From The News …

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Interesting news from the past week or so …

Yet another “meat kills!” study

Dear nutrition researchers –

We get it, okay?  Seriously, we get it.  We know that you can conduct observational study after observational study and produce statistics showing that people who consume a lot of processed meat are more likely to get heart disease, cancer, diabetes, etc., etc., etc. than people who don’t.  If we took a survey, we’d probably find that more people know about that correlation than know the U.S. is 16 trillion dollars in debt.  We’d probably also find that most people are more worried about processed meats than the ticking debt-bomb.  So congratulations.  You’ve done your job.  You can stop now.  Really.  Please.

But of course, they won’t stop.  They’ll keep producing essentially the same study over and over and over.  The latest “meat kills!” study hit the news late last week.  Here are some quotes from just one of the gazillion articles that appeared online.

Too much processed meat tied to premature death

Eating too much processed meat like bacon and sausage could increase the risk of premature death, a study of nearly half a million Europeans suggests.

The study of people in 10 European countries who were followed for an average of 13 years. In that time, there were about 26,000 deaths.  People who consumed more than 160 grams of processed meat a day — about two sausages and a slice of bacon — were 44 per cent more likely to die over the course of the study compared with those eating about 20 grams.

“The results of our analysis support a moderate positive association between processed meat consumption and mortality, in particular due to cardiovascular diseases, but also to cancer,” Prof. Sabine Rohrmann from the University of Zurich and his co-authors concluded in this week’s issue of the journal BMC Medicine.

Blah, blah, blah.

I took a peek at the full study and was tempted to do a full analysis, but concluded I may as well just cut-and-paste from my posts on other “meat kills!” studies – because this is the same kind of crappy study as all the others.  So here’s pretty much all you need to know:

  • It’s an observational study and therefore essentially meaningless.
  • The data is based on food-recall questionnaires, which are notoriously unreliable – and in this study, different questionnaires were used in different countries.
  • The scary-sounding percentages (increases risk of death by 44%!) turn into small numbers when you look at the actual difference.
  • The people who consumed a lot of processed meat had worse health habits overall:  more likely to smoke, more likely to drink heavily, more likely to be overweight, less likely to eat vegetables, etc.  In other words, we are (once again) looking at the differences between people who are health-conscious and people who aren’t.  Since we’ve all been told for the past 40 years that bacon and sausage are bad for us, health-conscious people are more likely to avoid processed meats than I-don’t-give-a-@#$% people.

The researchers claimed they “teased out” the processed meat consumption specifically, but frankly, that’s not possible.  They can adjust for factors included in their data, such as smoking and BMI, but there’s no way they gathered data on every variable that can affect health — such as the fact that people who eat processed meats typically eat them with a nice, big serving of white flour and probably a soda as well.

‘Nuff said.

We eat less, but we’re fatter

So much for the belief that it’s all about the calories.  According to a study that hit the news recently, we’re eating less, not more:

U.S. adults have been eating steadily fewer calories for almost a decade, despite the continued increase in obesity rates, according to survey data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Researchers, whose findings appeared in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, analyzed trends since the 1970s and found that among adults, average daily energy intake rose by a total of 314 calories from 1971 to 2003, then fell by 74 calories between 2003 and 2010.

“It’s hard to reconcile what these data show, and what is happening with the prevalence of obesity,” said co-author William Dietz, former CDC director of Nutrition, Physical Activity and Obesity, to Reuters Health.

“Seventy-four calories is a lot, and as I said before, we would expect to see a measurable impact on obesity.”

Okay, this is interesting, but I have the same complaint here that I did with the first study:  how do these researchers know exactly how many calories people are consuming?  Unless the Department of Homeland Security has been spying on all of us and tracking every morsel we eat, I find it difficult to believe that they know for a fact that our calorie consumption has dropped by 74 calories.

That complaint aside, I could have predicted (and did) the reaction of the so-called experts.  They of course believe our bodies are like simple engines that can only respond to a slight decrease in fuel by tapping the reserve tank.  So as soon as I saw the headline, I knew the explanation for the calorie equation not working as advertised would be that we’re exercising less.  Yup.  Take a peek:

Experts said it’s possible more time is needed to see obesity rates respond to changes in calorie intake. It’s also possible that Americans have changed their eating habits but are still not getting enough exercise to burn the calories they do consume. Or, the surveys may simply be wrong.

It takes more than a decade for a reduction in calories to stop the rise in obesity rates?  Seriously?

“If you cut back on calories by 100 calories, you’ll plateau 10 pounds (4.5 kg) lower,” but you’d only see about half of that progress over the first year, said Claire Wang, who studies energy intake and expenditure at the Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health.

No, if you’re hormonally driven to get fatter and you cut your intake by 100 calories per day, your body will just adjust your metabolism down to make up the difference.  That’s why the “eat less and move more” advice fails over and over.  It doesn’t address the root cause of the problem.  If we are getting fatter while consuming the same or even slightly fewer calories, it’s a matter of what we’re eating, not how much.

Intermittent Fasting sweeps the U.K.

Now here’s a plan that might actually address the root cause of the hormonal drive to get fatter.  A popular TV doctor in Britain has apparently created a frenzy for intermittent fasting:

Visitors to England right now, be warned. The big topic on people’s minds — from cabdrivers to corporate executives — is not Kate Middleton’s increasingly visible baby bump (though the craze does involve the size of one’s waistline), but rather a best-selling diet book that has sent the British into a fasting frenzy.

“The Fast Diet,” published in mid-January in Britain, could do the same in the United States if Americans eat it up. The United States edition arrived last week.

With an alluring cover line that reads, “Lose Weight, Stay Healthy, Live Longer,” the premise of this latest weight-loss regimen — or “slimming” as the British call “dieting” — is intermittent fasting, or what has become known here as the 5:2 diet: five days of eating and drinking whatever you want, dispersed with two days of fasting.

For the record, I would never recommend eating and drinking “whatever you want” on those other five days, but based on my own n=1 experiments, some intermittent fasting here and there does promote fat loss.

A typical fasting day consists of two meals of roughly 250 to 300 calories each, depending on the person’s sex (500 calories for women, 600 for men). Think two eggs and a slice of ham for breakfast, and a plate of steamed fish and vegetables for dinner.

It is not much sustenance, but the secret to weight loss, according to the book, is that even after just a few hours of fasting, the body begins to turn off the fat-storing mechanisms and turn on the fat-burning systems.

Not exactly the strictest form of fasting, but I can see why it would work.  The doctor’s prescription for the (sort-of) fasting days is a low-carb, low-calorie diet.  A clinical study conducted in Britain awhile back showed that going low-carb just two days per week spurred more weight loss than a calorie-restricted diet.  Here’s a quote from an article about that study:

The researchers followed 88 women for four months. All the women were at high risk for breast cancer based on their family histories. One third of the women were put on a Mediterranean-type diet that restricted calories to about 1,500 per day. A second group was told to eat normally most of the time, but two days a week to cut carbs and also calories to about 650 on those two days. The third group was also to cut carbs two days a week, but there was no calorie restriction on those days.

At the end of four weeks women in both of the intermittent dieting groups had lost more weight — about 9 pounds — than the women who ate low calorie meals every day of the week — about 5 pounds.

Women in the intermittent dieting groups also had better improvement than daily dieters in the levels of hormones — insulin and leptin — that have been linked with breast cancer risk.

I haven’t read The Fast Diet (and probably won’t), but after reading the NY Times article last week, I’ve done the mini-fast three times (including yesterday), limiting myself to three or four eggs for breakfast and another three or four eggs for dinner.  Easy peasy.  I barely felt a stomach grumble.  I don’t know if I lost any weight because I don’t own a scale.  But if you’ve been afraid to try intermittent fasting because you can’t imagine going without food for a full day, this mini-fast method might be worth a shot.

Ketogenic diet promoted for treating cancer

I’m not religious, so I don’t follow the Christian media outlets, but I must say, the Christian Broadcasting Network seems way more open-minded on health topics than most of the mainstream media outlets.  Readers have sent me links to CBN articles or videos on low-carb diets, on the benefits of vitamin D, etc.

This one goes back to December, but I just became aware of it:  an article and video about how ketogenic diets may be useful for treating cancer.

Meats, eggs, coconut oil, a warning to avoid sugar and grains and margarine, plus an assurance that all that saturated fat will not, despite popular belief, cause heart disease.  I love it.

Morgan Spurlock’s ex-wife now an ex-vegan

If you saw Super Size Me, you know Morgan Spurlock’s girlfriend at the time (later wife, later ex-wife) fed him a “purifying” vegan diet after his all-McDonald’s diet. (And it took him six months to lose 20 pounds on that diet.)  She was known as a vegan chef for many years.

Now she’s had her own Lierre Keith moment and declared that she’s no longer a vegan.  From her blog:

I thought many of the world’s problems could be solved if more people ate this way. We could end hunger if we fed grain to people instead of cattle. We could end global warming if we reduced the fertilizer, trucking and refrigeration required to produce meat. We could end the obesity epidemic.

What I ate aligned with what I believed.  And that was that. But then, a few years ago, something began to shift.

My body started craving the “bad” stuff. Namely, meat.

It used to be that, when a friend ordered a burger out at dinner, I was slightly (though quietly) disgusted. But I started noticing a different reaction.

Instead of disgust, I started to salivate.

The impulse to order salmon instead of salad with tofu at my favorite restaurant was overwhelming.  And, for me as a vegan, it was confusing, too.

At first, I thought: “I must be mineral deficient. Or maybe I need more concentrated protein. I’ll eat more sea vegetables. I’ll just add more nuts and hemp seeds and drink more green juice. Then the cravings will stop.”

I denied these cravings and tried to “talk my body out of them”.

It’s this part of her post that was bound to rile up the vegan zealots:

I began to see my cravings for animal foods from a different angle. It wasn’t immoral or wrong. It just was.

In fact, I came to believe that trusting your body, living your truth, whether it be vegan, part-time vegan, flexitarian or carnivore is all inherently good.

The reaction from the vegan zealots was predictable:  she wasn’t it doing it right, ya see. (Really?  A vegan advocate, chef and author wasn’t doing it right?)  Or my favorite:  she was never really a vegan, ya see.

One of the books Jamieson wrote was Vegan Cooking For Dummies.  Given the reaction to her announcement, I’d say that title was more appropriate than she imagined at the time.

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75 thoughts on “From The News …

  1. Phyllis Mueller

    Apologies, Tom, for forgetting about your review of “The Meat Fix.” Your mentioning it (can you provide a link to that post?) solved a riddle–first I thought I already owned the book (but when I looked I couldn’t find it); when I received the book and saw the cover it looked familiar, and I couldn’t explain why.

    Thanks especially for posting for that CBN video link. It does a very good job of explaining the ketogenic diet and allaying people’s fears about eating animal fat and saturated fat. I very much liked the reporter’s quick and simple explanation for the “sore joints” issue–not enough fat!

    Here you go:

    http://www.fathead-movie.com/index.php/2012/08/09/book-review-the-meat-fix/

    Reply
  2. Marilyn

    Dr. Richard D. Feinman had a two-part guest post by Dr. Eugene J. Fine on the matter of cancer and glucose/insulin. My take-away from that is that carbohydrate restriction can be useful for some types of cancer, but not all. If I were diagnosed with cancer, I’d certainly give it a try, though.

    The problem with CICO is that people assume it’s something that can be done with precision. It can’t. I remember reading that even the nutrition facts posted on a carefully analyzed, uniformly packaged processed food item can vary by a certain percent. When it comes to real food, there are just too many variables.

    Reply
  3. Bruce

    Marilyn wrote…Or as my dad used to say about such things, “You might not live longer, it will just seem like it.”

    Exactly. I think there is a difference between living longer and surviving longer. The end of it is the end. No one gets out alive. Like the toys that I had as a kid that I see on ebay or the news that sell for a large sum of money. You say to yourself, “I had that toy. Just think if I never played with it, kept it in its original unsealed box with the instructions, I could get XXX amount of dollars for it.”
    How much more fun did you have rolling it across the floor and letting the dog chase it and gnaw on it a little, or play with it outside and leaving it out in the rain, and let dad find it and help you get it playable again using some 3in1 oil, but only after a lecture about how money doesn’t grow on trees.

    Reply
  4. Jason

    IF is really making headlines. In all honesty, it’s more about calorie management than anything else. I low carbed for a long time before I began a 16/8 protocol. It is very easy to do, flies in the face of all nutritional advice, and works like a charm. The only problem with it is “everyone knows” you must eat breakfast or you’ll be fat. Well, the last time I ate breakfast was December of 2011. Everyone thinks I’m in “starvation mode” and it’s unhealthy. My mom even told me my “metabolism was screwed up” and I should “eat something” and it would help me stay lean.

    Huh? How does that make sense? If you eat something, you’ll be more lean than if you don’t?

    The stuff “everyone knows” doesn’t make any sense at all.

    If you’re not hungry, there’s no reason to eat.

    Reply
    1. Walter Bushell

      Some exceptions exist. For example on my trip from Maui to NYC which lasted over 24 hours. The appears to be little or no food in airports.

      Reply
  5. Bullinachinashop

    I kind of feel bad for her. She’s taking some guff from the vegan trolls and she’s probably getting a lot of “I told you so” from everyone else. She did the right thng, I hope she gets her due credit.

    She had to know what she was stirring up when she wrote the post. She must’ve decided she could handle the blowback.

    Reply
  6. Namu

    There are also good news around 🙂 Today the french-german TV channel Arte broadcasted this: http://www.arte.tv/guide/fr/040953-069/x-enius (podcast format, this is the french version, it’s also available in german).

    It’s a very positive review of much of the recent low-carb science, with interviews of Dr Ronald Krauss on cholesterol myths, Gary Taubes on carbohydrates and the ‘french paradox’, and a visit of a weight-loss clinic serving fried eggs and lard to their patients, with a quick summary on insulin and fat metabolism to boot.

    Interestingly, they christen ‘american paradox’ the fact that americans have been eating less, and less fat, for the least few decades, yet are not getting any thinner nor healthier on average. The message is getting through, it seems 🙂

    Yup, I’m seeing more and more articles and newscasts like that in the mainstream press. That’s why I’m optimistic. The Wisdom of Crowds effect will win out.

    Reply
  7. Jason

    IF is really making headlines. In all honesty, it’s more about calorie management than anything else. I low carbed for a long time before I began a 16/8 protocol. It is very easy to do, flies in the face of all nutritional advice, and works like a charm. The only problem with it is “everyone knows” you must eat breakfast or you’ll be fat. Well, the last time I ate breakfast was December of 2011. Everyone thinks I’m in “starvation mode” and it’s unhealthy. My mom even told me my “metabolism was screwed up” and I should “eat something” and it would help me stay lean.

    Huh? How does that make sense? If you eat something, you’ll be more lean than if you don’t?

    The stuff “everyone knows” doesn’t make any sense at all.

    If you’re not hungry, there’s no reason to eat.

    Reply
    1. Walter Bushell

      Some exceptions exist. For example on my trip from Maui to NYC which lasted over 24 hours. The appears to be little or no food in airports.

      Reply
  8. Zach

    I’m a two meal a day person myself. Just cut out lunch. Eat breakfast then dinner after work. I am usually getting hungry by the end of the day but I can pull a 10hr stretch without eating.

    Since going low-carb, I find it easy to skip breakfast, sometimes lunch.

    Reply
  9. Bullinachinashop

    I kind of feel bad for her. She’s taking some guff from the vegan trolls and she’s probably getting a lot of “I told you so” from everyone else. She did the right thng, I hope she gets her due credit.

    She had to know what she was stirring up when she wrote the post. She must’ve decided she could handle the blowback.

    Reply
  10. Namu

    There are also good news around 🙂 Today the french-german TV channel Arte broadcasted this: http://www.arte.tv/guide/fr/040953-069/x-enius (podcast format, this is the french version, it’s also available in german).

    It’s a very positive review of much of the recent low-carb science, with interviews of Dr Ronald Krauss on cholesterol myths, Gary Taubes on carbohydrates and the ‘french paradox’, and a visit of a weight-loss clinic serving fried eggs and lard to their patients, with a quick summary on insulin and fat metabolism to boot.

    Interestingly, they christen ‘american paradox’ the fact that americans have been eating less, and less fat, for the least few decades, yet are not getting any thinner nor healthier on average. The message is getting through, it seems 🙂

    Yup, I’m seeing more and more articles and newscasts like that in the mainstream press. That’s why I’m optimistic. The Wisdom of Crowds effect will win out.

    Reply
  11. Zach

    I’m a two meal a day person myself. Just cut out lunch. Eat breakfast then dinner after work. I am usually getting hungry by the end of the day but I can pull a 10hr stretch without eating.

    Since going low-carb, I find it easy to skip breakfast, sometimes lunch.

    Reply
  12. Danideskjob

    I knew a vegan who ended up with bowel cancer. After fighting with it for a very long time, he introduced a bit of chicken back into his diet. His doctors told him that he needed more sustenance and that a bit of chicken would help him.

    The amount of backlash he received from supposed “friends” was heartbreaking. They told him that the doctors were lying to him and that it was bad for him.

    Yes, because clearly his vegan diet was doing wonders for his body.

    I recently discussed low-carb diets as a method of “treating” cancer with a woman I know who works for a big pharma company. I brought it up delicately, because I know that bringing up simple dietary changes with people who work in industries that “treat” disease and illness can be…tricky.

    “Oh yeah, if you can actually manage not to eat sugars, the cancer can’t grow, because cancer only feeds on sugar. But doctors don’t recommend it because they don’t think it’s reasonable for people to eat that way.”

    Hmmmm…carbs or cancer? I think maybe they should be giving people the choice.

    A change in diet isn’t reasonable, but drugs with nasty side-effects are?!! That says it all.

    Reply
  13. Danideskjob

    I knew a vegan who ended up with bowel cancer. After fighting with it for a very long time, he introduced a bit of chicken back into his diet. His doctors told him that he needed more sustenance and that a bit of chicken would help him.

    The amount of backlash he received from supposed “friends” was heartbreaking. They told him that the doctors were lying to him and that it was bad for him.

    Yes, because clearly his vegan diet was doing wonders for his body.

    I recently discussed low-carb diets as a method of “treating” cancer with a woman I know who works for a big pharma company. I brought it up delicately, because I know that bringing up simple dietary changes with people who work in industries that “treat” disease and illness can be…tricky.

    “Oh yeah, if you can actually manage not to eat sugars, the cancer can’t grow, because cancer only feeds on sugar. But doctors don’t recommend it because they don’t think it’s reasonable for people to eat that way.”

    Hmmmm…carbs or cancer? I think maybe they should be giving people the choice.

    A change in diet isn’t reasonable, but drugs with nasty side-effects are?!! That says it all.

    Reply
  14. Walter Bushell

    Ah, modern medical care is all Trick and Treat. First they give bad dietary advice and then they treat you with bad therapy that increases the problems keeping you in the system.

    Reply
  15. Walter Bushell

    Ah, modern medical care is all Trick and Treat. First they give bad dietary advice and then they treat you with bad therapy that increases the problems keeping you in the system.

    Reply
  16. Brooke

    I have recently read Dr. Davis’s “Wheat Belly” in which he talks about processed/cured meats and “AGEs”(Advanced glycation end products) and its link to cancers, heart disease etc. He does say that meats “are not instrinsically bad; but they can be made unhealthy through manipulations that increase AGE formation.” He recommends avoiding endogenous AGEs (found in sugars) and exogenous AGEs (found in processed meats and animal products heated to high temperatures). Reading it, to me, it makes sense to avoid these processed meats,even the ones that are labled “nitrate-free” or “hormone-free” as they are cooked at high temps for prolonged periods. Davis does say more research is needed in the area of AGEs, but from what science is already available, it seems reasonable to only consume meats in their purest form and cooked at lower temperatures as Dr. Davis suggests. Was wondering what your thoughts are on this..

    I’ve also heard that cooked meats contain AGEs, but I’m not sure if they end up in our tissues. A lot of what we ingest doesn’t. I’m far more concerned about AGEs produced internally by high glucose levels.

    Reply
    1. Walter Bushell

      And we know that sugar goes directly into the blood system, from the stomach itself as it is water soluble. We have no defense against carbs getting into the blood stream.

      Now if you’re insulin resistant they may stay there for a long time.

      Reply
  17. Brooke

    I have recently read Dr. Davis’s “Wheat Belly” in which he talks about processed/cured meats and “AGEs”(Advanced glycation end products) and its link to cancers, heart disease etc. He does say that meats “are not instrinsically bad; but they can be made unhealthy through manipulations that increase AGE formation.” He recommends avoiding endogenous AGEs (found in sugars) and exogenous AGEs (found in processed meats and animal products heated to high temperatures). Reading it, to me, it makes sense to avoid these processed meats,even the ones that are labled “nitrate-free” or “hormone-free” as they are cooked at high temps for prolonged periods. Davis does say more research is needed in the area of AGEs, but from what science is already available, it seems reasonable to only consume meats in their purest form and cooked at lower temperatures as Dr. Davis suggests. Was wondering what your thoughts are on this..

    I’ve also heard that cooked meats contain AGEs, but I’m not sure if they end up in our tissues. A lot of what we ingest doesn’t. I’m far more concerned about AGEs produced internally by high glucose levels.

    Reply
    1. Walter Bushell

      And we know that sugar goes directly into the blood system, from the stomach itself as it is water soluble. We have no defense against carbs getting into the blood stream.

      Now if you’re insulin resistant they may stay there for a long time.

      Reply

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