Snake oil, paleo diets, and what the science says

David Katz on America’s Test Kitchen Radio episode 405 (interview starts at time stamp 17:20).

On calories in vs calories out (22:30):

You get differential disposition of calories depending on what they are from and how that affects physiology.

So for example, calories from sugar will evoke an insulin response, and insulin in turn increases the tendency that calories will be deposited not only in body fat, but body fat in a harmful place right around the middle. If you get your calories from monounsaturated oil or  omega3 oil or high quality protein you’re going to have a different insulin response and those calories will go to different places in your body. So yes, the nature of the calories matters.

The other critical thing here, Chris, and the thing I was about to say this is, the quality of foods that we eat profoundly influences the number of calories it takes to feel full.

On science vs hucksters (30:18):

You maintain, Chris, that the public knows what to do, and that’s a huge part of the problem. See, somebody like me, I really want to empower people with useful information but you ask me any question and I start hemming and hawing, right? There’s subtlety, there’s nuance, but you talk to the hucksters and the charlatans or the fools and fanatics, and they’ll tell you, “Geez you know, Katz is dull as dishwater – he hems and haws.” You talk to a legitimate scientist, we always have doubts, “Well there’s science in favour, science against.” But you talk to dyed in the wool huckster, they know with absolute certainty that just the one simple thing you need to do, “It’s effortless, the pounds will drop off, the years will melt away.” You know, who can resist? I mean, your eyes glaze over, you go into a trance and you start reaching for your credit card.

The takeaway (36:10):

Feet, forks, fingers, sleep, stress, and love.

 

Disease Proof by David Katz

Organic vs conventional milk

Allison Aubrey at NPR – Is Organic More Nutritious? New Study Adds to the Evidence:

The study finds that organic dairy and meat contain about 50 percent more omega-3 fatty acids. The increase is the result of animals foraging on grasses rich in omega-3s, which then end up in dairy and meats.

Organic milk cows are given more forage for feed than conventional, which in comparison causes the increased level of fatty acids. So is it a product of being organic? Or just being fed more forage?

That said, organic meat and dairy contain far lower concentrations of omega-3s than what are found in fish such as salmon.

Better to eat fish if you want to increase your omega-3 intake.

Given the big picture, lots of experts say that, from a health perspective, what you eat matters more than whether you choose organic or conventional.

And at a time when most Americans don’t eat the recommended servings of fruits and vegetables, perhaps the more important step is to add them to your diet — no matter what farming methods were used to grow them.

Agreed.

The recently published meta-analysis can be found here.

Obesity interventions – financial incentives don’t seem to work

Aaron Carroll – Obesity intervention failures abound:

About 200 obese employees took part in a workplace wellness program to lose weight. Some were randomized with a financial incentive ($550) if they met their 5% weight loss reduction goal. After a year, the incentive was shown not to make a difference.

Perhaps a cultural shift is required, along with education.

On ‘healthy’ food

No food is healthy. Not even kale.

Michael Ruhlman for the Washington Post:

We will be healthy if we eat nutritious food. Our food is either nutritious or not. We are healthy or we are not. If we eat nutritious food, we may enhance what health we possess.

Because, and this is the judgment call, fat isn’t bad; stupid is bad. And until we have better information and clearer shared language defining our food, smart choices will be ever harder to make.

Besides the rant on  word usage errors, the article seems to rally against two main points – the government dietary guidelines and popular ‘healthy’ food fads.

The dietary guidelines have shifted through the years based on the available science; however, I would submit that following our best research into food and nutrition and human health is the best reasonable course we can take. I do understand that industry, politics and other factors influence the shape of the guidelines but the main ideas in those guidelines are pretty sound. It’s not enough of a reason to throw them out the window.

As for fads, in one sense, they can certainly help reduce the costs for people who absolutely have to follow those diets (i.e. gluten free foods are so much more available now and much cheaper) but they also muddy the waters for others. My recommendation is to look at the fads with eyes wide open and healthy skepticism. And eat foods in moderation.