Simple healthy eating

Aaron E. Carroll for the New York Times, The Upshot – Simple rules for healthy eating:

All of these rules are subtly trying to get you to be more conscious of what you’re eating. It’s far too easy these days to consume more than you think you are, or more than you really need, especially when eating out. I’ve found that it’s impossible to tell any one person how much they should be eating. People have varying requirements, and it’s important for all of them to listen to their bodies to know when they should eat, and when they should stop.

I’ve found that making change is hard. How many times have I started running, only to stop a few weeks later due to illness and not getting back into it when I’m better? But we have made the change in our diets. Slowly and over time (in the last 4-5 years) we’ve made small changes that have resulted in weight loss (30+ lbs for me over that time), reduction in cholesterol levels and overall feeling better about my body image.

Maybe carbohydrates aren’t that bad after all

Julia Belloz at Vox – We’ve long blamed carbs for making us fat. What if that’s wrong?

The main scientific model behind the low-carb approach is the “carbohydrate-insulin hypothesis,” which journalist Gary Taubes, Harvard professor David Ludwig, and others have extensively promoted. It suggests that a diet heavy in carbohydrates (especially refined grains and sugars) leads to weight gain because of a specific mechanism: Carbs drive up insulin in the body, causing the body to hold on to fat and suppress calorie burn.

But what’s often lost in all the boosterism around the low-carb approach is that it is still an unproven hypothesis in science.

So they did a study to show whether a low-carb diet can actually help to reduce weight. 17 overweight or obese men in a metabolic chamber for 4 weeks and fed either a high carbohydrate diet or ketogenic diet with the same number of calories. Results? No increased body fat loss with the ketogenic diet.

But as Bazinet points out, “The study … doesn’t see any [relationship between a decrease in insulin and an increase in fat loss]. Show me a better study that supports this.”

There isn’t any, he added.

Ah. Conclusions?

Tobias urged dieters not to lose sight of the bigger picture. “Low-carb versus low-fat should not be the focus for people selecting a weight loss diet.” The focus, she said, should be on improving the quality of food that people eat instead.

GMOs are safe, says NAS

The National Academy of Sciences has published a report – Genetically Engineered Crops: Experiences and Prospects:

Human Health Effects:
GE crops and foods derived from them are tested in three ways: animal testing, compositional analysis, and aller-genicity testing and prediction. Although the design and analysis of many animal-feeding studies were not optimal, the many available animal experimental studies taken together provided reasonable evidence that animals were not harmed by eating foods derived from GE crops. Data on the nutrient and chemical composition of a GE plant compared to a similar non-GE variety of the crop some-times show statistically significant differences in nutrient and chemical composition, but the differences have been considered to fall within the range of naturally occurring variation found in currently available non-GE crops.
Many people are concerned that GE food consumption may lead to higher incidence of specific health problems including cancer, obesity, gastrointestinal tract illnesses, kidney disease, and disorders such as autism spectrum and allergies. In the absence of long-term, case-controlled studies to examine some hypotheses, the committee examined epidemiological datasets over time from the United States and Canada, where GE food has been consumed since the late 1990s, and similar datasets from the United Kingdom and western Europe, where GE food is not widely consumed. No pattern of differences was found among countries in specific health problems after the introduction of GE foods in the 1990s.

Glyphosate does not cause cancer (so far as we know)

Derek Lowe – Glyphosate and Cancer:

I went into one of those in detail here, and after looking into the case that it makes, I am willing to dismiss out of hand anything else Seneff has to say on the subject. It’s that bad. You will hear that “MIT researchers” have “proven” that glyphosate does X and Y and Z, and that this work is “published in peer-reviewed journals”, but nothing like that is true. Seneff has done no actual studies on glyphosate; she doesn’t work in a lab. Those papers are rehashes of stuff from the literature, piles of speculation and dot-connecting, and they’re invariably published in low-quality pay-to-play journals that do little or no actual refereeing of their contents. And their content is yet another problem – as shown in that link above, the paper that goes on and on about glyphosate’s effect on gut bacteria does not manage to cite any of the papers that have studied. . .glyphosate effects on bacteria. It not only doesn’t cite them, it seems to pretend that this research does not even exist, probably because all these papers contradict the fundamental ideas that Seneff’s tower of speculation is built on. She’s going around now saying that half of all children are going to be autistic (because of glyphosate), and that it’s also a root cause of not only cancer, but Alzheimer’s and a whole list of other diseases. If your knowledge of glyphosate’s toxicology comes only from reading the Seneff papers, I feel pity for you, because you have a lot of work ahead of you if you want to actually understand anything about it.


In considering the risk of cancer due to glyphosate, he compares it to the recent articles on bacon/cured meats and risks of cancer:

…that’s basically what happened recently with the IARC and its announcement on bacon being a cause of cancer. Under real-world conditions, eating a normal amount of bacon raise your risk of colorectal cancer by an amount too small to consider. But it does appear to be raising it by a reproducible, measurable amount, and therefore bacon (and other processed meats) are in the IARC’s category 1

And the conclusion:

So that’s the state of the art: there is, from what I can see, nothing very clearly linking glyphosate to human cancer. There’s certainly room for more evidence to come in, though, and it looks like we’re going to need it, because this is a topic that’s never going to go away until we have more data.

Gluten free diets aren’t quite what most people think they are

Norelle R. Reilly recently published an article in the Journal of Pediatrics – The Gluten-Free Diet: Recognizing Fact, Fiction and Fad:

Gluten-free packaged foods frequently contain a greater density of fat and sugar than their gluten-containing counterparts. Increased fat and calorie intake have been identified in individuals after a GFD. Obesity, overweight, and new-onset insulin resistance and metabolic syndrome have been identified after initiation of a GFD. A GFD also may lead to deficiencies in B vitamins, folate, and iron, given a lack of nutrient fortification of many gluten-free products.

Uh-oh. Not good for those people who are gluten-free for non-celiac reasons.

There is emerging evidence that those consuming gluten-free products without sufficient diversity may be at greater risk of exposure to certain toxins than those on an unrestricted diet. Arsenic is frequently present in inorganic form in rice, a concern for those on a GFD given that rice is a common ingredient in gluten-free processed foods.

A constant worry for us, since much of our diet is rice-based. Maybe 80% or so.

There also are noteworthy non-nutritional implications of a GFD. Worldwide, those purchasing gluten-free products will encounter far greater food costs than gluten containing competitors. Social isolation and inconvenience have been reported by children with CD requiring a GFD, and some with CD report a deterioration in their quality of life while on a GFD, linked in many cases to the diet itself.

We are lucky to be able to afford the time and expense of making much of our food from scratch in order to keep it as safe as we can from allergens. But it’s another worry for us in the future as our son grows up.

Consumers don’t really know food issues.

McFadden and Lusk, in their recent paper in FASEB Journal, What consumers don’t know about genetically modified food and how that affects beliefs:

New data collected from a nationwide U.S. survey reveal low levels of knowledge and numerous misperceptions about GM food. Nearly equal numbers of consumers prefer mandatory labeling of foods containing DNA as do those preferring mandatory labeling of GM foods.

Perhaps the survey captured an inordinate number of Food Babe acolytes.