Food Graphics and Fallacies ...

... (or is that phalluses?).   I about spit out my coffee when I clicked on a graphic from NuSI that Josh linked to in comments in another post.  (BTW, an aside, I try to keep the blogging up at the expense of responding to comments so I apologize for getting quite behind of late.)  So I decided to use my crudely constructed "arrows" at right in my graphics.  Yes, that's Rick Moranis from Space Balls there!

Now one of the things that we're correctly lectured to about in the community is the shortcomings of observational studies:  correlation does not equal causation.  This is true.  And yet, as I pointed out in Graphs, pictures showing correlation are frequently used to give the impression of causation.  Now the graphic at right is not your typical correlation plot, but the message is clear.  The reduction in supposedly "bad" fatty foods and increased consumption of carby foods, at least in part considered "good", has caused our obesity epidemic.   This is more of the same-old same-old cherry picking of data to guide the consumers thought patterns to reach a desired conclusion.   

Now NuSI and most low carbers like to cite the NHANES data for a relatively narrow time frame and/or convenient time points.   I believe this is an innocent oversight to title the slide "food availability" and attribute the data to NHANES.  But this series of who knows how many posts will address graphs either directly obtained from U.S. Per Capita Food Supply Trends, or constructed from data upon which this report was prepared from the USDA.  Now there's no right or wrong data set, but I tend to believe supply data over self-report consumption data, given the plethora of data showing wide discrepancies between reported and actual intake.  While we Americans can be a wasteful sort, the USDA has adjusted the supply data to include waste from 1970 forward.  And for all the flack over food being big business, we also know that what doesn't get sold (and consumed) eventually doesn't get produced any more.  Thus while actual consumption may not be determined with great accuracy, there's little reason to believe that they don't track to the availability/supply.

So ... I had a little fun!

Here's NuSI's 5 "food groups" using the 1970 - 2000 USDA Adjusted Per Capita Availability:
So now, animal protein is contributing to the obesity epidemic!  Magic!  But wait, there's more.  I scoured the data for some general food groups with some rather unexpected changes, or changes NuSI might not find so compelling to put in their promotional graphics.  
Note that citrus includes oranges and grapefruits, cream includes all kinds (half&half, light and heavy) that all saw increases despite a 24% decline in all milk consumption (IOW, folks weren't replacing cream in their coffee with low fat options), and green leafy veggies include lettuce, broccoli, spinach and squash (odd, but not my distinction).

Of course this doesn't tell us anything but ...


Anonymous said…
Haha! :D

That protein intake is from chicken. I was reading some food consumption data a while ago for fun (can't remember from where) and cheese was also up there as a food that has skyrocketed. Maybe Jimmy Moore will consider a 30 day no cheese-covered chicken challenge (C-CCC). I know he went paleo but he didn't go chicken-free paleo. <_<
Greg said…
Funny, just eyeballed the data by weight, and it looks like the increase in cream just about compensates for the drop in butter consumption from 1970-2000 (after roughly adjusting for the difference in percentage fat content). The increase in cheese as Stabby noted looks like it compensates several times over (in terms of dairy fat fat content) for the decrease in whole milk during that period.

So the rise in obesity could only be due to a deficiency of endocrine disrupting citrus polyphenols.
Puddleg said…
The people eating the extra cream are Gary Taubes, Peter Attia, Jimmy Moore and so on.
The people eating the extra grains and sugars are in the bariatric wards, cancer wards, and psych wards, etc.
At some stage we need to stop looking at this data as if it represents one person.
If I don't eat sugar and grains, there are other people out there eating my share.
Unknown said…

Craving an Ice-Cream Fix

"Princeton University and University of Florida researchers have found that sugar-binging rats show signs of opiatelike withdrawal when their sugar is taken away — including chattering teeth, tremoring forepaws and the shakes. When the rats were allowed to resume eating sugar two weeks later, they pressed the food lever so frantically that they consumed 23 percent more than before. Scientists in California and Italy last year reported that the digestive systems of rats on a fatty liquid diet began producing endocannabinoids, chemicals similar to those produced by marijuana use."

"Food addiction seems to be linked to the types of foods we’re consuming. Dr. Kelly D. Brownell, director of Yale’s Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity, notes that the human body is biologically adapted to deal with foods found in nature, not processed foods.

“We don’t abuse lettuce, turnips and oranges,” says Dr. Brownell, co-editor of the new book “Food and Addiction.” “But when a highly processed food is eaten, the body may go haywire. Nobody abuses corn as far as I know, but when you process it into Cheetos, what happens?”

Gabriella Kadar said…
What's wrong with just measuring the volume of food ingested? The whole bariatric surgery success story is based on the fact that the tiny stomach can only stretch so far. Obese people stretch out their stomachs such that only when their stomachs are distended do they feel full.

Let's face it: whether they want to admit to it or not, there are people who consume 'dinner for four' on a daily basis. They are so accustomed to filling up that for them, 'normal serving size' doesn't look like more than a few tiny bites.

And 'dinner for four' does not approximate any food pyramid anywhere.

CarbSane said…
This comment has been removed by the author.
CarbSane said…
Yep, chicken up 90%. The Eenfeldts out there snapping pictures of fat Americans at frozen yogurt stands trying to convince people that the conversion to low fat dairy is what has caused our obesity epidemic really bug me. Our cheese consumption more than makes up for the fat reduction in other low fat dairy -- even fat reduced cheeses are higher fat than whole milk.
CarbSane said…
Hi Greg! Got a chuckle over the polyphenols!

One of the problems with this data is that just looking at percentage differences in certain foods distorts the picture. Clearly they are trying to show a reduction in animal fat and cholesterol (and by inference saturated fats) when taken on the whole this is not the case. Overall we've increased fat intake or at the very least just added more carbs to a significant level of fat consumption.

I was surprised that in the 70's average margarine availability was already twice that of butter (11 vs. 5 lbs) and declined more rapidly than butter by 2000 (down 24% vs. 8%). However salad and cooking oils MORE than made up the difference.
CarbSane said…
Oops, didn't mean to delete, but since I did, I'll edit the original comment:

George, this is part of my point. This sort of averaging is used to point a finger at sugar and especially sodas when I don't think I've even eaten 50g fructose one single day in my entire life! Well ... maybe outside the days of the sugary drink parties in college ;) [EDIT: and I would add some long-ago binging days, though I suspect even most of those came in under 50g fructose or were balanced out by the end of the week.]

I have a cousin who was always an ovo-lacto vegetarian and mostly gave up dairy and eggs (she'd have it maybe once a week) and lost 30 lbs. She had mason jars of various grains that she ate with soy milk and tons of sliced fruit. Outlier? Well, not according to the recommendations.

I was surprised by the cream, as most people who did lighten their coffee when I was young did so with cream, and as the low fat craze came in, there did seem to be a switch to using milk and even low fat milk. So this surprised me that if the milk use in coffee reduced cream usage, then use of cream for other stuff increased. More likely a little of both with specialty creamed coffees (hello Starbucks) more than negating the switch.
CarbSane said…
I wish they'd give the scientists' names so one can check the studies. So many food addiction studies are done in irrelevant contexts to 99.999% of humans who don't eat cookie dough or drink Coke morning, noon and night for 90+% of their nutrition.

Ice cream and milkshakes have been around since I was a kid, kids didn't seem to become addicted back then which has helped fuel all that blame-game research against HFCS (that mostly is a wash from all indications, even Lustig readily admits as much). Access to junk is a huge part of the problem.
Unknown said…

"Do calories from a chocolate bar, for example, have the same effect on your waistline as the same number of calories from an orange? Putting it another way—and getting to a oft-invoked question in the debate—will you be more successful losing weight with calories from a low-fat diet than with the same number of calories from a low-carbohydrate diet? Or might the reverse be true? (As protein typically occurs in low amounts in foods—10 to 15 percent in the average diet—a low-fat diet is necessarily a high-carb diet, and vice versa.)"

"From our reading of the research, we conclude that, while the precise nature of the relationship between diet composition and weight maintenance needs more research, the number of calories consumed relative to those expended matters more to weight loss than where the calories come from. To lose weight, eat less; it works every time. At the same time, we can think of many good reasons to cut down on the sugars and easily absorbed carbs of soda, potato chips, and other junk food, and to eat a greater proportion of whole foods such as fruits, vegetables, and whole grains."

"If anything, the biggest challenge to weight loss is to find ways to cope with biological imperatives to eat more, not less, in the context of an "eat more" food environment that offers large numbers of calories, everywhere, at all times of day, at relatively low cost. It is this food-friendly environment that has brought us to the sobering point where one-third of Americans today are classified as obese.

One point is clear: Larger portions have more calories. The easiest way to prevent weight gain is to eat less by choosing smaller portions, fewer snacks, and healthier meals in general. It also helps to be physically active and to monitor weight status with regular weighing. Until research convinces us otherwise, we believe a calorie is a calorie.

Hank said…
Eating isn't a sport. Eat enough to keep your body healthy and then use the other time to be productive, like build a gazebo or something. We don't have to have a bowl of something to munch on every time we sit down to read or watch a movie or whatever. Don't watch TV. Something is making us fatter. So why not eat less calories consistently and for the heck of it eat better calories. A "Daniel Diet" sounds good. It's biblical. As we get older we need less calories anyway. Plus it's cheaper to eat less.
Gabriella Kadar said…
In re: eating as sport: what about those eating contests? What kind of repulsive crass social deviance is that? Does it happen anywhere but in North America?

Every so often I drive by situations where people are lining up to get into a restaurant, usually for brunch. It always reminds me of the line ups for food back in the bad old days of behind the iron curtain living. We have reverse social engineering: in the land of plenty, people like up for food. Idiots.

Old Romanian joke: what is 100 meters long and vegetarian?

The line up for salami.
Lerner said…
Hot off the presses from NEJM, sugar drinks day:

Calories from Soft Drinks — Do They Matter?

Sonia Caprio, M.D.

September 21, 2012

plus several FFTs to go with it on genetics, children, regulation...

Lerner said…
even there, they feel compelled to adhere to the trendy LC slant: "At the same time, we can think of many good reasons to cut down on the sugars and easily absorbed carbs of soda, potato chips..."

Chips have more calories from fat than carbs.

Speaking of which, LCers come up with studies showing increased brain activity from sugar. To be fair (which they never are), there also should be some for eating things like chips.
Lerner said…
It is repulsive, but ironically the most accomplished champ is a skinny Japanese, from Japan. He has a very large stomach. It says somewhere he once ate 20 pounds of rice.

Here's something else repulsive: 'A condemned Ohio inmate who weighs at least 480 pounds wants his upcoming execution delayed, saying his weight could lead to a "torturous and lingering death."

Ronald Post, who shot and killed a hotel clerk in northern Ohio almost 30 years ago, said his weight, vein access, scar tissue and other medical problems raise the likelihood his executioners would encounter severe problems. He's also so big that the execution gurney might not hold him, lawyers for Post said in federal court papers filed Friday.'
Unknown said…
This is fun - Jimmy Moore's podcast co-host DOESN"T eat meat and is DEFINITELY NOT LOW CARB

Nearly every day, I eat eggs for breakfast.

For breakfast, the eggs are my protein, some type of vegetable for my carbohydrate (spinach, mixed vegetables or even 1/2 of a sweet potato,) and I fry my eggs and veggies in a healthy fat (such as coconut oil, olive oil or even butter!) I also like to add flax seeds and chia seeds to my eggs for extra nutrition.

On the days I don’t eat eggs for breakfast (rarely) I either mix Greek Yogurt with protein powder and top it with slivered almonds and fresh berries or (very) occasionally, I will make oatmeal, with a scoop of protein powder and a few tablespoons of peanut butter. Or, I will reheat a couple of my Protein Pancakes (I like to whip up a big batch of these on the weekend and keep em in the fridge for quick breakfasts on rushed mornings.) I add Chia and flax seeds to my breakfast every day, regardless of what I make.


My lunches tend to be pretty basic. For my protein source, I like to bring tuna salad or egg salad (made with real mayonnaise of course) or a veggie burger. If it’s on the menu at the hospital, I’ll sometimes order baked fish. My carbohydrate source tends to be fresh fruit (and sometimes a slice of whole grain bread) and my healthy fat is either an avocado (spread on my tuna sandwich or eaten out of the shell with a spoon! Seriously.) I will also bring dinner leftovers for lunch.


An easy fall-back dinner for a busy night is tossing a piece of salmon (protein) on the grill and drizzling it with olive oil (healthy fat) and serving it with a side ofSteamfresh veggies. Another quick dinner is heating up a veggie burger (protein) and sweet potato (carbohydrate,) and topping the burger with avocado slices (healthy fat) and the sweet potato with butter (healthy fat.)

Since I don’t eat meat, my protein at snacks is typically hard-boiled eggs or a veggie burger (served cold or hot :)) If I don’t have tuna or egg salad for lunch, I will frequently bring a half-cup serving of one of these for protein at snack time. I love snacking on nuts, so I will typically have a handful or two of nuts for my healthy fat, or a couple spoonfuls of peanut butter. My carbohydrate source is always fruit, veggies or yogurt.

Sometimes I even use a dinner leftover for a snack (such as the pictured stir-fry with shrimp and veggies!) My dinners are already balanced with carbohydrate, protein and fat. It’s easy to throw together a cup serving into a tupperware, and I have an easy, on-the-go snack (which is a little less messy than hard boiled eggs!)

Bedtime snack is the only time of day when I don’t eat (or recommend) having protein (unless you work out right before bed.) I always have a carbohydrate and fat source before bed, such as bananas and peanut butter, or a pear sauteed in coconut oil and topped with cinnamon and walnuts. Another favorite of mine is a cup of berries (fresh or frozen) topped with a couple tablespoons of coconut milk or heavy whipping cream. With the frozen berries, it’s like a sorbet! Yum!
CarbSane said…
Shoot him with a tranquilizer gun -- the kind they use for elephants ought to be more than sufficient -- and then administer a lethal dose via jugular. I personally don't get these sorts of executions anyway. If he fell ill in prison you'd be dang sure he'd be suing any doctor who claimed they couldn't administer an IV because of vein access issues, etc. Alternately, give him the option to ingest cyanide. Sigh.

CarbSane said…
Seeing as that podcast was Low Carb Conversations which, unlike the others, really is every day low carbers shooting the breeze, this seems like a very odd choice!

I never really did get why Mindy left. I mean gabbing on the phone for a half hour or hour a week is not work and it's not like there's much show prep for this podcast. But there are SOOOOOOOOOOO many LC folks out there they couldn't find one to cohost an LC podcast? It's really his last bastion that hasn't -- make that hadn't -- been infiltrated by those antagonistic carb-addicted paleo types.
Gianni said…
Yeah, but the weird thing to me is that Lustig always spoke, at least when I heard him, about HFCS as being 55% Fructose, that, ok, compared to the 50-50 it's clearly a wash.
While I remember reading a couple of articles stating that actually 65-68% fructose isn't unheard of at all in soft-drinks (etc.).

I don't know, they might have been incorrect; even more because I'd find it a bit comical if Lustig wasn't up to date on the subject.
But it left me some doubts (obviously I didn't dig into it more at the time, since, in any case, it's not like I'm inclined to drink much of them).
Gianni said…
I'd be interested in knowing if many others here think bariatric surgery is such a success story, since I personally admit I have a bias against it and at the same time it's not something on which I trust the medical propaganda.

My bias comes from the fact that, not only the concept doesn't make much sense to me, it didn't ever seem to practically work (on myself again) that much.
OK, I'll stretch my stomach (with a Litre of water and/or some salad) and fill sort of full for a little, but in the long term it will not make me eat less.
I'll concede it sometimes might work to curb cravings about crappy stuff, helping in weakness moments.
But for someone who is going to eat globally bad anyway, I don't see it making that much difference.

While I'm totally for Carbsane, or some of her followers, pointing out the amount of BS in the LC community, I hope we'll not resort to believing again in EL(MM) in its purest form.
Nor that much in food volume for satiety.

Rarely the folks I see eating 'dinner for four' ordered 4 servings of Tilapia and a little rice (without chunks of butter).
Galina L. said…
In Russia I can see the beginning of the obesity epidemic, and no one is eating HFCS as far as I know.
CarbSane said…
Gianni, for me WLS (of different types) and the success, recidivism, etc., is more instructive of the roles of certain things than a solution. Personally, while there have been times where I toyed with the idea, I never was at that point of desperation required to go down that route.

Stomach distention clearly plays SOME role in all of this, but it is something that can be overridden and adjusted. And constricted stomachs can be "eaten around".