Each year, U.S. News and World Reports ranks the top diets. Unfortunately, low carb and keto are at the bottom of the list. Again. How bad was it? Atkins landed the 37th spot in the ranking, and keto tied for 38th place. 🤨 Regardless of this lost opportunity to spread the word, many people — about 45% of would-be dieters — are planning to try low carb or keto in 2019! When something works, the word spreads quickly, even without much help from establishment channels like U.S. News.
Another study looks at the downsides of some diabetes medicines. This one, just published in JAMA Open Network, links both insulin and sulfonylureas with more cardiovascular events. Although observational, the insulin users experienced more than double the risk of the control group, so the finding is worthy of further attention.
More bad news about diabetes. A new study published in the journal Metabolic Syndrome and Related Disorders finds that diabetes is associated with more memory and executive function troubles in middle age. Although many observational studies have shown links between diabetes and dementia in older adults, this is the first study to link early cognitive decline (in middle-aged adults) with diabetes status.
A new, well-controlled and carefully executed study adds to the evidence that diets high in red meat lead to higher blood levels of a metabolite, trimethylamine N-oxide, or TMAO. However, the evidence about the effect of higher TMAO levels is mixed, with several studies showing no association with elevated TMAO and heart events. Cardiologist Bret Scher recommends a focus on basics like a real food diet, and attention to blood sugar, blood pressure, and inflammation rather than a focus on this uncertain marker.
The New York Times calls out the lack of evidence for the efficacy of low-salt dietary regimens. When it comes to heart failure, the evidence is shockingly thin — only nine clinical trials with a total of just 479 subjects. Worse, “there were no data that showed that salt restriction reduced mortality or cardiac disease” in heart failure patients. Wow… please pass the salt. 🙂
Last week, a study published in JAMA looked at the costs of unnecessary blood sugar testing in patients with type 2 diabetes who are not at risk of hypoglycemia (dangerously low blood sugar levels). But glucose strips can be used to monitor more than just dangerously low blood sugars… they can help people identify dangerously high blood sugar, too, and modify their eating patterns to avoid reoccurrence.
In a well-placed and easy-to-read article in The New York Times Magazine, Pulitzer Prize-winning cancer doc Sid Mukherjee makes the case that we should be doing more to investigate the impact of diets on our bodies and the ability of foods to help with healing. He writes about his large new research project, which pairs a promising yet thus-far-unsuccessful drug with a keto diet in hopes of boosting the drug’s efficacy and delivering life-saving results to cancer patients in the trial.
Might there be a magic pill to fight obesity? Something you can take that allows you to overeat and not gain weight? In spite of hopeful headlines, the real answer is “Not anytime soon.”
Evidence is emerging to show ketogenic diets help relieve chronic pain. Promising science suggests ketones reduce neuron excitability and inhibit pain pathways, blunting arthritis-related chronic pain.
Do genetics doom children to become and remain obese? A new, hopeful study shows that kids with a genetic propensity for obesity respond well to lifestyle intervention… just as well, in fact, as obese kids with no genetic predisposition.
Dr. Sarah Hallberg makes a strong case for reform of the Dietary Guidelines for Americans in her compelling op-ed just published in The Hill, a popular newspaper and website covering public policy and politics from Washington, D.C. The title? “Government dietary guidelines are plain wrong: Avoid carbs, not fat.”
Many of us think of ourselves as healthy, even if we know we weigh more than we should. A new study looks at five “scale-free” measures of metabolic health and demonstrates that just 12.5% of American adults qualify as healthy across all five metrics. What measures were the study authors evaluating? Waist circumference, blood sugar, blood pressure, triglycerides, and HDL cholesterol — all major markers for metabolic syndrome.
Misleading headlines like “Low-protein, high-carb diet may help ward off dementia” misconstrue the findings of a small study that showed “modest effects” in mice. What headline might a candid and precise journalist write? “A low-protein, high-carb diet may have subtle brain results similar to calorie-restricted diets in mice.” Sometimes the truth is decidedly less exciting.
Does obesity cause diabetes or cardiovascular disease? A new systematic review and meta-analysis, published in JAMA Network Open, is the first-ever meta-analysis pooling data from studies conducted with a technique called Mendelian randomization which employs genetic markers and number crunching to mimic a clinical trial. The results showed that each five point jump in BMI increased the relative risk of a type 2 diabetes diagnosis by 67% — a substantial connection. For coronary artery disease, the association was not as strong: a five point jump in BMI increased the relative risk of coronary artery disease by just 20%. The authors of this analysis are quick to point out that Mendelian randomization studies do not prove causality. However, they do say that the study supports a causal relationship.
A Stanford University modeling study predicts that as global rates of diabetes surge, roughly 40 million people will not have access to the insulin they need. This shortage will be most acute in Asia and Africa. All the more reason to consider lifestyle options like ketogenic diets and intermittent fasting to reverse type 2 diabetes.
VERY. Big. News. A calorie is not a calorie after all. A new, carefully-designed study, published last week in the journal BMJ, finds that participants eating a low-carb diet, compared to those eating a high-carb diet, need to eat roughly 250 more calories per day to maintain their weight. Study author Dr. David Ludwig of Boston Children’s Hospital and Harvard Medical School points out that this increase in metabolic rate among subjects in the low-carb group could translate to about a 20 pound difference (weight either lost or NOT regained) over three years. This study, funded by NuSI but designed and executed by independent researchers, was more rigorous, expensive and had a longer duration than other studies designed to test the question of whether weight control was just about energy balance or whether the composition of diet matters. It’s a big win for low-carb that should get some mainstream attention.
Doctors Ludwig, Willett, Volek, and Neuhouser pen a prominent consensus paper for the magazine Science special issue: Diet and health. The title? “Dietary fat: From foe to friend.” Not much new here… We see a general acknowledgement that fat can be a healthy part of our diets, especially when replacing refined carbohydrate. But many longstanding controversies remain, including concerns about the healthfulness of saturated fat. A preference for highly processed polyunsaturated vegetable oils lingers.
The American Diabetes Association issues new guidelines for managing type 2 diabetes in youth. (Remember, type 2 diabetes used to be called adult-onset diabetes because we never used to see cases in children.) Unfortunately, the new position statement is medication-heavy and focused on weight loss, via “eat less, exercise more” advice. It does not even mention carbohydrate restriction. Such a wasted opportunity to improve young lives.
The American Heart Association, American College of Cardiology, et. al. issued new clinical practice guidelines for the management of blood cholesterol. This revision makes progress; it individualizes care and softens some recommendations surrounding obligatory use of statins for primary prevention. Cardiologist Bret Scher takes a look at the detailed new guidelines and gives us his impressions about what they get right and where there is still room for improvement.
Newspaper headlines about the lifesaving potential of a tax on red and processed meat were plentiful last week, thanks to a thought-experiment-turned-modeling-study out of the University of Oxford, published in PLOS. A meat tax is based on the idea that red meat contributes to increased rates of chronic disease. This hypothesis relies on weak epidemiological evidence, a type of evidence that needs to be tested in randomized clinical trials to establish causation. These trials have never been conducted. There are other problems with the idea of a meat tax, like its regressive nature and likely unintended consequences.
The American Diabetes Association (ADA) and the American Heart Association (AHA) are teaming up to bring the connection between diabetes and heart disease into focus. The joint initiative, “Know Diabetes by Heart,” was launched last Thursday, with its own, dedicated website, including resources for patients and practitioners. Given the ADA’s medication-heavy leanings, we were not surprised that the new initiative’s sponsors — all large pharmaceutical companies — are featured prominently on the “Know Diabetes by Heart” website. Notably missing from the new website is any mention of how, for many or even most motivated patients, a low-carb diet can reverse type 2 diabetes while at the same time improve cardiovascular risk factors.
The Milken Institute, a non-profit, non-partisan think tank, released a report on the real economic costs of obesity and overweight in the United States. The estimates in the report include both direct health care costs that are caused by obesity and overweight, and indirect costs associated with lost productivity borne by patients and their employers. The total number is staggering: $1.72 trillion each year. Separately, an Atkins-funded policy paper suggests that if just 20% of patients with type-2 diabetes improved their condition with low-carb nutrition, the annual savings would approximate $10 billion.
In a show of knee-jerk support for all things mainstream, Sarah Bosely, the health editor of The Guardian, pens an opinion piece, “Butter nonsense: the rise of the cholesterol deniers.” Cardiologist Bret Scher unpacks Bosely’s article, pointing out that silencing healthy debate and ignoring the nuance and complexity revealed by the entirety of the scientific record isn’t the way to go, either.
Dr. George Lundberg, a self-described “ultimate [medical establishment] insider” and former (longtime) Editor-in-Chief of the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), recently issued a Medscape opinion piece entitled, “Could it be the sugar?” In it, Lundberg explains: “The next and current big battle is over diabetes mellitus, insulin resistance, and obesity. How are they related? What can be done to stem the worldwide epidemic and prevent it from worsening? The stakes are very high, including the lives of millions of human beings and hundreds of billions of dollars.” You can watch the 7 minute video or save a little time and read the transcript provided.
A new study, published in Cell Metabolism, looks at the “metabolome” — a collection of metabolic markers in blood — and finds that it is more powerful than weight for predicting future metabolic health. “Normal weight individuals with an unhealthy metabolome ‘had a 50% greater chance of becoming obese over the next ten years and had a 200-400% increased risk of heart disease’ [than those with a healthy metabolome]. They also found that overweight individuals with normal metabolome blood tests were at a much lower risk for insulin resistance and heart disease.”
A new Mendelian randomization study of half a million UK residents suggests elevated BMI is likely to be a causal contributor to elevated mortality. Results show that each 5 point BMI increase is associated with a 16% increase in all-cause mortality and a 61% increase in CVD mortality. The University of Bristol study was published in Obesity.
The American Diabetes Association (ADA) launches an elaborate-yet-misguided FoodHub with recipes, meal plans, and shopping lists. A Sweet Life provides a thoughtful critique of the ADA’s “everything in moderation, with a variety of carb levels” approach. On a related note, Diana Rodgers asks, “Why won’t we tell diabetics the truth?“
In a widely reported anti-obesity move, the New York City Health Department (NYCHD) intends to lead a voluntary campaign to get food and beverage companies to reduce the amount of sugar in their products. Specifically, the NYCHD will seek a commitment from food manufacturers to reduce average sugar levels in packaged foods by 20%, and a commitment from beverage manufacturers to cut sugar in sweet beverages by 40%.
CNN reports on a detailed study, published in The Lancet last week, forecasting life expectancy changes across 195 countries between 2016 and 2040. Spain is predicted to edge out Japan for the longest lifespan — 85.8 years. Study authors believe the United States is likely to fall from 43rd to 64th place in the rankings of high income countries. The authors note that although most drivers of health are forecast to improve, “for some drivers such as high body-mass index (BMI), their toll will rise in the absence of intervention.”
The FDA makes it official, finalizing the complete elimination of artificial trans fats from America’s food supply. Politico reports that the FDA will “revoke all prior sanctioned uses” of partially hydrogenated oils.
Very good news. The American Diabetes Association and European Association for the Study of Diabetes added a new therapeutic option for patients with diabetes: a low-carb diet. This change serves as an official acknowledgement of the strong evidence in the literature for the effectiveness of low-carb and ketogenic regimens in the fight against diabetes.
Another new, pro dairy fat review hits, this one out of Tufts. It shows an association between higher rates of dairy fat consumption and lower rates of type 2 diabetes. Senior author Dariush Mozaffarian states, “Our findings, measuring biomarkers of fatty acids consumed in dairy fat, suggest a need to re-examine the potential metabolic benefits of dairy fat or foods rich in dairy fat, such as cheese.” Note that this study was a large, observational analysis (a meta-analysis of prospective cohort studies), so causation is not shown. A smaller analysis that linked more dairy fat with less CVD and stroke made headlines in July.
Doctors in Canada publish a case report documenting how three men with type 2 diabetes used intermittent fasting to eliminate insulin and most other medications, while also improving their blood sugar control. The subjects fasted for 24 hours 3-4 times per week. On other days, they practiced time-restricted feeding, eating only lunch and dinner. Patients were monitored and medications were withdrawn under close medical supervision. This is another example of the power of diet, not drugs, to reverse type 2 diabetes.
Dr. Georgia Ede pens a thought provoking piece for Psychology Today entitled "Obesity: Stop shaming, start understanding." In it, she fingers insulin resistance as a root cause of obesity, and encourages readers to be curious enough to take a second look at the not-so-plausible mainstream assumptions about overweight and obese patients. Ede includes a companion piece for doctors where she asserts that a better understanding of insulin resistance is critical for improved patient care.
A new review, published in Molecular Psychology, analyzed 41 observational studies, and finds that subjects eating a Mediterranean-style diet experienced lower rates of depression. The study also finds that those eating other diets (characterized as either anti-inflammatory by the Dietary Inflammation Index or conforming with the Healthy Eating Index) also experienced lower rates of depression. Observational, of course, but interesting.
Both The Atlantic and The New York Times cover the latest scandal in nutrition research. High-profile and prolific Cornell Food Lab scientist Brian Wansink resigned after serious questions emerged about the scientific integrity of his work. Journals retracted over 13 of his papers. How many other researchers might also fail the careful scrutiny that Wansink received? How do we know which nutrition research should be believed?
Are there "major doubts" about the safety of keto? In spite of clickbait news headlines, there is no convincing evidence that eating carbs makes you live longer. Clinical trials show improvements in outcomes for those reducing carbohydrate intake.
The diabetes epidemic rages on, as evidenced by the numbers in the new report based on National Center for Health Statistics data, released this week by the CDC. A shocking 14%of American adults have diabetes. In 2014, this rate was pegged at 12.2%. Rates are worse among men (16% vs. 12% for women); worse among those over 60 (28%); worse among Hispanic Americans (20%); worse among those with obesity (21%).
Last week, The Houston Chronicle ran a bold opinion piece by cardiologist Bret Scher favoring low-carb diets and debunking the purported heart health risks of eating red meat.
The Wall Street Journal runs an op-ed entitled "Carbs, Good for You? Fat Chance!" by NYT bestselling author Nina Teicholz on the harm done by the recent observational study published in Lancet Public Health (and the misleading headlines that followed). She writes, "defenders of the nutrition status quo continue to mislead the public and put Americans’ health at risk." For a longer, fully referenced piece, check out Teicholz's Medscape article.
More PURE results, this time on whole fat dairy foods, are published this weekin The Lancet. This observational data shows better health outcomes for those who ate more full-fat dairy. Both The New York Times and Newsweek summarize the questions raised by the study. The American Heart Association's dogmatic response is captured in MedPage: "Currently with the evidence that we have reviewed, we still believe that you should try to limit your saturated fat including fat that is coming from dairy products." #WillfulBlindness
The Guardian reports that Britain's NHS will begin a staged rollout of a trial prescribing a very low-calorie liquid diet to reverse diabetes. While It is terrific to see physicians and health systems treating type 2 diabetes as a reversible condition rather than a progressive chronic disease, remission with this approach is highly dependent on maintaining weight loss. Over the long term, maintaining weight loss by restricting calories has a very poor track record indeed. What makes more sense for reversing type 2 diabetes? Carbohydrate restriction.
The CDC updates obesity data. What's the number? Forty percent. 40% of US adults age 20-74 were obese in 2016. That number, in 1960, was just 13.4%. For children, between 2014 and 2016, both overweight (16.6%) and obesity (18.5%) continue to rise... across all age groups and both genders, with one exception — teenaged girls saw a slight improvement.
The New York Times investigates an all-too-common problem in science: that could bias authors' perspectives. "One of the world’s top breast cancer doctors failed to disclose millions of dollars in payments from drug and health care companies in recent years, omitting his financial ties from dozens of research articles in prestigious publications like The New England Journal of Medicine and The Lancet." Corporate influence is a huge problem affecting not just drug studies, but nutrition research as well.
The U.S. Departments of Agriculture and Health and Human Services seek nominations for the 2020 Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee. What can we do to encourage a seat at the table for a member of the low-carb community?
Dr. George Lundberg, "ultimate insider" and former (longtime) Editor-in-Chief of JAMA, delivers an 8 minute soliloquy entitled "It's Not the Fat That Makes Us Unhealthy." How the mainstream medical and public health communities got it wrong.
Gary Taubes explains an emerging technique called Mendelian randomization, which uses genetics to mimic clinical trials. This number crunching tool could save researchers the time and expense of drug development and RCTs testing a promising association—like higher HDL and less CVD—that genetics can tell us is unlikely to be causal.
Stanford scientist John Ioannidas calls for radical reform of nutritional epidemiology in this viewpoint piece published in JAMA. "[S]tudies of nutritional epidemiology continue to be published regularly, spuriously affect guidelines, and confuse the public through heated advocacy by experts and non experts," writes Ioannidas.
Unfortunate headlines abound. A new epidemiological study, published in The Lancet Public Health, makes waves with its claim that carbohydrate levels of 50-55% of calories are associated with a longer life. Of course, confounders and design flaws are abundant and easy to spot. Doctors Andreas Eenfeldt, Zoe Harcombe, Georgia Ede, Aseem Malhotra, and John Schoonbee each take a closer look and explain why this sort of study should be ignored.
The Guardian runs an op-ed by George Monbiot that sets out to debunk many of the common myths about obesity. "It’s not that we’re eating more, that we exercise less, or that we lack willpower. The shaming of overweight people has to stop."
A new, large cohort study of Swedish patients with type two diabetes finds that managing five risk factors—elevated glycated hemoglobin level (HbA1c), elevated low-density lipoprotein cholesterol level, albuminuria, smoking, and elevated blood pressure—into the normal range eliminates most excess risk for illness and death. Treating patients with diabetes with a low-carb diet has been shown to normalize HbA1c and blood pressure in RCTs.
Does carefully following our Dietary Guidelines for Americans (DGA) work to improve blood sugar control and blood lipids? This 8 week RCT, testing a near-ideal DGA diet versus a typical American diet, suggests the answer is "NO." "Fasting insulin, glucose, triglycerides, oral-glucose tolerance, and indexes of insulin resistance were not affected by either of the diets." The only improvement was a reduction in blood pressure.
Cutting back on salt? Why bother? MedPage reports that new PURE study results, published in this week's The Lancet, show, for those consuming less than 4g sodium/day, reducing salt is associated with MORE heart events. (Average US consumption is 3.4g/day.)
NYT reporter, Anahad O'Connor, reports on another dietary advice switcharoo. The American Heart Association rolls back its longstanding advice to eat a variety of foods. Now, its researchers recommend a focus on quality and less worry about variety. Because sometimes, more variety means more bad choices.
Stanford Medicine announces results of a stunning new study showing diabetic-level blood sugar excursions in healthy volunteers. The study utilized CGM (Continuous Glucose Monitoring) technology to document post-meal blood sugar levels. Senior author, Dr. Michael Snyder, explains: “We saw that some folks who think they’re healthy actually are misregulating glucose — sometimes at the same severity of people with diabetes — and they have no idea... We saw that 80 percent of our participants spiked after eating a bowl of cornflakes and milk. Make of that what you will, but my own personal belief is it’s probably not such a great thing for everyone to be eating.”
New York Times reporter Anahad O'Connor takes a look at time restricted feeding, also known as intermittent fasting. His piece, "When We Eat, or Don't Eat, May Be Critical for Health" explores the growing body of research that suggests we experience better health when we align our eating patterns with our circadian clocks. Hint: no more bedtime snacks.
Nippon reports that a survey conducted by Japan's Ministry of Health, Labor, and Welfare found record levels of diabetes. Among Japanese adults, 16.1% of men and 9.3% of women have diabetes. Note that the article incorrectly states, "Once a person has contracted diabetes there is no cure." Experts now believe that for many patients with T2D, carbohydrate restriction can resolve their condition.
A new Cochrane systematic review shows that fish oil (Omega 3) supplements do NOT improve health or longevity. The review encompassed 79 randomized trials and included over 112,000 subjects. Lead author Dr. Lee Harper states, “The review provides good evidence that taking long-chain omega 3 (fish oil, EPA or DHA) supplements does not benefit heart health or reduce our risk of stroke or death from any cause. The most trustworthy studies consistently showed little or no effect of long-chain omega 3 fats on cardiovascular health."
Fiona Godlee, editor in chief of The BMJ, pens an op-ed entitled "Pills are not the answer to unhealthy lifestyles." In it, she writes, "... Pills can’t be the answer to diseases caused by unhealthy living. As well as unsustainable cost for often marginal benefit, they always cause harm. Rather than medicating almost the entire adult population, let’s invest our precious resources in societal and lifestyle change, public health, and prevention." Amen.
Stanford scientists John Ioannidis and John Trepanowski write a prescription for improved nutrition research in review journal Advances in Nutrition. A key recommendation is pooling resources for larger randomized trials. "Pivotal megatrials with tens of thousands of participants and lifelong follow-up are possible in nutrition science with proper streamlining of operational costs."