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Swedish tabloid Aftonbladet wins the prize for sensationalism for its headline after yesterday’s confused questionnaire study on meat: “Steak is as dangerous as smoking”.
A bit later in the article comes the most bizarre: the increase in risk only applies to people between 55 and 65. After 65 the cigarettes, I’m sorry – the steak, suddenly becomes a health food. Confused? Don’t be – read yesterday’s post for the details: Is It Dangerous to Eat Meat Before Age 65?
Funnily enough, the article includes comments from Dr. Dahlqvist and me on whether LCHF is dangerous or not. We address the two obvious issues:
- LCHF is about – exactly what the acronym stands for – less carbohydrates and more fat, not necessarily more meat. You could even adopt a vegetarian LCHF diet, if you want.
- Yesterday’s study is only based on questionnaires and imaginative statistics, no evidence.
When the researcher behind the questionnaire study, Valter Longo, hears my comment he gets “annoyed”: Continue Reading →
Is it dangerous to eat meat if you’re between 55 and 65? Will eating lots of meat then suddenly become healthful after you turn 65?
This is the somewhat confusing conclusion that some researchers drew from a new American questionnaire study:
- The Telegraph: High-protein diet “as bad for health as smoking”
- Science Magazine: Low-Protein Diet May Extend Lifespan
- MailOnline: Eating lots of meat and cheese in middle age is “as deadly as SMOKING”
- Scientific American: Diet High in Meat-Proteins Raises Cancer Risk for Middle-Aged People
- Science Daily: Meat and cheese may be as bad for you as smoking
As usual, we have to take sensational headlines with a substantial pinch of salt. This was just a food questionnaire that was sent to some thousand Americans, and the researchers then looked at statistical associations with diseases.
As regular readers know, one can’t prove causation by correlating statistics from questionnaire studies. Only ignorant or sensationalism-driven journalists believe so. Unfortunately these two groups seem to constitute the vast majority of all journalists.
On subsequent examination, it turns out that at least 80% of similar findings in uncertain questionnaires are incorrect – see table 4 in the excellent review Why Most Published Research Findings are False.
So a more scientifically correct headline would be “There is a 20 percent chance that meat quadruples the risk of cancer for people under the age of 65 and reduces the risk for older people.” Not as enticing.
The statistical correlation between meat-eating and disease in people under 65 in the U.S. may just as well be due to the fact that meat consumption there is associated with eating junk food, smoking, lack of exercise, less vegetables and in principal any unhealthful lifestyle you can think of.
What, in all of these unhealthful lifestyles, is the cause of disease ? Statistics cannot prove this.
IGF-1 and cancer
Therefore, there are good reasons to ignore the study. But I guess that there’s still some truth behind it. Scientists report that protein (high-quality animal protein in particular) may raise levels of the hormone IGF-1, which stimulates cell division. High levels of IGF-1 may in the long run increase the risk of cancer.
What they don’t mention is that carbohydrates also increase levels of IGF-1, at least as much. Particularly bad carbohydrates in greater quantities radically raise IGF-1 levels. The only thing you can eat that doesn’t significantly increase levels of IGF-1 is fat.
The logical conclusion is that any variation of a low-carbohydrate diet with moderate amounts of protein (and enough fat) is the healthiest in the long run – at least to keep IGF-1 low while still feeling great. How much protein? The amount you need to feel good, feel full and stay strong and healthy. What is this concept called? LCHF.
Could giving up grains cause heart disease and cancer? This is what Colin Campbell claims in his new book The Low-Carb Fraud:
Biochemist T Colin Campbell is the author behind the well-known vegan book The China Study and according to him, we should eat a low-fat vegan diet to keep us healthy.
There is a lack of evidence to support Campbell’s ideas. The book The China Study rests on an observational study – uncertain statistics – that doesn’t prove anything. Moreover, it has been demonstrated that the statistical data in the book were cherry-picked to fit the author’s preconceptions. Statistics that pointed strongly in the other direction were not included.
A new review of all relevant similar studies shows that Asians who eat more red meat on the contrary are healthier. They suffer less heart disease and less cancer. Not quite what Campbell managed to cherry pick from his one China study.
There may be good ethical reasons to be a vegan – it’s open for discussion. But those who fear animal foods for health reasons are afraid for no good reason. Continue Reading →
Antioxidants are often pushed as being beneficial for health, largely based on speculations and uncertain observational studies. But could supplementation with antioxidants on the contrary be harmful? Yes, probably.
A new study on mice shows that those who received antioxidant supplementation – including Vitamin E – suffered a dramatic worsening of their lung cancer.
Of course, mice are not humans. But studies on humans show alarming signs that supplementation with antioxidants is harmful for us too. They may increase the risk for certain cancer forms and supplementation with high doses of the antioxidant Vitamin E increases the risk of dying prematurely.
Your body makes its own antioxidants, in the right place. Supplementation with extra antioxidants may be harmful, among other things by preventing the immune system from fighting infections… and cancer cells. Antioxidants may neutralize one of the immune system’s weapons against unwanted intruders, oxidizing agents.
The irony is that excess doses of antioxidants might protect the cells you want to eliminate: harmful bacteria and cancer cells.
Can we prevent breast cancer – a disease for which the risk increases with overweight – by contributing to an increased consumption of cinnamon buns and fancy pastries in the midst of an obesity epidemic?
The ill-conceived and dishonest sponsorship by the Pink Ribbon and the Swedish Cancer Society drew criticism in Swedish local paper Corren from myself, among others:
- Corren: Seal of Approval on Goodies Macabre (Google translated from Swedish)
The Swedish Cancer Society responds by trying to shift the blame:
- Corren: The Swedish Cancer Society: We Have a Tradition of Cinnamon Buns in Sweden (Google translated from Swedish)
So, people who gain weight from eating cinnamon buns and pastry, thus increasing their risk of getting cancer, only have themselves to blame. Don’t blame the Cancer Society! They only, embarrassingly enough, happen to have their trade mark in advertisements for sweet baked goods. Apparently, they don’t accept any responsibility for the consequences.
Here’s a great new episode called The Secrets of Sugar, from Canada’s investigative program the fifth estate on CBC.
Shownotes: CBC: The Secrets of Sugar
Today is “Cinnamon Bun Day” in Sweden, and October is breast cancer awareness month. Is it reasonable that the Swedish Cancer Society runs a health campaign with one of Sweden’s biggest bun bakery?
Send a Bunogram in partnership with the Swedish Cancer Society and the Pink Ribbon (Google translated from Swedish)
Excerpt from a press release from the bakery: (Google translated from Swedish)
Last year Bonjour sold a grand total of 3.6 million cinnamon buns during the month of October. This year we have expanded our partnership with the Swedish Cancer Society and the Pink Ribbon, which substantially revises the expected outcome upwards. This year the business anticipates that as many as 5.4 million pink cinnamon buns will be eaten in Sweden during the month of October. [my bold]
Will the Cancer Society really prevent poor health by getting people to eat millions of extra cinnamon buns? The whole thing seems quite ill-considered in the midst of an obesity epidemic. Especially as obesity carries with it a greatly increased risk of, for example breast cancer, which the Cancer Society and the Pink Ribbon are supposed to fight. Contributing to a massive increase in the consumption of cinnamon buns then seems counterproductive.
Not surprisingly, there’s even a study showing that Swedes who eat more baked sweet goods have a higher incidence of cancer.
How are they thinking about this cinnamon bun campaign? Probably they’re just clueless. Continue Reading →
Low-carb and high-fat diets have become extremely popular in Sweden. As many as one Swede in five is said to be on some kind of LCHF diet. Swedes just don’t fear fat like they used to.
But as you can imagine there are still a few old-fashioned fat-fearing “experts” around.
The other day was one of those days. It was once again time for headlines with imaginative warnings about LCHF. I use the word “imaginative” as the alert is, as usual, not based on any study on a LCHF diet. Instead this is about speculation about selected statistics. And of course a physician, who without knowing, “fears” that LCHF is what is behind an increase in breast cancer rates.
Here’s the translated headline from the Swedish tabloid The Evening Post: Doctor Fears: Fatty Foods Will Give You LCHF-Cancer
Google translated Swedish articles:
- Metro: Doctors warn of LCHF-cancer (article including comments by me)
- Expressen: A GI and LCHF diet may increase the risk of breast cancer (also with comments)
- NT: A GI and LCHF diet may increase the risk of cancer (wherein a wise expert summarizes what has caused the increase in breast cancer rates: “no one really knows, they just believe”.)
A Disproven Theory
Do you get breast cancer from fatty foods? Hardly, this is an outdated belief. Modern, well designed studies have shown that a low-fat diet neither prevents breast cancer nor does it make people with breast cancer any healthier. It’s an old and disproven theory.
There are much better explanations for the statistics. Continue Reading →
This is scary. The late Steve Jobs was a vegan and sometimes lived on an all-fruit (sugar) diet. Ashton Kutcher is playing Jobs in the upcoming movie “jOBS”. To get into character Kutcher tried the all-fruit diet. The result? He ended up in the hospital with stomach pains and an inflamed pancreas. His pancreas perhaps had to work extra hard to take care of all that sugar.
It’s scary, as Jobs died from pancreatic cancer.
Here’s a remarkably positive new segment from CBN on how a strict low carb diet might starve cancer and treat epilepsy. The reporter is on low carb herself.
Eating a low carb diet not only reduces glucose levels (possible cancer fuel) somewhat in the body. It also reduces levels of the growth hormones insulin and IGF-1, meaning cancer cells might not get the signal to divide.
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- 5Sugar vs Fat on BBC: Which is Worse?117
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