Tag Archives: USDA

Scientific American and the Low Carb Age

The May, 2010 issue of Scientific American has an article with the headline “Carbs against Cardio“:

… while Americans have dutifully reduced the percentage of daily calories from saturated fat since 1970, the obesity rate during that time has more than doubled, diabetes has tripled, and heart disease is still the country’s biggest killer. Now a spate of new research, including a meta-analysis of nearly two dozen studies, suggests a reason why: investigators may have picked the wrong culprit. Processed carbohydrates, which many Americans eat today in place of fat, may increase the risk of obesity, diabetes and heart disease more than fat does—a finding that has serious implications for new dietary guidelines expected this year.

The article includes a quick recap of different studies that have shown fat intake unrelated to heart disease, including a large meta-analysis of 350,000 people. There is now compelling evidence that carbs, not saturated fat, are the greater health risk.

But will the upcoming dietary recommendations include the “new” information? It seems like a slam-dunk, but this is the government we’re talking about …

Will the more recent thinking on fats and carbs be reflected in the 2010 federal Dietary Guidelines for Americans, updated once every five years? It depends on the strength of the evidence, explains Robert C. Post, deputy director of the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Center for Nutrition Policy and Promotion. Findings that “have less support are put on the list of things to do with regard to more research.” Right now, Post explains, the agency’s main message to Americans is to limit overall calorie intake, irrespective of the source. “We’re finding that messages to consumers need to be short and simple and to the point,” he says.

In other words, rather than telling Americans to eat the right kind of food, the USDA will persist in telling them to do the most unnatural and dangerous thing you can do: starve yourself.

“Short and simple and to the point” translates to “people are idiots.” Funny that the American public has indeed reduced fat consumption (to its detriment), all the while absorbing the numbers and ratios promulgated as “healthy” by the government. Perhaps the real reason the story has to be told obliquely is that “the people” will see they have been misled. The government told us to eat this way, and its killing us.

The article goes on to slam the “sugared beverage industry”, one of the media’s favorite whipping boys these days, as lobbying heavily in favor of keeping the current dietary guidelines. But the problem is not just sugary drinks, but carbs; the difference between 16 ounces of Coke and 16 ounces of fresh orange juice is slight (and even then, the orange juice gives you more sugar than the Coke.) And loading up on a white rice side dish may have the same effect on your blood sugar levels as that Coke.

Its the carbs, stupid. The carbs.

The article is welcome, of course. And it is a sign of things to come as we transition into the Low Carb Age.

Its about time.

Those Carbs are Gonna’ Kill You

More from the world of medical research:

Reuters reports:

The amount of carbohydrates a woman eats, as well as the overall “glycemic load” of her diet, impact her chances of developing breast cancer, Swedish researchers report.

snip … snip … snip …

Dr. Susanna C. Larsson of Karolinska Institute in Stockholm and colleagues analyzed data on 61,433 women who completed “food frequency” questionnaires in the late 1980s.

In addition, carbohydrate intake, glycemic index and glycemic load were all positively associated with risk of a certain type of breast tumor – namely, estrogen receptor (ER)-positive/progesterone receptor (PR)-negative breast cancer.

Women with the highest “glycemic index diet” had a 44% increased risk of developing ER+/PR- breast cancer compared to women with the lowest glycemic index diet.

Women in the highest category of “glycemic load” had an 81% increased risk of ER+/PR- tumors, and those with the highest carbohydrate intake had a 34% increased risk, compared to those in the lowest groups.

The latest euphemism for “low carb” is “low gycemic index”, a way for the carb-o-lites to keep trying to get people to eat carbs but “the right kind” (i.e., the ones you can’t actually digest that taste like cardboard). The results of epidemiological studies … the most common kind in dietary studies … are showing an increased cancer risk in women who eat a lot of carbs according to the Reuters story. The risk seems particularly high for the estrogen receptor (ER)-positive/progesterone receptor (PR)-negative breast cancer. And colon cancer in men. There’s something about the “sugar rush” in the bloodstream that either feeds or induces the cancer cells.

Meanwhile, it appears the USDA has changed the “food pyramid” yet again. Instead of horizontal slices of the pyramid, with cancer-feeding carbs at the base as the foundation, the new pyramid uses vertical slices. Its a more complex model, and represents … to me … the quandary they find themselves in: carbs are killing people, and they have been pushing them. The new pyramid is so confusing that I hope people will ignore it. Maybe they will find a food guide provided when the nation was thinner, had less heart disease and less cancer:

USDA Food Guide from 1943 - 1955
USDA Food Guide from 1943 - 1955

Diabetics and those with insulin resistance would have to cut down on the carbs, still, but that diet is far and away a better one than the one we have today. With all the knowledge we have gained, we find ourselves looking back at “more ignorant times” to see that, yet, Grandma was right. Get plenty of protein, a couple of tablespoons of butter per day, and limit the bread, Johnny.

Now, that’s good eating.