Sugar KillsWell, if you wanted to call me a Gary Taubes fanboy before, I guess you’ve got one more reason to now as here’s one more post about his writings.

Back in October 2010, I authored a post entitled Sugar – Public Enemy Number One. The main takeaway I intended for the article was to argue that if all the diet books and nutrition gurus in all the world would just agree on this *one* thing: elimination of refined sugars from the diet (including fruit juices, by the way) that would be the single most important contribution they could all make to our public health. This would result in vastly healthier people and dramatically lower health care costs.

Back in January when Gary took his show on the road to Seattle, he mentioned he was working on this big article for the New York Times about sugar. The summary was he was taking a look into the claims of Dr. Robert Lustig of UCSF who came out and said fructose was a toxin – in the concentrations consumed in the SAD (Standard American Diet). Now that Gary is a left coaster, he’s gotta make nice with the neighbors (he even got his new BFF Michael Pollan to say nice things about his new book – nice going :)). The net of all this is a ‘little’ piece in the New York Times called Is Sugar Toxic?. Of course, Gary doesn’t do ‘little’ so don’t expect a reader’s digest version, but you should expect a thorough and well reasoned article.

Of course, I want you to read it, but the summary is he thinks there’s something to the idea that sugar should be considered a toxin. One small step for man …

SACover2010-05One more bit of evidence that we may yet see the worm turn as it regards the complex of misconceptions and falsehoods surrounding diet. None other than Scientific American has published in its May issue an article entitled:  Carbs against Cardio: More Evidence that Refined Carbohydrates, not Fats, Threaten the Heart.

The central study cited was originally published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. It was a meta-analysis (combining data from a number of studies) that found “no association between the amount of saturated fat consumed and the risk of heart disease.”

No association.

Here’s another salient quote:

The finding joins other conclusions of the past few years that run counter to the conventional wisdom that saturated fat is bad for the heart because it increases total cholesterol levels. That idea is “based in large measure on extrapolations, which are not supported by the data,” Krauss says.

Check out the article. One more nail in the coffin of the lipid hypothesis.

The whole idea for this blog was kicked off by friends asking for more information – so I figured I’d write once.

Writing is great, but I’m also very interested in keepin’ it real. So I started a real live face-to-face get together through meetup.com. You can find the meetup here: http://www.meetup.com/Mens-health.

For those of you in Seattle and environs, check it out.

This just in! An appearance by one of our favorite authors scheduled for the Seattle Area. I’m putting it on my calendar! Hope to see you there.

Meet the Author: Dr. Rob Thompson

Fairwood Library
Tuesday, February 10 at 7pm
Learn how lowering your glycemic load can help you lose weight and reverse insulin resistance without dieting in the usual sense of the word or engaging in strenuous exercise. Dr. Rob Thompson shares over 28 years experience practicing cardiology in his book,

The Glycemic Load Diet.
For more information on A Low Glycemic Load Diet

Here’s the address information in line:
17009 140th Ave S.E.
Renton, 98058
425-226-0522

Over this last year, I’ve turned over just about everything I thought I knew about diet. This change in perspective has resulted in about a 10% weight loss and a very significant reduction in body fat. I’ve eaten probably healthier than most for some time now, so I wasn’t coming from a far-off extreme (this blog might just be kinda boring that way). For example, I gave up soft drinks, most juices and limited my candy intake several years ago. Although for a long time after that, I’d indulge shortbread cookies, peppermint patties and chocolate pudding on a regular basis (ahhh, good times).

However, one book changed my life (cue the daytime drama strings): Good Calories, Bad Calories by Gary Taubes. It was recommended to me by a pretty authoritative source. He said I just had to read it. Of course, he didn’t warn me it was 600+ pages of very well written, but dense material that has the ambition to recount all the major events over the last 150 years of dietary research.

I read it in a week. I was just riveted.

Here are just a few of the dietary sacred cows (or was it paschal lambs) that were sacrificed:

  • The widely held belief that consuming dietary fat is the reason people get fat is not supported by the scientific evidence
  • The equally ‘common sense’ notion of caloric balance (in order to loose weight, one has to burn more calories than one takes in via food) is at best flawed and, at worse not at all supported by the evidence
  • The causal relationship between high cholesterol (especially high LDL) and arteriosclerosis (hardening of the arteries) has not been proven and does not exist. Note the word ‘causal.’ While there may be correlations with high LDL (it’s consensus now that there is no correlation between high total cholesterol and arteriosclerosis), the relationship is not causal.
  • The scientific consensus of the 1st half of the 20th century was that the primary culprit for people getting fat is the consumption of easily-digestible carbohydrates (breads, pasta, sweets, soft drinks). That consensus was overturned in the 2nd half of the 20th century not because there was clear scientific evidence for a change, but for various other reasons tied to several individual and industry self-interest.

      An excellent summary of the book and its findings may be found on what is becoming one of my favorite blogs on diet- Dr. Michael Eades’ blog Protein Power gives you a great take on the book.

      So what’s the bottom line. I’m saying that what has worked for me over the last year is to strive to completely eliminate the following foods:

      • Bread, and everything else made with flour
      • Cereals, including breakfast cereals and milk puddings
      • Potatoes and all other white root vegetables
      • Foods containing much sugar
      • All sweets

      I did decide to go a bit further for a period of time and also eliminated all grains (corn, etc.) from my diet. The net (over about a 6 month period) was to reduce my body weight about 10%, reduce my triglycerides about 30%, increase my HDL by 25%. Now, I do have to add the caveat that this was also during a time where I was putting significant emphasis on getting my vitamin D level to an optimal range (while remaining on my regular supplement regimen). So I expect that my supplement regimen also played a factor, but even with that, these are very impressive (albeit a sample size of 1) results.

      While the evidence continues to mount, I’m not expecting a sea change in the popular mind about this. However, you can be on the vanguard and when your friends and family catch up in about 10 years, you can welcome them with open arms (that won’t have to reach so far to get around them).

      Diet 101

      January 2, 2009

      “Let food be thy medicine, and medicine be thy food.” Hippocrates

      Not entirely certain Hippocrates actually penned those words, but they sound like words to live by. The knowledge of nutrition and its affect on our health is not only progressing, it seems as though it is accelerating rapidly. Along with that accelerated pace of knowledge comes many diverging points of view – all of which having apparent merits as told by their respective adherents.

      The current schism, if you will, among the dietary experts is the between the ‘low-fat’ vs. ‘low-carb’ camps. It is safe to say that the current dietary orthodoxy holds that dietary fat is the primary culprit as to why people get fat. There is an alternative hypothesis emerging (supported by mounting clinical evidence) that it is not dietary fat that is the primary culprit, but simple carbohydrates.

      It’s important to understand that this is not a new idea. In fact, this is a Good Calories, Bad Caloriesrecurring theme in dietary research. As discussed in extremely thorough detail in the groundbreaking book by Gary Taubes, Good Calories, Bad Calories, you can go  back to the ‘Banting’ craze in the late-19th century to identify an early ‘low-carb’ diet that appears to have worked handsomely for those who adhered to it.

      Further, there are any number of popular diets today that share many core characteristics: Zone Diet, Paleo Diet, etc.

      Now, after about a half-century of unquestioned support of the the low-fat, calorie restricted diet, there is mounting evidence that, in the main, Atkins was right and that, with a few modifications, a non-calorie restricted diet that significantly limits easily-digestible (‘simple’) carbohydrates is the all-around best choice for better health for the vast majority of us.

      GlycemicLoadDietThe most straightforward and accessible book I have seen on the topic is Dr. Rob Thompson’s Glycemic Load Diet. I heartily recommend you get the book. It is a very fast read and Dr. Thompson gets right to the meat of the issue – and gives you recipes to boot. The main message to get from the book, however, is very simple (as is this overall approach to diet). Below I include the core message of the book – summed up in a few sentences (page 44).

      Here’s my advice. Forget about the lists. Just don’t eat more than a quarter serving of flour products, potatoes, or rice at a time and abstain from sugar-containing soft drinks and fruit juices.

      Dr. Rob Thompson – The Glycemic Load Diet, p. 44

      While that is the summary of the reader’s digest version, at its core, its really that simple.

      But, of course, I won’t leave it at that. Subsequent posts will delve further.

      Why this blog?

      January 1, 2009

      Thank you for visiting.

      The primary impetus for me starting this blog is to share with friends and family some of the insight I have obtained in the many years on issues of health and wellness. Now that those around me have seen improvements in my appearance, many have asked ‘What do you do?’

      Here’s a brief synopsis of my thoughts:

      • Adopt a low glycemic-load diet and limit your ‘splurges’ to special occasions.
      • Identify optimal dietary supplements to ensure good health and take them as indicated.
      • Working with your doctor to get regular blood testing and adjust your diet and supplement regimen to strive for optimal levels of circulating nutrients and hormones.

      Sounds close to the ‘conventional wisdom’ doesn’t it? Stick with me. There’s a lot more to the story.