Seems like our presumption that a calorie-reduction diet and an exercise regimen is the cure for all that ails us hit another snag recently. From the New York Times:
A large federal study of whether diet and weight loss can prevent heart attacks and strokes in overweight and obese people with Type 2 diabetes has ended two years ahead of schedule because the intensive program did not help.
In a letter published in the New England Journal of Medicine today, researchers updated us on the results of the famed Dietary Intervention Randomized Controlled Trial (DIRECT) study (link in references below). If you don’t remember, the DIRECT study tested a low carb, low fat, and Mediterranean diet over 2 years. At the two year mark, these were the results for weight loss:
- −2.9±4.2 kg for the low-fat group
- −4.4±6.0 kg for the Mediterranean-diet group
- −4.7±6.5 kg for the low-carbohydrate group
I’ve seen a few mentions of some new research coming out in the October issue of Nutrition regarding the beneficial effects of low carb and very low carb ketogenic diets for the treatment of type 2 diabetics. Unfortunately, the main article is behind a paywall, but the abstract looks tantalizing:
- Experiment duration was 24 weeks. Much research is flawed because the duration is absurdly short…this appears to be of sufficient duration to begin to offer meaningful results.
- 102 diagnosed type 2 diabetics were tested among ~300 subjects
- Body weight, body mass index, changes in waist circumference, blood glucose level, changes in hemoglobin and glycosylated hemoglobin, total cholesterol, low-density lipoprotein cholesterol, high-density lipoprotein cholesterol, triglycerides, uric acid, urea and creatinine were measured every 4 weeks
Doctor David Nash has a nice little post over on KevinMD where he recounts a personal story about how he was diagnosed with prediabetes despite following a “healthy” diet where he “avoided fatty foods”, “ate fruits and vegetables regularly” and maintained a “commitment to exercise”.
What did he do to help? He cut carbs to 60 grams a day, he lost over 5% of his body weight in a month and completely reversed prediabetes symptoms within 60 days of starting his low carb regimen.
OK, so if you have been paying attention at all over the last decade, you’ll know that this IS NOT news. It’s something we’ve known for years. But still, if we’re going to change the understanding of our doctors, nutritionists and dietitians (not to mention the public), any coverage is good coverage.
So it is with a slight smile that I welcome the latest article from the journal, Obesity Reviews. It’s a meta-analysis reviewing 17 clinical research experiments on low carb diets and it concludes that low carb diets are effective for weight loss and improve most biomarkers for health:
Gretchen Reynolds has a nice piece today on the diet vs. exercise schism that many of us come to terms with on our weight loss journeys. Citing two new pieces of research (one of which has already been covered here), she notes how research continues to suggest that exercise is a minor contributor to weight loss (compared to diet) and that the oft cited adage that that is frequently invoked to promote weight loss (“Exercise speeds up your metabolism which increases weight loss”) isn’t really all it’s cracked up to be when scrutinized:
Recent research published in the Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition calls into question the notion that very low-carb ketogenic diets are unsuitable for athletes because they will not be able to achieve commensurate levels of performance without an adequate supply of glucose (derived from carbohydrate ingestion).
You know the ones…they are always invoked in the context of, “You’re overweight because you’re a victim of Western Civilization. If you only moved around like our hunter-gatherer ancestors, you’d burn more energy and you’d be thin…”
Well, it turns out those hunter-gatherers aren’t mythical, and despite their activity, they don’t burn any more calories than you do.
We’ve been fighting this notion that “a calorie is a calorie is a calorie” for some time now, but it looks like the establishment may be finally understanding the implications of its own research. In a new study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, the authors discover that when calories are consistent across people, the group on a high fat, low carb diet burned 300 more calories per day and had a significantly higher resting energy expenditure (REE):
Alright, every once in a while someone will ask me, “Is there a study proving low carb diets are safe for your kidneys? I’ve heard that they make your kidneys explode…”
Usually, my response is, “That’s why you have two of them.” After that, we usually enter into a discussion about what research can and cannot do, etc… and ultimately, discuss the fact that there’s no research that proves a low carb diet won’t make your kidneys explode after 10 years. There’s also no research that proves it won’t give you brain warts, spider legs, or a unibrow.