Archive for April, 2013

Back in September, I mentioned that a regular blog reader had developed a low-carb dining iPhone application that provides nutrition information for food items at hundreds of restaurants, as well as links to some low-carb nutrition blogs, including this one.  (The picture below is from that application.)

At the time, some of you wrote that you hoped an Android version would be released.  Well, it’s available now.  There’s a free version that includes some ads and a pro version that’s ad-free.

I still don’t own an iPhone or Android and don’t plan to buy either, so you’ll have to let me know what you think of the application.


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Interesting items from my inbox …

What’s wrong with bread

A reader sent me a note that read:

I took these pictures outside of an old bread factory in Memphis. Can’t seem to recall my Italian grandmother every reaching for soybean oil and corn syrup when she made bread.

Take a look.

Now stir in the fact that today’s wheat is the mutant stuff developed in labs in the 1970s, and you’ve got yourself a nice little horror show.

Let them eat bark

You and I don’t eat grass and twigs because we can’t digest cellulose. Instead, we eat the animals that can digest cellulose. Looks like that could change:

A team of Virginia Tech researchers has succeeded in transforming cellulose into starch, a process that has the potential to provide a previously untapped nutrient source from plants not traditionally though of as food crops.

Y.H. Percival Zhang, an associate professor of biological systems engineering in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences and the College of Engineering, led a team of researchers in the project that could help feed a growing global population that is estimated to swell to 9 billion by 2050. Starch is one of the most important components of the human diet and provides 20-40 percent of our daily caloric intake.

Cellulose is the supporting material in plant cell walls and is the most common carbohydrate on earth. This new development opens the door to the potential that food could be created from any plant, reducing the need for crops to be grown on valuable land that requires fertilizers, pesticides, and large amounts of water. The type of starch that Zhang’s team produced is amylose, a linear resistant starch that is not broken down in the digestion process and acts as a good source of dietary fiber.

I must be missing something here. If this breakthrough process produces a resistant starch that isn’t broken down during digestion, how is it going to feed a global population? Seems to me this “good source of dietary fiber” would do more to solve global constipation than global hunger.

This discovery holds promise on many fronts beyond food systems.

“Besides serving as a food source, the starch can be used in the manufacture of edible, clear films for biodegradable food packaging,” Zhang said. “It can even serve as a high-density hydrogen storage carrier that could solve problems related to hydrogen storage and distribution.”

So you can eat your indigestible fiber, then eat the package it came in and get more indigestible fiber. Then you can head to the bathroom and catch up on your reading. If this stuff is all fiber, you may want to take a copy of War and Peace with you.

Nitrates lower blood pressure?

Remember when you stopped drinking beetroot juice because you were worried about the nitrates? Turns out that wasn’t such a good idea:

A cup of beetroot juice a day may help reduce your blood pressure, according to a small study in the American Heart Association journal Hypertension.

People with high blood pressure who drank about 8 ounces of beetroot juice experienced a decrease in blood pressure of about 10 mm Hg. But the preliminary findings don’t yet suggest that supplementing your diet with beetroot juice benefits your health, researchers said.

Dangit, I was really hoping for an excuse to drink beetroot juice.

“Our hope is that increasing one’s intake of vegetables with a high dietary nitrate content, such as green leafy vegetables or beetroot, might be a lifestyle approach that one could easily employ to improve cardiovascular health,” said Amrita Ahluwalia, Ph.D., lead author of the study and a professor of vascular pharmacology at The Barts and The London Medical School in London.

Okay, so I do have an excuse to drink beetroot juice … ?

The beetroot juice contained about 0.2g of dietary nitrate, levels one might find in a large bowl of lettuce or perhaps two beetroots. In the body the nitrate is converted to a chemical called nitrite and then to nitric oxide in the blood. Nitric oxide is a gas that widens blood vessels and aids blood flow.

Compared with the placebo group, participants drinking beetroot juice had reduced systolic and diastolic blood pressure — even after nitrite circulating in the blood had returned to their previous levels prior to drinking beetroot. The effect was most pronounced three to six hours after drinking the juice but still present even 24 hours later.

In the United States, more than 77 million adults have diagnosed high blood pressure, a major risk factor for heart diseases and stroke. Eating vegetables rich in dietary nitrate and other critical nutrients may be an accessible and inexpensive way to manage blood pressure, Ahluwalia said.

Uh, wait a minute … if I want to get more nitrates into my diet, couldn’t I just eat more bacon? Don’t the anti-meat hysterics warn us to avoid bacon because of the nitrates?

To de-confuse myself, I looked up an article by Chris Kesser on nitrates and nitrites. Here’s part of what he wrote:

In fact, the study that originally connected nitrates with cancer risk and caused the scare in the first place has since been discredited after being subjected to a peer review. There have been major reviews of the scientific literature that found no link between nitrates or nitrites and human cancers, or even evidence to suggest that they may be carcinogenic. Further, recent research suggests that nitrates and nitrites may not only be harmless, they may be beneficial, especially for immunity and heart health.

It may surprise you to learn that the vast majority of nitrate/nitrite exposure comes not from food, but from endogenous sources within the body. In fact, nitrites are produced by your own body in greater amounts than can be obtained from food, and salivary nitrite accounts for 70-90% of our total nitrite exposure. In other words, your spit contains far more nitrites than anything you could ever eat.

When it comes to food, vegetables are the primary source of nitrites. On average, about 93% of nitrites we get from food come from vegetables. It may shock you to learn that one serving of arugula, two servings of butter lettuce, and four servings of celery or beets all have more nitrite than 467 hot dogs. And your own saliva has more nitrites than all of them! So before you eliminate cured meats from your diet, you might want to address your celery intake. And try not to swallow so frequently.

All humor aside, there’s no reason to fear nitrites in your food, or saliva. Recent evidence suggests that nitrites are beneficial for immune and cardiovascular function; they are being studied as a potential treatment for hypertension, heart attacks, sickle cell and circulatory disorders.

Well then, as much I was hoping for a reason to drink beetroot juice, I’ll probably just eat more bacon.

How bariatric surgery “cures” diabetes

Remember when a widely-reported study touted bariatric surgery as a cure for diabetes? If so, you probably remember what I wrote about it: it’s not the surgery that does the trick; it’s the diet the surgery forces people to adopt. A new study says the same thing:

Patients with type 2 diabetes who consume a diet identical to the strict regimen followed after bariatric surgery are just as likely to see a reduction in blood glucose levels as those who undergo surgery, researchers at UT Southwestern Medical Center have found.

“For years, the question has been whether it is the bariatric surgery or a change in diet that causes the diabetes to improve so rapidly after surgery,” said Dr. Ildiko Lingvay, assistant professor of internal medicine and first author of the study published online in Diabetes Care. “We found that the reduction of patients’ caloric intake following bariatric surgery is what leads to the major improvements in diabetes, not the surgery itself.”

The study followed 10 patients in a controlled, inpatient setting during two distinct periods. Initially they were treated only with the standard diet given to patients after bariatric surgery, while researchers measured effects on blood glucose levels. Several months later, the patients underwent the Roux-en-Y gastric bypass bariatric surgery and followed the same diet while the UT Southwestern research team again examined blood glucose levels. Patients received less than 2,000 calories total during each of these 10-day periods, which is the customary diet after gastric bypass surgery.

Fasting blood glucose levels dropped 21 percent on average during the diet-only phase, and 12 percent after combining the diet with surgery. Patients’ overall blood glucose levels after a standard meal decreased by 15 percent in the diet-only phase and 18 percent after combining diet with surgery. The scientists said the results demonstrate that the extremely restrictive diet imposed after bariatric surgery is responsible for the rapid diabetes remission, which occurs within days of the procedure normally.

In other words, it’s the diet, stupid.

“Unfortunately, such a restrictive diet is nearly impossible to adhere to long-term in the absence of bariatric surgery,” Dr. Lingvay said. “We found that the success of bariatric surgery is mediated through its ability to control food intake, which in turn has a beneficial effect on diabetes.”

Yes, a diet designed to fill an itty-bitty pouch of a stomach is difficult to follow … but a diet of meat, eggs, seafood, green vegetables, cream and butter isn’t, and that will also lower your glucose levels. Plus if you eat bacon, you get those heart-healthy nitrates.

Diet and acne

Let’s put this in the as if we didn’t know file. Diet does (surprise) affect acne:

It’s been a subject of debate for decades, but it seems diet really does have an impact on a person’s complexion.

A landmark overview of research carried out over the past 50 years has found that eating foods with a high glycaemic index (GI) and drinking milk not only aggravated acne but in some cases triggered it, too.

Frankly, I can’t believe this has been a subject of debate. Why the heck would diet – which affects hormones – not have an impact on acne?

Acne is caused by a combination of the skin producing too much sebum and a build-up of dead skin cells which clogs the pores and leads to a localised infection or spot.

Eating high GI foods – foods that are absorbed into the bloodstream quickly – is thought to have a direct effect on the severity of acne because of the hormonal fluctuations that are triggered.

High GI foods cause a spike in hormone levels including insulin which is thought to instigate sebum production.

So we’re looking at the effects of excess insulin — again. High GI foods trigger insulin, and so does milk protein, which is why some people on low-carb diets find they lose more weight if they reduce or eliminate their intake of dairy foods.

In my late 30s, I used to wonder why the heck I’d still get zits on my face and neck, long after the age where I could blame teenage hormones. When I stopped eating grains and other refined carbohydrates, that problem went away … along with several others.

Why I left California

Okay, there are a LOT of reasons I left California, but a legislature that proposes laws like this one is certainly of them:

The State of California has one of the worst proposals of any legislature in the country this year with a new bill that would force every restaurant and food service business in the state to commission an expensive “risk assessment” test for every menu item.

Such a test could cost thousands of dollars for every food item sold. This outrageous and cost prohibitive testing would certainly cause all but the biggest chain restaurants to go out of business almost instantly.

In another exercise in nanny-statism, California’s State Senate Democrats want this “risk assessment” conducted to determine whether food being sold “contributes significantly to a significant public health epidemic.”

The bill, Senate Bill 747, is an addition to the current health and safety codes and is currently set for a hearing on April 17. It was written and introduced by Sen. Mark DeSauliner (D, Concord).

The introduction of the bill clearly says that the law would require the food service companies to pay the state for the testing in order to fill state coffers. It notes that without the assessment, the state would have the right to shut an offending restaurant down.

As California politics watchdog Stephen Frank points out, “Pass this and hundreds of thousands of Californians are out of work on Day One–and tens of thousands of Californians have lost their investments and businesses.” The big chains could afford the cost of these tests, but small restaurants would just have to close their doors before the state’s inspectors do it for them.

Well, sure, businesses would close and people would lose jobs, but here’s the upside for the California politicians: once the unemployed people end up on welfare, they’re more likely to vote for the big-government mental midgets who propose laws like this in first place.

Cruisin’ …

This will be my last post until I return from the low-carb cruise. I need to spend the next week working on my pre-cruise roast, since I don’t like using notes when I speak. I’ll check comments until next week, when The Older Brother will take over the Fat Head chair.

For any of you coming aboard the cruise, PLEASE introduce yourself. After one of the cruises, someone in a discussion group expressed her disappointment that she didn’t get to chat with the speakers. Trust me, the speakers are happy to talk to you. It’s one of the reasons we come aboard.  But you can’t wait for us to seek you out, not with hundreds of people in the group. Come up and say hello. We won’t bite … unless you’re wearing a bacon shirt. And even then, it’s only because we want those heart-healthy nitrates.


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Justin Smith, the producer of Statin Nation, has made the documentary available on YouTube.  I watched it today, and it’s excellent.  Take a look.

At the end of the YouTube version, Smith asks the audience to buy the DVD to support his efforts to warn people about the problems with statins.  I just ordered the DVD and would encourage everyone who enjoyed the film to do likewise.

You’ll find the order page here.


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One of the many failed diet strategies I tried back in the day was serving myself portion-controlled meals.  I’d nuke a Healthy Choice dinner, or a Weight Watchers Smart Ones dinner, or a Lean Cuisine dinner, etc., and then try to convince myself I was satisfied after eating it.

Then I’d get hungry a couple of hours later and nuke another one … or two.

If you’d tried to lose weight by simply eating less of the same foods that made you fat in the first place, you know what happens:  you end up in a raging battle with your appetite.  You may hold out for awhile, but eventually your appetite wins.  It’s supposed to win.  That’s how Nature wired you.

The anti-obesity crusaders can’t get that through their heads.  They seem to believe obese people are like automatons who just consume whatever’s in front of them, with appetite having little do with it.  Just serve those fat people smaller portions, by gosh, and they’ll eat less and lose weight.

Sorry, but that’s like suggesting that if we ordered Phillip Morris and R.J. Reynolds to sell cigarettes in packs of 15 instead of 20, people would smoke less.   No, they wouldn’t.  They’d just buy more packs.

When Hizzoner in New York wanted to ban large soda cups, I wrote that people would just buy more sodas.  A study reported in the Los Angeles Times came to the same conclusion:

After New York Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg unveiled his plan to ban the sale of sodas larger than 16 ounces, comedian Jon Stewart complained that the proposal “combines the draconian government overreach people love with the probable lack of results they expect.”

It turns out the “Daily Show” host was on to something.

New research shows that prompting beverage makers to sell sodas in smaller packages and bundle them as a single unit actually encourages consumers to buy more soda — and gulp down more calories — than they would have consumed without the ban.

Well, I don’t know if they’ll consume more over time, but I sincerely doubt they’ll consume less.

Not only would thirsty people drink more, but circumventing the big-drink ban by offering consumers bundles of smaller drinks also would mean more revenue for the beverage purveyors, according to a study published Wednesday in the journal PLOS ONE. The sales boost would probably offset the added cost of producing more cups, lids and straws to hold those extra drinks, the researchers found.

The results reveal “a potential unintended consequence that may need to be considered in future policymaking,” wrote the study authors, psychologists from UC San Diego.

Okay, two quick points:  1) There are ALWAYS be unintended consequences when policymakers decide how other people should live, and 2) the lesson that future policymakers need to learn is that they should stop making policies.

The findings come a month after a New York judge struck down a bid by New York City’s health department to halt the sale of super-sized soft drinks at restaurants, movie theaters and sports venues across the city, calling the proposed measure “arbitrary and capricious.”

The effort’s legal failure sparked a round of soul-searching by public health officials, whose anti-obesity efforts have focused heavily on reducing Americans’ consumption of soft drinks and other sweetened beverages laden with sugar and calories.

Soul-searching by public health officials?  I doubt that happened.  If it did, neighbors would have reported hearing screams of “Oh my god, I have the soul of a fascist!”

On to the study …

The researchers recruited 100 undergraduate students at UC San Diego and set up a mock concession stand offering popcorn, pizza and an array of beverage choices packaged in single-serving cups and in bundles of cups.

In one setup, the researchers offered a full-service menu with 16-ounce, 24-ounce and 32-ounce drinks for $1.59, $1.79 and $1.99, respectively. In another, students could buy a single 16-ounce soda for $1.59, two 12-ounce sodas for $1.79, or two 16-ounce sodas for $1.99. There was also a “no-bundle” menu, offering only a 16-ounce drink for $1.59.

When ordering off the bundled menu, the subjects bought more ounces of soda than in either of the other two cases. They were also less likely to skip a drink when bundles were available — only 16% made that choice, compared with 21% who opted to go beverage-free when faced with the full-service menu and 38% who did so when the only option was the 16-ounce drink.

In other words, faced with a size restriction, the students bought more servings.

Another study purported to show that serving food on smaller plates could reduce childhood obesity:

Smaller plates, fewer calories? The latest study shows one way to fight childhood obesity may be to shrink the size of the dinner plate.

According research published in the journal Pediatrics, first-graders served themselves more and downed more calories when they used a large plate instead of a smaller one.

Simply advising parents — and kids — to eat less and exercise more hasn’t turned the childhood obesity epidemic around.

So let me get this straight:  advising people to eat less and move more doesn’t work … but if we give them smaller plates, they’ll eat less and then that will work?  We’re back to the automaton theory.  Apparently the millions and millions of frustrated dieters in the world never had the good sense to just use smaller plates.  Sure, they were trying to count calories and all that, but when they pulled a big ol’ plate out of the cupboard, they were unconsciously driven to fill it up and then ate too much.

With one in three U.S. kids now defined as overweight or obese, researchers at Temple University decided to study how effective shrinking plate sizes could be in keeping appetites in check.

A smaller plate reduces your appetite?! A piece of plastic or china somehow changes one of your most basic biochemical drives?

Head.  Bang.  On.  Desk.

On half the days, the kids used plates that were 7 ¼ inches in diameter — about the size of a salad plate — and on the other days they were provided with dishes the size of a dinner plate at 10 ¼-inches in diameter. Their plates were weighed before and after they ate.

The kids served themselves 90 calories more on days when they used bigger dishes; they ended up consuming about half those calories and leaving the rest uneaten, which was still more than what they ate on days they used the smaller plates. “Studies show that when kids serve themselves more, they are going to eat more,” says Fisher, the study’s lead author.

Okay, so here’s what we’ve got:  when kids were given bigger plates, they served themselves an extra 90 calories – but then consumed only half of the extra calories.  That’s a whopping 45-calorie difference.  Hail, hail, the witch is dead, the childhood obesity epidemic has been solved!  Does anyone really think those kids’ metabolisms aren’t capable of adjusting up or down to cancel out a 45-calorie difference?

When kids put more food on the plate but then don’t eat it all, that tells me that they’re eating to match their appetites — exactly what I’d expect to happen.  As I’ve mentioned before, on most nights my girls walk away from the dinner table with food still left on their (large) plates.   On other nights, they’ll ask for seconds.  Sometimes they eat a little dinner, go do their homework, then ask for a snack – which we give them.  We don’t worry about how much they eat because their appetites are naturally controlled by the type of foods we serve them.

The point is, losing weight isn’t about plate size, cup size, or portion size.  It’s about fixing the hormonal drive to accumulate fat, which in turns ramps up appetite.   If your fat cells are sucking up a disproportionate number of calories and hanging onto them, you’re going to get hungry and you’re going to eat more – even if you eat from a teensy little plate.


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You’ve probably seen various versions of an “obesity map” like the one above.  Most of them show higher obesity rates in the South, which has led to a lot of tsk-tsking and speculation about possible reasons for the regional differences. TIME magazine ran an article in 2009 titled Why Are Southerners So Fat? that offered the usual explanations:   It could be all that southern-fried food with gravy.  Or perhaps obesity is just a marker for poverty, since more Southerners are poor.  Or maybe it’s that people living in the South don’t spend as much time outdoors in the summer because it’s too hot and humid. The problem might even be a lack of public transportation, according to the TIME reporter:

That’s another problem, by the way: the South doesn’t have many bus stops. Public transportation is paltry, and for most people, the best way to get around is by car. “You don’t really think of riding the train as exercise, but at least you have to walk a few blocks to get to the stop,” says Bassett. States like Mississippi and Tennessee also have a surprising lack of sidewalks, discouraging even the most eager pedestrians. Many roads are narrower than those in the North — where streets have wider shoulders to accommodate winter snow — and people who want to bike or jog find themselves uncomfortably close to traffic.

Poverty, fried food, humid weather, not enough sidewalks, too much sweet tea … take your pick.  But there’s another possible explanation that most of the obesity experts haven’t considered:

Those damned Yankees might just be a bunch of big fat liars.

Obesity rates are calculated by the Centers for Disease Control based on phone surveys.  According to a new study, people who answer those surveys might not be (surprise!) completely honest:

The South often gets tagged with having the most obese population.

But it doesn’t appear to be true, a University of Alabama at Birmingham study suggests.

The study recently published in the journal Obesity found that there’s a significantly higher percentage of obese people in a region of central and northwest states including Minnesota, Kansas and North and South Dakota.

“What we found is the West North Central region has about 41 percent obesity compared to 31 percent obesity in the southern region that includes Alabama and Mississippi,” said George Howard, professor in the Department of Biostatics at UAB. “By the way, 31 percent is not a good thing — but it’s not at the bottom.”

How did Southerners get such a fat reputation? Apparently because they are more truthful.

Yup.  The researchers found when they compared what people say they weigh versus what they actually weigh, the Northerners were more likely to … uh … underestimate their weight.  Men in the North were also more likely to overestimate their height, which reduces their calculated BMI.

Thanks to the inability of Northerners to accurately estimate their heights and weights, the regional data on obesity may not be relevant after all:

The study analyzed the weights in the nine geographic regions used by the U.S. Census Bureau.

It found that the West North Central region, which includes Iowa, Kansas, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska and North and South Dakota, ranked fourth in obesity by the telephone survey results. But when actually weighed in the REGARDS study, people from that region ranked first in the nation for obesity.

In the telephone survey results, the East South Central region, which includes Alabama, Mississippi, Tennessee and Kentucky, ranked highest. But when weighed, that southern region ranked fifth.

That’s fifth out of nine national regions, mind you.  As I wrote after we moved to Tennessee, I was surprised at how few obese people I saw in our immediate area.  I see a higher proportion of obese people in my hometown in Illinois than I do here, but I figured perhaps that’s because Franklin is in a prosperous part of Tennessee.

“It is hard to know exactly what is going on, but my speculation is that people in the South are telling the truth more,” Howard said. “Perhaps there is not as much stigma connected to obesity as say someone in California, or in this case, Minnesota.”

Oh, I don’t think it’s because Southerners are less ashamed of being fat, Dr. Howard.  I think it’s because more Northerners are less ashamed of being big fat liars. There are a lot more religious people in the South; perhaps they consider lying to the CDC to be a sin.  (I’m not religious, so I consider lying to government officials to be a patriotic duty.)  Sure, we grow some big fat liars in the South, but they tend to run for office, serve out their terms in Washington, then move to New York or California and write fictional autobiographies or make scary documentaries.

Anyway, since I’m sure the folks at TIME magazine wouldn’t want us to think they secretly enjoyed portraying the conservative South as a region populated by a bunch of fat Bubbas, I’m looking forward to their upcoming article, Why Northerners Are So Fat – And Why They Can’t Read A Scale.


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Interesting items from my email inbox ….

How to ruin chocolate

Since replacing fat in our diets with various forms of sugar has been such a smashing success, why not extend the practice to chocolate?

Scientists have managed to halve the fat content of chocolate by replacing cocoa butter and milk fats with fruit juice.

Although the process, which uses tiny droplets of orange, cranberry or apple juice, gives the bars a slightly fruity taste, it can be applied to milk, dark and white chocolate.

Tests are ongoing, but if the ‘mild’ fruit taste of the chocolate proves too strong and cannot be lessened, researchers believe the same result could theoretically be achieved with a mixture of water and vitamin C.

The potentially ground breaking technique was developed by scientists at the University of Warwick and unveiled by lead researcher Dr Stefan Bon at a national meeting of the American Chemical Society in New Orleans.

Dr Bon said: “We have established the chemistry that’s a starting point for healthier chocolate confectionary… This approach maintains the things that make chocolate ‘chocolatey’, but with fruit juice instead of fat.”

Just what the world needs:  a repeat of the Snackwell’s phenomenon.  You remember Snackwell’s, don’t you?  Cookies and cakes and dessert bars that were good for us because they were low-fat! That was back in the 1990s, and all that fear of fat sure made everyone thinner and healthier, didn’t it?

I can’t help but wonder what kind of scientist ends up toiling in a lab to replace fat with fruit juice.  I’m guessing not a scientist whose other option was working in particle physics.  I also can’t help but wonder what kind of journalist considers removing fat and adding fruit juice to be a ground breaking technique.  Seems to me a moderately talented tinkerer could accomplish that feat in his basement.

It’s all about selling pharmaceuticals

As if we didn’t already know, Medical News Today recently pointed out what’s wrong with diabetes research:

An analysis of diabetes trials worldwide has found they are not addressing key issues relating to the condition with almost two thirds focusing on drug therapy while only one in ten addresses prevention or behavioural therapies. The research is published in Diabetologia, the journal of the European Association for the Study of Diabetes (EASD), and is by Dr Jennifer Green, Duke University Medical Center, Durham, NC, USA, and colleagues.

The researchers found 2,484 interventional trials by selecting those with disease condition terms relevant to diabetes. Of these, 75% had a primarily therapeutic purpose while just 10% were preventive. Listed interventions were mostly drugs (63%) while few were behavioural (12%).

So very few diabetes trials involve diets.  And of course, when researchers do attempt to control diabetes with diet, they usually prescribe the high-carb, low-fat diet promoted by the American Diabetes Association, which is pretty much bound to fail anyway.

I don’t want to sound paranoid, but is it possible they choose that diet so they can declare that diets are ineffective for controlling diabetes?

Another a-salt on salt

Here we go again … another study (a meta-analysis in this case) claiming that drastically reducing salt would save lives:

A reduction in dietary salt intake by 50 percent could prevent approximately 100,000 deaths from heart attack and stroke in the United States every year, according to new studies published in the April 4 issues of British Medical Journal online.

And researchers suggest that the responsibility for reducing salt in foods lies primarily with the food industry.

“Eighty percent of the salt that we eat is added by the food industry,” study author Graham MacGregor, a professor of cardiovascular medicine at the Wolfson Institute of Preventive Medicine in London, told

In MacGregor’s study, researchers analyzed data on 3,000 adults who decreased their salt intake over the course of about four weeks.

Results indicated that study participants saw an average decrease in systolic blood pressure of 5 mmHg. Similar results were found in a second analysis of 56 studies, also published in the April 4 issue of BMJ.  Achieving this type of blood pressure decrease across the entire population could have major health benefits, according to MacGregor.

I’d say according to MacGregor is the correct choice of words – because that statement certainly isn’t  true according to the science.

First off, notice that restricting salt reduced systolic blood pressure by a whopping five points – yipeekyai.  Since hypertension is defined as blood pressure that’s 20 points above normal, I don’t think five points is going to make much of a difference.

Secondly, the research on salt, hypertension and cardiovascular disease is inconclusive at best.  Here’s a quote from an article Gary Taubes wrote some years ago titled The (Political) Science of Salt:

University of Copenhagen researchers analyzed 114 randomized trials of sodium reduction, concluding that the benefit for hypertensives was significantly smaller than could be achieved by antihypertensive drugs, and that a “measurable” benefit in individuals with normal blood pressure (normotensives) of even a single millimeter of mercury could only be achieved with an “extreme” reduction in salt intake.

After decades of intensive research, the apparent benefits of avoiding salt have only diminished. This suggests either that the true benefit has now been revealed and is indeed small, or that it is nonexistent, and researchers believing they have detected such benefits have been deluded by the confounding influences of other variables.

Finally, if you really want to lower your blood pressure, trying cutting way back on refined carbohydrates — especially fructose.

Why I don’t trust nutrition committees

I guess it’s not just the USDA that’s essentially a division of Monsanto.  Private organizations are being co-opted as well:

The politics of genetically modified food has created a rift in a policy-setting committee of the influential Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics that demonstrates the difficulty in finding anyone — anywhere — who doesn’t already have an opinion on the issue.

A dietitian working on a panel charged with setting policy on genetically modified foods for the academy contends she was removed for pointing out that two of its members had ties to Monsanto, one of the biggest makers of genetically modified seeds.

“Perhaps it is possible for someone who works for an organization that creates or promotes G.M.O.’s to be objective, however, that would be hard to do,” Carole Bartolotto, a registered dietitian in California, wrote in a Feb. 6 e-mail to an academy executive.

In February, Ms. Bartolotto sent an e-mail to Kari Kren, a manager of research and business development at the academy, asking about the academy’s conflict of interest policy and raising questions about two other members of the group, Marianne Smith Edge and Jennie Schmidt.

Ms. Schmidt, a dietitian who operates a farm in Maryland, won a $5,000 prize from Monsanto and is a test farmer for the company.

Ms. Smith Edge, chairwoman of the committee, is a senior vice president at the International Food Information Council, which is largely financed by food, beverage and agriculture businesses, including companies like DuPont, Bayer CropScience and Cargill, companies that were among the biggest financial opponents of the California labeling initiative.

Later, she questioned the academy’s decision to hire Christine M. Bruhn, a professor at the University of California, Davis, to write its position paper on genetically engineered foods.

Professor Bruhn, who works for the university’s agriculture extension service, was an opponent of the California labeling measure. Additionally, the university has scholarships and other programs financed by Monsanto.

I wasn’t familiar with the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics – or so I thought.  Turns out that’s the new name for what used to called the American Dietetic Association.  Their web site describes the organization as the world’s largest organization of food and nutrition professionals.  So doesn’t it give you confidence in their objectivity to learn that Monsanto has members of the board in its (very deep) pocket?

As if Monsanto’s influence weren’t reason enough to ignore anything this organization says, take a look at this paragraph:

But what really concerned Ms. Bartolotto was the academy’s decision that Professor Bruhn would write the paper before the work group finished its review of the scientific materials.

Forming an opinion before reviewing the science?  I predict some of these people will end up on the next USDA Dietary Guidelines Committee.

Fat gets the blame again

Yahoo published an article about a teenager who lives on ramen noodles and has lousy health as a result.  Here are some quotes:

Ramen-style noodles, a staple in the pantry of broke college students, has been the mainstay of one teenager’s diet for the past 13 years, according to an article in the New York Daily News.

Georgi Readman, 18, of the Isle of Wight, U.K., refuses to eat fruit and vegetables and exists solely on packaged noodle soup, a snack that often contains high amounts of fat, saturated fat, and sodium. One package typically boasts 400 calories and 20 grams of fat.

Readman, who is 5’3” and 98 pounds, told the Daily News that she became hooked on the noodles when she was five-years-old and her mother still buys her packages by the dozens. She estimates eating 30 miles of noodles per year and the thought of eating anything else makes her sick.

Readman could not be reached for comment but according to her doctors, she is malnourished and has the health of an 80 year old.

(Note to Yahoo’s online editor:  Those sentences should read ” … when she was five years old …” and “…  has the health of an 80-year-old.”  Please reivew the proper use of hyphens.)

So we’ve got a young lady who lives on noodles and is malnourished, and the reporter believes the problem is the SATURATED FAT?!!  Newsflash: people don’t become malnourished by eating saturated fat.  They become malnourished by not eating enough quality fat, protein, vitamins and minerals.  According to what I can find online, that 400-calorie serving of noodles that the reporter believes is chock-full of saturated fat would contain about 9 grams of the stuff, but 45 grams of carbohydrates – probably consisting mostly of mutant wheat created by Monsanto.

I’m starting to think when reporters are assigned to the health beat, they’re given a coffee cup with the words ALWAYS BLAME SATURATED FAT emblazoned on the side.  Or perhaps the interview process goes something like this:

“I see you’ve spent most of your career reporting on school-board meetings.  Do you actually know anything about health or nutrition?”

“No, I’m afraid not.”

“You can start on Monday.”

And finally, just for fun …

My nephew Eric (The Oldest Brother’s Oldest Son) sent me this email today:

One of my favorite shows is “Parks and Recs.”  It is about a park department where one of the heads is ironically a meat eating, hard core Libertarian name Ron Swanson.  I’m sure most of your Fat Head followers, especially in my age range, are quite familiar.  When someone asked about our views/beliefs, my friend Paul interrupted and simply said to them, “To sum up Eric and his dad: Ron Swanson.”  I was sent this link with a few of his greatest quotes.

After reading the quotes, I think I’ll have to start watching that show.  Ron Swanson seems like my kind of guy.


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