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.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Los Angeles Times: Harvard's Willett and others say to fear sugar, not fat

A reversal on carbs
Dec. 20, 2010
Los Angeles Times


Marni Jameson wrote the following. Great job, Ms. Jameson! Thanks for telling it like it is, without any cautionary "...but just in case..." obligatory quote from some antifat "authority" at the end.
Most people can count calories. Many have a clue about where fat lurks in their diets. However, fewer give carbohydrates much thought, or know why they should.

But a growing number of top nutritional scientists blame excessive carbohydrates — not fat — for America's ills. They say cutting carbohydrates is the key to reversing obesity, heart disease, Type 2 diabetes and hypertension.

"Fat is not the problem," says Dr. Walter Willett, chairman of the department of nutrition at the Harvard School of Public Health. "If Americans could eliminate sugary beverages, potatoes, white bread, pasta, white rice and sugary snacks, we would wipe out almost all the problems we have with weight and diabetes and other metabolic diseases."

It's a confusing message. For years we've been fed the line that eating fat would make us fat and lead to chronic illnesses. "Dietary fat used to be public enemy No. 1," says Dr. Edward Saltzman, associate professor of nutrition and medicine at Tufts University. "Now a growing and convincing body of science is pointing the finger at carbs, especially those containing refined flour and sugar."

Americans, on average, eat 250 to 300 grams of carbs a day, accounting for about 55% of their caloric intake. The most conservative recommendations say they should eat half that amount. Consumption of carbohydrates has increased over the years with the help of a 30-year-old, government-mandated message to cut fat.

And the nation's levels of obesity, Type 2 diabetes and heart disease have risen. "The country's big low-fat message backfired," says Dr. Frank Hu, professor of nutrition and epidemiology at the Harvard School of Public Health. "The overemphasis on reducing fat caused the consumption of carbohydrates and sugar in our diets to soar. That shift may be linked to the biggest health problems in America today."
Tell us what you think: Are carbs to blame? Add your own comments to the discussion. —

To understand what's behind the upheaval takes some basic understanding of food and metabolism.

All carbohydrates (a category including sugars) convert to sugar in the blood, and the more refined the carbs are, the quicker the conversion goes. When you eat a glazed doughnut or a serving of mashed potatoes, it turns into blood sugar very quickly. To manage the blood sugar, the pancreas produces insulin, which moves sugar into cells, where it's stored as fuel in the form of glycogen.

If you have a perfectly healthy metabolism, the system works beautifully, says Dr. Stephen Phinney, a nutritional biochemist and an emeritus professor of UC Davis who has studied carbohydrates for 30 years. "However, over time, as our bodies get tired of processing high loads of carbs, which evolution didn't prepare us for … how the body responds to insulin can change," he says.

When cells become more resistant to those insulin instructions, the pancreas needs to make more insulin to push the same amount of glucose into cells. As people become insulin resistant, carbs become a bigger challenge for the body. When the pancreas gets exhausted and can't produce enough insulin to keep up with the glucose in the blood, diabetes develops.

The first sign of insulin resistance is a condition called metabolic syndrome — a red flag that diabetes, and possibly heart disease, is just around the corner. People are said to have the syndrome when they have three or more of the following: high blood triglycerides (more than 150 mg); high blood pressure (over 135/85); central obesity (a waist circumference in men of more than 40 inches and in women, more than 35 inches); low HDL cholesterol (under 40 in men, under 50 in women); or elevated fasting glucose.

About one-fourth of adults has three or more of these symptoms.

"Put these people on a low-carb diet and they'll not only lose weight, which always helps these conditions, but their blood levels will improve," Phinney says. In a 12-week study published in 2008, Phinney and his colleagues put 40 overweight or obese men and women with metabolic syndrome on a 1,500-calorie diet. Half went on a low-fat, high-carb diet. The others went on a low-carb, high-fat diet. The low-fat group consumed 12 grams of saturated fat a day out of a total of 40 grams of fat, while the low-carb group ate 36 grams of saturated fat a day — three times more — out of a total of 100 grams of fat.

Despite all the extra saturated fat the low-carb group was getting, at the end of the 12 weeks, levels of triglycerides (which are risk factors for heart disease) had dropped by 50% in this group. Levels of good HDL cholesterol increased by 15%.

In the low-fat, high-carb group, triglycerides dropped only 20% and there was no change in HDL.

The take-home message from this study and others like it is that — contrary to what many expect — dietary fat intake is not directly related to blood fat. Rather, the amount of carbohydrates in the diet appears to be a potent contributor.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Gary Taubes on Salt: Shake off Your Worries!

This one is hard to find sometimes. Gary Taubes's piece on salt was a winner of the 1999 Science in Society Journalism Awards.

The (Political) Science of Salt

It seems that salt, for some reason, is commonly feared even by cholesterol skeptics who embrace a high-fat, low-carb diet, who know well how misleading and misled the common nutritional talking points are. Dunno why. The links between high sodium and blood pressure problems are even weaker than those between high cholesterol and heart problems. If such a thing is possible.

Read this. It's the article that, I believe, sent Gary Taubes down the rabbit hole. And I'm so glad it did.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Web Exclusive: Dr. Oz and Gary Taubes Debate Exercise

As Dr. Oz’s outspoken adversary, Gary Taubes’ theories go against Dr. Oz’s most fervent beliefs. In this web exclusive segment, Gary explains...

The Man Who Thinks Everything Dr. Oz Says is Wrong, Pt 3.

Award-winning science writer Gary Taubes disagrees with the medical community’s most basic rules of dieting. Here, Gary challenges Dr. Oz to ...

The Man Who Thinks Everything Dr. Oz Says is Wrong, Pt 2.

Award-winning science writer Gary Taubes disagrees with the medical community’s most basic rules of dieting. Here, Gary challenges Dr. Oz to ...

The Man Who Thinks Everything Dr. Oz Says is Wrong, Pt 1.

Award-winning science writer Gary Taubes disagrees with the medical community’s most basic rules of dieting. Here, Gary challenges Dr. Oz to...

Gary Taubes on Dr. Oz's TV show

The Man Who Thinks Everything Dr. Oz Says is Wrong -- that's the hyperbolic title of the TV episode from February, 2011. At time of this writing, it's been removed from YouTube. Here's a link to a portion of it from the Dr. Oz TV show website.

The Man Who Thinks Every Dr. Oz Says is Wrong, Part I

Gary Taubes is the award-winning science journalist whose works on nutrition and diet include the NY Times article Big Fat Lies and the books Good Calories, Bad Calories and Why We Get Fat.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Gary Taubes on Dr. Oz's radio show

Gary Taubes appeared on the radio show of Dr. Mehmet Oz on Feb. 24, 2011. The news peg was Gary's new book, Why We Get Fat -- which I got for my birthday and am reading happily.

Jimmy Moore, of the Livin' La Vida Low-Carb blog, podcast and video podcasts, has posted the Taubes interview in two parts on YouTube. Here are the links.


Find Gary's new book here: