Sunday, July 31, 2011

Last Inner Carnivore Post

This will be my last post on Inner Carnivore. I will continue blogging, but am moving to my new blog, Low Carb Wisdom.

Why the change? Inner Carnivore could best be described as the "honeymoon period" I have had with the low carb way of life. It was a voyage of discovery for me, as I learned a lot of new things about the low carb way of eating. However, after five months and 55 pounds of weight loss, I have also begun to notice the warts about low carbing and I want to change the focus of the blog.

The new blog will be a critical examination of the pros and cons of low carbing, including an in depth examination of the Conventional Wisdom and Prevailing Opinion about the low carb lifestyle. I will continue the low carb way of eating, but as I mentioned in the previous post, it is not a magic weight loss bullet. Hard work, willpower, and calorie counting are still necessities, as I will explain.

So if you have enjoyed reading Inner Carnivore, follow me over to Low Carb Wisdom.

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Epiphany: No Magic Bullet

I have written about nutritional conventional wisdom or prevailing opinion (CWOPO) before and it is one of the most read articles on this site. However, I have come the the realization that CWOPO exists within the low carb community as well and, as is often the case with conventional nutritional wisdom, low carb CWOPO can be wrong. At least for me. Let me explain.

As I have mentioned before, I have at one time lost a lot of weight (100+ pounds) using Weight Watchers, but gained it all back. Over a nine month period, I averaged 2.4 pounds per week on WW. Five months into my low carb journey and I am averaging less weight loss per week (2.3) than on WW. I realize I am almost 50 years old, and that should explain some of the slow down, but not all. In recent weeks, my weight loss has slowed considerably, to less than two pounds per week. The low carb community on the web often talks about weight loss stalls, or plateaus, and I want to avoid that. So I have been analyzing what I have been eating, including my total calories, using software I have written about before. This led to my epiphany.

The low carb diet is a high fat, moderate protein, low carb diet. This makes sense: if you reduce carbs, you must replace the macro nutrient total with either protein or fat and too much protein can be dangerous (according to chapter 15, p. 210 of The Art and Science of Low Carb Living). So we increase the fat. If you look at my macro nutrient breakdown from yesterday (for a total of 2,100 calories) using the livestrong.com software, it looks like this:
So I am clearly following a high fat, moderate protein, low carb diet. But here is where low carb CWOPO comes into play: CWOPO tells me that calories do not count, that low carbing provides a metabolic advantage, and that I should be adding a lot of fat to my diet to boost my fat intake total. So I added fat, didn't count calories, and counted on the metabolic advantage to take care of the rest. And my weight loss has slowed.

Then I had an epiphany. At 2,100 calories, I AM eating a high fat, moderate protein, low carb diet. There is no need to add a lot of additional fat to the diet, and calories do count.

So I have made some changes. I am watching/tracking my calories on livestrong.com, I am cutting some of the fat (as adding it only adds calories, and they do count!) and for me, metabolic advantage is a myth.

What I wanted was a magic bullet to cure my weight problems. I thought low carb was it. It works well for me, it keeps the hunger demons at bay, intrinsically, I like it A LOT more than the low fat diets like Weight Watchers, but it isn't the magic bullet I wanted. It still requires willpower and hard work to make it to my goal. And it provides a way to maintain my weight that I can live with.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Tracking Macro Nutrients

I recently discovered the livestrong.com web site (developed by the Lance Armstrong foundation). While it is based on faulty nutritional assumptions (CWOPO), such as lowering cholesterol and sodium intake, it is very useful for tracking calories and your macro nutrient breakdown (e.g., how much protein, fat, and carbohydrates you consume).

As I have mentioned before, the low carb lifestyle is more about fat than protein. It is a high fat, moderate protein, low carb diet. In percentage terms, my macro nutrient breakdown for yesterday is as follows:


Translated into numbers, yesterday, I consumed 165 grams of protein, 29 grams of "arbs" (or "carbs," of which 7 grams were fiber, for a net carb total of 22 grams), and 230 grams of fat. My total calories consumed yesterday came to 2,808 but, according to this software, I also walked the dog for 330 calories, making my net caloric intake yesterday 2,478 calories. The database at this site is very extensive, the best I have seen.

So while I do not really track calories (I only track grams of carbs and I am still losing weight), this was a very useful software tool for tracking macro nutrients and for getting a picture of what I am eating.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Low Carb vs. Low Fat for Weight Loss

Apparently, 14 clinical trials comparing a low carb diets with low fat diets with statistically significant results have been published between 2003 and 2008. In all 14 trials, those on low carb diets lost significantly more weight than those on low fat diets. The author is careful to point out that he only selected studies that statistically compared one diet to another, and that the "low carb" diets were truly low carb. (Some studies claiming to compare low fat with "low carb" are not really low carb, as there are more than 30% of calories from carbohydrates. In a true low carb diet, carbs are usually 5 to 10% of calories).

The author of the article summarizing this list has given permission to copy it onto other blogs, so I am taking advantage of his generosity. Here are the studies, complete with links, for you data junkies out there.


Randomized controlled trials showing significantly more weight loss with low carb diets:

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Shrimp Cocktail Sauce

Hello Low Carb Conversation visitors! I have discontinued this blog but have started another, Low Carb Wisdom. Visit me there!

I've mentioned before this is not a recipe blog, but I have been known to make exceptions before. Time for another exception.

While in Old Orchard Beach, Maine, last week, we had dinner at an amazing restaurant called the Yellow Fin. We had perhaps the best shrimp cocktail I have ever eaten, and it was the cocktail sauce that made all the difference. I asked the server how it was made, and she told me.  It is really easy, to boot, plus purely low carb.

Take 6 to 8 ripe, medium sized tomatoes. Peel and seed the tomatoes.
Pulse the tomatoes in your food processor (but do not puree; leave chunks).
Add 1/4 cup pure horseradish (or perhaps a bit more, if you like more bite to your sauce)
Salt and pepper to taste.  
Juice from 1/4 lemon
1 Tablespoon of Worcestershire sauce (optional).

Then stir it all together. Makes about one cup of cocktail sauce for your cold, boiled shrimp. Without using processed and carb-laden ketchup.

We discovered that it tastes better if it has had a while for the flavors to mix, so prepare some a few hours before you need it. And we sometimes needed to put the sauce on the shrimp with a spoon, but it was really good.

Dietary Consequences of Farm Subsidies

Soybeans are heavily subsidized by the U.S. government, as is corn. If you read labels, you will notice that corn and soybean products are in everything. Why? Since they are subsidized, they are very inexpensive and hence are used more often than other, more expensive raw materials. For example, compare the price of olive oil, which is not subsidized, with the price of corn or soybean oil, which are subsidized. If we are what we eat, then, according to Michael Pollan, we are corn and soybeans.

Read the ingredients label on any processed food in your pantry; chances are, they will contain soy or corn. Some estimates suggest that 40% of the calories in the standard American diet come directly from either soy (a cheap source of protein and fat) or corn (a cheap source of carbohydrates). And even more is consumed indirectly, since much of the diet of cattle and chicken is also comprised of soy and corn.

So what's the problem? Isn't saving families money a good thing? Saving money is a good thing, but what if, in the attempt to save money, you are eating foods that are a direct cause of the national obesity and diabetes crises?

Is consuming so many products made from corn and soy even healthy? Some people have suggested that eating soy products is dangerous and entire books have been written about the negative aspects of soy consumption. Others suggest that the fear of soy is overblown but suggest caution and limited quantities anyway. High fructose corn syrup has taken a beating in the popular press lately, so much so that the Corn Refiner's Association has petitioned the FDA to rebrand high fructose corn syrup as "corn sugar." And carbohydrates in general, such as those provided by corn products, are increasingly being fingered as a cause of dietary harm, even in the mainstream media, in such publications as the New York Times and the Los AngelesTimes.

Vegetable and seed oils, such as corn and soybean oils, have replaced fats from animal sources in the standard American diet, with a lot of unexpected, negative consequences.

Here's the problem: real food (fresh fruits, vegetables, non-grain fed meats, eggs, dairy products from pastured cows, animal sources of fats, etc.), food that is healthy and that will nourish you, is not subsidized and is much more expensive. In other words, the type of food we low carbers eat. Cheap, subsidized, and processed foods, dense in carbohydrates, are very fattening. Is this an appropriate use of our tax dollars?

Monday, July 25, 2011

Weekly Update

My weight loss has slowed somewhat over the past two weeks. I have lost a total of 2.6 pounds in the past two weeks, including our vacation to Maine. So I am not disappointed with the loss, as we have been eating out way too much. I make good choices, the best available, but it is certainly easier to eat at home. Follow my weight loss progress with this chart. I have now lost 52.6 pounds in 23 weeks, for a weekly average loss of 2.29 pounds.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Vacation Reading

I used to mock my mother for reading cookbooks, but, apparently, I am my mother's son, because on my recent vacation to Maine, I read a cookbook.

Not just any cookbook, but Nourishing Traditions: The Cookbook that Challenges Politically Correct Nutrition and the Diet Dictocrats by Sally Fallon and Mary G. Enig, Ph.D. This cookbook follows the philosophy of Weston A. Price, whose book, Nutrition and Physical Degeneration (which I partially reviewed) inspired her cookbook and led to the creation of the Weston A. Price foundation. In brief, Price traveled around the world in the 1930's and studied traditional cultures to see what gave them their perfect health. (The photos in the book are amazing).  He came up with a number of recommendations, and this cookbook puts those recommendations into action.

The "cookbook" is actually much more than a cookbook. The first seventy-five or so pages review nutritional science and challenge many existing ideas, such as the lipid hypothesis. It is a book on how to cook in the traditional, healthy manner as much as a list of recipes and the book is loaded with a lot of information in the sidebars on each page.

The authors go into a great amount of detail on how to prepare ingredients for each recipe. For example, how to soak grains, such as wheat, to remove the problematic phytates; how to prepare bone broth; why you should consume raw milk and cream; how to (and why it is necessary) produce whey and homemade cream cheese; and how to cook with organ meats, among many other topics. There is a source of supplies in the back and while not strictly low carb, it is an overall healthy philosophy of eating. The cookbook shuns processed foods of all types (e.g., refined flour and processed sugar) and in all things seeks to emulate how traditional societies prepared foods for perfect health. While not completely low carb, most of what is in the cookbook aligns quite nicely with the low carb philosophy because the authors' philosophy on eating is very similar.

Personally, I found the cookbook very exciting to read and cannot wait to try out many of the recipes. But I do think it will be time consuming and require a lot of advanced planning. For example, to make biscuits, I would need to spend a week preparing a sour dough starter, plus soak the wheat for a few days until it starts to sprout; then dry the sprouted wheat, before grinding it. That might also take the better part of a week. I can see that this method of cooking will require a lot of advanced planning.

Jimmy Moore demonstrated that raw milk had almost no effect on his blood sugar levels, so I am very curious to see how sprouted or soaked wheat will effect my blood sugars. I suspect I will be pleasantly surprised.

All in all, this was a very worthwhile reading experience. I wish I had known what I know now when we were raising children, as I am sure I would have had a bigger influence on what was prepared for family meals. (For purposes of clarity, my wife did most of the cooking when the kids were at home and tried to cook in as healthy a manner as she knew how, based on the available information. There is no criticism of her cooking leveled or implied in this blog entry).

Friday, July 22, 2011

Fishermen in the UK Banned from Using White Bread as Bait

Why? Because it produces fat fish. What should you use instead of white bread? Why, whole wheat bread, of course. Apparently, refined carbs even make fish fat.

We use grains to fatten cattle for slaughter, so I guess we shouldn't be too surprised that they also fatten fish. Personally, I don't think the switch to whole wheat will do much for the fishes' girth.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Low Carbing on the Road in Maine

The Bed and Breakfast in which we are staying in Old Orchard Beach, Maine, hardly serves anything I can eat for breakfast. On the first morning here, I had an herbal tea with a pat of butter in it for breakfast. Actually, I went to the store and bought some deli roast beef and cheese. Lunch was more deli meats and cheese, but we actually had a decent dinner. That has been my pattern since. Very little at the B&B for breakfast, then meat and cheese for lunch, and a decent dinner (meat and salad).

Eating out is a real pain some times. The best places to eat are very expensive and the worst sell nothing but pure carbage. I am looking forward to the end of traveling when I return home on Saturday. I haven't strayed from my low carb lifestyle at all, but the things I have been eating at times are interesting. For example, I had a bag of pepperoni slices for breakfast, plus a few raspberries and half a cup of heavy whipping cream, which I drank straight up. Home cooking, I miss you!

More Mainstream Talk about Low Carb

First, there was a positive article about the low carb lifestyle in the LA Times. Now there is another positive low carb piece in the Monday, July 18 edition of the New York Times:

Despite conventional advice to eat less fat, weight loss was greatest among people who ate more yogurt and nuts, including peanut butter, over each four-year period. . . . But, consistent with the new study’s findings, metabolism takes a hit from refined carbohydrates — sugars and starches stripped of their fiber, like white flour. When Dr. David Ludwig of Children’s Hospital Boston compared the effects of refined carbohydrates with the effects of whole grains in both animals and people, he found that metabolism, which determines how many calories are used at rest, slowed with the consumption of refined grains but stayed the same after consumption of whole grains.


The quotes are from the second page of the article, which was written by Jane Brody, one of the influential nutrition writers at the NYT. Where have we read advice like this before? Oh, yeah, from Gary Taubes. While not strictly an article about low carb, at least there is some recognition that carbs are the problem, not dietary fat.


Taubes' book is what prompted me to go low carb and that is why I have lost 50 pounds (so far) in five months. My blood sugars are nearing normal, my blood pressure is normal, I am sleeping better and I am in general much more healthy than I was when trying to lose weight on a low fat, high carb diet.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Traveling Again, This Time in Maine

I am on the road again, in Portland, Maine. I had a lobster and clarified butter for dinner tonight, messy but good. I plan on sampling a lot of seafood during this trip and hope I won't get too hungry. The B&B at which I am staying does not have much in the way of breakfast I can eat (bagels, muffins, bread, jam, juice, skim milk, etc.) but there is a supermarket not far from where I am staying.

This trip has made me realize how much harder it is to eat low carb in America than in Europe. We do not have our trailer with us (we flew here) and thus do not have full control of what we eat. But I will survive.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Letter III: Aren't Saturated Fats Dangerous?

This is part III in a series of hypothetical letters to my doctor.


Dear Doctor,

In our last meeting, you expressed concern that I was eating too much saturated fat in my low carb diet, and that it might be harmful, or even cause a heart attack. This is probably the most common question I deal with when people learn I follow the low carb lifestyle. I am, however, a bit surprised that an educated person such as yourself raised the concern.

The short answer: no, saturated fats are not dangerous and when eaten as part of a proper low carb diet, they probably won't cause a heart attack. The idea that saturated fats and cholesterol lead to heart disease is called the "lipid hypothesis."  Gary Taubes wrote a whole book in 2007 debunking the lipid hypothesis. And before Taubes' book, Sally Fallon and Mary Enig wrote a book in 1999 debunking that myth. And before Fallon and Enig, Michael Eades, M.D. and his wife, Mary Dan Eades, M.D. wrote a book debunking the lipid hypothesis in 1996. All of these books delved deeply into the empirical medical literature and found no empirical evidence to support the lipid hypothesis.

But there is even more recent evidence.  Three recent studies all concluded that low carb diets actually improved markers of metabolic health. None of the three support the lipid hypothesis. Dr. Malcolm Kendrick demolishes the lipid hypothesis in 1 minute and 17 seconds. One study found no association between eating eggs and cardiovascular disease. Another study found that dairy consumption was not associated with cardiovascular disease. Yet another study showed that children who ate full fat cream and other saturated fats were healthier than children who did not.  Finally, a meta analysis of 21 studies of 348,000 people over an average of 14 years concluded there was no relationship between eating saturated fats and cardiovascular diseases such as heart attacks and strokeEven the mainstream media is now hinting that we have been mislead by the lipid hypothesis, and that carbohydrates, not fat, may be the real problem. 

The most recent book I have read demolishing the lipid hypothesis is one you ought to read, as it is targeted to physicians. It is called The Art and Science of Low Carbohydrate Living, by Jeff Volek, Ph.D., R.D. and Stephen D. Phinney, M.D., Ph.D. This book takes you into the inner workings of the low carb lifestyle and addresses head on many of the myths surrounding it, such as the lipid hypothesis.

So thank you for your concern about my cardiovascular health, but I do not think the low carb diet which is high in saturated fats will cause me to die of a heart attack any time soon.

Sincerely,

Sunday, July 17, 2011

The Art and Science of Low Carbohydrate Living

I just finished a most interesting book, called The Art and Science of Low Carbohydrate Living by Jeff Volek, Ph.D., R.D. and Stephen D. Phinney, M.D., Ph.D. The book is targeted at medical professionals who might be interested in treating patients with a low carb diet and it gives all of the ins and outs of the process. Only a couple of chapters (that went into the clinical application of low carb diets) were not relevant to me and my experience.  My verdict: I highly recommend this book.

It tackles all of the big questions (e.g., "Won't eating saturated fat cause you to have a heart attack?" or "All the weight lost on low carb diets is water weight") and outlines not only a comprehensive low carb eating plan, but also a low carb "maintenance" plan for eating, after you have lost your weight.

It is fully referenced and includes all of the pertinent studies backing up everything it claims. It also concludes with a section on healthy recipes for a high fat, moderate protein, low carb diet.

I must say, the book is well written, but it looks like it was self-published. Nevertheless, it is quite the resource. If my physician gives me any grief about my low carb lifestyle on my next visit in early September, I am tempted to recommend it, or even give it, to her.

Some gems from the book:
  • A listing of diseases successfully treated with a low carb diet (e.g., high blood pressure, metabolic syndrome, type II diabetes, sleep apnea, etc.); see p. 170.
  • An in-depth explanation of why a low LDL reading is not necessarily bad; see pp. 91-95.
  • In the discussion of fructose (a sugar that partitions like fat), the authors have this gem: "Most energy drinks and sports beverages use sucrose or high fructose corn sweetener as their primary energy source. Given that the average exhausted athlete still has tens of thousands of fat calories in body energy reserves but is running out of carbohydrate (glycogen), why would one want to add a sugar that cannot be used for quick energy, with most of it eventually ending up as fat?" P. 57.
  • The authors explain the "Whoosh" experience (where someone stays at the same weight for days, then, "whoosh," over night they lose several pounds); it is a function of water retention. You are losing fat and inches, your clothes are feeling looser, but for whatever reason, you are holding on to water. Eventually, you will lose the water. When that happens, whoosh, you have lost five pounds overnight! P. 73.
  • The authors introduce the concept of "carbohydrate intolerance" (chapters 14 and 15). If you don't tolerate carbohydrates very well, restrict them. A lot of good things will happen to your health. So I can now say I am carb intolerant, and cite this book as proof.
  • A maple walnut ice cream recipe (pp. 229-230).

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Orson Scott Card and Stroke

Orson Scott Card, an author I have been following since I stumbled upon the short story, "Ender's Game" in Analog magazine in 1977, had a stroke in January, 2011. He claims he is embarking on a "save my life diet" (which is probably a low-fat, high carb diet), yet he reviews (and, apparently, samples) local donut shops.

He is a voracious reader and I really wish he would get around to reading Good Calories, Bad Calories or Why We Get Fat and What to Do About It, both by Gary Taubes. Why? So he can change his eating habits and live long enough to finish his uncompleted books, such as the Tales of Alvin Maker and the Ender's Game series. Plus several other uncompleted series (e.g., Pathfinder, The Lost Gate, the Women of Genesis, and the Mayflower trilogy).

Perhaps his stroke is pushing him to complete some of these unfinished series, as a new one in the Ender's Game series has just been announced: Shadows in Flight which comes out in November, 2011. This book follows Bean and three of his children as they seek to find a cure for their giantism.

However, there is no telling Orson Scott Card anything. He is the epitome of an opinionated, know-it-all intellectual (the kind he, himself often criticizes!), one who is often in error, but never in doubt. So I doubt he would take anyone seriously who suggested a low carb lifestyle. Because he knows better.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Dear Doctor, Part II: Is a Low HbA1c Number Dangerous?

This is part II in a series of letters to my Doctor.


Dear Doctor:

At our meeting today, you expressed concern that my HbA1c number was too low, that in fact, you thought it was dangerously low and that it might lead to a heart attack. My "low" HbA1c number (which, according to you, means less than 6.5)  is still not in the "normal" range.  I am still at risk for organ damage because the number is too high, and yet you are concerned.

I believe you are mistaken. I have learned more about managing diabetes from a romance novelist (whose books have "bodice ripper" covers) named Jenny Ruhl (nom de plume: Jenny Brown) than from anyone with an M.D., Ph.D., R.N., R.D., or C.D.E. behind their names. She has thoroughly examined and ripped a part the ACCORD study, from whence came the idea that an HbA1c reading lower than 6.5 is dangerous, in several different places. The basic problem: the study participants took Avandia, a drug known to cause heart attacks (it was withdrawn from the market). So is it lowering the HbA1c that is dangerous, or the drug they were taking? She lists other problems with the study and even has a list of seven questions to ask physicians when they suggest that your HbA1c is too low. You may want to ask yourself all of these questions, as they might cause you to reconsider your recommendation. So I won't repeat all of that information here for you, as I know you have an Internet connection as well.

But it might be useful for you to read the statement published in the June 2011 issue of the New England Journal of Medicine. Here is an excerpt from that statement (again, that previously mentioned romance novelist alerted me to this editorial):

44.7% of subjects in the intensive-therapy group, as compared with 25.2% in the standard-therapy group, received rosiglitazone [Avandia] just before the study transition date. According to the 2008 article summarizing the results of the ACCORD trial up to the point of protocol transition, 91.2% of the subjects in the intensive-therapy group, as compared with 57.5% of the patients in the standard-therapy group, had received rosiglitazone...


Although other differences in drug exposure warrant further analysis, we think that the authors [of the ACCORD publications] should consider (and address in a secondary analysis) the role of rosiglitazone in the excess deaths from cardiovascular causes, especially in the absence of biologic plausibility of a glucose-mediated effect. Given unbalanced exposure, we thing that the ACCORD trial is inconclusive and that the recommendation to abandon lower glucose targets is not supported and has unknown consequences for the long-term management of diabetes [emphasis added].


The letter was signed by several prominent researchers and this casts considerable doubt on the idea that a score below 6.5 is dangerous.

In addition, I am a type II diabetic, not type I, and I have never suffered from hypoglycemia. My problem is hyperglycemia, and there is a huge difference. Plus, unlike some of the study participants, I haven't ignored type II diabetes for thirty years (and all of the complications that come with ignoring the disease for that long). I am grabbing hold of my health and making the changes for a more healthy way of living.

So might I suggest that lowering my HbA1c to a level between 5.0 and 5.9 is an appropriate goal for me? I have no wish to suffer any complications of diabetes because you think my HbA1c score is too low.

Sincerely,


Thursday, July 14, 2011

Dear Doctor, Part I: High LDL Readings

The letter below is the first of a series of letters to my doctor about the impact of my low carb lifestyle on my health. I have no idea how she will react to my health tests, so these are "just in case." But I thought it would be useful to collect the relevant information in one place, so I (and others) can show physicians why statin drugs may not be appropriate in every case. Where possible, I will link to the relevant studies from the medical literature. Future letters will discuss HbA1c results, diabetes drugs, cardiovascular health, "healthy" eating, and any other subjects I find interesting.

Dear Doctor:

I have been following a low carb diet for over six months now and you recently prescribed a lipid profile for me. The results are in and they are generally good. My HDL cholesterol level is up, my triglycerides are down, and my total cholesterol number is acceptable. Yet you want to prescribe a statin drug for me because my LDL cholesterol reading is high.

Consider this: the LDL cholesterol in my blood was never measured; it was calculated, using this formula[1]:

   LDL=Total Cholesterol -[HDL + (triglycerides/5)]

Why is this calculation a problem? It overestimates the presence of LDL cholesterol. If we assume that a low carb diet lowered my triglycerides (a good thing), but total and HDL cholesterol numbers stayed the same, this is what we would have:

                               Total              HDL         TRI         LDL (Calculated)
Before LC Diet          200               60           200            100
After LC Diet            200                60            75             125

So lowering triglycerides (a good thing), causes the LDL number to go up (a bad thing, in your opinion), based on the above equation. But what is my actual LDL, not the calculated LDL? We don't know, because you did not test for it. You could have ordered an NMR lipoprofile test to learn the actual measure, but you did not. So all we are left with is a problematic calculated value.

Also, are all LDL particles equally bad? The calculated number says nothing about the size of the LDL particles. Are they large and fluffy (also referred to as pattern A particles), or small and dense (also referred to as pattern B particles)? The large and fluffy LDL particles are not dangerous, and may even be somewhat beneficial, but recent research also shows that the small, dense, and sticky LDL particles are the real danger signal for heart disease.

But that new test to determine particle size may be expensive. Fortunately, there is a workaround. Take the ratio of my triglycerides to HDL (Triglycerides/HDL), which is an effective surrogate of the NMR lipoprofile test. If the ratio is below 3.5, I probably have pattern A and if it is above 3.5, I probably have pattern B. If I have pattern A LDL particles, I do not need a statin drug to lower my cholesterol.

Since my HDL went up and my triglycerides went down, I probably have pattern A particles, which are beneficial, not dangerous. So I respectfully decline your invitation to put me on statin drugs.

Sincerely,

[1] I learned much of the information in this letter from reading The Art and Science of Low Carbohydrate Living by Jeff S. Volek, Ph.D., R.D. and Stephen D. Phinney, M.D., Ph.D., pp. 91-95. The example used is taken from these pages.

Belated Update; Major Milestone Achieved

For the past two weeks, I have been traveling on vacation (Utah, Montana, Wyoming, North Dakota) and away from my scales. But sometime during the past two weeks, I crossed the fifty pound threshold. That's a fifty pound loss in 21 weeks, for a weekly average loss of 2.38 pounds per week. Follow my progress using this chart.

Tomorrow will mark five months of eating low carb. What a difference five months have made in my life! As I mentioned before, I read Why We Get Fat and What to Do About It by Gary Taubes on February 13 and 14, and began my low carb lifestyle the next day, on February 15, 2011. I have essentially followed the suggestions in the back of that book on what to eat, though as the months have gone by, I have learned so much more about what to eat.

Fifty pounds down, and fifty more to go.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Interesting News from the Low Carb Blogosphere

The Pepsi Challenge
Apparently, so-called "healthy whole grain" products have the same effect on your blood glucose levels as a 12-ounce can of sugared Pepsi. Also read Tom Naughton's take on the same data source, as it relates to that infamous article by Hope Warshaw.

The War on Salt
In salt news, a meta analysis of 6,250 subjects found little evidence to support the claim that limiting salt will reduce your risk of a heart attack. Limiting salt will lead to blander tasting foods, however. In fact, the less salt subjects consumed, the greater their risk of heart disease. The authors call for an end on the unsubstantiated war on salt. I have written about the lack of evidence condemning salt before and agree with the suggestion to end the war on salt.

Obesity
The only state in the nation with fewer than 20% of the population classified as obese is Colorado. More than a dozen states have 33% or more classified as obese, and Mississippi is the most obese state in the country. Interestingly, the mainstream may be recognizing that starches and sugars are causing weight gain.

Pro Low Carb Message in the LA Times
Wow, a positive story in a mainstream newspaper about the low carb lifestyle. Miracles never cease.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Low Carbing on the Road

So we have been living out of our travel trailer for the past two weeks, and it has been very easy to follow the low carb lifestyle. My wife and I eat eggs with bacon and cheese for breakfast; cold, baked chicken or other leftovers for lunch; and a meat and veggie dish for dinner.

We have a Camp Chef Pro 60 stove, a griddle, a grill box, and several Lodge Dutch ovens, including a 12-inch deep, a 14-inch, and a 14-inch deep.  Note, we paid considerably less than the list prices at the above links by shopping at an outdoor sports superstore, such as Sportsman's Warehouse. We had a family reunion and cooked ribs and a Sunday roast in the Dutch ovens; hamburgers and steak with the grill box; and bacon and eggs on the griddle.

It has been considerably easier to eat when we can cook on our own. We hardly ate out at all on this trip. I haven't weighed myself since the end of June, so I will be curious to see what I weigh when we return on Wednesday.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Traveling Again

This time, we are in Yellowstone National Park, with hardly any useful Internet connection. Hopefully, more on Monday.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

The Trade Off

A lot of feathers were ruffled by Hope Warshaw's condemnation of the low carb diet. I wrote about it and so did a lot of other people. The article cut off comments and the editor of the online magazine in which it appeared, Nadia Al-Samarrie, wrote a follow-up article in an attempt to calm the storm. I won't comment further on the essence of that debate, but something in the follow-up article drew my attention:

"Personally, I have not been successful on a low-carb diet, and that's true of many other people with whom I am familiar. A low-carb diet is difficult to stick to."

Is a low carb diet difficult to stick to? Myself, I have no trouble sticking to the low-carb lifestyle, and even though my journey is only five months old, I feel a sense of commitment to low carbing that I never felt with other diets I have tried. I have freely admitted on this blog, for example, that I am a Weight Watchers failure.  But I do know people who cannot stick to the low-carb way of living, despite the many advantages of this way of eating. So I ask myself, why is the low-carb experience different for me? Do others fail at low carbing because they are so completely addicted to carbs? Is it because they cannot give up bread and sugar? Are their carb withdrawals too intense? Or is something else going on? I do not know the answer for other people, but I think I understand why I am committed to the low carb way of life.

I have type II diabetes. The trade off for me is being ravaged by complications associated with diabetes or following the low carb way of life. I can die ten to fifteen years earlier than I might otherwise; I can go blind, suffer amputations, go on dialysis, have wounds that won't heal, get Alzheimer's disease, experience heart disease, and spend a lot of money on drugs as the disease gets progressively worse... or I can follow a low carb way of life. In my mind, this is a no-brainer.

But there are other reasons, too. I have had an intellectual conversion to the low-carb way of life, thanks to the many books and articles I have read about it. My introduction came by reading Why we Get Fat and What to Do About It by Gary Taubes, but I have since read many other books and articles on the topic.

I have rediscovered tasty eating. My low-fat diet days are now a distant, bad memory. I experience a sense of fullness when I eat low carb meals that I never felt on Weight Watchers. Fat is my friend and I think that products like steak, bacon, butter, and cream really add spice and flavor to life.  I am able to fast now, which has greatly improved my spiritual life. I am sleeping much better and I am not snoring as much as I used to. And I just feel better in general, both physically and psychologically.

So, yes, for me the decision to go low carb was an easy one and I do not find it difficult to live.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Professional Ignorance about Type II Diabetes

There is an astonishingly bad article about how to treat type II diabetes in a publication called Diabetes Health titled Type II Diabetes: From Old Dogmas to New Realities. The author, a head-in-the-sand woman named Hope Warshaw, says that low carb diets don't help people with diabetes and that we should all follow the advice of the American Diabetes Association.

Or, as Tom Naughton of the Fathead Movie fame says, this article essentially says "Just give up and take your drugs, dangit!" Read Naughton's whole critique of this astoundingly stupid article. The ignorance of the professional medical community on type II diabetes just astounds me.

But the best part of this article are the 40+ comments, and almost all of them supports the low carb approach and offers many testimonials of the success rate of following low carb diets. Many express dismay at how utterly clueless the author is, given that she is an RD, a certified diabetes educator, and has a master's degree. Clearly, she is an example of what Glenn Reynolds at Instapundit.com calls "credentialed, not educated."

So why does the ADA promote a high carb diet, when high carb diets are the root problem for type II diabetics? I am not sure. But check out their corporate sponsor page: the ADA is sponsored by Coca Cola, Hershey's, Mars, Kellogs, General Mills, and Pepsi. Truly, a "Who's Who" of American high carb junk food.  Page referenced on July 6, 2011; corporate sponsors may change over time.

My type II diabetes has been reigned in since beginning the low carb journey. My HbA1c level is quite good, I am off insulin, I have lost a lot of weight, and my blood pressure is normal. All without following the advice of the ADA.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Misc. Thoughts, Studies, and Blog Posts

No updates this week, as I am traveling and away from home, where I weigh myself. However, I can feel my pants getting looser by the day, so I am confident I have lost weight. Below are some jumbled thoughts and ramblings from my surfing throughout the low carb blogosphere.

I have received two books in the mail from Amazon.com that I am currently reading: Nourishing Traditions by Sally Fallon and Mary Enig and The Art and Science of Low Carbohydrate Living by Stephen Phinney and Jeff Volek. I haven't had time to read them yet, but will report on them when I do. The first one, Nourishing Traditions, is actually a cookbook which explains the philosophy behind the Weston A. Price Foundation's view on achieving perfect health. As I have flipped through it, it looks very interesting and unlike other cookbooks I have referenced. The second book is a How To book, which explains the ins and outs of the low carb lifestyle. It is targeted towards health professionals.

In news from around the low carb blogosphere, Chris Kresser of the Healthy Skeptic has a new post on natural childbirth. My daughter has been educating me on natural childbirth (I've commented on the topic before), and I find it interesting that a man has written on the topic. His wife makes several comments about the topic (e.g., here, here, and here) in the comments section and he is fully supportive of the procedure. In fact, it seems logical, given his focus on natural health and the paleo diet.

Denise Minger of the Raw Foods SOS blog tweeted about a study showing a link between antidepressant drugs (e.g., Prozac, Zoloft, Paxil, Celexa) and the occurrence of autism. Caution: this is an observational study which shows correlation, not causation. Nevertheless, it is an interesting hypothesis that warrants further study.

Tom Naughton of the Fathead blog writes that most vegetarians become ex-vegetarians. He reviews a news article on the subject and makes some interesting conclusions. People who chose vegetarianism for ethical reasons are now eating meat (prepared in an ethical manner, e.g., grass fed, not feedlot meat). Poor health from the vegetarian diet is the number one reason people go back to eating meat.

A recent rodent study showed that a low carb diet helps prevent weight gain, cancer development and progression, and tumor growth.

Another study shows that fake fat (like Olestra) causes more weight gain than real fat. It was fun watching the authors spin the results of this study!

Monday, July 4, 2011

Lunch is the Hardest Meal

For me, eating low carb has been quite easy. Once I made the decision to go low carb, I have not looked back, especially since my blood glucose levels have dramatically improved.

However, that does not mean it is easy. For me, the hardest meal of the day is lunch. I have always hated packing my lunch and that is still true today. Now, in addition to having to pack lunch, I also have to plan ahead, to make sure there is something I can take to eat. Leftovers work out the best, but if there are no leftovers, I will usually take tuna fish or something like that. I often eat hard boiled eggs, cheese, almonds, and some veggies, such as broccoli florets as well. Eating out is no longer much of an option, as all the places to eat near where I work are not low carb friendly.

When traveling abroad, lunch is much tougher. I will often take ham and cheese for lunch, but I really get tired of that after a while. However, it us usually available on the breakfast bar in the hotel, so that is what I take. When traveling domestically, especially with our RV, lunch is much easier, as I can prepare what I eat.

My preferred way of dealing with lunch is to be at home, in the kitchen, when I can cook and eat something fresh. Unfortunately, having a day job makes this tough, except for the weekends. So I resign myself to packing a lunch.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Another Reason Why Low Carb Works

Yesterday, I attended the baptism of my 8-year-old nephew and afterward, there was a big family get together. With food. Lots of food, and almost all of it pure "carbage." So I ate what I could (a few strawberries and the roast beef and cheese innards from a croissant sandwich plus some other green veggies) and left the feeding trough satisfied.

But I noticed that everyone kept going back to the chips, potato salad, cookies, sandwiches, watermelon, soda pop, etc., while I abstained. I wasn't suffering and felt quite full, actually, with what I ate. I realized that by nourishing my body with nutrient dense calories, my appetite was sated and I probably consumed a lot fewer calories than most people there. A lot fewer calories. Feeling full and then spontaneously consuming fewer calories is one of the reasons people lose weight on low carb diets. I saw a vivid example of that principle in action yesterday.

Saturday, July 2, 2011

I've Been Traveling Again

I've been traveling again, this time for a family vacation. (The trip to Europe was for my job). So I haven't been able to post for the last couple of days. This time, we are traveling across America with an RV. The really good thing about this is that we can control what we eat a whole lot better than when I was eating out three times per day while traveling across Europe. This makes low carbing a lot easier, as we have a stove, oven, refrigerator, and everything we need for healthy eating.