this new 'norm' of supersweet produce, it can't be any wonder that they don't notice the sugar added to pizza crust, spaghetti sauce and etc. All that extra sugar boosts caloric content without improving nutrition.

Gabriella Kadar said...

'So what are the reasons for cheap food? Industrial farming/food industry sure, but also massive government subventions to farming all over the (OE?) world'

I think cheap food has meant that people could get themselves into mortgage hell as evidenced by the subprime mortgage rates. Cheap food meant that people thought they could buy houses. It would have been better if they'd feed themselves better. Priorities.

In other parts of the world, OE has a lot to do with the dumping of subsidized grains in the 'developing world'. Those peoople are not sitting on sofas watching TV or driving gas guzzlers. Yet they are also getting fat. Still, once again, it's cheap food.

Recently I read that the U.S. is exporting turkey tails to places like Samoa. What's in a turkey tail?

In the West Indies, the U.S. exports frozen turkey wings and frozen chicken backs. I guess the West Indians maybe get the better deal?

Evelyn aka CarbSane said...

This seems a stretch to me, especially since most of us are not eating a lot of fruit and veggies, and when many Americans eat fruit they STILL add sugar to it.

I totally agree with added sugar to things -- it goes hand in hand with added salt in many foods. We are conditioned to it in everything, especially canned goods, soups, etc. I was more conditioned to salt than sugar. My "heavy hand" with the salt has disappeared according to a third party critic (friend of hubs) ... sometimes I have to add salt to my soups and stews now!

Evelyn aka CarbSane said...

Hey George, not talking using walnut oil, used walnuts as an example of being high in O6, as most nuts are. On the paleodiet graphic on PH, walnuts are listed as a good source of O3(?!) which is one reason I mention them, but the other is that there is documented evidence of walnuts being heart healthy/protective. How can that be when they are so high in O6? Olive oil if used as primary oil (which many do with impunity) is about 10% PUFA with >10:1 O6:O3 ratio. So laden may have been the wrong word to use, but on a high fat diet with lots of olive oil can be problematic according to theory, but it's not seen in practice.

Evelyn aka CarbSane said...

Sugar and oils are to be used sparingly, so most junk foods don't even begin to approximate the guidelines.

I don't know your age, but I grew up in the 60's and 70's and when I was in grammar school, as I've written here many times before, I was the oddball out eating the equivalent of Ezekiel bread and natural peanut butter WHEN I had a sandwich for lunch (usually I went home for lunch). Most of the kids brought lunch from home (what a novel concept!) and it was almost always a sandwich on Wonder bread, PB&J or a couple slices bologna maybe with cheese, or tuna salad. Twinkies, HoHo's etc. abounded. Saltines were a popular snack (not sure why, they are tasteless!) as were fruit roll-ups (mostly sugar!). Most drank milk or a can of juice with this. I don't know anyone who really tries to eat the pyramid -- as in worrying over getting enough grains in their diet and that causing them to overeat.

Blaming low fat for the obesity epidemic is super silly, IMO, when what most consider LF (30% of energy) is FAR from a low fat. Americans have only succeeded at reducing fat by percentage because we eat too damn much.

Evelyn aka CarbSane said...

I especially like the mountain range! Good one Ben & welcome!

Evelyn aka CarbSane said...

Welcome Paul! I grew heirloom tomatoes one summer, alongside some "garden variety" types from the Home Depot. The heirlooms were as sweet if not sweeter.

If the sweetness of fruit was really so great, why do most Americans almost never eat just fruit but rather sweetened fruit (pie fillings, yogurts -- fruit = jelly on the bottom since way back when, jellies & jams, raisins with sugar on them in raisin bran, candied dry fruit in cereals, fruit canned in syrup -- again since my childhood, etc.)

Dunno what it means, but for as long as I can remember, I've always liked the tart crisp Granny Smiths -- always my apple of choice. Then I didn't eat them for a very long time and lost my sweet tooth such as it was. Now when I eat apples though, it's Pink Ladies and other sweeter types, but candy is too sweet. Odd, eh?

Diana said...

Gabriella, I wholeheartedly disagree with the Paleo BS about how people are trained to prefer sweet today by industrial hybridized foods.

Among both male and female Hadzas, their favorite food is honey. This is interesting because men and women have different food prefs. vis a vis berries and meat.

bentleyj74 said...

It helps too if people look at the pyramid in context, which they are fully capable of doing if and when they want to. At 5'4 ish my "balanced" calorie needs are going to involve a lot fewer "servings" of any calorie dense food. Mine would be much closer to 6 and that is an appropriate intake for me, no problem. An average bowl of cereal is closer to 4 or 5 servings realistically at one shot. It goes back to satiety really. I will be satiated on a single serving of oatmeal but not a single serving of cheerios. The food producers accurately inform that their food does indeed conform to the pyramid but they do not promise you that you'll have the same satiety outcome if you choose it vs something else. They say it's potentially acceptable and that it's palatable. You'll like it, you'll want it, and you'll probably consume more calories if you are relying on it as the foundation of your personal food pyramid unless you restrict it by deliberation which goes back to that "I starved on the food pyramid" complaint.

Beth@WeightMaven said...

I think walnuts are to O6 as fruit is to fructose. It's one thing to get amounts as packaged by nature and quite another to get the amounts you get consuming seed oils used in SAD foods.

Re the jury being way out, have you see the stuff Stephan's posted about Bill Lands' work on O6/O3 ratios? Me, I'm intrigued (as is Emily Deans) by the potential pathway for excess O6 to be converted to anandamide and the implications for appetite.

I don't think O6 is the only thing, but I suspect it's a contributor.

Food Fixer said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Food Fixer said...

Thanks so much for the wonderful discussion here, but I must protest that I am absolutely NOT implying that the Dietary Guidelines "caused" the obesity crisis. I AM asking the question about how this data (from the CDC with no embellishments on my part) affects how people perceive things like cause and effect--a point which you seem to have demonstrated. Causation is impossible to prove using the type of data I've presented, and in fact, causation is a complex issue.

You've presented food supply data from 2000. Has our food supply changed since 1980? Since the first Dietary Guidelines instructed Americans to increase their intake of starches and vegetable oils, the energy available from flour and cereal products and the fats and oils added to them in processed foods has increased by more than 400 calories; in contrast, the energy available from less-processed foods like eggs, nuts, meat, fruits, and vegetables has increased by a total of 35 calories. Are the DGs a cause of that change? Who knows, but it is an issue worth investigating. Have we changed our eating habits since 1980? Yes. Are the DGs a cause of that change? Again, this is something that should be investigated.

The graph that you present above as a way of showing that Americans do not follow the guidelines is somewhat misleading. Notice the little #2 next to "Added fats and oils." Here's what the footnote says: "The Food Guide Pyramid does not make a recommendation for added fats and oils." It may be a bit disingenuous to say that Americans aren't following dietary recommendations for a food group for which there are not specific recommendations. Further, added fats "excludes naturally occurring fat in such foods as meats, beverage milks, nuts, and avocados." So the added fats, as the name implies, would have to largely be accounted for by processed foods, and those processed foods are usually grain-based.

Here's another way to look at whether or not we comply with the Guidelines and a more detailed accounting here which also shows how food availability has changed in the past 30 years.

I am hardly an ardent low-carber--we apparently agree considerably on many points. I don't think guidelines should be issued from "on high" at all, but I agree with you 100% that ANY guidelines should be focused "on meeting minimums (already the supposed underpinning) of essential nutrients and how best to meet those and additional needs with real whole foods." Absolutely! I'd love to have you assist us in our efforts. Our mission at HNC (officially we are Healthy Nation Coalition) is to build bridges, reach across "nutritional divides" and figure out how to move this forward together. I don't care if you think Gary Taubes is a lunatic. I don't, but that shouldn't keep us from working together. Please feel free to email me directly. My gmail acct is adele.hite

Gabriella Kadar said...


you were correct in the first instance:

sub·ven·tion (s b-v n sh n). n. 1. Provision of help, aid, or support. 2. An endowment or a subsidy, as that given by a government to an institution for research; ...


Gabriella Kadar said...

Konstantin Monastyrsky, the poo guy, told me a couple of years ago that humans can't digest walnuts.

I had told him that a friend of mine soaks walnuts to dissolve and remove the bitterness from the skins. I gobbled up about a quarter cup of blond looking sweet walnuts.

Next day produced what looked like nut studded yule logs.

Admittedly I didn't chew the walnuts up well but then again I probably do the same with cashews, almonds, hazelnuts or pistachios without the above described result.

Allegedly walnuts contain 'important' anti-oxidents (which I probably soaked out of them). But are these nuts digestible in a conventional manner or just if they are ground up?

Sanjeev said...

Allegedly walnuts contain 'important' anti-oxidents
The antioxidant story is way past its shelf life.

I myself started becoming skeptical with the early 90s observation that in progeria several antioxidants are way higher than normal, then the 2 studies of beta carotene in smokers - the both studies had to be ended due to excessive deaths in the high beta carotene groups.

Fiddling around with antioxidants looks now to be a good way to throw one's body's evolved oxidant-handling systems out of whack; the (oxidant/radical) -producing and -handling/disposal systems evolved together, and messing with them is probably a BAD idea. Especially bad would be Consuming synthetic antioxidants, but finding the most powerful antioxidants in nature, that rarely occur in the diet is probably just as bad.

Gabriella Kadar said...

I also think the emphasis on consuming foods 'rich' in anti-oxidants' is rubbish. Maybe Dr. Oz has investments in the blueberry business.

Evelyn aka CarbSane said...

But most of these foods are low caloric density. I dare anyone to try to get fat on blueberries (sans heavy whipped cream and a boatload of sugar of course). And yet many of the paleo folks -- and whatever Zoe Harcombe claims to be -- are fixated on their dark chocolate and its antioxidants.

I have to look for the studies (sorry, it's not a priority and recent distractions already have me off what I'd like to be blogging on) but I think they were mostly whole walnut consumption. There's something in them that has a favorable outcome in, as I recall, some clinical trials, not just vague observational studies. It just seems that if O6's were the culprit, this should not be. I think it's more oxidation (frying vats of PUFA oil) and hydrogenation than anything else. Whenever I look into this, I just don't see much of anything to the negative claims. Not saying it's not possible, but I'm not seeing it in what I've come across.

Evelyn aka CarbSane said...

Hi Adele, I tried commenting on your blog, but I'm on some sort of spam blacklist and if it went through at all, that's where it went.

I do think that even if it's not your intent, that graph can have no other impact but to imply that the guidelines are the cause of the obesity epidemic. I mean you ask people what they think ... (response A) ... then show them that and re-ask the question? What else would the implication be?

I do hope there's room for us to work together, but I'm more hung up on Kosloff's affiliation with your organization than Taubes. I don't think Gary is a lunatic, I think he's intellectually dishonest and wrong on the science. I'm open to people arguing against that position, but somehow nobody ever really does. Americans never really did take the guidelines to heart so that's a huge problem ... looking at the obesity epidemic as if they(we) did.

I'll try and shoot you an email next week and see if the posting problem can't be fixed. Thanks for commenting here! I get that you are not an ardent low carber, but you have to admit that the makeup of your organization is very heavily skewed in this direction.

FYF said...

Sorry about the spam filter. My kids would tell you that I'm not the most tech savvy woman on earth. The fact that I have a blob at all--nothing short of a miracle.

You are absolutely right that the graph I put up might cause people to think differently about what the origins of the obesity crisis might be. Just as the graph that you have (Figure 2) above would perhaps confirm for many what the origins are. Both may be based in factual data (which are ostensibly neutral), but how data are presented provides a context for interpretation that is not neutral. That our perceptions of a complex situation are shaped by such images was sort of the point.

HNC began with a long-time WAPF supporter and me. We've moved forward as we could with full-time work loads,and we've grown and changed as any good organization should, I think. We've recently shifted our mission towards a "nutrition neutral" message in recognition of our primary premise, which is that there is no "one size fits all" diet. Everyone in our leadership recognizes, accepts, and agrees with this tenet. What we all do/preach/teach in our lives outside of HNC is not my concern, as HNC is a place where we check our ideology at the door (to borrow from that cheeseball we-are-the-world philosophy). The only thing I have little tolerance for is lack of tolerance--and yes, I understand the irony inherent in that phrase and I'm working on that too . . .

I will be the first to admit that I've had trouble getting anyone from the vegan community to consider working with us (hello! If you're out there, we could use your help); I don't know if that tenet is a roadblock or not. As I look at the alternative nutrition communities, they seem to fall on two sides: animal-based (low-carb, paleo, and WAPF) and plant-based. It is, as with most dichotomies, a false one, but it seems to exist nevertheless. So far, we've certainly drawn primarily from one side of this movement. Our associate director, Dr. Anna Kelles, was raised a vegetarian (T. Colin Campbell is a family friend), and she and I spent many hours in both happy and difficult conversations, reshaping the mission of HNC towards inclusiveness and neutrality. I hope that with her connections and input, we can continue to work towards increased diversity in nutrition perspectives. I look forward to hearing from you--and I'll check on that spam filter.

Lerner said...

Either broccoli or McDonalds!! Only two choices in life, it seems. I remember that documentary scene very well. I had the same disbelieving reaction as Jeff, and even to thinking about rice and beans. I guess we can't trust any "movement" to not be twisting things... it's a shocker.

I think I'll make some rice and beans today, it's a good hearty meal.

P2ZR said...

LOL Gabriella, what a charming description ;P

Speaking of 'the poo guy' (Konstantin Monastyrsky), is it possible to come to an informed consensus on his theories?

From an evolutionary perspective...
Granted, we haven't been refining foods since Grok and Grokette ate their first (unpeeled) apple, but as leafy greens and whatnot are noncaloric, I can't imagine Grok actually went around assembling and munching on 'big-ass salads', gorilla-style. (People in farming societies have been known to eat inedible fibrous things like bark and grasses when crops failed just to fill the belly, in the throes of starvation--but that can hardly be considered optimal. Not to mention that that probably doesn't happen often without intense (likely mono-crop) agriculture because there's less population pressure on the land.)

I remember eating enormous platter-fuls of veggies to the point of unimaginable stomach distention, and I don't think it did my (never amazingly healthy) gut any favors. Even among insoluble fibers, it seems some are just friendlier than others--e.g., zucchini friendlier than lettuces, and cooked friendlier than raw (probably softening the cell wall).

Anyway, any thoughts on Poo Guy? Anyone? His vehemence is a bit distracting from my layperson's evaluation of his ideas....

Sanjeev said...

mottoes people live by

"normal" people: damn, I'm avoiding that BS artist in the future.

other normal people: if a man tells you he's honest, take your wallet in a death-grip

skeptics: never be fooled

skeptics taken in 1 or 2 times: never be fooled again

skeptics inspired by religious shame techniques: fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me

slightly less normal people: if it feels like more than 2 fingers it's probably ...

Gary Taubes readers: fool me again, PLEASE GARY - back that tanker-trailer full of BS onto my drive way, connect up the hose & let that high power motor shove BS down my gullet for days. Keep doing it again & again, I'm addicted to your endless BS. SEPARATE ME FROM MY WALLET, PLEASE !!!

Sanjeev said...

just a lighter way of me wondering: how many current Gary/Jimmy followers are like me: their first experience with Atkins worked so well they stay/stayed with it far, far past its "best before" date:

... choose to stick with it (like I did) long after its long term health demerits far outweighed any initial health/(fat loss) merits.

Beth@WeightMaven said...

Interestingly, William Banting, Mr. Original Low-Carb Guy, used LC to reduce his weight, but added carbs back in maintenance:

"It is very satisfactory to me to be able to
state, that I remained at the same standard of
bulk and weight for several weeks after the
26th August, when I attained the happy
natural medium, since which time I have varied
in weight from two to three pounds, more or
less. I have seldom taken the morning draught
since that time, and 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."

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