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, July 24, 2010

Carb mouthwash?

Finally, a good use for carbohydrate in sports?

Personal Best: With This Rinse, Performance Improve by Gina Kolata, in the New York Times. Yes, Gina Kolata, she of the disappointing hatchet job review of "Good Calories, Bad Calories." It seems that athletes who rinse their mouths with a carbohydrate-water solution get the same performance boost as those who just drink the stuff. And somehow, artificial sweetener doesn't produce the boost.

I first heard of this experiment -- or perhaps it was just one like it -- on the podcast of the science radio show WNYC RadioLab. Interesting stuff. I wonder if the same effect would be found whether or not the athlete is carb-burning or fat-burning. I will have to try to figure out which episode it was. If anyone knows, please drop a comment -- thanks.
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Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Karbs for Kids: More must be better!

The USDA released its 2010 dietary guidelines and everyone is horrified who knows the harm of an excess of carbs and a deficit of fat in the human diet.

Meantime, I dropped off my child at his summer enrichment program this morning. We strolled through the cafeteria, where he can share in the breakfast they offer, if we wish. It was early, and I took a look at the plastic trays set out ready for the children soon to arrive. I also peeked inside the milk locker.

Here's what they consider a suitable breakfast for children. Remember that this is in accordance with the current USDA recommendations. It is difficult, very difficult, for me to imagine how it could be even worse, but that's what the new guidelines promise.

Three doughnut holes
A heap of fruit cocktail, apparently from a can. I would estimate 1/3 to 1/2 cup
Choice of fat-free milk (30g carb, 28g as sugar per 8-ounce serving) or 1% fat chocolate milk whose second ingredient is high-fructose corn syrup

It is a recipe for diabetes, obesity, heart disease, behavioral problems. Name the modern pandemic, this breakfast will help you get there.

Think it can't get any worse? Here's a great post from Tom Naughton about the newer guidelines:
Carbohydrates Are Wonderful

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Pandora's Seed

I just found out about this book via my Audible recommendation. It looks really interesting. I am curious to see how it compares to and relates to Guns, Germs and Steel, which also explores the some of the devastating effects brought on by the advent of agriculture.

From Publisher's Weekly, June 8, 2010, as presented on the Amazon.com page for Pandora's Seed:

"More food but also disease, craziness, and anomie resulted from the agricultural revolution, according to this diffuse meditation on progress and its discontents. Wells (The Journey of Man), a geneticist, anthropologist, and National Geographic Society explorer-in-residence, voices misgivings about the breakthrough to farming 10,000 years ago, spurred by climate change. The food supply was more stable, but caused populations to explode; epidemics flourished because of overcrowding and proximity to farm animals; despotic governments emerged to organize agricultural production; and warfare erupted over farming settlements. Then came urbanism and modernity, which clashed even more intensely with our nomadic hunter-gatherer nature."

Friday, March 12, 2010

MSNBC on the new Atkins book

MSNBC Online pans the new Atkins diet book with the usual alarmism, misunderstanding (for instance, that Atkins is a high-protein diet, whereas it's actually a high-fat, moderate-protein, low-carb diet), appeal to baseless dietary guidelines (this diet recommends eating less carbohydrate than the U.S. government recommends -- what a shocker!) , and reference to flawed or misconstrued studies.

Here's the link to the article, titled "New Atkins Diet — a Protein Overload? A steak may satisfy, but it's not a weight-loss secret weapon."


The article is written by Elisa Zied, R.D., who is identified as an MSNBC co-contributor in her byline at the top of the article, but who is revealed as a "spokesperson" for the American Dietetic Association at article's end. That should tell you everything you need to expect about her point of view.

My only hope is that, with all her complaining about how the diet makes you lose weight fast while not feeling hungry, she will inadvertently lead people to the book instead of away from it.

It's almost cute. According to this article and its headline, a steak is not a secret weapon for weight loss -- except that it is.

Here's the book's Amazon link.
New Atkins for a New You: The Ultimate Diet for Shedding Weight and Feeling Great
The authors are doctors Eric C. Westman, Stephen D. Phinney, Jeff S. Volek. Dr. Westman was interviewed on Jimmy Moore's Livin La Vida Low Carb Podcast in February. Check it out here.

Another place to learn more about a carbohydrate-restricted approach to diet, health and weight loss can be found at my friend Misty Humphrey's new site, free-healthy-diet-plans.com.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Carbs are the culprit

A phrase for today:

Carbs are the culprit.

(Nothing to add. I just thought it was a good phrase, and I didn't want to forget it before I wrote it down!)

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

"Purity and quanity" of modern sugar and fat

In his blog post The Unwisdom of John Mackey Seth Roberts wrote:

John Mackey is the founder of Whole Foods, a business I greatly respect. But he’s not always right.

“You only love animal fat because you’re used to it,” he said. “You’re addicted.”

Well put, Seth. The rest of his post is worth reading, as is the comment thread below.

I commented in response to the following comment (which was not made by Seth):

The conventional wisdom is that sugar other than honey and fat other than blubber weren’t available in modern quantities and purities until agriculture.

My comment follows:

Sugar *including* honey was not available in modern quantities and purities until recently. Agriculture was invented some 10,000 years ago. Sugar became cheap and plentiful with the advent of the European powers developing warm-weather colonies around the globe suitable for sugar plantations. Honey became cheap and plentiful much later.

The 19th century saw the invention of human-made beehives with removable, replaceable square frames that bees spontaneously fill with honey. Until then, humans had to smash a beehive (and usually kill the bees) to get at the honey. Honey in any controllable, scalable quantity dates only from that time.

Modern, large-scale, commercial beekeeping involves keeping a cheap syrup solution near the beehives for the bees to visit. Cheap honey comes from bees that never lit upon a flower. I suppose you could call the resulting product “pure” in that it is simpler, lacking the complexity of wild or artisanal honey, in content and in taste.

As far as the “purity” of modern fat, I don’t understand what is meant by this. True, olive oil has been available in large quantities since the dawn of the agriculture. (Only in its “extra-virgin” form, though.) But modern plant oils, like canola and cottonseed, are the result of complex, high-tech processes like bleaching and hydrogenation that result in substances that may appear “pure” to the naked eye, but they are so altered from any naturally occurring fats that our animal bodies cannot safely metabolize them. The problem with them does not inhere in their quantity, but in their quality: they are not fit to eat.

Why marginalize blubber? The fat of many types of marine fauna supported the human race throughout our history. Arguably, it was eating all those high fat creatures so easily captured along shorelines that enabled our brains to grow big enough for us to figure out how to hunt down faster, stronger land creatures. Humans have long thrived on a lot more fat than many well-meaning people allow themselves today.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Authority versus humble reasoning

This quote comes from my A.Word.A.Day e-mail from wordsmith.org.

In questions of science, the authority of a thousand is not worth the humble reasoning of a single individual.

- Galileo Galilei, physicist and astronomer (1564-1642)

It got me thinking about the processes that have shaped modern mainstream thinking about diet, especially as the 2010 USDA dietary guidelines are being formulated. The fifth meeting of the 2010 Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee will take place Feb. 9-10. You can attend via Webinar.

Not a single researcher or other representative of a reduced carbohydrate, raised fat point of view was included on the panel, despite several excellent candidacies, which I think included such important figures as Dr. Jeff Volek, Dr. Mary C. Vernon and Dr. Eric Westman, among others.

Instead we have the sorts of people who say that there's no real difference between the impact of high-fructose corn syrup and sucrose on the body.

No difference? One is processed directly by the liver, while the other isn't. The liver. That thing people are getting transplants for. That sounds important to me. We have people who say that it's not a problem if up to 25% of our total caloric impact comes from HFCS -- a substance unknown to the human body until a few brief decades ago.

We have people saying that total fat intake should be reduced still further, down perhaps as low as 7.5%.

Authoritative bodies such as the American Heart Association, the American Diabetes Association, the Centers for Disease Control, the Mayo Clinic, the United States Department of Agriculture and on and on have been proclaiming for decades that dietary fat is our enemy. They say that our modern woes come from to the saturated fats and animal foods on which our species has flourished since time immemorial.

They say that refined vegetable oils are the answer to our troubles. They propose the preposterous idea that our bodies not only can use, but require, substances impossible to come by previous to 20th century industrial technology.

They leave implicit the notion that the proper human diet is mostly made up of grains, and center on a tangent: whether the grains can be refined or must be left whole.

They assert most of our energy should be taken in as carbohydrate, and as little as possible from fat, despite the record of human history and despite the inability of countless researchers working for scores of years to find any evidence for this recommendation.

And they selectively, consistently, ignore scientific results from colleagues who follow the data towards the support of an alternative hypothesis.

It matters not how weighty and ponderous are these authoritative bodies. What matters is the humble reasoning of individuals.

A developing site dedicated to just such research-based reasoning can be found at Innovative Metabolic Solutions, a project of Drs. Vernon and Westman and science journalist Gary Taubes. I learned about it through Dr. Vernon's recent appearance on Jimmy Moore's podcast. Check it out for some actual information about the interplay of diet, health and the chronic conditions debilitating so many members of our society today.