Kevin Hall, Kickstarter and catching up
I’ve noticed a lot of bloggers who write sort of potpourri posts from time to time. I think I’ve written a few in the distant past. Hard to believe I’ve been at this – at least intermittently – for over 12 years now. I want to bring everyone up to date on what’s going on with the Eades clan and what the plans are moving forward. For those of you coming here solely for nutritional info, I’m going to kick this post off with a video I hope you’ll find enjoyable and enlightening. If you have no other interest than the nutritional, as soon as you’re past the video commentary, you can quit reading.
A little over a year ago I wrote a blog post on NIH researcher Kevin Hall. He was shown in an off-the-cuff video description of a study he had completed but hadn’t published yet. In my view, his remarks were in contrast to what his own data had clearly shown. A number of people admonished me at the time to wait till the published paper came out to see if the results there were the same as what he had shown in the poster he was presenting when he gave his video remarks. The paper has come out, and the results are the same. If you want to see what I was torqued about, you can read the post from then.
Today, though, I want to present what I think is a pretty decent video Dr. Hall made a few years ago. It lays waste to the notion kicked around that a pound of fat is made up of 3,500 calories. You see written all over the place that if you reduce your calories by 500 per day, you’ll lose a pound a week. (500 cals x 7 days = 3,500 cals or a pound of fat.) Or if you burn an extra 500 calories per day by exercise, you’ll drop 3,500 calories in a week and lose a pound of fat. Sounds great, but anyone who has been around the weight loss biz for very long knows it doesn’t work that way. If you’ve heard this myth, you’ll find it really enlightening to go through the first part of the video and watch Dr. Hall lay waste to it.
But as you continue to watch, you’ll notice the thrust of the video isn’t dismantling the 3,500 cal/pound myth – the main subject is the metabolic model Dr. Hall has created. Or, more accurately, is in the process of continuing to perfect. He’s taken data from a bunch of different weight loss studies and exercise studies and worked it into a model to be used to predict weight loss and maintenance requirements for anyone he might want to plug into the model. He goes to great length to describe how the model was designed to replicate human metabolism and physiology. Then he asks the all important question:
(10:44 in the video)Once you’ve built this model, how do you know it’s any good? How do you know it makes real predictions?
Years ago, the famous British statistician George Box famously wrote in a paper
All models are wrong, but some are useful.
According to George Box, we know Dr. Hall’s model is wrong, but how can we tell that it might be useful?
(10:47 in the video) The way you do that is you do this model validation exercise. And then you compare predictions of the model with data from completely independent experiments that weren’t used in any way to build the model, and you’re only allowed to change the initial conditions of the model.
In other words, if you’re going to try to simulate an experiment in a lean young man, you’re allowed to start the model off with the body weight, composition, resting metabolic rate of a lean young man, and then you feed the model with whatever was fed in that experiment, and you make comparisons with the data.
…similarly, you can, if you are now doing another validation experiment with an obese woman, you can start the model off with the right body composition and the right metabolic rate of an obese woman and feed them in that study, but you are not allowed to fiddle with any other parameters…that’s the sort of game you play.
He’s trying to create a mathematical model that, ideally, will allow accurate predictions of weight loss under all circumstances. He says that for the model to be functional, he needs to be able to enter the starting parameters, i.e., perhaps an obese 45 year old female who is 5 ft 3 inches tall and weighing 210 pounds with a specific resting metabolic rate, and be able to predict, given her intake of macronutrients, how much weight she would lose over a given time, assuming, of course, she was consuming a reduced number of calories and participating in an increased amount of exercise compared to where she started.
If the model works perfectly, then it should calculate her weight loss over time and specify how much she would have to eat to maintain her lower weight. And the data the model spits out would correlate with the findings of an actual study done with this same woman given the same macronutrient intake the same caloric reduction and the same exercise regimen.
If such a model worked perfectly, or close to perfectly, it would be extremely useful. Instead of recruiting subjects for studies, an expensive proposition, and providing food for them and a place to exercise, researchers could simply feed the starting parameters into the model and with the push of a button determine the outcome. No subject recruitment, no worries of cheating, and instantaneous results. You can see why Dr. Hall is so interested in perfecting his model.
If you watch the video, you’ll see how much effort he’s put into it. And how many comparisons he’s made with actual human studies to try to tweak it so it will work under all kinds of conditions – even extreme ones.
But does it work?
An interesting question. Especially in view of Dr. Halls skepticism of low-carbohydrate diets.
Before we go on, give the video a watch. You’ll enjoy it.
Let’s take a look to see how the model works out with a low-carbohydrate diet. I found this video a couple of years ago right around the same time I wrote the post on Dr. Hall.
I found his model then and tried it with a low-carb diet to see how it would work. I entered the parameters for a diet of 10 percent carbs, a fairly typical low-carb diet, along with a bit of caloric restriction, because people going on a low-carb diet tend to spontaneously restrict calories. As I recall, the model showed the subject gaining a huge amount of weight very quickly. So, obviously the model didn’t have all the kinks worked out of it. And given Dr. Hall’s predilection for the notion that obesity was driven strictly by the difference between calories in and calories out, I figured he had built the model strictly on a caloric basis and not really on all the macronutrient content of the diet as he said in the video.
I intended to post all that with graphs showing how totally inaccurate his model was, at least in terms of low-carb dieting. But, life got in the way (see below), and I never got around to it. Someone sent me the video by email a few days ago, so I decided to redo my experiments with the model to show how aberrant it is when you reduce the carbs. Turns out, I couldn’t make it come up with a big weight gain.
So, I figured Dr. Hall had kept working on it. I went to the Wayback Machine to find an earlier version of the program from back when I was working with it a couple of years ago. When I ran the older version, it still didn’t give me the bizarre outcomes it did when I fooled with it back then. I figure others found the same thing I did, notified Dr. Hall, and he changed some of the equations to make it not look so weird if someone tried to reduce the carbs.
When I didn’t see the major changes to the same degree I had seen before in the old version, I went back to the current version and looked a little more closely.
And what I found was pretty interesting. Not to someone with a lot of experience with low-carb dieting, but interesting in view of Dr. Hall’s stated ideas about low-carb dieting vs low-calorie dieting.
Here is the link to the current version of his model so you can try it yourself.
Go to the upper right and click on Switch to Expert Mode.
That will take you to another version. When you get there, in the upper left, click on Advanced Controls, which turns it to On. Once there, you will see the screen where you can manipulate carbs:
You’ll have to play with it a bit to see how it works. As Dr. Hall mentioned in his video, if the model works, you can enter whatever parameters you want, and the model will spit out an accurate representation of what should really happen if you actually did the experiment with a real live person.
So, I entered a 45 y/o male who was 5′ 10” tall and weighed 225 pounds with a physical activity level of 1.6. The model gave me our subject’s current intake as being 3,063 calories, the amount to maintain is 225 pounds. You can see this under the Goal Weight tab on the right.
I tried two different interventions. First, I tried a low-carb diet of 10 percent carbs and 2450 calories, which is reasonable. It’s about what a male on a good-quality low-carb diet might drop to without actually counting calories. I didn’t list a goal weight because I wanted to force the calories. Had I put in a goal weight, the model would have set the calories to meet that given goal weight. I wanted to see what happened if I set the calories. I set the time for the experiment at 8 weeks, i.e., 56 days. I set the calories under the Lifestyle Change tab to the right of the Goal Weight tab. I did not change the activity level as I wanted to see what the model would show with diet alone. When I activated the model, it kicked out a chart showing that over the 8 weeks our subject would lose about 12 pounds. Which is reasonable.
Then, I switched to a higher carb diet. One of 50 percent carbs, which really isn’t even that high. A lot of low-calorie diets are a lot higher in carb than 50 percent. Keeping the rest of the parameters the same as before, over 8 weeks Dr. Hall’s model shows our subject would have lost a little over 8 pounds. See the charts from the model below:
So, the model shows an almost 12 pound weight loss on a 2,450 calorie low-carb diet and an 8 pound weight loss with a 2,45o calorie high-carb diet. Which is pretty much what I would have expected from reality, but I doubt it’s what Dr. Hall wants his model to show, because it flies in the face of everything he believes. It shows a greater weight loss on a low-carb diet with the same number of calories as the high-carb diet.
Who knows? The model works more in keeping with reality…at least based on my experience with a lot of patients on a lot of low-carb diets.
But clearly from all his writings, Dr. Hall would not believe this outcome. He has even written a paper showing that more fat is burned on a low-fat diet than on a low-carb diet, so how can that possibly jibe with his model. His study that I blogged on a couple of years ago says that it’s all a function of calories. Carbs don’t have anything to do with it.
All I can figure is that he either created a model based on all his equations that simulates reality or he feels that his model needs more work.
I guess we can continue to check over time to see if the model changes.
In the next post I write, I’m going to describe my own thoughts on the whole calorie/carb debate. I’m working on more updated ideas on this that I’m expanding for the new book MD and I are writing (see below).
As many of you know, Kickstarter is a crowdfunding platform. For those of you who don’t know what crowdfunding is, it’s a means whereby people who want to raise money for new products, market testing, personal problems, books they’re writing, etc. present them to the public in an effort to attract funding from individuals instead of friends, family, banks or venture capitalists. There are multiple platforms available for crowdfunding – Kickstarter, Indiegogo, and GoFundMe – to name just a few. Most presell products that the funds are raised to develop.
As many of you know, way back in 2008, MD and I (with help from other family members) developed the first sous vide cooking unit for home use. Until then, although sous vide had been used in most great restaurants for almost 50 years, no one really cooked that way at home because the commercial units were too large and way too expensive. We learned about sous vide cooking, loved it, and, since there were no home units on the market, we decided to make the first one. At the time, no one, other than professional chefs, had heard of sous vide cooking, so we had a hurdle to overcome just in increasing awareness of the process. Who is going to buy a sous vide cooking appliance if no one even knows what sous vide cooking is? Since we started marketing in 2008, sous vide is now well known, with tons of people posting videos of the technique. (Here are a few sous vide videos I really like showing the versatility of the process, including one of my favorite showing how you can even make cocktails sous vide.) On all the big chef competitions, sous vide is the big gun, as in, Uh oh, he’s going sous vide on this one.
MD and I have always been entrepreneurial doctors – we started one of the first chains of urgent care centers (and, actually, one of the first urgent care clinics) in the US back in the early 1980s and a definite disruptive technology as far as those in the standard office-based practice of medicine were concerned. We’ve written 14 books on health and nutrition and developed nutritional supplements. We’ve had our own PBS TV cooking show and developed a hugely successful weight loss product. So, it didn’t seem like much of a leap for us to develop an appliance most people would use to cook meat. (What we didn’t know at the time that the sous vide technique also lends itself to perfectly cooking a thousand other things than meat.) I wanted to name it the Meat Master, but better minds prevailed, and we ended up calling our product the SousVide Supreme.
What I didn’t realize when we started this company was how much of my time and MD’s time it was going to gobble. We quickly grew into an international business selling products in almost 30 different countries, with warehouses in Colorado, Belfast, and Rotterdam. It consumed almost all of our time just to manage all the moving parts. Fortunately, our eldest child, Ted, who is an attorney, a CPA, and an MBA, decided to take over the day-to-day running of the company, which has freed us up to get back to our number one love, which is nutritional medicine.
Ted decided to fund the development of a wifi connected unit using the Kickstarter platform. You can see how we’re crowdfunding here, and see all the fam in action, including grandson, Will, who is convinced he is the real star. If you want to jump in and grab one of the new units at a steep discount, be my guest. We’ve got about ten more days to run.
I don’t know how many of you are interested in crowdfunding or in Kickstarter in particular. It is much more complex than it seems and requires almost constant monitoring. An entire thicket has sprung up of service providers wanting to help. But many of whose services do little more than help themselves to the funds you’ve raised. I’m keeping pretty careful notes on all the ins and outs we’ve gone through and all the experience we’ve gained in this crowdfunding venture, so if you’re interested in learning more, let me know in the comments. If there is enough interest, I’ll write a piece about it.
One of the advantages of having Ted take over is that I will be freed up to blog a lot more often. I typically use my blogging as a means to clarify my own thinking on a lot of subjects. I’m a believer in the notion that if you can’t write something down clearly, you don’t really know it. So I enjoy putting my thoughts on paper (so to speak) as it helps me clarify them and makes me deal with any weaknesses in my own arguments.
I’ve got plenty of ideas to post about, but I am keen on learning what people who actually read these posts want to read about.
If you’ve got a topic you would like to see explored, let me know in the comments. I’ll make a list and work through them as I can, as I continue to work through all the subjects that I have on my own bulging list.
I’ve been pondering doing a podcast for a while, but haven’t had the time to really get it in motion. And I don’t want to do it till I can get a decent set up, because, to me, anyway, there’s nothing worse than trying to listen to a poorly done podcast, especially one you really want to hear. Seems like it’s always the podcaster who comes through loud and clear while the guest, who is usually who I want to listen to, sounds distant. If I keep the sound up high enough to hear the guest, it blows my eardrums out when the host comes on.
I’ve been around the low-carb world longer than just about anyone alive today, so I know most of the players well. I suspect I could get most of them on a podcast.
If you have anyone in particular you would like to hear from, drop me a note in the comments, and I’ll add the name to my list if it isn’t already there.
As those on my email list know, I’ve sporadically been doing a review of books I felt worthwhile. I had intended it as a monthly review, but due to demands of our sous vide business, I haven’t kept that up as I should. My plan is to get that back on track as well. If you’re interested in this feature, sign up on my mailing list below, and I’ll send you all the archived lists so far. And I pledge that I will be more diligent in getting them out. Granted it may be a bi-monthly review sometimes.
Protein Power 2.0
Last, but certainly not least, as time allows, MD and I have been working on what we thought was going to be a 20 year upgrade to Protein Power called Protein Power 2.0. As we’ve been thinking about it, and looking to where we can upgrade, we’ve pretty much decided to write a new book. We might keep a bit of the original Protein Power, but that book, as it is, has stood the test of time pretty well.
If we just tried to upgrade, we wouldn’t have much of a book. But there is a ton of new material out there that wasn’t around during the days when Protein Power was written, so we want to include that and make it a completely new book.
We’ve come across a lot of scientific literature that more or less stands the mainstream of nutritional thought on its head. And by this I mean the mainstream as it is today with everyone pretty much leaning to low-carb.
A lot of exciting stuff in the offing in this book. Now that we’re freed up, we can’t wait to really get our teeth into it.
As with the blog and podcast, if you have anything in particular you want us to cover in depth, put it in the comments.
So, thanks for all your support throughout the years. And thanks for taking a look at our Kickstarter campaign.
Let me hear from you.