10 Things Your Doctor Doesn’t Know (or Won’t Tell You)

Happy Calories and Sad Calories

In an earlier post, Is Your Doctor Killing You? , I mentioned Gary Taubes’ excellent book “Good Calories, Bad Calories”. I just finished it and it is one of the most important books I have ever read. It’s a fairly deep and dense book,  filled with large amounts of scientific and epidemiological information. Rigorously researched,  full of citations and foot notes, it’s still a good read. Taubes is a skilled writer and knows how to keep things moving. In his epilogue, he lists the ten most important conclusions that his research has revealed, conclusions that he never expected to find.  In the spirit of “if only I had known then what I know now”,  I ‘d like to share this with you:

1. Dietary fat, whether saturated or not, is not a cause of obesity, heart disease, or any other chronic disease of civilization.

2.The problem is the carbohydrates in the diet, their effect on insulin secretion, and thus the hormonal regulation of homeostasis – the entire harmonic ensemble of the human body. The more easily digestible and refined the carbohydrates, the greater the effect on our health, weight and well being.

3. Sugars – sucrose and high-fructose corn syrup specifically – are particularly harmful, probably because the combination of fructose and glucose simultaneously elevates insulin levels while overloading the liver with carbohydrates.

4. Through their direct effect on insulin and blood sugar, refined carbohydrates, starches, and sugars are the dietary cause of coronary heart disease and diabetes, They are most likely dietary causes of cancer, Alzheimer’s disease, and the other chronic diseases of civilization.

5. Obesity is a disorder of excess fat accumulation, not overeating, and not sedentary behavior.

6. Consuming excess calories does not CAUSE us to grow fatter, any more than it causes a child to grow taller. Expending more energy than we consume does not lead to long-term weight loss; it leads to hunger.

7. Fattening and obesity are caused by an imbalance-a disequilibrium-in the hormonal regulation of adipose tissue and fat metabolism. Fat synthesis and storage exceeds the mobilization of fat from the adipose tissue and its subsequent oxidation. We become leaner when the hormonal regulation of fat tissues reverses this balance.

8. Insulin is the primary regulator of fat storage. When insulin levels are elevated- either chronically or after a meal- we accumulate fat in our fat tissue. When insulin levels fall, we release fat from our fat tissue and use it as fuel.

9. By stimulating insulin secretion, carbohydrates make us fat and ultimately cause obesity. The fewer carbohydrates we consume, the leaner we will be.

10. By driving fat accumulation, carbohydrates also increase hunger and decrease the amount of energy we expend in metabolism and physical activity.

(page 454 “Good Calories, Bad Calories” by Gary Taubes)

The most convincing evidence for these conclusions is the fact that so many of us are fat, hungry, and even sick, no matter how hard we try to follow our doctor’s advice concerning diet and exercise.  Or if we are at times successful, why does it never seem to last? Is this an issue of physiology or psychology? Are we really all that lazy and gluttonous, as the nutritionists and doctor’s would have us believe?  Really?

As for me, I worked my ass off (and on) for over 15 years trying to stay healthy by following the conventional medical establishment’s advice.  Now that I’ve decided to ignore the ‘experts’ and return to a diet more like our hunter-gatherer bodies are designed for, I’m finally seeing significant success.  And guess what? It’s EASY!

To those skeptics out there (and skepticism is good, or else I would still be convinced of the benefit of following the USDA  dietary paradigms) I give you one word of advice: QUESTION YOUR DOCTOR! And then ask him to read this book

Think about it.

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  1. #1 by Steve B on May 15, 2009 - 1:56 pm

    Sounds like you are a post-medicalist!

  2. #2 by Christian Beyer on May 15, 2009 - 2:22 pm

    Ha. Not entirely. I do love my Zyrtec. But right now I’m taking about 7 pills to keep from succumbing to hypertension, arteriosclerosis, asthma, allergies, diabetes. 15 years ago I was taking nothing but a blood test showed some high cholesterol and that concerned my doctor, who put me on a low fat diet. Now look at me!

    Somethin’ don’t smell right in Denmark. And it ain’t the cheese.

  3. #3 by logiopath on May 15, 2009 - 5:20 pm

    sounds like an ad for South Beach diet–

    I find the how-one-gets-fat part interesting (being one of competent corpulence). However, I’m certain that all of the Quarter Pounders with Cheese and Burger King breakfast sandwiches have a role in my excessive weight.

  4. #4 by Carolyn on May 15, 2009 - 9:25 pm

    Haven’t read this book – but it seems like the old Atkins plan revisited, which is a diet largely discredited by all reputable scientists. High fat/low carb fad diets like this can put the body into dangerously high levels of ketosis and cause other serious medical issues (that’s essentially how Atkins fell out of favour) plus – like all fad diets – they are effective in the short term, but with characteristically high drop-out rates, lapses and regaining most of all of the weight lost the minute dieters stop the fad diet.

    A 2003 review of high fat/low carb fad diets in the Journal of the American College of Nutrition concluded: “When properly evaluated, the theories and arguments of popular low carbohydrate diet books rely on poorly controlled, non-peer-reviewed studies, anecdotes and non-science rhetoric. A closer look at the ‘science’ behind the claims made for [these books] reveals nothing more than a modern twist on an antique food fad.”

    The father of the low-carb craze was apparently an undertaker and coffin-maker named William Banting, back in 1864. Maybe this new bacon-but-no-apples diet fad was good for his business!

    In the 1920s, another “new” low-carb/high saturated fat fad diet insisted that dieters must eat two porterhouse steaks per day. Every decade or so, yet another “new” diet revolution author hits the bookstores – each claiming that this, at last, is THE diet secret that your doctor doesn’t want you to know about.

    The best diet advice ever: DIETS DON’T WORK!

    Carolyn

    http://www.myheartsisters.org

    • #5 by Christian Beyer on May 15, 2009 - 11:20 pm

      Thanks for stopping by, Carolyn. But before you critique the book I suggest that you do read it. You will be surprised. The low carb ‘craze’ you refer to is nothing more than the diet of most of the world’s people prior to the introduction of refined sugars and carbohydrates.

      which is a diet largely discredited by all reputable scientists

      So I guess the many scientists who do endorse a diet of restricted carbs are not reputable? ;)

      The same claims made about there being yet another new low-carb fad diet on the bookshelves every few weeks can also be made of every new low-fat diet ‘fad’. The difference is that people actually do lose weight and keep it off by restricting carbs (booze, white bread, potatoes, pasta, sugar). You can still eat fruits and vegetables but you don’t need to cram them in 5 times a day. It’s all about insulin. Besides, these diets (Atkins, South Beach) are not new, but only a review of fairly old science, but science that is still valid. (Banting did lose weight and keep it off with his low-carb diet, and he was under the supervision of a doctor. His recommended diet called for: “four meals per day consisting of protein, greens, fruits, and dry wine. It urged his followers to avoid foods containing starch or saccharine matter, milk, sugar, beer, and butter.” Not very radical.)

      I’m sorry, but until you check out the book you will continue to be mislead by the experts who have been fed the company line. Taubes’ book is essentially a journalistic account of the machinations within the nutritional industry (he refuses to call it a science as they actually do “rely on poorly controlled, non-peer-reviewed studies, anecdotes and non-science rhetoric”) and it is not a diet book. If we accept that his data is correct and verifiable (which is based upon numerous controlled studies) then we little choice but to seriously consider, if not accept his conclusions. The problem is that fat has been labeled the bogey man years ago and too much time, money and too many reputations are at risk to consider otherwise.

      You are right, though, diets don’t work. Ever. The low-carb diet that my doctor, with the approval of the FDA, USDA, NAS,AMA and AHA, has had me on for 15 years has never helped, but has, in my opinion, been detrimental to my health. I am far from unique.

      We just need to stop eating simple carbs. And stop counting calories. Simple.

      Thanks for your input.

      • #6 by Christian Beye on May 16, 2009 - 8:42 am

        The presence of ketone bodies in the blood is not a bad thing. It is evidence that the body is actually metabolizing the fat stored in the fat cells, something it should be doing but is less likely to do with the presence of insulin in the blood stream. Of course it is widely accepted , even by critics of high protein diets, that simple carbohydrates induce insulin secretion.

        Excessively high levels do not occur (causing ketoacidosis) with carbohydrate restriction. It is a concern with type 1 diabetes, though it rarely will occur with type 2 diabetics, when their blood sugar levels rise above 1000 mg/dl. It is more commonly associated with severe fasting (starvation) diets.

        There are countless examples of people whose diets consist almost entirely of meats and they are exceptionally healthy, suffering no ketoacidosis, scurvy or (surprisingly for nutritionists) none of the symptoms of modern man’s metabolic syndrome, which is considered to be epidemic in developed and developing countries. (A classic case of this syndrome is the one presented by “Bob”.) One example is the Inuit, who have virtually no vegetables in their diet but are exceptionally healthy. It has been documented that Europeans who lived among them for years, subsisting exclusively on their diet, were also much healthier than they were while living on a ‘civilized’ diet that included an abundance of simple sugars and starches. This puts to the rest any idea that the Innuit (along with many indigenous people) developed a genetic adaptation for meat consumption. What is obvious is that humans have not had time to adapt to the fairly recently introduced high carb diet.

        In the ninth edition (2002) “Understanding Nutrition” by Whitney and Rolfes,( a popular medical health text) they say that a minimum of 100g of daily carbohydrates are necessary to provide fuel to the brain and avoid ketone production (assuming that this need be avoided) yet in the same book over three times that amount is touted as the minimum RDA.

        Also in that same book there is a chapter devoted to “attacking” the low carbohydrate hypothesis (I say attacking because the chapter is written about as objectively as an article in Time magazine) and numerous opinions are tossed about as though they were established truths, but without any documentation or citations.

        In their very subjective (and almost emotional) critique of carb-restricted diets (p. 263-267) they lump them all together as ‘fad’ diets. The text book author’s engage in gross exaggerations and generalizations and even erroneously attribute parts of one diet with parts of another. This points out their unscientific predilections and that they look to be primarily interested in teaching their (establishment) point of view and not encouraging an open inquiry of the evidence. One line says this:

        People have reported that their blood cholesterol dropped while they were on a high-protein diet, but because no studies have been conducted such comments cannot be accepted as evidence.

        This statement brings up the obvious question; why have ‘no studies been done’, especially if this is so important? Well, many ‘outside’ studies have been done but they have been disregarded by the nutritional establishment. The accepted establishment is not conducting these studies themselves for a number of reason, not the least being;

        - The studies are funded by pharmaceutical companies that are not interested in dietary alternatives to medicines for diabetes, hypertension and high cholesterol

        - Many of the studies (and institutions) are funded by companies like Kellog, Nabisco and other processed food manufacturers who are not interested in promoting any science suggesting that carbohydrates in our diets should be reduced.

        Students are fed this nutritional conjecture as proven scientific fact, virtually shutting the door on any future open analysis of dietary cause and effect.

  5. #7 by Christian Beyer on May 15, 2009 - 10:55 pm

    The South Beach Diet and Atkins are both worth considering, not just as a ‘diet’ but as a permanent nutritional lifestyle.

    The quarter pound burger with cheese didn’t plump you up – it was the bun, the fries and the Coke that did it.

  6. #8 by logiopath on May 16, 2009 - 5:08 pm

    So, I should sue the manufacturer of all this stuff?

  7. #9 by Christian Beyer on May 16, 2009 - 10:32 pm

    Well, some people have already tried and failed. But, it’s only a matter of time. The problem is – who do you sue? (Not that I am a fan of law suits). Just about every manufacturer, distributor, retailer and restaurant is in some way complicit. Heck, there must be thousands of people who could sue me for the food that I served them over the years.

  8. #10 by logiopath on May 17, 2009 - 5:39 pm

    Hmm. This could be lucrative.

  9. #11 by MoreData on May 18, 2009 - 1:56 pm

    If we’re to go back to how our bodies were designed, we’ll need to eat protein and fats all winter, and graze on berries, veges, and fruit when possible in summer/fall.

    That’s how our bodies were designed.

  10. #12 by Christian Beyer on May 18, 2009 - 2:40 pm

    Hey, MoreData. Welcome. Looks like we are neighbors.

    You are exactly right. And wouldn’t that be a more responsible stewardship of the planet? It’s certainly not environmentally sustainable nor energy conservative to import fruits and vegetables out of season from countries in the southern hemisphere.

    Much of their vitamins and minerals are lost in transportation and storage as well as the fact that many are harvested under-ripe (for longer shelf life) and have not achieved their full nutrient potential. Not only that but these foodstuffs are often ‘cash’ crops in those countries and therefore less of their arable land is devoted to feeding their own populations.

    It used to be not too long ago that people ate beef and pork in the fall and winter (after they had fattened up) and chickens in the spring and summer. I’ve always wondered how the farmer’s sold “Spring Lamb” when the lamb’s are born in springtime and are not ready for slaughter until much later.

    Of course, the healthy meats consumed during the Paleolithic era were from much leaner animals that roamed free and ate a diverse offering of plants, not at all like the sedentary corn fed stock animals of today. Even the fruits they ate in season were relatively scarce and much smaller, as opposed to today’s big sugar filled delicacies, the result of centuries of agricultural breeding, that are available to us year round.

    Good points. Thanks.

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