300th Issue Celebration: The Latest Developments in Health, Nutrition & Fitness

Written by Dr. Steve Chaney on . Posted in Latest News

Nutrition Breakthroughs Over The Last Two Years

Author: Dr. Stephen Chaney

developments health nutrition fitness celebrationIn the six years that I have been publishing “Health Tips From The Professor,” I have tried to go behind the headlines to provide you with accurate, unbiased health information that you can trust and apply to your everyday life. The 300th issue of any publication is a major cause for celebration and reflection, especially when its publication coincides with the first day of a brand-new year – and “Health Tips From The Professor” is no different.

I am dedicating this issue to reviewing some of the major stories I have covered in the past 100 issues. There are lots of topics I could have covered, but I have chosen to focus on three types of articles:

  • Articles that have debunked long-standing myths about nutrition and health.
  • Articles that have corrected some of the misinformation that seems to show up on the internet on an almost daily basis.
  • Articles about the issues that most directly affect your health.

 

What Diets Are Best For Weight Loss?

developments health nutrition fitness diet weight lossSince this review is being written in January, let’s start with some of the articles about diets and weight loss. I have covered the effectiveness of the Paleo, Keto, Mediterranean, DASH, vegetarian, and Vegan diets for both short and long-term weight loss in my book “Slaying The Food Myths,”  so I won’t repeat that information here. Instead, I will cover the popular Whole 30 Diet. I will also address the value of DNA tests in predicting which diet is best for you when it comes to weight loss.

I reviewed the Whole 30 Diet this past January. There is a lot to like about this diet, but some things to dislike as well. Here is a brief summary:  Because it is a very rigid diet, it is excellent for short-term weight loss. What is less clear is whether it is good for weight maintenance or is even healthy over the long term. For more details, check out my article The Whole 30 Diet.

As for DNA testing, my recent article, Can Genetics Predict Which Diet is Best for You, in Health Tips From The Professor reviewed a study that looked at the value of DNA tests at predicting whether a low carb or low fat diet would be better at helping you lose weight. The article made some interesting observations about the relative value of low-carb and low-fat diets for weight loss. However, the most important conclusion of the study was that DNA testing was of no value at predicting whether a low-carb or low-fat diet would be the best weight loss strategy for you.

 

Can Diet Influence Long-Term Health Outcomes?

developments health nutrition fitness diet long termThis topic was a major focus of “Slaying The Food Myths.”

Let me start with a quiz:

Hint: The answer is slightly different in each case, but these are all whole-food, primarily plant-based diets. If you have forgotten the details, you may wish to check these articles out.

Here are some articles that didn’t make it into the book:

The answer to each of these questions appears to be yes. If any of these are a concern for you, you’ll want to read the corresponding article.

 

Food Controversies And Your Health

developments health nutrition fitness food controversiesI discussed a lot of food controversies in “Slaying The Food Myths,” but here are a few that didn’t make it into the book.

 

Junk Foods And Your Health

developments health nutrition fitness junk foodsI discussed sugar myths and pointed out that artificially sweetened foods were no better for you in “Slaying The Food Myths.”  Here are some other topics that may be of interest.

 

Myths That Supplements Are Worthless

developments health nutrition fitness supplements mythsIn my book “Slaying The Supplement Myths” I showed that many of the claims that supplements were either worthless or dangerous were simply myths kept alive by the pharmaceutical/medical industry and “Dr. Strangelove’s” nutrition blogs. For example, in my book I listed clinical studies that have disproved claims that:

  • Soy causes breast cancer
  • Methylfolate is required for everyone with MTHFR deficiency
  • Folic acid causes colon cancer.
  • Vitamin E and selenium cause prostate cancer.
  • B6 and B12 cause lung cancer in men.
  • Calcium supplements cause heart disease.

Just to name a few. However, new studies suggesting that supplements may be ineffective keep emerging, and each study is ballyhooed by the pharmaceutical/medical industry and the media. Let me update you with my reviews of studies that have been published since my book was written.

However, before I do that, let me put the controversies into perspective by looking at the strengths and weaknesses of the clinical studies behind the headline. I have written two articles on that topic in the past two years.

  • In “Are Clinical Studies Misleading?”  I discuss the reasons why the same kind of clinical studies that work well for determining the efficacy of drugs are ill suited for determining the efficacy of supplements.
  • In “None Of Us Are Perfect”  I point out that clinical studies are based on averages, and none of us are average. What worked for most participants in the study, might not work for you. Conversely, even if a supplement did not work for the average participant in a study, it might work for you.

With that in mind, lets look at some recent studies that have made the headlines.

 

Omega-3s And Heart Disease Risk

developments health nutrition fitness omega 3 heart diseaseI covered this topic in detail in my book. However, four recent studies have been published since the book was written. One of the studies declared that omega-3s were worthless at reducing heart disease risk. The other three studies were much more positive, although you wouldn’t know that from some of the headlines in the media.

The bottom line is that evidence for a beneficial effect of omega-3 supplements on reducing heart disease risk is becoming much stronger, although you probably won’t hear that from your doctor or the media. If you want to know how much and what kind of omega-3s are optimal, you will want to read my articles.

 

Vitamin D: Myths Versus Truth

developments health nutrition fitness vitamin d mythsTwo recent studies have been published questioning the importance of vitamin D supplementation. The first study claimed that vitamin D supplementation was ineffective for maintaining healthy bones in the elderly. If you believed the headlines, the second study showed that vitamin D was ineffective at reducing both heart disease and cancer. If you read the paper, you discovered that the authors did show benefits of vitamin D at preventing cancer deaths in the general population and reducing cancer risk in high risk groups. However, both studies suffered from some serious flaws that limited the ability of the studies to clearly demonstrate the benefits of vitamin D supplementation.

  • You will find my analysis of the vitamin D and bone health study in “Are Vitamin D Supplements Worthless?”
  • You will find my analysis of the vitamin D, heart health, and cancer study in “The Truth About Vitamin D.”
  • In “Does Vitamin D Reduce Cancer Risk?” you will find my review of another major clinical study that concluded vitamin D does reduce cancer risk. That study also shows why it has been so difficult for other studies to demonstrate a clear benefit of vitamin D at reducing cancer risk.

 

The “Dark Side” Of The Food Supplement Industry

developments health nutrition fitness dark side of food supplement industryI covered the dark side of the supplement industry in great detail in my book “Slaying The Supplement Myths.” Here are a few more examples that have crossed my desk since the book was written:

 

What Does The Future Hold?

I have just touched on a few of my most popular articles in the list I gave you above. You may want to scroll through that list to find articles of interest to you that you might have missed. If you don’t see what you are looking for, just go to https://www.healthtipsfromtheprofessor.com and type the appropriate term in the search box.

In the coming year, you can look for more articles debunking myths, exposing lies and providing balance to the debate about the health topics that affect you directly. As always, I pledge to provide you with scientifically accurate, balanced information that you can trust. I will continue to do my best to present this information in a clear and concise manner so that you can understand it and apply it to your life.

If you have other topics that you would like me to cover, please click on the link below to enter your suggestions in the comment box.

Final Comment: You may wish to share the valuable resources in this article with others. If you do, then copy the link at the top and bottom of this page into your email. If you just forward this email and the recipient unsubscribes, it will unsubscribe you as well.

 

These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This information is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.

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Latest Article

A Low Carb Diet and Weight Loss

Posted January 15, 2019 by Dr. Steve Chaney

Do Low-Carb Diets Help Maintain Weight Loss?

Author: Dr. Stephen Chaney

 

low carb dietTraditional diets have been based on counting calories, but are all calories equal? Low-carb enthusiasts have long claimed that diets high in sugar and refined carbs cause obesity. Their hypothesis is based on the fact that high blood sugar levels cause a spike in insulin levels, and insulin promotes fat storage.

The problem is that there has been scant evidence to support that hypothesis. In fact, a recent meta-analysis of 32 published clinical studies (KD Hall and J Guo, Gastroenterology, 152: 1718-1727, 2017 ) concluded that low-fat diets resulted in a higher metabolic rate and greater fat loss than isocaloric low-carbohydrate diets.

However, low-carb enthusiasts persisted. They argued that the studies included in the meta-analysis were too short to adequately measure the metabolic effects of a low-carb diet. Recently, a study has been published in the British Medical Journal (CB Ebbeling et al, BMJ 2018, 363:k4583 ) that appears to vindicate their position.

Are low carb diets best for long term weight loss?

Low-carb enthusiasts claim the study conclusively shows that low-carb diets are best for losing weight and for keeping it off once you have lost it. They are saying that it is time to shift away from counting calories and from promoting low-fat diets and focus on low-carb diets instead if we wish to solve the obesity epidemic. In this article I will focus on three issues:

  • How good was the study?
  • What were its limitations?
  • Are the claims justified?

 

How Was The Study Designed?

low carb diet studyThe investigators started with 234 overweight adults (30% male, 78% white, average age 40, BMI 32) recruited from the campus of Framingham State University in Massachusetts. All participants were put on a diet that restricted calories to 60% of estimated needs for 10 weeks. The diet consisted of 45% of calories from carbohydrate, 30% from fat, and 25% from protein. [So much for the claim that the study showed low-carb diets were more effective for weight loss. The diet used for the weight loss portion of the diet was not low-carb.]

During the initial phase of the study 161 of the participants achieved 10% weight loss. These participants were randomly divided into 3 groups for the weight maintenance phase of the study.

  • The diet composition of the high-carb group was 60% carbohydrate, 20% fat, and 20% protein.
  • The diet composition of the moderate-carb group was 40% carbohydrate, 40% fat, and 20% protein.
  • The diet composition of the low-carb group was 20% carbohydrate, 60% fat, and 20% protein.

Other important characteristics of the study were:

  • The weight maintenance portion of the study lasted 5 months – much longer than any previous study.
  • All meals were designed by dietitians and prepared by a commercial food service. The meals were either served in a cafeteria or packaged to be taken home by the participants.
  • The caloric content of the meals was individually adjusted on a weekly basis so that weight was kept within a ± 4-pound range during the 5-month maintenance phase.
  • Sugar, saturated fat, and sodium were limited and kept relatively constant among the 3 diets.

120 participants made it through the 5-month maintenance phase.

 

Do Low-Carb Diets Help Maintain Weight Loss?

low carb diet maintain weight lossThe results were striking:

  • The low-carb group burned an additional 278 calories/day compared to the high-carb group and 131 calories/day more than the moderate-carbohydrate group.
  • These differences were even higher for those individuals with higher insulin secretion at the beginning of the maintenance phase of the study.
  • These differences lead the authors to hypothesize that low-carb diets might be more effective for weight maintenance than other diets.

 

What Are The Pros And Cons Of This Study?

low carb diet pros and consThis was a very well-done study. In fact, it is the most ambitious and well-controlled study of its kind. However, like any other clinical study, it has its limitations. It also needs to be repeated.

The pros of the study are obvious. It was a long study and the dietary intake of the participants was tightly controlled.

As for cons, here are the three limitations of the study listed by the authors:

#1: Potential Measurement Error: This section of the paper was a highly technical consideration of the method used to measure energy expenditure. Suffice it to say that the method they used to measure calories burned per day may overestimate calories burned in the low-carb group. That, of course, would invalidate the major findings of the study. It is unlikely, but it is why the study needs to be repeated using a different measure of energy expenditure.

#2: Compliance: Although the participants were provided with all their meals, there was no way of being sure they ate them. There was also no way of knowing whether they may have eaten other foods in addition to the food they were provided. Again, this is unlikely, but cannot be eliminated from consideration.

#3: Generalizability: This is simply an acknowledgement that the greatest strength of this study is also its greatest weakness. The authors acknowledged that their study was conducted in such a tightly controlled manner it is difficult to translate their findings to the real world. For example:

  • Sugar and saturated fat were restricted and were at very similar levels in all 3 diets. In the real world, people consuming a high-carb diet are likely to consume more sugar than people in the other diet groups. Similarly, people consuming the low-carb diet are likely to consume more saturated fat than people in the other diet groups.
  • Weight was kept constant in the weight maintenance phase by constantly adjusting caloric intake. Unfortunately, this seldom happens in the real world. Most people gain weight once they go off their diet – and this is just as true with low-carb diets as with other diets.
  • The participants had access to dietitian-designed prepared meals 3 times a day for 5 months. This almost never happens in the real world. The authors said “…these results [their data] must be reconciled with the long-term weight loss trials relying on nutrition education and behavioral counseling that find only a small advantage for low carbohydrate compared with low fat diets according to several recent meta-analyses.” [I would add that in the real world, people do not even have access to nutritional education and behavioral modification.]

 

low carb diet and youWhat Does This Study Mean For You?

  • This study shows that under very tightly controlled conditions (dietitian-prepared meals, sugar and saturated fat limited to healthy levels, calories continually adjusted so that weight remains constant) a low-carb diet burns more calories per day than a moderate-carb or high-carb diet. These findings show that it is theoretically possible to increase your metabolic weight and successfully maintain a healthy weight on a low-carb diet. These are the headlines you probably saw. However, a careful reading of the study provides a much more nuanced viewpoint. For example, the fact that the study conditions were so tightly controlled makes it difficult to translate these findings to the real world.
  • In fact, the authors of the study acknowledged that multiple clinical studies show this almost never happens in the real world. These studies show that most people regain the weight they have lost on low-carb diets. More importantly, the rate of weight regain is virtually identical on low-carb and low-fat diets. Consequently, the authors of the current study concluded “…translation [of their results to the real world] requires exploration in future mechanistic oriented research.” Simply put, the authors are saying that more research is needed to provide a mechanistic explanation for this discrepancy before one can make recommendations that are relevant to weight loss and weight maintenance in the real world.
  • The authors also discussed the results of their study in light of a recent, well-designed 12-month study (CD Gardener et al, JAMA, 319: 667-669, 2018 ) that showed no difference in weight change between a healthy low-fat versus a healthy low-carbohydrate diet. That study also reported that the results were unaffected by insulin secretion at baseline. The authors of the current study noted that “…[in the previous study] participants were instructed to minimize or eliminate refined grains and added sugars and maximize intake of vegetables. Probably for this reason, the reported glycemic load [effect of the diet on blood sugar levels] of the low-fat diet was very low…and similar to [the low-carb diet].” In short, the authors of the current study were acknowledging that diets which focus on healthy, plant-based carbohydrates and eliminate sugar, refined grains, and processed foods may be as effective as low-carb diets for helping maintain a healthy weight.
  • This would also be consistent with previous studies showing that primarily plant-based, low-carb diets are more effective at maintaining a healthy weight and better health outcomes long-term than the typical American version of the low-fat diet, which is high in sugar and refined grains. In contrast, meat-based, low-carb diets are no more effective than the American version of the low-fat diet at preventing weight gain and poor health outcomes. I have covered these studies in detail in my book “Slaying The Food Myths.”

Consequently, the lead author of the most recent study has said: “The findings [of this study] do not impugn whole fruits, beans and other unprocessed carbohydrates. Rather, the study suggests that reducing foods with added sugar, flour, and other refined carbohydrates could help people maintain weight loss….” This is something we all can agree on, but strangely this is not reflected in the headlines you may have seen in the media.

The Bottom Line

 

  • A recent study compared the calories burned per day on a low-carb, moderate-carb, and high-carb diet. The study concluded that the low-carb diet burned significantly more calories per day than the other two diets and might be suitable for long-term weight control. If confirmed by subsequent studies, this would be the first real evidence that low-carb diets are superior for maintaining a healthy weight.
  • However, the study has some major limitations. For example, it used a methodology that may overestimate the benefits of a low-carb diet, and it was performed under tightly controlled conditions that can never be duplicated in the real world. As acknowledged by the authors, this study is also contradicted by multiple previous studies. Further studies will be required to confirm the results of this study and show how it can be applied in the real world.
  • In addition, the kind of carbohydrate in the diet is every bit as important as the amount of carbohydrate. The authors acknowledge that the differences seen in their study apply mainly to carbohydrates from sugar, refined grains, and processed foods. They advocate diets with low glycemic load (small effects on blood sugar and insulin levels) and acknowledge this can also be achieved by incorporating low-glycemic load, plant-based carbohydrates into your diet. This is something we all can agree on, but strangely this is not reflected in the headlines you may have seen in the media.
  • Finally, clinical studies report averages, but none of us are average. When you examine the data from the current study, it is evident that some participants burned more calories per hour on the high-carb diet than other participants did on the low carb diet. That reinforces the observation that some people lose weight more effectively on low-carb diets while others lose weight more effectively on low-fat diets. If you are someone who does better on a low-carb diet, the best available evidence suggests you will have better long-term health outcomes on a primarily plant-based, low-carb diet such as the low-carb version of the Mediterranean diet.

For more details read the article above.

 

 

These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This information is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.

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