One of the yeah-but questions I’ve received frequently in emails is “But what about the Asians?  They eat a lot more carbohydrates than we do, and they’re not all fat and diabetic!”

I usually reply that while it’s true that Asians eat more rice than most Americans, they don’t match our consumption of sodas, pasta, muffins, ice cream, pancakes, cereal and Little Debbie Snack Cakes.  Their total carbohydrate consumption may not be higher than ours, and even if it is, they don’t still consume nearly as much sugar.

I’ve tried without success to find recent statistics on what Americans eat vs. what the Japanese and Chinese eat, but perhaps those figures wouldn’t be relevant anyway.  After all, diabetes is becoming a huge problem in China, so we can no longer point to them as an example of people who eat a high-carb diet without becoming diabetic.  My guess is that as their incomes rose, they began buying more sugary foods.

I did, however, manage to find some data from the late 1990s, when the “Asians eat a lot of carbohydrates but don’t become fat or diabetic” opinion was probably more accurate.  So let’s look at what the data tells us.

According to an article in the Journal of Hypertension, here are (or were) the macronutrient intakes among men in Japan, China, the U.K. and the U.S:

Calories per day
Japan:  2278
China:  2347
UK:  2470
US:  2609

Percent calories as carbohydrates
Japan:  52.3%
China:  61.8%
UK:  46.6%
US:  48.4%

Percent calories as sugar
Japan:  15.8%
China:  7.1%
UK:  17.9%
US:  24.3%

The first thing that jumps out at me is that even in the late 1990s, American men were getting nearly one-fourth of their calories from sugar.  Yeesh.

Plugging the figures above into Excel, here’s what we get for carbohydrate and sugar consumption:

Carbohydrate grams per day
Japan:  298
China:  363
UK:  288
US:  316

As I suspected even before I ran the numbers, Japanese men do not (or did not in the late 1990s) consume more carbohydrates per day than American men.  However, Chinese men do.  So why weren’t the Chinese afflicted with diabetes in the 1990s?  Well, take a look at these figures:

Sugar grams per day
Japan:  90
China:  42
UK:  111
US:  158

In the 1990s, at least according to this study, Japanese men consumed slightly fewer carbohydrates overall than American men and significantly less sugar.  The Chinese consumed more carbohydrates overall, but only about one-fourth as much sugar as American men.

The figures for women are similar.  I won’t go through them all, but here are the numbers for carbohydrate and sugar intake:

Carbohydrate grams per day
Japan:  253
China:  295
UK:  221
US:  231

Sugar grams per day
Japan:  87
China:  39
UK:  92
US:  117

I think the message is clear:  American got itself into a big ol’ health crisis largely by consuming too much sugar.  If you’re metabolically healthy and enjoy rice, fine.  It probably won’t hurt you.  But if you want to remain metabolically healthy, stay away from sugar.

Share
47 Responses to “The Asian Question”
  1. Galina L. says:

    I am not sure is that web-page is still available http://www.blog.fitnessmissionpossible.com/diabetes-and-heart-disease-in-south-east-asians/
    it is about the Diabetes Epidemic in the South-East Asia.

    Yup, still works.

  2. Steve G says:

    Don’t forget that the Chinese are on average 4 inches shorter than men in the US, and they have a much lower life expectancy. So if you want to be malnourished and potentially die earlier, eat all the rice you want and leave the fat and meat for me.

    My sister-in-law read a passage from a book about Genghis Khan to me once over the phone. That passage described how his troops ate a lot of meat and were therefore taller and stronger than the rice-eaters they conquered.

  3. Peter says:

    Asians may weigh less than Americans but they’re no picture of health. Over 50% of Taiwanese and South Korean men are overweight.

    I’ve also read that more “normal weight” Asians these days are of the skinny-fat body type.

  4. Lori says:

    A few other facts about Japanese diets that aren’t often mentioned:

    Like most traditional diets, real Japanese food is high in nutrients (fish, pork, seaweed, natto, rice, tea, etc.) with little if any empty calories like sugar. Remember the research that Gary Taubes dug up on obesity formerly being considered a disease of malnutrition?

    Little or no dairy or wheat. Dairy spikes insulin; wheat spikes insulin and hunger.

    Japan went through a 1,200-year period of enforced pescatarianism that ended only 150 years ago. There may have been some winnowing out of the population that didn’t thrive on a high-carb diet.

    My full post from last year on the subject in case anyone’s interested:
    http://relievemypain.blogspot.com/2012/05/tips-and-traps-of-japanese-diet.html

    Good points in the post.

  5. Beowulf says:

    Interesting data. I’m working through one of Dr. Lustig’s works, and sugar really does seem to have a particularly high demonic status. The body’s system for dealing with carbohydrate seems to be particularly sensitive to being derailed, especially in some people.

    One big step to health is really to get away from all the @*%# added sugars, but that seems to be near impossible for many people to manage.

    If they eat processed food, it is difficult to avoid sugar.

  6. greensleeves says:

    I actually just came back from Japan’s Ishikawa province 2 weeks ago. We stayed at a ryokan, or traditional bed & breakfast that also served dinner if you asked.

    A traditional Japanese breakfast starts with soup, often cabbage or miso. Then the fried fatty fish, such as salmon or mackerel. Then a large bowl of home-made pickled veggies such as cucumber, daikon radish. A salad of another kind of marinated veggies, such as green beans or wakame seaweed. Sometimes this would include a few paper thin slices of the relatively low-carb lotus root (just 5 carbs per oz) for crunch.

    The rice was served in a side bowl for the whole table and you were given a tiny little bowl for rice, one that couldn’t hold more than 1/2 cup (which would be about 20 carbs).

    It’s rude to have seconds. At lunch, we observed most of our Japanese colleagues having sashimi with more soup, so we had the same, with unsweetened tea.

    For dinner, when we didn’t eat at the ryokan, which served more fatty fish for dinner with the same tiny bowl of rice, we went to the grill restaurant, or izakaya. There our Japanese colleagues ordered various small plates for grilled fish, grilled chicken, and a stew of pork belly, which again came with home-made pickled veggies.

    No rice was served at dinner; the Japanese custom is to finish such a dinner with a small bowl of soup filled with either buckwheat or shirataki noodles. The drinks were dry sake or tea. We never saw anyone eat a “dessert.”

    I would estimate the soup contained at most 1/3 cup noodles, for about 7 total carbs. I came away convinced that most Japanese actually eat about 100-125 total carbs a day on a traditional diet, little if any from sugar, except what small amount might be in the dipping sauces.

    A striking observation however is that fast food is all over Japan. We saw McDs, Mr. Donut, Starbucks, and various French-style pastry places. All the teens and college students were eating in these all the time, and would even walk down the street with a huge Coke in one hand and their cell phones in the other. This is new for Japan, where eating on the street and between meals was until quite recently frowned on.

    As you would expect – the middle-aged Japanese are slender. But the under 25 crowd were frankly quite plump for their height and bone structure. Not morbidly obese. But very soft & jiggly. They’ll be obese in about a decade on their Mr. Donuts.

    That’s what I keep hearing from people who’ve lived in Asia: the diet isn’t as heavy on rice as most Americans think it is.

  7. I lived in Japan for five years and like alot of people who have lived there find the Western idea of the “healthy Japanese” to be a bit different to the reality of having lived there. The baby boomers were (as in the west) in fantastic shape but in general Japanese people seemed pretty unhealthy but thin. I don’t know what Japan the author of the book was talking about but the country I went to shunned brown rice, in fact they feed it to prisoners, didn’t really walk anywhere and every supermarket a convienience store sold bread and milk. Japanese people also complained about being hungry and ate very small amounts of fruit and vegetables.

  8. Nads says:

    This is my line of thinking too. That sugar causes the insulin resistance and then the carbs can’t be tolerated. I’m fine with carbs as in they don’t cause me to put on weight. There’s no way I’m going to eat sugar though, and I just don’t think carbs are that nutrient dense, most of thetie now I try to avoid them.

  9. Anna says:

    I’m Chinese Canadian and many of my immediate family members and myself are thin and diabetic. It is well-known that Asians have a pre-disposition to type 2, regardless of weight. Nobody has really bothered to investigate this further other than to explain it away as ‘genetic’.

    Yup, there are plenty of thin type 2 diabetics out there.

  10. Walter Bushell says:

    Did I mention here recently that obesity is a defense against diabetes?Just like high cholesterol is a defense against against heart disease and other pathological conditions.

    Of course, one needs to deal with the underling causes. One could develop a medicine that would block insulin and that would certainly be effective for weight loss and how. In fact, some diabetic under dose themselves to lose weight and it really works. *Highly disrecommend*.

    That would be similar to taking statins for high cholesterol.

    Recently added to the warning labels, liver damage, cancer, memory loss, and confusion.

    Perhaps, I should stop before I get STARTED.

    Oh well statins are probably less bad for you than crystal meth.

    Sure, getting fatter is a method of sucking up the excess glucose.

  11. Violeta says:

    But if you want to remain metabolically healthy, stay away from sugar.

    If there is one thing we should teach our kids about nutrition, that would be it. Great post – thank you.

  12. Tom Welsh says:

    The British military and naval authorities subscribed to Genghis Khan’s opinion as late as the 19th century. History books abound with remarks by generals and admirals – as well as other ranks – about how the wretched plant-eating natives have no chance in a fight against British soldiers and sailors with their diet of beef, pork, cheese, and rum. (Well, the rum may just have made them THINK they were fighting well…)

    If they were drinking rum, they probably thought they were great fighters, and good-looking blokes too.

  13. Cyborcat says:

    Interesting timing with this one. I made faux-fried rice (shredded cauliflower) last night and got to thinking about this very concept.

    Great minds and all that =P

  14. Ellen says:

    I work with a lady from Burma. She’s in her 50′s and a tiny little thing, not fat at all. She had been asking me recently about my weight loss since I went low carb. She just told me last week that she’s been diagnosed with diabetes. She cooks traditional but loves rice and eats a lot of it. Her doctor actually told her to reduce her rice and other carbs which was a happy surprise. It kind of makes me cringe to think back when I worked at a Japanese owned company about 10 years ago (when I was still eating SAD) and went to a co-workers house for dinner. They served traditional food, sushi and such, and I brought a sugary dessert. Hope I didn’t get them started on sugar!

    I doubt one dessert put them on a path to ruin.

  15. Caitlin says:

    As an adjunct to Galina’s post, here’s a rRecent (Feb 12) article from the heart.org (registration required but a great source of info) about hidden body fat in Asians:

    http://www.theheart.org/article/1505007.do

    “Researchers showed that Japanese American women are twice as likely to be diagnosed with diabetes as whites, despite having lower body-mass indexes (BMIs).”

  16. Caitlin says:

    The article I posted above also refers to Asian Indians, who have a very high rate of diabetes.

  17. Jason says:

    I tried zero carb for around five months. It definitely wasn’t for me; my metabolism ground to a halt, my hormones were screwed up, and my immune system was shot. I do much better with a few “refeeds” of around 200 grams of carbs every other day or so.

    I’ve also played around with different carb choices. One thing I’ve realized big time: 200 grams of sugar can be consumed no problem………..and you are hungry within the hour. 200 grams of rice or potatoes is a true challenge to eat. 150 grams of potatoes is equal to TEN SERVINGS of potatoes! Think about the caloric density of sugar. What would you rather eat? A large bag of Skittles or a flipping mixing bowl full of potatoes?

    I totally agree, our problem isn’t entirely with carbohydrate consumption, but the carbohydrate choices we make as well.

  18. BillP says:

    Then there’s the noodle shops in Japan, made famous in the great movie, Tampopo, made in the ’80′s.

  19. Eric says:

    I have a surmise with respect to carbs, weight gain and the skinny-fat body type:
    A plausible theory of weight gain is that the liver becomes more insulin resistant than other tissues, leading to a miscalibration of the fat burning cycle.
    A plausible theory of insulin resistance is that full glycogen storage and mass insulin signaling causes cells to down regulate receptors similar to a “no vacancy” sign.
    Given that fructose is only processed by the liver, it is plausible that fructose hits the liver harder than other tissues.
    The surmise from this is that the more of your carbs come from fructose, the more likely your liver goes insulin resistant first, leading to more weight gain compared to equivalent carbs from non-fructose sources.

  20. Nowhereman says:

    “That’s what I keep hearing from people who’ve lived in Asia: the diet isn’t as heavy on rice as most Americans think it is.”

    I recall that a lot of this misperception of the Japanese, particularly the Okinawan diet came from diet surveys that were done in the late 1940s, giving the impression that Okinawans ate very little meat and lots of rice and soy. It turned out that the reason for this was that they were surveying these people when they were still suffering from the severe post-World War 2 shortages. The normal prewar diet was actually very much as one of the posters here described; lots of fatty fish and other seafood, along with lots of fatty pork meats with only a small amount of rice, veggies, and fermented soy on the side.

    Do you, Tom, or anyone else recall this study?

    I don’t recall that particular study, but this study suggests that among the Japanese elderly, protein and fat are associated with a longer lifespan. (Observational study, so not exactly conclusive, but interesting.)

    http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed?cmd=Retrieve&db=pubmed&dopt=AbstractPlus&list_uids=1407826&query_hl=7&itool=pubmed_docsum

  21. commonchild2 says:

    Another point when looking at average nutrient intake for whole nations/groups – what is the standard deviation? I bet the US has a larger standard of deviation and therefor more people on the fringes/extremes. The average sugar intake could be 24.3% of calories for the US as a whole, but the percentage could be 14.3% for a portion of the population and 34.3% for another portion of the population. Guess who is getting diabetes?

    Excellent point. The average carb intake for American men was listed at 316, but I’m sure many carb addicts are way beyond that.

  22. cTo says:

    I’ve never been to Asia, but I’ve frequented Asian grocery stores here in the US over the last 5-10 years, and while they’ve always had a lot of interesting (some might say bizarre, but not me!) sweet treats, recently it seems that “Western-ized” treats of wheat-flour pastries, wheat-flour cookies, western-style candy, and nutella have become more and more prominent, and the Asian-style treats based on sesame, red bean, young coconut, ubi, and rice-flours are being pushed more to the side.

    Not a good development for them.

  23. Craig says:

    Traditional Asian diets were also much, much lower in grains than a typical U.S. diet. A lot of “safe starches” like rice and potatoes are only safe for people who never damaged their metabolisms with excess wheat and sugar.

  24. Peter says:

    Fascinating topic, Tom. Left Hong Kong about 30 years ago for the US and we ate traditional ‘healthy’ Chinese, loads of white rice, complex carbs, loads of green veggies, nil sweets/sugar, lean meat and tofu, and nil fat. All of us stayed lean as we aged.

    My parents, now , in their 60′s and eighties, have metabolic disorders: hypertension, gingivitis, glaucoma, high blood sugar and high triglycerides. They remain thin in weight.

    Their docs just blamed their disorders on their genes, since they adhered to the ideal SAD.

    Type 2 diabetes is becoming very common amongst Asians here and in their native countries. And worst yet, many of them believe, just like us here in the US, that dietary fat, especially saturated fat, is the the root cause.

    Telling East Asians to ditch rice and eat lard w/ green veggies to improve their health, well, is like altering their cultural and racial identity, a huge paradigm shift.

  25. K2 says:

    Hi Tom,

    Yeah, the Asian question was a conundrum for me. There are so many factors involved. Thanks for doing the research and the math to make it a little clearer. What you present here really does make sense.

    As for the many factors involved, a few other commenters pointed out small portion sizes for the rice. I’d say it is that way – or WAS that way – particularly in China. Yep, they are being Wal-Martized just like we have been, so they are getting more of the bad stuff and are starting to reap the consequences.

    As someone who has studied Chinese language, I’d like to share an interesting note that goes along with Asians, and Chinese in particular, being historically thin. I think it really boils down to portion size and especially food availability. In Chinese, there are “counters,” words that kind of tell you about another word. For example, a piece of paper or a wall has a counter that means a flat-surface-thing. For people, the counter is “mouth,” so when you ask someone how many people are in their family, you literally are asking how many “mouth-people” are there, or basically how many people they have to feed. Enough food has been an issue for the Chinese for a long time, so much so that it impacted the very language. It makes sense, then, that they were very lean for most of history. But now…well, with Starbucks, Coke, fast food, etc, they might have to change their “counters” to match the new reality of obesity and diseases in their culture.

    Thanks again for the always interesting and thought-provoking posts.

    K2

    They’re victims of their own success.

  26. Marilyn says:

    Just remember, Yudkin said it first. Or was there someone before him? :-)

    Try entering the two words “cancer” and “sugar” together in a google search. It’s a battleground out there. From what I’ve read, low carb might help in the fight against some cancers, but not all. It depends on the type of cancer. But I found this woman’s defense of sugar to be rather extreme. Check out the third paragraph:

    http://gboncology.com/does-sugar-cause-cancer-cells-to-grow/

  27. Pierson says:

    How could they eat hundreds of grams of carbs, but only a little sugar? Aren’t they the same? I’m confused…

    No, carbs can be sugar or starch. Rice is starch, which turns to glucose. Sugar is fructose and glucose combined.

  28. gollum says:

    I disagree. The 150 g of sugar sticks out like a sore thumb, but correlation is not causation.
    While I’d be personally more inclined to eat these in a month or so (even counting chocolate).

    Sugar is a likely culprit, but I don’t think 150 g/d are *proven* to do that much damage (yeah it’s average, so you got the nuts with 300g/d too). It may be the fructose, mhmhmmm.

    I’m rather surprised the Chinese actually ate that much rice, more starch in absolute terms – remember, they tend to be smaller too. Methinks the “Chinese mystery” is still a problem that requires further research. After all is said and done, they have even more carb load. Maybe it turns out not to be a mystery after all with underdiagnosed diabetes (takes about 10..20 years to bloom?)

    About thin diabetics, my pet theory is that if your pancreas is mildly weak, you won’t be prone to obesity, but have problems clearing the glucose (being on the fields 10/6 tends to burn a lot of it though). Also requiring food after short time, shivering (partly due to hypo partly due to lack of insulation), the works. ‘Fatty’ dm2 is the opposite, strong insulin response, until storage is full, then burnout.

  29. Walter Bushell says:

    RE: Welsh

    There was and probably is a caste of warriors (probably several) who were allowed meat. I suppose they kept their high caste status, because no one dared to tell them they couldn’t.

  30. Dave says:

    I think my ‘favorite’ scene from Forks Over Knives has to be Dr. Campbell standing next to his Chinese counterpart. The tall doctor Campbell had the benefit of growing up on an American farm, no doubt with plenty of fresh animal foods. The Chinese doctor is, by contrast, very short, having possibly grown up in typical Chinese poverty.

    Then the false dichotomy is brought in: Chinese people are increasingly abandoning their [implied to be near vegan] traditional diets for Western ‘fast food.’ Thus the only way for them to keep being so ‘healthy’ is to reject the Western penchant for animal foods. The viewer is never given the Third option: maybe neither diet is optimal. Vegan style malnutrition and sugar-and-processed-food laden diets are not the only choices we have.

    Dare we say it? The fact that Chinese have lower incidences of certain chronic illnesses has nothing to do with the fact that they don’t eat as much meat, but it likely has to do with their relatively low sugar consumption compared to that of Americans. Dr. Campbell (and son), are you listening??

    They set up that false dichotomy all the time: whole-foods vegan diet vs. crap-laden SAD that includes meat. You’ll notice they never want to compare the results of whole-food vegan vs. whole-food paleo.

  31. Bernardo says:

    There is also the variable Wheat in this equation. I remember Denise Minger found some interesting correlations with wheat consumption in one of her China Study articles. Carbs from rice seem much better. So sugar + wheat (refined carbohydrates) may completely explain the differences in metabolic disease occurrences in those countries.

    Dr. Lustig says it’s sugar. Dr. Davis says it’s wheat. I say it’s probably a bit of both.

  32. Steve G. says:

    Interesting research about Native Americans and their susceptibility to diabetes. The researchers concluded that it was due to what they ate, not a “thrify gene.”

    http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/07/120724104434.htm
    “A newly published analysis of fossilized feces from the American Southwest, however, suggests this “thrifty gene” may not have developed because of how often ancient Natives ate. Instead, researchers said, the connection may have come from precisely what they ate.”

    And what did they eat….” prehistoric hunter-gatherer civilizations of the Southwest lived on a diet very high in fiber, very low in fat and dominated by foods extremely low on the glycemic index, a measure of effects food has on blood sugar levels. This diet, researchers said, could have been sufficient to give rise to the fat-storing “thrifty genes.”

    By eating a low fat high carb diet, this made them prone to diabetes. Hmmmmm.

    Steve

    Genetics loads the gun, diet pulls the trigger. Some people are more susceptible to diabetes and genetics no doubt figures into that, but diet is what expresses the gene.

  33. Tate says:

    What about PUFA’s and the problems associated with wheat which white rice does not have? Could it be that sugar and carbs don’t cause problems until the body is already overloaded/broken by wheat and (specifically long chain) PUFA’s? Also, without the sugar and carbs, could the PUFA’s in Asian diets give them diabetes without getting fat? I initially had good weight loss with Akins, but after a while had all the problems associated with very low carb diets and the weight loss stopped at 245 (from 285). Once I added at least 700 grams of starch a week back into my diet and religiously cut PUFA’s and grains, the weight loss started again, but this time without any of the associated side effects. In fact, I have not been this strong, energetic, free of fat, and clear thinking in years. I am now down to 230 and continue to lose weight. And that includes letting a little Fructose back in my diet. This would explain (along with coconut oil) other apparent contradictions like the Kitavans.

    I suspect sugar can break the metabolism without wheat being involved, but of course the SAD includes both.

  34. SomeGuy says:

    Hi Tom,

    Interesting data. I think the time period of the late 1990s really explains why the Chinese had such a huge difference between carbohydrate intake and sugar intake. At that time, it was before their industrial revolution. The majority of the Chinese population was poor. They would typically eat starchy carbs like potatoes, yams, or rice along with some vegetables. If you had money, you may be able to afford a little meat. Generally though, meat was usually eaten on special occasions for the poor.

    At the same time, they were still using the bicycle as their primary method of transportation. I guess this is why they didn’t get fat but their diet definitely wasn’t very nutrient dense.

    Speaking of rice, I was born in Hong Kong (80s child) and as a Chinese person, I can tell you we don’t eat a lot of rice. If you sit at a table for Chinese dinner, this is what you’ll see in front of you: a small bowl of rice, 1-2 vegetable dish, 1-2 meat dish, possibly a seafood dish, and a big bowl of soup. Of course, if you only had a dish of vegetables and a dish of meat in front of you, you may need to eat 2 bowls of rice.

  35. Miri says:

    This is interesting, and I think the role of wheat is central. I have some Chinese friends, both very thin, both eating high-carb rice-based diets, and they have an 18-month-old boy. And it is impossible to get him to eat rice.

    “Wheat, though,” Said his dad sadly. “He loves. He will eat anything wheat-based. It’s like he is addicted.”

    I think this is the key point; it’s not “like” he is addicted – he is! Wheat is addictive in a way rice is not, and thus compels people to eat a lot more of it, as well as causing huge inflammation throughout the body. It is one of the worst foods for digestion, and usually the main culprit in any common digestive disorder (e.g. IBS).

    I conjecture that eating 200-300g a day of wheat is much, much worse than eating the same amount of rice. And the carbohydrate source that constitutes most of Western consumption is wheat – bread and pasta. A ‘normal’ Western diet has wheat at virtually every meal. Even when people do have rice or potatoes, they often still have bread on the side!

    I agree with you, Tom, that once a carbohydrate “intolerance” is established then all starches/grains pretty much become as bad as each other. But I think triggering that intolerance might have just as much to do with wheat as to do with sugar – perhaps more? I think it is possible wheat is more addictive and worse for you than sugar is, because of the additional presence of gluten, a protein that is very difficult for the human digestive system to deal with and that has already been implicated in exacerbating many diseases and disorders (e.g. Coeliac, Crohn’s, autism).

    The bottom line is that that the human body is designed to deal with some sugar – after all, some of the most healthy fruits are extremely high in sugar, e.g. pineapples – but is not at all equipped to deal with wheat/gluten. So that’s where I’d personally point more of a finger when it comes to explaining the East/West disease discrepancies.

    Ugh, I hope they get him off the wheat.

  36. Andy says:

    Alright, I’m American, and I lived in northeastern China for two months. When I was there, I ate more meat than I ever did in America. The difference is that there were not many grains, with the huge exception of rice, and the occasional exception of noodles for dumplings; they ate no processed foods (although the grocery stores carried some processed foods, only the more wealthy-looking Chinese would buy these things), when I ate at a food court in a mall in China, I could see a cook in the back chopping up FRESH VEGETABLES…in…a…fast…food…place…. The school children in all the schools were served food that had been prepared completely from scratch that morning.

    They had a lot of veggies, a lot of meat, some dairy and grains, and some fruit in their diet, but the average Chinese person ate absolutely no processed foods, period. Oh, and MSG was a table condiment, smoking was rampant, barely anyone exercised, and the air was so polluted your snot came out black (that is not a joke). And yet the old people still managed to walk without even a cane. I think people have a false idea about what the Chinese eat (southern Chinese do eat more plants and less meat, and are also very short, unlike their northern counterparts who are quite tall).

  37. gollum says:

    Sorry to abuse the discussion but maybe anyone will comment?

    I just aced/failed my own ogftt,
    said ‘let’s have a sweet day’ and poured the bottom of my cocoa cup,
    envelope calculation shows it should have been about 140g of table sugar or more.

    (I usually drink everything unsweetened)

    Readings maybe 20 min/35 min later: 226 mg/dl, 294 mg/dl
    90..120 min later: 65 mg/dl

    Is this nuts or what? Did I have sugar on my hands even though I washed them (the 65 was from the arm), or am I victim of the LC technical insulin resistance effect? Or maybe it went all out over kidney? Hhmpf. Also, I’m out of sensors.

    FG readings have been 69, 77 – after I learned to keep the strip away from the drop after filled and the beep – it’s an old Elite and the manual seemed to be very stiff-buerocratic, but I can’t remember a big warning that you will get 160 if you don’t keep the drop away during the 30 sec countdown (suspect more glucose wanders in). Gee thanks. Could have thought of that of course.

    Reading 80 min. after pound of meat – onions – caraway – about 80 g or more potato starch mixed in: 91 mg/dl.

    The sensors were well over their date, if anything that should push the metering down (the enzyme will get degraded and produce less “electrons” thus less current) maybe 5..10%.

    More: I had adipositas, chronic throat/HNO pain, lethargy, skin problems, monocolar vision blur, sweating, anything you know so well for decades, also the skin problems could qualify as diabetic – the norange cigar-paper thickenings over finger joints that don’t hurt, the pilaris, cellulitis (as male) etc., striae.
    Ate lots of starch… but every test negative. At least one “Blood glucose normal” (this was 1995, I believe fasting except coffee).
    I later suspected a lot of things including Cushing. Came back negative, T hormones negative too, said endo.
    HOW could I ace all the tests and still feel like dying? I know these doctors are really bad, but fumbling a glucose reading?
    Or maybe it’s been pre-diabetes and cured with lc?

    I still think it’s probably been autoimmune gluten and maybe sub Hashimoto.

    But have anyone experienced or heard of “compensated” insulinoma? Hypothesis is, base insulin level -> adipositas, but stress hormones go into overdrive and make the liver produce enough glucose to avoid open seizures/hypo.
    It’s more a speculative rambling since I never experienced hypo or somnolescence or stuff, not even when fasting or drinking alcohol.

    Hmhm mail is rotXIII(“snhpu”) in the arcor.de domain, I appreciate any interesting comment.

  38. Dave says:

    I looked at the Science Daily article mentioned by Steve G. I’m no scientist, but something just doesn’t add up. Ok, I understand that they can tell what a person ate by what went undigested. Humans cannot digest cellulose, so obviously quite a bit of plant matter will get passed though the digestive tract. However, I’ve read the article by J. Stanton at Gnolls.org about whether meat ‘rots’ in the colon. Based on that knowledge, it would seem that animal protein and fat is completely broken down in the stomach and absorbed in the small intestine. What little that is not absorbed is easily handled by the bacteria in the colon.

    So, when these ‘expert’ scatologists claim that ancient native Americans ate a high fiber, low fat diet, are they intentionally ignoring the fact that what comes out is very different that what went in? If animal fats and amino acids get mostly absorbed, won’t what comes out will be low in fat and high in undigested plant parts?

    Good point.

  39. mlantenac says:

    I love this from that blog that Marilyn posted defending the sugar/cancer thing:

    “The truth is that all cells in our body use a form of simple sugar, called glucose, for energy. We get sugar from foods that contain carbohydrates, protein and fat. Even though sugar does not “feed” cancer cells it is a good idea to limit the amount of simple sugars you eat. ”

    All cells ‘use’ sugar
    cancer cells don’t ‘use’ sugar…..

    Wait a second, I’m confused, cancer cells aren’t cells?

    Oh wait, I know, sugar feeding cells doesn’t mean the same thing as cells using sugar…

    Nope, sorry guys, I tried but I just can’t resolve that contradiction for ya….+

    And how do we get sugar from fat?

  40. Marilyn says:

    I’m wondering. One of the things that goes along with a high sugar consumption is the ongoing eating and drinking of sucrose or high fructose syrup containing products throughout the day. The body never has time to deal completely with one onslaught before the next one comes along. Is it the sucrose that’s bad? Or is it the fact that the body never has any relief from it? What would happen if straight glucose were ingested as often and in the same quantities as sucrose? Would it cause any less damage? Has there ever been such a study?

    I think the problem lies in overwhelming your body’s ability to do something useful with the fructose. As Dr. Lustig has pointed out, if you’re a competitive athlete and burning up that Gatorade with physical activity, you’ll be fine. But if you’re not burning it up, it’s converted to fat in your liver.

  41. CNC says:

    I live in Singapore currently and have lived in Asia for the past 25 year and can say from what I have seen most all traditional diets in Asia are very low in sugar. The consumption of rice is much smaller than most westerns think. Rice is normally present at meal but just a small portion. One point also I have never seen anyone in Asia eat brown rice; it is always some form of white rice. Not sure where the brown rice myth comes from.

    The fat content of meals is Southeast Asia is much higher in fat than most people think. All those nice green leafy are stirred fried in palm oil or lard, and not is small amounts. Fish is deep fried (no flour) most of the time but if steamed sesame oil is added. Coconut is used quite a bit in our curries which are eating all the time. Palm sugar is added to some dishes but in very small amounts. I find it quite easy to stick with my low carb high fat diet here in Asia but not easy when I back in the USA at a restaurant.

    I am with you Tom and think the main thing in the non-paradox paradox is the sugar. There is no paradox, just people looking at the data with their built-in biases.

    Same with the French non-paradox. They consume far less sugar than we do.

  42. LFM says:

    My father, who has type-II diabetes, loves rice. I’ve found that if I load it with fat (e.g. creamy Indian-style sauces, or pesto), it doesn’t spike his blood sugar levels, which he checks before or after every meal.

    And of course the rice tastes a lot better that way.

  43. johnny says:

    Using the stats from article in the Journal of Hypertension and the Human Height article on Wikipedia (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Human_height), based on the average (calculated by adding men and women’s numbers and dividing by 2) BMIs and heights of Japanese and Americans, using the BMI formula, I backed into their average weight, 137.86 and 183.33 lb., respectively.

    Dividing average calories, 2,038.00 and 2,242.50 for Japanese and Americans I came up with average calories per pound of weight of 14.78 and 12.23, respectively.

    Since people starting a diet are usually placed on 10-12 calories per day, don’t you think that US calories may be understated?

    Anytime the data comes from surveys, I’d question the accuracy.

  44. Anna says:

    “And how do we get sugar from fat?”

    From the glycerol backbone, binding the three fatty acids together to form a triglyceride. All natural fats come as triglycerides.

    Roughly 10% of the fat we eat can be counted as contributing to the glucose load, although glycerol can go both up and down the metabolic pathway, i.e., be turned into either glucose or pyruvate.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Glycerol

    Understanding Normal and Clinical Nutrition, Sharon Rady Rolfes et al. (the relevant text snippet can be found on Google books)

    Now it makes sense, thanks.

  45. Miriam says:

    Another one for you. I’ve lived in China for the last 15 years. Here’s what I can tell people:

    When I first arrived, it was very rare to see an overweight person. If you did, everyone stared at them. At that time it was also very rare to see people drinking soda or other sugary drinks. They still sold Coke in glass bottles. You drank it right there at the seller’s (a much smaller amount than we American are accustomed to in our 12 oz cans) and gave it back. The Chinese always preferred fatty meat. Fatty meat is priced the highest, and they have plenty of dishes that are mostly large chunks of fat. Rice was certainly eaten, yes. But it is “staple food” as they like to call it. In other words, the junk you eat when the good stuff is gone, if you’re still hungry. Most restaurants wouldn’t even bring it out to you till the real meal was over, if you ordered it. Poor people ate noodles and some street-food bread stuff, but they were also the ones working extremely hard physical labor; and they would get themselves fatty meat if they could possibly manage it. The American wheat industry started aggressively pushing wheat in the late 80s, but the idea of pastries and bready snacks still wasn’t very popular when I first visited in ’97.

    15 years later, I see fat people every day. The best place to see them is at the high schools. Just hang around when they let out and it’s a parade of chubbies. Tons of fat kids, too. It’s common enough now that people don’t stare anymore. I also can glance out my window and know that it won’t take me 5 minutes to see someone walk by with a soda, sweet tea or some other sugary drink in hand. Now when I go out with Chinese friends for a meal, they avoid fat like the plague. They say they are afraid of it; especially the girls. Another huge change is that there are now bakeries on every corner. You can’t go 100 yards without tripping over the sign for another one.

    Know what else has changed? Absolutely skyrocketing diabetes rates. Huge heart disease numbers. These rates are so high that the medical system is being steadily overwhelmed, and society is beginning to seriously worry what to do about all these sick people. It’s one of the biggest social issues they currently face.

    So they export products to us, and we exported sugary foods and diabetes back to them.

  46. Chloe says:

    People tend to tackle macronutrient vs macronutrient but never the portion size.

    As someone who moved to the US five years ago, I will tell you that the “kiddie” meals and burgers in the US are the “regular” burger sizes in Asia. The smallest soda in the US is the largest in Asia.

  47.  
Leave a Reply