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

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Old 12-22-2009, 01:24 PM   #1
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Post "What if it's all been a big fat lie?" [NY Times Article]

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/ma...l?pagewanted=1

First paragraph:

Quote:
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.
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Old 12-22-2009, 01:40 PM   #2
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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.
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Old 12-22-2009, 01:54 PM   #3
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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.
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Old 12-22-2009, 01:55 PM   #4
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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.
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Old 12-22-2009, 02:05 PM   #5
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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.
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Old 12-22-2009, 02:19 PM   #6
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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.
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Old 12-22-2009, 03:46 PM   #7
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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.
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Old 12-22-2009, 04:31 PM   #8
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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.
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Old 12-22-2009, 04:45 PM   #9
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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)
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Old 12-22-2009, 04:59 PM   #10
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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:

Quote:
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:
Quote:
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?
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Old 12-23-2009, 05:33 PM   #11
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Originally Posted by paperclippy View Post
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
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Old 01-04-2010, 10:17 PM   #12
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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.
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Old 01-04-2010, 11:13 PM   #13
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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).
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Old 09-21-2010, 11:32 AM   #14
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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?
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Old 09-23-2010, 12:48 AM   #15
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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.
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