Lowcarbarama is a gathering place for links and pointers to all sort of things relevant to low-carb: articles, blogs, interviews, Web sites, forums. It's a place for commentary on health and nutrition in public policy, the sciences and the media. Comments are welcome anytime, regardless of the post's date.

Saturday, December 29, 2007

American Diabetes Association's 18-degree turn on carb restriction

The 2008 recommendations by the American Diabetes Association have been released. In regards to carbohydrate restriction, they've done an astounding 18 degree turn -- which is to say, they've gone a tenth as far as they ought to.

ADA Issues New Clinical Practice Recommendations: New Advice for Doctors About Low-Fat, Low-Carb Restricted Diets For Short-Term Weight Loss

(Note that the press release is incorrectly titled. The body of the press release concerns the ADA's new advice about fat-and-total-calorie-restricted diets and carbohydrate-restricted diets .)

The ADA now says -- oh, so grudgingly, it seems -- that low-carb can have a place in the weight loss efforts of a person with diabetes. Specifically, they now admit that low-carb reducing diets, when used over a short term, have the potential to be at least as effective (for weight loss) as a low-fat, calorie-restricted diet.

Unfortunately, in this faint praise, they completely miss the larger benefit of carb restriction as it relates to diabetes: insulin control. Insulin! Insulin! How long will this organization, one ostensibly dedicated to helping the diabetic, continue to ignore the role of diet in the management of blood glucose and insulin?

Speaking of weight loss, here's a sentence that's completely off-base: "[T]here is now evidence that the most important determinant of weight loss is not the composition of the diet, but whether the person can stick with it, and that some individuals are more likely to adhere to a low carbohydrate diet while others may find a low fat calorie-restricted diet easier to follow."

Wrong. The evidence suggests that macronutrient composition is indeed the most important determinant of weight loss. It's more important than total amount of calories. Which, by the way, is the real other choice in the standard debate, not whether a person can stick to it. Framing the debate as one between composition and ease of adherence is what's known in informal logic as a "false dilemma."

At any rate, the evidence -- as well as common sense -- suggests that a low-fat, calorie restricted diet is more difficult to stick to than a diet that sticks to your ribs. Low-fat meals leave you hungry, especially if they're also low in protein. Low-carb meals might leave you a little dizzy, but only until you've broken the addiction. It takes a couple of days for the body to adjust once you stop shooting it up with the glucose from your starchy, sugary food.

Here's a good article by Jimmy Moore: New 2008 ADA Recommendations Partially Acknowledge Low-Carb Diets -- it gets better, more informative, and more thought provoking as it goes along, so be sure to keep going past the first few grafs. He has great info about and links to discussions of many diabetes-related benefits of carbohydrate restriction. Also good commentary on what the ADA spokesperson has said about the new recommendations.

Here's the Men's Health online article by Adam Campbell, "Apparently, Hell just froze over," which discusses the ADA's change in recommendation.

The Atlanta-Journal Constitution overstated with this headline: "Diabetes Group Back Low-Carb Diets."

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Men's Health articles on saturated fat

Saturated Fat:What if Bad Fat is Actually Good for You?
For decades, Americans have been told that saturated fat clogs arteries and causes heart disease. But there's just one problem: No one's ever proved it
By: Nina Teicholz
Men's Health
Section: Health: Heart Health

Saturated Fat: Stop Blaming Saturated Fat
The research is clear: Carbohydrates, not fats, are the foe in America's battle against heart disease and obesity
By: Adam Campbell & Jeff Volek, Ph.D., R.D.
Men's Health
Section: Nutrition: Food for Fitness

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Gary Taubes on Charlie Rose (2002?)

This show, posted by YouTube member "CharlieRose" -- an official action of the PBS show, or so one would hope -- is about an hour long.

Guest host subbing for Charlie Rose: Dr. Mehmet Oz.

Gary Taubes, who had recently published his New York Times Magazine cover article discussed elsewhere on Lowcarbarama.com
Dr. Dean Ornish "who has led a crusade with the low-fat diet ... as a wellness diet."
Dr. Barbara Howard, chair of the American Heart Association's nutrition committee

Interestingly, Dr. Oz is here identified simply as being with the Columbia Presbyterian Medical Center. Five years later -- by October 2007 -- Dr. Oz had attained celebrity doc status, due to his "You On A Diet" series of books and his association with Oprah. Dr. Oz appeared with Gary Taubes on Larry King live, to provide a counterpoint to the conclusions in Taubes's book. It's remarkable to watch the later show in the context of this one, and observe his transformation into a polished, media-savvy figure who appears to have mastered smooth talk and the art of bantering with hosts. None of that is necessarily a bad thing. It's just fascinating to witness.

Top Chef contestant's reference to low-carb

This December, the Bravo competitive reality series Top Chef aired a holiday special featuring a selection of contestants from the show's three past cycles in a one-day cook-off. This clip, which references a low-carb approach to cuisine, is around 30 seconds long. A transcript follows at the bottom of this post.

One the holiday special's contestants was Tre Wilcox, a contestant from cycle three, Top Chef Miami, which aired fall 2007. Tre is chef de cuisine at Abacus in Dallas, according to that restaurant's current Web site.

One of Top Chef's judges and hosts is chef Tom Colicchio, owner and executive chef of a string of restaurants including Craft, 'Wichcraft and Crafsteak. This clip is from a portion of the holiday special where Tom talks to all the "cheftestants" in the kitchen to get a sense of what each one is planning, and how they're coming along, on the event's main challenge. Each contestant must prepare his or her own three-course holiday meal for the panel of judges.

In the brief conversation between Tom and Tre -- or at least, the brief portion that was aired in the show -- Tre alludes to using less carbohydrate in his cooking than he did in the past. He says he wants to "get a lot leaner." He describes the reduction of carbohydrate as a way to "refine" traditional dishes.

Of interest is the fact that this professional chef is speaking of reduced-carb cooking in a positive light. He speaks of it as a means of improving the culinary quality of a dish, and also as a means of controlling overweight. (He looks plenty lean on this show -- one could easily guess that the low-carb living is working well for him.) Tre also refers to the traditional dishes as "pretty heavy," which has become, in the mainstream, shorthand for "high-fat." But in this context, he seems to be linking "heaviness" explicitly with starchiness.

Also of interest, although more tangentially, is the fact that during cycle three, one of the challenges involved remaking a classic American home cooking dish into something "more healthy." In the context of the challenge, that meant the usual, unfortunate, modern equation: less fat = better. There was no mention of carb content, or of the unhealthfulness of sugar and starch.

Tre's dish for that challenge was Roast Chicken Cordon Bleu with Bluefoot Chanterelles, Asparagus & Parsnip Sauce. If you read the recipe, you'll note that the only carby component is the parsnips in the sauce. I hadn't noticed it when first watching the show, but the dish is consistent with a low-carb perspective. Most other contestants' entries in that round used more heavy-duty starches, and much more prominently -- pasta, cous cous, potatoes, tortillas -- or else fruity sauces or compotes -- raisins, apricots. These reinterpretations of the American classics were much more in line with the mainstream vision: take out the fat, replace the missing energy and/or flavor with carbs in the form of starch and/or sugar.


TC: Hey, Tre. How's it going, man?

TW: How are you?

TC: Good to see you.

TW: Good to see you, bro.

TC: Happy holidays.

TW: Happy holidays to you, brother.

TC: Growing up in Texas, what were holidays all about? In your house?

TW: Holidays were all about just nice, comforting food. Pretty heavy, you know? I mean I'm trying to get a lot leaner now, so I don't do as much of the carbs and stuff now, but... Lots of ... lots of stuffings and macaroni and cheeses, mashed potatoes, things of that sort. So I'm trying to kind of refine that a little bit, you know? I'm not going to go too ... too down home. I am going to do some mac and cheese, though.

TC: All right.

TW: If I make it through the first round, I feel very good about my two meat dishes.

TC: Awesome. All right. I'll let you get back to it. Good luck man.

TW: Good to see you again.

FGF21 hormone instrumental in use of stored fat?

A recently discovered hormone appears to control aspects of metabolism: whether the body is burning sugar or fat for fuel, for instance.

Here's an article about a recent study. The first link is the one I encountered first, apparently a reprint, in the course of researching the post about Tre Wilcox

Scientists: Hormone could shed new light on weight lossBy Sue Goetinck Ambrose
The Dallas Morning News, June 6, 2007

The link on the Dallas Morning News site

According to the article, the researchers say their work lends credibility to low-carb diets. It seems that when fasting, or when consuming a low-carb, high-fat diet, this FGF21 is produced, signaling the body to burn fat, including stored fat. The researchers says this could explain why low-carb dieters don't have excessive fat in the bloodstream -- because they're burning it.

The article refers to research done on rats. The researchers are quoted as saying that research with humans would likely be a promising avenue.

Here's an interesting quote from in the article. The speaker is described as "neuroscientist Randy Seeley, associate director of the Obesity Research Center at the University of Cincinnati, who was not involved in the research."

Still, Dr. Seeley noted, the discovery of the hormone alone shows how much scientists still have to learn about why the body burns or stores fat.

“The modern era of studying obesity started in 1994,” he said. “Do we have good treatments yet? The answer is no.”

Friday, December 14, 2007

Gary Taubes on Larry King Live: video clip and transcript

On October 19, 2007, Gary Taubes appeared on Larry King Live to discuss his just-released book, Good Calories, Bad Calories.

Here's the transcript posted on the CNN site.

Here's a YouTube clip of the show that Jimmy Moore -- the host of the Livin' La Vida Low Carb pantheon of sites and video podcasts -- was good enough to post. The clip runs nearly seven minutes. In it, Dr. Andrew Weil says he's read the entire book, and that he recommends it for docs and students.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Gary Taubes and the Big Fat Lies

In 2002, award-winning science journalist Gary Taubes wrote an article that appeared on the cover of the New York Times Magazine, titled "What if it's all been a big fat lie?" In it, he questioned the hypotheses that eating a diet low in fat was helpful for weight loss, or in fact, healthy at all. He discussed an alternative hypothesis, which had recently been revived by Dr. Robert Atkins with his New Diet Revolution, and was then gaining in popularity, at least among American dieters: that restricting carbohydrate was more effective -- and more healthful -- than restricting fat, or even total calories. He made much mention of "Endocrinology 101": insulin is used to store fat, and eating carbohydrate causes the body to secrete insulin. This article led to the book deal that made possible Taubes's 2007 masterpiece, "Good Calories, Bad Calories."

Shortly before, Taubes had written an article for Science magazine, The soft science of dietary fat, that covered some of the same ground.

Here are links to these seminal articles, and as many of the published responses to them as I can find. If you know of more, please let me know via the comments field.

The soft science of dietary fat
(Click here to view as pdf)
by Gary Taubes
Science magazine, March 30, 2001

What if it's all been a big fat lie?
by Gary Taubes
New York Times Magazine, July 7, 2002

Big Fat Fake: The Atkins diet controversy and the sorry state of science journalism.
 by Michael Fumento
Reason magazine, March 2003

An exercise in vitriol rather than sound journalism
by Gary Taubes
Reason online, March 2003

Gary Taubes tries to overwhelm the reader with sheer verbiage
By Michael Fumento
Reason online, March 2003

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Knight Science Journalism MIT article

The following article is undated, but it appears to have been published in 2003, several months after Gary Taubes's landmark New York Times Magazine cover story, "What if it's all been a big fat lie?"

Inside the story: Gary Taubes:
What if It's All Been a Big Fat Lie?
By Martha Henry, program coordinator for the Knight Fellowships, interviews Gary Taubes about his controversial article.


Gary Taubes lectures at Berkeley School of Public Health

The Quality of Calories: What Makes Us Fat and Why Nobody Seems to Care
November 27, 2007, 04:00PM
Sibley Auditorium


This links to a page with a brief description of Taubes's work and a link to a Real Audio file of the entire lecture. Length: about 1 hour 50 minutes.

In case you were waiting for the movie version of Good Calories, Bad Calories before you read the book, this is it.

The School of Public Health at UC Berkeley sponsored this event. In it, Gary Taubes says it's his first lecture. Lots of great information that's not even in his book. Plus, get the added benefit of facial expression, body language, and inflection. His book is written in such an even-handed, objective tone -- it's exciting to witness his passion, even his frustration at the cockeyed reasoning he's encountered during his many years of research putting together Good Calories, Bad Calories.

Gary Taubes on Quirks and Quarks

Quirks and Quarks, hosted by Bob McDonald, is a radio show on CBC, the Canadian Broadcasting Company. Gary Taubes was a guest on Nov. 17, 2007.

An audio MP3 of the interview is available here:


The page also features a brief, but pretty accurate, synopsis of the main points of Good Calories, Bad Calories. It also has a nice related-links section.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Starch Made Us Human

Starch Made Us Human
By Aaron Retica
New York Times Magazine

Dec. 9, 2007

Guns, Germs and Steel

Author Jared Diamond has suggested that the invention of agriculture might have been the worst mistake in human history.

A big influence on my initial interest in low-carb theory and practice came from his book Guns, Germs and Steel: The fates of human societies. I had read it a couple of years before I read Dr. Atkins' New Diet Revolution (DANDR) in October 2001.

Diamond describes in exquisite detail the adoption of starch foods by various human groups around the planet, and the vast effects of this on the human story. In fact, the book could have been titled "Guns, Germs, Grains and Steel."

When I read DANDR, I instantly recognized how our current predicaments fit perfectly into the story thread of GGS. I remember thinking, of course! Carbohydrate! The one macronutrient we humans couldn't have based our diets on before we developed agriculture. That there was no logically possible way that we evolved as grain eaters. That the optimal human diet couldn't possibly be one based around whole grains.

Grains have only been in the human diet in any quantity for maybe ten thousand years, and homo sapiens has been the species it is as we know it for over ten times longer than that. (And homo erectus didn't exactly plow fields of amber waves at any point in the past whatever million years, either.)

Whenever I hear or read anyone saying that we require whole grains for health, that we need carbohydrate, that we need to base our diets on grains, that it should be the one food we eat more servings of each day than any other, I find myself thinking: No way. No way. There is no historical way that could possibly be true.

At any rate, I highly recommend this fascinating book to anyone seeking a non-nutrition oriented companion to Good Calories, Bad Calories, or other low-carb related study. Also check out the 2005 PBS miniseries of the same title: Guns, Germs and Steel.

Announcing: Lowcarbarama!

Sugar and starch: they underlie not only our modern obesity epidemic, but also, to a surprising degree, much of our scourge of modern chronic diseases: diabetes, heart disease, PCOS, even cancer and Alzheimer's.

Generally speaking, a diet that restricts sugar and starch can be termed a low-carb diet.

By "diet," I don't just mean a reducing diet, followed for weight loss (or "slimming" as they say in the U.K.). The health benefits of cutting carbs are numerous.

The story of how sugar and starch became widely available, first to a few scattered groups of humans, and ultimately across the globe in a myriad of forms, is no less than the story of human civilization itself. It's a story of wealth and conquest, slavery and disease, luxury and overcrowding, environmental bounty and devastation.

Over the past fifty or so years, another story has played out as well: the demonization of fat. That's a story of politics and personality, where the views of a charismatic few pravailed, and the findings of the less socially adept became buried, despised, ridiculed. It's a story of how frighteningly easy it was to subvert the great body of human opinion, grounded in millennia of experience and common sense, enshrined in lore and literature ("the fat of the land" is a positive image, for instance) -- to do no less than brainwash the general public to accept the notion that dietary fat is, as a general thing, harmful. Millions of thoughtful folk have reduced the calories from fat in their diets, nearly always to replace them with calories from carbohydrate. Obesity and other ill effects have soared during this time.

Lowcarbarama is here to help the thinking person connect the dots.

Today there's a wealth of news, reportage, opinion and debate on low-carb related topics. Interviews with prominent journalists who are hot on the trail. Scientific findings. Bogus spins and obfuscation on the same. Popular press coverage that ranges from the misguided to the moronic to the almost-on-target. Insightful blogs, forums, web sites. Historical perspectives.

Lowcarbarama is designed to be a place where you can find out about as many of these varied resources as possible.

Do you know of an article, book or video that relates to this subject? Leave a comment and I'll try to link to it here. Help build a doozy of a lowcarbarama!