The “Big Meal” news story that ran on ABC was, as Dr. Mike Eades explained quite thoroughly, a load of bologna passing for health and nutrition advice. I’d like to say that’s a rare occurrence. I’d also like to say I’m 30 years old, with 10% body fat, a full head of hair, and enough money in the bank to conduct a hostile takeover of Microsoft … but I’d be lying. Bad nutrition advice is everywhere.
I bookmark a lot of health and nutrition articles I find online, figuring I may write about them later. After the “Big Meal” story, I decided to go through them and pick out a few, separating them into the Good, the Bad, and the Ugly. I like ending on a positive note, so we’ll save the Good for last.
Surprising Good-For-You Foods! Well, I’m pretty sure you can guess what their definition of “good for you” is. Here are some choice quotes:
Cream-Style Corn: There was cream in your grandma’s recipe, but the liquid in today’s cans is actually a component of the corn kernels themselves and other ingredients such as starch. If you look at calories and fat, canned cream-style and whole-kernel corn are identical.
Ahhh, that explains why the obesity epidemic that ravaged the country in the 1950s is just a bad memory now. Silly ol’ Granny cooked with cream. (Can’t you just hear her yelling, “Jed! Go milk one of the cows so I can put some cream in yer vittles!”) Nowadays, being so much wiser, we cream up those starchy corn kernels by adding still more starch … kind of like they do at feed lots to provide us with well-marbled cows.
One large egg is a significant source of a number of vitamins and minerals, and contains only 75 calories and 5 grams of fat. Moreover, most of this fat is the healthy, unsaturated variety. (Eggs are high in cholesterol, but the chief villain in raising blood-cholesterol levels is not the cholesterol in our diets, but in saturated fats.)
Boy, they had me going for a minute, actually praising eggs. Then they had to go and point a finger at the chief villain. And by the way, that last sentence makes no sense. It’s not the cholesterol in our diets, but in saturated fats … ? Huh? If the cholesterol is hiding inside saturated fats (and probably wearing a fake moustache so we don’t catch on), how does it get into our bodies if not through our diets? Do we fall asleep and accidentally snort saturated fat particles floating around in the air?
Saturated fat doesn’t raise cholesterol. It raises HDL, which isn’t actually cholesterol, but a protein that carries old cholesterol from your tissues to your liver. High HDL is desirable. So snort that saturated fat out of the air and don’t feel guilty about it.
Chicken thighs: They are higher in fat and calories than breasts, but as long as you remove the skin and any excess fat, economical thighs fit into a good-for-you diet.
I sometimes eat chicken without the skin, but only because my daughter steals it when I’m going to the refrigerator for more butter. She loves the skin. Why? Because it’s fatty, and her little brain wants the fat. So does yours.
The Healthiest Carb You’re Not Eating. This writer heard about the wonders of whole grains at a conference. As she explains, “I was so blown away by the accumulating evidence of their protective effect against chronic disease that I made a beeline for the grocery store when I got home and purchased a box of the one brand of whole grain pasta I could find.”
In the studies that blew her all the way to the grocery store, researchers had one group eat white-flour products, while the second group consumed whole-grain products. The people who ate whole grains ended up with a lower rate of diabetes, among other ailments. So the researchers came to the obvious conclusion: whole grains prevent those diseases.
Anxious to repeat this rock-solid logic, I had one group of men smoke unfiltered cigarettes for 10 years, while a second group smoked the filtered variety. Turns out the men smoking the filtered cigarettes had a lower rate of lung cancer. This proves that filtered cigarettes prevent lung cancer. We should be passing them out in schools and using them to treat anyone who’s been exposed to asbestos.
5 Things You Need to Know About Dieting. Shape magazine promised to “set the record straight” about what fills you up. Here are some quotes:
Know this: It’s not the fat in foods that makes you feel full. That greasy cheeseburger will leave you feeling full all day, so it’s worth the splurge, right? Wrong! Fat is the slowest food component to clear the stomach, so for years it was assumed that fatty foods slowed digestion and kept you feeling full longer. Recent research proves the proportion of sugar and fat has little or no differences in satiety ratings. In fact, protein tends to leave people feeling more satisfied than either carbs or fat. The problem with fat is that it has more than twice the calories of protein or carbs.
That must be some interesting recent research, because a ton of old research demonstrates pretty clearly that given exactly the same number of calories, the higher the carbohydrate content, the hungrier people will be. Even the low-carb skeptics admit that people on low-carb diets end up eating less, which is why they call it “a low-calorie diet in disguise.” They just can’t seem to explain how the disguise curbs hunger. Perhaps hunger pangs are afraid of strangers wearing fake moustaches or other disguises, assuming they might be cholesterol preparing to hide themselves inside some saturated fats.
Know this: Low-carb diets don’t flush calories from the body. Proponents of low-carb diets claim you can excrete fat fragments (called ketones) in urine on this type of diet, essentially flushing calories out. But a study at Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University in Blacksburg found no correlation between urinary ketone levels and weight change in women on low-carb diets.
Okay, they actually have a point. For all the good he did, I blame Dr. Atkins for the misconception that a positive reading for ketones in the urine automatically means you’re losing weight. It doesn’t; it simply mean you’re primarily burning fat for fuel. If I eat a big, fatty meal, I will get a positive ketone reading without losing weight, because my body has no need to tap my fat stores.
But here’s why ketones are good: Your brain prefers them for fuel, as do many other organs. And if you’re burning fat, it means your body isn’t relying on glucose, which in turn means your insulin levels are going to be lower. Then when you do need to tap your fat stores, they’re open for business. Otherwise, you can semi-starve yourself, and your body will respond by slowing your metabolism.
5 Sauces to Avoid at All Costs. This author provides helpful suggestions for cutting the flavor out of the sauces you like. Some examples:
Low-fat Alfredo. Add two cups of plain soymilk (the thicker consistency mimics Alfredo) to a pot over low heat. Stir regularly to prevent sticking. Don’t bring milk to a boil. Add 1 tablespoon of dry milk powder, 1/2 cup of grated Parmesan cheese, salt, and pepper to mixture. Continue to stir until cheese is melted and milk is thickened. If mixture is not of the desired consistency, add dry milk powder and stir until dissolved. You’ll slash the fat calories by more than half!
Brilliant idea. While taking in a load of pasta to spike my blood sugar, I like to offset the effects by filling my body with soy and screwing up my thyroid. (I love alfredo sauce, so when I whip up a batch, I pour it over spaghetti squash or French-style green beans.)
Healthier alternative (to real salad dressing): Canned vegetable stock. Place in a pot on the stove and bring to a boil. Mix 1 tablespoon of cornstarch with 1/4 cup of cold water until dissolved. Add this mixture to the boiling liquid. This will thicken the stock and create the same consistency as high-fat, oil-based dressings.
Boy, doesn’t that sound delicious? Vegetable stock, with corn starch to thicken it up. This will also thicken your blood as your liver takes the starch and converts it to triglycerides. And by the way, without fat, your body won’t be able to absorb the fat-soluble nutrients contained any vegetables you put on your salad. So let’s see … none of the flavor, few of the nutrients, and a big load of triglyceride-raising starch. Pass me the Caesar dressing, now!
Yes, there is a good, in a lovely article titled Does Fat Make You Fat? Here are some samples:
The fat-free craze didn’t begin in the ’90s though. For decades, scientists were warning of the dangers of fats. Saturated fat was deemed a killer, clogging the arteries and causing our pants to get tighter.
Never mind that for thousands of years indigenous cultures ate animal fat at nearly every meal and only in recent times had obesity become a problem and heart disease become a #1 killer.
It didn’t work. We are fatter and sicker than ever before. Many of us – myself included! – ended up with dry skin, constipation and a cold feeling in our bones. Our bodies’ need for fat manifested itself in magnificent cravings we satisfied at 3 a.m. with french fries and Ben & Jerry’s.
When I started eating more butter and taking fish oil, my skin really showed a difference. Lines in my face actually went away!
Bravo! I’m 50 years old, and I barely have any lines in my face. A year ago, I was carded while buying wine in a grocery store in Tennessee. When I asked the clerk if he was kidding, he said, “Sorry, we have to card everyone under 40.” I would’ve kissed him, but they frown on that kind of behavior in the south.
Now here’s the irony of the good, the bad, and the ugly: The bad and the ugly articles were provided by health magazines … Prevention, Men’s Health, Shape, etc. The good was featured in something called Women and Co., networking for the career-minded woman.
So we’ve got actual health nuts out there reading articles telling them to cut the fat and eat corn starch and pasta and soy milk. They’ll end up with arthritis, snap a ligament lifting weights at the gym, develop Type II diabetes while recovering in an easy chair and eating soy milk-smothered pasta, then wonder what the heck happened.
Meanwhile, career-minded women who want to network more effectively are learning they should be eating plenty of natural fats. They’ll be elbowing the health nuts out of their way as they power along to their next big meeting, looking fabulous in their business suits and their wrinkle-free skin.
I just hope the fat-eating career women network their way into taking over a few media empires. Then they can kick the health reporters’ tired, wrinkled butts.
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All I ever use for salad dressing is balsamic vingegar and extra virgin olive oil. It is awesome.
As for eggs, I saw an article in a similar vein recently that really irked me. Must be poached, dry fried or hard boiled… gah!
Best way to cook eggs is sunny side up in the fat left behind from cooking your bacon.
Or fried in real butter, made from the cream of a grass-fed cow.
“She loves the skin. Why? Because it’s fatty, and her little brain wants the fat. So does yours.”
Wait, what? Are you calling my brain little?
Why I oughta…make you kiss that Southern checkout guy. That’ll learn you!
If I kissed the Southern checkout guy, my brain might become littler in a hurry.
Two things, though:
Your brain does not prefer ketones for energy, it prefers glucose; this is the reason that the adaptation to ketosis takes time. Your brain prefers glucose and takes the 2-3 days to adjust to using ketones at energy, and even at the peak of ketone usage, it only uses about 75% ketones; the other 25% still must come from glucose.
Unless you go 3+ days without eating, fasting will not slow your metabolism in any way with the exception of TEF (the Thermic Effect of Food), which is simply the part of your metabolism that results from the action of digesting your food. TEF makes up appx. 10% of your total metabolism, so if you fasted for 24 hours, you would only burn about 90% of your maintenance calories. You may have been talking about something else with the “semi-starvation” comment, such as the decreased metabolism over time due to dieting, which does happen for a number of a reasons.
If you’ve trained your brain to run primarily on glucose, it will of course prefer the fuel it’s adapted to burning, but I don’t believe that’s what nature intended. Unless my pre-agricultural Irish ancestors found some way to obtain dense carbohydrates when fruit wasn’t in season, they likely were in ketosis most of the time. I can’t imagine what carbs, if any, they found in the Irish winters.
Considering that symptoms of brain disorders such epilepsy and Alzheimer’s have been diminished or even eliminated by diets that produce high levels of ketones, it’s clear our brains like ketones. I personally feel much more energetic and alert when I’m in mild ketosis — but yes, I went through that foggy adaptation period.
Oy vez – the reason that fat stays in your stomach longer is BECAUSE it makes you full, in turn because it has more calories. The digestive system secretes hormones like CCK in response to various foods, and many of these are secreted in proportion to the amount of energy consumed. The effects include both decreased appetite and GI motility. The latter is a $100 phrase for “food moves through your digestive system more slowly”. In other words, when some energy gets absorbed through your intestines, signals are sent to stop sending any more food from the stomach. When your body decides it needs more energy, the stomach squirts more along until more energy is absorbed, then it stops again. So it goes until the stomach is more or less empty and other sources of stored energy fall below what the body deems as acceptable levels. THEN you get hungry – or at least that’s how it works with real food, as opposed to soy milk corn starch goo over white flour noodles (like Lewis Black said, “There’s no such thing as soy milk, because there’s no such thing as a soy titty”).
Fat and protein together have a larger effect than fat by itself, hence the conclusion about protein. If you eat only lean protein, you will find yourself hungry again soon (keep doing it, and you’ll find yourself dead). Carbs + protein probably has the same effect, so the unfortunate erroneous conclusion is that protein itself has the greatest satiety factor, but really it’s protein accompanied by energy-yielding macronutrients. The problem with large amounts of refined carbs is that they knock this nice regulatory scenario all to hell, and it won’t matter how much fat or protein you ate (see: hungry an hour after three plates at the Chinese buffet).
The sad part is that this is textbook stuff. But even sadder is that even though the textbooks put forth the known physiology, they then bend over backward to make it fit the current high-carb dogma. I don’t think it bodes well that most of the people who are supposedly learning from these textbooks can’t smell the obvious logical contradictions.
Yup … what these goofs recommend — lean protein without fat — is a good way to end up with “rabbit starvation.” Your body has to keep going to your liver to find the other nutrients that make the protein digestible, thus depleting your liver.
Oh brother – that should be “soy milk corn starch goo”, not “good”. Really gotta finish my coffee before using my brain.
I fixed it. We don’t want “soy milk good” showing up on any Google searches that lead to this site.
Great article, Tom! I think it’s important for people to realize how much bogus information is out there. Popular magazines are some of the worst offenders! Prevention is an especially interesting case since it used to be a highly regarded natural health resource. According to Jonathan Wright, a well respected MD and an early contributor to Prevention, their content is now heavily influenced by advertising.
I don’t doubt that, since they’re constantly pushing the highly profitable grain-based foods.
The madness is everywhere. We just got back from a week in Cancun. At breakfast one morning I noticed the “diet section.” Full of cereal! Even funnier, they had little bags of food-stuff you could take with you. I never paid much attention until one morning a red bag grabbed my attention. It was a bag of twizzlers. And guess what was on the label? A heart with a check mark next to it. In my basic understanding of written spanish, all I could surmise was that they were promoting it as a heart-heatly alternative. After all, it was in the diet section. It had no fat. Contained ample amounts of sugar. A little red-dye numero something and that was it. I may have to explore their benefits next time I’m at the gas station.
Was it the American Heart Association’s seal of approval? They’ll put that on any crappy, sugary food as long it’s low in fat (for a fee, of course).
I believe it’s actually your heart that prefers ketones. Dr. Eades has some references to the literature somewhere in his blog.
I don’t know whether my brain prefers ketones or glucose, but either way, it works a lot better on a low-carb diet.
Dr. Larry McCleary, author of “The Brain Trust,” believes the brain works better when using ketones. A quote:
“The diet we cut our evolutionary teeth on is essentially a low-carb diet that generates high levels of ketone bodies. You need look no further than the brains of children with intractable seizures to see how miraculous ketones are for brain health and function. They work where all drugs fail by increasing the energy available for the nerve cells and keeping them from becoming over-excited.”
Ketones seem to help prevent all kinds of brain maladies, including seizures, ADD, Alzheimer’s, depression and migraines. So I guess it’s a matter of how we define “prefers.” If we’re talking about optimum functioning, I’d say the brain prefers ketones. If we’re talking about which fuel the brain will use first if both are present (assuming we’re not looking at someone who has conditioned his brain to burn glucose over time) … I’m not sure. Maybe it will grab glucose first, but of course for most of human history we couldn’t flood our systems with glucose.
Excellent point. It’s hair-splitting at this point, but it’s probably the case that some brain cells prefer not being hammered with glucose (or the associated mess of hormones), but there is some baseline requirement for glucose . But your liver makes that easily (and generates ketones in the process, ta da!). I’m guessing Mother Nature figured out the optimum operating parameters.
In fact, that the liver can make enough glucose to satisfy this baseline (and more) is at least a hint that we didn’t have any kind of steady glucose source in our diet. Makes me wonder if anybody has ever studied the gluconeogenesis capacity in a frugivorous mammal.
Semantics aside, I was talking about the one that your brain prefers chemically. And Dave: I think the heart runs exclusively on fat, but I’m not 100% on that one. Most of the muscles and organs can run on fat and ketones, but the brain is the only one that requires at least some degree of glucose, AFAIK.
That’s what I haven’t been able to find: in a human who hasn’t been conditioned by diet to burn glucose first, what does the brain take up if both glucose and ketones are available? (If you’ve got a link to any papers that discuss the issue, I’d like to take a peek.)
I read that the brain and red blood cells must have at least some glucose, which is probably why we’re adapated to make the stuff from protein. Unfortunately, we flood our systems with way more of the stuff than we need.
You don’t want the SMG phrase turning up this site in google:
A. I don’t see the problem, as informative and entertaining as this site is, you probably are preaching to the converted most of the time. Some unenlightened readers could help reach more people.
B. It will still come up in a google search as you have it written in your response.
Maybe we’ll get some soy-eating types to visit the site. I don’t know if that would be good or bad.
yes, mostly preaching to the converted, but its oh so entertaining
I don’t think we change many hearts and minds here, since the readership consists largely of people who’ve seen the film. But you never know.
Plus the information in the film is new to a lot of people when they first see it, and the more reinforcement they can find, the less likely they’ll be be pulled back to the low-fat dark side.
The absolutely most delicious thing to do with chicken skin is to fry it in a pan until it becomes crisp, then salt it and enjoy the best snack ever. (Dana Carpender suggested this in one of her cookbooks.)
Now you’re talkin’.
Red blood cells lack nuclei you may know, but they also lack mitochondria. Their short life span is run on the currency of glycolysis (anaerobic respiration). Our ancestors did not have access to ‘Cocoa Puffs’ and HFCS so where did their sugary fuel come from to maintain their rbs’s? -gluconeogenesis (literally means creating new glucose) from amino acid stocks -and from the glycerol portions of the triglyceride molecules. The glycerol part of a trig is a 3C alcohol that is really just 1/2 of a glucose molecule. Two glycerol molecules can be combined (condensed) to make one glucose. Voila.
I won’t hold my breath but I would be a very happy camper if Dean Ornish or Frank Oz were to finally see the error of their ways. I like this blog because it’s informative, entertaining, surprising and I love the choir. But if there were a high profile conversion, like Ornish or Oz, that would make for very potent support. If they were open minded and actually read Taubes, they might realize they are wrong, apologize to their patients and then make the best spokespeople for the low-carb, high-animal-fat ancestral diet. It takes integrity and almost heroic ability to publicly admit error and I won’t be surprised if it never happens, but I can dream.
I’ve also recently had yet another epiphany that I think comes directly from my year of eating more FAT and cogitating now better than ever. I believe it’s unconscionable for anybody to recommend low-calorie diets. The brain is hugely metabolically active and an energy hog. Why on earth would anybody recommend starving the brain of fuel (food)? It’s dawning on me that this makes no sense and is dangerous. I can see telling a cancer patient to never eat sugar again because cancer cells prefer sugar, but starve the brain? WTH? It just does not compute and is damaging and it’s immoral.
I think it’s more likely the non-media-star doctors will change their ways first. Oz and Ornish have build financial empires atop the theory that fat is bad for you. I can’t imagine they’d willingly let their businesses crumble in exchange for admitting they’ve been wrong (and saving a few thousand lives in the process).
The brain will use the glucose first, because the body needs to dispose of this shit the fastest possible. On Stefans and Peter’s blog there was once a discussion (I keep vague because I can not find the references again) where it was shown that the body reacts to the different nutrients in inverse correlation to their toxicity. Alcohol will put the liver in panic mode and work hard to get rid of it, the same with fructose, excess glucose can be disposed of in the brain, plant polyinsaturates will also be used up rapidly (or stored directly in the fat cells). The last to be used for energy will be good ole satfat, because it is so harmless.
Hadn’t thought of it those terms. Interesting theory.
Concerning the glucose use in the brain, afaik the brain doesn’t use glucose or ketones but Pyruvate (or was it Acetyl-CoA I do not remember sorry).
Wikipedia has this to say about ketones
Acetoacetate and beta-hydroxybutyrate are an important fuel for many tissues, especially during fasting and starvation. The brain, in particular, relies heavily on ketone bodies as a substrate for lipid synthesis and for energy during times of reduced food intake. At the NIH, Dr. Richard Veech refers to ketones as “magic” in their ability to increase metabolic efficiency, while decreasing production of free radicals, the damaging byproducts of normal metabolism. His work has shown that ketone bodies may treat neurological diseases such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease, and the heart and brain operate 25% more efficiently using ketones as a source of energy. Research has also shown ketones play a role in reducing epileptic seizures with the so-called high-fat, near-zero carbohydrate Ketogenic Diet. 
There is also another point I really would like to find information on, but nothing interesting yet. The metabolism of short chain fatty acids (butyric, caprilyc, acetic acid) might also yield some clues about the marvel of metabolism. They don’t behave like fats, they are water soluble, they don’t come in triglycerides, we get them via diet (milk-cream, vinegar) but our guts produce some from the fiber in the food (up to 1,5 kcal per gram of fiber, calories often forgotten in calculations of low-fat diets). My hypotheses is that they might replace glucose for some functions but as I have said, I havn’t found a lot about that subject (except the recent post from Barry Groves showing that herbivore animals are also low-carbers http://barrygroves.blogspot.com/2009/07/i-wish-id-known.html ).
Don’t click that unless you like banging your head against a wall.
Oh noes, NZ is getting fat, ban fatty foods!
AAAARGGHHH! Same old nonsense. And here’s a bit of irony: they’re touting how many people have quit smoking, which is of course a good idea, but smokers on average weigh ten pounds less than non-smokers — and we know it’s not because the smokers are health nuts who jog. Nicotine encourages the mobilization of fat for fuel.
you’re going in my favourites now.
“And here’s a bit of irony: they’re touting how many people have quit smoking”
I think that bit you did on Spurlock smoking, despite the warnings is probably the biggest smack on his credibility.
It didn’t work for me, but if it doesn’t work for you, you are stupid and the government should take away your licence to buy things.
That is, unfortunately, how they think.
Regarding our obesity problem in New Zealand (Tony NZ had the link on his comment), one of our head obesity surgeons has stated that it is not all down to fast foods and there is something else to blame – he said research needs to be done. Well heck, I thought it had been done! No one here in NZ has suggested at all that it could be all the bread, potato fries and sugar that kids are eating non-stop.
Oh and we are going to have folic acid added to our bread from September – BUT they say a woman needs to be eating approx 11 slices of bread a day for it to have the desired effect which is cutting birth defects such as spina bifida. Mmmm… now that sounds healthy. NOT.
Oh and your movie played over here again yesterday and the day before and there were lots of good, positive comments on one of our popular message boards. Great to see more people getting the message 🙂
Glad to hear it’s been aired again. If you spot any press generated on your side of the globe, let me know. We’re still trying to get some U.S. networks to take an interest.
Must be a cold front in hell today.
This nationally published cartoon puts carbs to blame for obesity, also talking about the folic acid issue.
And an excerpt from this story has the researcher saying your health might contribute to your lifestyle choices as much as in reverse.
Slight reprieve from the bollocks.
Nice to know there are still some researchers who consider all the possibilities.
“We’re still trying to get some U.S. networks to take an interest”.
what the hell? i’m Canadian, so don’t know much about TVLand down there. do you mean to say that even PBS and those like it aren’t biting?
you have an excellent and informative movie. keep pushing.
btw, i’m a low carb success story after dealing with the ups and downs of blood sugar problems for 42 years. i’ve been on a high fat paleo diet (<80 gms clean carbs/day) for two years and feel like a smug, healthy animal …never going back.
My producer’s rep shopped it around to various TV networks over a year ago and didn’t get any bites then. That could change as word gets out. If I’d blamed evil corporations for obesity and called for more government regulations to solve it, I would’ve had a TV deal within a week.
“If I’d blamed evil corporations for obesity and called for more government regulations to solve it, I would’ve had a TV deal within a week”.
ah, a man with libertarian ideals. good to see. we need more of those (both Canada and the US).
So you’re the other one.
Count me in as the third and my boyfriend Clair as the fourth Libertarians.. there is hope.. Clair ran for a house seat last November on the Libertarian ticket here in Cheyenne, and he got over 250 votes in our little district of a few thousand people.
We nearly have a quorum.
LOL! Terrific info amongst the belly laughs. Loved this post – just tweeted it. 🙂
I love this man.
You’re not getting my Bud Light, Johnny.
Regarding the brain, one of the reasons we break down body fat is to feed the brain sugar. Lack of blood sugar leads to falling insulin, which prompts glucagon which intitiates the breakdown of glycerols and fatty acids stored in adipose tissue. So less dietary sugar leads to fat burning to fuel the brain, the no.1 organ for survival.
The last to be used for energy will be good ole satfat, because it is so harmless.