Tag Archives: overweight

ADA Weight-Loss Guidelines for 2011

Earlier this month the American Diabetes Association published its Standards of Care in Diabetes—2011

The ADA recommends weight loss for all overweight diabetics.

For weight loss, either low-carbohydrate [under 130 g/day], low-fat calorie-restricted, or Mediterranean diets may be effective in the short-term (up to two years).  For those on low-carb diets, monitor lipids, kidney function, and protein consumption, and adjust diabetic drugs as needed…The optimal macronutrient composition of weight loss diets has not been established. [Macronutients are carbohydrates, proteins, and fats.]

Until three years ago, the ADA recommended against carbohydrate-restricted diets for overweight diabetics.  In January, 2008, their position statement noted that such diets may be effective for up to one year.  My recollection is that their 2010 guidelines also said “up to one year” and didn’t mention the  Mediterranean diet. 

Progress!

Looks like the timing of my Low-Carb Mediterranean Diet is good.

Steve Parker, M.D.

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Filed under Carbohydrate, Mediterranean Diet, Weight Loss

Book Review: Why We Get Fat

Gary Taubes’s new book, Why We Get Fat: And What To Do About It, comes on the market later this month.  I give it five stars per Amazon.com’s ranking system (I love it).

♦   ♦   ♦

At the start of my medical career over two decades ago, many of my overweight patients were convinced they had a hormone problem causing it.  I carefully explained that’s rarely the case.  As it turns out, I may have been wrong.  And the hormone is insulin.

Mr. Taubes wrote this long-awaited book for two reasons: 1) to make the ideas in his 2007 masterpiece (Good Calories, Bad Calories) more accessible to the public, and 2) to speed up the process of changing conventional wisdom on overweight.  GCBC was the equivalent of a college-level course on nutrition, genetics, history, politics, science, physiology, and biochemistry. Many nutrition science geeks loved it while recognizing it was too difficult for the average person to digest.

Paradigm Shift

The author hopes to convince us that “We don’t get fat because we overeat; we overeat because we’re getting fat.”  We need to think of obesity as a disorder of excess fat accumulation, then ask why the fat tissue isn’t regulated properly.  A limited number of hormones and enzymes regulate fat storage; what’s the problem with them?

Mr. Taubes makes a great effort convince you the old “energy balance equation” doesn’t apply to fat storage.  You remember the equation: eat too many calories and you get fat, or fail to burn up enough calories with metabolism and exercise, and you get fat.  To lose fat, eat less and exercise more.  He prefers to call it the “calories-in/calories-out” theory.  He admits it has at least a little validity.  Problem is, the theory seems to have an awfully high failure rate when applied to weight management over the long run.  We’ve operated under that theory for the last half century, but keep getting fatter and fatter.  So the theory must be wrong on the face of it, right?  Is there a better one?

So, Why DO We Get Fat?

Here is Taubes’s explanation.  The hormone in charge of fat strorage is insulin; it works to make us fatter, building fat tissue.  If you’ve got too much fat, you must have too much insulin action.  And what drives insulin secretion from your pancreas?  Dietary carbohydrates, especially refined carbs such as sugars, flour, cereal grains, starchy vegetables (e.g., corn, beans, rice, potatoes), liquid carbs.  These are the “fattening carbs.”  Dozens of enzymes and hormones are at play either depositing fat into tissue, or mobilizing the fat to be used as energy.  It’s an active process going on continously.  Any regulatory derangement that favors fat accumulation will CAUSE gluttony (overeating) or sloth (inactivity).  So it’s not your fault. 

What To Do About It

Cut back on carb consumption to lower your fat-producing insulin levels, and you turn fat accumulation into fat mobilization.

Before you write off Taubes as a fly-by-night crackpot, be aware that he’s received three Science-in-Society Journalism Awards from the National Association of Science Writers.  He’s a respected, professional science writer.  Having read two of his books, it’s clear to me he’s very intelligent.  If he’s got a hidden agenda, it’s well hidden.

One example  illustrates how hormones control growth of tissues, including fat tissue.  Consider the transformation of a skinny 11-year-old girl into a voluptuous woman of 18. Various hormones make her grow and accumulate fat in the places we now see curves.  The hormones make her eat more, and they control the final product.  The girl has no choice.  Same with our adult fat tissue, but with different hormones. If some derangement is making us grow fatter, it’s going to make us more sedentary (so more energy can be diverted to fat tissue) or make us overeat, or both.  We can’t fight it.  At not least very well, as you can readily appreciate if look at the people around you at any American shopping mall.

This’N’That

Taubes’s writing is clear and persuasive.  He doesn’t beat you over the head with his conclusions. He lays out a logical series of facts and potential connections and explanations, helping you eventually see things his way.  If insulin controls fat storage by building and maintaining fat tissue, and if carboydrates drive insulin secretion, then the way to reduce overweight and obesity is carbohydrate-restricted eating, especially avoiding the fattening carbohydrates.  I’m sure that’s true for many folks, perhaps even a majority.

If you’re overweight and skeptical about this approach, you could try out a very-low-carb diet for a couple weeks or a month at little expense and risk (but not zero risk).  If Mr. Taubes and I are right, there’s a good chance you’ll lose weight.  At the back of the book is a university-affiliated low-carb eating plan.

If cutting carb consumption is so critical for long-term weight control, why is it that so many different diets—with no focus on carb restriction—seem to work, if only for the short run?  Taubes suggests it’s because nearly all diets reduce carb consumption to some degree, including the fattening carbs.  If you reduce your total daily calories by 500, for example, many of those calories will be from carbs.  Simply deciding to “eat healthy” works for some people: stopping soda pop, candy bars, cookies, desserts, beer, etc.  That cuts a lot of fattening carbs right there.

Losing excess weight or controlling weight by avoiding carbohydrates was the conventional wisdom prior to 1960, as documented by Mr. Taubes.  Low-carb diets for obesity date back almost 200 years.  The author attributes many of his ideas to German internist Gustav von Bergmann (1908).   

Taubes discusses the Paleolithic diet, mentioning that the average paleo diet derived about a third of total calories from carbohdyrates (compared to the standard American diet’s 55% of calories from carb).  My prior literature review  found 40-45% of paleo diet calories from carbohydrate.  I’m not sure who’s right.

Minor Bone of Contention RE: Coronary Heart Disease

Mr. Taubes provides numerous scientific references to back his assertions.  I checked out one in particular because it didn’t sound right.  Some background first. 

Reducing our total fat and saturated fat consumption over the last 40 years was supposed to lower our LDL cholesterol, thereby reducing the burden of coronary heart disease, which causes heart attacks.  Instead, we’ve experienced the obesity epidemic as those fats were replaced by carbohydrates.  Taubes mentions a 2009 medical journal article by Kuklina et al, in which Taubes says Kuklina points out the number of heart attacks has not decreased as we’ve made these diet changes.  Kuklina et al don’t say that.  In fact, age-standardized heart attack rates have decreased in the U.S. during the last decade. 

Furthermore, autopsy data document a reduced prevalence of anatomic coronary heart disease in people aged 20-59 from 1979 to 1994, but no change in prevalence for those over 60. The incidence of coronary heart disease decreased in the U.S. from 1971 to 1998 (the latest reliable data).  Death rates from heart disease and stroke have been decreasing steadily over the last 40 years in the U.S.; coronary heart disease death rates are down by 50%.  I do agree with Taubes that we shouldn’t credit those improvements to reduced total and saturated fat consumption.  [Reduced trans fat consumption may play a role, but that’s off-topic.] 

I think Mr. Taubes would like to believe that coronary artery disease is either more severe or unchanged in the last few decades because of low-fat, high-carb eating.  That would fit nicely with some of his theories, but it’s not the case.  Coronary artery disease is better now thanks to a variety of factors, but probably not diet (setting aside the trans-fat issue).

Going Forward

Low-carb dieting was vilified over the last half century partly out of concern that the accompanying high fat consumption would cause premature heart attacks, strokes, and death.  We know now that total dietary fat and saturated fat have little to do with coronary heart disease and atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries), which sets the stage for a resurgence of low-carb eating.  

I advocate Mediterranean-style eating as the healthiest, in general.  It’s linked with prolonged life and lower risk of heart disease, stroke, dementia, diabetes, and cancer.  On the other hand, obesity is a strong risk factor for premature death and development of heart disease, stroke, diabetes, and cancer.  If consistent low-carb eating cures the obesity, is it healthier than the Mediterranean diet?  Maybe so.  Would a combination of low-carb and Mediterranean be better?  Maybe so.  I’m certain Mr. Taubes would welcome a decades-long interventional study comparing low-carb with the Mediterranean diet.  But that’s probably not going to happen in our lifetimes. 

Gary Taubes rejects the calories-in/calories-out theory of overweight that hasn’t done a very good job for us over the last 40 years.  Taubes’s alternative ideas deserve serious consideration.

Steve Parker, M.D.

Update December 18, 2010: I found Mr. Taubes’s reference for stating that Paleolithic diets provide about a third of calories from carbohydrate (22-40%), based on modern hunter-gatherer societies).  See References below.   

References:
Coronary heart disease autopsy data:  American Journal of Medicine, 110 (2001): 267-273.
Reduced heart attacks:  Circulation, 12 (2010): 1,322-1,328.
Reduced incidence of coronary heart disease:  www.UpToDate.com, topic: “Epidemiology of Coronary Heart Disease,” accessed December 11, 2010.
Death rates for coronary heart disease:  Journal of the American Medical Association, 294 (2005): 1,255-1,259.

Cordain, L., et al.  Plant-animal subsistance ratios and macronutrient energy estimations in worldwide hunter-gatherer dietsAmerican Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 71 (2000): 682-692.

Disclosure:  I don’t know Gary Taubes.  I requested from the publisher and received a free advance review copy of the book.  Otherwise I received nothing of value for this review.

Disclaimer:   All matters regarding your health require supervision by a personal physician or other appropriate health professional familiar with your current health status.  Always consult your personal physician before making any dietary or exercise changes.

Update April 22, 2013

As mentioned above, WWGF was based on Taubes’ 2007 book, Good Calories, Bad Calories. You may be interested in a highly critical review of GCBC by Seth at The Science of Nutrition.

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Filed under Book Reviews, coronary heart disease, Fat in Diet, Mediterranean Diet

Another Good Reason to Lose the Fat: Stop Urine Leakage

For overweight and obese women, loss of between five and 10% of body weight significantly reduces urine leakage.  According to the research report in a recent Obstetrics & Gynecology journal, weight loss should be the first approach to urine leakage in overweight and obese women.

The other word for urine leakage is incontinence: an involuntary loss of urine.  It’s a major problem that isn’t much talked about.  It’s not exactly dinner-party conversation material.  You can imagine its effect on quality of life.  In the U.S., leakage of urine on at least a weekly basis is reported by one in 10 women and one in 20 men.  It’s more common at higher ages and in women.  Just looking at non-pregnant women, incontinence affects 7% of women aged 20-39, 17% of those aged 40-59, and 23% of women 60-79 years old.

The study at hand involved 338 overweight and obese women: average age 53 (minimum of 30), average body mass index 36, average weight 92 kg (202 lb).  For participation, they had to have at least 10 incontinence episodes per week.  On average, they reported 24 leakage episodes per week (10 stress incontinence, 14 urge incontinence).  All women were given a “self-help incontinence behavioral booklet with instructions for improving bladder control.”  They were randomized to two different weight-loss programs, but I won’t bore you with the details.  The diets were the standard reduced-calorie type.  One diet group had many more meetings than than the other.

The women kept diaries of leakage, and even collected urine soaked pads for weighing.

Results

Eight-five percent of the women completed the 18-month study.

By six months, 89 of the women has lost five to 10% of body weight; 84 lost over 10%.  As expected, when measured at 18 months, only 61 women were in the “five to 10% loss” category; 71 were in the “over 10%” group. 

Greater amounts of weigh loss were linked to fewer episodes of leakage.  Maximal improvement in leakage episodes were seen in the women who lost between five and 10% of body weight, with no additional benefit to greater degrees of weight loss, generally.

Women who lost 5-10% of their body weight were two to four times more likely to achieve at least a 70% reduction in total and urge incontinent episode frequency compared with women who gained weight at 6, 12, and 18 months.

Weight loss works better for stress incontinence than for urge incontinence.

Three of every four women who lost five to 10% of body weight said they were moderately or very satisfied with their improved bladder control.

Bottom Line

Weight loss is usually not a cure for incontinence, but a reasonable management option for overweight and obese women.  It’s going to take loss of five or 10% of body weight.  Other options  include drugs, surgery, Kegel exercises, and just living with it.

Five or 10% weight loss for a 200 pound woman is just 10 or 20 pounds.  That degree of weight loss is also linked to lower risk of diabetes and hypertension: even more reason go for it.  

Does it work for men?  Who knows?

Steve Parker, M.D.

Reference: Wing, R.R., et al.  Program to Reduce Incontinence by Diet and Exercise: Improving urinary incontinence in overweight and obese women through modest weight loss. Obstetrics and Gynecology, 116 (2010): 284-92 PMID: 20664387

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Filed under Weight Loss

Heart and Stroke Patients: Avoid Weight-Loss Drug Sibutramine (Meridia)

The weight-loss drug sibutramine (Meridia) should be withdrawn from the U.S. market, suggests an editorialist in the September 2, 2010, New England Journal of Medicine.  Based on a clinical study in the same issue, it’s more accurate to conclude that sibutramine shouldn’t be prescribed for people who aren’t supposed to be taking it in the first place.

Sibutramine is sold in the U.S. as Meridia and has been available since 1997.  Judging from the patients I run across, it’s not a very popular drug.  Why not?  It’s expensive and most people don’t lose much weight.

The recent multi-continent SCOUT trial enrolled 9,800 male and female study subjects at least 55 years old (average age 63) who had either:

  1. 1) History of cardiovascular disease (here defined as coronary artery disease, stroke, or peripheral artery disease)
  2. 2) Type 2 diabetes plus one or more of the following: high blood pressure, adverse cholesterol levels, current smoking, or diabetic kidney disease.
  3. Or both of the above (which ended up being 60% of the study population)`.

Here’s a problem from the get-go (“git-go” if you’re from southern U.S.).  For years, Meridia’s manufacturer and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration have told doctors they shouldn’t use the drug in patients with history of cardiovascular disease.  It’s not the scary “black box warning,” but it’s clearly in the package insert of full prescribing information.

Half the subjects were randomized to sibutramine 10 mg/day and the other half to placebo.  All were instructed in diet and exercise aiming for a 600 calorie per day energy deficit.  They should lose about a pound a week if they followed the program.  Average follow-up was 3.4 years.

What Did the Researchers Find?

Forty percent of both drug and placebo users dropped out of the study, a very high rate.

As measured at one year, the sibutramine-users averaged a weight loss of 9.5 pounds (4.3 kg), the majority of which was in the first 6 weeks.  After the first year, they tended to regain a little weight, but kept most of it off.

Death rates were the same for sibutramine and placebo.

Sibutramine users with a history of cardiovascular disease had a 16% increase in non-fatal heart attack and stroke compared to placebo.  To “cause” one heart attack or stroke in a person with known cardiovascular disease, you would have to treat 52 such patients.

Folks in the “diabetes plus risk factor(s)” group who took sibutramine had no increased risk of heart attack or stroke.

So What?

Average weight loss with sibutramine isn’t much.  Nothing new there.  [Your mileage may vary.]

People with cardiovascular disease shouldn’t take sibutramine.  Nothing new there either.

Steve Parker, M.D.

Reference:  James, W. Philip, et al.  Effect of sibutramine on cardiovascular outcomes in overweight and obese subjects.  New England Journal of Medicine, 363 (2010): 905-917.

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Filed under coronary heart disease, Drugs for Diabetes, Overweight and Obesity, Stroke, Weight Loss

Is a Low-Carb Diet Safe For Obese Adolescents?

High-protein, low-carbohydrate diets are safe and effective for severely obese adolescent, according to University of Colorado researchers.

Childhood obesity in the U.S. tripled from the early 1980s to 2000, ending with a 17% obesity rate.  Overweight and obesity together describe 32% of U.S. children.  Some experts believe this generation of kids will be the first in U.S. history to suffer a decline in life expectancy, related to obesity.

Colorado researchers wondered if a low-carb, high-protein diet is a reasonable treatment option.  Why high protein?  It’s an effort to preserve lean body mass (e.g., muscle). 

ResearchBlogging.orgThey randomized 46 adoloscents (age 12–18) to either a high-protein, low-carb diet (HPLC diet) or a calorie-restricted low-fat diet to be followed for 13 weeks.  HPLC dieters could eat unlimited calories as long as they attempted to keep carb consumption to 20 g/day or less.  Low-fat dieters were to choose lean protein sources, aiming daily for 2 to 2.5 grams of protein per kilogram of ideal body weight.  Study participants underwent blood analysis and body compositon analysis by dual x-ray absorptiometry.  These kids weighed an average of 108 kg (238 lb) and average body mass index was 39. 

Analysis of food diaries showed the following:

  • Average caloric intake was 1300-1450/day, toward the lower end for the HPLC dieters
  • Energy composition of the HPLC diet: 32% from protien, 11% from carb, 57% from fat
  • Energy compositon of the LF diet: 21% from protein, 51% from carb, 29% from fat
  • Average daily carb consumption for the HPLCers ended up closer to 40 g (still very low) 

Findings

Both groups lost weight, with the HPLC dieters trending to greater weight loss, but not to a statistically significant degree.  They did, however, show a greater drop in body mass index Z-score, however.  Study authors didn’t bother to explain “body mass index Z-scores,” assuming I would know what that meant.  Average weight in the HPLC group dropped 13 kg (29 lb) compared to 7 kg (15 lb) in the low-fat group.

Total and LDL cholesterol fell in both groups, and insulin resistance improved.  Neither diet had much effect on HDL cholesterol.

As usual, triglycerides fell dramatically in the HPLC dieters.

Nearly 40% of the kids—about the same number in both groups—dropped out before finishing the 13 weeks.

The HPLC group did not see any particular preservation of lean body mass, and actually seemed to lose a bit more than the low-fat group.

There were no serious adverse effects in either group. 

Surprisingly, satiety and hunger scores were the same in both groups.  [Low-carb, ketogenic diets have a reputation for satiation and hunger suppression.]

My Comments

This is a small short-term study with a large drop-out rate; we must consider it a pilot study.  That’s why I’m not as enthusiastic about it as the researchers.  Nevertheless, it does indeed suggest that high-protein, low-carb diets are indeed safe and effective in obese adolescents.  It’s a start.   

Steve Parker, M.D.

Reference: Krebs, N., Gao, D., Gralla, J., Collins, J., & Johnson, S. (2010). Efficacy and Safety of a High Protein, Low Carbohydrate Diet for Weight Loss in Severely Obese Adolescents The Journal of Pediatrics, 157 (2), 252-258 DOI: 10.1016/j.jpeds.2010.02.010

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Filed under Carbohydrate, Fat in Diet, ketogenic diet, Protein, Weight Loss

Sugar-Sweetened Beverages: Bane of Mankind?

Over the last 30 years in the U.S., consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages (SSBs) has increased from3.9% of total calories to 9.2% (in 2001).  In that same time span, the percentage of overweight American adults increased from 47% to 66%.  The obesity percentage rose from15 to 33% of adults. 

[Did the beverages cause the weight gain, or are they just associated?] 

Those are just a few of the many facts shared by the authors of “Sugar-sweetened beverages, obesity, type 2 diabetes mellitus, and cardiovascular disease risk,” published recently in Circulation.  Sugar-sweetened beverages, by the way, include soft drinks, fruit drinks, energy drinks, and vitamin water drinks. 

ResearchBlogging.orgSounds like an interesting article, doesn’t it?  It’s written by some of the brightest lights in nutritional science, including George Bray and Frank Hu.  Unfortunately, the article is a little too boring and technical for most of my readers.  Here are a few tidbits I enjoyed:

  • Fructose (found in similar amounts in sucrose (table sugar) and high fructose corn syrup) may particularly predispose us to deposit fat in and around our internal abdominal organs (“visceral fat,” which some believe to be more unhealthy than fat  in our buttocks or thighs).
  • Fructose may also lead to fat deposits in cells other than fat cells, potentially interfering with cell function.
  • Fructose may adversely affect lipid metabolism (higher triglyceride levels and lower HDL levels, which could promote heart disease).
  • Fructose raises blood pressure and reduces insulin sensitivity.
  • In the liver, fructose is preferentially converted to lipid, causing high triglyceride levels (associated with heart disease and insulin resistance).  [The authors did not mention the common condition of “fatty liver” (aka hepatic steatosis) in this context.]

Some of the authors conclusions:

  • SSBs are the largest contributor to added-sugar intake in the U.S.
  • SSBs contribute to weight gain.
  • SSBs may cause type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease—separate from their effect on obesity—via high glycemic load and increased fructose metabolism, in turn leading to insulin resistance, inflammation, pancreas beta cell impairment, high blood pressure, visceral fat build-up, and adverse effects on blood lipids.

I especially like their final sentence:

For these reasons and because they have little nutritional value, intake of SSBs should be limited, and SSBs should be replaced by healthy alternatives such as water.

Steve Parker, M.D.

Reference: Malik, V., Popkin, B., Bray, G., Despres, J., & Hu, F. (2010). Sugar-Sweetened Beverages, Obesity, Type 2 Diabetes Mellitus, and Cardiovascular Disease Risk Circulation, 121 (11), 1356-1364 DOI: 10.1161/CIRCULATIONAHA.109.876185

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Filed under Carbohydrate, Causes of Diabetes, coronary heart disease, Glycemic Index and Load, Overweight and Obesity

Low-Carb Mediterranean Diet Improves Glucose Control and Heart Risk Factors in Overweight Diabetics

In overweight type 2 diabetics, a low-carbohydrate Mediterranean diet improved HDL cholesterol levels and glucose control better than either the standard Mediterranean diet or American Diabetes Association diet, according to Israeli researchers reporting earlier this year.

Background

Prior studies suggest that diets rich in monounsaturated fatty acids (olive oil, for example) elevate HDL cholesterol and reduce LDL cholestrol and triglycerides in type 2 diabetics.

Low-carb diets improve blood sugar levels and reduce excess body weight in type 2 diabetics, leading to the ADA’s allowance in 2008 of a low-carbohydrate diet as an alternative to standard diabetic diets.

Many—probably most—type 2 diabetics have insulin resistance:  the body’s cells that can remove sugar from the bloodstream are not very sensitive to the effect of insulin driving sugar into those cells.  They “resist” insulin’s effect.  Consumption of monounsaturated fatty acids  improves insulin sensitivity.  In other words, insulin is better able to push blood sugar into cells, removing it from the bloodstream.

Previous studies have shown that both low-carb diets and the Mediterranean diet reduce after-meal elevations in blood sugar, which likely lowers levels of triglycerides and LDL cholesterol.

How Was the Study Done?

The goal was to compare effects of three diets in overweight type 2 diabetics in Israel over the course of one year.  Study participants totalled 259.  Average age was 56, average weight 86 kg (189 lb), average hemoglobin A1c 8.3%, and average fasting plasma glucose (sugar) was 10.3 mmol/L (185 mg/dl).  [Many diabetics in the U.S. fit this profile.]  People taking insulin were excluded from the study, as were those with proliferative diabetic retinopathy—no reasons given. 

Participants were randomly assigned to one of three diets, so there were about 85 in each group.  [Over the course of one year, people dropped out of the study for various reasons, leaving each group with about 60 subjects.] 

Here are the diets:

  • 2003 ADA (American Diabetes Association) diet:  50-55% of total caloric intake from carbohydrate (mixed glycemic index carbs), 30%  from fat, 20% from protein
  • Traditional Mediterranean (TM):  50-55% low-glycemic-index carbs, 30% fat—high in monounsaturated fat, 15-20% protein
  • Low-carb Mediterranean (LCM) :  35% low-glycemic-index carbs, 45% fat—high in monounsaturated fat, 15-20% protein

Patients were followed-up by the same dietitian every two weeks for one year.  All were advised to do aerobic exercise for 30-45 minutes at least three days a week.

Olive oil is traditionally the predominant form of fat in the Mediterranean diet and is a particularly rich source of monounsaturated fat.  At no point in this report was olive oil mentioned, nor any other source of monounsaturated fat.  Until I hear otherwise, I will assume that olive oil was the major source of monounsaturated fat in the TM and LCM diets. 

 All diets were designed to provide 20 calories per kilogram of body weight. 

In all three diets, saturated fat provided 7% of total calories.  Monounsaturated fatty acids provided 23% of total calories in the LCM, and  10% in the other two diets.  Polyunsaturated fatty acids provided 15% of calories in the LCM, and 12% in the other two diets.  The ADA diet provided 15 grams of fiber, the TM had 30 g, and the LCM had 45 g.

Adherence to the assigned diet was assessed with a “food frequency questionnaire” administered at six months.

What Did the Researchers Find?

Average reported energy intake was similar in all three groups: 2,222 calories per day.

Monounsaturated fat intake differences were statistically significant: 14.6, 12.8, and 12.6% for the LCM, TM, and ADA diets, respectively.  Polyunsaturated fat intake differences were statistically significant: 12.9, 11.5, and 11.2% for the LCM, TM, and ADA diets, respectively.

Percentage of energy from carbs was highest for the ADA diet (45.4%), intermediate for the TM diet (45.2%), and lowest for the LCM diet (41.9%).

At the end of 12 months, all three groups lost about the same amount of weight (8-9 kg or 18-20 lb), body mass index, and waist circumference.

Hemoglobin A1c fell in all three groups, but was significantly greater for the LCM group than for the ADA diet (6.3% absolute value vs 6.7%).

Triglycerides fell in all three groups, but was significantly greater for the LCM diet compared to the ADA diet.

The LCM group achieved a significant increase (12%) in HDL cholesterol compared to the ADA diet, but not different from the TM group.

LDL cholesterol fell in all three groups, and the LCM group’s drop (25%) was clearly superior to that of the ADA diet (14%) but about the same as the TM diet (21%).

Conclusions of the Investigators

We found that an intensive community-based dietary intervention reduced cardiovascular risk factors in overweight patients with [type 2 diabetes] for all three diets.  The LCM group had improved cardiovascular risk factors compared to either the ADA or the TM groups.

Only the LCM improved HDL levels and was superior to both the ADA and TM in improving glycaemic control.

It would appear that the low carbohydrate Mediterranean diet should be recommended for overweight diabetic patients.

My Comments

There’s no way the average diabetic could replicate this low-carb Mediterranean diet without working closely with a dietitian or nutritionist.

Any superiority of this low-carb Mediterranean diet may have as much to do with the increased monounsaturated fat intake as with the reduced carb consumption.  Monounsaturated fatty acid consumption is thought to improve insulin sensitivity. 

NutritionData’s Nutrient Search Tool can give you a list of foods high in monounsaturated fat.

The Mediterranean diet and low-carb diets independently have been shown to lower after-meal glucose levels, which probably lowers LDL cholesterol and triglycerides.

I’m disappointed the dietitians were not able to achieve a lower level of carbohydrate consumption in the low-carb Mediterranean diet group.  I suspect if they had, improvements in glucose control and lipids would have been even better.  But proof awaits another day.

We saw last year an article in the Annals of Internal Medicine that showed a dramatic reduction in the need for glucose-lowering drugs in type 2 diabetics following a different low-carb Mediterranean diet over four years, compared to a low-fat American Heart Association diet.  These two studies convince me a low-carb Mediterranean diet has real life-preserving and life-enhancing potential. 

Diabetics looking for a low-carb Mediterranean diet today have several options:

If you’re aware of any other low-carb, explicitly Mediterranean-style diets, please share in the Comments section.

Steve Parker, M.D. 

References: 

Elhayany, A., Lustman, A., Abel, R., Attal-Singer, J., and Vinker, S.  A low carbohydrate Mediterranean diet improves cardiovascular risk factors and diabetes control among overweight patients with type 2 dabetes mellitus:  a 1-year prospective randomized intervention studyDiabetes, Obesity and Metabolism, 12 (2010): 204-209.

Esposito, Katherine, et al.  Effects of a Mediterranean-style diet on the need for antihyperglycemic drug therapy in patients with newly diagnosed type 2 diabetesAnnals of Internal Medicine, 151 (2009): 306-314.

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Filed under Carbohydrate, coronary heart disease, Fat in Diet, Glycemic Index and Load, Mediterranean Diet, olive oil

Are Fructose and High Fructose Corn Syrup Bad for Us?

Table sugar (sucrose) is a combination of glucose and fructose

Darya Pino earlier this month posted at her Summer Tomato blog a video regarding high fructose corn syrup.  The speaker in the video is pediatric endocrinologist Robert Lustig, M.D., of the University of California—San Francisco.
In the U.S. between 1970 and 1990, consumption of high fructose corn syrup increased over 1000%.  During those two decades, the incidence of overweight and obesity nearly doubled.  Many wonder if this is more than just coincidental. Most of this fructose is in soft drinks.  Soft drink consumption per person in 1942 was two servings per week.  In 2000, consumption was two servings per day.  Of course, these drinks typically have few nutrients other than sugars.

Dr. Lustig is convinced that high fructose corn syrup (HFCS) is a chronic toxin, at least in the amounts many of us eat, and the cause of our current epidemic of childhood and adult obesity and overweight.  Even if this idea is not new to you, you may be interested to hear the biochemistry and physiology behind his position.  If you didn’t enjoy college lectures or are not a food science geek, you probably won’t be able to sit through this 1.5-hour video. 

I enjoyed the heck out of it!  Made me feel like I was back in college again.  Few of my professors were as good as Dr. Lustig at lecturing. 

Here are a few of his other major points:

  • HFCS was invented in Japan in the 1960s, then introduced to U.S. markets in 1975
  • sucrose and fructose are both poisons
  • in the U.S. we eat 63 pounds (28.6 kg) of HFCS and 141 pounds (64.1 kg) of sugar per year [he didn’t define “sugar” in this context]
  • he praises Yudkins book, Pure, White, and Deadly [I’ve written about the Cleave-Yudkin carbohydrate theory of chronic disease]
  • the triglyceride/HDL ratio predicts heart disease much better than does LDL cholesterol
  • chronic high fructose intake causes the metabolic syndrome [does he think it’s the only cause?]
  • only the liver can metabolize fructose, in contrast to every other tissue and organ that can use glucose as an energy supply
  • high fructose consumption increases the risk of gout and high blood pressure
  • fructose interferes with production of our body’s production of nitrous oxide—a natural circulatory dilator—leading to higher blood pressures
  • fructose increases de novo lipogenesis—in other words, it creates body fat
  • fructose interferes with natural chemical messengers that tell your brain you’ve had enough food and it’s time to stop eating
  • high fructose intake reduces LDL particle size, potentially increasing the future risk of cardiovascular disease such as heart attacks [small, dense LDL cholesterol is more damaging to your arteries that large, fluffy LDL]

So What? 

You don’t need polititians to reduce your consumption of sugary soft drinks and high fructose corn syrup—do it yourself starting today.  Read food labels—HFCS is everywhere.  I’ve found it in sausage! 

The food industry greatly reduced use of trans fats in response to consumer concerns, before the polititians ever dabbled in it.  HFCS can go the same route.  Consumption of soft drinks, sports drinks, and other sugary beverages—the major sources of HFCS—is up to you.

Steve Parker, M.D.

PS: The Advanced Mediterranean Diet and Ketogenic Mediterranean Diet are naturally low in fructose.

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Filed under Carbohydrate, Causes of Diabetes, Overweight and Obesity, Shameless Self-Promotion

Low-Carb Ketogenic Diet for Overweight Diabetic Men: A Pilot Study

A low-carb ketogenic diet in patients with type 2 diabetes was so effective that diabetes medications were reduced or discontinued in most patients, according to U.S. researchers.  The 2005 report recommends that similar dieters be under close medical supervision or capable of adjusting their own medication, because the diet lowers blood sugar  dramatically. 

Methodology

Twenty-eight overweight people with type 2 diabetes were placed on the study diet and followed for 16 weeks.  Seven people dropped out, so the analysis involved 21, of which 20 were men—the study was done at a Veterans Administration clinic.  Thirteen were caucasian, eight were black.  Average age was 56; average body mass index was 42.  The seven dropouts were unable to come to the scheduled meetings or couldn’t follow the diet.  No dropout complained of adverse effects of the diet.

Results

Participants were instructed on the Atkins Induction Phase diet, which daily includes:

  • under 20 g carbohydrate
  • one cup of low-carb vegetables
  • two cups of salad greens
  • four ounces of hard cheese
  • unlimited meat, poultry, fish, eggs, shellfish
  • a multivitamin

At the outset, diabetes medication dosages were reduced in this general fashion: insulin was halved, sulfonyureas were halved or discontinued.  If the participant were taking a diuretic (fluid pill), low doses were discontinued; high doses were halved.

Study subjects returned every two weeks for diet counseling and medication adjustment (based on twice daily glucose readings and episodes of hypoglycemia).  Food cravings and/or good progress on weight goals triggered a 5-gram (per day) weekly increase in carbohydrate allowance.  In other words, if a participant’s weight loss goal was 20 pounds and he’d already lost 10, he could increase his daily carbs during the next week from 20 to 25 g.  Carbs could be increased weekly by five gram increments as long as weight loss progressed.  [This is typical Atkins.]   Food records were analyzed periodically.   

Results

  • hemoglobin A1c decreased from an average baseline of 7.5% down to 6.3% (a 1.2% absolute decrease and 16% relative drop)
  • the absolute hemoglobin A1c decrease was at least 1.0% in half of the participants
  • diabetic drugs were reduced in 10 patients, discontinued in seven, and unchanged in four
  • average body weight decreased by 6.6%, from 131 kg (288 lb) to 122 kg (268 lb)
  • triglycerides decreased 42%, while cholesterols (total, HDL, and LDL) didn’t change significantly
  • no change in blood pressures
  • average fasting glucose decreased by 17% (by week 16)
  • uric acid decreased by 10%
  • no serious adverse effects occurred
  • one hypoglycemic event involved EMS but was treated without transport
  • only 27 of 151 urine ketone measurements  were greater than trace

My Comments

The degree of improvement in hemoglobin A1c—our primary gauge of diabetes control—is equivalent to that seen with many diabetic medications.  I see many overweight diabetics on two or three drugs and a standard “diabetic diet,” and they’re still poorly controlled.  This diet could replace the expense and potential adverse effects of an additional drug.   

In August this year I blogged about a study comparing the Atkins diet with a traditional low-fat diet in overweight diabetic black women in the U.S.  As measured at three months, the Atkins diet proved superior for weight loss and glucose control.

This study at hand is small, but certainly points to the effectiveness of an Atkins-style very low-carb ketogenic diet in overweight men with type 2 diabetes.

Steve Parker, M.D.

Yancy, William, et al.  A low-carbohydrate, ketogenic diet to treat type 2 diabetes [in men].  Nutrition and Metabolism, 2:34 (2005).   doi: 10.1186/1743-7075-2-34

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Filed under Carbohydrate, ketogenic diet, Overweight and Obesity, Weight Loss

ADA Now Says Low-Carb Diets OK for Overweight Type 2 Diabetics

CB037166Eighty-five percent of type 2 diabetics are overweight or obese.  Overweight either causes or aggravates many cases of diabetes.

For the last quarter-century, many U.S. government agencies and healthcare organizations have advocated a low-fat diet for overweight people, including type 2 diabetics.  Recent studies have documented that low-carbohydrate diets can also be effective in weight loss.  Low-carb diets replace carbohydrates with either fats or proteins, or both.  The A to Z Weight Loss Study compared the Atkins, Ornish, LEARN, and Zone diets in 311 overweight pre-menopausal women.  The Atkins group tended to lose a bit more weight. Changes in lipid profiles, waist-hip ratios, fasting insulin and glucose levels, blood pressure, and percentage of body fat were comparable or better with Atkins versus the other diets.

The Amerian Diabetes Association now gives the go-ahead for use of low-carb diets as a weight-control method for type 2 diabetics.  Previously, the organization had recommended against diets that restrict carbohydrates to less than 130 grams daily.  (A baked potatoe without the skin has 30 grams.)  Understand that the ADA does not endorse low-carb diets for weight loss or diabetes management.  They simply say that either low-carb or low-fat calorie-restricted diets might be effective for up to one year.

I caution you that low-carb diets may be deficient in fiber, minerals, vitamins, and phytonutrients that may be very beneficial in terms of long-term health and longevity.

The tide has been turning against low-fat diets for the last six years.

Steve Parker, M.D.

Reference: American Diabetes Association.  Clinical Practice Recommendations 2008.  Diabetes Care, 31 (2008): S61-S78.

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Filed under Carbohydrate, Overweight and Obesity