The Rise & Fall of Soy & Gluten in the Low Carb World

Random Bump & Flashback!
Because someone just asked me about this Eco-Atkins vegan vs. Ovo-lacto vegetarian study on Twitter:  

Pretty much all of the paleo, WAPF and Weizen Wampe dick und krank demon foods included!!  Veggie oils ... check!   Gluten ... check!   Soy ... check and check!   Heck, even 21 Day Sugar Detox no nos ... those sugar habit triggering cashews!  
As with the previous metabolic study, participants were encouraged to eat only 60% of their estimated caloric requirements in order to continue the body weight reduction started on their metabolic phase.38–40 The prescribed test diet was a low-carbohydrate vegan diet containing 26% of calories from carbohydrate, 31% of calories from vegetable proteins and 43% from fat (primarily vegetable oils).
Carbohydrate sources on the low-carbohydrate diet featured viscous fibre-containing foods (such as oats and barley) and low-starch vegetables (emphasising okra and eggplant) for the relatively limited amount of carbohydrate allowed. The vegetable proteins were prescribed as gluten (54.8% of total protein), soy (23%), fruits and vegetables (8.7%), nuts (7.5%), and cereals (6%). Gluten was contained in the nut bread and wheat gluten (also called ‘seitan’) products. Soy protein was present in the form of burgers, deli slices, breakfast links, veggie bacon, tofu and soy milks. Nuts included almonds, cashews, hazelnuts, macadamia, pecans and pistachios. The fat sources were nuts (43.6% of total fat), vegetable oils (24.4%), soy products (18.5%), avocado (7.1%), cereals (2.7%), fruits and vegetables (2.3%), and seitan products (1.4%). Participants were able to purchase at the research centre the ‘no’ starch high protein nut bread and three of the seitan (wheat gluten) products used in the study which were not available in Canada. 
I haven't really looked at this study in depth and probably wouldn't recommend such a diet.  But ... As originally stated, Atkins dieters of the usual variety lost weight before with all of these things now considered bad.  So it's hard to blame them now ... right?

Original publish 10/4/11

Let's take a trip in the way-back machine.  I had never heard of him, but back a few years, George Stella was an LC chef featured on various and several TV shows, including his own.  I first heard of him on Jimmy Moore's forum ... someone commented on how too many of his recipes contained soy flour.   Fact is, "traditional" low carb was loaded with soy -- be it the flour or the oil (commercial mayo anyone?).  And guess what?  Folks lost weight on Atkins.  You want to know another frequent ingredient in LC recipes?  You guessed it ... gluten!  You see wheat gluten imparts some of the desired texture to LC products without the aaaack carbs.  And you know what?  Folks lost weight. I do think it's interesting to remember this in the context of today's paleo-styled low carb.  

I'm not knocking paleo, and certainly there are reasons why soy heavy diets are undesirable.  Ditto gluten, it may not be as detrimental to health in the general population as some charge, but at the very least I've yet to see any health benefits attributed to wheat protein.  But contrary to what some revisionist LC historians would have you believe, Atkins was quite far from paleo at its inception and until relatively recently.  Soy and gluten have fallen far out of favor now ... but it wasn't always that way.


Anonymous said…
Soy, gluten, and sugar alcohols and added inulin are all component of low carb junk food.

The sugar alcohols are added for "sugarless" sweetness and the inulin for texture and to lower the dreaded glycemic index. Both of these agents can be hell on your IBS if you have it or even contribute to SIBO.

Low carb engineered foods just completely miss the point on food quality.

As does making lemon bars out of "paleo" ingedients.

If you eat the whole damned pan of treats, then what difference does it make if it the ingredients were "healthy"?
Debbie Cusick said…
I'm sure just about any sort of eating plan has has rises and falls in preferred ingredients over the years - look at Weight Watchers! Not only low carb. George Stella also recommended using margarine instead of butter to make his low carb recipes even healthier. :D
When I tried low carb in, er, 2003 or so, yeah, lots of soy stuff. When I began to moderate carbs in my latest (most successful and different) weight loss journey (ie, not a short-term diet, more than a year so far), I began with prepackaged lower-carb items. Soy. Gluten. Both figured prominently. And I used them as adjuncts to real food. Moderate carb is more like it (90 to 120 grams carbs). But I used the gluten pancakes cause I missed breakfast foods. I have since given those up. They sort of ...segued me. Now, I stick to real food.

I do worry about folks who are on the super-processed high soy packaged diets (like Medifast or WonderSlim). Obviously, they lose weight, but when I read the list of ingredients, I kinda shudder when that's the core of a diet.

Oh, well...let the debate and food knowledge evolution continue...
Sue said…
I did low carb Atkins in 2002 with low carb products that included soy. I wonder if it contributed to my hypothyroidism.
@sue I only wish it had been a copy of The Perfect Health Diet or something similar that had fallen into my hands instead of that damn Atkins book & their branded low carb junk food crap they peddle. I've been wondering how much damage VLC might have done to my health, especially to my thyroid (my hair falling out in clumps, the works) & my gut.
Sue said…
There was a low carb store called Pass the Toast that I think I bought soy flour from for low carb cooking doesn't exist anymore.
Sue said…
FTD, me too. Though I think low carb has it's health benefits but can be taken too far - eating low carb products full of junk BUT they're low in carb!!!! Feeling guilty eating an apple or god forbid a BANANA!
CarbSane said…
Hi Kurt, I'm not sure we can write all LC substitutes off as junk food. I really don't consider the LC wraps I eat occasionally to be the equivalent of Atkins bars. But point taken.

Sue & FTD: If it's any consolation, a lot of the soy info out there is for very high/regular intake. Speaking of bananas, I find it sad that there are folks on another blog happy to see a small child push away a banana while smearing chocolate all over their face. Chocolate is processed food.

@scalloway: My point wasn't that things change, but that the demonized foods seem to shift with the winds with LC far more. WW has always been a CICO based plan in one way or another.
CarbSane said…
Hi Princess: I think whatever keeps you going for the long haul is more important than whatever the current trends are. It is easy to get swept away with the latest. It's when those substitutes lead to the same behavior, different food that's what gets you, as we see with a certain prominent low carber gone paleo.
@ evelyn I understand from my reading that eating unfermented soy is unhealthy only if you eat it a lot & frequently (having in fact just had a nice tasty bowl of miso soup for dinner last night). I guess soy (& Atkins & VLC) are more my whipping boy this morning for my anger at the fact that VLC (but not moderate LC) definitely messed with my thyroid, plus created a fire's worth of internal inflammation & gut issues. I recently read your critique of the new Atkins book & the way they slanted the info about the Atkins "edge", and now that I'm learning from posts that you write, as well as from Stephan, KH & the Jaminets, about nutrition truths - which I'm finding a lot less hard to swallow than feeling so duped by things like TWICHOO & the dangers of not eating enough safe starches. Personally I'm glad GT made such an ass of himself at AHS & his performance is now immortalized on the Internet as it resulted in Stephan's stellar post dismantling the Carbs/Insulin story. When GT insulted SG, I think LC might have finally "jumped the shark"...sorry, I loved me some Happy Days when I was a (thin) kid.

*hops off soap box & heads to kitchen for a banana*
Diana said…
I also am hypothyroid but after wanting to blame LC for everything, I think maybe it's the cycling between LC and binging on carbs that might be the real problem as in "Feeling guilty eating an apple or god forbid a BANANA!"

I completely identify. If regular apples are just "candy from a tree" then why not eat fried apples and a pecan log? It's so crazy.
Anonymous said…
@ Evelyn

Yes, I was mainly speaking to the stuff they add to the manufactured kind of junk food.

But I was also trying to point out that if we buy that FR affects total intake, we might be careful about creating stuff that is junk food - behaviorally - even if it is made with "good" ingredients, whether good means LC or paleo.

One of the main warning signs for failure I see on my diet plan is when people pick out or create new favorites to overeat that they see as "sanctioned" by the diet they are on.

That is what Jimmy seems to be doing, with the encouragement of a book titled "paleo comfort foods". How suggestive can you get? You are encouraged to take "kosher paleo" components and create new treats with them.

For my wife it was fruit with whole cream. Totally OK lacto-paleo in terms of components, she started eating enough with each meal that we saw we she was eating it in a compulsive fashion. I did not have the same response, even though I find the sugar/fat combination in Ben and Jerrys or HD ice cream makes me eat it past the point of satiation, and she is indifferent to ice cream.

So we cut it out in favor of more potatoes or rice, which FOR BOTH OF US, do not lead to overeating at all.

I also eat rice flour pancakes smothered in grass fed butter and even a little maple syrup 3-4 times per week. This could fairly be called hyperpalatable junk food and would be for many. But it does not at all make me compulsively eat more of it. So for me, it is not functionally hyper palatable junk food. But it might well be for someone else!

I am just trying to be clear that I am not being pejorative or judgmental about it. I eat things that would function as hyper palatable junk to more susceptible people. The notion of the candy cigarette is just to acknowledge that is what they are and to be careful, not to never do it as if it were a sin.
Anonymous said…
I should have added, the single large pancake has 3 pastured eggs in it rather than just one..... WIth the GF butter at about 3-4 tablespoons it is pretty nutritious.
CarbSane said…
Kurt, you bring up a good point about we might be careful about creating stuff that is junk food - behaviorally - even if it is made with "good" ingredients, whether good means LC or paleo. This is where the low fatties went wrong with Snackwells and such. I don't think many in their heart of hearts truly believed they could eat packages of those (for the record I don't think I've ever had one) and succeed in weight loss, but that didn't stop some from ignoring their inner common sense voice.

I recall a post by Dana Carpender a while back that stuck in my head. She was saying that she sometimes eats cake for breakfast left over from the day before and to her it's all real food b/c it's made of eggs, almond meal, whey protein and such that are all good nutritious "real food". I on the other hand would never eat cake for breakfast -- or if I did, I'd "own" that as being a very occasional thing that is an exception, not that the cake is OK because it's sanctioned on some diet plan.
if a book like Paleo Comfort Foods gets someone off their SAD junk food regimen & acts as a "gateway drug" to a healthier way of eating, I'm all in favor. However, I doubt that's who will be buying these sorts of books & in that case they probably just serve to encourage bad habits through excessive FR.
Lerner said…
I'll note that inulin is said to be beneficial for gut flora.

Question for Kurt (or anybody) because he mentions grass fed: One of the things that I categorize as "why would the body be so stupid" is that humans generally need RICE (Rest Ice Compression Elevation) for joint sprains. Or more recently it's NICER (with added NSAIDs). The need exists because the inflammatory response can cause more damage than the original injury. This is an exaggerated normal response, different than a pathology like anaphylaxis from peanuts or bee stings.

So, is the body being 'stupid' because of inflammatory excess from consuming too much O6 PUFA? If so, do people who eat a very low O6/O3 ratio tend to need RICE less? If not, why not?

Or, is arachadonic acid not involved in the cascade that begins when mast cells degranulate from a sprain, making the point moot?
Anonymous said…

Most studies show GF has about the same amount of n-6 as grain fed. The difference is mostly that GF has a little less mono (percentage wise) and much more n-3 (percentage wise). And I like to eat my meat very rare, even the hamburger, so paying for GF makes sense for me.

So eating GF does not reduce your n-6, it just substitutes n-3s from the grass for monos and eventually improves your membrane ratio.

I buy it as halves or quarters from a local farmer at under $3 per pound hanging weight.

I know that does not really answer your question about the acute inflammatory response. I've personally not noticed any difference between the different diets I have eaten in that regard, but I've not studied the issue, really.


I've not read the book. It may just be that Jimmy has picked out the most "interesting" treat-like recipe and the other content is just fine...
Galina L. said…
I agree with Dr. Kurt G. Harris 100%. Don't eat anything you can't stop eating, no matter what it is (low-fat, low-carb, organic)- in your particular case it is a junk food. I was never tempted with Atkins bars, low-carb lemon cakes, pumpkin cheese-cakes and I believe it is the main reason why LC worked for me. That and the decision to drop all snacking and liquid calories.I used LC as a tool to curb my appetite and my obsession with food and to eat less frequently without being hungry and not as an excuse to eat compulsively "safe foods". I can't have nuts at home at all, even raw sunflower seeds. It is easy to imagine what cake made out of almonds or walnuts would do to me!
I have a personal grunge against soy food. During the year when I gained 26 lb nearly 5 years ago I tried to follow Dr.A.Weill's diet recommendations and started to used tofu instead of meat,eat a lot of soy burgers, made low-fat souses and dressings for salads out of tofu. Very often the problem with the food we consider to be the safe and beneficial is that we start to eat more of it without noticing. The best test for me - food should keep me satiated for at least 4 hours, it doesn't seduce me into eating when I am full.
SamAbroad said…
Back in my bad ol' days of 'as long as the carb count is low it's gotta be healthy!' phase, I purchased some vital wheat gluten off the net and made some bread rolls. OH my god they were the nicest things in the world. Imagine the nicest bread you have ever eaten and triple it. I would have eaten the whole pan if I hadn't doubled over with pain for hours afterward.

That's the closest I ever came to a controlled experiment that gluten didn't agree with me at all, and a lot of the low carb foods that made me feel bad suddenly made sense..

I think all low carb dieters go through the fake-food phase, and quickly notice they stop losing weight.
charles grashow said…

"How exactly was Eco-Atkins supposed to look like? The major carbohydrate sources on what was supposed to be a low carbohydrate diet featured viscous fibre-containing foods (such as oats and barley) and low-starch vegetables (emphasizing okra and eggplant) for the relatively limited amount of carbohydrate allowed. The vegetable proteins were
prescribed as gluten (54.8% of total protein), soy (23%), fruits and vegetables (8.7%), nuts (7.5%), and cereals (6%). Gluten was contained in the nut bread and wheat gluten (also called ‘seitan’) products. Soy protein was present in the form of burgers, deli slices, breakfast links, veggie bacon, tofu and soy milks. Nuts included almonds, cashews, hazelnuts, macadamia, pecans and pistachios. The fat sources were nuts (43.6% of total fat), vegetable oils (24.4%), soy products (18.5%), avocado (7.1%), cereals (2.7%), fruits and vegetables (2.3%), and seitan products (1.4%)."
eulerandothers said…
50% of the low-carbohydrate dieters dropped out vs 32% on the high carbohydrate diet. The dieters were encouraged to eat 60% of their estimated caloric requirements.

Read: it's difficult to stay with this diet, and it's a lower-calorie diet.

'Forty-seven overweight participants, recruited by newspaper advertisement and hospital clinic notices, undertook the 1-month metabolic first phase of the study ... that has been previously reported.... At the start of the study, participants were given the option to participate in the metabolic and ad libitum phases or only the metabolic phase. On completion of the metabolic phase, 39 participants (19 control and 20 test participants) continued for an ad libitum 6-month study and their data (n=39) were used in the final analysis....'

The participants who continued on to the ad libitum phase should be the absolute best adherents to the diet.

'The approximate 4 kg weight loss on the metabolic study was increased to −6.9 kg on low-carbohydrate and −5.8 kg on high-carbohydrate 6-month ad libitum treatments'

The high-carb group's weight loss was roughly the difference of 1 kilogram.

'The control, high-carbohydrate lacto-ovo vegetarian diet (58% carbohydrate, 16% protein and 25% fat) emphasised whole wheat cereals and cereal fibre, as well as low-fat or skim milk dairy products and liquid egg substitute to reduce saturated fat and cholesterol intakes.'

Reducing saturated fat?

Also noticeable: the low-carb diet was vegan (bring in the big guns) and the high-carb diet was not.

The study took place in 2005 - the metabolic phase was reported in 2009:
'A total of 47 overweight hyperlipidemic men and women consumed either (1) a low-carbohydrate (26% of total calories), high-vegetable protein (31% from gluten, soy, nuts, fruit, vegetables, and cereals), and vegetable oil (43%) plant-based diet or (2) a high-carbohydrate lacto-ovo vegetarian diet (58% carbohydrate, 16% protein, and 25% fat) for 4 weeks each in a parallel study design. The study food was provided at 60% of calorie requirements.'

The month of the metabolic phase (the first month) had the study food provided. It's not as if the participants couldn't think of how to make the diet work! The high carb diet allowed twice the percentage of carbohydrates, compared to the low carb diet. But, even with the controlled metabolic phase, the difference in weight loss was still just a kilogram?
eulerandothers said…
LOL! This reminds me of a very funny scene in the TV series, 'Kitchen Confidential' (my very earliest large-dose-of-Bradley-Cooper, from 2005) which is loaded with gems about food, diet, and tastes. There's a hilarious episode about having to serve a vegan customer (screams and groans in the kitchen) and another (more screams and groans) about the owner's demand that they serve brunch one weekend ('Brunch? Is it breakfast? Is it lunch? Make up your mind...)

One of the staff says something like 'And muffins? MUFFINS! Oh, 'nad up and just admit you want a slice of cake, for God's sake....'

I think of that remark every time my husband brings home muffins for breakfast, that only he eats. Then he complains about how unhealthy they are.
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