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July 29, 2008

Low-Carb Linkage

Michael Blowhard writes:

Dear Blowhards --

For some people, the fun health news of the last few weeks was the publication in the New England Journal of Medicine of a study pitting the low-fat diet, the Mediterranean diet, and the low-carb diet against each other in a weight-loss race. Hard to declare a super-decisive winner, but one thing was definitely clear: The low-fat diet that our official health-tips class has been urging on us for 30 years didn't look so good.

* Some interesting reactions to the study come from the excellent (and modest) low-carb advocate Dr. Mike.

* I love the books that Dr. Mike has co-written with his wife, Dr. Mary Dan. I suggest starting with this one.

* A couple of other helpful and easy-readin' pro-fat / anti-carbs books: "Eat Fat, Lose Fat" by Dr. Mary Enig and Sally Fallon, and "Natural Health & Weight Loss" by Barry Groves.

* Enig and Fallon are associated with the Weston A. Price Foundation; Groves maintains a website here. Are Enig, Fallon, and Groves cranks? Oh, maybe they are, a little. Are they more useful and on-the-ball than the conventional U.S. health-tips establishment? It's looking more and more like they are that too.

* Heavy-hittin' paradigm-shifter Gary ("Good Calories, Bad Calories") Taubes thinks that the one thing the study established beyond doubt is that the health-tips establishment has been completely wrong to demonize saturated fat. Don't skip the commentsthread.

* Taubes' book is a pretty breath-taking (if also exhausting -- I certainly didn't read every single word of it) achievement in many ways. One of them: Taubes demonstrates step-by-step how the health establishment over-committed itself to the low-fat diet. In case you think this was a minor screwup: It's a policy that has likely contributed to hundreds of thousands of unnecessary deaths. What on earth is our government doing recommending a diet anyway?

* Taubes takes readers' question: here, here, here.

* Eggs? Now it turns out that those terrifying little bundles of sat-fat and cholesterol may in many ways be good for your heart. An eye-opening quote from U.Cal Berkeley:

Dietary cholesterol, found in animal foods, raises blood cholesterol in only about one-third of people. And, as shown in some egg studies, dietary cholesterol causes the body to produce HDL (“good”) cholesterol along with LDL (“bad”) cholesterol in these “hyper-responders,” thus helping offset potential adverse effects. Moreover, the LDL particles that form are larger in size -- and larger LDL particles are thought to be less dangerous than small ones. In studies at the University of Connecticut, for example, eating three eggs a day for 30 days increased cholesterol in susceptible people, but their LDL particles were larger, and there was no change in the ratio between LDL and HDL, which suggests no major change in coronary risk.

* A major tip of the hat to Dave Lull, who supplied most of the links in this posting. Dave has been low-carb / high-fatting it for a while now. (A certain Blowhard whose first name begins with an "F" has also been eating low-carb, as well as working out with a trainer. The tally so far: 50 pounds.)

* Here's Dave's report from the field:

I've been on a low-carb, high fat (mostly from meat and fish, especially sardines, and cheese and olive oil) diet for about six years. I lost 45 pounds and lowered my triglycerides and raised my HDL significantly in the first year, all of which I've maintained. Though the HDL dropped some. I brought it back up -- after experimenting with various proposed, though for me ineffective, raisers of HDL -- by daily intake of a glass of wine, which raised my HDL by about 20 percent over six months. My diet is such a habit now that I don't have to think about it much. I don't say this kind of diet is for everyone (because of 'biochemical individuality', per Roger Williams, there's often a wide range of responses to nutrients), but it's worked for me.

* Me, I was slowly but surely gaining weight eating a conventionally "healthy" diet. I was putting on only a pound a year -- but by the age of 54 that was coming to a lot more than I was happy to be toting around. I took much of that weight off simply and easily using Seth Roberts' brilliant Shangri-La diet, and also began passing on the easy and dumb carbs. No more potatoes, breakfast cereal, or beer for me. I made friends with the better fats too. Eating low-carb, I find it pretty much impossible to put on weight. I wouldn't mind losing another seven or eight pounds, though.

* Low-carb enthusiast Jimmy Moore asks, "What's a low-carber whose weight-loss has stalled to do?"

Have you ever followed the establishment's low-fat eating advice? Have you ever tried low-carb eating? What has your experience been?



posted by Michael at July 29, 2008


One interesting thing about the study comparing the three types of diets: 86% of the participants were men. Considering the dieting is more widely practiced by women, that seems odd.

Posted by: Peter on July 29, 2008 9:56 AM

More studies are needed.

Posted by: Michael Blowhard on July 29, 2008 10:01 AM

Thanks for the links. I'm on the bandwagon -- watching Taubes's lecture convinced me enough to try it -- and the results of trying it convinced me to continue.

Posted by: JewishAtheist on July 29, 2008 12:19 PM

How do you guys resist Sara Lee?

Posted by: ricpic on July 29, 2008 5:27 PM

Everything we are told about cardiovascular disease comes from the Framingham study of the 50's and 60's. It is worth noting that the source data resulting from this study was never published. Only "interpretations" of the data was published. It took several years of effort of court challenges using the Freedom of Information Act in order for people to get this source data. Even then, all of the refereed medical journals refused to publish it.

This should tell you something about the nature of information that is disseminated by the medical industry.

Posted by: kurt9 on July 29, 2008 7:13 PM

I watch the carbs, but still indulge. Just no more bread baskets for me (generally). The key is expend more than you take in. I know, common sense. It is the only real way to keep thin.

Posted by: lemmonex on July 29, 2008 8:22 PM

Quoth ricpic: "How do you guys resist Sara Lee?"

Ah don' know about them other Blowhards, but my middle oughtta be "Carbohydrates."

Posted by: Donald Pittenger on July 29, 2008 8:30 PM

There's no getting around it: carbs are fun.

Posted by: Michael Blowhard on July 30, 2008 4:37 PM

"How do you guys resist Sara Lee?"

I've been dieting and working out for the past 5 months, and lost about 50 pounds while doing so. While doing so, I made a discovery about myself. I realized that I gained the weight I've been losing by using eating as a form of mood maintenance. As it turns out, I can also use dieting and exercise as forms of mood maintenance. As long as your mood is positively influenced by your maintenance activity, it doesn't seem to matter what that activity is. For example, sitting at a rowing machine cranking out 300 calories in a half hour while watching a DVD of the 60's t.v. show "The Avengers" produces a fairly cheerful, happy-go-lucky Friedrich.

So it's a matter of "looking through" the tendency to eat to what's really at stake: my tendency to sink into a gloomy mood if not "fed" a steady diet of mood "treats." It just so happens, quite fortunately, that those don't have to be extra calories in order to work their magic on my mood.

Posted by: Friedrich von Blowhard on July 31, 2008 6:28 PM

Carbs give good buzz. Go low carb, relapse, and you're like floating, dude. It's like spring fever crossed with good BC bud and a couple of Chris White-approved microbrewery pints. Good fun!

Posted by: PatrickH on July 31, 2008 10:29 PM

Yay! Interesting!

Posted by: Marians on August 3, 2008 2:09 PM

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