The Maintenance Library - "What if it's all been a big fat lie?" [NY Times Article]




paperclippy
12-22-2009, 01:24 PM
I came across a link to this article today and thought I'd pass it on. The article is from 2002 and mentions some studies that had just received funding so it would be interesting to find out what the results of those studies were.

http://www.nytimes.com/2002/07/07/magazine/what-if-it-s-all-been-a-big-fat-lie.html?pagewanted=1

First paragraph:

If the members of the American medical establishment were to have a collective find-yourself-standing-naked-in-Times-Square-type nightmare, this might be it. They spend 30 years ridiculing Robert Atkins, author of the phenomenally-best-selling ''Dr. Atkins' Diet Revolution'' and ''Dr. Atkins' New Diet Revolution,'' accusing the Manhattan doctor of quackery and fraud, only to discover that the unrepentant Atkins was right all along. Or maybe it's this: they find that their very own dietary recommendations -- eat less fat and more carbohydrates -- are the cause of the rampaging epidemic of obesity in America. Or, just possibly this: they find out both of the above are true.

I felt like I should pass this article on in particular because I found it very interesting despite the fact that I have never been a low-carb dieter and I continue to generally follow the old guidelines of having most of my calories from carbohydrates. Particularly interesting is that there is one researcher mentioned in there who started using a glycemic index-based diet which apparently hasn't been researched all that much. Most of the research mentioned doesn't seem to make a distinction between refined sugars and complex carbohydrates.

I do still have my standard complaint about this type of article. They give all sorts of evidence that bread, rice, and pasta will make people fat. However, there is no accounting for the fact that in countries in Asia where rice is the staple of the diet, there is much less obesity. I would love to see an article that actually addressed that apparent paradox.


kaplods
12-22-2009, 01:40 PM
I do still have my standard complaint about this type of article. They give all sorts of evidence that bread, rice, and pasta will make people fat. However, there is no accounting for the fact that in countries in Asia where rice is the staple of the diet, there is much less obesity. I would love to see an article that actually addressed that apparent paradox.


It's really not such a paradox. In countries (and for that matter time periods) in which a lot of starchy carbohydrates are eaten, the amount of physical labor that is being done is astronomical. These people are working very hard and burning a lot of calories.

Hubby and I have close friends who are Hmong, and for the most part they eat the same diet they did in Thailand (the wife more than the husband, who loves meatloaf and other American dishes. He has a very active/strenuous job in a factory, though and has never had a weight problem). Abouth a month ago, the wife was complaining that she never had to worry about her weight in Thailand, and that she eats the same as she did there, but is gaining weight like mad in the US. She paused for a minute and then said "but then again, every morning we walked down a mountain to get to the marketplace and every evening we walked up a mountain to get home."

My dad ate huge amounts of food including carby breads and potatoes as a young farm boy and almost as much as a delivery guy for Butternut (having to carry very heavy loads, and do a lot of walking, lifting, bending). He was super slim until retirement.

Unless you're willing to be VERY active, carby foods may be a luxury that some of us can't afford.

JulieJ08
12-22-2009, 01:54 PM
I think the active lifestyle is definitely part of it. But I also think there has to be more to it. I also haven't seen much direct, open (without preconceived ideas either way) about the discrepancy between all the rice in Asian diets and bread/pasta in Mediterranean diets compared to low carb or nongrain concepts. I do find both kinds of diets very interesting.


beerab
12-22-2009, 01:55 PM
I think part of it also has to do with the individual person- I can't handle carbs very well so while my husband eats a high carb diet- if I do I gain because of my insulin resistance/PCOS. Even when I eat too many Complex carbs my weight loss stalls.

JulieJ08
12-22-2009, 02:05 PM
I think part of it also has to do with the individual person- I can't handle carbs very well so while my husband eats a high carb diet- if I do I gain because of my insulin resistance/PCOS. Even when I eat too many Complex carbs my weight loss stalls.

But I'm not sure that seems too much of a factor when you're looking at traditional diets in these other countries. They were also made up of individuals, but not many seem to have had this carb sensitivity. I still wonder why the difference.

beerab
12-22-2009, 02:19 PM
With my own research in PCOS it seems that women of certain descents seem to have this issue more than most. Speaking with one of my doctors she said she notices it a lot in middle eastern/greek and north europeans. I have not met one woman who is of asian descent who has PCOS- I'm sure they exist- but if say people of asian descent generally do not have insulin resistance issues- then that combined with their lifestyle makes it more possible for them to eat a higher carb/low fat diet.

L R K
12-22-2009, 03:46 PM
It's part lifestyle and part portion. I'm sure people who eat rice as a Staple in some countires eat smaller portions than a typical person in North America would eat. So combine that with the amount of physical activity they are doing daily and you can see why they don't have obesity issues.

JulieJ08
12-22-2009, 04:31 PM
I don't know. To hear most of the carb-sensitive talk on these forums, eating smaller portions of rice/bread/pasta and staying active would not be near enough to fix their carb sensitivity. I can't see how a traditional Asian or Italian diet, including appropriate portions and activity, would be at all acceptable to them. I still wonder what the differences are.

mandalinn82
12-22-2009, 04:45 PM
I dislike generalizations about how people can/should lose weight so much.

There are people who are carb sensitive. Reasons for that could be varied...a gene variant associated or non-associated to one's genetic heritage, metabolic differences, or even just a predisposition to crave other foods after eating carbs - all possible. The reason doesn't matter so much.

There are people who lose just fine on a higher carb plan, again, for reasons that could vary wildly. Genetic heritage and metabolic issues almost certainly play a role.

Saying that one can lose weight on a lower-fat, higher-carb plan is no more a lie than saying that one can lose weight on a higher-fat, lower-carb plan. Some people can lose well on either of those plans, and some cannot, and some need a bit of a hybrid (lower-fat, higher-carb, but only whole grain slowly digestible carbs, for example).

Luckily, composition aside, usually lowered-calorie diets are associated with weight loss, and most studies looking at the calorie consumption of those on low-carb plans find that people on those plans are taking in fewer calories and losing weight.

My personal belief is that, if you are eating a wide variety of foods that are close to the forms in which they grow and you're keeping your calories in check, you'll do OK. And this seems to be the common ground onto which nearly all popular diet plans congregate, particularly in the maintenance or later stages of more structure plans...whole foods, close to how they grow, without a lot of processed stuff, and a reasonable number of calories (again, plans like Atkins don't require counting, but tend to lead to a natural regulation of calorie intake by increasing satiety)

paperclippy
12-22-2009, 04:59 PM
There are a couple of interesting passages in the article that made me think about the Asian diet question. They're kind of buried since the article is 11 pages long. The author writes:

This is what my mother taught me 40 years ago, backed up by the vague observation that Italians tended toward corpulence because they ate so much pasta. This observation was actually documented by Ancel Keys, a University of Minnesota physician who noted that fats ''have good staying power,'' by which he meant they are slow to be digested and so lead to satiation, and that Italians were among the heaviest populations he had studied. According to Keys, the Neapolitans, for instance, ate only a little lean meat once or twice a week, but ate bread and pasta every day for lunch and dinner. ''There was no evidence of nutritional deficiency,'' he wrote, ''but the working-class women were fat.''

and also:
As far as exercise and physical activity go, there are no reliable data before the mid-80's, according to William Dietz, who runs the division of nutrition and physical activity at the Centers for Disease Control; the 1990's data show obesity rates continuing to climb, while exercise activity remained unchanged. This suggests the two have little in common. Dietz also acknowledged that a culture of physical exercise began in the United States in the 70's -- the ''leisure exercise mania,'' as Robert Levy, director of the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute, described it in 1981 -- and has continued through the present day.

So basically they are claiming that research indicates (a) Italians are heavier because of their diet which is high in carbs, and (b) exercise has little impact on the overall obesity epidemic because exercise levels have remained constant for the past 20 years while obesity rates have continued to skyrocket. In other portions of the article they present the research which shows that the insulin response to foods such as potatoes, white bread, and rice results in the body becoming hungrier and storing more fat.

If you take all of these things together, it just doesn't make sense when applied to countries on a rice-based diet. What they found with the Italians doesn't seem to have a counterpart in Asians. They also discounted exercise. Part of the problem is that the research presented is very Euro-centric. Who were the people that they studied? When they say exercise levels remained constant, does that include only intentional exercise? Is there a genetic difference that makes Asians more likely to remain thin, the same way many Asian people are more likely to be lactose intolerant? It would be interesting to see a study done of Asian-Americans.

And, my personal question -- do carbs make you fat? (I would have to say no based on my own personal experience of losing weight and maintaining while getting 70% of my calories from carbohydrates.) Or is it just that eating A LOT of carbs makes you fat? Does eating a small amount of carbs make you eat a lot, therefore you get fat? Do people of different ethnic backgrounds have more sensitivity to carbohydrates and insulin?

beerab
12-23-2009, 05:33 PM
And, my personal question -- do carbs make you fat? (I would have to say no based on my own personal experience of losing weight and maintaining while getting 70% of my calories from carbohydrates.) Or is it just that eating A LOT of carbs makes you fat? Does eating a small amount of carbs make you eat a lot, therefore you get fat? Do people of different ethnic backgrounds have more sensitivity to carbohydrates and insulin?

For myself based on my personal experience carbs make me fat. But again that's due to insulin resistance issues from my PCOS. I know for me if I don't stick to around 30% carbs I don't lose weight- anything above that and up to about 55% I maintain- and then anything about 55% I gain.

And like I mentioned earlier- it seems certain ethnic backgrounds make a person more likely or less likely to have insulin resistance issues- I myself am middle eastern and it's very common amongst myself and my middle eastern friends.

It sucks cuz I LOVE carbs but I overall have to stay FAR away from them :(

missmumau
01-04-2010, 10:17 PM
Thanks for supplying that link, it was very interesting.

"However, there is no accounting for the fact that in countries in Asia where rice is the staple of the diet, there is much less obesity." When I visited Singapore, I was fortunate enough to have a conversation with a wonderful taxi driver. He said his daughter who worked for Singapore Airlines would never eat dinner. Also they eat out of bowls that you can hold in one hand - so there is not as much food as can go on one of our plates. I only saw one place to get snack junk food from and the only people there were Westerners. At the food court where we went for lunch one day, there was also cut up pieces of fruit that you could buy like watermelon, dragon fruit, etc.

My brother went to Japan on his honeymoon and although he is an average weight, said that some days he was so hungry between meals that he felt like crying. Again, it is a culture that doesn't snack.

I also found this really interesting: "The classic example is the statement heard repeatedly that 95 percent of all dieters never lose weight, and 95 percent of those who do will not keep it off. This will be correctly attributed to the University of Pennsylvania psychiatrist Albert Stunkard, but it will go unmentioned that this statement is based on 100 patients who passed through Stunkard's obesity clinic during the Eisenhower administration."

Thanks again.

kaplods
01-04-2010, 11:13 PM
I also think we somethings think that because rice is a staple in Asian countries, that Asian people are eating huge mounds of rice at every meal - basically eating the same amount/calories of food as we are. That's unlikely.

Rice may be providing most of the calories, but by volume, I suspect the greater part of the diet is coming from non-starchy vegetables - and the people are eating fewer calories per day than the typical American (and living far less sedentary lives).

I know in many cultures, rice is served most often in dishes such as congee (a rice porridge or soup). By serving the rice in broth, the calorie content per volume is greatly reduced. It becomes more filling on fewer calories (and if the rice porridge is served with foods containing protein/fat/fiber, the additions also reduce the glycemic index of the meal, which means it will be filling for much longer on fewer calories than eating rice dry and without condiment or accompaniment).

Mahalia
09-21-2010, 11:32 AM
The focus on rice doesn't take into account the low sugar content of Asian foods, as well. I agree with what has already been said, that portions are much smaller, but I also think it's important that they are not as likely to eat the sugary foods that we do, either.

As for Italians, hello, gelato?

shamrockin32
09-23-2010, 12:48 AM
I think it's all biased in one way or another... there is no "perfect" diet, because someone, somewhere will tell you that it's not healthy. It's a double edged sword, in my opinion.

Becky Quilts
12-06-2010, 03:17 PM
*Extremely* interesting article, thank you for sharing. Lengthy read (there's a "show on one page" link) but was well worth my time. It connected a lot of nutritional dots.

I've always found it interesting that the food pyramid is published by the US Dept of Agriculture, not the FDA as one would think. Seems like an obvious conflict of interest.
''High protein levels can be bad for the kidneys. High fat is bad for your heart. Now Reaven is saying not to eat high carbohydrates. We have to eat something.'' Has anyone considered moderation? The hard part is defining moderation.

Thanks again for the link.

Becky Quilts
12-06-2010, 04:07 PM
Counter article, also interesting.
reason.com/archives/2003/03/01/big-fat-fake/5

JenMusic
12-06-2010, 08:27 PM
I also think we somethings think that because rice is a staple in Asian countries, that Asian people are eating huge mounds of rice at every meal - basically eating the same amount/calories of food as we are. That's unlikely.

Rice may be providing most of the calories, but by volume, I suspect the greater part of the diet is coming from non-starchy vegetables - and the people are eating fewer calories per day than the typical American (and living far less sedentary lives).



Hmmm, I know this is an old thread, and I know there are many points of view, but I had to throw in my $.02 on this.

I lived and worked in NW China for 4 years. Although the staple in northern China is usually wheat in the form of noodles, rice is very common as well.

Yes, rice is served in smaller bowls. However, I measured once, and my "small" rice bowl held 1.5-2 cups of cooked white rice. It is very common for people to get seconds of rice at restaurants, and to do this for both lunch and dinner. Let's say, on the low side, that's 4 cups of cooked rice a day, coming out to almost 1000 calories of day of rice.

Servings of wheat noodles are similarly large.

I realize my comments are anecdotal, but I ate in restaurants all the time, as well as a guest in Chinese family homes. The carb consumption was huge.

Now, I'm with you on the activity level also being high. No elevators (student dorms went up to 10 stories); walking to the market every day; hauling drinkable water from the local water house (I didn't have to do this, but students did); mandatory PE in college . . . yes, people were more active. But a 1000 cals of rie a day more active?

Also, veggies were the most common accompaniment to rice, but the most common veggie? Potato - this is true where I was, I obviously can't speak for other regions, especially southern China.

I pondered weight loss a lot in China. I was close to my HW while there, and I wondered endlessly why I could eat such a similar diet, with a similar activity level, as my Chinese friends, and still be SOOOO much heavier than they were. Of course, looking back, I see all kinds of places where I was "hiding" extra calories. But I still don't think I could do all that rice! :)

RoseRodent
12-07-2010, 03:59 AM
A BBC TV show called "Horizon: Why are Thin People Not Fat?" did some very interesting studies. They stated that there is far too much research in obesity concentrating on the people who are obese or have been obese, but very, very little has been done on those people who are NOT obese, except as part of a control group. Few people have rounded up a group of thin subjects to see why they are thin.

Horizon studied a small group, so by no means conclusive research or anything, but they were logging their activity and diets very carefully. Most of the people had to withdraw from the program because they were physically unable to consume the required number of calories to take part in the weight gain experiment. One participant (an Asian male) actually gained muscle when he ate excess calories, and there's no evidence he worked out or did anything that would normally lead to muscle gain, just that it appears this is how his body metabolised and stored the excess calories.

The amount of weight gained by each subject was not at all in keeping with how much they ate, it did not follow the 3,500 cals to 1lb rule at all. Every single thin person automatically shed their extra weight after the experiment with no effort.

To maintain your weight you must eat a difference of no more than 7 cals per day, and the mechanism by which the human body does this naturally in some people is a source of fascination, as 7cals is the most tiny, tiny amount, how on earth does a body sum up all the different types of food and pick out a diet that varies by no more than 7 cals on average each day? With so much variety of food that our bodies have not had before no wonder they find it difficult to analyse the foods and assign values to it. Perhaps if you ate nothing but rice each day then not only would you become very bored with it and the desire is minimal but your body knows exactly how rice is ingested, digested, burned and stored, and will regulate your intake of rice to ensure it's appropriate to your physical needs. When you suddenly eat a Pop Tart your body doesn't know what to do with that. Maybe it's not so much what people in many carb-staple countries are eating, it's the sheer repetitive consumption of it?

Very interesting starting points, but unfortunately there is little funding to do obesity research with thin people as the powers that hand out funding don't see how it contributes, they'd rather "get fat people thin" than find out what causes the desire to get fat. And I think that's the underlying problem too, that they concentrate on factors that scientifically and objectively cause obesity - eating too many calories - but do not do much on "why does this person choose to eat too many calories when the next person doesn't" just assuming it's all "willpower". That's nonsense, if I desire a chocolate cake and my friend does NOT desire a chocolate cake then her refusal is not due to better willpower! It is not through willpower that I resist alcohol, illegal drugs, prescription drug addiction, etc. I just don't like them. I'm not better than the alcoholic, I'm not full of a fabulous willpower that he does not possess, I just look at alcohol and think "yuk".

foodmasochist
12-09-2010, 12:09 AM
*Extremely* interesting article, thank you for sharing. Lengthy read (there's a "show on one page" link) but was well worth my time. It connected a lot of nutritional dots.

I've always found it interesting that the food pyramid is published by the US Dept of Agriculture, not the FDA as one would think. Seems like an obvious conflict of interest.
Has anyone considered moderation? The hard part is defining moderation.

Thanks again for the link.

i know for me, part of what learning about the government and how things work encouraged me to become vegan. i learned some of it in skinny B--- sorry if you don't like that book, i know some people don't, and i learned some of it other places.

The FDA has extremely little say in anything when it comes to the health of animals & meat, and yes, the food pyramid people are the agricultural people, it doesn't make much sense. These are the same people who pimp all the meat and milk, buy up the excess, and then give it to the school programs (more good info on school lunches in "supersize me!" the older documentary you can watch online for free). Anyway, my point is, you lose faith in the bureaucracy when you learn more about it. Even if you hate the book, read the "trust no one" chapter in skinny b---- if you find this interesting, also the aspertame documentary online, i think it is called sweet poison.

For example, in the slaughterhouses, the people who run the place have the "approved by the USDA"stamp. They decide, once the inspectors leave, what gets stamped. Crazy.

i also learned a government agency has given Dominoe's pizza 12 MILLION dollars to increase cheese in their pizza and pay for advertising. i am sure you have noticed the new advertising-your tax money at work :) let me shut up now....

Good stuff!
-fm

Suzanne 3FC
12-15-2010, 10:48 AM
Counter article, also interesting.
reason.com/archives/2003/03/01/big-fat-fake/5

Fixing the link :)

http://reason.com/archives/2003/03/01/big-fat-fake

Very interesting. It appears the author of the original article misquoted a lot of doctors that he interviewed for this article. The doctors were upset, stating later that they did not say what Taubes claimed they said and they did not agree with his findings. Also, Taubes failed to include every study that had contradictory results, so that the article was biased and inaccurate.

I hope everyone that read the original article will read the follow up.

Sunshine73
12-15-2010, 12:01 PM
And I think that's the underlying problem too, that they concentrate on factors that scientifically and objectively cause obesity - eating too many calories - but do not do much on "why does this person choose to eat too many calories when the next person doesn't" just assuming it's all "willpower". That's nonsense, if I desire a chocolate cake and my friend does NOT desire a chocolate cake then her refusal is not due to better willpower! It is not through willpower that I resist alcohol, illegal drugs, prescription drug addiction, etc. I just don't like them. I'm not better than the alcoholic, I'm not full of a fabulous willpower that he does not possess, I just look at alcohol and think "yuk".

I definitely agree with this 100% and I think it's an interesting line of thought that should be investigated. I'm not an alcoholic because alcohol simply doesn't appeal to me. I can have a drink or two on occasion but I have no need or desire to have any more than that. I'm on a couple of prescription medications that are considered addictive but I take them when I need them and leave them be when I don't. There's no willpower involved - I just don't have any desire or drive to abuse them.

You're right - it's not that I'm any better or stronger than the drug addict or the alcoholic because I can resist the temptation - because for me, there is no temptation at all.

My hubs used to be an addict and I know that if I put a bag of marijuana on our kitchen counter he might be able to stop himself from smoking it but I also know that it would be one of the hardest things for him to do - even though he's been completely sober for over 10 years. It would call to him, tempt him and drive him out of his mind. While I would be able to ignore it completely and never even have a thought of trying it.

However, if that was tub of ice cream on our counter - I would be practically convulsing from the effort it would take me to keep from eating it and my hubs would walk by it without a problem.

Very weird how we're wired.

lackadaisy
05-24-2011, 03:48 PM
I'm from an Asian culture -- I'm Chinese.

Rice is a staple in the sense that about 1/3 cup to 1 cup of white rice (depending on the person; women take less) is a 'dinner portion' of rice for every individual in a traditional meal. The rice comes in a bowl that is full to the top with that rice, and you eat it with shared veggies and meats. That doesn't really mean you eat more rice than other things (esp if you are only taking 1/2 a cup).

Rice is a daily staple because it's cheap, filling (it's cooked to be very puffy), and goes well with low-fat vegetable and meat dishes alike. Banquets and other celebratory meals de-emphasize rice/carbs and tend to emphasize complicated/well-spiced meat and vegetable dishes. In all of these cases, slender Asian women still emphasize proper portion control.

I don't think rice being a staple means that people eat tons of carbs... it means they eat less pasta and bread.

Kaonashi
05-24-2011, 11:22 PM
I agree. Even with sashimi you have a nice portion of fish on top of each piece of rolled rice, and they're meant to be eaten together.

Personally, I think that portion control is a key factor because in countries like France (where all sorts of tasty, buttery things lurk), Japan, Ethiopia, etc the portions are a lot smaller than what we're used to in the good ole USA. Here, we're conditioned early on that "more is better" so we get used to eating more at one sitting. Going out to a buffet? Better eat your money's worth! Why get the Happy Meal (which IMO has enough food for a basic lunch) when you can Supersize EVERYTHING? And our restaurant portions border on ridiculous; unless you are a lumberjack or an athlete who burns 6000+ calories daily in training who needs those calories you can almost always doggybag half your meal and still have an ample portion for the next day. We also buy more things that are ready-prepared (with all sorts of preservatives and who-knows-what stuffed inside) rather than making things from scratch.

Kery
05-25-2011, 02:56 AM
I was wondering about the portion thing as well: people in different cultures being used to different sizes of plates, bowls..., and also perhaps being used from an early age to a different kind of lifestyle as well. I.e. people in Asia eating lots of rice but being pretty active otherwise vs. a Western person adopting such a diet but gaining weight/not losing weight on it, even if "suddenly" becoming more active. Could it be also that unconsciously, we are still not as active -- thinking we are, getting the feeling that we are, but in fact still "saving" on our calories? (Cf. people on the phone: one sitting on her cough to phone, the other pacing through the room while talking. We don't really pay attention to such little gestures, and yet in the long run, maybe they also do influence our bodies' calories expenditure?)

This said, being used to different portions plays a part IMHO. (Which is also why I don't eat at buffets anymore, because I just can't get my money's worth anyway. :lol:)