Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Low Carb Myths from Authority Nutrition

"Low-carb diets are awesome.

"The research is clear that they can reverse many common, serious diseases.
"This includes obesity, type 2 diabetes, metabolic syndrome and a few others.
"Collectively, these are the biggest health problems in the world.
"That being said, I've noticed a problem that has been growing steadily over the past few years in the low-carb community.  A lot of dogma seems to be getting accepted and many myths that are NOT supported by science have gained foothold."

***First of all, there is plenty we can know without the "supporting science", and given the state of nutrition science, that's a good thing.  I'm all for science, but there's more bad science than good at this point, so there's only so far science of health and diet can take you.  If you doubt this, find one of the science pissing contests on the web - you know where one genius references a bunch of studies that show everyone else but him/her is a bone head, and one of the bone heads fights back with their own list of studies that proves that blue is yellow.  There could not be so much to fight about if the science were conclusive.  Immature science makes us rely on expert opinion, which has been shown to be a bad strategy over the years.  Closer to humility is better in this arena, in my humble as ever opinion.  Too bad humility sells so poorly!

That said, Authority Nutrition gives us the following "myths":

1. Low-Carb is The Best Diet For Everyone

2. Carbs Are Inherently Fattening
*** I like the nuance in this one:
"Sugar and refined carbs are bad, pretty much everyone agrees on that.
But vilifying all carbs based on that is kind of like vilifying all fats because of the harmful effects of trans fats and vegetable oils.  The truth is… not all carbs are fattening. It depends completely on the context and the type of food they are in.  For carbs to be "fattening," they need to be refined and put into a package that is highly palatable and encourages overconsumption.  A great example is potatoes. On their own, they are not very exciting. They have fiber, a low energy density and you will most likely feel full pretty quickly.  On the other hand, potato chips, deep fried in corn oil, with salt and pepper and maybe even a dipping sauce… now you've got a highly fattening food that is easy to over consume.  Many populations around the world have maintained good health on a high-carb diet with real, unprocessed foods, including the Kitavans and Asian rice eaters."

3. Carrots, Fruits and Potatoes Are Unhealthy Because of The Carbs
***They can be, but aren't for folks that are healthy, and he covers this nicely below.

4. A Low-Carb Diet Should Always be Ketogenic

5. All Carbohydrates Are Sugar
"Saying that all carbs are broken down into "sugar" is true, but misleading.  Technically, the word "sugar" includes various simple sugars like glucose, fructose and galactose.  Yes, starches like grains and potatoes do get broken down into glucose in the digestive tract, which raises blood sugar levels.  To a diabetic, it is true that starches turn into "sugar" and raise the "sugars" in the blood. But to other people, who are not chemists, the word "sugar" implies the white, unhealthy granular stuff… sucrose.  Telling people that "all carbs turn into sugar" is misleading. It makes people think that there is no difference between a potato and a candy bar."
"Whereas table sugar contains half glucose, half fructose, starch is only glucose. It is the fructose portion of sugar that is the most harmful, starch (glucose) does NOT have the same effect (7, 8).
Trying to mislead people into believing that starches are equivalent to sugar/HFCS is dishonest."

***This is an interesting perspective.  I don’t think folks spend any energy trying to mislead, they just had the blinding flash of reality – when you eat “complex” carbs, fruit, whole grain bread, and/or potatoes/sweet potatoes when you are trying to get healthy from metabolic syndrome, any of these sources of carbs can be a problem.  This bit of complexity can be difficult to communicate, and it isn’t always discerned by those eager to jump on a simple message (for example, I bet 95% of the folks who think they know what the Atkins diet is don’t know that he advocated the ingestion of lots of vegetable matter, because the simple message of “eat a lot of fat and protein” is what stuck).
For some folks, eating a 150 calorie candy bar is just as good a choice as a potato, and if it came down to it, you could as easily live without potatoes as without candy bars.   It is time and place that makes candy bars or potatoes a good/bad choice.  On a day I'm about to spend hiking around a mountain, I'm going to take a candy bar and leave the potatoes for the elk heart stew.

6. It is Impossible to Gain Weight on a Low-Carb Diet
***I'd like to think this one has been put to rest - it is very hard to get fat on just fat and protein, but that's because it's hard to eat 3000+kcal/day of just fat and protein.

7. Drinking Butter and Coconut Oil is a Good Idea
***This is one of the weaker points.  Folks that like bullet proof coffee do this, and they have good reasons for doing it.  Like much of the low carb world, it's not for everyone.

8. Calories Don't Matter
***Calories matter, and they don't matter.  What matters is if you induce metabolic derangement, and/or eat a lot of industrially produced plant based foods, you can easily eat boatloads of kcals - and still be hungry!  For many people, eating low carb foods eliminates hunger, so they eat what they need now, not as much as they can.  Additionally, the track record of folks who try to induce fat loss by counting calories is poor - very few folks have any long term success with that approach.  Finally, some folks who have researched the matter say there has never been a study that demonstrated a patient who ate the exact right amount of calories as calculated by the experts, and lost the predicted amount of fat.  IOW - those who study the "calorie is a calorie" model have proved, in a backwards way, that we don't really know what the caloric content of foods, we don't know what happens to calories in different GI tracts, and we don't understand all the ways the human body "leaks" energy.  Some of those leaks have been shown to be in response to what kinds of foods are eaten - IOW, high carb low calorie diets can make the body conserve energy by reducing basal metabolic rate, and inducing feelings of lethargy.  It is true that caloric deficit has occurred when folks lose body fat, but the ability of humans to engineer their own deficits via counting calories is rarely helpful to those who have a lot of fat to lose.  I like the way Gary Taubes puts it (not an exact quote):  "Folks don't get fat because they are lazy and gluttonous, they gain fat from too many carbs and thus feel less energetic and more hungry."

9. Fiber is Mostly Irrelevant to Human Health
***It’s a small point, but I wish he hadn’t included this one.  I could skip all sources of fiber, or eat them very sparingly, and he could never show the negative impact on my health.  I’m not opposed to the kind of fiber he’s saying is “healthful”, but I vehemently reject the mainstream idea that it’s important to eat whole grains or any other agricultural product because we need fiber in our diets.  I’ve looked and looked and can find absolutely no reason to believe this is anything but a myth. 

10. If Low-Carb Cures a Disease, That Must Mean That The Carbs Caused it in The First Place

***I think this summary is spot on, and was glad to see it written like Chris did:
“Many people who are metabolically healthy can easily maintain good health eating carbs, as long as they eat real food.  However, when someone becomes insulin resistant and obese, the metabolic rules seem to change somehow.  People who have metabolic dysfunction caused by the Western diet may need to avoid all high-carb foods.  But even though removing most carbs may be necessary to reverse a disease, it does not mean that the carbs themselves caused the disease.  Healthy people who want to stay healthy will do just fine, even on a higher carb diet, as long as they stick to real, unprocessed foods.  The prevention does not have to be the same as the cure.”

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