Weekend Stuff

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Nutrition and Politics

If you have any doubts that nutrition advice has been skewed by politics, this article ought to banish them:

Peter Atwater points us to this 1960s relic from US president Lyndon B Johnson’s own battle with inflation, as recounted on page 96 of Robert Samuelson’s The Great Inflation and its Aftermath:

Shoe prices went up, so LBJ slapped export controls on hides to increase the supply of leather. Reports that color television sets would sell at high prices came across the wire. Johnson told me to ask RCA’s David Sarnoff to hold them down. Domestic lamb prices rose. LBJ directed [Defense Secretary Robert] McNamara to buy cheaper lamb from New Zealand for the troops in Vietnam. The President told the Council of Economic Advisers and me to move on household appliances, paper cartons, news­ print, men’s underwear, women’s hosiery, glass containers, cellulose, and air conditioners… When egg prices rose in the spring of 1966 and Agriculture Secretary Orville Freeman told him that not much could be done, Johnson had the Surgeon General issue alerts as to the hazards of cholesterol in eggs.

Outstanding. Now if we can just find some way to jack up the price of wheat, we may finally hear some government warnings about the hazards of eating refined grains.

Diabetes Reversed by Diet

British researchers say they were able to reverse type 2 diabetes by putting subjects on an extreme diet:

The expert behind the study said the “remarkable” findings showed an eight-week diet could prompt the body to produce its own insulin. The breakthrough suggests a dramatic drop in calories has a direct effect on reducing fat accumulated in the pancreas, which in turn prompts insulin cells to “wake up.”

Experts at Newcastle University carried out an early-stage trial on 11 people with diabetes. They each followed a diet of liquid drinks (containing 46.4% carbohydrate, 32.5% protein and 20.1% fat, with vitamins and minerals) and non-starchy vegetables.

After just one week, pre-breakfast blood sugar levels had returned to normal among the group. Over two months, insulin cell function in the pancreas increased towards normal and pancreatic fat decreased, as shown on MRI scans.

Three months later, after going back to normal eating with advice on portion control and healthy foods, seven people remained free of diabetes.

Readers sent me links to several online media articles about the study. All of them noted that the diet was extremely low in calories — about 600 per day — but the article I quoted above was the only one that listed the macronutrient percentages.

Some easy math tells us that 46.4% carbohydrate on a 600-calorie diet translates to about 70 carbohydrates per day. This was a low-everything diet, so it would be interesting to see what would happen if the researchers repeated the experiment with a higher calorie intake while still keeping the carbohydrates at 70 per day.

They’re after the fat toddlers again

The Institute of Medicine, a branch of the National Academy of Sciences, has released a new report on childhood obesity, including recommendations for preventing it. Hold on to your hats, because this revolutionary advice will blow you away:

The kids need to eat less and move around more.

Okay, there’s a little more to it than that; they also recommend that mothers breast-feed babies for at least six months and make sure their toddlers are getting enough sleep. Good advice. But then they call on parents to limit their children’s portions. Bad advice. How the heck are parents supposed to know when kids have had enough food for the day? What if they’re in a growth spurt?

Feed the kids real food, restrict or eliminate the sugars and refined starches, then let their natural appetites do the rest. As I pointed out in a previous post, we never limit how much our girls eat, but they’re both lean and active.  We just don’t feed them the kind of garbage that ramps up their appetites.

A reader who alerted me to the report also sent me a link to this:

Yeah, it’s funny. But give it five or ten years, and someone will probably be selling those things.


28 thoughts on “Weekend Stuff

  1. CeeBee

    I looked at that article about childhood obesity and I noticed that nothing was mentioned about limiting the amount of juice or sweetened drinks and encouraging kids to drink water during the day when they are thirsty. In my neck of the woods, I know babies and toddlers who are given nothing but apple juice or sweet tea (!) to drink when they are thirsty.

    If it’s sweet tea, I’m guessing your neck of the woods is in the south. After moving to Tennessee, I quickly learned I need to specify unsweetened when I order iced tea, or it’ll be the sugary stuff.

  2. Underground

    “They each followed a diet of liquid drinks (containing 46.4% carbohydrate, 32.5% protein and 20.1% fat, with vitamins and minerals) and non-starchy vegetables.”

    That’s an interesting question as you pointed out. And perhaps even more interesting that they didn’t investigate whether it was overall calories or a threshold of carbohydrate intake.

    Because once again everybody already KNOWS that you have to have a certain percentage of carbs in your diet. And how hard would it be for most people to maintain a 600 calorie / day diet anyway? I don’t think I would last very long.

    That’s why I’d like to see them repeat the experiment with the same number of carbs but more protein and fat. Asking people to starve themselves is a tall order. I did receive an email from a guy who went on an almost-zero carb diet and was later declared by his doctor to be miraculously cured of type 2 diabetes. It’s anecdotal evidence, but it sure made a difference in his life.

  3. Underground

    “It’s anecdotal evidence, but it sure made a difference in his life.”

    Of course you don’t want to accept something like that as hard evidence. But at some point you would think that things like this would help drive the direction that future research takes. At least if someone figures out how to make big $$ at it and funds a resarch grant or two.

    Add up enough anecdotal evidence, and it starts to become more and more convincing.

  4. Jason Sandeman

    I can see the “reversal” thing working. What most people don’t realize is that type 2 diabetes is all about insulin resistance. Of course, drop from a diet of 300-400g of carbs to 70g per day – that will allow the beta cells to rest, which is important for insulin production. Too bad these scientists are all into the red herring named fat.
    When will they just give it up and admit it? We have to lower our carbs!

    I don’t know if the current generation of experts will ever let go of the anti-fat prejudice. As Max Planck said, science often progresses one funeral at a time.

  5. Dwatney

    “Now if we can just find some way to jack up the price of wheat”

    I had heard a while back that wheat leaf rust was getting pretty bad in some areas. Maybe a strain will take off!

  6. gallier2

    We should not forget that a starvation diet is a low-carb diet as long as there is lard on the hips to draw from. Same thing with extreme low-fat and vegan diets. That’s why they work at the beginning. This explains also why it is so difficult to overcome the cognitive dissonance of the “experts”, it’s not only about dishonesty, they really believe it because it sort of works.

    Bingo. If you’re losing two pounds per week, that means you’re using two pounds of fat for fuel, so it’s a high-fat diet.

  7. Jørg V

    Shouldn’t the headline have been “36% gained diet induced diabetes from portion control in revolutionary study”

    They were diabetics when the study began.

  8. Debbie

    That really makes me so angry that LBJ made the Surgeon General say that eggs are dangerous to eat just because he couldn’t control the price! It makes me mad that I believed all that crap the government has been telling the public about food, diet, and disease. I’ve spent 36 years struggling with my weight issues and missing out on so many things because I believed that garbage. Not any more!

    Anger is the appropriate response.

  9. Nina

    Interesting response to the study from the Hyperlipid blog. Several people have commented on post-extreme diet outcomes and anecdotal observation of friends/relatives who came off diabetes meds, then regained the weight and more within a year.



    That’s why I don’t like these semi-starvation diets. You can throw your body into panic mode and it will fight to become fatter in order to protect against what it senses as a threat of famine.

  10. Leta

    I can’t see the video (pic?) in Firefox. Any suggestions?

    I can see it fine in Firefox. Anyone else have any ideas on that one?

  11. Underground

    “Bingo. If you’re losing two pounds per week, that means you’re using two pounds of fat for fuel, so it’s a high-fat diet.”

    Not necessarily. If you’re not eating enough protein you’re losing muscle mass as well. Not usually most people’s goal.

    Good point. That’s one of reasons I don’t like to see people attempting to lose weight on high-carb, low-fat diets; they can be short on protein. I also recommend weight-lifting to avoid the muscle loss.

  12. Nowhereman

    I’ve known for years that diabetes, especially pre-diabetes can be reversed or at least mitigated by changing one’s diet. That’s what my uncle did some years back when he started developing age-related diabetes

    Somewhat unrelated to the topic at hand, but I thought I’d give you a heads up on an article about the so-called ‘lean gene’ being linked to heart disease and diabetes:


    Although I’m wary of studies like this and how they’re reported in the media, it is surprisingly in-line with what you’ve been saying all this time.

    There are plenty of type 2 diabetics out there who are lean. I noticed, however, that researchers pointed out the “lean gene” doesn’t prevent visceral fat from building up.

  13. Ricardo

    Hi Tom. I was just wondering if Beans are ok to eat. Ive cut out virtually all the sugar and grains and my health has improved dramatically but i was still debating to have beans as ive read that there low glycemic and considered healthy.

    If you don’t have negative reactions to them, beans are fine … but make sure they’re properly soaked to neutralize the lectins.

  14. Katy

    Parents are supposed to limit their children’s portions of what, exactly? Pot roast? Carrots? Or are they to limit the “food” that they shouldn’t be eating in the first place with any regularity, like chips and cookies or other junk foods? And getting children to move more? Most parents are trying to get kids to move less (at least when they’re in the house). If kids aren’t in the mood to move, they’re having health issues or are tired. Trying to get tired kids to move is like trying to force a sleeping baby to wake up and eat.

    Bingo. The supposed laziness is a symptom, not a cause. We can’t get our girls to sit still sometimes. Last night we took them to an outdoor concert, and they spent nearly the whole time dancing or running around chasing fireflies and each other.

  15. Milton

    If the portion about President Johnson is accurate, it’s a sobering reminder that our economy is less ‘free market’ than we believe. It is also frightening to think that the President, at ANY time, would try to micro-manage things in such a reactive manner. We wonder why the economy is such a shambles and point at corporate chicanery as the cause, which leads people to demand more regulation and oversight. But it seems to me that we have had regulation and oversight for a very long time, and it has worked to make things worse, not better.

    As Thomas Sowell has pointed out in his books, the regulatory agencies often end up being run by people from the industries they’re intended to regulate.

  16. Firebird

    “Not necessarily. If you’re not eating enough protein you’re losing muscle mass as well. Not usually most people’s goal.”

    I am being told by my doctor that I am eating too much protein and it is causing a strain on my kidneys. I’m at 120 gms/day. According to a nutritionist I know, at my body weight, that’s 20 gms below the maximum amount I could consume on a daily basis.

    Right now I am doing a fat fast for a week, and taking a week of from weight lifting in order to do more blood work on my kidney function. I need to prove these people wrong!

    120 grams is too much for a weight-lifting male?!! That’s ridiculous.

  17. Jim Anderson

    In regards to childhood obesity, I just saw a report on the TV network news (ABC, I think) about gastric by-pass surgery being recommended for younger and younger patients, even teens, to deal with the early on-set of type-2 diabetes. Try a reduced carb diet? No, too radical. Cut up and re-arrange a kid’s digestive tract — now, that’s the ticket!

    Good grief, that should be consider malpractice.

  18. Mike P.

    I think that the mother’s diet during pregnancy can greatly influence the baby’s development, specifically related to insulin sensitivity and secretion.
    My wife had Gestational Diabetes when she was pregnant with our 2nd, which she controlled very well with a low-carb diet. What was the result of a low-carb pregnancy? My son has been lean since day 1, significantly more so than my older son, where my wife did not have GD.

    I also think that some parents just don’t know how to feed a growing child in a healthy manner since they don’t understand how to feed themselves in a healthy manner. Like you Tom, if my boys are hungry, we have a refrigerator full of fruits, veggies, some full-fat dairy, nuts, and meat to choose from. A relative tried to give my oldest chocolate milk one time…he hated it and asked for water.

    I was at a 4th of July fair once and I saw a mother put regular Mt. Dew into a bottle [not a sippy cup, a bottle with a nipple] and give it to her ~1 yr old.

    A George Carlin quote jumped into my head; “Just think of how dumb the average person is and remember that half the people are dumber than that.”

    That’s something Dr. Robert Lustig pointed out in an interview with Jimmy Moore: we have more fat babies now, and it’s not because they eat too much and exercise too little. It’s because they were exposed to too much glucose and insulin in the womb.

  19. 0mer

    That study is ridiculous. Type II diabetes is fundamentally a condition of carbohydrate intolerance. What a shocker, when you reduce carb intake, the condition improves. My father-in-law was giving this advice out 40 years ago when he practiced medicine in his native country. Now, we are just getting wise to that? yikes.

    Your father-in-law had some lucky patients. Now they tell diabetics to eat their carbs and take their insulin.

  20. kAT

    “When egg prices rose in the spring of 1966 and Agriculture Secretary Orville Freeman told him that not much could be done, Johnson had the Surgeon General issue alerts as to the hazards of cholesterol in eggs.


    Welcome to the wacky world of politics.

  21. kAT


    . And how hard would it be for most people to maintain a 600 calorie / day diet anyway

    it’s acutally not that hard. if you’ve ever fasted, then you know you can go without food for at least a week. many people eat low calorie diets with no problem.

    I’m not sure I could do it for two months, and especially not at nearly 50% carbs.

  22. Peggy Cihocki

    “the regulatory agencies often end up being run by people from the industries they’re intended to regulate.”
    Seems like that’s what happened with the FDA, no?

  23. Peggy Cihocki

    I couldn’t maintain a 1200 calorie diet that was low fat, high carb! How in the world does anyone maintain a 600 calorie diet for eight weeks?!!!! And it’s so unnecessary.

    The article about fat babies is just beyond the pale. It so has nothing to do with portion control or making them move more! Unbelievable.

    And I’m still trying to wrap my head around the whole LBJ, cholesterol, and eggs thing. Was his surgeon general Ancel Keys? Boggles the mind–or not.

    I’d like to say I was surprised by LBJ’s move, but I wasn’t. Nothing these goofs do (or have done) surprises me anymore.

  24. cancerclasses

    “Surprise #7 — Protein and ketones are NOT “hard” on the kidneys and liver. Most of the nitrogen from the protein is converted to urea in the liver and excreted by the kidneys (a normal process), and the carbons are oxidized to carbon dioxide and water. The ketones are used as primary fuel by the kidneys, skeletal muscles, and heart.”

    Cancerclasses NOTE!: Nitrogen in proteins are converted to urea, NOT uric acid, so protein can’t even be blamed as the cause of gout as the conventional wisdom would have you believe. Dr. A.V. Costantini, M.D., retired head of the World Health Organization (WHO) Center for Mycotoxins in Food was so sure that uric acid is a fungal metabolite, a waste product of systemic fungus’ sugar metabolism, that he offered $1,000 to anyone who could prove that the human body created uric acid. As far as I know nobody has ever produced evidence to claim the money. http://goo.gl/rQQSB

    Surprise #8 — Carbohydrates, not protein, are hard on the kidneys. High blood glucose levels place excessive stress on the kidneys. That is why diabetes is the single greatest cause of kidney failure in the U.S. Too many nutritionists and physicians continue to “parrot” outdated misinformation.

    Surprise #10 …In contrast to the body’s protein response, its carbohydrate response is strongly associated with renal (kidney) failure.”

    For the other 10 Surprises & more info re protein & calcium go here: http://goo.gl/26z7Y and/or here: http://goo.gl/Ft1C4

  25. eddie watts

    As Thomas Sowell has pointed out in his books, the regulatory agencies often end up being run by people from the industries they’re intended to regulate.

    this is very true, here in the uk there is the press commission which are supposed to regulate the actions of the press.
    however it is run by the press themselves at the top levels…..?!

  26. Peggy Cihocki

    @cancerclasses, Urea is a liquid, so of course it doesn’t cause gout. However, sometimes humans do produce uric acid (a crystalline solid), which can accumulate in the joints– from fructose! Gary Taubes had a chapter on this that was supposed to go in his GCBC, but didn’t. I believe it is available on line, however. http://www.fourhourworkweek.com/blog/2009/10/05/gout/ is one site. I’ve heard other biochemistry experts say the same thing. So gout becomes yet another disease that can be biochemically and epidemiologically (sorry, my computer seems to think that is not a word, but I can’t think of a better one) linked to carbohydrates–particularly fructose. I don’t know why no one has tried to claim the prize, but I don’t think there is any controversy around the idea that gout is caused by an accumulation of uric acid in the joints. I’ve never heard of the fungal hypothesis.


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