Muddy Waters

When an octopus wants to avoid a predator it blasts out a screen of ink and darts of at high speed. When an industry wants to keep its gravy train on the rails it does a form of the same thing, it blasts out a ‘scientific’ study that stirs up doubt about the existing science that it hopes is not true. For instance:

Red meat consumption linked to increased risk of total, cardiovascular, and cancer mortality

And then there is this, from the VERY SAME STUDY, interpreted by a different analyst:

Red Meat Is Not the Enemy

Any data that is from surveys of people can be parsed in myriad ways, to say what the analyst wants them to say. If you go into an epidemiological study looking for correlations you can find them. It is why the same data can say these two very different things. It is what the sugar industry uses to make sugar look like a health food, while demonizing red meat.

In very short order I could perform this same comparison for high fat versus low fat diets, high calorie versus low calorie diets, the mediterranean diet versus the western diet, or any other macronutrient, really. There is no definitive science on this issue of diet and health yet, because the damage is over such a very long time span, and because it’s not easy to control the diet of the test subjects, unless you have 24-7 access to them.

A sugar-industry spokesman can argue for more time for the science to figure out whether or not his product is dangerous, knowing full well that that definitive science may never materialize, and when it does, his industry only has to present another study showing ambiguous results to keep anything from being done at the government level to slow down his gravy train.

Yesterday I read an article that made my blood boil.

The Weight of the Evidence:It’s time to stop telling fat people to become thin. 

I have a theory that there are certain highly influential groups in this nation that are working overtime to get us all accustomed to the notion that it’s perfectly natural for us to all be obese in our old age, and that there is nothing we can do about it, so just relax and enjoy your dessert. Articles like this one, written by a person who has also written a book on the same topic, only strengthen my feelings.

If you’re one of the 45 million Americans who plan to go on a diet this year, I’ve got one word of advice for you: Don’t.

That is the lead sentence in this article of two thousand words. I give similar advice, but this author literally means “It won’t work anyway, so why bother”. I at least give you advice to take action, to avoid a fate of western diet diseases. I just don’t call it a diet, I call it “the way you should be eating”.

This isn’t breaking news; doctors know the holy trinity of obesity treatments—diet, exercise, and medication—don’t work. They know yo-yo dieting is linked to heart disease, insulin resistance, higher blood pressure, inflammation, and, ironically, long-term weight gain. Still, they push the same ineffective treatments, insisting they’ll make you not just thinner but healthier.

This is a classic case of mixing symptoms with primary causes. Sometimes the first cause is hard to find, especially in a condition that may take a lifetime to occur (although frequently these days its happening in grade school). To say that ‘yo yo dieting’ is linked to western diet diseases is way off the beaten path. Who on Earth blames the disease on the diet? Yo Yo dieters all have far more in common with one another than just the fact that they have tried to lose weight many times. Another thing they have in common is that the diet they predominately try is a reduced calorie ‘balanced’ diet. Even though doctors keep pushing the same treatment, they generally attribute the failure to the patient not living up to the plan, they don’t blame the plan. This is the first time I heard someone saying that the obese are just fine exactly as they are.

Studies from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention repeatedly find the lowest mortality rates among people whose body mass index puts them in the “overweight” and “mildly obese” categories. And recent research suggests that losing weight doesn’t actually improve health biomarkers such as blood pressure, fasting glucose, or triglyceride levels for most people.

It never occurs to the author that if studies show that losing weight doesn’t improve biomarkers, that perhaps pounds on your frame are not as critical to your blood chemistry as WHAT YOU EAT. It might just be possible to eat fewer calories, but because your balanced diet still contains carbohydrates, which are going to be converted to fat as a normal course of natural biochemistry, they are going to have that same effect on biomarkers even if you are eating fewer of them than when not on a diet.

Debra Sapp-Yarwood, a fiftysomething from Kansas City, Missouri, who’s studying to be a hospital chaplain, is one of the three percenters, the select few who have lost a chunk of weight and kept it off. She dropped 55 pounds 11 years ago, and maintains her new weight with a diet and exercise routine most people would find unsustainable: She eats 1,800 calories a day—no more than 200 in carbs—and has learned to put up with what she describes as “intrusive thoughts and food preoccupations.”

I agree that the problem with semi-starvation diets is the constant hunger. I contend that the source of constant hunger is that 200 calories of carbs she is eating each day. When I ate nothing but meat I only experienced hunger when I went for longer than seven hours without food during the day, and never experienced hunger when sleeping. I did not wake up hungry, either. The problem is not how much dieters eat, it is what they eat. Not being on the right diet is no excuse for condemning all efforts to control weight.

People who easily gain weight eating normal amounts of the most popular foods, or even who gain weight when trying to ‘eat healthy’, meaning fruits and vegetables, balanced by low-fat meats and dairy, should not continue to diet. They should get off the yo yo plans. Their bodies do not respond well to eating carbohydrates. However, they are damaging their bodies and risking their future quality of life by continuing as though nothing is wrong. It is not their fault that all of the dietary advice they have been given has been wrong, but that is not a reason to just put up with the bad outcomes if they just continuing on the same course.

If you want to see where I got the confidence to tell you that you don’t need carbohydrates to live–that no ill effects come from eating 90 percent protein and fat, read the book “Why We Get Fat” by Gary Taubes. It’s not a diet book. It’s a science book that goes into all of the competing science and analyzes what is currently known about human physiology and biochemistry. There is still a lot more to learn about how fat is produced and consumed in the normal course of a human day, but enough is known that I can safely say that you are risking nothing by forgoing carbohydrates as a NECESSARY component of your daily menu. It’s not required for life or health, and for some people is putting their chances to lose weight in jeopardy.

About dcarmack

I am an instrument technician at the electric utility servicing the Kansas City Missouri metropolitan area. I am in the IBEW, Local 412. I was trained to be a nuclear power plant operator in the USN and served on submarines. I am a Democrat, even more so than those serving in Congress or the White House.
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