Do Carbs Protect Against Diabetes in Finland?

Finnish scientists redraw the map

Several readers told me about the big headlines in Finland yesterday. A new PhD thesis was interpreted as proving that carbohydrates protect against type 2 diabetes. Therefore, low carb diets were said to increase the risk of diabetes.

As usual this is a case of a single observational study (i.e. statistical correlations from a survey) and headline-seeking journalists. But it’s more irresponsible than usual.

Observational studies never prove causality, they only give us theories that need to be tested. Moreover this is just one such study. If we look at all similar studies combined there is a clear correlation between carbohydrates (GI or GL) and diabetes, as well as several other diseases.

Furthermore, if we leave the uncertain science and look at more trustworthy studies (well-conducted intervention trials) it’s been shown that food with less carbohydrates both protect against developing diabetes and improve the health of diabetics.

Journalists have the proverbial memory of gold fish when it comes to studies on diet and health. They start from scratch with every new study, no matter how insignificant. They gladly redraw the map upside down, against all logic, when given the opportunity of a selling headline. But scientists should be more responsible than that.

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20 Comments

  1. Anja
    Yeah, that was bad. And even worse is that probably only people who actually understood that the so called "news" was pure crap were low-carbers...
  2. Tooticky
    I'm lost for words. How can a diet that "heals" people from type 2 diabetes cause it? I'm not a scientist or statistician so perhaps someone can explain how this type of studies work? I'm not surprised about the conclusion given where the study is made... I'm a Finn myself and know very well that our health propaganda is very much against low carb diet. Luckily we have at least one pro low carb doctor who regularly appears on tv and writes his own blog to counterbalance the damage done by the "official health information".
  3. Tia
    @ Tooticky: this is more than we have in Germany!
    On TV they always have the same persons with the same old messages of official health information with their same old warnings concerning Low Carb, it is like a wall, nothing affects their position.... they aren't even able to inform correctly about Atkins and his death!

    Last weekend there was a special on TV about diets and they only mentioned Paleo and warned that you may not want to live without potatoes and rice. LOL, seems that I am not capable to decide myself!

    Media in Germany do not even look aside the official propaganda, if you want and need more information, you are on your own :(

  4. Will
    carbs protect you from diabetes... just like low fat protects you from heart disease. :)
  5. Will
    OT: I'm trying to find chocolate with the least amount of carbs... and no sugar alcohols..
    this looks like a good option:
    Lindt 99% cacao:
    http://www.lindt.com/ca/swf/eng/products/excellence/bars/excellence-9...
    it has 4g carbs per 50g of choc. 3 grams fiber, 1g sugar.
    can't find anything better than this that doesnt have sugar alcohols...
    has anybody doing LCHF tried this?
  6. Alexandra M
    We used to eat these - there's that net carb issue again:

    http://chocoperfection.com/

    I'm not sure that erythritol is anything to worry about:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Erythritol

    http://waroninsulin.com/nutrition/what-are-the-side-effects-of-aspart...

    Dr. Eenfeldt and Dr. Attia need to coordinate!

  7. NM
    This chocolate is very good. It is 100% - in other words, NO sugar or any other sweetner. It is delicious and creamy, and doesn't taste as bitter as some dark chocolates that even have sweetner. It contains a tiny amount of soy lecithin, but is otherwise perfect:

    http://www.chocolats-pralus.com/en/madagascar-100-bar.html

  8. NM
    (By the way - the Pralus site mentios "sugar" as one of the ingreditents of the 100% bar, but I can confirm that this is a website error - the packaging makes it clear it has none).
  9. finn
    There is estimate from 2010 that we have at least 500 000 who has diabetes. Every year 2000 diabetes I and 30 000 diabetes II diagnoses. Population is only 5,4 million so quite a big problem we have.

    http://translate.google.com/translate?sl=fi&tl=en&js=n&...

  10. Zepp
    I am not that concerned about this articel.. there have been so many about how unhealty it is to eat real food.. that peopel now adays dont belive it any more!

    And now with Internet peopel can read all sorts of sciense online!

  11. Alexandra M
    People can read science, or what passes for science, on the internet - but will they? And if they do, will they understand it? Most people get their "science" pre-digested by the media. Even people who understand science and promote science have a near-religious devotion to the conventional wisdom. My very smart friends (one really is a rocket scientist) reject the Carbohydrate Insulin Hypothesis because (according to them) it "violates the First Law of Thermodynamics."

    *eyeroll*

    It doesn't matter how many published studies I direct them to, in the end, they go with "the consensus." One actually said to me that he had to go with the consensus even if the consensus was wrong because "that's the way science works!!"

    "Science proceeds one funeral at a time." - Max Planck

  12. That's nothing. We have a doctor right here in my town--John C. McDougall--who claims that a diet high in starches from grains and vegetable sources, no fat and very low protein will cure Diabetes Type II.

    He claims in particular:
    "Multiple studies dating as far back as the 1920s have shown the benefits of a high-carbohydrate, low-fat diet in the treatment and cure of type-2 diabetes. This kind of eating is more descriptively referred to as a starch-based diet (potatoes, rice, corn, sweet potatoes, pasta, etc. with vegetables and fruits). . . Over time, switching to a low-fat, starch-based [vegan] diet and associated weight loss will cure essentially every patient with type-2 diabetes."

    Really???

    This isn't a reporter--this is a doctor who writes books and promotes this approach, claiming science is on his side.

    Can both be right???

  13. Zepp
    Well.. Internet is one big cause that LCHF get big in Sweden.. and I dont think Finnish or other peopel is dumber then us!

    Its about the critical mass of knowledge in the population.. its growing!

    There is some professors her that got out and warning about LCHF, and its real funny when just comon peopel can reject her points by pointing on better sciens!

    One other thing.. some finnish doktor tells on the Swedish blogg, that this is not new studie.. its a reutilization of an old cancer study.. merely such as they give antixodants to smokers to see if that saves them from cancer.

  14. It's great to see New Zealand at the top of the map for a change!
  15. JAUS
    #6 Erythriol is by far the safest sweetener, and it dosen't raise insulin at all. Erythriol is found naturally in mushrooms and fruits so it's not something that the body isn't use to.
  16. Michael
    Obligatory goldfish memory link:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9Dn4jsz8A1k
  17. Marcy
    I think some people know that carbs are bad they just don't want to verbalize it and get ostracized. I watch cooking shows a lot and lately so many of them are substituting the lasagne noodle for zucchini or eggplant.
  18. Daniel FE.
    that really rustles my jimmys. when i spoke with a Nurse who said she was diabetes specialty nurse. Causal conversation lead to me saying how i eat Keto 26g of carbs a day, then having her parade her superior knowledge infront of everyone telling me that i was going to die of a heart attack and that people with diabetes will die if eating low carb.
  19. Daniel FE.
    @Will

    i like the 90% better, i usually have 2 servings which is almost the whole bar, but it only adds up to 24g of carbs and 10 fiber. so a total of 14g of net Carbs is fine.

    99%Lindt is good too, but takes some time to get used to it. 6/10

    90%Lindt 8/10

    Choco Perfection i liked, but i did not like the Price! 9/10

    and QuestBars (protein Bars) are good, like a 7/10 and really low in carbs. so you could have more then one depending how much carbs you intake.

  20. Marcy
    I make my own bars. Nut butter, whey and a bit of stevia--could add a bit of unsweetened coconut or chopped ultra dark chocolate if I feel like it. Press into bar shape and store in freezer. I take them out and eat them still a bit cold. So good, and keep my hunger at bay for hours.
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