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I just learned from a health care professional about a new silly LCHF myth. Someone had said that you shouldn’t be on an LCHF diet for more than seven months because of cholesterol issues.
Old ideas about LCHF being harmful and generally bad for cholesterol are common, but why the number seven month? Any guesses?
The truth is that LCHF usually produces great cholesterol numbers, or simply normal ones. Significant elevations are less common, and it’s not seen at all in averages in large studies (for example) on years of eating LCHF.
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 →
Are you ready for the destruction of a few choice low-carb myths? A week ago I participated in a discussion, invited by a very popular Brazilian health site. Here’s the video – the English part starts at 2:28, after an introduction in Portuguese.
Some of the myths we discuss are:
- Myth: Carbohydrates are an essential part of a healthy diet.
- Myth: Fats are fattening and cause heart problems.
- Myth: Cholesterol in food is bad for your heart.
- Myth: To lose weight you need to count calories.
- Myth: Exercise is effective for weight loss.
Did you ever believe in any of these myths? I did.
Here’s a heart-warming story, and something to chew on for people still believing the myth that we need to eat carbs for our brains to work:
- NY Daily News: Little girl’s cream cheese-heavy diet helps her speak first words
- Mirror: Mute girl can finally talk after eating CREAM CHEESE every week
The girl in the story has a genetic defect (GLUT1) that prevents her body from transporting glucose into her brain for fuel. This results in brain starvation, epilepsy and an intellectual disability.
The solution was to eat a ketogenic LCHF diet (very few carbs, a modest amount of protein and plenty of fat). The body then produces ketones from the fat, which is a great fuel for the brain. Just like in healthy people eating a strict LCHF diet.
A ketogenic LCHF diet is also an effective treatment in other forms of epilepsy, both for kids and for adults. Some stop having seizures completely and need no medication. A lot of people need less medication and suffer fewer side-effects – their brains work better again. Just like the little girl’s in the story.
Gwyneth Paltrow says that her kids are on a low-carb diet – no bread, pasta or rice – as she thinks that is good for them. Predictably a few old-school dietitians immediately panicked.
The kids risk “nutrient deficiencies” warns one dietitian and another says that they “won’t be able to think straight as their brain won’t be functioning”. There is no end to the hysteria or the old myths that are dusted off. It’s even noted that Paltrow’s kids are thin (!) as if that must be bad. Apparently overweight kids are so common today that people are worried when they see a child without weight issues.
Fortunately more and more people are seeing through the nonsense. Nobody needs bread or pasta as long as they eat real food until satisfied (when on low carb this means more fat). And no, the brain does not quit working. It has never happened in reality, only in some book that dietitians are taught to memorize in school.
Here’s a great article about the Paltrow debate:
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