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Low-carb?
Posted: 23 June 2011 04:36 PM   [ Ignore ]
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I’ve been hearing about low-carb diets being healthy. This diet was argued for in the film Fat Head, which I have yet to see. They say carbs are the primary cause of weight gain and that saturated fats do not in fact cause cardiovascular disease. This is related to the atkins diet and the paleolithic diet. Does anyone have any information on whether or not carbs are actually bad for you, and whether or not saturated fats have been wrongly demonized for some reason? I also have read claims that cholesterol is also not bad for you and that you should actually be getting a lot of it. Needless to say, I am skeptical.

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Posted: 23 June 2011 05:18 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 1 ]
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There’s a lot of bullshit out there, but the basic rules haven’t changed much in 50 years, despite the hype of people trying to sell books and meal plans.

From a weight perspective, calories are calories are calories - there’s no magical weight loss from Atkins or any other diet plan, merely calorie reduction.

From a health perspective, simple carbs (sugars, white flour) should be limited in favour of complex ones (whole grains).  Overall, the proportion of carbs in the typical North American diet is too high and the proportion of fruits and vegetables too low for optimal health.  Nutrition Action Healthletter, which is generally pretty science-based, put out an ideal meal plan that pegged 11/24 servings for fruits and vegetables…that’s nearly half, so you can imagine the math for the rest.  I doubt many are meeting this, but it’s useful to keep in mind as a target.

As for fats, evidence continues to support moderation of sat and trans from a heart & stroke perspective.  Mono & poly not an issue for heart, but calorically dense, so they are for weight.  Dietary cholesterol (cholesterol in the food you eat) is no longer considered to be a significant contributor to higher LDL counts—it’s just that they’re usually found in foods also high in sat fat, which does raise cholesterol.  But eggs & shellfish are high in cholesterol but not sat fats, and are fine for most people to eat…as long as you don’t fry them grin

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Posted: 23 June 2011 05:20 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 2 ]
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domokato - 23 June 2011 04:36 PM

I’ve been hearing about low-carb diets being healthy. This diet was argued for in the film Fat Head, which I have yet to see. They say carbs are the primary cause of weight gain and that saturated fats do not in fact cause cardiovascular disease. This is related to the atkins diet and the paleolithic diet. Does anyone have any information on whether or not carbs are actually bad for you, and whether or not saturated fats have been wrongly demonized for some reason? I also have read claims that cholesterol is also not bad for you and that you should actually be getting a lot of it. Needless to say, I am skeptical.

It’s not quite that simple.Not all nutritional plans affect everybody in the same way.Low carb diets are pretty good for losing weight,but they’re not so good for already fit people.Most modern Americans don’t have to have a high carb diet-exept maybe weight lifters,so a moderate carb intake is OK for many.Saturated fats are generally bad if you take in too much,but small amounts aren’t anything to worry over.Cholesterol effects on cardiovascular disease are mixed;Basically high cholesterol increases the risk of c.v.disease but it doesn’t guarentee it.Genes also have a lot to do with it.The paleo and atkins diets might have a little truth to them,but I think they are fashion statements mainly.

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Posted: 23 June 2011 08:00 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 3 ]
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The paleo and atkins diets might have a little truth to them,but I think they are fashion statements mainly.

A lot of these “diets” are, and they mostly pander to those who are looking for some sort of Magic Bullet which will make the pounds melt away for no effort. They really don’t work, or if they do, they have some fairly serious side effects. Ketosis is very hard on the liver for example and when going on these “low carb” diets, that’s exactly the sort of state one is inflicting on one’s body.

They may have a benefit in the instances of morbid obesity, but it’s not the sort of thing you want to do over the long haul and only while under the close supervision of a medical professional and/or a trained dietician/nutritionist.

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Posted: 23 June 2011 08:39 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 4 ]
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Equal Opportunity Curmudgeon - 23 June 2011 08:00 PM

And/or a trained dietician/nutritionist.

Don’t conflate the two…they’re usually not the same: http://www.skepticnorth.com/2011/04/the-legitimacy-diet-part-3-science-it’s-alive/

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Posted: 23 June 2011 09:21 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 5 ]
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As it happens, NPR had an interesting story about foods and their effect on weight just this evening:

Trying To Lose Weight? Study May Have Some Pointers
June 23, 2011, NPR News

A new study from the Harvard School of Public Health followed more than 120,000 people over the course of as many as 20 years, to see what they ate and how it affected their weight. Some of the findings are surprising, including these: Nuts and yogurt were most closely correlated with weight loss. And potatoes of any kind caused the most weight gain. Michele Norris talks with one of the authors of the study, Walter Willett from the Harvard School of Public Health.

PS.  It’s the processed foods you really want to minimized.

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Posted: 23 June 2011 09:32 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 6 ]
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Erik Davis - 23 June 2011 08:39 PM
Equal Opportunity Curmudgeon - 23 June 2011 08:00 PM

And/or a trained dietician/nutritionist.

Don’t conflate the two…they’re usually not the same: http://www.skepticnorth.com/2011/04/the-legitimacy-diet-part-3-science-it’s-alive/

Very cool article, thanks for sharing it.

Whatever they’re called, Dietitians are a fundamentally different beast than the unregulated nutritionists we encountered in the first two parts of this series, and in this third and final installment, we’re going to explore why.  Specifically, we’re going to contrast the two camps on four key criteria:

  1 Eligibility Requirements — what it takes to become accredited
  2 Knowledge Base — what practitioners learn in school prior to accreditation
  3 Professional Standards — how ethics and professional conduct are enforced
  4 Governance — what support practitioners receive from their organizing bodies
~ ~ ~

“Dietitians are to nutrition what pharmacists are to drugs — specialists that work alongside physicians and other conventional health care practitioners to provide deep knowledge in their area of expertise.”

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Posted: 24 June 2011 11:11 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 7 ]
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Don’t conflate the two…they’re usually not the same: http://www.skepticnorth.com/2011/04/the-legitimacy-diet-part-3-science-it’s-alive/

Point taken. Thanks for posting that.

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Posted: 25 August 2011 04:53 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 8 ]
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Erik Davis - 23 June 2011 05:18 PM

From a health perspective, simple carbs (sugars, white flour) should be limited in favour of complex ones (whole grains).  Overall, the proportion of carbs in the typical North American diet is too high and the proportion of fruits and vegetables too low for optimal health. 

I’m a little confused about the statement above.  Things like bread, pasta and all wheat products (including whole grains) contain maltose, which is a disaccharide.  In what way would a disaccharide be complex carbohydrate? You say that fruit and veg are too low in the US diet and carbs too high. The fructose (as a monosaccharide) in fruit falls under the simple carbs definition, so you’re contradicting yourself.

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Posted: 25 August 2011 07:27 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 9 ]
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I think there’s a bit of complexity that wasn’t mentioned, Monty.  Although just about all prepared wheat containing products contain some mono and di saccharides, their main source of carbohydrates are starches which are fairly long chain, i.e., complex.  You are certainly right that fruit carbohydrates are mostly monosaccharides, but there’s so much fiber and water or bulk in them that one gets far less carbohydrates (fewer calories) from them than one does from the much more concentrated amounts in starch products.

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Posted: 25 August 2011 07:46 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 10 ]
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That simply isn’t true. There are no starches in wheat products, period. They overwhelmingly contain maltose, which is a disaccharide. Sucrose, good old table sugar, is also a disaccharide.

What kind of fibre are you talking about? Not all fibre is beneficial and not all fruits contain the right kind of fibre.

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Posted: 26 August 2011 06:42 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 11 ]
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Monty, you really need to get your facts straight. From http://www.livestrong.com/article/298371-starch-content-in-oat-vs-wheat/

The U.S. Department of Agriculture National Nutrient Database states that 100 g of whole grain wheat flour contains 72 g of carbohydrates, of which 57.8 g are starch, plus 13 g of protein, 2.5 g of fat, 10.7 g of fiber and 340 calories.

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Posted: 26 August 2011 08:49 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 12 ]
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It says in the link that the starch in question is a ‘glucose polymer’, which makes sense because by the time it gets to you it’s maltose consisting a two molecules of glucose. This means that it is extremely sugary and is massively glycemic. The American Diabetes Association now recognises this fact. And I can think of a better way of getting fibre than eating something that’s 72 percent sugar by weight.

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Posted: 26 August 2011 09:18 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 13 ]
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Montysol - 26 August 2011 08:49 AM

It says in the link that the starch in question is a ‘glucose polymer’, which makes sense because by the time it gets to you it’s maltose consisting a two molecules of glucose. This means that it is extremely sugary and is massively glycemic. The American Diabetes Association now recognises this fact. And I can think of a better way of getting fibre than eating something that’s 72 percent sugar by weight.

Well, there are also good and not-so-good forms of grains. They aren’t nearly as bad if we don’t grind them down. The form of starch in beans is much better if you’re worried about the glycemic impact. In general, amylose is the best form of starch (so long-grain rice is better than short-grain). But it seems you’ve backed off on the wheat products contain no starch, period stance.  smile

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Posted: 26 August 2011 09:59 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 14 ]
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Grains are all ground down by the time you get them. Even leaving that aside, starches behave exactly the same as sugar once they get in your mouth.  The following is from the May 1994 issue of Diabetes Care, which is the journal of the ADA:

For most of this century, the most widely held belief about the nutritional treatment of diabetes has been that simple sugars should be avoided and replaced with starches. This belief appears to be based on the assumption that sugars are more rapidly digested and absorbed than are starches and thereby aggravate hyperglycemia [high blood sugar] to a greater degree. There is, however, very little scientific evidence that supports this assumption…Sucrose produces a glycemic response [blood sugar response] similar to that of bread, rice, and potatoes…

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Posted: 26 August 2011 10:31 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 15 ]
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Montysol - 26 August 2011 09:59 AM

Grains are all ground down by the time you get them. Even leaving that aside, starches behave exactly the same as sugar once they get in your mouth.  The following is from the May 1994 issue of Diabetes Care, which is the journal of the ADA:

For most of this century, the most widely held belief about the nutritional treatment of diabetes has been that simple sugars should be avoided and replaced with starches. This belief appears to be based on the assumption that sugars are more rapidly digested and absorbed than are starches and thereby aggravate hyperglycemia [high blood sugar] to a greater degree. There is, however, very little scientific evidence that supports this assumption…Sucrose produces a glycemic response [blood sugar response] similar to that of bread, rice, and potatoes…

I believe that. From what I’ve read, corporate food giants have influenced groups to lie about glycemic differences. For example, today the ADA recommends whole grain foods over processed.

I believe the only place we disagreed Monty is about the starch content of wheat products.

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