Yet Another Silly Study About White Rice!

If you look at arti­cles about East Asian coun­tries in issues of Nation­al Geo­graph­ic from the ear­ly 20th cen­tu­ry, you will notice two things. One is that many of the peo­ple in East Asia were eat­ing a lot of white rice. The oth­er is that only the rich peo­ple and the sumo wrestlers were over­weight. That’s because the rich peo­ple and the sumo wrestlers were eat­ing some­thing besides rice and veg­eta­bles.

Con­tin­ue read­ing “Yet Anoth­er Sil­ly Study About White Rice!”

Can You Get Too Much Omega 3 Fatty Acid?

Late­ly, many peo­ple have been claim­ing that fish is health food. The Amer­i­can Heart Asso­ci­a­tion and the Amer­i­can Dia­betes Asso­ci­a­tion urge peo­ple to eat fish. Yet if peo­ple fol­low that advice, they’ll still be at risk for heart dis­ease and dia­betes and they might increase their risk for can­cer. The omega 3 fat­ty acids in fish oil can end up in the fat­ty deposits that clog people’s arter­ies. Like oth­er fats, they pro­mote insulin resis­tance. Also, eat­ing too much omega 3 fat­ty acid could pro­mote can­cer by sup­press­ing the immune sys­tem.

Con­tin­ue read­ing “Can You Get Too Much Omega 3 Fat­ty Acid?”

How Congress Could Help Us Eat Better

Why do the peo­ple of the Unit­ed States keep get­ting fat­ter and sick­er?  One rea­son is that our fed­er­al gov­ern­ment is using our tax dol­lars to make bad food cheap, instead of mak­ing good food afford­able. It doesn’t have to be that way. Con­gress could decide to stop sub­si­diz­ing the pro­duc­tion of meat, dairy prod­ucts, and refined sug­ars and instead sub­si­dize the pro­duc­tion and dis­tri­b­u­tion of healthy foods, espe­cial­ly fruits and veg­eta­bles. On July 28, 2011, the Physi­cians Com­mit­tee for Respon­si­ble Med­i­cine issued a report explain­ing how Con­gress could go about doing that.

On a recent trip to Ohio, I saw the effects of our cur­rent agri­cul­tur­al sub­si­dies per­son­al­ly. I saw field after field of corn and soy­beans and alfal­fa that were being grown to feed farm ani­mals. I saw hard­ly any agri­cul­tur­al land ded­i­cat­ed to grow­ing plant-based food for human beings to eat. I saw hun­dreds of fast food out­lets, but only the occa­sion­al pro­duce stand. So it should come as no sur­prise that more than a quar­ter of the adults in Ohio are obese.

The Glycemic Index Won’t Help You Lose Weight

Late­ly, many nutri­tion gurus have been try­ing to tell me that eat­ing a diet with a low glycemic index is the secret to los­ing weight. But if that were true, then car­rots would be more fat­ten­ing than fudge is.

Unfor­tu­nate­ly, the glycemic index is being used to steer peo­ple away from the sort of food that can real­ly help them lose weight and con­trol their blood sug­ar: unre­fined starch­es and veg­eta­bles. If you sur­vey the world’s pop­u­la­tions, you’ll find that the peo­ple who are eat­ing diets based on unre­fined starch­es and veg­eta­bles have low risks of obe­si­ty, heart dis­ease, dia­betes, and breast cancer—even though the glycemic index of their diet is high. In con­trast, the peo­ple who are eat­ing the most fat and protein—both of which tend to decrease the glycemic index of a meal—are the ones who are get­ting fat and sick.

The glycemic index was orig­i­nal­ly devel­oped to fine-tune the sys­tem of car­bo­hy­drate exchanges that peo­ple with type 1 dia­betes use to cal­cu­late how much insulin they will need to inject after a meal [1]. The glycemic index mea­sures the effect that 50 grams of carbs from any giv­en food has on your blood sug­ar. For exam­ple, if you ate 50 grams of car­bo­hy­drate from beans, your blood sug­ar wouldn’t go as high as if you ate 50 grams of car­bo­hy­drate from pota­toes instead. In oth­er words, beans have a low­er glycemic index than pota­toes do.

Like pota­toes, car­rots have a high glycemic index. How­ev­er, you’d have to eat about 4 cups of shred­ded car­rot to get 50 grams of car­bo­hy­drate. Thus, if you ate just one car­rot, it would have only a small effect on your blood sug­ar. To cor­rect for this prob­lem, some peo­ple use the glycemic load, which is the glycemic index mul­ti­plied by the total amount of car­bo­hy­drate in the food.

The glycemic index and glycemic load are of sur­pris­ing­ly lit­tle val­ue to dieters. One rea­son is that the glycemic index of any giv­en food is so hard to pre­dict. For exam­ple, you could increase the glycemic index of a pota­to by mash­ing it. Then, you could decrease the glycemic index of the mashed pota­to by adding milk and but­ter. Fats and pro­teins tend to decrease the glycemic index of a food. Although adding but­ter to a food decreas­es the food’s glycemic index, the but­ter does not make the food less fat­ten­ing!

Even if you eat a meal that has a high glycemic load, that doesn’t mean that your blood sug­ar is going to go dan­ger­ous­ly high. It all depends on your insulin sen­si­tiv­i­ty. Peo­ple who habit­u­al­ly eat a low-fat, starchy diet tend to have much small­er blood sug­ar swings than peo­ple who eat a high-fat, low-carb diet. Sci­en­tists have known that fact since the 1930s! In fact, a diet based on high-glycemic-load veg­eta­bles and unre­fined starch­es can restore the body’s insulin sen­si­tiv­i­ty, thus cur­ing type 2 dia­betes, with­in a mat­ter of weeks.

Ref­er­ence List

  1. Jenk­ins DJ, Wolever TM, Tay­lor RH et al. Glycemic index of foods: a phys­i­o­log­i­cal basis for car­bo­hy­drate exchange. Am J Clin Nutr 1981;34:362–366.

Note: For more infor­ma­tion about the con­trol of weight and blood sug­ar, see my book Thin Dia­betes, Fat Dia­betes: Pre­vent Type 1, Cure Type 2.

Behind Barbed Wire_Print

To Cure Obesity, “Eat Less Fat and More Starch”

Here’s an inter­est­ing arti­cle about the Pima Indi­ans of Ari­zona.

For about 2000 years, the Pima had been grow­ing corn, beans, and squash on irri­gat­ed land in Ari­zona. As a result, their tra­di­tion­al diet was high in starch and fiber and low in fat (~15% by calo­rie). After white set­tlers divert­ed the Pima’s irri­ga­tion water, the Pima had to fall back on the lard, sug­ar, and white flour sup­plied to them by the U.S. gov­ern­ment. After World War II, the Pima adopt­ed a diet that close­ly resem­bles the stan­dard Amer­i­can diet. It is low in fiber and gets about 40% of its calo­ries from fat. As a result, they have hor­rif­i­cal­ly high rates of obe­si­ty and type 2 dia­betes. In con­trast, their blood rel­a­tives in Mex­i­co who have kept more or less to their tra­di­tion­al diet have rel­a­tive­ly low rates of obe­si­ty and dia­betes.

Some low-carb gurus have tried to twist the Pima’s sto­ry into a jus­ti­fi­ca­tion for eat­ing less car­bo­hy­drate and more fat. In real­i­ty, it pro­vides strong encour­age­ment for peo­ple to eat more starch and fiber and a lot less fat.

What’s Next, an Atherosclerosis Acceptance Movement?

The Hidden Danger of the “Fat Acceptance” Movement

You know the old say­ing, “If some­thing is too good to be true….” Well, the “fat accep­tance” move­ment is telling peo­ple some­thing that sounds too good to be true. They are insist­ing that peo­ple can be “healthy at any size” and some­times even that being over­weight is health­i­er than being slim. They’re wrong, and the smarter and more edu­cat­ed peo­ple among the “fat accep­tance” move­ment should know bet­ter. They “cher­ry pick” mis­lead­ing find­ings from a few stud­ies and ignore a vast sci­en­tif­ic lit­er­a­ture on the effects of diet on health. Such behav­ior is sick­en­ing, and the advice they give is dan­ger­ous.

Here’s the sim­ple truth: excess body fat is only one of the pos­si­ble bad effects of eat­ing the wrong kind of food. Eat­ing too much fat and too much ani­mal pro­tein can send you to an ear­ly grave even if you are thin and exer­cise a lot. The clas­sic exam­ple is Jim Fixx, author of The Com­plete Book of Run­ning, a 1977 best­seller that launched the run­ning boom. Fixx had claimed that his gru­el­ing exer­cise reg­i­men, which had enabled him to lose 60 pounds, allowed him to eat as much as he want­ed of what­ev­er he want­ed. When I read that in his book, I thought, “But what about cho­les­terol?” So I was sad­dened, but not sur­prised, when Fixx dropped dead at age 52 of a heart attack while run­ning. To my dis­gust, the media react­ed to his death by ask­ing whether run­ning was good or bad for you, ignor­ing the obvi­ous dietary angle to the sto­ry.

The sim­ple truth is that eat­ing the wrong kind of food can kill you, even if it doesn’t make you fat. Anoth­er sim­ple truth is that you can’t out­run cho­les­terol. As a mem­ber of the high-IQ club Men­sa, Fixx should have been smart enough to fig­ure that out before it was too late. Unfor­tu­nate­ly, he believed what he want­ed to believe, and ate what­ev­er he want­ed to eat, and in the end it killed him.

As I men­tioned, obe­si­ty is only one of the bad effects that is like­ly to result from eat­ing the stan­dard Amer­i­can diet–not just the heav­i­ly processed “junk food” that every­one knows is bad for you, but the meat and dairy prod­ucts and eggs and fish that the US Depart­ment of Agri­cul­ture has been encour­ag­ing us to eat.

Col­lec­tive­ly, the bad effects of eat­ing the stan­dard Amer­i­can diet are called “West­ern dis­eases.” This is because med­ical doc­tors who had been trained in Europe and the Unit­ed States were stunned to find that these health prob­lems, which were com­mon back home, were rare to nonex­is­tent in Asia and Africa. Besides over­weight and obe­si­ty, they include heart dis­ease, dia­betes, var­i­ous can­cers, arthri­tis, vari­cose veins, mul­ti­ple scle­ro­sis, etc. etc. etc. West­ern dis­eases were (and still are) the major caus­es of death and dis­abil­i­ty in the Unit­ed States and Europe because peo­ple there eat too much ani­mal pro­tein and too much fat. These dis­eases were rare in Asia and Africa because the pop­u­la­tions were eat­ing a low-fat, large­ly plant-based diet. A mon­u­men­tal study of nutri­tion­al epi­demi­ol­o­gy in Chi­na ( showed in detail how close­ly the con­sump­tion of ani­mal pro­tein and fat were linked to many of these dis­eases. The less ani­mal-based food and fat peo­ple ate, the health­i­er they could be.

The good news is that if you eat the diet that will pro­tect you against the oth­er “West­ern dis­eases,” your weight prob­lem will solve itself. Peo­ple who eat a low-fat (<10% of calo­ries) diet based on unre­fined plant foods rapid­ly become heart-attack-proof (total cho­les­terol, <150 mg/dL) and can pre­vent and even reverse many of the oth­er West­ern dis­eases. It’s hard to stay fat when you are eat­ing a tru­ly healthy diet. When over­weight Amer­i­cans switch to a low-fat, pure­ly plant-based diet, they lose weight eas­i­ly with­out hav­ing to count calo­ries or lim­it their por­tions. They can eat to their hearts’ con­tent and still stay slim. The “fat accep­tance” advo­cates over­look that obvi­ous fact.

The “fat accep­tance” advo­cates are right that thin does not equal healthy. But they are wrong when they say that you can be healthy at any size. Rather than wast­ing their time try­ing to make peo­ple feel bet­ter about being fat, they should work toward edu­cat­ing peo­ple about a tru­ly healthy diet, which will enable peo­ple to improve their own health and main­tain a desir­able weight with­out feel­ing hun­gry. The activists should also use their polit­i­cal clout to improve the nutri­tion cur­ricu­lum at med­ical schools, which has been shown repeat­ed­ly over the past 40 years to be inad­e­quate.

On one point, I do agree with the fat accep­tance advo­cates. I think that peo­ple should be treat­ed with respect regard­less of their size and state of health. How­ev­er, I feel that over­weight peo­ple deserve to be told the truth about how their weight affects their health and about how their food choic­es affect both their health and their weight.