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Low-Carb News & Health Headlines For February 2011

Posted Feb 16 2011 2:47pm

One of the pleasures of doing my job of blogging and podcasting about the healthy low-carb lifestyle is my constant daily exposure to all the health media that exists today. Just type in “health” in a Google search and you’ll find over 1.5 billion results in less than a second. “Diet” gives you another 278 million results and even “low-carb” garners over 9 million. Information is everywhere at our fingertips, but trying to cut through it all can be overwhelming for a lot of people. Who can you trust? What can you believe is accurate versus who’s just trying to sell me something to make a buck?

I admit it’s not and easy task trying to figure it all out, but there’s one thing I always do to help remind myself about what is most important–if what is being shared in a magazine article, newspaper column, or television report doesn’t match up with what I know to be true based on the facts as I know them, then I’m immediately skeptical and will do my own investigation. Too often people become trustworthy of others by buying into a health headline as the gospel truth without doing their own due diligence to verify that what they are saying is true. One of my readers e-mailed me about this yesterday stating his theory that we’ve lost the “skill of critical thinking” because of our inadequate public education (he recommended the book The Underground History of American Public Education for evidence of this).

Perhaps that’s somewhat true that as a culture we’d rather be told what to believe rather than spending the time to investigate it ourselves. Or maybe our lives have become so encompassed in just doing the day to day stuff of life that we can’t possibly try to go behind everything we read somewhere, hear on the radio or watch on television to make sure it’s right. Regardless of our reasons for being this way, I do think we have a responsibility to question any source of information that seems out of place or that doesn’t make sense based on our own life’s experiences. It’s why I try to read any low-carb news and health headline looking at it through the prism of what has made me who I am. Even if I agree with the information presented in a news story about health, I try to double check everything and make sure it is on the up and up. And that even includes the stuff I share about here at “Livin’ La Vida Low-Carb.” Don’t take my word for it–see for yourself if what I’m sharing matches up with what you know to be true and act accordingly. It’s this rebirth of cognitive thinking that will help bring low-carb nutrition to the forefront again.

Here are some low-carb news & health headlines for February 2011 to help get you started:

  • Have you seen what they’re doing in Canada to promote healthy living this year? The Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) is pushing a project called Live Right Now designed to help show how “Canadians can live a healthier lifestyle.” Well, there’s nothing wrong with that, right? Not exactly. You see, one of the new television shows they are pumping out to the public is called Village on a Diet featuring the people of Taylor, British Columbia attempting to change their lifestyle with the help of a dietitian, a chef, a psychologist, two personal trainers and a medical doctor. It all sounds innocent enough. But as this brilliant opinion piece from Margaret Wente explains, this show just “pretends that all you need to lose weight is a lot more exercise, a healthier diet and a dose of good old-fashioned will power.” In other words, it’s The Biggest Loser redux (see for yourself in this promo video ). One of my Canadian readers noted that “these poor people in this village are being subjected to a high carb (near vegetarian) diet. The chef is preparing meals with chick peas, tofu, etc. and several people are complaining because they’re not losing weight.” It’s tragic! A BETTER exhibition of how a Canadian community could lose weight and get healthy effortlessly is the 2008 CBC Newsworld documentary My Big Fat Diet from filmmaker Mary Bissell and low-carb researcher Dr. Jay Wortman . We certainly need a lot more projects like this one instead of more high-carb, low-fat diets combined with the exercise-’til-you-drop approach. Take a look at Dr. Wortman’s reaction to Village On A Diet .
  • I found this column on Everyday Health outlining the “8 Keys To Low-Carb Eating” which was kinda interesting. There were some pretty good tips like “all carbs are not equal,” “eat protein at every meal,” and “avoid processed food…especially those that contain high-fructose corn syrup.” But there was also a lot of really bad advice like “limit saturated…fats, such as butter, animal fats,” “don’t cut out…all breads or dessert,” and “do some sort of exercise, such as walking, every day.” While I’m sure this column derived from Woman’s Day means well with the advice given, it’s just too conflicting with what we know to be accurate for people who are livin’ la vida low-carb.
  • Have you heard about this study on a potential “cure” for Type 1 diabetes from University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center? By eliminating or greatly diminishing the role of glucagon, it controls high blood sugar levels in Type 1 diabetics without the need for insulin which is currently the primary way to treat it. While this is exciting research, it is only focused on mice and is questionable whether these findings can be extrapolated to humans. But according to the report on this study in ScienceDaily, it appears that glucagon plays a much greater role in this than insulin. This is something worth paying more attention to as more research is conducted.
  • I absolutely love and adore Dana Carpender because she’s not afraid to tell you exactly what she thinks about her own personal low-carb lifestyle–and that even includes explaining “Why I’m Not A Purist.” You go Dana! I’ve long been subjected to the smug sneers and judgment of people who think my diet should look a certain way over the years and that if I do it any differently than what they call for that I’m not a genuine low-carber. It’s absurd to force what you think is right about diet on anyone–simply present your case and share the evidence you have in support for what you are claiming, but don’t mandate it on them as an ultimatum. That’s the way I think is most effective at getting your point across and then respecting the decision made by the individual. Get more common sense wisdom about low-carb living from Dana Carpender on her brand new (and blazing hot!) podcast “Dana’s Low-Carb For Life!”
  • The boo birds about the new USDA 2010 Dietary Guidelines are out in force and continue in this Minneapolis-St. Paul, Minnesota-based Star Tribune column from Paul John Scott where he makes the case that Americans have been too trusting about what they’ve been told is healthy for them to eat. He notes that more of the same bad advice just “isn’t going to work” and that we need to fire up the spirt of people like the late Jack LaLanne if we’re gonna get serious about weight and health in America. Scott acknowledges the work of people like Gary Taubes to help shift this paradigm back in the right direction and that it’s only a matter of time before the preponderance of the evidence becomes much too significant to ignore. AMEN! Don’t miss registered nurse Jackie Eberstein’s take on the new Guidelines .
  • One in nine adults around the world are currently obese which is DOUBLE what it was in 1980. That adds up to over a half billion clinically obese adults walking around right now according to a report by the World Health Organization (WHO). Of course, they’re using body mass index (BMI) as the measuring stick for determining if someone is “obese” or not and these statistics don’t even take into account the people who are “metabolically obese normal weight” as Dr. Mary Vernon puts it. So I kinda take statistics like these from WHO with a grain of salt with the caveat that it’s not just how much people weigh but the state of their health that matters most (blood lipids, blood glucose levels, Vitamin D levels, etc.). And measuring that is a bit more tricky than doing a simple BMI statistical analysis.
  • It’s so good to have Dr. Kurt Harris back blogging again after some gentle prodding from me during his “Encore Week” podcast interview last month. This man is one of the more brilliant thinkers on diet and health in the low-carb/Paleo blogosphere and we’re all better off learning from his insights when he’s sharing them early and often. That’s not to say that everything he is sharing I necessarily agree with–but he certainly will make you think about what you believe. Case in point is his recent post “No Such thing as a macronutrient part II – Carbohydrates” where he makes the claim that “glucose and starch in the DIET are not poisons in a healthy human.” Hmmmm. He goes on to say that gluten grains are much worse for your health than legumes/starchy carbohydrates and that staying out of ketosis and keeping your glycogen stores topped off is ideal (a la the concepts promoted by Paul Jaminet who is my podcast interview guest coming up on March 7, 2011). Give it a read and share what you think!
  • Portion control has come on strong as the new dietary trend being promoted by so-called health “experts” around the world. We heard it from the minions at the USDA during their press conference about the new Dietary Guidelines and now their UK equivalent is getting in on the act. The Food Standards Agency recently conducted a food survey detailing that portion sizes have grown exponentially compared to just twenty years ago. They note in the article that everyone should be using their hand to determine if the amount of food they are eating is appropriate or not. HOGWASH! Find foods that will satisfy your hunger, nourish your body, and give you enjoyment at appropriate portion levels and this whole portion control nonsense is a moot point. That’s why eating a healthy high-fat, moderate protein, low-carb diet works so well because the portion control is built-in naturally to the foods you are consuming. When we take the focus off of arbitrary portion control, then perhaps we could make a dent in both the amount and kinds of foods people are consuming.
  • Weight loss is really all about “calories in, calories out,” right? That’s what the really smart people talking about health keep telling us all the time, so it must be true. They’ve convinced people like Sonja Rose who wrote this column last week about a bogus study from Harvard researcher Frank Sacks which I blogged about two years ago (and don’t miss my two follow-up posts calling out Dr. David Katz for his comments on this study as well as the genius analysis of this study done by Dr. Richard Feinman ). The calorie hypothesis continues to be perpetuated despite evidence that proves total calories aren’t as important as the quality of those calories. Nevertheless, you’ll get a kick out of the USDA chart of daily calorie consumption recommendations that Sonja shares . How close does it come to the actual number of calories YOU eat?
  • Well shazam! It seems we really have been lied to about “cholesterol-lowering” statin drugs according to this study published in the Texas Heart Institute Journal . Researchers out of Seoul, South Korea concluded that regardless of whether an individual has been diagnosed with coronary artery disease (CAD) or not, statin therapy does not decrease the proportion of small, dense LDL…but in fact increases it.” Perhaps this is why those statin drug commercials that seemingly run every other ad on television these days never mention LDL particle size measured in tests like the NMR Lipoprofile . Unfortunately, most doctors are still clueless about understanding cholesterol. It seems our friend Justin Smith is right when he says they have $29 billion reasons to lie about what these drugs are actually doing!
  • Did you know that being vegan could put your heart health at risk according to a new study published in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry. Chinese researchers found that a diet devoid of animal fats leave the cardiovascular health of people who eat that way at risk. Low HDL cholesterol and high levels of homocysteine are the primary culprits in this elevated risk of cardiovascular problems. The lack of omega-3 fats and Vitamin B-12 in a vegan nutritional approach is what will “undermine the whole thing.” Well it’s about time somebody exposed the genuine deficiencies in the vegan diet with all the negative press about the health impact of high-fat, low-carb diets that’s been thrown around out there over the years. These issues aren’t anything new thanks to former vegans like Lierre Keith trumpeting the cause for consuming more animal-based foods.
  • Wanna hear something pretty wicked? Check out the latest cancer screening technology called Single-Photon Emission Computerized Tomography (SPECT) which can detect a tumor as small as two millimeters rendering the standard and very expensive PET scan obsolete. The biotechnology company Cell>Point says the patient is injected with (get this!) SUGAR along with some radioactive isotopes because the “cancer cells are attracted to the sugar, so they eat it up.” WOW! We’ve long known that sugar is one of the worst possible things a person with cancer could ingest because it literally “feeds” the cancer cells, but here’s new technology using that fact as a means of helping doctors locate cancer faster. I’m thankful that this technology was created, but I’d love to see stronger recommendations by public health officials about giving up sugar and starchy carbohydrates as a means for preventing cancer. You would think they would put two and two together at some point. They should take a look at the research of people like Dr. Thomas Seyfried at Boston College if they truly care about this indelible connection between carbs and cancer.
  • We’ve always heard that butter will kill you, but a Sicilian couple took that to the next level recently. They suffocated the woman’s ex-husband with butter and told police he died in a drunken stupor thinking the butter would all melt away. But they didn’t realize that remnants of the butter would show up in the man’s airways. BUSTED! I don’t know why this story intrigued me, but it did.
  • Do you trust the scientific method for gathering evidence in support for or against a hypothesis? That’s what Jonah Lehrer at The New Yorker wanted to know in his column “The Truth Wears Off: Is There Something Wrong With The Scientific Method?” His thesis is that so many studies begin to look increasingly irrelevant as future research debunks many of the findings of the original experiment. Lehrer notes that there seems to be something happening that pushes researchers into noticing patterns in their data that don’t actually exist. This is a curious observation on his part in light of what has happened historically in nutritional science. Take, for example, Ancel Keys who saw patterns in his data that told him that saturated fat consumption leads to heart disease back in the 1960s. If he were still alive today, I wonder if he’d still see that correlation in light of all the new science that has emerged in the half-decade since. One would think he would if for no other reason than to save face for hedging his entire career on it!
  • Have you heard all the buzz about how drinking diet soda will increase your heart attack risk lately? Although I gave up my desire for diet soda in May 2010 , I still think studies like this are ridiculous. How do they know it’s the diet soda of all things that led to the greater risk of a stroke or heart attack? The truth is they don’t. Interestingly, the American Dietetic Association weighed in on this research stating “to suggest that they are harmful with no credible evidence does a disservice to those trying to lose weight or maintain a healthy weight.” I tend to agree with them (for the first time ever!) and would hope this would be looked into more closely. Getting off of aspartame is definitely a positive that most anyone drinking diet soda should strive for, though.
  • The evidence is growing in support of the benefits of engaging in exercise in a fasted state. This study published in the February 2011 issue of American Society For Nutrition found that dietary protein digestion and absorption is enhanced by exercise prior to consumption by their elderly study participants. In fact, this is still an open randomized, double blind clinical trial looking for new patients seeking to observe the condition known as sarcopenia, or the loss of lean muscle mass. I’ll be interested in seeing more results from this research in the coming years.
  • Have you ever wanted to educate yourself better on all the various sugars and sugar alternatives out there? Then you need to read “The Many Faces Of Sugar” for so much information on this subject your head will explode! ENJOY!
  • I’m sure Dr. Robert Lustig will be smiling when he hears the details about this study published in the March 2011 issue of Diabetes, Obesity and Metabolism concluding that fructose really is a lot worse for your brain health than glucose. According to this Chicago Tribune column about the study , the leader researcher Dr. John Purnell at Oregon Health and Science University showed that the brain responds very differently to the introduction of fructose into the body compared with glucose–glucose raises neural activity for upwards of 20 minutes after it is infused compared with fructose DECREASING neural activity for a similar amount of time. The control substance saline had no impact at all. This is really intriguing as we seek to determine whether or not it’s the KIND of sugar your body responds to or just sugar in general.
  • Did you hear about Miss San Antonio Domonique Ramirez getting stripped of her crown last week? The pageant board accused her of “gaining excessive weight” among several other indiscretions. Yep, they said she was getting to be too fat and the spokewoman even went so far as to say Ramirez needed to “get off the tacos, get off the chips and the soda” stating these foods were “what these kids eat” at the age of 17. Gee, that’s kinda harsh! And get this–she’s 5’8″ tall, weighs 129 pounds and is a size 2! Oh yeah, that’s just horribly obese. Sheez! Ramirez is fighting to keep her crown. GOOD FOR HER! And we wonder why young girls have such a complex about their weight.
  • Wanna live to be 100 years old? Then eat a cheeseburger every single day according to New Zealand centurion Catherine Reddoch. She’s been doing this for 20 years straight! This was pretty hilarious in light of all the hysteria about consuming dietary fat leading to a shorter life. Forget about the focus on McDonald’s they had in the story, it’s cool this awesome lady would say she doesn’t care about all the hysteria about what she should be eating. She said she thinks she should weigh more than she does…but she doesn’t. Gee, I wonder why?
  • Oh no! I’ve been missing out on getting carbs into my active lifestyle after all this time because Active People Need Their Carbs, Too . The sports nutrition “expert” quoted in this column says you’re depriving your muscles of fuel when you restrict carbohydrates like bread, cereal, rice, pasta and potatoes. Really? We’re back to that argument again? This ignorant “expert” goes on to explain that someone wanting to exercise should load up on 50-100g carbs within a couple of hours of engaging in it coming from foods like granola bars, fruit, whole grain toast with peanut butter and jelly, fruit smoothies, or a bowl of cereal with milk. Then when the exercise is finished, she wants you to eat even MORE carbohydrates to “refuel for your workout the next day.” REALLY? Uh, okay. NOT! I haven’t eaten that many carbohydrates in one sitting in a very long time and I workout quite often engaging in resistance training, interval training, competitive volleyball, and yoga. Never do I feel the need to carb up before or after these activities because I’ve trained my body to use fat for fuel in the absence of carbs in my diet. That’s the way the body can function optimally even at high-performance levels. This sports nutritionist should ask Swedish athlete Jonas Colting about her flim-flam theories on carbohydrates!
  • THANK YOU Time magazine for telling me how to live longer: Switch to a whole grains diet! Yeah right! According to a new study published in the February 14, 2011 issue of Archives Of Internal Medicine , a high-fiber diet is needed to reduce the risk of death from heart disease, infectious or respiratory diseases, or really any cause. They found a 22 percent decrease in the risk for those people who consumed 25+ grams of dietary fiber daily. This fiber business is quite controversial within health circles, even in the low-carb community. I do think it’s been overblown as something necessary when you’re on a healthy low-carb lifestyle as we heard from Fiber Menace author Konstantin Monastyrsky on my podcast in November 2008.

    How’s that for a low-carb news and health headlines update? Got anything interesting about diet, nutrition and healthy living you’d like to share with me. Send me the link anytime to livinlowcarbman@charter.net . THANKS for helping me stay on top of all the very latest information about health!

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