Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Avoid the Fat Trap

A friend of mine asked me what I thought of an article by the Poliquin Editorial Staff. Anyone who knows me well knows that I don't usually give brief answers. :) I thought this article brought up some great talking points, so I am answering her in a blog post!

Great points:
* While exercise will still be beneficial in many ways, it is true that you can't negate a poor diet with exercise. If you eat more calories than you burn, you will gain weight.

* There is research that supports the idea that weight training helps with insulin sensitivity. This is a great point and helps to prevent/prolong the onset of diabetes while also helping diabetics to manage their blood sugar.

* I completely agree with not getting so caught up in the game of counting calories to lose weight. Intuitive eating (watch for a blog post on this in the future) produces a better outcome than the calorie game. We should focus more of our efforts on choosing nutrient dense foods that are high in fiber, low in saturated and trans fat, and low in sugar; and stopping eating when we are satisfied.

* All fats are not evil. Well said! Fats are important in our diet, but just like anything else, too much will kill you!

* I love the point about eliminating juice and soda! Soda is just a bunch of empty calories and juice isn't a whole lot better.

* I also love the point about avoiding all trans/partially hydrogenated oils. This is very difficult, but less is better than more when we're dealing with these fats.

* It is true that when your body is releasing a lot of insulin, it does increase the amount of fat that you store. That is an important thing to remember when you have an impaired insulin response. For normal, healthy people who have a good insulin response, your body should be able to deal with sugar pretty efficiently. For people who have an impaired insulin response, your body may need to release more and more insulin to deal with a glucose (sugar) load. This does not mean you need to cut out carbohydrates. It means that you need to eat a normal amount of carbohydrate at meals. I say this because people think that diabetics have to cut down on carbohydrates. They really just need to get back to eating a "normal" amount, which is how everyone should eat. A range, depending on your body size, activity, and sex, of about 45-60 grams per meal would be "normal". Also, choosing foods that are high in fiber and eating some fat and protein along with it helps your body to manage the glucose (sugar) load.

Points that are a little misguided:

* Americans are overweight because of the 2800 to 3000 calories eaten each day, not because they eat too many carbohydrates specifically. Everyone is always trying to blame obesity on a particular factor that they believe is evil. Although there are empty calories and calories that have a higher nutrition density, a calorie is a calorie. By this, I mean that if you eat too many calories, no matter where they come from, you will gain weight. If you eat fewer calories than you burn, you will lose weight.

* As the author said, aerobic exercise doesn't really build muscle. However, it is key to burning fat and it will create a greater calorie deficit than weight training. Weight training should be a part of an exercise regemin for numerous reasons; and it does build muscle. However, your greatest calorie burns will come from aerobic exercise.

* The author brought up the thermic effect of food, the amount of energy/calories that it takes your body to actually digest food. Just because it may take a few more calories to digest protein than carbohydrate doesn't mean it will make any significant difference. We are talking about just a few calories here. It takes 3500 calories to equal one pound of fat.

* The journal article that the author sited was used to support the point that a low-carb diet is best. What the author failed to mention was that a third diet was also used as a part of this study. The third diet was a mediterranean diet and it consisted of a healthy percentage of fat in the diet (35%). The article did not mention the percentages of protein and carbohydrate. However, considering that the diet was also high in fiber, I will assume that a fair amount of calories came from carbohydrates. All three groups lost weight, but the low-carb and mediterranean groups lost the most. All three groups had a significant decrease in waist circumference and blood pressure; however, there was no significant difference between the three groups. The low-carb group showed the highest level of ketones in the urine. From this bit of information, my thoughts are:

-Because the mediterranean group and low-carb group were similar in their weight-loss, it is difficult to conclude that reducing carbohydrates is better.
-Because the low-carb group had more ketones in the urine, I would venture to say that this diet is not the safest.
-This study only lasted two years, so remember that it does not give us any information on differences of chronic disease.
-Only 272 people completed this study.

* The author's suggestion to eliminate sugar is...well...silly. He encourages fruits and fruits have natural sugar. Anyone who says they have eliminated sugar or tells you to eliminate sugar is highly misguided. It is not unhealthy to have some natural sugar in your diet. It is also very contradictory to say that fruit is good but sugar is not. Just like anything else, too much sugar will kill you, but a little won't hurt you.

* Please do not eat 50% of your diet as fat. If you do that, likely 40% will be from protein, and only 10% from carbohydrate. How will you get all of your fiber? And this brings up a totally different set points that would make this blog post entirely too long.

Shai, I., Schwarzfuchs. D., et al. Weight Loss with a Low-Carbohydrate, Mediterranean, or Low-Fat Diet. The New England Journal of Medicine. 2008. 359(3), 229-241.

1 comment:

  1. Very interesting. Maybe you can write an entry soon to address the fiber issue. Have recently heard some extremes about eliminating fiber. That is crazy talk as far as I am concerned. Would love to see you spell it out.