Tuesday, November 30, 2010

A Day in the Life of a Nutrition Student

My professor started out our first day of Advanced Human Nutrition this semester with the baffling statement: “Its very hard to find a study that shows that soda is bad for you.” She laid this whammy on us while introducing our first assignment. We had to design a scientific study on a nutritional topic of our choosing. I immediately weighed my options - definitely something related to a low- or no-carb diet. We didn’t actually have to conduct the hypothetical experiments, obviously, but just come up with a design.
Since a single soda can has 12 teaspoons of sugar in it, I knew there were scores of studies linking sugar consumption to a host of problems: type II diabetes, ADHD, obesity, high blood pressure, and heart disease, to mention a few. Amazingly enough, not a single student raised a hand, including me, to question this inane comment. What is it about the science of nutrition that turns us all into mind-numb zombies? We are weary after decades of contradicting information, unable to sort out the conflicting advice and filter out any remaining truths. Here we sit at a Big Ten University, and no one has the confidence to argue with a professor with the gall to state that there is no scientific proof that 12 teaspoons of pure sugar is bad for you.
And then, just when I thought it couldn’t get worse. To further aid us in generating topic ideas for the assignment, she put up a powerpoint slide with the steps of the scientific method displayed. Underneath the first step, Hypothesis, was the question: “Is the Atkins diet more effective at weight loss than a calorie-restricted diet?” Here we go, I thought.  “Has anyone here tried the Atkins diet?” The question hung in the air a few seconds, and slowly I and an athletic guy a few rows down raised our hands. She turned to us. “How did it work?” She asked with a slight smirk.
“Good,” I said, and Beefcake College Boy agreed, "Awesome."
“Does anyone have an idea as to why there are so many testimonials of people losing weight on the Atkins diet?”
A girl across the room raised her hand. “Because fat has more calories than carbs or protein, so you get full quicker and eat less calories.” Prof nodded approvingly.
“Anyone else?” I felt my hand go up before I could stop it. 
“Well, a low-carb diet utilizes little or no insulin for digestion, and insulin is the primary hormone that promotes fat storage in adipose tissue.” I could have gone on about triglyceride formation, but I left it at that.
Her smirk turned into a puzzled stare. “Hmm,” she turned away and flipped to the next slide without responding to my statement.
Second step, Design a scientific study to attempt to answer the question. This slide says: “Put half the study participants on a reduced calorie diet, and half on the high-fat, low-carb Atkins diet.” And in the bubble below: “Study shows no difference between weight loss at one year amongst the two groups.” I shake my head. Unbelievable. The only thing that causes weight gain is carbohydrates. I scribble down the journal and article number in small print below the proclamation. “Lastly, see if follow-up studies agree with your finding, and develop the hypothesis into a theory.” Underneath was an additional study that found no increased weight loss with the Atkins diet. I scribbled it down, too, vowing to look up the studies when I get home, knowing the real story won’t be quite so simple.
And my prediction was right. I found the first study right away at home, and it turns out that the half on the Atkins’ plan lost significantly more weight at 3 months, 6 months, and still an average of over 9 pounds more at a year. Then, in complete contradiction, the study also claims, “Participants had no significant difference in weight lost at 12 months” in the next paragraph. I suppose the margin of error could be large enough for that claim, but I suspect that my professor isn’t the only professional who twists the results of studies when they don’t show what is predicted by mainstream nutritional advice.
Reading further, I discovered that the researchers used a “self-help” style of nutritional advice, simply handing half of the participants a copy of Atkin’s diet book and leaving them to forge through an introduction to a low-carb diet on their own, while trudging through this maze of nutrition misinformation in our carb- and sugar-obsessed culture. As if large group of study participants could adhere to the Atkins diet without any counseling or support! Obviously this was a ridiculous assumption on the part of the researchers, as they admit that ”attrition was high” and that “during the first three months, the percentage of patients who tested positive for urinary ketones was significantly greater in the group on the low-carbohydrate diet than in the group on the conventional diet, but there were no significant differences between the groups after three months,” which of course means that no one was on a low-carb diet and the results of this study at one year are meaningless if your purpose is to study the effects of a low-carbohydrate diet.
The next sentence of this study is very confusing: “There was no significant relation between weight loss and ketosis at any time during the study.” What? This is completely inaccurate. They are completely contradicting themselves. After telling us that the low-carb group had “significantly” more ketones in the beginning of the study, and that “subjects on the low-carbohydrate diet lost significantly more weight than the subjects on the conventional diet at 3 months (P=0.002) and 6 months (P=0.03),” now we’re being informed that there was no “significant relation” between the presence of ketones and weight loss.  
I printed out the study, wondering what to do with the information. I wanted to raise my hand at the beginning of the next lecture and confront her with the accurate facts, if only to educate my classmates – all future doctors, nurses, and dieticians. A room full of people about to spend entire careers spreading this mininformation and furthering the development of chronic disease, all while attempting to heal people.  The irony fell on me like dead weight.
Later in the lecture, she told us that the studies say that the higher a person’s total carb intake is, the thinner they are – and does anyone know why this would be? A student raised a hand and postulated that it must be because they get more exercise. Prof nodded and shrugged, telling us that it was also discovered in the Nurse’s Health Study in the 80’s that those who eat the most are the leanest. She then completely flaked out of any sensical conversation about these facts by stating, and I quote: “In the field of nutrition, it would be nice if we had real rules.”
As if science doesn’t exist. I would have loved to raise my hand and explain most of this. First of all, as for the study that supposedly tells us that eating carbs makes us skinny, obviously there is more at play here than simply calories in, calories out. Different people's bodies have differing abilities to digest carbohydrates as fuel rather than storing them as fat. People with a highly evolved ability to digest carbs can eat more of them, and still have enough insulin and insulin-responsiveness in the cells to use the glucose as fuel and burn it off. People who eat "less carbs" and weigh more are really probably eating less food overall, not just carbohydrates because THEY HAVE A SLOWER METABOLISM and a reduced ability to digest carbohydrates so their bodies are STORING the food they are eating.
And then we get to the Nurse’s Health Study. I love this study. You just can’t argue with a solid, well-executed study involving thousands of reliable participants, even if the findings aren’t at all what would be predicted by modern nutritional theories. Despite the fact that the nurses demonstrated that it is not simply caloric intake that causes weight loss and gain, researchers and professors alike simply brushed aside this inconvenient finding with the explanation that the thin participants must also get the most exercise. This is so ridiculous. Do you have any idea how much more exercise one would have to get to be able to eat an additional 1000 calories a day and still be thinner? You would need to run 10 miles a day or do 60 minutes of heated power yoga with weights EVERY DAY. Not likely. 
Here once again, the cause and effect have been reversed because of a correlation, which does not infer causation. One cannot assume cause and effect just because two concepts are found to be related. In this case, researchers assume that some people are overweight because they consume too many calories. But there is ample evidence that obesity is a hormonal disease, and that people are overweight because their bodies are storing the food they eat as fat because of a metabolic defect. This defect is likely caused by the excessive insulin that is produced by the insanely high amounts of carbohydrates being eaten in our society, as well as many other countries across the globe.
There are a few more random comments that my professor made in the first couple lectures that I just shouldn’t finish this post without mentioning. On the second day of class, she professed while introducing the carbohydrate lecture: “Carbohydrates are my life!” I had to stifle a snort and duck behind the girl in front of me. Later she told us that she is so well known for her tolerant attitude toward sugar and sweets, that recently someone asked her, “Aren’t you the pro-sugar nutritionist?” Now this really blows my mind. As if someone could actually call themselves a nutritionist and be pro-sugar! This is a tenured professor at a major university. Obviously the brainwashing of of academia by the grain and sugar industries is a resounding success! And to then announce it to her college class with a guilty laugh and a breezy attitude was almost more than I could bear. Glancing around the room filled with future nurses and dieticians, I imagined them sprouting this dogma of nutritional bullshit to overweight, disease-ridden Americans for decades. I wanted to get up and storm out of the room, muttering profanities as I slammed the door behind me.
There was one last off-hand comment toward the end of the carbohydrate lecture that pretty much sums it all up: “When you’re working with carbs, you run into problems!”

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

How Can I Lose Weight?

A full two-thirds of Americans are overweight or obese. Another two-thirds will eventually die from a “metabolic” disease, caused by diet. The American government has been telling us to eat a high-carbohydrate, low-fat diet for the last 50 years, but in spite of this, disease rates are climbing astronomically. How is this possible?

It is an established fact in nutrition and physiology that there are many hormones that cause lipolysis (fat breakdown) in fat tissue, but only ONE hormone that causes triglyceride formation (fat storage) and that hormone is insulin. It is also an established fact that the only food source that causes insulin to be released by the pancreas is carbohydrates. (Amino acids also cause a small amount of insulin release, perhaps because the body can create glucose from amino acids if there is no glucose present in the diet.)

So, only carbohydrates cause insulin release, and only insulin causes fat storage. It blows my mind in my nutrition classes every day that these two facts are so well known, yet the connection is never made that only the consumption of carbohydrates causes fat storage. The body is literally unable to store fat without the presence of carbohydrates in the diet. There are studies done where people ate an excess of 3,000-4,000 calories a day of only animal foods and STILL LOST WEIGHT.

Basically Atkins was right, he just didn’t have the science to back up his experience. He reported that his success rate with weight loss was about 99%. Most people that switch to a very-low-carbohydrate diet (VLCD) can expect to lose 10 pounds in the first week or two, which is initially mostly water weight. My physiology textbook tells us that the consumption of carbohydrates causes the retention of sodium and water. So most of us are carrying around an extra 10 pounds or so of extra water weight. After this water weight, depending on how much weight you have to lose, one can lose 5-10 pounds A WEEK by simply cutting carbohydrates.

Why can some people eat more food and stay thin? Why do some people struggle to keep weight on, while other people only need to smell food and they gain weight? Because obesity is a hormonal condition – and different people have varying abilities to digest carbohydrates and then use the glucose as fuel. Overweight people are simply storing their food as fat rather than using it as fuel. Its not that we eat too much and get fat, it is that WE STORE FAT, THEN WE EAT MORE FOOD. We have the cause and effect backwards, which is a common problem in medical and scientific theory. Ad hoc, ergo proctor hoc. Correlation does not infer causation – just because two things are related does not mean one causes the other, it is possible that they are both caused by another factor, which is the case here. The formation of fat tissue, and the increased eating that usually follows, are both caused by the excessive consumption of carbohydrates.

So there is nothing to feel guilty about. It is not a moral issue. Fat people usually eat less than thin people, but their bodies continually store the food rather than using it for activity. Studies have shown that thin people also have a slightly higher body temperature at times, indicating that their bodies simply release extra food energy as heat, or even create the motivation for increased activity – overweight people often report feeling lethargic, this is because their bodies are short on fuel because their food is being stored. 

And exercise? Well, it’s only effective because it burns off excess blood glucose or glycogen (stored glucose). You end up with the same exact effect if you don’t eat the carbs and don’t do the exercise.  In fact, there is pretty good evidence that cardio activity is actually hard on your heart and contributes to higher rates of heart problems. If you’re going to eat carbs, do it right before you exercise, and choose a low-impact activity like weight-lifting or yoga.

So what foods should I avoid? Anything that contains carbohydrates, including fruit (berries aren’t so bad, they’re pretty low in sugar), fruit juice, sugar, honey, agave, all foods that contain flour or grains like bread, pasta, cookies, cakes, crackers, etc. If you have a couple servings of carbohydrates a day the best ones are berries, a little white rice (rice crackers, rice pasta), a little potato, or a small amount of some sweetener. If you are already pre-diabetic, it is probably better to eat the carbs with some fat and protein in order to slow the increase in blood sugar, but if you are solely trying to lose a few pounds, it is better to eat the carbs on their own, preferably before getting some exercise.

And what else can I eat? Basically if it came from an animal, eat up. Bacon, eggs with yolks, cream, cheese, all meats – especially ruminents like cows and bison, full fat unsweetened yogurt, greens, and berries. I will explain in a future post why our medical community and government think that fat causes disease, but fat is not the problem. Carbohydrates are the sole cause of obesity and metabolic diseases that most people die from, so don’t worry that you are being unhealthy in anyway by eating loads of animal fat. I recommend 5 pieces of bacon a day, 3 or more eggs, lots of cheese and/or yogurt every day, meat at every meal, and heavy cream instead of milk.

Meal ideas: Taco salad with meat, cheese, sour cream, salsa, guacamole; meaty spaghetti with a few rice pasta noodles (they are even better than regular wheat pasta without the harmful gluten proteins) or even better, spaghetti squash baked in the oven; pot roast with celery, onion, garlic, and a couple potatoes; shepard’s pie heavy on the meat and cream, light on the mashed potatoes; sausage with sauerkraut and greens sauted in bacon fat. And for dessert – egg custard or panna cotta made with stevia, almond flour cookies, or a small amount of dark chocolate – really any flourless dessert can easily be made at home with stevia or else a quarter of the sugar that the recipe usually calls for. You will adjust to less sugar, and regular desserts will start to taste sickeningly sweet.

It’s so exciting to watch the pounds fall away! I couldn’t believe how easy it was.  You get to be full all the time and eat all day long! Fat doesn’t make you fat, carbohydrates do!

Monday, November 15, 2010

Some Background Information

The scientific method has been all but abandoned when it comes to nutrition science in our culture today.  We hear statements repeated often like “eat whole grains” or “stay away from saturated fats” but where is the hard science to back up these claims? The research is fuzzy at best, and most of the outfits publishing nutritional advice are government entities backed by funding from big business. It’s no different in the schools, even at the upper levels in the major universities. But there is truth! There is nutrition science; it does exist.
A growing number of scientists, medical professionals, biochemists, physiologists, and other educated people are discovering new information about nutrition, and it differs greatly from what we have been taught. Finally, a general theory is emerging that fits all of the pieces of the puzzle together. Fat is not to blame, it’s all these damn carbohydrates killing us and making us fat, plain and simple.
Animal foods are health foods, and we need the fat as well as the protein. Bacon, butter, lard, cheese, cream, full-fat plain unsweetened yogurt, dark meat chicken with the skin, fish, organ meats, high-fat grass fed beef, eggs, - and a couple plants if you really want them but they are not necessary. The Inuit (Eskimos) eat exclusively animal products for 10 months out of the year, and have the best health we’ve ever studied. No heart disease, diabetes, high blood pressure, arthritis, none of it. We are carnivores, we have been roaming for 2 million years on this planet, eating primarily animals. We really have no plant food needs, save for the occasional leaf or berry.
Sugar is the culprit, always has been, in all its many forms. This includes cane sugar, corn syrup, grains, root vegetables, and fruit. Fruit is not the enemy, but it’s not health food either.  Your body doesn’t know the difference between the sugar in fruit and the sugar in a cookie or a coke. It’s all the same, although there is a lot more of it in the cookie and the coke. It would take you a lifetime of fruit eating to get the equivalent of a couple years of the standard American diet (SAD). Diabetes rates in children are equal whether they are drinking coke or fruit juice, they are both sugar. The function of fruit in the wild was to provide sugar at the end of summer to promote a little weight gain before the cold season.
And notice I said that includes grains. Bread. Give us this day our daily. It’s killing us. Whole grain, refined, whatever, it’s all glucose polymers. Pure glucose, and if its whole grain it’s actually worse for you. The bran part of the grain has anti-nutrients that actually strip vitamins and minerals out of your body, rip literal holes in your intestinal walls (leading to IBS, Crohn’s, colitis, celiac, and possibly autism), and raise your blood glucose twice as much as refined sugarcane does, contributing to diabetes. A child born today has a 50% chance of getting diabetes in their lifetime. It’s not the animal fats doing it. It’s the soda, and the governmental Food Pyramid telling us to eat 11 servings of grains a day. Soda is the cigarette of the future, the sweet poison that has made a full two-thirds of Americans overweight or obese.
A slice of bread has about 25 grams of carbohydrates, about the same as a candy bar. Every time you eat a slice of bread, it is a candy bar to your body. But guess who doesn’t want you to know that, the Grain Industry, and they have enough money and power to keep this information from you. And the little nutrition puppets all over the world just keep repeating “Whole grains, whole grains,” like their batteries are dying. Just because a whole grain has less of an impact on your blood glucose than a refined grain doesn’t mean that grains are good for you! They aren’t. Grains are not human food.
We only started eating grains with the beginning of agriculture 15,000 years ago, at most, and that was rice. Wheat is one of the worst and it’s only been a part of our diet for about 2,000 years. As old as the Bible. It’s the food of another species – granivores. We are not granivores, we don’t have a gizzard, the organ that grinds grains into flour inside the animal’s body – with small sticks and rocks as well, to help grind up the hard little seeds. This is why we must make flour or engage in some kind of alteration of the grain to make it edible. It’s not human food. You would never come across a wheat berry in the wild and consume it. It’s the seed of a grass plant, remember the seeds when the grass gets too long? Not so appetizing…until the invention of sliced bread.
So, what it comes down to is this: We are overpopulating the hell out of this world and it’s caused by grain surpluses. Namely wheat and corn. The farmers in the grain belt in the U.S. are given government subsidies when the price of their crops falls too low for them to make a living. So the only way for a grain farmer to make more money in an economic downturn is to grow more grain. And the government keeps giving them taxpayer money to grow more and more grain, until there is a surplus all across the country- everywhere there are silos full of grain. Now they need to get rid of it. In comes you. And the livestock, too – cows don’t eat grains anymore than you do. They eat grass; they are ruminants, not granivores.
Check out your mental picture of a grocery store. See the produce on one side, and meat and dairy on the other? The natural foods are all around the perimeter, with all the sugar, wheat, and corn in the middle. All the crazy packaging, paper- and plastic-wrapped grain surpluses presented in a million different ways, while the government takes their corporate money and tells us to eat a high-carbohydrate, low-fat diet. In spite of ample evidence throughout nutrition science’s history this is not improving disease rates, rather they are climbing at an astronomical rate. This is ridiculous! We have been to the moon! And we’re all dying of a few related diseases? Why? Why is science so incompetent in this one area?
It’s a good old-fashioned conspiracy, coupled with a convenient- and coincidently-timed cultural trend toward vegetarianism, and the environmental movement to end starvation. Unfortunately, the problem with feeding the surplus of carbohydrates to the world’s hungry is that it only keeps them alive long enough to reproduce and then they die of these horrible metabolic diseases. Anytime you have a surplus somewhere, you will just be creating overpopulation somewhere else. We took this high-carb, low-fat diet to the world in the last century, spreading the disease of sugar and grains all over the world (as well as spreading the “cure” to carbohydrates, western medicine and pharmaceuticals). The third world countries are living on carbohydrates now, as well as the lower classes, people on reservations, most American children, and probably you. It’s only getting worse.
But we can stop it! And there is some really good news! Bacon! I’m not kidding. I recommend bacon every day. If you don’t have 5 slices for breakfast, make some for dinner. Bacon is health food. Let that sink in for a second. And butter, eggs, and cream – not half and half. Pure cream. And chicken skin – screw the skinless, boneless, white breast meat. Your Paleolithic grandfather would have tossed that shit to the dogs. They wanted the organs, skin, brain, and dark meat. That is where the blood is, that’s what makes it dark. The white meat is the glycogen storage muscles of the animal – where it stores its SUGAR.
And put the fat back in your dairy, please, for the love of Pete!  Low-fat diary products are just sugar water! Lactose is the milk sugar, and then they dump a ton of real sugar on top of it, too. My mom’s low-fat yogurt cup in her refrigerator has as much sugar in it as a candy bar. All these candy bars, all day long. No wonder people’s bodies are just giving up, shutting down, manifesting so many different symptoms, all stemming from one cause: excessive carbohydrate consumption!