And the Cherry-Picking Baton has been passed.

I've been musing a bit in comments and asides lately over the low carb movement.  When I discovered the LC internet community in early 2009 those were some still heady days.  In retrospect I'm not sure how much it was really growing vs. the hype of same, but it was a thriving community with well traveled blogs and discussion boards.  The number of "big names" touting Taubes' alternate hypothesis was staggering, really, and reports of how the mainstream was finally catching on were frequent.  Looking back, it seems the year or so before were even headier times for low carb.   Fast forward and in 2011 many big names jumped ship, not to mention the readership of blogs like this one increased dramatically.  Even many who remain wedded to LC as the only superior answer to all ills no longer believe TWICHOO to be correct.   Many have retooled their message, clarified their positions, etc.etc.  This is clearly more difficult for some than others -- it's hard to shift gears when your entire persona is inextricably linked to Livin La Vida Low Carb after all.  So in a way, while it by no means excuses their behavior, those like Jimmy and Gary, Feinman and Westman, Carpender and Naughton, etc.etc. at least make sense to me.  These folks have built careers on, and their livelihoods are sustained by LC.   Most of the aforementioned are not about to do a Don Matesz any time soon, and many have reflexively dug in their heels to forge forward -- I hope they at least put blinders on their one trick pony for the sake of humane treatment.

So ... these stalwarts I understand.  The new kids on the block, I don't get.  I think one has to be particularly blind or (pessimism alert) opportunistic these days to take up the cause of low carb as the magic solution to the obesity epidemic and all that.  For the sake of brevity, I won't address the greater paleo community/figures other than the new breed of LC'ers seems more enamored with the evolutionary argument than those who learned at Atkins knee.  

Enter Jonathan Bailor of "The Smarter Science of Slim".  ( I gotta love the blurb from WheatBelly:  "A masterful complication disproving the theory of 'eat less move more' ").   The website subtext:
A proven lifestyle for long-term health. Evidence that eating less and exercising more is harmful. Backed by the largest scientific analysis of wellness ever conducted. Endorsed by the world-wide scientific community. Approved curriculum for registered dietitians by the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.  Eat smarter. Exercise smarter. Live better.
Well, I think the jury is definitely still out regarding long term healthfulness of the modern very low carb approach.  And I do take issue with ELMM being harmful -- yes it can be, so can eating less carbs and moving incorrectly for your stature just because someone says that's the "smarter" way to exercise.  But this is besides the point for now.  Let's just focus on how Mr. Bailor has taken the baton of cherry-picking from Gary Taubes, shall we?

In a post entitled The Simple Scientific Cause of the Obesity Epidemic, Bailor writes:
Let’s clear up this unnecessary confusion by looking at the history of eating using a scale of one day. Say 12:00am last night was the dawn of our first ancestors, and right now it’s one second before midnight. For 23 hours and 57 minutes (up until 11:57pm) our ancestors stayed healthy and fit, eating vegetables, seafood, meat, eggs, fruit, nuts, and seeds. At 11:57pm, people started farming, became “civilized,” and began eating starch and a small amount of sweets. Two seconds ago, people started eating processed starches and sweets. Only right now—one second before midnight—did people start getting most of their calories from manufactured starch- and sweetener-based food products. That means the diet recommended by the government’s Dietary Guidelines was not possible for 99.8% of our history.
The Eocene Plate
image link from WholeHealthSource
Ha!  I suggest if you're really mired in this notion that we can even try to discern, let alone come close to replicating the human diet from millions of years ago -- to fix a problem that has only manifested itself some 35 or so years ago -- you need a humor break.  For that, may I suggest you read Stephan Guyenet's Eocene Diet and have a good laugh.  And then read his follow-up and grasp the take-home message.

Our metabolisms and genes are clearly suited to processing starches, especially from whole foods like tubers and the like.  To use Bailor's time-line, if it's 3 minutes to midnight when the Neolithic agricultural era began, what time is it when it finally produced burgeoning obesity?  Like 3 milliseconds to midnight?

Bailor continues:
It is an unarguable anthropological fact that for the vast majority of their existence, our ancestors did not consume much starch and did not consume any added sweeteners. They did not eat whole grains. They ate no grains. They did not cut back on added sweeteners. They did not know what added sweeteners are. Emory University researcher S.B. Eaton tells us:
“During the late Paleolithic [the vast majority of human history], the great majority of carbohydrates was derived from vegetables and fruit, very little from cereal grains and none from refined flours.” 
Before discussing S. Boyd Eaton, however, Bailor's certitude of *fact* is disturbing.  Whether one agrees or not, how to overlook folks like Dr. Nathaniel Dominy?  But,
Ah, S. Boyd Eaton.  I've blogged briefly on his works here and here.  Whether or not one accepts his works as the be-all and end-all of what constitutes the paleo diet, from the second link we have a summary table at right of the changes through the years.  Now in the seminal paper (even invoked in The New Atkins) referenced in the first post, the values are a bit different, one would expect to at least address this review showing % carb over 40 repeatedly, no?

In that first paper, Eaton writes:
Contemporary Americans obtain about 50% of their daily energy from carbohydrate, of which about 15% is contributed by added sugar (sugars added to foods during processing, preparation or consumption). In regions in which behaviourally-modern humans probably originated, ancestral carbohydrate consumption is thought to have made up about 35% total energy intake (Cordain et al. 2000), of which perhaps 2–3%, on average, came from honey, the closest Palaeolithic parallel for added sugar (Cordain et al. 2005). Cereal grains (% total; refined grain 85, whole grain 15) are currently the largest single carbohydrate source, with dairy products another important contributor (Cordain et al. 2005). Man’s ancestors had no dairy products after weaning, and rarely used cereal grains, so most of their carbohydrate came from fruits and vegetables, which generally have more desirable glycaemic responses than do cereal grain and dairy products. Fruits and vegetables now provide only 23% total carbohydrate intake.
Again, whether or not one is a fan of  Eaton (and Cordain), this is what was written.  So when Bailor makes the following statement, it floors me!
This idea is interesting to think about when it comes to our health. Obesity, diabetes, heart disease, and cardiovascular disease are called “diseases of civilization.” They did not become issues until agriculture enabled production of starches and sweets about 12,000 years ago. And they did not reach epidemic status until starches and sweets made up 43% of our diet.
Amazing, huh?  Look back up at that table from Eaton!  The promo about Bailor reads:
For more than a decade, Jonathan Bailor immersed himself in 1,100+ studies and 10,000 pages of scientific research. Now comes his new book, The Smarter Science of Slim, that simplifies this research, proves that eating less and exercising more is harmful, and provides a proven lifestyle for long-term wellness.
Bailor’s Smarter Science of Slim is the single largest scientific analysis of long-term health and fitness ever conducted, is endorsed by top doctors at the Harvard Medical School, John Hopkins, and UCLA, and is approved by the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics as curriculum for registered dieticians.
Somebody oughta alert Gary!!  Maybe Bailor stole the baton instead of having it handed over.  But this largest scientific analysis schtick sounds all too familiar.  Somehow Bailor has never heard of the traditional Arizona Pima, the Kitivans, the Japanese and Okinawans in particular, or countless other traditional societies who exceeded 43% starch and/or fructose (albeit unrefined) long before the 3 millisecond mark.  

It's fitting somehow that his curriculum has been approved.  Seal of approval, or seal of shame?   I know this, his *facts* are cherry-picked rivaling, and perhaps even surpassing the LC Master himself.  Sad.


bentleyj74 said…
Right...starch went down by percentage not up.
Mario Vachon said…
Eat real food. If it's manufactured, don't eat it. At the end of the day, its not very complicated. It may not make you model slim (although it allowed me to lose a lot of weight a little over a decade ago that has remained off), it will certainly make you healthier. Just because Kraft, Nabisco or Nestle tell you its food doesn't make it so. It generally means that for sure it isn't real food.
CarbSane said…
I know! I used to say this on Jimmy's board and get laughed at. It is true that the Inuit do not do well with Western influence because they eat more carb and less fat and protein than traditionally, but I submit that is more the exception than the example. Most cultures went from traditionally eating what would be considered ultra-low fat diets (<15%, sometimes <10%) very high carb diets (>75%) to eating more fat and far less carb when Western foods are introduced.

I note Bailor rails against the Pyramid. Guess in his decade of research he never realized added sweets were to be introduced sparingly. Oh ... and added fats weren't available in paleo times either!
bentleyj74 said…
Exactly, given that this is pretty well documented I have to wonder how anyone looks at the stats and concludes "Yes! I'll hitch my career to the notion that increased starch intake is associated with diseases of affluence."
bentleyj74 said…
Also, the Inuit don't seem to have been doing fantastically well regardless but taking a traditional diet that DOES at least work well enough for them to reproduce and survive as a culture in an extremely inhospitable climate and replacing it with gov't rations of canned foods and white flour then saying "See? Carbs!" is just dishonest.
Tonus said…
"proves that eating less and exercising more is harmful"

I am guessing that this is one of those broad, context-dependent phrases which can only be defended once the parameters are narrowly defined. Otherwise, as an absolute statement it's clearly wrong. But it makes for great ad copy. Another magic bullet!
LeonRover said…
Steve Parker extracted the following summary from a Konners & Eaton paper
Paleolithic Nutrition Twenty-Five Years Later published in December 2010
(See Steve's post:

Eaton and Konner suggest the following as the “estimated ancestral diet“:

Carbohydrates, % daily energy 35-40
Protein, % daily energy 25-30
Fat, % daily energy 20-35
Added sugar, % daily energy 2
Fiber, g/day >70
EPA and DHA*, g/day 0.7-6
Cholesterol, mg/day 500+
Vitamin C, mg/day 500
Vitamin D, IU/day 4,000 (sunlight)
Calcium, mg/day 1,000-1,500
Sodium, mg/day under 1,000
Potassium, mg/day 7,000

I draw your attention to the fact that this study shows a RANGE of macro percentages.

Anyone who advocates a SINGLE OPTIMAL RATIOS on this basis, without pointing out that it is merely an opinion displays a minimum of intellectual honesty.

I rest my case.
Unknown said…
ProudDaddy said…
Golly, garsh, Ms Evelyn! The next thing you're going to tell me is that the "clog" doesn't fully explain why I'm overweight!
Woodey said…
"Well, I think the jury is definitely still out regarding long term healthfulness of the modern very low carb approach."

I spent a year of VLC, the first two weeks of putting carbs in my diet caused me to have daily diarrhea. The pain in my stomach I get every time I eat vegetables ( I had cut them out from my diet along with fruit) is annoying and is greatly discouraging me from continuing to try and eat them. What I'm going through now is enough for me to say that VLC is not that healthy and I would warn anyone considering it.
Woodey said…
Another case of people infatuated with a certain era of history, which equates to a glamorized opinion and not reality. Reminds me of the hypnotherapists who draw out people's past lives. Ever notice those past lives are queens,kings or V.I.P.s? More than likely if they were anything it was sh*t-shovelers or p*ss-boys who lived to be 25...if they were lucky.
Janet said…
I'm not sure where this very low carb ultra high fat model has come from. It is not the way I was taught to do low carb; so I am baffled at all of this conversation.
Evelyn do you have an email address?
CarbSane said…
Sure, I really need to put a contact button up there ;) It's carbsane at gmail dot com.
CarbSane said…
Bravo! Welcome Mario!
Unknown said…
I think if you are eating very low carb you are necessarily going to eat quite a bit of fat, because you can only eat so much lean protein.

The macronutrients are carbs, fat, protein, if you eliminate one you necessarily increase one or both of the others, assuming your caloric intake remains constant.
Sanjeev said…
> where this very low carb ultra high fat model has come from

Standard stuff for

1. group dynamics (the simultaneous drives among a group's members for conformity, differentiation and exteremism)

2. economics (specifically, product differentiation, salesman differentiation, market fragmentation/segmentation and simplifying the message for faster and more effective marketing)
Evelyn, another great post. Nice responses as well.

As a dietitian and certified diabetes educator who favors a moderate low-carb approach of about 80-120 grams per day for people with diabetes, I am well outside the traditional recommendations of the ADA (American Diabetes Association) and the AND (Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, formerly the American Dietetic Association). I haven't read anything by Bailor before, but from the quotes above, I am extremely surprised that the AND would endorse his book for CE credits. "Evidence that eating less and moving more is harmful." Huh? Please show me the evidence for that assertion

Very low carbohydrate diets can improve blood sugar control, but I see no reason to resort to ketogenic levels when the same results are possible with a more moderate carb intake.

And Dr. Steve Parker is spot on, as always.
CarbSane said…
Hi Franziska! In my latest NHANES post we see that women used to eat about 150g carb/day, and men about 250g/day. The last point on Feinman's graphics is roughly 240g/day women, 325g men. For the men, that's quite a lot by carbophobic standards, but far short of the "typical" levels of 400-500g/day I see bantied about as "fact".

Yeah, evidence that ELMM is harmful? I do believe dieting can be harmful -- as in obsessions over calories that lead to binge behavior and the like. But the evidence in favor of calorie restriction for longevity is at least compelling in animals, and long living populations tend to eat less, period. So long as folks want to view "MM" as some bright line between over-exercising and sitting on a couch, no progress will be made there either.
Teech said…
Im not a proponent of vlc, but I am also not against it. There is one study which does show its safe in the long term, specifically it was a study on epileptic patients who have successfully controlled their epilepsy with a ketogenic diet. I know paleo peeps tend to focus on lc, and I think its because it works for so many people, plus its an easy way of forcing people to drop processed carbs. Here is a link that talks about the vlc study.
Unknown said…
Thanks for writing this. I have serious reservations about anyone whose Facebook fan page is that fishy. By fishy, I mean he has over 11,000 followers, yet incredibly low engagement on the page. The last week there were ZERO new followers. Here is his page:

Click on Likes and you'll see what I mean.

Conversely, I have 700 fans of my page, all of them "earned," and have twice the number of people "talking about this." I have way more comments and Likes on my posts. Methinks something is rotten in the state of Facebook. I'm not saying he bought FB fans, but something is fishy there. If he did buy them to make himself look more popular and respected, then that's just lame.

And he's not even full time in this area (I am). His LinkedIn profile shows that he works for Microsoft. Google it.

What's more, although the book appears to be published by an established publisher, I do believe that this is self published by his own company, with just this one book:

Is this sour grapes? Hell no. I've am syndicated fitness columnist with one of the most respected newspaper companies in the world and have a book coming out by a major publishing house. I just don't like fishy dealings that people do to make themselves seem respectable and sought after. It makes me question of everything they write.