Warning: This Warning May Not Be Valid

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Critics of the government's dietary advice have long questioned the focus on cutting fat–in particular, the recommendation that fat calories be kept below an arbitrary percentage of total calories. Now a controlled intervention study has shown pretty definitively that a low-fat diet does not reduce the risk of breast cancer, colorectal cancer, or cardiovascular disease.

For you Dean Ornish fans out there, I'll concede that the benefits might take longer than eight years to show up, might require more severe restrictions on fat (probably so severe that most people would not be willing to follow them), might relate to different disease risks, or might be so modest that they can't de detected even in a study with nearly 49,000 subjects. But an important lesson nevertheless can be drawn from the increasingly shaky foundation on which advice to cut fat (as opposed to certain kinds of fat, or total calories) rests. The dietary expert Jules Hirsch, physician in chief emeritus at Rockefeller University, told The New York Times this study "should put a stop to this era of thinking that we have all the information we need to change the whole national diet and make everybody healthy." And U.C.-Berkeley statistician David A. Freedman offered this warning: "We, in the scientific community, often give strong advice based on flimsy evidence."

One reason for this tendency is that "public health" doctrine says the government should deliver clear, authoritative-sounding advice, even when it's not justified by the evidence, because otherwise people might not comply. Another reason is that public health calculations give little or no weight to the inconvenience and forgone pleasure entailed by a particular recommendation. From this perspective, if cutting fat might reduce disease risks, and if it seems unlikely that it will raise them, telling everyone to do so makes sense–even if (as with salt limits) only a minority of the population stands to benefit. A more sophisticated (though still collectivist) approach would take the interests of individuals into account because people resent making sacrifices for no purpose and may therefore be less inclined to follow the next recommendation from the experts, even if that one is well-founded.

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  1. The real question is why would they even pursue this study? I haven’t seen any study or directive in years which said all fats are bad for you…

    There are healthy mono-unsaturated fats: fats from olives, fish, nuts

    There are innocous fats: fats from meat & dairy

    Then there are the nasty trans fats which should be reduced to a minimum intake.

    That’s pretty much the advise you’d get from any nutritionist, so why look at total fats?

  2. I now take extra pleasure when eating my usual breakfast of a fried-egg sandwich on buttered salted toast.

    (By the way, are eggs good for you or bad for you this week? I don’t recall.)

  3. Ornish says you have to keep total fat under 10% to reverse heart disease, under 15% or 20% to prevent it. Pritikin says about the same. The test diet target (I’ll call it low+fat) was 20%; the first year, the group averaged 24%, at the end they were at 29%. So what the test shows is that the Ornish recommendations were not followed and so it should not be news that his results were not confirmed.

    I should point out that for a year I tried to follow the under 10% fat guideline; it’s very very hard. Under 15% is very hard unless you go totally vegan. Under 20% is possible if you pay a lot of attention.

    This test, though, didn’t do any of those things.

  4. Funny how they fortify fat free milk with fat soluable vitamins.

  5. There’s a fundamental statistical error.

    “Scientists” love to do statistical trials. There’s funding for it, and you get a confidence level out, and all that good stuff.

    However, nobody accounts for all the statistical trials going on in a year.

    If you report results at a 95% confidence level, and make no statistical mistakes, one out of every 20 things you learn is wrong.

    Say there’s 10,000 trials out there in any year. Each year you learn 500 things that are wrong from scientists, each accompanied by a press release and lobbying for more funds, by the way.

    Anecdotal evidence is of course always wrong, but I notice you don’t see many fat old people.

  6. The real question is why would they even pursue this study?

    Because the received wisdom on cutting fat lacked good scientific support. This study shows there was good reason for the flimsiness of the data previously relied on.

  7. Just for clarity-the study mentioned only cancer. It said nothing about obesity or the effect of high-fat diets on the tendency to be fat.

  8. 6: Also covered cardio-vascular disease.

  9. Perhaps I could take this movement a little more seriously if there was not such a high degree of cross enrollment between the food nannies with their desire to legislate what I can and cannot put in my body, and the pro-choice crowd with their “my body my choice” mantra insisting that it is unconstitutional for the government to legislate what they can and cannot take out of their bodies.

    If we could just force pregnant women with unwanted babies to eat more healthily the world would be a happy place.

  10. Timothy-I saw that part, but it still leaves a lot of ground to cover. Also, it may or may not be significant that the study used female subjects only.
    Dr. T style disclaimer-Although I mentioned obesity, I do not support goverment programs to force people to be thin, I realize that the BMI is stupid, and I don’t like food scolds.

  11. I’m pro-choice and hate the health nannies, Swillfredo, for what that’s worth.

  12. I find the secret is to get involved in martial arts, caber tossing, snowboarding and excessive power lifting (with a broken foot) while in law school. You’ll find you don’t worry much about what you’ll be like when you are 50.

  13. The best advice about fat I’ve ever heard was simply “Try not to eat fats that turn solid when cooled”. I was already pretty old when I first heard that. Olive oil tastes better than butter for the most part anyway.

  14. Eryk, I wouldn’t be surprised if such activities became illegal in the future. You notice that many of the same people who moan about how many kids are fat these days are the same ones who saddle playgrounds with so many safety regulations that there are basically NO fun things kids can do to burn off calories?

  15. Ron Hardin, sure, a 95% confidence would mean that 5% of the time, you’ve reached a fallacious conclusion. But that’s just the threshold. You need to look at the confidence levels of individual studies. They often have *far* higher confidence levels.

  16. ack, powerlifting.

    everybody knows the snatch and clean and jerk are much more elegant than those dumb powerlifts πŸ™‚

    just kidding – i do both.

    btw, this ties in nicely with the other thread. a hyooge proportion of the anti-fat (and anti-red meat) brigade is based on pseudo science promoted by vegan fanatics via their shill org’s such as PCRM (lol) and PETA.

  17. News from the People’s Nursery of Chicago: our aldermen have found a new health risk to legislate!

    All cans of tuna sold in Chicago will now be labeled, “May contain dangerous levels of mercury.”

    “Noting that warnings exist for cigarettes and alcohol, Burke said in a statement: ‘Now that unacceptably high levels of mercury have been found in some cans of light tuna, it is time that we expanded these warnings to include another area of concern.’
    After a City Council meeting Wednesday, Burke said there is precedent for city regulation involving a product sold nationally…
    ‘The Congress diddles around and goes on year after year after year,’ Burke said. ‘This body can move swiftly and establish standards.’ ”

    While I agree with the last paragraph in principle, I also wish these people would get it into their heads that their job is not to protect us from ourselves. Not to mention that no one is certain what an “acceptable level” of mercury might be.

    And in other fast-food news, “Fed up with burger wrappers, french fry containers and paper cutps, Oakland is the first city in the nation to force fast-food restaurants…to pay an additional tax to help clean up litter…businesses will be assessed between $230 and $3815 annually depending on their size.”

    (Chicago Tribune)

  18. Hmmmm, and yet, study after study after study (see links below) seems to confirm that it is insulin and sugar sensitivity that causes the body to store excess fat, not actual dietary fat?not to mention genetic predispositions to heart disease, cancer, obesity, etc. Or the multitudinous environmental and lifestyle factors that can affect development of one or all of these diseases.

    Not that I’m about to go on a butter and steak diet or anything, but has anyone seriously tried to live on a less than 10% diet for long? The hunger, the brittle hair, dry skin, cracked nails, sallow skin. I could point to multiple problems with a diet seriously deficient in fat.

    I kind of like the K.I.S.S principle of dieting (or anything else for that matter). Keep it simple, stupid: lots of veggies, lean protein, fruits, nuts and treats on occasion. It doesn’t have to be so hard – I mean, how the hell did humans survive for even a day on this planet before the discovery of science and nutrition? It?s a wonder that primitive man was able to make it beyond the caves without government-stipulated RDAs and constructed diet charts to keep them healthy.

    Oh, yeah it helps if you get up off your ass now and then and ride a bike or walk to the store or take the stairs. I can have my cake and eat it too, several times a week, because I ride my bike to work and get myself up off the couch and into the gym several days a week.

    I’m with you, Eryk Boston. I’ve never tried caber tossing, though. Perhaps I will pick that up in my spare time this summer. Cheers!

  19. Sorry, I think if there’d been a measureable benefit, it would have shown up over eight years in 49,000 women.

    What it doesn’t say is you can now eat ice cream exclusively at any calorie level the rest of your life and not expect these diseases. But if you have more of a reasonable-sized diet coming from fat as opposed to carbohydrates, there’s no measureable risk.

  20. Number 6: Perhaps the female-only thing plays a role, but heart disease is IIRC still the #1 killer of women even if it is largely thought of as a male disease. But you’re right that it doesn’t really cover if eating fat makes you fat.

    I’ve heard before that in order to maintain your weight you need to eat 13*(weigh in pounds) calories per day, more than that without burning them off will make you gain weight. I’m assuming, of course, that’s a ball park sort of figure based on average metabolic rates and little/no exercise. My opinion, based on no science what-so-ever, is that total caloric intake and nutrient value are more important than where the calories come from. Also, if people would exercise more they’d be less fat.

  21. (By the way, are eggs good for you or bad for you this week? I don’t recall.)

    Your best bet is to eat eggs only every other week. That way, either they will always be good for you or you’ll die before you find out you picked the wrong week.

  22. Despite the fact that doing the clean, snatch and jerk makes my workout sound like a bad porno I do those moves and I call them powerlifting by with I mean sets of 3-5 reps. Since I’m not a competitive lifter (although Iam getting involved in Scottish athletics) I don’t need to concern myself with petty differences between powerlifters and olympic lifters.

    Jennifer, you have a valid point there. I’m pretty sure much of my childhood would be against regulations today…imagine the stroke a safety advocate would have seeing me play baseball using a pair of nunchuku and a throwing star.

  23. “Pork fat rules”
    -Emeril
    “Fat is the messenger of flavor”
    -Queer Eye Ted

  24. Eryk: Or without one of those retarded face masks they make little leaguers wear now.

  25. My opinion, based on no science what-so-ever, is that total caloric intake and nutrient value are more important than where the calories come from.

    Slightly off-topic, but this reminds me of a question I’ve had for a long time: to stay healthy, you need to consume a minimum number of calories for energy, a minimal amount of fiber to–uh–keep things moving, and a minimal amount of certain vitamins and minerals, right?

    But you can get all of your vitamins and minerals by taking a pill once a day. So why can’t you be perfectly healthy by taking that pill, and then not worrying about your diet beyond making sure you get the right amount of calories and fiber? I hear people say things like “Oh, getting Vitamin C from fresh oranges is much, much better than getting it from a pill” but I’ve never heard exactly why. What can an orange give me that a Vitamin C tablet can’t?

    I eat a truly atrocious diet but I DO take a vitamin every day, and I’m quite healthy indeed.

  26. Seeing someone named AmyLou try caber tossing might make me fall in love.

  27. Jennifer: I was watching Good Eats the other day, and their nutritionist as well as Alton Brown mentioned that nutrients from food tend to be absorbed into the bloodstream better than things in pill form. They also mentioned that there wasn’t exactly a good understanding of why that was the case.

    Of course, it was a TV chef and his nutritionist friend, so grain of salt and all that. I’ve found that I do feel better when I eat better, even if I’m taking a vitimin.

  28. The biggest problem with vitamins is that you get a spike in nutrition for a part of the day while food eaten over the course of the day spreads out your intake. Also, the pills are often mixed in questionable doses…assuming they are properly mixed in the first place which can be a problem with some makers.

  29. Eryk,
    sorry, I’m taking by a fellow bike racer…

  30. Well, give me a call when the bike seat makes him impotent πŸ˜‰

  31. “What can an orange give me that a Vitamin C tablet can’t?”

    I don’t know specifically about oranges, but one of the common critiques of vitamin pills that I’ve seen is that they deliver such concentrated doses so rapidly that the body isn’t able to absorb all of the vitamins before a substantial part are flushed out. Because regular food takes longer to digest, the body has more time to absorb vitamins from it.

  32. nutrients from food tend to be absorbed into the bloodstream better than things in pill form

    Makes sense, but I still have to wonder–isn’t there a point where you have enough vitamins, and so “better” intake doesn’t equal better health? Some vitamins, like C, cannot be stored in the body; if you have more than you need you lose it all the next time you go to the bathroom. Other vitamins, like A, can actually be toxic if you have too much. So provided the pills give you enough of the vitamins you need (and I fortify my diet by drinking Vitamin-C-enriched fruit juices, which keeps the levels more or less constant throughout the day), I’m still not quite understanding what it is I’m missing by not getting my vitamins the “natural” way.

  33. The free market seems to have done a great job reducing the trans-fats, at least here in Canada.

    Go market!

  34. OK, let’s put it this way…it’s like the difference between smoking a joint and taking a marinol pill.

  35. Jennifer: *shrug* There’s a reason I’m not a nutritionist….because we econ geeks get all the LADIES.

    Or something.

    But more seriously, I think SR’s point right above your last post could be valid. But, if that’s the case, wouldn’t taking a vitamin with a meal solve that problem?

  36. Hmmmm, and yet, study after study after study (see links below) seems to confirm that it is insulin and sugar sensitivity that causes the body to store excess fat, not actual dietary fat?

    Insulin sensitivity? Is this some kind of new condition invented by the lib’rul meedia?

  37. Jennifer, I’d say your best bet is to eat healthier food AND take vitamins. Like Eryk said above, you get your spike of nutrients, then you piss away all the water soluble ones. Plus the dosage of multivitamins is suspect, as they are usually based on the RDA, which, I am told, represents the LEAST amount of the various substances you should be getting in one day. This is especially true if you kill yourself in the gym a couple times a week. To further complicate things, there are absorption conflicts between some of the ingredients of multis, like for instance zinc and calcium compete for the same receptors, and zinc loses. I am no expert, as I am just a hobbyist in this, but anecdotally, I recently dropped the extra B & C vites I usually take during the day, and within three days I was feeling run-down and logy. I was very surprised that happened. I suppose if I didn’t lift weights four days a week, I probably wouldn’t need the extra vites, but since I do work out so much, they seem almost necessary.

    So, I would guess that if you’re generally healthy, you probably don’t eat as poorly as you think you do, you get enough sleep and exercise, you have good genetics, and you’re still young enough that the damage hasn’t shown up yet. All of that in some positive proportion.

  38. nostradumbass

    Do you like vinegar on your french fries?

  39. you probably don’t eat as poorly as you think you do, you get enough sleep and exercise, you have good genetics, and you’re still young enough that the damage hasn’t shown up yet

    The answers are, in order, “possibly,” “yes,” “yes,” and “tragically, no.”

  40. Proteus-

    Shocking as this sounds, on the rare occasion when I indulge, I usually eat them plain. πŸ˜€

  41. It’s a wonder that primitive man was able to make it beyond the caves without government-stipulated RDAs and constructed diet charts to keep them healthy.

    Perhaps cave paintings were actually diet aids.

    Hmmmm, and yet, study after study after study (see links below) seems to confirm that it is insulin and sugar sensitivity that causes the body to store excess fat, not actual dietary fat

    I try to eat as much fat as possible (bacon, greasy Mex food, non-“low-fat” everything, etc) and qualify for AARP while still looking like a college basketball player.

    Wasn’t there some noise a while back about low-fat diets causing cravings for sugar and such?

  42. Anecdotal evidence: from time to time I read those human-interest stories about some old person who just celebrated a three-digit birthday; these people never seem to eat the diets now called “healthy.” No, it’s always something like ‘I smoke three cigars a day, drink whiskey, and eat bacon fried in lard.’

  43. What it doesn’t say is you can now eat ice cream exclusively at any calorie level the rest of your life and not expect these diseases.

    Unfortunately, Sandy, most of the coverage I’ve seen on this seems to suggest that. Headlines like “Low fat diet myth debunked” are popping up all over the place, apparently suggesting that eating hamburger and pulled pork six times a week has no effect on your health.

    What I don’t get is how the lack of demonstrable reductions in certain types of cancer have “debunked” the low fat diet. How about a reduced risk of being a fatass?

    On a serious note, I’m interested to see what kind of results for heart disease, arteriosclerosis, heart attack and stroke this study evinces. Seems like those are higher on the “killing americans” list than colorectal cancer.

  44. Hasn’t common sense i.e. not smoking, not drinking too much, not eating like a pig, getting regular sleep, brushing your teeth, taking vitamin pills, drinking lots of water, seeing a doctor and denstist regularly and exercise held up over time as the way to be healthy?

    All this other “diety” stuff seems kind of irrelevant to me.

  45. I stand by my assertion that dieting is a matter of thermodynamics. Burn more calories than you consume and I absolutely guarantee that you will lose weight.

    Now, that may be easier with some diets than others. Some foods may impart a “full” feeling more quickly than others, or have a different effect on your appetite. And some foods may have other effects (good or bad) on your health that go beyond calories and obesity. But in the end, weight loss or gain depends on whether your intake exceeds your calorie usage.

    If you can prove me wrong, you can book yourself a flight to Sweden to collect your Nobel Prize in Physics, for you will have overturned the First Law of Thermodynamics.

  46. No one’s brought it up yet so I will:

    That creaking you hear is Dr. Atkins smiling in his grave!!

    (Note: I know this doesn’t prove that low-carbs is any better than low-fat, but I still think the finding would make Dr. Atkins smile!)

  47. If you can prove me wrong, you can book yourself a flight to Sweden to collect your Nobel Prize in Physics, for you will have overturned the First Law of Thermodynamics.

    Most of the grossly fat people I’ve known insisted they have hormonal imbalances which invalidate the laws of physics, and also force them to do things like slather a solid inch of cream cheese on every bagel they eat.

  48. Jennifer: I’ve known those same sorts of folks.

    Tangentially, does anybody else watch that The Biggest Loser show? I think it’s a pretty good show that actually helps folks get in shape, but I have to admit that the only thing funnier than a fat person crying on TV is a midget on a bicycle.

  49. Jennifer-

    They may very well have some sort of physical condition that produces intense appetites. Controlling your appetite is easier when your appetite isn’t all that strong.

    Hell, for all I know they may even metabolize food differently. Maybe they’re absorbing calories more efficiently than the rest of us, not letting any go to waste, while the rest of us are missing out on some of the calories.

    Any of these things are plausible. I’m fully willing to contemplate the possibility that their bodies work differently from ours.

    I’m just not willing to contemplate the possibility that they’re violating the First Law of Thermodynamics.

  50. “Most of the grossly fat people I’ve known insisted they have hormonal imbalances which invalidate the laws of physics, and also force them to do things like slather a solid inch of cream cheese on every bagel they eat.”

    Bingo. And to whoever mentioned the old people in the newspapers who smoke, drink, and eat lard: Did you see that Onion article that was titled something like “108 year old woman attributes longevity to random chance.” It was one of the funniest things I’ve seen in there. Had some line like, “I’m just the outermost tentacle of this billion legged beast hurtling blindly through eternity.”

  51. Back in the 90s I learned from personal experience that a good, stiff case of the flu enables you to effortlessly lose about seven percent of your body weight in one week. Though there are psychological drawbacks involved with looking in the mirror and seeing exactly what your skull looks like.

  52. Maybe I should have said “Resisting your appetite is easier if your appetite isn’t all that strong.” We can get all semantical about whether or not we actually control our cravings, but we can certainly resist them. That said, resistance is easier when cravings are weaker.

    All I know is that no amount of hormonal imbalance can invalidate the laws of physics.

  53. Maybe I should have said “Resisting your appetite is easier if your appetite isn’t all that strong.” We can get all semantical about whether or not we actually control our cravings, but we can certainly resist them. That said, resistance is easier when cravings are weaker.

    True, and I’m more than ready to sympathize with such people; I reserve my scorn for those who insist that their oversized bodies have absolutely nothing to do with them. No, no, some evil bonehead jerk hooked them up to a liquid-lard IV at gunpoint, and that’s why they weigh 400 pounds.

    I wonder why impoverished African nations haven’t tried to make money by going into the medical-tourism business. “Are you suffering from a hormonal imbalance that makes you overweight through no fault of your own? Come to the Ethiopia Diet Spa, where our lifestyle regimen will solve that problem mighty quick.”

  54. Will they also provide excess skin removal at a deep discount?

  55. Yes, Timothy. It’s gnawed off my hungry jackals.

  56. I watch the Biggest Loser on occasion, and I would like it better if they actually tested people for body fat ratio, instead of just using the raw number of pounds the contestants lose. I guess it sort of plays into that whole ‘I weigh 98 lbs. so I must be healthy’ kind of thing you hear people saying. Emaciated stick people look pretty unhealthy to me. 5% bodyfat but can’t lift fifty pounds? Not good. People in that sort of shape generally get fatter pretty easily.

    I gotta say it, though, I love it when I last got weighed at the doc’s office and he was trying to convince me that I am overweight despite clearly being around 12% bodyfat because his BMI chart said I was too heavy. Sure, BP 115/72, resting heart rate 60 bpm, it’s a wonder I didn’t fall over dead right on the spot…

  57. BY hungry jackals, I mean. BY.

  58. To be clear, I’m not emphasizing the thermodynamic aspect of weight loss because I want to blame anybody for anything. For all I know some people have such intense cravings that it drives them mad. It isn’t for me to say.

    I’m more interested in knocking down fad diets. There may very well be some foods that produce greater health benefits than others, and some foods may affect appetite differently than others. There may even be some foods that are metabolized more efficiently than others. But, at the end of the day, it’s about calories, pure and simple. If you eat less and exercise more, I guarantee that you’ll lose weight. Simple thermodynamics.

  59. nostradumbass: Well, in the second season they go with percent of total weight loss. And I’m presuming that all the exercise and the diet change are actually making the people healthier.

    Jennifer: I was going to ask if I could borrow your hungry jackals, I have some…tasks…for them.

  60. I love it when I last got weighed at the doc’s office and he was trying to convince me that I am overweight despite clearly being around 12% bodyfat because his BMI chart said I was too heavy.

    BMI charts are useless. Not only do they not distinguish between muscle and fat, but they no longer even distinguish between men and women! A healthy woman will have more body fat than a healthy man of the same size.

    My question is: when they did away with the separate gender standards, what did they do: hold women to the lower-fat standards of men, hold men to the higher-fat standards of women, or split the difference so that a woman needs to be too skinny while a man can be too fat? I suspect they took the third option, but since I haven’t been able to find any BMI charts from the gender-segregation era to compare to modern ones I have no proof.

  61. cancer is more frightening than other forms of death by disease i think in part because it’s easier to personalize. like the motherfucker is lying in wait for you. you find out, often weeks months or years ahead of time, that you’re going to die; while we’re all going to die, it’s generally not that concrete a concept until you get old or something fucked up like cancer happens.

    “Though there are psychological drawbacks involved with looking in the mirror and seeing exactly what your skull looks like.”

    yeah, but you can save money at halloween.

  62. Timothy-

    No doubt the people are healthier for their troubles, and one hopes they keep it up for their sakes. Good on ’em.

    I thought it was kind of funny when the ex-college wrestler guy won. Who didn’t see that coming? Those guys know how to get their weight down. I bet he depleted a LOT of water on the days before the final weigh-in. I’d have done the same thing.

  63. you can save money at halloween.

    Not when you see your skull in June. I was glad to gain the weight back–I always said I wanted more visible cheekbones, but not like THAT.

  64. I wonder whether calorie consumption has risen, over the past 20 years, in proportion with the increase in obesity. That might go a long way toward telling us the increase in obesity is caused by changes in calorie consumption or, alternatively, by other changes in diet.

    Maybe it is probably a bit of both, but, if so, what’s the mix?

  65. Dave W.-

    Brotelligence assures me that HFCS is a major culprit…

  66. What has HFCS got to do with obesity? I don’t get it?

  67. I vaguely recall a study from a couple of years ago where the professor put pedometers on the Amish near his college. The Amish diet is, apparently, cheese cooked in lard with sweetened heavy cream for dessert, but they have a very low incidence of obesity. What the professor discovered was that the Amish logged a lot more steps that his control group of students. (I’d be the controls, being college students, walked more than most adult office workers, too.) Consequently, he concluded that one could consume the same number of calories per day as the entire nation of Chad and still lose weight, provided one burned up most of those calories.

    Based on my own experience, I’d bet that activity level matters a lot more than the particular type of food consumed. My sons, despite by best efforts, live on Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups, gummi bears, and spaghetti, and are quite slim. We get a lot of exercise, though.

    This study should have a bearing on those “McDonald’s made me fat” lawsuits.

  68. I wonder whether calorie consumption has risen, over the past 20 years, in proportion with the increase in obesity. That might go a long way toward telling us the increase in obesity is caused by changes in calorie consumption or, alternatively, by other changes in diet.

    Also the lack of physical activity. How many kids walk or bike to school today, compared to twenty years ago? Look at modern playgrounds, which are boring and give kids almost no incentive to run around and burn off energy. How many people live in neighborhoods where, between wide roads and no sidewalks, being a pedestrian is suicide, and so people will drive a half-mile just to visit a neighbor?

  69. Oh, Karen beat me to my point.

  70. DW- What has HFCS got to do with obesity? I don’t get it?

    Perhaps you thought I was being snide, but I wasn’t. Most of those big fellows avoid HFCS like the plague. The theory I heard is that it jacks up your blood sugar very quickly which then drops quickly, which increase cravings for more carbohydrate. On another note, some of the guys shooting insulin to put on mass will drink a coke or pepsi to keep from going into insulin shock, though probably most use something like maltodextrin or glucose.

  71. Good points, Karen and Jennifer.

    I have lost 50 pounds over the past three years. About half came off when I was on Atkins. About half has come off due to eating less and walking a lot more.

    It still seems like you could try to scientifically estimate the aggregate of changes in calorie consumption (if any) and the changes in average activity level and get a good idea of the roles T’s simple thermodynamics play as compared to the role in other dietary changes (if any).

  72. When I decide to drop some fat I literally drop my caloric intake to about 2000 calories a day (hardly starvation) and combine that with 50 minutes cardio routines and hundreds of squat thrusts done on the hard ground. The funny thing is I find a drop fat faster when I make sure to eat enough to support my exercise.

  73. I hate mayonaise.

    Just wanted to get that out there.

  74. Eryk,
    Save your roughneck tactics for Sacco and Vanzetti.

  75. Dave, I also have lost 48 lbs., in two years, most of it in the last 12 months, through nothing more than portion control, eliminating a lot of snacking and high-sugar foods, and working out. My wife, however, has been doing all the same things, eating all the same things, and she’s only lost about 15 lbs.; and what’s more, she’s plateaued. (She started from a higher weight than I did.) It’s a testament to how different people’s bodies work differently.

  76. Mediageek: I am with you on the mayonaisse hatred.

    Eryk: When I was running cross country and track during high school I easily ate 5000+ calories a day (I counted), and I weighed a monsterous 145. Thoreau is right, simple thermodynamics.

  77. Surprise, surprise, surprise! My book The Original Drug Manual for Kids not only blithely ignores the dangers from “dangerous drugs” but it also pays scant attention to diet as a major part of health. Instead I promote a lifetime vigorous physical fitness regimen – the leading factor in health risks according to this study. I only castigate one drug which is smoked nicotine – the second major factor in health risks. The study mentions overall food intake as a significant factor. I mention this only to readers as a problem for maintaining fitness regimens: too much food impedes fitness. Take that Oprah!

    I don’t even mention genetic factors. Instead I mention environmental factors out of readers’ control: indoor and outdoor pollution in particular including second hand smoke. And personal abuse is a HUGE factor. I take the approach of not dealing with it as much as disowning it. If you recognize abusive people their impact is minimized – after you’ve eliminated your role in the abuse, of course.

    That keeps my record intact: whenever my views clash with conventional wisdom I’m always right. I make a lot of mistakes but most of them happen when I agree with “everyone else”.

  78. My wife wasn’t losing as much as I was (we went on Atkins at same time) until she got rid of her driver’s license and car. Now she’s getting pretty hot, if I do say so myself.

  79. It makes sense to me, though, that some guys here find it easier to lose weight than their wives. Women are supposed to have proportionately more body fat and less muscle than men anyway, so, all other things being equal, why shouldn’t it be harder for a woman to lose weight?

  80. Do I need to point that a little (read: a little) fat looks sexy on a woman?

  81. Do I need to point that a little (read: a little) fat looks sexy on a woman?

    I agree, to the extent that a woman should not have the same low body-fat percentage that is called “healthy” on a man. What’s healthy for a man is unattractively, and even dangerously, skinny on a woman.

    I’m not skinny; I’m small-boned.

  82. I like large hungry jackals on women. Does that contribute to their higher body fat ratio?

    Sorry, Jennifer, I couldn’t help it πŸ™‚

  83. Jennifer:

    You’re right. Nothing beats serious illness for rapid weight loss. A few years ago I spent about six weeks with pneumonia and bronchitis and lost 40 lbs., about 25% of my total beginning body weight. Cheekbones are nice, but it’s no fun being able to watch each individual muscle fiber in your jaw work.

    Maybe the Ethiopians running that spa could also use “microbial therapy” — infecting their customers with nasty bugs. A few days of coughing their lungs up will make the hungry jackal treatment seem easy.

  84. Karen,

    No, microbial therapy has already been patented by Mexican diet spas–one tablespoon of tap water per day, and then eat whatever the hell you want.

  85. I should point out that thermodynamics is “just a theory”, and it could be that the real key to weight loss is “intelligent metabolism.” This would also explain weight gain: You gain weight because of a conscious decision by the spirits controlling your mitochondria.

  86. bodyfat on a woman is correctly referred to as “ballast” to be politically correct.

    iow, some men like womyns with lots of ballast.

    πŸ™‚

    there are few fields of science more infected with politically motivated tripe than nutrition and medicine. there are so many competing agendas at play it is absurd

    the whole “ephedrine scare” thing was the most blatant example. this is an incredibly safe and effective compound that was vilified out of fear for “the children” and in the process, congress tried to completely gut DSHEA but failed based on later appeals court decision

    the primary reason congress went after ephedrine is that big pharma companies would rather it was not on the market, so that thye can sell less safe, more expensive, prescription alternatives.

  87. Dangerously overweight baby boomers, by which I mean anyone over the age of 55 or sixty, should also consider taking up smoking. I’m serious. By that age you’re not likely to live long enough to develop lung cancer anyway, but you’re in more immediate danger from the extra one or two or three hundred pounds you’re lugging around.

  88. it’s kind of ironic you say that because nicotine is also an effective agent to use in weightloss. i know of several bodybuilders who use nicotine patches during their dieting phases.

    seriously

    and they have never smoked in their life. they simply take advantage of some of the positive properties of the nicotine drug (smoking otoh has far more negatives associated with it than positives of course.)

  89. Funny, I thought the motive for banning ephedra was to give the FDA a pretext for regulating supplements since a federal regulatory agency just can’t stand that anything might be sold with their regulations.

    BTW, they didn’t ban ephedra..they only made some stupid rules about how it could be packaged.

  90. Does smoking help you to lose weight? Certainly, I’ve seen firsthand evidence that smokers often gain weight when they quit (my brother, for instance), but the inverse isn’t necessarily true. Not that I really know.

    I’m in pretty good shape at 39, and I do it by having a reasonable diet (not “diet”, just not eating a bucket of fried chicken and fudge every night) and, most importantly, by regular exercise. I use my elliptical machine pretty much daily, and I work out with weights (at home–I’m free of Bally’s at last, free at last) every other day. Incidentally, I’m not surprised that low-fat isn’t the key to health–my Deep-South grandparents and great uncles and aunts ALL ate fried everything, with sausage gravy, and almost all of them lived into their 80s or better. Why? In my book, because they were all quite active. And yes, some of that is genetic, but not all of it.

  91. Does smoking help you to lose weight? Certainly, I’ve seen firsthand evidence that smokers often gain weight when they quit (my brother, for instance), but the inverse isn’t necessarily true. Not that I really know.

    Nicotine does seem to have some appetite-suppressant properties, and as a stimulant it speeds up your metabolism a bit. Also, I suspect that the majority of fat people are fat not because they eat three healthy but too-large meals per day, but because of too much snacking; cigarettes will replace some of that.

  92. Bucket of fried chicken and fudge…you must be from Arkansas

  93. I think I’m on JT Barrie’s diet. I eat fairly well and work out quite vigorously (tons of cardio, running stairs, distance running, sprinting, skiing, getting up mountains, etc.) about 6 days a week.

    But I can jack a half gallon of bourbon in about 7 days. With copious amounts of water throughout the day, of course. I’m five pounds heavier than I was 15 years ago (at 5’11” 165), but that’s muscle because I’m quite thin and I didn’t and couldn’t run more than a half block 15 years ago. I also never get sick.

    I suspect one or more of my organs will crap out eventually, but I’ve kept an eye on my forebears, who also abused themselves similarly without much consequence. All hail good genes.

    Just, you know, sharing with the group.

    And thumbs up to well-placed weight on women. Some women are naturally petite, but the starving twelve-year-old boy look just isn’t appealing. Some day Madison Avenue will figure this out.

  94. to clarify- they banned the sale , manufacture or marketing of ephedra AS a dietary supplement. it was still legal to buy, possess and use , and was readily available via primatene tablets, etc.

    of course, that has now been overturned and it is again available to be sold as a dietary supplement. as it should be. DSHEA is a great piece of legislation

    in response to the last post, the drug nicotine DOES have some properties that help one lose fat. it is not smoking itself, but the fact that smokers inhale nicotine.

    the fact that many smokers gain weight upon ceasing smoking though is more likely mostly attributable to finding a “substitute” for their previous addiction, and their use of food to help promote endorphin release, etc., oral fixation, etc.

    but both factors are probably relevant.

  95. Eryk Boston, maybe I would be if I really ate that. I exaggerated for effect. Not much fried chicken in my diet, though I do use bacon fat judiciously (green beans without bacon is Satan’s work). And fudge would simply be gone if I kept it in the house. Ditto ice cream. Yum.

    No, my heritage is mostly Tennessean, though I was born in Alabama and raised in Florida. Which means that I’m partial to BBQ and whiskey, I suppose. And pasta. You know, from southern Italy.

  96. Dr. Atkins accurately pointed out that the “epidemic of obesity” in America correlated perfectly, timewise, with the introduction of the low fat diet. This does not prove causation, I realize, but it certainly suggests that American’s concern with dietary fat is wrong-headed.

  97. Women “should” have a bodyfat percentage about 5 higher than men (whose “should” be between 12% and 18%) so between 17% and 23%. Chasing those numbers is maybe a little better than chasing pounds or BMI.

    Jennifer, we don’t know enough about human nutrition to make the pills (you’d need several.) Eat your veggies, whole grains, fruits, and lean meats, avoid excessive fats and sugars. Shun trans-fats.

    Probably the most readable book about human nutrition I’ve read lately is Dr. Andrew Weil’s Eating Well for Optimum Health. Harder to read, and deeper, is Dr. Roy Walford’s Beyond the 120 Year Diet. Easier and not as deep is Dr. Kenneth Cooper’s The Anti-Oxidant Revolution. I should mention Bradley, Willcox, and Suzuki’s The Okinawa Program, too, between Weil and Walford in depth.

    All have websites, I know that Walford, Cooper, and BWS have conducted and published peer-reviewed research on diet or fitness or both.

  98. PL: Whiskey, bacon fat, pasta, barbeque, sounds like a party. Who’s bringing Salma Hayek?

  99. Jennifer, we don’t know enough about human nutrition to make the pills (you’d need several.) Eat your veggies, whole grains, fruits, and lean meats, avoid excessive fats and sugars. Shun trans-fats.

    Bleah. That wouldn’t make me live longer; it would just make it SEEM longer.

    I eat children’s chewable vitamins, a minimum of one fruit-ish or vegetable-like substance per month, fatty well-marbled beef, lots of cran-grape juice, and fried-egg sandwiches on white-bread toast. I also love baby-back ribs.

    Pasta and olive oil is good too. So are TGI Friday’s frozen Southwestern Egg Rolls.

    And I’ll bet I outlive the fat-free people who won’t eat a thing without weighing it on a dietary scale first. I will not dance on their graves, however; I’ll picnic on their graves and enjoy a big-ass bucket of Kentucky Fried Chicken. And I’ll chew with my mouth open, too, just to torment their dead-but-healthy spirits.

  100. I moved into a mixed-use neighborhood in a large metropolitan area about 4 months ago, and I’m finally back to the weight/size I was in college. It must be the walking, because it sure as hell wasn’t the slices of white pizza or the Korean BBQ.

    And “The Biggest Loser” is great TV. I still can’t believe they get teenage girls to weigh themselves on national TV. Most of the teenagers I know would self-immolate rather than take that kind of humiliation…

  101. Yeah, screw the DIET IS ALL cult. I haven’t eaten one bite less of pasta since the anti-carbohydrate hysteria started, ’cause I knew you were all incredibly wrong. Carbs and fats are our friends. So long as you get at least some exercise, I hasten to add. And by exercise, I’m not saying that you should join me on my NordicTrack or in lifting weights (excepting of course, Ms. Hayek)–just, like, move and stuff.

  102. But Pro how are the couch potatoes going to keep up with “The Biggest Loser” if they are out moving around? πŸ˜‰

  103. I’m going with the thermodynamics theory on this one. I quit doing speed about ten years ago and promptly put on close to 100 pounds because I was EATING A LOT. Then I said to myself “hang on, I need to eat less” Well what do you know? My weight dropped back down to 140 and it’s been there for years now. I walk 30 or 40 miles a week and eat really well. I just don’t need to eat huge portions. When I eat out in this country I’m always disgusted by the sheer volume of food put in front of me. American portion sizes are just too damn big. You eat like that you will get fat unless you’re an exercise freak.

    You want to know the very best diet in the world? Open your own restaurant, seriously. You’ll be working there 100+ hours per week and after a few weeks nothing on the menu will have any appeal. My wife and I opened a restaurant and she dropped down to 95lbs and I dropped to 130lbs. People thought we were back on speed. Thank god I’m out of that business now.

  104. Zero: Duh, excersise before 8/7c!

    PL: Yeah, my department is moving back into the bank tower soon. My plan is to stop using the elevator, it’s only nine flights of stairs, but a few times a day will help. Not that my still monsterous 145 is fat, but I missing being in slightly better shape. My girlfriend and I are moving in together in December (she’s still in school in OR), so I think more frequent sex will be good for my cardiovascular health as well.

  105. Timothy has nobody had “the talk” with you yet about the relationship between moving in together and frequency of sexual intercourse?

    But it’s a nice dream, I suppose.

  106. Almost Loser: I am ever the optimist, plus it’s hard to be less frequent than a few times every other month or so when we can afford to travel.

  107. Oh, and it’s hard to burn many calories when you exercise with a very limited range of motion.

  108. Rafuzo:

    The study compared the content of diets at the same calorie level, so there was zero risk of becoming a fatass. It strictly tested where your calories came from–fat or non-fat. You could as easily abuse fat-free sugars as burgers and die as fast or faster. Thoreau has it right: calories in – calories burned = how fat.

    You might be interested to know that people on low-fat diets have a harder time staying on them than fat-containing reduced-calorie diets. Fat triggers the “fullness” feeling in people faster than, say, wheat germ.

  109. Bob Mologna: re “American restaurants serve too-big portions,” I’ve had the exact opposite experience. I tend to have an obnoxious metabolism (although some of my friends do even better; I know a girl who’s trying to put on weight and can’t manage not to lose any). For years I thought that restaurants served portions that were way too small to actually leave you feeling full.

  110. Women “should” have a bodyfat percentage about 5 higher than men (whose “should” be between 12% and 18%) so between 17% and 23%.

    What about the wide variability of breast size? That must affect body fat measurements.

  111. What about the wide variability of breast size? That must affect body fat measurements.

    I read that breasts are actually more glandular tissue than fat, so I don’t think that would affect matters too much.

  112. Whoo, mama! Check out the masses of glandular tissue on THAT hot tomato!

  113. I know, honey, they need more support!

  114. im all for hearing out Jud Hirsch first

  115. Jennifer, Jennifer, Jennifer. You fell prey to the classic Hit & Run “Let’s Talk about Breasts with the Women Ploy”. This thread will now discuss nothing else.

  116. But, PL, I thought Poco was a woman too?

    I feel so betrayed.

  117. “About 5”; some are going to be only 2 or 3 more (anorexic or body builders) others maybe 7 or 8, out to 25% total. You can have a higher percentage of body fat than those I listed, but odds are that you’re then carrying fat around that you don’t need and that eventually will not be healthy for you. As you age (after 25 … 35, depending on genes), your body will naturally lose muscle tissue unless you get a lot of exercise (both cardio and weight lifting), and if your weight remains the same, it means in general that you’re gaining even more fat.

    Yes, the human body is a machine. Calories in – calories used – calories stored – calories excreted = 0 over a long term. A good discussion of this, and a helpful weightloss spreadsheet, at John Walker’s Hacker’s Diet www dot fourmilab dot ch slash hackdiet slash e4 slash

  118. Eryk, ROFLMAO.

  119. um, no.

    breasts (well at least the big’uns) are far more (on a volume basis) composed of fat than of glandular tissue.

    it doesn’t take rocket scientist to figger this out.

    i’ve seen women diet down to sub 10% bodyfat for contests and what do they lose (besides their periods) – ? – their breast. they don’t lose glandular tissue, but the fat cells shrink down to much smaller size, and they can lose a couple of cup sizes EASY.

    that’s because breasts are mostly fat.

    unless they are silicone or saline of course πŸ™‚

  120. Jennifer, science has proven that everyone likes breasts–men, women, it doesn’t matter. Of course, if I some, I’d never leave the house πŸ™‚

  121. Am still a chick here, last I looked. Just asking for information’s sake, not out of provocativeness or prurient interest, though I realize it does provide an entr?e for that. πŸ˜‰ (How many fun things can you men really think of to do with one’s boobs, anyway?)

    So what’s a reliable way to measure body fat — calipers? I hear those Brookstone/Sharper Image scale thingies aren’t too accurate.

  122. the most accurate method of bf testing is autopsy. but rather inconvenient.

    seriously though…

    calipers are good IF you know how to use them. otherwise, they are wildly inaccurate.

    some of the scales that measure via electrical current (they don’t hurt, i swear) are pretty good as a relative measure.

    the only really accurate way for living people is hydro (underwater) although i have heard some of the air compression chambers are good, i can’t attest to that

  123. (How many fun things can you men really think of to do with one’s boobs, anyway?)

    You are joking, right?

  124. Jennifer, Jennifer, Jennifer. You fell prey to the classic Hit & Run “Let’s Talk about Breasts with the Women Ploy”. This thread will now discuss nothing else.

    Looks like I stopped by at the right time.

    the most accurate method of bf testing is autopsy.

    My brain stuttered for a second there — I’m used to seeing “bf” as standing for “boyfriend.”

  125. >Anecdotal evidence: from time to time I read those human-interest
    >stories about some old person who just celebrated a three-digit birthday;
    >these people never seem to eat the diets now called “healthy.”
    >No, it’s always something like ‘I smoke three cigars a day, drink
    >whiskey, and eat bacon fried in lard.’

    Some people have great genetics, and will live long healthy lives no matter how they abuse their bodies. We should all be so lucky. That doesn’t imply that such abuse is not generally causative of poor health.

  126. this is a good point. it is usually bad logic to extrapolate generalities from statistical outliers.

    it’s like looking at spud webb and concluding that short people are likely to play professional basketball.

    um, no… πŸ™‚

    i think it was the CDC which says that over 60% of chronic disease is specifically diet/lifestyle related.

    all this talk of socialized medicine entitlements tends to ignore that the largest health problem among the poor in the USA is (for the first time in recorded history) OBESITY.

    i could cut the irony with a ladle.

  127. i think it was the CDC which says that over 60% of chronic disease is specifically diet/lifestyle related.

    What was the other 40%, I wonder? How much is genetic, how much environmental?

    “How many fun things can you men really think of to do with one’s boobs, anyway?”

    You are joking, right?

    Heh. I knew someone would say that. And no, I’m not. I guess I just lack imagination. (Puppetry of the Mammaries?)

  128. Close, poco, but it’s actually called, “Boob Fu”. An ancient Chinese art.

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