A couple of exercise physiologists, Wendy Repovich, Ph.D. and Janet Peterson, Dr.P.H., decided to debunk what they consider the “Top 10 Nutrition Myths,” and did so at the American College of Sports Medicine annual Health & Fitness Summit & Exposition in Dallas, Texas.
Now I’m going to debunk their debunking.
Ah, so many idiots, so little time…
Here goes. And in the order in which they presented them.
10. Eating carbohydrates makes you fat. Cutting carbs from your diet may have short-term weight loss benefits due to water loss from a decrease in carbohydrate stores, but eating carbs in moderation does not directly lead to weight gain. The body uses carbs for energy, and going too long without them can cause lethargy.
The same idiocy that we’ve heard a thousand times recycled once again. Cutting carbs from your diet will indeed bring about weight loss. There is some water loss in the first few days, but once that’s gone most people settle down to a nice, steady loss of fat. How many studies have been published in peer-reviewed scientific papers over just the last couple of years showing that low-carbohydrate diets are more effective than low-fat diets in helping people lose weight? Answer: Many, many such studies. How many studies have there been in this same time showing that low-fat diets are more effective than low-carb diets? Answer: Zero. Conclusion: low-carb diets work better than low-fat diets to help people lose weight.
A rhetorical question: what caloric source is removed from a low-carb diet? Do you think it might be carbohydrates? If so, then when carbohydrates are removed, people lose weight. So, obviously, if carbohydrates are added, people gain weight. It ain’t rocket science, but then again, Wendy and Janet obviously ain’t rocket scientists. But they do have advanced degrees… Makes one wonder.
We could go into all the physiology and biochemistry of insulin resistance and how carbs increase insulin secretion and ultimately insulin resistance in most people, but just the above should be enough to debunk their so-called debunking of the idea that carbs make you fat.
Oh, and the idea that going too long without carbs causes lethargy… Where did these people come from? How many of you on low-carb diets have lethargy? Few I would suggest. In fact, a recurring comment from people following low-carb diets is that they have so much less lethargy. Sorry Wendy and Janet, but it’s an excess of carbs that causes lethargy, not the lack of them.
9. Drink eight, 8-oz. glasses of water per day. You should replace water lost through breathing, excrement and sweating each day – but that doesn’t necessarily total 64 ounces of water. It’s hard to measure the exact amount of water you have consumed daily in food and drink, but if your urine is pale yellow, you’re doing a good job. If it’s a darker yellow, drink more H2O.
I’ll go along with them on this one, although, based on their obviously impaired understanding of biochemistry and physiology, these two would be just the kind of idiots who would say that coffee or tea or any other beverage wouldn’t count as water. It has always amazed me that so many people don’t realize that coffee, tea and all the rest are 99 percent water. If you take a cup of hot water and steep a tea bag in it, does that make the water disappear? No. But you would be stunned at the number of people who apparently believe that it does. “No,” they would say, “tea doesn’t count towards you daily water intake. It has got to be pure water.”
8. Brown grain products are whole grain products. Brown dyes and additives can give foods the deceiving appearance of whole grain. Read labels to be sure a food is whole grain, and try to get three-ounce equivalents of whole grains per day to reduce the risk of heart disease, diabetes, and stroke.
I’ll give a big ‘Who cares?’ to this one. I don’t eat grains, whole or otherwise, so it doesn’t matter to me. If you’re reading this blog, I doubt that it matters much to you. Which means that their advice to “try to get three-ounce equivalents of whole grains per day” to reduce the risk for disease, is pretty much a non-starter. Show me, Wendy and Janet, the well-done studies demonstrating that whole grains reduce the risk of heart disease, diabetes and stroke. Warning: it will be tough to do because these studies don’t exist. While you’re looking for those studies, let me show you a bunch that show that populations forced by circumstances to live on grain-based diets have tooth decay, increased infection, reduced stature, and multiple signs of malnutrition.
7. Eating eggs will raise your cholesterol. This myth began because egg yolks have the most concentrated amount of cholesterol of any food. However, there’s not enough cholesterol there to pose health risks if eggs are eaten in moderation. Studies suggest that eating one egg per day will not raise cholesterol levels and that eggs are actually a great source of nutrients.
This one I agree with whole heartedly, although I doubt that Wendy and Janet would approve of multiple eggs per day. They did throw in the weasel words “eggs in moderation,” which would imply that they felt they were going out on a limb in debunking this particular myth and didn’t want to get too carried away.
6. All alcohol is bad for you. Again, moderation is key. Six ounces of wine and 12 ounces of beer are considered moderate amounts, and should not pose any adverse health effects to the average healthy adult. All alcohol is an anticoagulant and red wine also contains antioxidants, so drinking a small amount daily can be beneficial.
Okay, I’ll cut them a total break on this one. We agree completely. Even with the words “moderate amounts.” I’m not so sure they’re correct on their categorical rationale as to why wine is beneficial, but I’ll go along with them that it is. I’m not so sure, though, that a glass of good single malt scotch wouldn’t provide just as much benefit as the wine. Remember, it has been the wine industry that has funded virtually all of the studies showing that alcohol (i.e wine) is good for us.
5. Vitamin supplements are necessary for everyone. If you eat a variety of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains, along with moderate amounts of a variety of low-fat dairy and protein and the right quantity of calories, you don’t need to supplement. Most Americans do not, so a multi-vitamin might be good. Special vitamin supplements are also recommended for people who are pregnant or have nutritional disorders.
Hmmm. Let’s see if I’ve got this straight. You don’t need them; you do need them; special supplements are recommended. It’s hard to argue with that logic. Here’s how I parse it out. If you follow Wendy’s and Janet’s dietary recommendations, you don’t need supplements. But since most people (probably Wendy and Janet included) don’t follow Wendy’s and Janet’s dietary recommendations, they do need supplements. And anyone who is pregnant or has a nutritional disorder (read: deficiency) absolutely needs supplementation. Well, you’ve got to appreciate how well they debunked that myth.
4. Consuming extra protein is necessary to build muscle mass. Contrary to claims of some protein supplement companies, consuming extra protein does nothing to bulk up muscle unless you are also doing significant weight training at the same time. Even then the increased requirement can easily come from food. A potential problem with supplements is the body has to work overtime to get rid of excess protein, and can become distressed as a result.
Jesus wept. Here we go again with the too-much-protein-is-bad for us mantra. Once again, Wendy and Janet, show me the studies. They can’t because such studies don’t exist. Janet and Wendy are obviously not familiar with the work of Donald Layman, probably the world’s authority on dietary protein (and also a low-carb advocate) who has published extensively on the subject. According to Dr. Layman we need to get at least 7 grams (12 grams is preferable) of the branched chain amino acid leucine to increase muscle growth and optimally regulate insulin function. (Click here for one of Dr. Layman’s papers) Since leucine is found in significant quantities only in meat, eggs, and dairy products, and not in huge quantities even in those, it takes a fair amount of protein to provide the leucine required to build muscle. So, Janet and Wendy, au contraire, it does indeed require extra protein to build muscle mass. And these people are physiologists?
3. Eating fiber causes problems if you have irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). There are two kinds of fiber: soluble and insoluble. Insoluble fiber can cause problems in IBS sufferers; soluble fiber, however, is more easily absorbed by the body and helps prevent constipation for those with IBS. Soluble fiber is found in most grains.
Before we proceed with the debunking debunking, let’s pause just for a minute to enjoy the spectacle of such breathtaking stupidity on display. Consider this sentence: “…soluble fiber, however, is more easily absorbed by the body…” Fiber, whether soluble or insoluble, IS NOT ABSORBED by the body. It shuffles on through the GI tract until it gets to the colon where some of it is converted into short chain fatty acids (that’s right: fiber converts to fat) and absorbed–as fat, not fiber–and the rest is moved on out with the stool.
As to whether or not fiber is harmful for those with IBS, I wrote a fairly lengthy post on this subject last year. The short version is that fiber works to help the stool be pushed along by causing damage to the wall of the bowel. The bowel responds to this fiber-driven injury by producing mucus to help shield the bowel wall from more damage. Mucus makes the lining of the gut more slippery, and the stool slides along a more slippery course, and we are more regular, and the world is great. But the bowel is damaged in the process. So, if you have irritable bowel syndrome do you think it would be good to further damage an already sick bowel lining? I didn’t think so. Sorry Wendy and Janet, but you’re wrong again.
2. Eating immediately after a workout will improve recovery. Endurance athletes need to take in carbohydrates immediately after a workout to replace glycogen stores, and a small amount of protein with the drink enhances the effect. Drinking low-fat chocolate milk or a carbohydrate drink, like Gatorade, is better for the body, as they replace glycogen stores lost during exercise. Protein is not going to help build muscle, so strength athletes do not need to eat immediately following their workout.
Yet again? It takes a scorecard to see where these chicks are coming from.
Myth supposedly debunked:eating immediately after a workout will improve recovery.
I would assume that since they are debunking this myth that the truth (or the truth as they see it anyway) would be the opposite: eating immediately after a workout does NOT improve recovery. But then their very first debunking sentence says that endurance athletes need carbs immediately after a workout. The last time I checked carbs fell into that large category of substances known as food, which is the stuff one eats. So I guess they are saying that endurance athletes need to eat immediately after a workout. Hmmm. They sure debunked that myth.
And what should these endurance athletes eat immediately after a workout? Why, chocolate milk and/or Gatorade, of course. MMM,mmm.
But, God forbid, don’t eat protein. When you work your way through their rickety thinking, what emerges (I think) is that they believe that endurance athletes should eat carbs immediately after a workout but that athletes who are strength training don’t need to eat protein. So the ‘myth’ they are really trying to debunk in their own benighted way is this: eating PROTEIN immediately after a workout will improve recovery.
In this they’re probably right. You don’t need protein immediately after a strength training workout, but you need carbs even less. As you workout, you breakdown muscle tissue and release amino acids back into the amino acid pool. They are reharvested to repair the muscle as needed. But since part of the repair process is to make the muscle larger and/or more dense, extra amino acids are ultimately required. One of the things that stimulates the growth of muscle tissue is the growth hormone released during strenuous training. If you down a high-carb snack or drink immediately after your workout, it is adios growth hormone. Carbs basically shut off the release of this important hormone, so if you’re going to eat immediately after a workout, eat fat and protein. Fat and protein provide the immune support to heal the muscle and provide the raw materials for growth. Last time I checked there wasn’t a whole lot of carbohydrate in the muscle structure.
1. Type 2 diabetes can be prevented by eating foods low on the glycemic index. High levels of glucose are not what “cause” diabetes; the disease is caused by the body’s resistance to insulin. Foods high on the glycemic index can cause glucose levels to spike, but this is just an indicator of the presence of diabetes, not the root cause.
Once again they are both right and wrong. They are right in saying that you can’t prevent type II diabetes by eating foods low on the glycemic index if what you are talking about is carbohydrate-containing foods, which I assume they are. Fructose is low on the glycemic index, but many experts believe that the diabetes epidemic we are now in the midst of is in large part driven by the huge increase in the consumption of high-fructose corn syrup. But I don’t think this is what they are really trying to say. What they’re trying to say is that eating foods high on the glycemic index, i.e. a lot of refined carbs, won’t cause diabetes.
High levels of glucose are not what “cause” diabetes; the disease is caused by the body’s resistance to insulin.
Okay, Wendy and Janet, then tell me what causes the body’s resistance to insulin? Do those of us who have insulin resistance just wake up one morning and discover we somehow developed it in our sleep or is there a cause? I suspect that if you spent more time trolling the medical literature and less time debunking what you consider myths you would learn that carbohydrate consumption does indeed cause insulin resistance in a good many people. For example, studies by Gerald Reavan’s group at Stanford showed that in 75 percent of young apparently healthy subjects carbohydrate intake provoked an increased release of insulin. It follows from that data–since we know that chronically high insulin levels down regulate the synthesis of insulin receptors, and fewer insulin receptors means insulin resistance–that if this 75 percent of subjects were to overeat carbs on an ongoing basis, the odds are that they would ultimately develop insulin resistance. It’s not only Reavan’s studies that imply this. Take a look at this classic paper by Zammit et al; it’s just one of many (I picked it because it’s not loaded with technical language). The evidence is pretty clear: the long-term intake of a high-carbohdyrate diet by genetically predisposed people will cause insulin resistance and type II diabetes. Sorry ladies, but you blew it again.
There you have it. Now don’t you feel better knowing that the influential health-care experts who are giving speeches to large groups of other-health care experts are so knowledgeable about basic physiology and biochemistry. And so well read in the medical literature, to boot.
In an auditorium filled with critical thinkers they would have been booed off the stage.