The Pet Parallel

I have a Golden Retriever and two cats.  (All were rescues by the way.)  All are obese.  I recently spent a lot of time reading labels at Petsmart, trying to find both dog and cat foods that were low-carb.  Nothing seemed to fit the bill.  So I got the idea that perhaps I could just feed them all raw meat.  I searched the web for advice and found that the whole subject of whether or not it is safe to feed pets raw meat has crazy parallels to the low-carb/high-fat for humans debate, that is the topic of this blog.

Advocates of feeding raw meat to dogs and cats are full of first hand accounts of curing their pet’s diabetes, irritable bowel disease, skin conditions, and of course obesity, and some advocates happen to be doctors of veterinary medicine.  Meanwhile the vets that argue that it is unsafe claim that raw meat carries microscopic parasites that will cause illness.  The raw meat people respond by saying that the animals are generally immune to these parasites and that vets are getting their information from pet food companies who are deliberately out to misinform.  They even tout articles from scientific journals that back their position.

Of course you know whose side I am on in this debate.  How anyone can argue with a straight face that feeding a domesticated wolf raw meat is dangerous for their health is completely beyond me.  I’ve seen my Golden Retriever eat a rotting fish that was a least a week old.  If that didn’t make him sick, then what’s in some ground pork from the supermarket that will?

And the debate gets truly absurd about cats.  Unlike the omnivorous canines, cats are obligate carnivores.  This means that they have to eat meat or they die.  Their natural diet is field mice, and the occasional bird.  Cats can’t handle the toxins in a host of plants.  We all know not to let a cat eat your holiday poinsettia, but if you could somehow feed a cat some onion, this would kill it as well.  Meanwhile we are told by manufacturers that feeding cats cereal grains is the healthiest diet for them, and that it is perfectly safe.

Well I’ve made the switch.  I am feeding the Golden ground pork that I buy from the asian supermarket for under $2 a pound.  It actually costs less per pound than the IAMS dry dog food it is replacing.  The dog is clearly happy with the change.  I am now feeding my cats partially cooked chicken.  It is a little bit of a hassle and one of the cats is clearly unhappy with the change but I expect he’ll get over it.  I’ll keep you posted on this grand experiment.  For further reading on this topic check out:

catnutrition.org

http://feline-nutrition.org/health/a-vets-view-andrea-tasi-vmd

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Raw_feeding

http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?file=/gate/archive/2003/09/29/urbananimal.DTL

A Choir Of Heretics

In the introduction to this blog, and in my page on The Alternative Hypothesis, I referred to a letter to the editor of the New York Times that was written by Gary Taubes back in January. I reread that letter yesterday and then for the first time read a large portion of the comments written by the letter’s signators. I felt that some were too good to be buried in a list of what is now nearly 1,250 signatures. So with the power of copy and paste I give you:

“My experience as preventive cardiologist and lipidologist confirm insulin-producing foods as the major contributor to weight gain (especially abdominal adiposity), dyslipidemia, insulin resistance and associated metabolic derangements leading to diabetes. 17 million diabetics at present and tens of millions more on their way if we don’t change the way we approach this problem and fast.” Jonathan Fialkow MD, FACC, FAHA, Cardiovascular Center of South Florida

“It is a shame that newspeople do not seek out experienced, learned Bariatricians to comment before the newspeople spout gibberish. Misconceptions permeate this health crisis, including MDs who have not kept up with the changing science regarding obesity and it’s treatment and prevention.” Raymond Gerard Mock, Jr. MD, ASBP.

“I fully support carbohydrate restriction as the principal modality for achieving weight loss and improving cardiovascular health. Obesity is not an incurable condition but knowledge of its key determinants – in particular carbohydrate excess in modern life – is critical to its amelioration and highly effective for doing so.” Daniel Hackam BSc MD PhD FRCPC, Division of Clinical Pharmacology, Department of Medicine, University of Western Ontario

“Mr Taubes has written extensively on this topic and his investigative work clearly supports it is carbohydrates, especially fructose and not fat in the diet that drives obesity.” Thomas Dayspring MD, FACP, FNLA, UMDNJ, NJ Medical School

“Repairing insulin resistance is key to successful long term weight loss. The deluge of refined carbs that we are confronted with daily have made it difficult to stay with a more restricted eating style. A cultural shift needs to take place if we are to really address the obesity crisis. Thanks for your thoughtful article. This is a conversation that needs to be brought to the public. ” Gail Altschuler, MD, ASBP

“Well done. Care for the wonderful people obese by the poison the food industry profits from, as I do, and you would be quick to agree.” Warren Willey DO, ASBP

“As a practicing physician I have used a Paleo style low carbohydrate meal plan and lifestyle with great success to improve cholesterol, reverse hypertension and type 2 diabetes, improve type 1 diabetes, as well as improving autoimmune disorders. And yes, it is the most effective weight loss program available in my clinical opinion.” Ronald Scott Kempton, MD, ASBP

“Well said. I would further add that the glycemic index and glycemic load of a particular food should be required on our nutritional labels.” Debra Ravasia, MD, FACOG, ASBP

“I’m a board certified Lipidologist, and have devoted my career to addressing obesity, pre-diabetes, cardiovascular disease, etc. I strongly concur that Insulin Resistance is the root of most of the evil in our society, caused by excessive carbohydrates/sugars, and especially fructose.” Eric J. Bush, MD, Fairview Hospital

“As a physician who has specialized in obesity for 20 years and who has spent the last ten years focusing my practice on weight maintenance, I fully agree with the points made above. The adoption of a diet that is very low in sugars and starches and which looks a great deal more like our ancient human diet appears to be highly successful in inducing and maintaining weight loss. As hunter-gatherers, our ancestors were not exposed to large loads of sugars, nor to situations in which insulin required frequent and significant production. It seems likely, then, that our insulin system is a fragile one, and that we may be seeing the consequences of continuous overuse. While obesity resolves and people are far less hungry on diets that lower sugar and starch consumption, a problem remains. Foods that ultimately become glucose tend to have an addictive nature. While we can imagine ourselves becoming vegetarian with only minimal pain, the idea of giving up bread, pasta and sugar is anathema to many of us. This is a shame, since those who attempt such a diet are often rewarded not just with good health and weight, but with a feeling of being freed from the control of food.”(www.refusetoregain.com) Barbara E. Berkeley, MD, LakeHealth System, Cleveland, Ohio

“I would like the NY Times to allow Gary Taubes or anyone from the Nutrition and Metabolism Society to respond to this article so as to avoid discouraging would-be dieters from even trying to lose weight, and to avoid encouraging doctors to wrongly blame their patients “lack of willpower”” Dr. Cate Shanahan, Queen Of The Valley Medical Center, Napa Valley, CA

“As a Physician’s Assistant in primary care for thirty five years, I became frustrated with the traditional energy approach to dieting. If I convinced a patient of the power that carbohydrates had over appetite, they could change habits, lose,weight, reduce blood pressure, not to mention normalize blood pressure. It seems criminal that people like the NYT author have been hoodwinked into believing they have no willpower and continue to count calories. More frustrating is the point you make regarding well known facts on the physiology of insulin. Thanks for offering to enlighten the public on this. Good luck. I fear the gods are against you.” Chris Lohry, AAPA

“Below is a key sentence in the article by Tara Parker- Pope: ‘Nutritionists counselled them in person and by phone, promoting regular exercise and urging them to eat more vegetables and less fat.’ Eating less fat typically means eating more carbohydrate-probably of the ‘heart healthy whole grain’ variety typically given by nutritionists. Many obese people, although not all, are insulin resistant. Insulin resistance is in essence a manifestation of carbohydrate intolerance. If those who lost weight in the studies mentioned in the article kept their total carbohydrate consumption to less that 80 to 100 grams per day, they would likely remain free of future weight gain. Those with severe insulin resistance may have less tolerance for carbohydrate, perhaps as little as 50 grams per day.” Jeff Reagan Ph.D., Department of Metabolic Disorders, Amgen, Inc.

“Carbohydrates are inflammatory and fattening. Nutrition guidelines need to change with scientific knowledge. Not only do my patients lose weight and keep it off they treat and prevent disease.” Jeffry N Gerber, MD (http://denversdietdoctor.com/)

“It’s 2012! Science, optimism and a symphony support of techniques WILL change the face of national weight disease.” Thomas R. Schneider, MD, FACS, ASBP

“An excellent response with easily understood logical approaches even for those with their heads in a sand pit.” James L. Bland, MD, JD, ASBP

“Modern biochemical and physiological science does indeed understand much of the underlying cause of the modern obesity epidemic, as well as the solution.” Aaron Blaisdell, PhD, UCLA Psychology and Brain Research Institute

“The fact that obesity is caused by excessive carbohydrate intake and too little fat in the diet has actually been known since William Banting wrote his Letter on Corpulence in 1863. And controlled clinical trials in the first third of the 20th century proved it consistently. Those professionals who insist that weight maintenance is all about calories and exercise have no excuse for not knowing their professed subject. They are incompetent.” Barry Groves

“I absolutely agree with Mr. Taubes as a clinician and as an individual with obesity as a child. To go further, the most significant health benefits are for those who make the most radical changes in their diets. In other words, the “middle road” is almost certain to fail when you are already obese. Saying goodbye to carbs should happen much sooner for some (like when your triglycerides go up). When are we ever going to be scientific? Clearly fewer and fewer of us are “genetically lucky”.” Jerry Suminski, MD

“yes yes yes a thousand times yes, I have been preaching this concept to my patients for years and guess what,,,the patients that follow my no refined sugar diet, less process food loose weight and their lipoprotein profiles thank me…thank you Gary for printing what most of us already know from experience!!! Kathleen Dively, associates in cardiology, lipid specialist

“I have written a book titled, The Tubby Traveler from Topeka. It is a year long case study of being on a low carb diet with 60% fat while doing advanced lipid testing, CAC and CIMT.” Brian Scott Edwards, MD, Diplomate of National Lipid Association

“Because the recent large increase in obesity rates has occurred over such a short time period (i.e., 2-3 generations), it cannot be explained by a change in inherited risk (e.g., genetic drift or natural selection increasing the frequency of adverse alleles for obesity-associated genes). Environmental factors are clearly implicated, and changes in diet would seem to provide the most likely explanation for the obesity epidemic in Western countries.” Robert E. Tarone, International Epidemiology Institute

“I had to relearn the physiology of and effect insulin has on fat metabolism. When I started to apply these concepts to the care of my patients they not only started losing weight but have had a dramatic overall improvement in their health. This is an idea whose time has come…back!” James M Weiss MD (http://www.privatemds.com/)

“Excellent! All my patients who understand insulin and its role in obesity are successfully losing weight. They understand what to eat to prevent those insulin spikes and they are burning fat and dropping pounds. I recommend the “Paleo” diet to everyone. I myself have lost nearly 100 lbs eating this way. I am a type II diabetic and I used to be on 4 diabetes medications and a cholesterol lowering medication. 10 years after my diagnosis I am off all medications and my last a1c was 5.3.” Laura Voss, DO, Cass Regional Medical Center Department of Family Medicine, ASBP

“We have known since Benedict (1917) through Keys (1945), Stunkard & Hume (1959) to Franz (2007) that eat less/do more does not achieve sustained weight loss. Quite the opposite – as Parker-Pope has discovered – it tends to lead to weight gain over time. The definition of madness is doing the same thing and expecting a different result. Stop the madness!” Zoë Harcombe

“If Ms. Parker-Pope is correct, I must be some sort of freak! I struggled with my weight for many years. However, when I started restricting carbohydrates in my diet, especially those derived from grains, I lost weight quickly and kept it off for 6 years. In addition, I lowered my triglycerides, improved my cholesterol ratio, boosted my energy, increased my immune function and stopped having painful kidney stone attacks that I had experienced every 2 years from age 25 to 42. I agree that people who are overweight should not be disparaged for their metabolic condition, particularly when they are encouraged by the USDA to eat precisely those foods that will cause them to gain weight. However, to suggest that people have no control over their weight or wellness is irresponsible. I feel so empowered since I discovered that I CAN influence my health by eating what my body needs – virtually the opposite to what is recommended by the USDA: high fat, low carbohydrate, plenty of salt.“ Adrienne Larocque, PhD, Healthy Nation Coalition

“Ms. Parker-Pope’s article was really excellent in many respects. I applaud her honesty and her citations of some important studies as well as her superb writing style. The insulin-obesity axis is so well-established, however, that the public NEEDS to know about it. While dietary needs can vary from person-to-person, depending on age, sex, lifestyle, etc., and there is not a one-size-fits-all optimum diet, the role of insulin in weight gain is solid science. What is most telling is the fact that so many physicians have switched to advising their patients to restrict carbohydrates and raise fat in the diet, based on positive results in the short-term AND long-term. Also, this approach is backed up by our understanding of the biochemistry of insulin.” Wendy Pogozelski, Professor, Department of Chemistry SUNY Geneseo

“The cause of obesity is well known. It occurs in those with insulin resistance (carbohydrate intolerance) when they eat more than about 80 grams of carbohydrate per day. As one with insulin resistance I have been able to return my body to my adolescent weight, to exercise vigorously and to reverse my pre-diabetic state by rigorously restricting my carbohydrate intake and eating as much fat and protein as I like. This personal experience confirms what Gary Taubes and others have described in their books and scientific works.” Professor Timothy Noakes OMS, MBChB, MD, DSc, PhD (hc), FACSM, (hon) FFSEM (UK) Department of Human Biology, University of Cape Town, South Africa

“The New York Times could help resolve this issue by holding a conference in which the “two worlds” discuss the issues. The NIH, USDA, AHA, etc. have consistently refused to discuss things with those who work in dietary carbohydrate restriction.” Richard David Feinman, State University of New York Downstate Medical Center

“Mr. Taubes provides a persuasive rebuttal to “The Fat Trap,” worthy of our support. In recent decades Americans embraced a diet once reserved for fattening meat pigs and other livestock, placing human health, productivity and our economy in peril. Even prior to 1912 Cornell University reported optimal obesity gains in swine (omnivores, like us) when fed with corn, kafir corn and grain middlings (carbohydrates) plus skim milk (low fat). We must reverse this trend by reducing carbohydrates and increasing natural fats if we are to rescue the health of our nation.” Ann M. Childers, MD

“The majority of health professionals prefer carbohydrates to fats in dealing with obesity and illnesses is because they have forgot that it is blood glucose in excess being converted into fats with the help from insulin. Replacing carbohydrates with fats and proteins helps increase satiety and decrease the calorie intake, thus facilitate weight loss without the need of starvation. It is a shame that these health professionals have forgot what they learned in biochemistry 101.” Robert K. Su, Pharm.B., M.D. (www.carbohydratescankill.com)

“Ms Parker-Pope is herself a classic example of why the obesity epidemic persists and worsens. Even the most intelligent, well educated, and successful members of our society have accepted as truth the misbegotten beliefs and antiquated bad science perpetuated by politicized governmental authorities and profit driven food manufacturers. Our society must change it’s attitude and beliefs before it can change its weight! The public must reject the celebrity “doctors” and glossy magazine propaganda, and seek out the small but growing number of medical experts in the specialty of non-surgical Bariatric Medicine.” Michael D. Kane D.O., ASBP

“Believe it or not. This is the state of the art. Yet most of American Medicine does not yet perceive or understand it.” Geoffrey V Drew M.D. ASBP

“My research confirms that this petition needs to be read by everyone.” Nancy Appleton, PhD, author of Suicide By Sugar.

“While this analysis is clearly a little oversimplified, from my over 15 years of clinical experience with what does, versus does not work to dramatically reduce the problems humans have with obesity, atherosclerosis progression (which, as has been known for decades to begin, on average, in later childhood, about age 7) and eventually clinically obvious cardiovascular disease and cardiovascular disasters, this statement is clearly much closer to reality than many of the myths which have long been promoted by the medical industry. The medical industry largely focuses on symptoms and advanced disease, i.e. failure, not success. I have long found it sadly interesting (demoralizing actually) the extent to which many issues promoted by the medical industry do not promote the best interests and success of the people we are supposed to be helping. Correct understandings of how our clients can best protect their interests and keep down costs for treating end-stage disease complications (often in expensive yet relatively ineffective ways) is relatively rare. Instead, oversimplified and misleading information often seems to dominate.” Milton E. Alvis, Jr., M.D.

“My family has a significant degree of genetic insulin-resistance which has resulted in obesity, “Type II Diabetes” (including my father and grandfather who died from complications), mood, energy and eating disorders (chronic fatigue, ADHD, and bulimia) high blood sugar, and GI issues. My siblings and children have seen near complete reversal of all of these issues with the adoption of low-carb lifestyles over the past 12 years. I hope Tara Parker-Pope and her readers will all benefit from the wisdom of this letter, as my children and I have.” Peggy Holloway

“The 2010 NHANES data just released has the prevalence of adult obesity at over 35% for both sexes. That the prevalence of obesity and diabetes has increased THREE FOLD since Americans were first counseled to eat less calories, eat low-fat and exercise more thirty years ago is surely not a coincidence. Continuing with these ineffective and possibly obesity-causing public health recommendations is, as Einstein would say, the definition of insanity. It is time for the government to swallow its pride and start funding research to examine the best current alternative hypothesis to explain metabolic syndome: that refined carbohydrates, sugars and starches, have caused this epidemic of metabolic syndrome. Our obese and diabetic citizens, many of whom are economically-disadvantaged, deserve better from our government and the public health community.” Robert Wright, University of Georgia, College of Public Health

“After reading Taubes book I read a variety of textbook and articles on fat metabolism and agree with his conclusions. In addition, one friend who used this information to lose and keep off 40 pounds, also got rid of his Non-alcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH), possible another advantage of reducing insulin levels.” Frank McCullar, MD

Another Happy Convert

A good read:

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/rick-foster/no-sugar-diet_b_1397439.html

60 Minutes Story On Sugar

Kudos to Dr. Sanjay Gupta for doing this story last Sunday on CBS’ 60 Minutes, although the interview of the sugar farmer was pretty pointless.

60 Minutes – Is Sugar Toxic?

Science of Low Carb

A video worthy of reposting from the blog of Swedish physician Andreas Eenfeldt, MD.  It is an interview with Eric C. Westman, M.D., the Director of the Lifestyle Medicine Clinic at Duke University, and the Vice President of the American Society of Bariatric Physicians.  This interview contains great advice about fat phobia.  I was also surprised and pleased to see the discussion shift from weight loss to other diseases, including IBS.

The Alternative Hypothesis

‘Obesity is caused by eating too many calories and not enough exercise.’ 

This statement is so widely accepted as true that most are shocked to learn that it has ever been debated.  It seems on the surface to be a restatement of a fundamental law of the physical sciences, known as The First Law Of Thermodynamics, or Conservation of Energy.  As it relates to obesity, this law means that the amount of calories (energy) a person stores in the form of fat has to equal the amount they eat less the amount they burn.  In other words, in a closed system, energy is not created out of nothing and it doesn’t just disappear.  Energy is conserved.

But there is an alternative explanation for obesity that doesn’t violate The First Law Of Thermodynamics, and it has a very long history.  In fact, The Alternative Hypothesis (now routinely capitalized) was taken so seriously at one time that it became the majority view of the nutritional science community in Germany prior to the second World War.   The debate in our country was silenced in the 1970s, when the U.S. federal government adopted a public health policy that included dietary recommendations. Congress picked a side, and advocates of The Alternative Hypothesis soon found themselves marginalized, unable to get their research funded.

In recent years, an epidemic of obesity and a growing list of research findings have simultaneously discredited the conventional view and lent strong support to The Alternative Hypothesis.  At the same time there has been a growing group of journalists, scientists, physicians, and lay people calling for the debate to be reopened and for a reassessment of public health funding.  This is the subject of two books by author Gary Taubes, one of the leaders of cause.  Good Calories, Bad Calories (2008), is a densely written tome with 166 pages of footnotes.  It is targeted at scientists and medical professionals.  Why We Get Fat: And What to Do About It (2010), is a much shorter and more accessible treatment aimed at lay people.  I strongly recommend both of these books.

The Alternative Hypothesis says that the amount of fat that your body stores is regulated by a system that, when operating properly, keeps body weight balanced for optimal health. It works by controlling your hunger and the energy that you have available to burn calories. If you become very active and burn a lot of calories, then the system adjusts your hunger so that you take in more calories to keep everything in a proper balance. Conversely, if you run a calorie deficit, the system saps your available energy so that you burn as few calories as possible until the balance is restored.  Obesity is simply a breakdown of this system, and overeating and sedentary behavior are symptoms of the illness, but they are not the cause.

Now consider the difference between these two statements:

  1. For obesity to occur, more calories must be consumed than are burned.
  2. Obesity is caused by consuming more calories than are burned.

The Alternative Hypothesis accuses the conventional view of making a logical fallacy known as Cum Hoc Ergo Propter Hocor mistaking correlation for causality.  An example of this fallacy would be the observation that the rooster crows every time the sun comes up, and therefore concluding that the rooster’s crow causes the sun to come up.  In future posts, you’ll be reading a lot about this logical fallacy because it is at the heart of most of the misinformation in nutrition science.  The Alternative Hypothesis is in complete agreement with statement 1 (a restatement of The First Law Of Thermodynamics) but it says that statement 2 is totally false.

The idea that body fat is self-regulating is easy to wrap your mind around when you consider the multitude of other systems in human biology that work exactly the same way. Every second of your survival requires maintaining a host of systems within a very limited range of parameters. These include your body temperature, water content, blood salt concentration, blood pressure, blood glucose levels, blood oxygen levels, blood iron levels, blood calcium levels, blood potassium levels, blood volume, extracellular fluid levels, and on and on and on. The ability of an animal to regulate the internal environment of its body, the milieu intérieur, as pioneering physiologist Claude Bernard called it is known as homeostasis (Greek for “standing still”).

You are familiar with many other homeostasis regulators in your body by the names of the diseases that result when the system fails. Glaucoma results when the intraocular pressure system fails to maintain homeostasis. Epileptic seizures occur when homeostasis of the neural activity of the brain is not maintained. Gout is caused by a failure of the homeostasis regulator for uric acid levels in the blood.

So when someone suggests that obesity (and perhaps anorexia) are caused by the failure of a homeostasis regulator for body fat storage, it is not an outrageous supposition. If such a system didn’t exist, you’d have to wonder why not. Why do we have to fight hunger to stay lean and healthy when all these other systems maintain homeostasis automatically?

Now lets take this one step further and say that excess carbohydrates in the diet is the stressor that ultimately causes the breakdown of body fat regulation known as obesity.  [Note: I am referring to the subset of carbohydrates that are digestible by humans – sugars and starches – and not the complex undigestible ones known as dietary fiber.]

Gary Taubes spends a considerable amount of time in his book Good Calories, Bad Calories discussing the exact mechanism for fat regulation and how it breaks down.  The discussion focuses on the hormone insulin.  If you are into that, read his book.  I am going to steer clear of this topic.  Taubes could be mistaken about some minor aspect of the biochemistry but still be right about the general truth.  And I have no qualifications to participate in a debate about biochemistry.

When the system break down occurs, the level of fat that your body stores (homeostasis) shifts.  How much is a function of the amount of carbohydrates in your diet, your genetics, and the amount of time your system is stressed.  Some individuals might become obese as babies, others upon middle age, and others not at all.

This model for obesity predicts several commonly observed features of the disease that conventional wisdom does a poor job explaining.  For example, throughout my life, I have known people who seemed to be able to eat almost anything and they did not gain weight.  I have also known people who never showed a trace of obesity and then over a short period of time they became obese.  The idea that these people just one day let themselves go begs the question: what changed?

The Alternative Hypotheses explains why dieting generally doesn’t work.  If you starve yourself by restricting calories and cause short term weight loss but fail to address the underlying fat regulation disorder, then when you go back to a normal eating pattern, you should quickly return to the weight you were at when you started. This “Oprah” effect is common. It also describes my personal experience with weight loss.

Perhaps you are thinking, “But I know people who have lost weight by restricted calorie dieting and kept it off.  If the Alternative Hypothesis is right, how can that happen?”  If you put yourself in a calorie deficit by starving yourself, you are at the same time cutting the carbohydrates that stress your fat regulation system. Starvation is a low carb diet (and unnecessarily a low fat and low protein diet.)  If someone loses a lot of weight dieting, you can bet that their total carb intake was cut dramatically.  And if they are keeping the weight off, then you can bet that their total carb consumption is nowhere close to its original level.  A shocker would be to find people who have lost weight while boosting their total carbohydrate consumption.  Good luck finding examples of that.

Now that we are on the subject of carbohydrates, it is important to understand a basic rule regarding macronutrients.  There are three macronutrients: protein, carbohydrates, and fat.  Each is a fuel source for human beings, and each are handled differently by the body.  For the sake of this discussion it is important to understand that when people change their diet, it is a well known fact that they generally keep the percentage of total calories from protein at a constant level.  (In fact, the amount of protein your body can handle in your diet is limited.  If you ate nothing but protein, you would die from a condition known as rabbit starvation.)  So when people cut the percentage of total calories from carbohydrates, they boost their fat consumption proportionately.  Conversely, cutting fat in your diet raises the percentage of calories from carbs proportionately.  The recommendation to ‘eat less fat in your diet’ can be restated as ‘eat more carbs.’  The recommendation to ‘eat fewer carbs’ can be restated as ‘eat more fat.’

So now you can see the crux of the debate.  Conventional dietary wisdom says that since fat is the densest source of calories in our diet, it should be eaten very sparingly.  Furthermore, there is something called the lipid hypothesis (which will be the subject of a later post) that says heart disease is caused by elevated blood cholesterol levels.  And since eating fat is generally believed to raise cholesterol, conventional wisdom says a low fat diet should reduce your risk of heart disease and lead to weight loss.  The Alternative Hypothesis says that the opposite is true.

When Congress sided with the conventional explanation for obesity, they also made the recommendation that people eat a low fat diet.  Advocates of The Alternative Hypothesis expected that these recommendations would lead to an epidemic of obesity in America, and that is exactly what has happened.  (Documentaries like “Super Size Me,” from 2004, who blame the obesity epidemic on companies like McDonald’s for selling super-sized portions, are yet another example of the Cum Hoc Ergo Propter Hoc fallacy.)

Now, there is a stack of respected research demonstrating that low carb/high fat diets result in weight loss and a lowering of risk factors for heart disease. Diets that are highest in carbohydrates (and lowest in fat) are the least successful, often demonstrating weight gain.  And yet physicians are largely ignoring these findings.  This wouldn’t be so difficult if the dietary recommendations weren’t directly the opposite of conventional wisdom.

The Alternative Hypothesis also leads you to think of obesity as primarily a physical malady, rather than a psychological disorder. This not as controversial a thing to say as it once was because the problem is so prevalent that obesity has a lot of defenders. The same cannot be said for anorexia nervosa. The idea that anorexia might be fundamentally caused by the breakdown of the body’s weight regulation system is heretical at present, but it sure helps explain the low rate of recovery from that disease.

The Alternative Hypothesis has far reaching social and economic implications. And it should be of interest to everyone, regardless of whether they struggle with obesity or not. The Alternative Hypothesis means that eating high carb foods is willingly subjecting yourself to a risk factor for disease that is probably much worse for your health, in the long run, than cigarettes.  It will surely take some time for this truth to become common knowledge.  But when it does, the societal attitude shift will be even more dramatic than the shift that has taken place since cigarettes were being advertised in the Journal of the American Medical Association – yes I said the Journal of the AMA.

Begin Here

I have approximate answers and possible beliefs in different degrees of certainty about different things, but I’m not absolutely sure of anything.” Richard Feynman

This blog is partly about how I overcame a seemingly unrelated group of health problems and got off a bunch of medications by learning about human metabolism and making radical changes to my diet. More importantly though, it is about the following question: What kind of diet is the healthiest for a human being? Truths which were so vital to my physical transformation suggest an answer to that question that is so antithetical to conventional wisdom that it inspires outrage from most people. My desire to help similarly afflicted people by sharing my experience and insights has been put into direct conflict with my fear of alienation and ridicule. This blog represents the victory of the former over the latter.

About 15 years ago, I considered myself well informed on the subject of diet and health. My opinions were based on having read many articles and having watched many television programs all offering the same coherent story. I had been given a very clear and logically consistent understanding of what it meant to eat healthy, and I tried to live by this knowledge. It was easy for me to dismiss alternative opinions because I knew that mine were shared by the vast majority of medical professionals.

But then, driven by my own deteriorating health, I encountered a handful of facts that were at the same time highly relevant to the treatment of my physical condition, and directly contradictory to everything I thought I understood about human diet. I could not continue to maintain my belief system without dismissing these facts, and no matter how much I tried, these facts persisted. They are the food heresies, and they ate away at the very core of my beliefs like a cancer. I learned of an alternative explanation for these facts (The Alternative Hypothesis) and a growing movement among scientists and physicians to increase awareness and hopefully scientific research funding to further examine this hypothesis.  I decided to put this idea to the test. I radically changed my diet. The results have been astonishing. I went from being a slave to Big Pharma taking over $400 per month in prescription medications,to being medication free and feeling better than I’d felt in 25 years.

But this personal confirmation of an alternative view of nutrition science came at a high cost. I now believe that the field of nutrition science and public health is utterly bankrupt. I think that much of what is taught to physicians in medical school on the subject is completely wrong, as is most of what we are exposed to in the popular media. I further believe that much of the so called research in nutrition science is less about advancing knowledge and more about advancing a corporate agenda for some powerful group in Washington. And my heart aches for the countless people that are suffering tragically or dying unnecessarily every day, because this knowledge simply isn’t out there.

I understand that these are extraordinary claims and that you may already be inclined to stop reading and forget all about this. But before you do, know that I am not alone. There is a growing number of scientists, physicians and lay people that are lending their voice to the heretical ideas that I am about to share. For example, in January, a letter was sent to the editor of The New York Times after they published a story by Tara Parker-Pope about obesity. The letter stated “Until the medical researchers themselves and the journalists, like Ms. Parker-Pope, who cover the field, acknowledge that there is indeed an alternative explanation… …there is little hope for progress.” That Alternative Hypothesis for obesity to which the author refers has a direct bearing on everything I wish to discuss. The letter was signed by over 250 MDs and PhDs, and the New York Times published a condensed version of it. It is not an exaggeration to say that this blog is about the front line of a revolution in human biology. Part of the satisfaction I get from writing this is knowing that I may be making it slightly more difficult for others to marginalize the champions of the cause.

To My Story