Will the new Dietary Guidelines make us even fatter?

As we know all too well there has been an explosion in the incidence of obesity and type II diabetes over the past 30-40 years. Depending upon the bias involved, many people have opined as to the cause of this sudden departure from what had been fairly stable rates of obesity over the previous decades. People who are believers in the caloric theory of obesity – CICO (calories in vs calories out) – tend to believe the increase in obesity is simply a consequence of people eating more than they used to. As a corollary to that theory, those of a conspiratorial bent believe Big Food has made its spawn-of-the-devil products so tasty and addictive that they can’t be avoided. Those believing the carbohydrate – insulin theory of obesity posit that the increase in carbs in the diet since the late 1970s has driven the obesity epidemic. And all of these groups have data to back up their beliefs.

Rates of obesity in the US

In the chart above from the dietdoctor.com site, it is clear that something happened circa 1980 that tripped the obesity trigger. Despite there being a multitude of theories as to why this happened, there is agreement across the spectrum of ideas that the obesity trigger did indeed get tripped.

All you need to do to realize how much obesity there is out there is take a look at an old movie or an old TV show. Rent Dirty Harry (which I did not long ago) and watch it for a few minutes. All the people look like stick people compared to people we see today. The contrast is startling. Or Google Woodstock and look at the images of all the folks there in 1969. Granted most are young people, but compare them to young people today on college campuses everywhere. Although there are a few mildly overweight kids sprinkled here and there in the photos, most of them look like stick figures compared to today’s college students.

Why has this happened to us?

Macronutrient intake changes in US

If you look at graphs of the changes in food consumption from the 1970s till now, you’ll notice a few things. First, overall calories have gone up by around a little over three hundred per day. Second, although fat consumption has remained about the same, the percent of fat consumption as compared to total calories has fallen. Third, the amount of sugar in the diet has increased slightly. Fourth, the quality of the sugar has changed and become more fructose-laden. And fifth, as we’ll discuss shortly, the type of fat has changed. Saturated fat consumption has declined while polyunsaturated fats–i.e., vegetable oils–has increased markedly.

Importantly, most of the ~350 calorie increase has been made up of carbohydrate. Stephen Guyenet (who created the above chart), no believer in the carb-insulin hypothesis, calculates the composition of these extra calories to be as follows:

65 percent of the increase in calories can be attributed to carbohydrate, 24 percent can be attributed to fat, and 11 percent to protein.

These diverse changes in diet since 1970 allow people to hang onto their pet theories. The CICOers say it’s all because people are eating more. The anti-sugar people point to the increase in sugar. Those against fructose point to that. The low-carbers point to the fall off in fat consumption and the increase in carb consumption as the driver of all the obesity.

As you might imagine, my bias falls in with the notion that the increased carbs are a major force in the hugely increased rate of obesity. You might be surprised to learn, however, that I’ve always had a little niggling doubt that carbs alone were the cause.

Why have I had niggling doubts? Because of observations I’ve made over the course of my life.

When I was a kid growing up in the rural Ozark Mountains, everyone I knew ate sugar. A lot of it. Everyone, and I mean everyone, ate bread at every meal. As far as people then were concerned, it really was the staff of life. Same with potatoes, though they weren’t eaten at every meal. People celebrated holidays and get togethers with pies, cakes, cookies, brownies, cupcakes, etc. Most folks started off their day with a bowl (or two or three) of hot or cold cereal with milk and sugar on it.

I watched my own grandfather eat his breakfast every day while I was eating my cereal and toast. He started off with a big glass of prune juice – which I can’t abide to this day – for regularity. Then he broke into small bits two pieces of buttered toast and put them into a big glass of buttermilk. He threw a few spoonfuls of sugar on top, then mashed the whole thing around and ate it. He finished off with a cup of black coffee. Other than the coffee, it was not exactly a low-carb breakfast. But he was thin, as was most everyone at that time.

Other than the handful who were overweight at that time, people pretty much gave no thought to what they ate, other than how much they enjoyed it. I suspect the small percentage of people who were overweight back then were the group the obesity researchers of the time fingered as carbohydrate sensitive. (These are the researchers Gary Taubes wrote about in Good Calories, Bad Calories and Why We Get Fat.)

So, how did the majority of people back then eat sugar, bread, cakes, cookies, pies and potatoes and not get fat, while people today watch every carb and/or calorie and struggle?

I’ve always wondered what the change was that took place back at the inflection point in the graph at the top. Sure, we started eating more carbs then, but what else? I’ve had my suspicions that there was something else. And I think I’ve got a bead on it.

Before I reveal what I think the cause is, I’ve got to say that I always hate it when people are considered in the abstract. People aren’t abstractions; they are individuals. When we say that people are eating an extra 350 calories per day today as compared with 1970, that’s an abstraction. The reality is that some people are eating 1000 calories extra while others are eating, say, 200 fewer calories than they did in 1970. I am one of those who eat fewer calories now than I did in 1970 when I was thin and exercised almost no restraint. So, why do I always have to watch what I eat? I should be lighter than I was in 1970, not heavier. Which I am, by about 10 pounds. What’s the difference in my behavior now vs then?

Let’s look at another couple of trends besides just the caloric differences.

Added fats and oil consumption

Home vs away from home food

As you can see from the above charts, a couple of major changes have taken place besides just an increase in calories, 65 percent of which are from carbohydrate.

First, although overall fat consumption hasn’t risen by much, there has been a dramatic change in the type of fat we’ve been eating. Which to a CICOer doesn’t mean squat. Calories are calories irrespective of where they come from. In my view, as I’ll discuss shortly, this is a big mistake.

Second, we’ve been consuming more and more of our meals away from home since 1970. In other words, we have been relying on people who run restaurants to determine the fats we eat. And having been in the restaurant business and knowing a lot about it from having many friends in the biz, I can tell you that most restaurants use shelf-stable crappy oils for just about everything. So when you dine out and get a steak, salad and sautéed vegetables, you don’t have a clue as to how much vegetable oil you’re getting along with it. I, myself, am victimized by this frequently because I, like most people, eat out a lot.

When I was a kid, we always ate all of our meals at home. We never, and I mean never, went out for dinner. Or had takeout. My own kids eat out or have take out vastly more often than they cook at home.

Why does this matter?

Because we all get more vegetable oils than we should.

And why does that matter?

That question leads me to the heart of this post.

The importance of the FADH2 to NADH ratio

I have to start by saying that our metabolic machinery converts every food we eat to FADH2 and NADH. These are high-energy electron carriers that end up carting the energy of the food we’ve eaten into the mitochondria and transferring it to various complexes of the electron transport chain (ETC). The electron transport chain, in a bucket brigade sort of way, hands off these electrons from one mitochondrial ETC complex to another until they are ultimately attached to an oxygen molecule, forming H2O, water.

As these electrons make their journey through the ETC, they release energy that drives protons across a membrane creating an electrochemical gradient called the proton-motive force. This proton-motive force drives the little turbines that end up creating ATP, the energy currency of life.

The above is a simplistic explanation of an incredibly complex process. In an effort to keep this post from expanding to War and Peace length, I’ve put a couple of videos at the end. One is for beginning biochemistry students at MIT that explains in nice, but not overly complex, detail what ATP is and how it is made. It runs for about 35 minutes, but those interested need watch only the first 25 mins. The other short little video shows how NADH works.

Our metabolism converts all foods to a combination of FADH2 and NADH. It matters not whether you are eating Aunt Jemima’s Pancakes (with or without her syrup) or a New York steak cooked sous vide, it all resolves into FADH2 and NADH. Carbs convert to more NADH than FADH2 while fats, especially saturated fats, convert to a larger ratio of FADH2 to NADH.

NADH and FADH2 enter the ETC at different complexes. NADH enters at Complex 1 while FADH2 enters at Complex 2. Where these electrons enter combined with what happens to the proton-motive force determines the amount of free radicals released from Complex 1. (Complex 2 doesn’t release free radicals.)

You’ve probably been led to believe that free radicals are a bad thing. And in large amounts they are. But in small amounts, they can be signaling molecules.

In the case of the small amounts of free radicals we’re going to be discussing, they are signaling molecules. What do they signal? They determine insulin sensitivity. They determine whether the cells are sensitive to or resistant to insulin, and they do so in a brilliant way.

Basically, the lower the FADH2:NADH ratio is, the lower the insulin resistance is. Conversely, the higher the FADH2:NADH ratio, the higher the insulin resistance.

Carbs generate a low FADH2:NAHD ratio, which means carbs end up generating fewer free radicals and, consequently, lowering insulin resistance. Which makes sense when you think about it. If you eat carbs, you want to be able to move the glucose from the blood into the cells. This happens easily when insulin works well (also a function of the free radicals) and insulin resistance is low.

Since saturated fat generates a higher FADH2:NAHD ratio, saturated fat increases insulin resistance, which keeps more carbs in the blood.

Why would this be a good thing?

Well, in the event of starvation, the body ‘eats’ more fat in the sense that it extracts fat from the fat cells for energy. As the body metabolizes this fat, the FADH2:NAHD ratio increases, which increases insulin resistance and keeps the carbs available for brain function instead of being shunted into, say, muscle cells, which can function beautifully on fat.

After several days of starvation or a ketogenic diet, a similar situation prevails. Although the ketones reduce the FADH2:NAHD ratio, they also affect the proton-motive force in such a way as to both increase insulin resistance and increase the efficiency of ATP formation. So, glucose is made available for the brain while ketones become the fuel of choice for most everything else. And the ketones also power some of the brain as well, sparing glucose for those brain functions that run on glucose only. The blood sugar rises a bit, and this is what we call physiological insulin resistance. Also, understanding how this all works almost militates that there be a metabolic advantage while in ketosis, but that’s a subject for another post.

What about vegetable oils?

Omega-6 oils and other polyunsaturated fats (PUFA), the ones we want to avoid, unlike saturated fats, generate a fairly low FADH2:NAHD ratio. Which means they reduce insulin resistance. Which means they allow plenty of glucose into the cells along with the PUFA.

This means the fat gets driven into the fat cells and is sequestered there, making it unavailable for use for energy. When fat gets stuck in the fat cells, the only way the body can get more energy is to eat more. When the glucose is also driven into the cells because of decreased insulin resistance, the glucose levels fall, which is a strong signal to eat. In other words, it makes you hungry.

Which is why most processed foods filled with soybean oil (high in PUFA) and sugar make us want to keep eating them.

And it confirms, to me at least, why we’ve all gotten fatter and fatter since 1970. Along with carbohydrates, vegetable oils have increased dramatically in the typical American diet. Over the same time period, we’ve all started eating away from home more and more, so that we’ve lost control of exactly what kinds of fats we’ve been eating.

It also probably explains the situation of a friend of mine who just complained to me that he has gained 20 pounds over the past year or so despite rigid adherence to his low-carb diet. He started a new job that requires almost constant travel at the same time his unexplained weight gain started. Constant travel equates with constant restaurant food, which equates with a lot of PUFA. Which can equate with lower insulin resistance and more fat storage. I’m not sure this is what has happened, but it makes perfect sense.

If you want to read about all of this in more detail, take a look at Peter’s series on protons (especially this one) and physiological insulin resistance (Peter writes the Hyperlipid blog, which is one of my favorite blogs and listed in my list of my eight favorite blogs). Peter also has influenced my thinking on this subject greatly, and for that I owe him an enormous debt of gratitude.

Also, if you are interested, I’ll be happy to post in more depth, especially on reverse electron transport, which I managed to avoid discussing in this post. Just let me know in the comments.

Why do the new Dietary Guidelines mean we will all get fatter?

As I detailed in an earlier post, the folks responsible for the new Dietary Guidelines for Americans came under a lot of pressure for their idiotic recommendations to continue to demonize fat in general and saturated fat in particular. In an effort to appear to placate those voices demanding a reappraisal of the total fat and saturated fat limits, the powers that be ended up with recommendations guaranteed to make things worse.

According to Adele Hite (who writes in Eathropology, a blog that would make my top ten list now), the new guidelines are made to seem like they make a move toward good sense, but the reality is that they don’t. For example, most people think in the new Dietary Guidelines the limits on fat are gone.

Nope. Limits on “fat” are still there. If you’ve been hearing rumors that we are at the end of the “low-fat” era, and you thought that meant that the Guidelines were going to give the green light to fats–natural fats, fats that you could find at your local farmers market–you would be sadly, profoundly mistaken.

Just like all squares are rectangles, but only some rectangles are squares, all oils are fats, but only some fats are oils. The new Guidelines have been credited with saying, “Hey we’re okay with rectangles” but they are only okay with those rectangles that are squares.  You can eat fat, but only if it’s oil.

So: Fat–as in “saturated fat”– is still evil. But lower limits on “oil” are eased–with the exception of a few oils that the DGA folks still don’t like because their fatty acids are mostly saturated. Lower limits on oils in the diet have shifted from no less than 20% of calories to no less than 25%. But make no mistake: The upper limit on dietary “oil” as a macronutrient remains at 35% of calories, as it has been since 2005. Only by keeping limits on “oil” low can we manage to cram in the Guidelines’ requisite 45%-65% of calories of carbohydrate into our diets and still have room for protein.

In other words, the USDA hasn’t discarded the “low-fat” diet. They’ve discarded the “low oil” diet and actually, not even that. Now you are allowed a whopping 27 grams (about 5 teaspoons) of highly processed and refined, probably not local or within your foodshed, oily oil. Cheers!

So, we’ve got pretty much the same old carb recommendations that we had back in 1980, when the guidelines first kicked off, but now with some added vegetable oils. Given what we know about the FADH2:NAHD ratio, how can we not get fatter?

(If you think we’re stupid here in the US, take a look at the recent New Zealand guidelines to see some real stupidity.)

One of the most common polyunsaturated fatty acids is alpha linolenic acid (actually an O-3 fatty acid) called linseed oil when used industrially and found along with O-6 oils in the PUFA we get from soybean oil, the most common oil in processed foods.

In a post about the obesogenic nature of this PUFA, Peter summarizes:

When PUFA are being oxidised in the mitochondria of adipocytes, those adipocytes are unable to resist the signal from insulin to distend with fat. The more double bonds in the PUFA has, the greater the effect. Linseed oil should be used for making varnish.

The take home message from all this is to work hard to avoid vegetable oils in any part of your low-carb diet.

Note: The above re the activity of FADH2:NAHD ratio in terms of insulin resistance is at the level of hypothesis now, but it’s the only thing that really makes sense to me. It predicts with great accuracy why we see the results we see with the consumption of different foods. And it makes sense teleologically in how glucose is made more or less available for the brain and other glucose-dependent cells and tissues during starvation or limited carbohydrate availability. The actual FADH2:NAHD ratio generated by various macronutrients is not hypothetical – it is precisely known.

In the next post I’ll explain how a food most consider a true Paleo food and a low-carb staple might not be such a great food based on the FADH2:NAHD ratio.

If you would like to read more about the mitochondria, read Peter’s blog and almost anything by Nick Lane.

Here are a few other papers as well.

All papers showing a link have full text available.

Fisher-Wellman, K. H., & Neufer, P. D. (2012). Linking mitochondrial bioenergetics to insulin resistance via redox biology. Trends Endocrinol Metab, 23(3), 142-153.

Persiyantseva, NA (2013) Mitochondrial H2O2 as an enable signal for triggering autophosphorylation of insulin receptors in neurons. J Mol Signal 8(1) 11.

Pomytkin, IA. (2012) H2O2 Signalling pathway: A possible bridge between insulin receptor and mitochondria. Curr Neuropharmacol 10(4) 311-320.

Sato, K., Kashiwaya, Y., Keon, C. A., Tsuchiya, N., King, M. T., Radda, G. K., . . . Veech, R. L. (1995). Insulin, ketone bodies, and mitochondrial energy transduction. FASEB J, 9(8), 651-658.

Speijer, D. (2011). Oxygen radicals shaping evolution: why fatty acid catabolism leads to peroxisomes while neurons do without it: FADH(2)/NADH flux ratios determining mitochondrial radical formation were crucial for the eukaryotic invention of peroxisomes and catabolic tissue differentiation. Bioessays, 33(2), 88-94.

Speijer, D. (2014). How the mitochondrion was shaped by radical differences in substrates: what carnitine shuttles and uncoupling tell us about mitochondrial evolution in response to ROS. Bioessays, 36(7), 634-643.

Speijer, D., Manjeri, G. R., & Szklarczyk, R. (2014). How to deal with oxygen radicals stemming from mitochondrial fatty acid oxidation. Philos Trans R Soc Lond B Biol Sci, 369(1646), 20130446.

Stein, L. R., & Imai, S. (2012). The dynamic regulation of NAD metabolism in mitochondria. Trends Endocrinol Metab, 23(9), 420-428.

Besides Nick Lane’s Power, Sex, Suicide: Mitochondria and the Meaning of Life one other book I have found useful is Bioenergetics.  But Bioenergetics is extremely technical, so if you don’t have a decent fund of knowledge on the workings of mitochondria or if you’re not used to reading technical literature, I would recommend you not spend the money on this book.

 

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135 thoughts on “Will the new Dietary Guidelines make us even fatter?

  1. None of this accounts for the role of exercise in carbohydrate, fat, and cholesterol metabolism. The fit body uses all of these substances differently from unfit people. Even without the elitist word, ‘fit’, people are less active than ever. This affects the physiques of those who practice these lifestyle changes. Even with the same intake, the physical result will be different.
    But yes, Big Food and Big Ag has poisoned food immeasurably with both caloric and non-caloric additives, making us less healthy. Even raw food is not exempt. But avoiding unprocessed food is likely to be the single largest step anyone can take towards a healthy diet. Making our bodies better users of food’s nutrition is the other.

  2. First sentence in paragraph after “why would this be a good thing” needs “since” changed to “sense”.

    Great post!

  3. More depth–Yes please!
    Reverse electron transport–Yes please!
    And any more resources for a budding biochemist pre-med student who can’t get enough of this–yes please! 🙂

    • I just made a 13 hour flight (after making a 15 hour flight the day before), got picked up at the airport and have been in the car all day since. I haven’t had the chance to put up the list of papers, but I will very soon.

  4. Okay, got to the end, previous comment was premature. Eagerly awaiting the list of papers, have read all Peter’s stuff, and about to dive in to Nick Lane’s books. 🙂

  5. I find I have to resort to eating vegetable oils at times. In order to eat 80% or so in fat per day, it’s difficult to do this just by eating meat. Most of the meat these days is trimmed of fat (and bones), and it’s hard to find extra fat to get the fat calories necessary for the amount of calories I need.

    For instance, tonight is Taco Wednesday at home (where we eat good quality grass-fed 20% fat beef with good-quality taco seasoning, put over salad). 20% ground meat is about 57% fat, which means you need to up the fat content. I generally add some butter and cream cheese (and cheese) to up the fat content. This isn’t bad, as there’s not much PUFA.

    Now assume you’re having sirloin steak (with fat, assuming you can find a cut with fat on it). That might be 50% fat or so. How do you up the fat content? I’ve been adding butter, but it’s hard for me to gobble down butter. So, I’ve also added home-made mayo, made from either olive oil or avocado oil. With mayo, it’s hard to up the fat content of many foods.

    We’ve made our own beef tallow and pork lard from fat from locally-farmed animals. But it’s hard for me to add these directly to a meal to increase the fat content. I can cook with them, and perhaps “hide” them in some foods, but adding them directly to food is tough.

    So, I’ve resorted to some vegetable oils in order to get my fat content up.

    • Mayo made with olive oil and/or avocado oil aren’t bad choices. Both contain a lot of monounsaturated fat, which is kind of neutral. You can always us coconut oil or bacon fat, two of my favorites.

      If you’re doing okay with what you’re doing, I would keep on doing it. The post was written simply to point out that there are other major changes in the American diet over the past 40 years other than an increase in carb content.

  6. Just completed a first read. Clearly a very important post. Thank you.

    I’m used to thinking “high insulin resistance = bad, low insulin resistance = good” so this seemed brilliant but backwards from my simple-minded starting point?

    I will reread now to see if I can figure it out.

    • It does seem counterintuitive after all we’ve heard about insulin resistance being bad. And, in truth, it is bad. Little squirts of free radicals actually improve insulin sensitivity while large outpourings create insulin resistance. As I’ll try to explore more in a later post, it’s a system that works perfectly to fine tune the way the body deals with too much of various kinds of macronutrients. The problem with high-PUFA vegetable oils is that it scams the system (for lack of a better term) allowing the fat cells to become overloaded.

  7. One example of what you’re saying, our daughter’s first full-time job resulted in a 40-pound weight gain, and she was a very slender person who’d never gained weight. At the job, she practically lived on a local sandwich chain, and couldn’t understand how such “fresh” ingredients could be doing this. My guess is just what you’re saying–hidden vegetable oils in everything from the meats to the breads, for she certainly didn’t overeat, and she went back to school and lost all the weight (but now will gain some if she gives in to cravings for the local pizza joint’s lasagne trays–otherwise she pretty well eats what she likes). But the stress of that job was also high, and I wonder if it’s not only the restaurant food and what they do to it, but the stress on top of it that makes such a pernicious combination.

    • I’m sure stress plays a role, though I don’t know how it fiddles with the FADH2:NAHD ratio. One of the things I’ve noticed over the past few years of observing is how fat cops are. The lead enormously stressful lives and eat away from home almost constantly. Next time the press covers some crisis in which the police are involved, take a look at the sizes of most of them.

  8. Great article. Thank you.
    Just a question: what is your take on omega-6 oils in their natural state, i.e. as in seeds and nuts?

  9. Fascinating about insulin resistance, even it is just hypothetical at this point. I have been looking for information that a low fat high carb diet will help with insulin resistance. I can no longer do low carb as I cannot digest fats anymore. You wrote – Carbs generate a low FADH2:NAHD ratio, which means carbs end up generating fewer free radicals and, consequently, lowering insulin resistance. A lot of the low fat writers say a largely plant based diet will help type 2 diabetics, and this seems to support that statement, at least hypothetically. For someone following a largely whole foods, plant based diet, in an attempt to lower insulin resistance, do you think very low fat is good, or would you add in a bit of fat like butter or extra virgen olive oil?

    • Take a look at Peter’s post on this very subject. It can work for some people, but not for others. YMMV.

      A small amount of carbs can, due to low FADH2:NAHD ratio, reduce insulin resistance, but large amounts of carbs can increase it in other ways. It’s not just the FADH2:NAHD ratio at play, but an interplay between that and the proton-motive force. I’ll do another post on that, which should make it easier to understand.

  10. Thank you, Mike — i think this is your best in a long time!

    I’ve been dialing back on my omega-3 as well as O6 for quite some time now, myself. I have a “weak” thyroid — capable of meeting my needs if i eat right, but turning around and biting me in the backside if i don’t — and i observed that i’d get that “underpowered” feeling every time i used CLO to “balance” a higher O6 meal. If, as i believe, polyunsaturated dietary fats ARE obesigenic, it may easily be via thyroid activity that they do part of their damage.

  11. What government or other powers-that-be say or don’t say won’t have any effect on me because I’ve “got their numbers”; have been on protein power since 2010, morphing into LCHF as reams of new info developed. I would never risk my hard-won excellent health for a bunch of idiots whose motives are clearly bad. Sorry, just have to say it. Anyone who earns their money from the government (i.e. taxpayers) touting the high carb theory just isn’t credible to me.

  12. Just finished 2nd reading. Still processing . . .

    Meanwhile here are some typo / corrections:

    1. CICO acronym needs the “Calories In Calories Out” spelled out in the first usage.
    2. The grandfather paragraph should read “Then he broke” rather than “Then be broke”.
    3. In the “Before I reveal which I think the cause is” paragraph needs different punctuation before “Which I am, by about 10 pounds” – i.e. not a sentence.
    4. In the “The above is a simplistic explanation of an incredibly complex process” paragraph that word following “MIT” should be “that” rather than “what”.
    5. The paragraph that begins with “If you want to read about all of this is more detail” who is “Peter”? Peter needs an intro.
    6. The paragraph that begins with “So, we’ve got the pretty much” should begin with “So, we’ve got pretty much”.
    7. The paragraph that begins with “In the next post I’ll explain how a food most consider a true Paleo food” … out with it man … dear God it isn’t olive oil is it?

    General comment: my brain is slowly wrapping itself around the larger concept here. Needs more time to simmer and another reading.

    • Thanks for the editing help. I was rushing for a plane when I completed the post, so I didn’t give it my usual intense proof read. It’s almost midnight where I am now, and I didn’t sleep much on the plane, so I’ll fix all these in the morning.

    • Got them all fixed. Thanks for the editing help.

      The “Which I am..” is a stylistic choice that I like even though it is a sentence fragment.

      I did identify Peter later in the paragraph.

      Relax, it isn’t olive oil.

      Cheers,

      MRE

    • I was so occupied trying to understand the facts, I didn’t notice even one typo. This stuff is complex and I do sooooo appreciate your information. Thank you thank you thank you.

  13. Useful site for analyzing how people looked in the past: http://www.shorpy.com/

    Also, it looks like you have a reversed letter pair, usually (but not always) in “FADH2:NAHD” (vs. NADH).

    Good explanation, ties up the n-6 connection I’ve been suspicious of (so I like it confirming my biases). 🙂

    • Great site. Thanks for the link.

      I’m sure I did reverse the letter pairs. I’ll have to hunt it down and fix it. Thanks for the heads up.

  14. What about monounsaturated fatty acids? Yay or nay?

    Also – I need some mayonnaise occasionally, mainly for lettuce-wrapped sandwiches. Any advice now that most olive oil has been proven not to be olive oil? Is avocado oil okay or is it too refined/damaged?

    • I suppose it could explain the Randle Cycle to an extent. I’ll have to think about it. Haven’t thought of the Randle Cycle in years.

  15. I read your latest blog post with interest. As you have noted, back in the day people weren’t avoiding sugars and carbs by a long shot, and yet there was not an obesity epidemic.

    You have also mentioned in other blog posts that “calories do count” and I would like to see you expand on that.

    I myself have lost 40 kg eating the Ornish way – almost vegan + no added oils + no nuts or seeds. I was able to keep it off for about 2 years and then, as with all diets so far, I started regaining. I’ve regained half of those 40 kg now and am trying to prevent a complete rebound and continue losing again and still searching for the best approach.

    One thing I’d love to see you address are cultures like Japan, where I live. The staple of the diet here is refined (not whole) grains, especially rice and then also noodles like ramen and udon. The high protein animal products are more like small side dishes or something added on top of the rice. The diets are low fat, but there is definitely lots of sugar in almost all foods you find here. But the obesity rate is one-tenth of that that in the U.S. Most people here are super slim eating that way.

    According to various government data it does appear that overall Japanese people eat about 1,000 calories a day less than the average American.

    How does this fit into your theories, and since you have said calories matter, how much do you think they matter? Gary Taubes, who you mentioned, has said flat out that calories don’t matter at all. That’s not an exaggeration of what he said. But I don’t believe that is true.

    Thanks,

    doug

    • Peter explained how an ultra-low-fat diet could indeed bring about a reduction in insulin resistance and weight loss in some people.

      I think Gary has been misunderstood on the calorie issue; I know I have. It’s not so much an issue of how many calories one eats, but one of what drives that consumption. Why do some people eat more calories than do others?

      • Gary Taubes actually looked over what I was eating on low carb a few years ago and thought it was reasonable for weight loss. At any rate… so you think perhaps my insulin resistance makes it what? That low-carb is hopeless in my case? Or just starvation diets will help, with strict calorie counting?

        Thanks,

        doug

        • I know nothing about your medical history or your dietary history, so I can’t really say. But when I have patients who are on low-carb diets and are struggling to lose, I always suggest that they watch their calories a bit. Especially calories from the big three: cheese, nuts and nut butters. Those three food items in particular are very calorically dense while containing few carbs. People can load up on a heck of a lot of calories while still staying within their carb limits with these three foods.

          • Tell me about it. After trying Protein Power once and gaining weight over two weeks I gave it a pause. But I had been eating some nuts, cheese and plain old butter – not nut butter. And also using olive oil when cooking.

            A week ago I decided to try again and avoid the most obvious calorie dense foods. I gave up the package of walnuts I had been eating every day. It was just 9 gm of carbs, but a whopping 477 calories. It’s actually not a trivial amount of carbs if you think about it, if you are trying to eat within 30 carbs a day. And other nuts really have lots of carbs in it.

            And I gave up butter, and adding oils to cooking.

            The first two days I lost weight and was pleased. But then the rest of the week weight started creeping up again, and I’m back once more to about where I started.

            I had been having a good deal of cheese each day though.

            I could try yet again and give up the cheese too. It was really low carb though!

            But what am I left with? Mostly just chicken, pork, fish and meat. And a few eggs at 0.6 carbs each. And my nice evening salad which is really low calorie, but has 10.5 carbs.

            I wish there was more specific guidance about actual weight loss somewhere. Your book was interesting, but I don’t think it spends any real time on how to actually lose weight and dealing with these issues.

            Based on what you’re saying, doesn’t it really all come down to calories in the end? My feeling is that the only thing low-carb eating does is it helps to curb hunger. But you still have to count calories.

            And if I feel like eating something – like I gotta eat something – isn’t it better to eat a 10.5 carb low-calorie salad than eat lots of calories by throwing a few zero carb pork chops on the grill?

            Isn’t that what you’re really saying when you say to cut out cheese and nuts to save calories?

            doug

          • As you suggested below (there is no reply button down there) I’m looking at “Always Hungry” now with the link you provided.

            Of particular interest to me – since I had been almost vegan for two years and lost 100 lb doing that – is the section where Dr. Ludwig actually seems to think a vegetarian low carbohydrate diet might be healthier than a low carbohydrate diet based around animal products.

            That is an exciting variation I haven’t tried yet, and appeals to me since I know grains were killing me on the Ornish program, but I generally enjoyed eating a vegan/vegetarian diet.

            In “Always Hungry” Dr. Ludwig writes, on page 82:

            “Industrial animal production also raises major ethical and environmental issues. And there simply aren’t enough wild animals for the world’s 7 billion people.

            For adults, nutritional needs can be satisfied with a vegetarian diet containing dairy and eggs, or a (carefully managed) vegan diet containing no animal products at all. Contrary to common belief, some plant products provide high amounts of protein, such as tempeh with 23 grams in 4 ounces – comparing favorably to similar-size portions of hard-boiled eggs (13 grams), chicken nuggets (14 grams), or hot dog (12 grams).
            There’s also some indication that replacing carbohydrate with plant rather than animal foods has special health benefits. Among approximately eighty thousand women in the Nurse’s Health Study consuming lower-carbohydrate diets, high consumption of vegetable protein and fat was associated with a 30 percent lower risk for heart disease over twenty years, whereas high consumption of animal protein and fat appeared to provide no such protection
            One explanation for this finding is that the relative amounts of amino acids in animal protein stimulate more insulin and less glucagon release than those in plant protein [note from Doug: maybe this is what was happening to me]- a hormone combination that has detrimental effects on serum cholesterol and fat-cell metabolism. Other possible downsides of a modern, animal-based diet include a less healthful profile of dietary fats, excessive iron absorption (especially for men), and chronic exposure to hormone, preservatives, and environmental pollutants.
            Ultimate, we have a choice about how much meat, dairy, and eggs to eat. This decision involves more than health; it’s also a matter of personal preference culture, ethics, and the environment. From an individual health perspective, the scientific evidence provides no reason to banish animal products. However an emphasis on plants seems sensible, for ourselves and our planet. For this reason, the Always Hungry Solution provides vegetarian options for all recipes and meal plans.”

            I have to admit I’m quite excited about that chapter. It is a different approach than what I have tried before (on just Protein Power I have eaten more animal products than I ever have) and it seems to address the issues I’ve had so far with low-carb eating: eating loads of animal products that are just plain too high in calories, plus intentionally cutting back on salads because I was worried about the 10 grams of carbs in them.

            I think I will give it a try.

    • What are your thoughts on the calorie density argument? I’m not sure if you’re familiar with it but the core of it is that modern food is artificially concentrated relative to our natural history and therefore our bodies are not able to account for the calories properly which leads to systematic overeating. Though due to genetic differences some people are still able to account for these concentrated calories properly and not overeat.

      It would make sense that an increase in oil consumption would correlate with an increase in obesity since it’s the most calorically dense food.

      There’s a presentation on Youtube entitled “Losing Weight Without Losing Your Mind” which goes into more detail if you’re interested.

  16. Well that answers one question I’ve always had. For the most part I try to eat like my grandma, who came from the old country with her food traditions–lots of chicken soup, stewed meat, organ meats and bone marrow, vegetables, fermented foods, very few sweets. If there was dessert it was “fruit compote” consisting of stewed prunes, apricots, and apples. But she did eat hot cereal for breakfast (cream of wheat with salt, not sugar!), bread, noodles and potatoes. She cooked with butter or schmaltz (no lard in her kosher home), there was never a can of Crisco or a bottle of oil in her kitchen. So I think you have posed a plausible explanation.

    BTW, most of the Jewish adults in my parents’ generation suffered from diabetes and heart disease earlier than my non-Jewish friends’ parents. I wonder if it was because of early adoption of margarine, Crisco and cooking oils ( which can be used with either meat or dairy dishes in kosher home), NOT–as we then thought–because of all the traditional cholesterol-filled foods they ate.

    • It’s difficult to tell without doing RCT in which on group is put on the Crisco diet while the other group ate more like your grandmother. Since such studies are unlikely to ever be done (other than very short term), the best we have to go on our observations of groups that do eat differently. And I think your observations are valid. I didn’t go back and look this up, but I recall reading about Ethiopian Jews, who follow a more traditional diet, moving to Israel, where vegetable oils are in much greater us, and experiencing increased rates of disease, especially heart disease.

  17. The new guidelines are more political garbage. They will likely make us worse off. Medicine is unfortunately corrupted. The FDA is as well. They do not protect us.

    We will spin our wheels with obesity unless we change misconceptions. It is obvious we do not understand it. Much of what we think we know is very wrong.

    Calories are units of energy, just like joules, watts etc. It is all the same “thing.” Richard Feynman said ithat physicists ought to be uttlerly ashamed of hemselbes with all these units they use for the same thing-the concept of energy. I never understood why people say “a calorie is a calorie” as if they are a substance or,actual,stuff like food is (carbon matter). No,rather energy is ONLY a concept. Calories do NOT even exist. Calories are NOT ANYTHING.

    Setting food on fire has zero relevance to human cellular respiration. It is not even remotely the same. Fire is totally wild and indiscriminate oxidation. Cellular respiration is extremely selective to the maximum.

    I have put in my time and effort with physicists over the last 8 years. I wish I had a go at these calorie people abusing physics for profit. Fire is real, atoms are real. But what does the JIGGLING of atoms (as Feynman said-the terrible catastrophe of all the atoms jiggling more and more) in a fire have to do with how MATTER is put on a human body or how it is removed???? Atoms are NOT energy. Jiggling atoms (in motion) are NOT energy. They HAVE the concept or property of energy. What do the jiggling atoms , that make OTHER atoms jiggle -that heat water – have ANYTHING to,do with what happens to molecules (which are MATTER) inside the body after ingested? This ismthe most horrible analogue to,human matabolism and cellular respiration that I ever saw!

    Light is NOT energy itself. Photons are NOT energy. Electricity is NOT energy. Rather, all those things HAVE the property of energy. HUGE difference and essential to understand. Nothing is” made of energy.” If you hear that something is “made of energy” , you know immediately it is nomsemse. Pure energy is total nonsense that physicists laugh at. Again, energy itself is not ANYTHING -as Professor Matt Strassler stresses!

    No caloric energy is EVER turned into matter, fat matter, muscle matter or otherwise. “Calories ” do not,act on anything and have nothing to do with the causal mechanisms of matter gain in a human.

    Energy and matter are as different as heaven and worms. Matter Is actual stuff. The dopey industry is laughed at by physicists because these gurus talk about calories as if they are some sort of thing or stuff. They are NOT. They are non-existent.

    Energy is a very abstract, nebulous, human made mathematical construct/CONCEPT. Assigning it existence in reality is a bit too much and incorrect.

    Never be intimidated by the calorie people. They are a generation of idiots amd wrong from the starting gate in principle. Fat tissue is made of ATOMS. ATOMS CANNOT be burned up or burned off or burned away. Look,up Jennifer Coopersmith and Feynman’s Blocks. She wrote a book debunking misconceptioms about energy. Using it as a synonym for fuel is a big no-no and a physics error. My friend, Urgelt, has known for,a,very lomg time that the calorie theory is in its death throes and is nonsense. It NEVER represented genuine science.

  18. I have been ruminating on this for years. Thinking back upon the 20th century and the advent of industrial and processed foods beginning with Crisco in 1911. PUFAs quickly followed. Never been in the food chain. All points have led to this. I agree also with the idea that high amounts of omega 3’s must be equally considered. We become fixated on the PUFA ratios, but clearly the total amounts regardless of types have increased astronomically. I believe the key probably lies here. Artificial sweeteners, colorings, flavorings, increased fructose, increased calories, drugs, gut biome disruption, physical inactivity, circadian rhythm perturbations, are all new to the human species, but there is something especially insidious about PUFA’s. Replacement of saturates and monounsaturates with these industrial oils have broken us. Fortunately, a meeting of the minds and the biochemistry is finally yielding results. Keep up the great work!

  19. “Also, if you are interested, I’ll be happy to post in more depth, especially on reverse electron transport, which I managed to avoid discussing in this post. Just let me know in the comments.”

    I for one would be interested in your more detailed take on this topic. I am a recently diagnosed Type 2 diabetic, a neuroscientist by profession, and I have been following both yours and Peter’s blog for about a year. It has been a steep learning curve, but since I obviously have a large stake in this topic, it has a piercing interest to me.

    • Olive oil is composed of mainly monounsaturated fat, followed by saturated fat with a small amount of PUFA. Overall it is pretty much neutral in terms of it’s affect on the FADH2:NAHD ratio.

  20. I also remember how people are bread at every meal and potatoes every day, but general crowd looked thin and no children at my school were fat (some, like me, were slightly on a chubby side). The main difference from mine point of view – snacking was considered a bad practice, especially for children because parents wanted children to be hungry enough before every meal to avoid the children to be picki about offered food. Grandmas tryed their hardest to fatten children, but not very successfully.
    I commented many times about the fact that a thin crowd in traditionally eating societies doesn’t consist of healthy people who are free from western diseases. In US thin person is a healthy person by default. It is not so. I don’t think just carbohydrates consumption made so many modern people fat, there are too many factors nowadays which created a perfect storm.

  21. Yes, please write a post about reverse electron transport. I know Peter has, but my North American brain sometimes can’t understand the British wit and sarcasm when he pulls everything together to come up with practical recommendations.

    • Ditto, on both counts.

      And a very clear and interesting post – thanks. I too have been peering suspiciously (if far more ignorantly) at the proliferation of PUFA’s, if for no other reason that the intro/obesity timings are too coincident not to take some hard looks.

  22. Hi Dr. Eades,

    I found something out today that I should have included-like your grandfather, my dad had very large portions and was a lean man. He also ate close to a pound of rice pudding, then another desert. This is 100% true and verified by relatives. I know it is not healthy to ingest all those carbon atoms, but this goes to show that there are people out there who can overeat and stay visible ribs thin. Genetics is an ENORMOUS factor in obesity. My sister-in-law eats a lot for a tiny girl. Almost as much as me and I am 6’3″ 212.

    Why do the calorie people ignore this powerful evidence? Dr. Friedman and Dr. Coleman did not. (And remember those calorie people cannot even get the causal mechanisms right with regard to gaining and losing matter.)

    Best wishes,
    Razwell

  23. Very interesting! I, for one, am always up for learning more about the biochemical processes of metabolism.

    Just as an aside– I buy cheap vegetable oil to clean my outdoor grills, but not long ago I wanted to fry some tortilla chips and found myself out of peanut oil. I decided to use the nasty stuff, just this once. As soon as it was hot, that oil did indeed smell exactly like paint thinner, AKA linseed oil! No way was I eating that! But people do, every day!

  24. Excellent! Thank you so much for the love of health that you have tried to teach those of us who are stubborn to a point and slow to respond.

  25. Excellent post. I like both Taubes and Guyenet and had about given up any understanding of why my particular N=1 diet works but your hypothesis introduces a possible answer. About four years ago I read Taubes and decided to see if I could knock back the 1 pound per year I had gained since college (I was 63). I used a LCHF Atkins approach with food logging to ensure my carbs were low but did not try to restrict calories. I lost 35 pounds over six months with virtually all belly fat gone. I told my brother about it and he achieved the same results. But I like rice and potatoes and read Guyenet’s blog so after a year of Atkins I carefully started adding them back in and had no weight gain. For three years now I have stayed at 160 pounds (6′ tall). The only things I need to be careful with are cookies which I can easily attack with abandon and snack carbs (potato chips, cheetos, etc) which I also attack with abandon.

    Reading your post I can easily posit the reasons why LCHF worked for me and why loosening up did not have adverse effects. I eat lots of saturated fat – bacon and eggs, sausages for lunch, chicken wings, steak, fatty fish, nuts. I also eat lots of salad, but with blue cheese or olive oil and vinegar dressings. My other vegetable oils are very low and when I eat out I generally get a burger or a pizza. I hate vegetables so I rarely eat them except in salads (I doubt that is actually helping me unless it helps reduce the PUFA oils frequently used in sauteing them). Bottom line is that my predilection for high protein, high saturated fat has probably kept me away from PUFAs in the absence of the chips, cookies and other processed carbs I was gobbling up for 30+ years. Result – back to my childhood diet.

    Any chance that NUSI.org will test your ideas?

      • Speaking of NuSI . . . alarming to learn that Peter Attia has departed. Any idea what’s going on? I hope this is not a sign of trouble in such a promising venture to do an end run around the nutrition research establishment.

    • Don, like you I made changes to my diet some time ago ( thanks to Dr. Mike, Taubes and others) most notably fewer carbs, higher protein, more saturated fat and olive oil in place of vegetable oils.
      I lost fat and settled into my high school weight of 170. I did this while working out regularly. I have never been terribly strict, however.
      Interestingly, a back injury and other obligations caused me to stop working out during much of 2015. I drank beer, ate out, and did not watch my carb intake as closely as did in the past. Yet, I did not gain weight. I fluctuated a few pounds but overall remained at 170.
      After reading Dr. Mike’s post, I believe a contributing factor is the reduction of vegetable oils.

  26. Mike – greatly appreciate your whole blog entry (okay – let’s be honest – ALL of them) and especially the videos at the end of this one. You are really a stunning source of information (not that I understood all of it – but it’s there to look at again – and again . . .). Thank you thank you thank you. and keep those cards and letters coming.

    One small note about the book “Life – the epic story of our mitochondria” – the information is great – the editing was either non-existent or done by a spell-checker. There are a few points where a misreading (or a mis-punctuating) leads to total confusion about meaning, always a serious issue in scientific discussions. Am I just being picky or did you find that true too? Knowing the subject as well as you clearly do might make a huge difference, but I found some of it totally confusing and able to be “read” a couple of ways.

    • Yes, I found the editing to be lacking. But it is a self-published book, so I’ve come to expect that. Most people who self publish can’t spring for the $10,000-$20,000 it takes to hire a professional editor, so I give them a bit of a pass.

  27. Nicely put together!

    Yes I’m a great fan of Peter: as a vet he knows a LOT about metabolism, but unlike, say, a dietician, he was never properly trained in what to ignore. Also his posts come with a delicious side order of sarcasm.

    I was recently doing a lot of reminiscing about what we used to eat when I was young, and going back to what Gran used to eat. Currently I eat very similar to her, but without all the pastry – especially the grass fed meat (there was no other kind then) and game. I eat fish more often, not just on friday, and a much wider range of veggies. We used to grow a lot of our veggies on our allotment – a second garden down the road which we rented.

    In retrospect the starch and especially the bread didn’t do me much good but it didn’t affect the majority of the population as it does today.

    Undoubtedly the biggest change was the gross (pun intended) increase in industrially produced Omega 6 seed oils, especially laced with trans fats.

    Another thing I realised, “processed” food used to be made from Real Food. Now much of it is made from Not Food, including byproducts of the petroleum refining industry.

  28. The reason for Type 2 diabetes is frequently explained as increased insulin resistance. Your blood sugar is too high because of insulin resistance, you need more insulin to get past the increased resistance. In your FADH2:NAHD ratio discussion more resistance is a good thing and lower makes you fat. I wonder that the Type 2 diabetes resistance is a different thing of maybe just plain wrong.

    The graph on food away and at home would be more informative if it was given as a percentage of expenditures to actually see food away growing as a percentage of money spent on food. The graph shows inflation quiet nicely, your need to compare the vertical distance ratios to get the intended meaning.

    I have rid my house of vegetable oils and this post has certainly validated my direction.

    • My current opinion (I stress both words) is that insulin resistance evolved as an adaptive mechanism for food partitioning – different levels of IR at different tissues shunts glucose and fat/ketones to where they are best used. Whole body IR is used to rapidly store a glut of food as body fat by jacking up insulin levels. This only works when the IR is subsequently switched off, so insulin levels drop and the stored fat can be metabolised.

      It’s when IR becomes chronic that disaster happens. Current diets make it impossible to switch off.

  29. I found this information fascinating to say the least! Every time I read something like this from you and other experts I get a little deeper insight into why my body reacts the way it does to certain foods. Thank you for continuing to research and post your findings to the everyday people like me; it is highly appreciated!

  30. Avoiding vegetable oils – I rely on nuts and nut flours in my lo carb regime….does the above mean I should avoid those as well or just the refined oils of nuts? Except for organic virgin olive oil in my salad dressings this is the only source of vegetables oils for me. We render our own lard, grass fed and finished beef tallow. Cannot believe the difference in our health overall.

  31. I’ve been noticing great increases in purchases of heavily processed or manufactured foods, and very little buying of simple produce or meat (beef, fowl, fish, etc.). Okay, I admit it, I sneak peeks in peoples’ grocery baskets after observing their girth. I don’t see many slim people walking down the food aisles, even in slim-conscious Los Angeles. Another possibility, although Dr E would know better than I the actual statistics of food ingredients, I doubt bodies are actually being nourished and fed by heavily processed and manufactured foods. So, perhaps people are looking around for something more to eat after eating a full “meal” because their bodies are attempting to call for real food. Thus, consuming more food and more of the wrong kinds of food. Me? I’m sticking with buying real food, having the occasional treat (like once or twice a month) of a restaurant meal, and eating according to Dr E’s lower carb guidelines whether at home or away, and lots and lots of walking and other exercise. I know that this works. I came home from a Memphis, TN vacation several years ago a pound lighter than when I left! That, for me, was a true test.

    • Very noticeable here that the slim fit healthy old folks are mostly found in the butchers and veg shops and the fat unhealthy middle aged people are in the supermarket buying their “Low Fat!!!” manufactured foodlike substances and becoming ever fatter and more ill. This includes more than one doctor and several nurses.

  32. Mike, have you read any of the work of Dr. Ray Peat? He’s been writing on the negatives of PUFA for decades. It is interesting to see how different people eventually come to similar conclusions as long as they continue to simply seek the truth and change their minds with new data.

    If you haven’t, he has a website (raypeat.com/articles) and there’s a fairly active Ray Peat forum community as well. One guy, Danny Roddy, also has a podcast (Generative Energy) he started publishing again last year, interestingly that first new episode (#7) was all about PUFA. There are now 20 episodes and 7-20 are all really great and full of fascinating information. You article is the first I’ve heard of the FADH2:NADH ratio but Danny and Georgi have discussed the NAD:NADH ratio on the podcast many times.
    http://www.generativeenergy.com/
    http://www.generativeenergy.com/main/2015/10/1/polyunsaturated-fats-in-the-real-organism

    With regards to PUFA itself, I’m a male turning 25 soon and looking back on my weight losses and weight gains over the last decade+, with hindsight I can say that all of my ups and downs have correlated VERY closely with my PUFA consumption.

    6th grade: reached 155lbs, don’t remember my height but I still had growing to do, quite chubby.

    7-8th grade: had went on a low calorie/low fat diet (therefore low pufa) and reached as low as 125lbs on a 5′ 8″ frame. I almost became anorexic but relaxed about my eating by the time I started….

    High School: Let’s just say that my peak weight in high school was 180-185 lbs. One thing that stands out in my memory is my occasional eating of a box of Kraft mac n cheese using canola oil as the fat…I truly didn’t know any better.

    End of HS/beginning of college: I started reading about health online, find blogs and such. Found sites such as yours, Kurt Harris, Paleo sites, and Danny Roddy’s eventually. replaced canola with butter, supplemented Vit D, magnesium, K2, other small diet improvements. weight dropped to 150’s but still ate my mother’s food.

    Age 21: After graduating college a year earlier, moved into my apartment and prepared 100% of my own food, inspired by both Paleo and Ray Peat ideas. Maintained a slim, healthy 135lbs.

    2014-present: Starting traveling for work constantly, pufa from fast food, restaurant food, hotel food. Gained 20 lbs in a year. Experienced a major stressor near the end of 2015, gained 10 more, reached 167lbs by Jan 2016. Returned to Peat inspired diet, avoiding PUFA as much as possible, slowily detoxing pufa from my tissues. Blood tests indicated subclinical hypothyroid, low Testosterone. supplementing 1 grain of NDT for a month now. Currently 162lbs.

    Hopefully by the end of this year, much of the pufa will be removed from my body, and I can see my old slim self again. NDT significantly improved my energy, feeling of well-being, motivation to work on things I’ve been procrastinating for a long time. It’s like a fog has been lifted off of me. Just thought I would share my experiences. Thanks!

  33. Something else to look at:

    Having a background in biochemistry and propelled by having Hashi, I reached this conclusion on my own, then went looking for research and there it was:

    http://press.endocrine.org/doi/pdf/10.1210/jc.2010-2255
    http://www.slideshare.net/roger961/chapter-10-phytoestrogens-and-the-thyroiddoc

    I think this fundamentally explains the obesity epidemic… what was the largest single change in our eating habits, about 30-40 years ago, when the gradual change in average BMI started? The switch from animal fats to soybean oil, and concurrent use of soy protein in various foods. Not
    even higher carb intake explains why there’s been such an across-the-population change in average BMI. But widespread subclinical hypothyroidsim due to increased intake of phytoestrogens? that would pretty much cover it.

    And what is a major effect of inadequate thyroid function?? craving for carbs and sugar, which naturally causes a shift in dietary habits.

    Why has it become so much worse in the last decade, with even young children now commonly obese?

    A: The upsurge in the use of flaxseed meal, which has 3x the phytoestrogens of soybean meal, and is much more digestible and bio-available. (Sufficiently so to cause major birth defects in puppies whose dams are on a diet that contains flaxseed meal.)

  34. Thanks for bringing Peter’s work to a larger audience. He needs to write a book, but probably won’t. You could write that missing book!

  35. I like this theory, it makes sense to me, thanks for the simple explanation of the mechanism, it explains the explosion of obesity, vegetable oil being the missing factor that has been making us more “carbohydrate sensitive” to the carbs we’ve long eaten.

  36. “Quis custodiet ipsos custodes?” Thank you for this undeniable and informative revelation. It will be forwarded to my friends and family.
    I have an acquaintance who sends me photos from 40’s – 60’s era Washington, D.C. where we both grew to adulthood. You would find it difficult, if not impossible, to find anyone in the formations, parades, sidelines, or group photographs from those years who seem even slightly overweight. It is evident we are eating differently than we did then. My 50’s – 60’s family, for example, went “out” to eat a few times a year. Families today go out to eat every week. Restaurant options are fried, gravied, and generally carb-heavy, and the portions are larger; supermarket offerings are at least as bad.
    It would seem the only recourse the public have in response to this insult is commercial boycott of those tasty but deadly foods. That is certainly easier said than done as it involves a concerted collective action, but in any commercial enterprise “money talks”. I hope your research generates the hoped-for effect.

    Thank you sincerely for the work you do.

    J. Brooks

  37. I was going to post this under the previous entry, but I didn’t think you’d see it, so apologies for it being slightly off-topic.

    For years I’ve been trying – and obviously failing – to wrap my head around WHY docs appear to know so very little about physiology – surely if your job is going to devoted to curing disease, then surely you need to know how things work…?! I’m a Brit and, as you’re probably aware, we have a state-run (I prefer ‘state-controlled’) health service and there are several things that, if you mention them to any doc, they’re likely to thing you’re insane:

    All carbs are sugar (no, only sugar is sugar – how can grains, or potatoes, or apples be sugar…?! They won’t even acknowledge that fructose exists)
    Eating fat doesn’t cause obesity
    Calories don’t count, the source does
    Eating fewer calories than you expend won’t cause weight loss (at least not long-term)
    Red meat DOESN’T cause cancer
    Saturated fat doesn’t cause CHD/CVD
    And, of course, the fact that the liver produces cholesterol

    What are they taught at med school…?! I always seem to know more about physiology than any doc I’ve ever encounter and, because we’ve a state-controlled health service, this makes me ratchet frustrated and angry, as the prescription of statins and the advocating of a LFHC calorie-controlled diet seems to me to be directly contrary to the Hippocratic Oath (‘first do no harm’). The NHS is now saying dementia is ‘inevitable ‘ – and I think,”Well it wouldn’t be if you’d change your dietary advice and quit prescribing premature death pills!” I have been trying to obtain data under the Freedom of Information Act to prove my theory that the rise in dementia/Alzheimer’s, CHD/CVD ‘age-related diabetes’ and everything else the NHS blames on “simply getting older” is, in fact, in direct correlation to the increase in statin prescribing. To date, I’ve been refused every time, which makes me wonder what the department of health has to hide (and now the government is trying to abolish the FoIA, whilst also trying to force through the ‘Snooper’s Charter’ which would grant GCHQ, and the Home Office, the power to spy on anyone and everyone and seize computers, tablets, phones, etc., under the guise of preventing terrorism).

    I’m trying to get my father to quit statins; he lost his best friend almost 5 years ago and, whilst I can’t prove statins did for him, the fact remains that he didn’t have any health problems before -.and within 10 years he was diabetic, and within 20 his pancreas had quit. Five years after that he dropped dead (quite literally; he got up to get the remote off the coffee table, and keeled over stone dead). The official cause of death was given as ‘diabetes-related liver failure’, but what caused it…? I say statins.

    Now my father is on a similar combo as Martyn was when he died (80mg simvarastatin, a PPI, metformin and aspirin) and a fortnight before Xmas he developed an extremely nasty chesty cough (I was worried it was pneumonia) which persisted for well over a month (probably nearer 6 weeks). I could hear him at night coughing and wheezing, I lived in fear he would go to bed one night and not wake up again. My mother decamped to the spare room just so she could sleep. Ever since there’s been this question in the back of my mind – would he have been as sick as he was for as long as he was if he’d not been taking statins…? Did they prolong – and intensify – his illness …? My parents are terrified of fat – their diet is almost fat-free (animal fat free at least).

    They’ve swapped semi-skimmed for skimmed milk, butter for Flora Pro-Activ (with plant sterols “clinically proven to dramatically lower cholesterol!”). It’s margarine made with a blend of sunflower, corn, linseed, rapeseed and palm oils, modified waxy corn starch – “and now with added buttermilk for a fresh, butter-like taste!” – I don’t understand how any sane human could think it was a good thing to put in their body, but GPs are told to recommend it (and here’s the thing; in the past it’s been found that the NHS under the Tories has accepted money from Kraft, Kellogg’s, Nestlé, Unilever (which produces Flora), Warburton’s (purveyors of grain-based products) Cadbury’s, McDonald’s and Coke, amongst others, how I WISH I was joking!). We have a health service funded by junk! If satire wasn’t dead before, it most certainly is now!

    I bought him Malcolm Kendrick’s ‘The Great Cholesterol Con’ thinking that he’d be more likely to believe him because he’s British, but he literally threw it back in my face (“F*cking Internet crackpot!”). I don’t know what to do anymore, even private GPs are subject to scrutiny by the GMC (Dr. Kendrick was forced into private practice, but he still has to be extremely careful and watch what he says). Everyone should read his blog, though, when he’s really laying on the sarcasm, he’s hilarious – http://www.drmalcolmkendrick.org. You can almost hear the exasperation and frustration.

    The other thing is that if you’re an NHS GP who DOES believe all of the above and refuse to prescribe statins, or advocate a LFHC diet, then you very quickly find that you’re no longer an NHS GP, NICE (the National Institute for Clinical Excellence – probably the most ironically-named organisation on Earth) simply gets its Mafia wing, the GMC, to charge docs with ‘gross professional misconduct’ simply for speaking the truth. It’s almost like the NHS is a cult, the way it has the entire nation brainwashed and indoctrinated and the way it silences those who don’t agree with its policies and doctrines.

    The NHS is perpetually running at a deficit – well it wouldn’t be if it didn’t make people sick, would it…?

    Because of this, there’s a worrying trend of people becoming vegan – the NHS has noticed this (and seems to be encouraging it). Its senior nutritionist has written an article about the health benefits of a vegan diet (really? What are they?) and is perpetuating the myth that chlorella and spirulina contain B12. I cannot think of a diet unhealthier than vegan (I was going to say ‘fruitarian’ but there’s no difference really, is there…?). I don’t buy the ‘it’s better for the planet’ argument, either – the only way being vegan will save the world is by exterminating the human race. Every species has its own evolutionary and genetic dietary blueprint and Homo sapiens isn’t herbivorous (I think of us as carnivorous omnivores- in that we can live perfectly well without plants, but we need meat!)

    Okay, I’ll shut up now (this has been edited to the best of my ability, but I’m autistic and don’t appear to have an edit function, apologies for the length).

    • No problem on the length. I can feel your legitimate frustration coming through. There is a young cardiologist in the UK named Aseem Malhotra, who is starting to make big waves about all the things you are concerned about. And people are starting to listen, but, as I’m sure you know, the NHS is a very large ship, which will require some time to get turned.

      • Seen this?

        https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/public-health-collaboration#/

        a very small bunch of clueful doctors. Malhotra and Rangan Chatterjee have both been on prime time TV and have been attacked by dieticians spoiling for a show trial a la Annika Dahlqvist, Tim Noakes, Jennifer Elliott et al. Katharine Morrison was hounded mercilessly by a clueless dietician until she gave up posting on a diabetes blog. All for IMPROVING the health of their patients.

        I’ve personally heard of a few more low carb friendly GPs but they mostly keep their heads down and some have been threatened with disciplinary action for “failing to comply with NICE Guidelines/PCT Protocols” (A PCT was like a local government-owned HMO, they have now been replaced at enormous expense by CCGs, probably run by the same non-medical staff and accounting clerks.)

        The main part of a GP’s job seems to be sending well people for tests to try to find a reason for medicating them. Then they are bombarded with endlessly changing Rules as to which treatments to deny to which patients. After that they have to find time to see actual ill people.

        I’ve heard of GPs being sanctioned for overdiagnosing, over prescribing (not statins of course) and sending too many patients to hospitals for further investigation.

        They are told to follow “Evidence-Based” medicine and if you look at NICE or NHS Evidence you will see only justifications for Conventional Wisdom. They literally have no clue that there is a wealth of material they are never told about. Some even have their internet access locked to “recommended” sites like Diabetes UK and WebMD.

        Then they, and especially nurses, are tasked with warning patients about those “cranks on the internet – like you and Atkins, and also Gerald Reaven, Ron Krauss et al.

        “Richard Bernstein, didn’t he write West Side Story?” OK that was someone’s joke but nevertheless . . .

        . . . how many overbusy GPs are going to take time out from playing with their children, playing golf or sleeping to look up stuff they don’t know is hidden in plain sight on PubMed by researchers they have never heard of?

        The answer comes when you look out my back window, you will see fields and fields and fields of carbs and margarine, and scattered in between some grass-fed cows and sheep, free range pigs and vegetables, and yet despite their huge machines the farmers often make a loss on their wheat, dairy and currently pork.

        Then you look at who sponsors all “health” charities in all countries – carbohydrate processors, margarine manufacturers and of course the drug companies who market the antidotes to the diet, and who also sponsor the CME courses.

        Worst of all, most of the population including a majority of “medical professionals” are too young to remember when “low fat” diets and the corresponding “epidemics” of obesity, diabetes and other metabolic diseases were not the norm.

        Eh well, one good rant deserves another . . .

        • Yes, I did see the crowdfunding proposal. In fact, I did my bit on Facebook and Twitter to help promote it. Looks like they have surpassed their goal.

          One good rant does deserve another. Thanks for contributing.

    • That’s true, but sugar is half fructose. And the most commonly used type of HFCS is 45 percent fructose, 55 percent glucose, so provides less fructose than table sugar.

      • I suspect the sugar/HFCS difference may be exaggerated. In the UK most of the corn (maize) grown is used whole crop for winter cow feed along with grass silage/haylage, not for grain. Sugar beet is a HUGE crop, so most of our food contains sugar rather than HFCS. Yet we still have very similar rates of obesity and diabetes as the US.

        We don’t grow soy either, though we import a lot, and we DO import a lot of different processed Omega 6 seed oils along with our rape/canola oil which is local, and most of the imported corn is for animal feed, or cornflakes, so there are big dietary similarities in general.

  38. Wow, this is all starting to make a lot of scientific sense. I have been avoiding vegetable oils like the plague, and yes very rarely going out for dinner, due to some information I found several years ago.
    After stopping vege oils I noticed a complete turnaround on my age spots on my hands that I had been acquiring. They disappeared and have not come back after 6 years of very little PUFA’s oils. I decided to stop using them after reading something by a Dr Raymond Peat years ago that PUFA oils where he wrote that they responsible for them. He wrote they were not only on the skin but on our organs too. The other noticeable difference I have found is that when in the sun for extended lengths of time my skin doesn’t burn nearly as easily as it did and when it does the redness disappears very quickly. Although my husband has been eating the same diet as I, he is 13 years older than me and his age spots are older as well. Those age spots he acquired before the diet are still lingering so I guess that damage that has occurred is a lot harder to reverse. I think being vegetarian for many years, where he ate a lot of vegetable oils, certainly hasn’t had a good effect on his skin. But on the plus side his cancerous skin growths (he was a surfer downunder) have completely stopped in the last 3 years. He just gets those non cancerous keratosis lumps and bumps.

  39. The FDA has established a 3 year period (by 2018) to remove trans fatty acid fats / oils from their products. As you know that is hydrogenated and partially hydrogenated oils / fats. Food companies could still make “vegetable oils” and foods with ” “vegetable oils” (which in fact are primarily oils made actually from grains, seeds, and soybeans), but as those oils / fats turn rancid very rapidly (even if refrigerated), the food manufacturers are stuck with the original problem.

    http://www.usnews.com/news/articles/2015/06/16/fda-bans-trans-fats-in-move-that-will-alter-us-food-landscape

    http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/2015/06/16/fda-bans-trans-fats/28801537/

    The FDA has also recently removed its restrictions on Dietary Cholesterol, saying (finally) that there is NO correlation between dietary cholesterol (saturated fats) and serum cholesterol (unfortunately they didn’t raise acceptable levels of serum cholesterol to reasonable ranges – but then the pharmaceutical companies have more pull than the food companies and lobbied hard for those billions in sales of statins).

    http://www.cnn.com/2015/02/19/health/dietary-guidelines/

    http://louderwithcrowder.com/fda-reverses-guidelines-on-eggsbacon-epic-win/#.VrPck6NOlSC

    http://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2015/06/15/2015-dietary-guidelines.aspx

    (BTW , the FDA also now recommends that the diet includes no more than 10% added sugar – my personal recommendation is 0%…. added or otherwise).

    http://well.blogs.nytimes.com/2015/11/09/placing-a-cap-on-americans-consumption-of-added-sugar/?_r=0

    http://mobile.foodnavigator-usa.com/Regulation/General-Mills-blasts-unprecedented-FDA-added-sugars-proposal

  40. Great post. Really made sense… whenever I would eat chicken wings, it would knock me right out of ketosis. They were basically plain meat with hot sauce, but I suspect the oil from frying was what did it.

    With that in mind, would it be fair to speculate that if one were to remove all sources of veg oil from the diet, but still consume some amounts of quality carbohydrate, it could cause fat loss? Or is that just a pipe dream? I’m including veg oils hidden in other products like sauces, breads and virtually anything processed. I would expect if I couldn’t make it, I couldn’t eat it. Just a thought.

    • As per Peter’s post, you may be able to lose with carbs in the absence of much fat. I’m not sure about adding more carbs to a low-carb diet while getting rid of all vegetable oils. Give it a try. I work hard to avoid vegetable oils, and do so sompletely while dining at home. It’s restaurant eating that is problematic.

    • Neither offensive nor off topic. It just contained a bunch of links and by blogging software sequestered it as a consequence. I had to search for your name to find it and pull it out of Purgatory. It’s all posted now. Sorry for the problem.

      • I appear to have been banned from a whole bunch of blogs, all low carb and mostly but not exclusively on Google Blogger. Usually I get one or two comments approved, then hit the bit bucket, when I can’t see any difference between the comments that were approved and the others that were banned.

        This includes blogs like Kendrick who claims not to censor.

        Zoe Harcombe recently had ALL her comments blocked, then suddenly released to her weeks later.

        This leads me to wonder if someone/some organisation is running some form of bot. Maybe it blocks everyone who posts to more than one or two low carb blogs as spammers? I have no difficulty at all with several others. Links may be a factor but not the only one.

        I’m recalling several years ago when Google blocked a whole bunch of low carb blogs as “spam” and even took some of them down completely.

        Anyone else seeing this, or spotting a pattern? Or am I just an offensive asshole?

  41. Disregard previous query.

    I found it WAY down the list – completely out of chronological sequence, it was posted as an ORIGINAL article (can it somehow be moved to an Initial Comment status?).

    Plus is still awaiting moderation.

  42. Nice hypothesis. What about the possible role of epigenetic inheritance? Also, is the quantitative magnitude of higher PUFAs in diet, and consequent alteration of intracellular signaling, large enough to play such a role? Certainly it is outside of evolutionary context.

  43. Cheers for Dr. Mike’s gracious and empathetic response to MarciaT.

    Despite 62 years as a member of Phi Beta Kappa, I worry for people who value syntax over substance in science writings.

  44. I also wondered what happened to my post about Nick Lane and Mike Russell on figuring out the origin of life might take a conceptual shift towards seeing it as a pattern of molecular energy (I gave the link to an article out in January)? The fuel of life indeed. Yesterday a paper was published in ASTROBIOLOGY (Volume 16, Number 2) “advertised in its title Mike’s The Origin of Life in Alkaline Hydrothermal Vents. Nick Lane is one of the authors and in his “The Vital Question – WHY IS LIFE THE WAY IT IS?” book out last year featured Russell’s hypothesis now gaining more momentum in overturning the warm pond theory that Darwin mused about.

  45. I very much appreciate that you explicitly integrate Peter’s thinking into this post. The same concepts are all here, but you’ll do a better job of presenting them (much as I like Peter and his ability to synthesize information, he is still a technical physiologist, and I am a layman). Yes, with effort I “get” Peter, but I’ve often thought someone needs to blog about his blogging and make it as simple as possible (but no simpler, LOL).

    Regardless of the role of dietary PUFA, I think Taubes has provided enough info that the excess of refined carbs cause problems of their own apart from the obesity epidemic. For me, the single most powerful chapter in Good Calories, Bad Calories was the one on “Diseases of Civilization”. The colonized folks eating their native (low-sugar, no-refined-wheat) diets died mostly from accidents and infections rather than the appendicitis, diabetes, and other chronic ills which plagued the colonizers.

    Great job as always.

  46. After reading your latest post, I got the message”In order to keep fit, you need to watch out your carb and restrict the PUFA”,right? and the saturated fats which means higher FADH2: NADH ratio will keep you fit? So eat more lard in order to get fit instead of vegetable oils and nut oils which are full of PUFA. I really doubt about it.

  47. Such an important topic! Thanks! I strongly recommend the work of Dr Ray Peat for everyone to read. I think he is many years ahead of his time. Lots of (sometimes very academic and complicated) information on PUFA:s, sugar, hormones, thyroid etc – from a biochemical angle. There is no “Ray Peat diet”, not an “easy to follow” schedule. But it surely give food for thoughts!

  48. I found this most interesting and dismaying. I looked up the UK advice on eating and found them recommending what they referred to as the “Mediterranean Diet”, their description being as follows: ” You can make your diet more Mediterranean-style by:
    *eating plenty of starchy foods, such as bread and pasta
    *eating plenty of fruit and vegetables
    *eating some fish
    *eating less meat
    *choosing products made from vegetable and plant oils, such as olive oil”

    This is exasperating, as we have a massive growth in obesity, type 2 diabetes and diagnosed pre-diabetes currently occurring in the UK. That’s why the confused messages from the U.S. Guidelines go beyond the U.S., as the UK rewrite their advice every two years and clearly use the US guidelines as a prime source.

  49. So I came over here from an article about a Heart Healthy presentation. This makes sense to me, kind of hard to remember all this from chemistry class, but I did. At the end I was thinking about what you said about your grandfather, what I ate at home as a child and a show I had seen earlier. My family was like yours growing up, We ate out on vacation once a year for breakfast or not at all. We used bacon grease or lard for flavoring, cooking and baking. The show I am referring to was about five people that were paired with professionals for losing weight, one RD, an other nutritionist, and I don’t remember the rest. But one diet stuck out for me, he was told to eat bacon and meat and put butter in his coffee. That person did not win but he lost the most weight just below the winning contestant. And his blood levels were good. That being said I have not been a fan of the low carb diet or the low fat diets for awhile now. I have heart disease and have many family members that have it or have died from it not knowing they had it. I really thought it was the fats and the way my relatives ate from living on farms. But I listened to a presentation about familial hypercholesterolemia and I think that is more of a problem. Anyway thanks for sharing this I will be doing more investigating on this subject. There has to be an answer to this obesity problem and we have been talking about sugar but there has to be more to it than just sugar, high fructose corn syrup, etc. Thanks

  50. I often refer to Peter’s Hyperlipid as my favorite blog, even though with only high-school-level chemistry I struggle to grok many of the details. Thank you so much for simplifying NADH2, FADH, and protons to a level where it finally makes sense to me. Please do write about reverse electron transport.

    For anyone who decides to dip into Hyperlipid because of Dr. Mike’s references, I highly recommend you also read all of the comments; Peter has a large number of very knowledgeable and articulate commenters (some of whom I recognized here).

    http://high-fat-nutrition.blogspot.com/

  51. “In the next post I’ll explain how a food most consider a true Paleo food and a low-carb staple might not be such a great food based on the FADH2:NAHD ratio.”

    Couldn’t find a reference to this in your next Halls etc post. Please tell me the alleged paleo food and low-carb staple isn’t nuts…

    • No, I have the post in question almost written. I had to jump the Hall one in front of it because it was so timely. Next one will be the one to which you refer.

  52. Hi, I have some questions.

    If the first graph shows a sudden increase in people being classed as overweight/obese in 1980, then shouldn’t we be looking for a trigger sometime in the 1970s? Since weight takes time to gain. It’s surely implausible that the guidelines could be published during some month of 1980, millions of people instantly overhaul their diet, and when the 1980 obesity statistics are compiled they’ve already become overweight/obese?

    In the second graph, there is no trend on the Fat line, except a sharp increase just before the millennium. Meanwhile, the Carbs line doesn’t really begin to increase until the mid-80s. So what caused the 1980 spike of the first graph? If veggie fat consumption was the enemy, then obesity would spike shortly after that pre-millennial spike, not 25-years prior to it.

    And in the following two graphs, there is a very tiny increase in Vegetable Fat consumption in the 1970s – again, it increases more later. Meanwhile the fourth graph refers to expenditure, and as eating out is more expensive than eating at home, the green part of this graph is not in proportion with the blue half if we’re thinking about calories, content, grams of fat, etc. In that respect, again, there is a very insignificant increase in the 1970s.

    Meanwhile, the sharp increase of Vegetable Fat consumption in graph 3 – just before the turn of the millennium – might be seen to correlate with the levelling-off of obesity levels in graph 1 from just after the turn of the millennium.

    BTW I am a paleo, low-carb eater. But those graphs just don’t seem to add up to me.

  53. Thank you for this blog post which I need to re-read. It makes me wonder if my hefty breakfast intake of milled linseeds is contributing to rather sluggish “second time around”low carb weight loss.

  54. I’m used to thinking “high insulin resistance = bad, low insulin resistance = good” so this seemed brilliant but backwards from my simple-minded starting point?