Why are Asian People Eating Rice Thin?


Thin Rice Eater

It’s a common question. If carbs can make you fat, why were some populations (e.g. Japanese people) thin while eating a high carb diet?

Dr Peter Attia has written a nice post on this: The War on Insulin: How do some cultures stay lean while still consuming high amounts of carbohydrates?

I basically agree with his ideas, although I think there is a few more answers to this question: 

The three big reasons

Here are the main reasons why I think populations could stay thin on high carb diets:

  1. Low to insignificant consumption of refined sugar (fructose). This may stop insulin resistance from developing.
  2. Eating mainly unrefined starch (e.g. brown rice, root vegetables) that is slow to digest, due to high fiber content etc.
  3. Traditionally more physical activity then sedentary western population. Compare a Japanese rice farmer (in the field all day) to an American office worker with a car. If you burn more glucose (via physical activity) then less insulin is needed when you eat carbs.

If you avoid sugar (fructose) and refined high GI starch and stay physically active you can probably stay thin and healthy on a high percentage of carbs. Lots of populations have done so.

Three more factors

  1. Poverty: These traditionally thin populations were on average fairly poor by todays standards, meaning perhaps they could not always afford all the food they would like to eat.
  2. Food reward / addiction. This may be controversial but I think there is a point to all this food reward talk that’s been going on in the blogosphere. Our processed junk food and candy is carefully designed to artificially make it taste great and be addictive. It also contains a lot of sugar and starch. It’s like cigarettes: The nicotine makes people addicted, thus they smoke a lot and the smoke gives them cancer. Fast food and candy is also addictive, thus people eat more of it and the sugar / starch overdose makes them fat.
  3. Genetic makeup. Asians do not look like Caucasians or Africans. They have (on average) way less musculature, they have a thinner build. This means that comparisons between the weight of Americans / Europeans and Asians using BMI is misleading, it exaggerates the difference. Asians are often “skinny fat” or even get diabetes at BMI levels that are considered normal for Caucasians (e.g BMI 24).

What do you say?

What do you think about this common question and the possible explanations?

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  1. Carbohydrate Analysis of High Fructose Corn Syrup (HFCS) Containing Commercial Beverages Paulin Nadi Wahjudi et al
    The carbohydrate analysis of HFCS is based on methods which first hydrolyze the syrup into simple sugars before quantitative analysis. We have examined whether HFCS can be hydrolyzed under the same conditions suitable for hydrolyzing sucrose. A new GC/MS method for the quantitation of fructose and glucose as their methoxyamine derivatives and 13C labeled recovery standards was used to determine the carbohydrate content of HFCS in 10 commercial beverages. Samples were analyzed before and after acid hydrolysis. The carbohydrate contents in commercial beverages determined without acid hydrolysis were in agreement with the carbohydrate contents provided on the food labels. However, the carbohydrate contents of beverages determined after acid hydrolysis were substantially (4–5 fold) higher than the listed values of carbohydrates. As fructose and glucose in HFCS may exist as monosaccharides, disaccharides and/or oligosaccharides, analysis of the carbohydrate content of HFCS containing samples may yield widely different results depending on the degree of hydrolysis of the oligosaccharides. With inclusion of mild acid hydrolysis, all samples showed significantly higher fructose and glucose content than the listed values of carbohydrates on the nutrition labels. The underestimation of carbohydrate content in beverages may be a contributing factor in the development of obesity in children.
    It's my HIghlighting of text in abstract above
    There are huge amounts of corn-derived, non-fructose, non-glucose carbohydrate content of corn syrup which undoubtedly has some toxic effects, besides its caloric value, that have simply been ignored because they aren't measured or counted.

    I'd also ask you to look at the graphs in this paper Survey of American food trends and the growing obesity and consider the consumption of corn products, rising obesity trends and a correlation with the introduction of bioengineered corns into the human food chain?
    Is it possible that there may be other reasons why Lustig is fundamentally correct?

  2. Fructose, like galactose, may be a case where individual variation in enzyme activity, due to both genetic and contingent factors may decide "toxicity".
    Early researchers noted considerable variation in metabolism of these substrates compared to glucose. Metabolising glucose has always been essential for life, but many people survived for generations without significant exposure to fructose.
    "individuals who lack fructokinase excrete the major portion of ingested fructose in the urine. "Fructose intolerance" is a more serious illness, characterised by genetic lack of the aldose specific fror fructose-1-phosphate, which accumulates after fuctose ingection and inhinbits diverse enzyme systems...even normal individuals may experience difficulty with large fructose intake (for the same reason)..."
    Principles of biochemistry, White, Handler, Smith 5th edition, p. 490
    1973 edition of a 1954 textbook McGraw-Hill
  3. Rob

    You got some of it wrong, he wasn't eating 10,000 calories and he didn't not gain fat. All the men in the group, including him, were told to eat roughly 5000 calories or double their average intake for to maintain their weight. The women were told to eat less but still double their average intake. The guy your referring to and one other girl if I recall correctly often couldn't eat that much everyday as they couldn't hold any more food down without wanting to vomit. Anyway he did gain some fat but substantially less than the others and appeared to put on some muscle without any kind of training.

    Obviously his genes made him very resistant to fat gain so very lucky guy nonetheless.

  4. Laura
    Morning all
    Prof RDF How's the conference?
    here is the link to my gall bladder comment
    AMAZING Metabolic Control Analysis! Einric or Heinric is vindicated at last !At the time 15 years ago it was not to be found in the main biochemistry textbooks. When I heard he had died soemtime in 1994/1995? I had moved to Oxford then and I offered to present the theory in a local journal club. I did such a poor job of it though I was shred to pieces by the defenders of the establisehd idea.... But Prof Katcher's ideas for me summarise what science is really all about that is asking the right question and then set about to finding the right answer without bias!

    The advance of human knowledge seems to often follow this pattern of long periods of stagnation usually with a dominant idea then a period of controversy with a few 'heretics' (and sub doctrines) banging about another idea and arguing agaisnt each other....and then an apparent truth emerges to become the next established idea that leads again to stagnation.....until.... we can apply this quite well to the idea that fat is bad for you......and now low carb living supporters are sprouting out like mushrooms everywhere.

    Look forward to more snippet of the obesity conference...

    Ehi what's on teh menu at the conference? High carb or high fat ?

  5. Rose
    Thanks for your corrections, Rob. Obviously I didn't take notes as I watched, lol. Still, as you say, he seemed obesity resistant, lucky guy.
  6. Dr Eenfeldt, Great post. I agree. Mostly. Reason #3 is what I don't agree with. That's because reasons #1 and #2 are already ample explanation in my opinion. Like so: Without refined carbs, there's little insulin secretion. With little insulin secretion, there's ample fuel supply. With ample fuel supply, more activity is possible. Therefore, their activity level is not a cause, but an effect of their low carb diet, of their low insulin secretion. Their active lifestyle is made possible by their ample fuel supply.

    You probably see it all the time. A patient goes low carb, feels like he has more energy, spontaneously eats less. The extra energy comes from the fat he's now losing, now using up. This extra fat is made possible by the low insulin secretion. This extra energy doesn't need to be replaced with extra food, so he eats less.

    Granted, it's not just about insulin secretion, there's tons of other hormones and enzymes. But the point is that the cause here is not the active lifestyle (therefore the glucose expenditure), but the extra fuel supply made possible by the regulators of that fuel supply, of which the primary forms are refined carbohydrates and insulin.

  7. So they used to be thin, but what was their health like? Limited food supply keeps about anyone on any food lean, but we see now that as they get more food, fast food, they are in the same boat as western peoples.
  8. Greg
    It is easy to drawn conclusions we want, if we use false data to argue. :)

    Specifically, brown rice is not popular in Japan, and considerably much more difficult to buy than in the United States. While it is true that the Japanese eat roots, it is false that these vegetables would give considerably amount of the caloric intake. The Japanese diet is still based on white rice and different pastas (ramen, udon, soba), and traditionally Japanese eat easily 2-3 cups of rice till they fealed full.

    Comparing Japanese rice farmers to American office workers is plan stupid. The Japanese society is actually more urban than the American, and even smaller fraction of the population works in farms than in America.

    So it seems, 2 out of your 3 reasons is just factually wrong.

  9. Marie
    Well, the chinese people are getting fatter, the young ones love american fast food and start to eat more candy. Traditionally chinese people don´t eat sweets. I see the difference everytime I go there.
  10. Wow, lots of stimulating discussion, and I don't understand a lot it! I see lots of talk about Fructose, and wonder if you guys are suggesting that fruit is bad for us? I though the Fructose in fruit was generally ok as it's wrapped up in fiber and fruit has lots of other micro-nutrients to help power the digestive process? Also, many monkeys live on a lot of fruit and they are not fat, doesn't this tell us something? Sorry for my ignorance, only just starting to learn about all this stuff.
  11. Galina L.
    Looks like monkeys indeed get fat on fruits during times of plenty and live on fat and ketones during lean times.
    In temperate climates fruits are usually abandon before winter season and help animals to fatten-up. I personally don't think that occasional fruit is problematic except for people who have to follow a very LC diet. It shouldn't be consumed to excess, and fruit juices and dried fruits are not healthy choices.
  12. Wade Henderson
    Perhaps too many people posting here are mixing up what they see on business or tourist trips to Asia, with trips where you see how the vast majority of folks live.

    I spent years in many parts of Asia.
    My observations are as follows.
    1. They eat white rice and or noodles
    2. They eat lots of vegetables.
    3. The eat much less of all the various forms of animal products. That would include beef, pork, chicken, and fish. Meaning their portions of these products are either missing or more often in very small quantities compared to American portions. I would say they eat perhaps 20% or less of these foods. That is not 20% less, but only 20% of what Americans eat.
    4. They drink very few calories compared to Americans.
    5. They walk more.

    Take a typical American, place them in a Asian village and come back in a year.
    If they have been eating like their neighbors, they will have lost weight.
    I'd say a American doing such, if beginning at 200 pounds, of which 50 is excess, will end up at the end of one year, weighing about 30 or more pounds less.

    Obviously you could circumvent this by eating more or differently.

    After years in Asia, I never went back to my old eating patterns.
    A 8 ounce steak would now be about 5 ounces too much, and what passes for a portion of meat in a restaurant, would make 5 or 10 Asian portions.

    Sorry, but almost all the slender Asians I lived with got most of their calories from carbs, primarily white rice.
    Go back to Asia and observe how much (portion) animal products are consumed by those you see as slender.
    Of course you won't see this pattern if all you do is visit restaurants or when attending special dinners.
    Yes, they do have feasts, they just don't have them 7 days a week like most Americans.

    Lots of people here finding exactly what they are looking for regardless whether it fits the reality in traditional Asia.
    BTW, I'm not vegan or even vegetarian, but I sure eat a lot less animal products since I lived in Asia.

  13. moreporkplease
    Sorry for the long reply, but it took me a lot of research to get this together - finally can put this myth to rest: the Japanese don't actually eat very much rice anymore. :)

    "Data from the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries show that Japan's average per capita rice consumption stood at 58.5 kg in fiscal 2009, less than half the 118.3 kg recorded in fiscal 1962."

    So nowadays the average Japanese person eats only about 160g (just under 1 cup) of cooked short-grain rice a day - 53 carbs. In 1962, they would have on average eaten only 324g (about 2 cups) a day, about 107 carbs.

    The Japanese could easily have eaten around 150g of carbs a day in 1962 then, if you include their common veggies like spinach, eggplant, salad, kelp, cabbage - that would put them right around Mark Sisson's "carb curve." Eating fewer calories and relatively lower carb, they would be thin and metabolically healthy at that time.

    The Japanese in general still consume about 20% fewer calories a day than Americans.

    Why are the Japanese now dealing with an epidemic of diabetes and heart disease? They are eating less rice - but more pasta, more white bread, and more sugar. Japanese sugar consumption had increased to an average 66 lbs (about 29 kilo) per person a year by 2007 (but still less than half of the American consumption); while wheat consumption per Japanese had risen to average 94 lbs (42 kilo) per year.

    Bread consumption increases 1.5% a year; the cakes and pastries category led the bakery and cereals market in Japan, accounting for a share of 55.7% of that growth. The Japanese are eating more sweet cakes and pastries than ever before.

    So add that up and you will see the Japanese now seem to be eating more carbs than in 1962 - 129 kilos up from 118. They have replaced half their short-grained white rice consumption with more refined white flour and sugar.

    They appear thinner than Westerners because they still eat fewer calories, but they eat more flour and sugar now, so they have a growth of diabetes and heart disease. They look slender, but their metabolisms are broken, just like the rest of the world. There doesn't appear to be an Asian exception to metabolic damage here. :)

  14. @moreporkplease

    Sugar and wheat combined is 160 lbs/year. That's 90 lbs past the diabetes threshold. Taubes cited research in GCBC whereby diabetes appears 20 years after sugar/wheat (flour) consumption hits 70 lbs/year/person. When did they hit that threshold?

  15. moreporkplease
    Hi Martin:

    "When did they hit that threshold?"

    I can't say I know. :)

    I did most of my research around this on Google Scholar, the Japan Times, & Wolfram Alpha. :) The Wolfram Alpha country data was only starting at 2007. :( So in Google Scholar it's easy to find studies from the 60s, 70s, and 80s about Japanese consumption - I searched the Japan Times newspaper site for rice/agriculture reports to find the current consumption & decline. The Japanese import wheat and sugar, so I guess if one were to search the Japan Times for import reports, consumption figures and import increases might be found there. :) If you or someone else has full access to the OECD database, I imagine they would also have consumption & import figures there.

  16. Wade Henderson

    While your data may be valid, you seemed to focused on one part of the diet.

    At the same time the change was taking place in the food items you mentioned, changes in other food items were ongoing.

    "While the average Tokyoite in 1947 was consuming a modest 5 grams of meat per day, recent data shows that he or she is savouring almost 90 grams of meat daily. In fact, between 1970 and 2005, the total amount of beef consumed within the city increased by about 160% (equal to 11.5kg per person in 2005) and 90% for pork (equal to 20.1kg per person in 2005) according to calculations "

    I have no problems for blaming refined carb for lots of the increase in diabetes, but to not include other changes seems to skew the causation in only one direction.

  17. @Wade Henderson

    That quote suggests that meat is a contributing agent for obesity and diabetes. Experimental evidence refutes this. RE:

    In this list of low carb studies above, we find that low carb is best for weight loss and pretty much everything else with regard to health markers. Admittedly, low carb diets contain more meat and more fat than low fat diets. They also contain less carbs, obviously. Thus the idea that meat contributes to obesity and diabetes is refuted, and the idea that carbs are the primary cause is confirmed.

    Furthermore, it refutes the idea that Asians eat a high carb diet, yet remain lean and healthy, at any time ever.

  18. Wade Henderson
    Martin, Just wondering, but how much time have you spent in various parts of Asia?

    Indonesia, Philippines, Vietnam, China, Korea, Japan, Singapore, etc.

    And in those countries, any time outside the major cities and resort areas?

    I just find that my eyes seem to indicate that millions upon millions of people in the areas I have spent time, do in fact eat mostly carbs and veggies with only small amounts of meat, yet stay healthy and lean. How do I convince myself that what I see, in multiple areas, is not true.

    Now, in the USA and even in some more "modern" areas of Asia, I would admit that the rush for carbs has gone crazy. Only last night I went into a large Safeway and marveled at the aisle(s) for drinkable sugar. Both sides of a major long aisle... exceptionally long...PLUS the next door aisle for non-cold versions of the same product. I was stunned, not having examined those products in many years.
    I was looking at all the drinkable carbs because just yesterday, two items were in the news.
    1. Coca Cola (KO) was rumored to be about to purchase Monster Beverage (MNST, formerly Hansens). Rumor proved false, but I was examining the two company's products more carefully.
    2. Medical report in the news about the failure of any of three options for working in children with Type-2 diabetes. Failure meaning each of them was no better than about 40% to 60% of the time working in patients in their teens.

    Contrasting that huge growing problem with the massive increase in liquid sugar and the panoply of fast food.

    I'm not religious about either the animal product side or the carb side. I only can clearly tell you what I have during repeated trips to Asia.

  19. moreporkplease

    "How do I convince myself that what I see, in multiple areas, is not true."

    Because your eyes are not measuring internal bio-markers such as insulin & blood sugar level, HDL/LDL/Trig status, etc.Your personal observations are not scientific evidence.

    I have posted the links here before to the diabetes and obesity statistics for the major Asian countries. Every single one has launched public health campaigns against these epidemics. Clearly the countries' internal medical communities see the problem.

    It is no uncommon to appear thin and yet be metabolically deranged and have CVD. This is very important to understand. The CVD & derangement can, and even often, happen before the obesity.

  20. Wade Henderson

    I ask again, which Asian nations have you visited, and for how long have you visited any of these nations.

    I can assure you, having spent years there, that their are hundreds of millions of people still eating the traditional Asian diet, consisting mostly of rice, veggies, and very small amouts of animal products. They are slender and not suffering from being metabolically deranged and having CVD.

    You seem intent on mixing together what is happening in the more modern Westernized urban areas.
    Yes, these nations are launching public health campaigns against these new epidemics of diabetes and obesity, but included in their campaigns is both the large increase of carbs, especially refined, and the increase in animal products.
    Many millions, even the majority who are still living in more rural areas, still eat in the traditional patterns and are not suffering the same problems.

    The have been eating their calories largely from rice for centuries.
    They are not the ones making up the statistics you say are rapidly changing.

    I first began traveling in Asia in 1975 and I have seen the changes in person. I have seen the increasing size of those, especially in the urban areas as wealth has increased and their diets have changed.
    I know what they looked like 35 years ago. I know how much rice, veggies and meat they ate back then and how much they eat now.
    I am just saying you cannot lay 98% of the problem on the increase in carbs of all types.

  21. moreporkplease

    Please let me note again: your opinion and personal experience are not scientific evidence. You may argue as you like, but you appear unable to offer any peer-reviewed evidence, anthropological evidence, or even a newspaper account. You may post your observations as often and long as you like, and challenge us all, but alas you still have no evidence.

    Please offer some. That's all. :) Generally here we prefer the RCT published in a peer-reviewed journal, tho' a poster talk at a major conference is better than nothing. :)

    "They are slender and not suffering from being metabolically deranged and having CVD."

    Once again, I ask you for evidence. Do you have any? Any population studies or epidemiology at all? I'm sure you could find some on Google Scholar if you are correct. Thanks!

  22. Wade Henderson
    So bizarre.

    What is required for your analysis is that a funded study be done on Asian groups who "still" eat in their traditional ways.
    So we would have to go to those areas, largely unaffected by the multiple changes in diet, and analyze them for some period of time.
    These are people who are much less likely to have the type of medical records required or the medical care to make such information available.

    So, it being rather unlikely to have such a study, you fall back that the absence of evidence is evidence in itself. And that wide spread common sense observations are of no value.
    That any observation of lean, slender, millions eating in such a manner, may only be hiding the real facts if we were to actually take blood samples and other tests.

    It would seem your conclusions, excluding these millions works very nicely into your assumptions. Further you suggest that these millions of lean folks are probably suffering from extensive diabets and CVD but that we just haven't measured it.

    Do you ever wonder if you are filtering your information to fit your conclusions.

    I ask you again. Have you ever traveled to any rural areas of Asia where the majority of people are still eating in the traditional manner, where most of their calories come from rice?

    I guess when I go back again, I should assume all the lean people I see are harboring diabetes and CVD, and will soon be dying. My oh my, they do seem vigorous and active despite their inevitable disease pattern. Should I tell them to stop eating rice? and substitute what?

    One can only wonder what your take would be if you actually lived and walked among these populations. Waving your studies at them, telling them to eat less rice.

    Reply: #181
  23. Galina L.
    Is it about rice eating being healthy or about the possibility that the thinness of some population is not the necessary mark of the healthiness in that population?
  24. Zepp
    What about this?

    "The present paper examines the relationship of nutritional status to further life expectancy and health status in the Japanese elderly based on 3 epidemiological studies. 1. Nutrient intakes in 94 Japanese centenarians investigated between 1972 and 1973 showed a higher proportion of animal protein to total proteins than in contemporary average Japanese. 2. High intakes of milk and fats and oils had favorable effects on 10-year (1976-1986) survivorship in 422 urban residents aged 69-71. The survivors revealed a longitudinal increase in intakes of animal foods such as eggs, milk, fish and meat over the 10 years. 3. Nutrient intakes were compared, based on 24-hour dietary records, between a sample from Okinawa Prefecture where life expectancies at birth and 65 were the longest in Japan, and a sample from Akita Prefecture where the life expectancies were much shorter. Intakes of Ca, Fe, vitamins A, B1, B2, C, and the proportion of energy from proteins and fats were significantly higher in the former than in the latter. Intakes of carbohydrates and NaCl were lower."

    And I can confes that I newer been in Asia, but my exgirlfriend was Chinese, from northen China.

    They newer eat rise, thay eat pig and sweet potatoes, chicken and eggs, bread, milk and porigde, not that much vegetables.

    And the northen chines says to be the tallest and healtyast.

  25. Wade, you understand the difference between observation and experiment, yes? It's this difference that distinguishes science from anecdote. Let's take the meat-is-bad-for-us idea and see if it holds up to the experiment. Do you know the Stefansson all-meat trial? In this experiment, two men ate only meat for one year. The results say meat is not bad for us. The idea is refuted. Now take the idea that carbs-allow-us-to-stay-lean and test it with that list of low carb studies. The results say carbs prevent us from staying lean. The idea is refuted.

    So while your observations say Asians eat lots of rice yet stay lean and healthy, the experiments say otherwise. What would it serve now to have been in Asia as you have and see what you saw?

  26. Wade Henderson
    The problem here folks is not that "meat is bad" as the issue, but rather that the absence of large portions of animal products in -some- parts of rural Asia where they get most of their calories from rice and veggies, does not confer excessive dangers from diabetes and CVD.

    First of all, Japan is not all of Asia. Japan is quite different in many ways.

    What I am saying is that there are large areas of Asia where people on traditional diets get the majority of their calories from rice along with veggies, and where they have a fairly low intake of meats and other animal products. In these areas, which encompass tens of millions, they do not have the often cited large increases in diabetes and CVD.
    They are in fact, very similar with regard to those problems as they were 40 years ago.

    Getting the majority of your calories from rice does not doom most of the population in these areas.

    One only wished that a few of you had some first hand personal experience of spending weeks and months in these areas. You would know how absurd some of this is, that rice as a main staple will lead to these problems.

    Yes, I do know the difference between peer reviewed studies and anedotal observations.
    But when you visit and live in these areas you can't ignore what is all around you.
    It would be like walking into the ocean and saying it may not be wet, because you don't have a peer reviewed study on that particular region.

    I am not a vegetarian. NONE of the regions I visit are populated by vegetarians. They just by tradition and sometimes by income, don't eat very much in the way of animal products compared to the typical American or urban Asian city.
    They get most of their calories from rice. You sit there, you see it. You don't need a calulator.
    They are slender, they are not suffering from diabetes to any significant degree.

    The world won't collapse because these folks can eat more rice and escape the Type 2 onslaught we see in many places. They've been doing it for centuries.

  27. moreporkplease

    "What is required for your analysis is that a funded study be done on Asian groups who "still" eat in their traditional ways.
    So we would have to go to those areas, largely unaffected by the multiple changes in diet, and analyze them for some period of time.
    These are people who are much less likely to have the type of medical records required or the medical care to make such information available."

    Indeed, however population studies are like this are done all the time by various governments, universities, development agencies, and NGOs, including the UN. Through such programs as the Millennium Goals and the WFP, the UN has deeply studied food and consumption in developing and middle-income countries.

    Other people have been doing these studies for decades. My 3-minute perusal of Google Scholar turns up tons of studies; there's lots of data. You just don't happen to be aware of it. :) I really don't mean to be snippy, so please don't be offended. These questions are important and we really have to rely on actual data.

    A quick perusal reveals lots of interesting data for various regions and countries. There is no absence of good evidence. :) I strongly suggest you spend some time with Google Scholar and less time lamenting other people's travel arrangements. :)

    Best wishes to you.

  28. Zepp

    Higher consumption of white rice is associated with a significantly increased risk of type 2 diabetes, especially in Asian (Chinese and Japanese) populations."

  29. Wade, I didn't say "peer-reviewed studies and anecdotal observations". I said "observation and experiment". Observational studies can also be peer-reviewed, but they are still only observation. Even the biggest observational studies that looked at millions of people for dozens of years are still only as valid as your own personal observations. A single experimental study of only a few subjects in a fraction of the time can refute any hypothesis that was derived from observation.

    Gary Taubes, Tom Naughton, and a few others have explained how we can observe a phenomenon that is in fact not true. For example, Tom used the rain-dance example. Some guy danced to make it rain, it rained shortly thereafter, saw the association, concluded that dancing caused rain to fall, that's why it's called the rain-dance. It's an absurd example, of course, but it explains how we can see two events, note an association, and draw wrong conclusions about it. You saw two events, noted the association, drew conclusions. Did you see everything that could explain the association you saw? Doubtful. Did you test your conclusions through experiment?

    You said you eat less meat since you've been to Asia. That could be a test of your conclusions. Did you notice an improvement following reduction of meat intake? Probably. But since you did not see everything that could explain the association the led you to reduce your meat intake, you could be seeing the results of something else you did that you didn't see before. Maybe you'd have done things differently had you known about Stefansson's all-meat trial at the time.

    You said "maybe it's not that meat is bad, but the low intake of meat does not confer excessive dangers". That's just another conclusion based on observation. It seems you still believe that observation is a valid argument in spite of experimental evidence to the contrary. I'm at a loss for words at this point.

  30. Wade Henderson

    I understand how the world works with funded studies.

    You seem to indicate you find multiple studies that indicate that people in rural and traditional Asian cultures, who continue to eat in their old ways, do indeed have rising rates of diabetes and CVD.
    And that the conclusion of said studies connects their traditional dietary consumption to their rice intake..... or something along those lines.

    Would you kindly point me to one of those studies, or perhaps two.
    Where the intake of rice, as opposed to multiple changes, indicates it is the "rice" that eaten in traditional portions, causes diabetes and CVD.

    You must have one or more of those from your 3 minute perusal.

    Thank you

  31. Edle
    As pointed out by others, the brown rice argument is plain wrong.

    I lived in Vietnam for 4 years. I never once saw anyone eat brown rice, in urban or rural areas, except for in a couple of restaurants in Hanoi and Saigon that wanted to cater for foreigners that felt brown rice was healthier. White rice is the staple food. Period. Same applies to Thailand where I currently live.

    I am also confused by the statement: "Low to insignificant consumption of refined sugar (fructose)". Why equal refined sugar to fructose? Most South East Asians, especially women, eat tons of fruit according to season.

  32. Wade Henderson
    Edle, You currently live in Thailand.

    You and others might take a look at the data on food consumption in Thailand from 1960 to 1975 to1986 and 1995.

    Look at the intake of rice, cereals, etc, and then look at the intake of meat, poultry, etc. over those 35 years.

    Page 185, Table 1
    Page 186 Table 2

    BTW, I do agree with you that almost no one eats brown rice in Thailand or elsewhere in Asia.
    Personally I only eat brown Jasmine rice myself. It has a much lower glycemic index as I view it on some of the links I've seen here.
    In fact almost everything I eat appears to fall into the "low" category, with the exception of my morning whole wheat toast, though it has 4g of fiber per slice.

    Clearly Asian populations, including Southern Asia (India, etc) have a much more susceptable genetic structure and are at great risk to any "improvement" in their diet. Improvement meaning switching to more calories, more carbs of all types, especially refined, more sugar, sugar drinks, and yes, even more animal products. All that added into a less active lifestyle.
    I've long known that Indians are particularly at risk.

  33. Bernard
    Being an Asian myself I have to say it is largely genetics. I believe Asian's body is genetically predispose to accept higher carbohydrate consumption compare to White caucasians.

    South East Asians living in poor countries have to work hard doing manial labour under the hot sun. They eat ALOT of rice. While Asians who in countries such as Japan or Korea or even China and HongKong, they don't have to so much doing manial labour instead work indoor in office environment. They don't eat much rice at all, they eat 1 bowl in the afternoon and another bowl at night, that's it. They eat MORE of Vegetables and meat for their Rice.

  34. I agree with Bernard - it's Genetic.
    Asians have been eating rice for over 6000 years. During this time their genetic pool optimized for digesting Rice & high-carbs. This is why they generally age slower and tolerate high carb diets.

    While Middle Eastern & Europeans got exposed to Rice only in the past few hundred years. They have been eating Whole Wheat for 13,000 years.

    I argue that Asians will get fat on high-wheat diet. (maybe this is why they are getting fat eating american fast food high with refined wheat & corn syrup).

  35. Muhammad Arrabi, it could be genetics. But then you point out that Asians get fat eating wheat. You also point out that Americans get fat eating wheat. So if it is genetics, it does not extend to wheat. Would it surprise you to learn that we fatten up cattle by feeding it wheat, corn and bran? Bran was never considered food for humans until recently because it is indigestible to humans. You have to wonder why we now advise everybody to eat so much of that stuff, then blame them for getting fat because they "eat too much". How do you make a cow eat too much anyway?
  36. Doing a quick comparison on reveals no significant difference between rice and wheat. About the same carb/protein/fat content. I said bran was fed to cattle to fatten them up, I was talking about wheat bran. Rice bran is used to fatten cattle too. This gives us the hypothesis that maybe bran is the thing that make Asians fat when they eat wheat. But then, when we remove bran from wheat, it becomes refined flour and this is even more fattening than whole wheat flour. Asians eat refined white rice, without the bran. They don't get fat. Maybe it's the gluten? Possibly. But there's very little gluten compared to carbs. It could be insignificant but then drugs can make us fat too and they contain very little of anything in them. Maybe gluten has drug-like properties.

    All in all, it doesn't seem to confirm that it's genetics. It seems to confirm that Asians are just like the rest of us, but the lean and healthy Asians just don't eat the obesogenic stuff we eat. The lean and healthy among the rest of us don't eat the obesogenic stuff either.

    6,000 years is not much to affect our genes. American Natives crossed the Bering Strait 30,000 years ago and they're not significantly different today as they were then. They are fully adapted to a meat-heavy diet, especially the various Inuit groups. We could say they are genetically adapted but then when we feed the same all-meat diet to two men of European ancestry, they too are fully adapted to such a diet. The various Inuit groups are descended from Asians. If this group is not significantly different after 30k years, there's no reason to believe that another group of the same genetic lineage would be significantly different after only 6k years. If it's genetics, it does not extend to meat either.

  37. If it's the gluten because it has drug-like properties, it all starts to make sense. The drug-like property would be like morphine. But then that doesn't explain how we get fat. Yet. It does explain why we eat more of it though. Morphine is addictive. If gluten is addictive, then we'd try to consume more of it just like we'd try to consume more morphine. But gluten doesn't usually come alone, it comes with starch, lots of it, in the form of wheat flour, refined or otherwise. So we're addicted to gluten, we try to consume more of it, whatever contains gluten also contains starch, which wrecks havoc with the hormones and enzymes that regulate fat tissue, so we consume more of that too, and that explains how we get fat eating wheat. Since rice does not contain gluten, it does not cause addiction, it does not cause us to consume more of it, it does not cause us to eat more starch contained in that rice. If we did eat more rice, we'd probably end up just as fat, because the thing in wheat that makes us fat is not the gluten, it's the starch. This seems to refute the idea that Asians eat lots of rice. Why would they if rice is not addictive like wheat?

    Starch causes insulin to rise. Insulin affects the brain such that it tells us we're full, so we stop eating. Since rice contains the same amount of starch as wheat, it should cause the same rise in insulin, it should tell the brain we should stop eating. It doesn't do that with wheat. But apparently it does it with rice.

    Why does beer make us fat? Maybe it's the gluten in the wheat that the beer is made with. Or it's the alcohol, which is also addictive, which causes us to consume more beer, and the thing that makes us fat is the alcohol, which is converted mostly directly into fat in the liver. Does rice contain _any_ addictive substance? If not, then there's little reason to believe Asians eat lots of rice.

  38. Alexandra M
    Martin - Wheat does contain opioids. If you're interested in this topic, read Wheat Belly by Dr. William Davis. I think he might be speculating beyond the science to some extent, but it raises some interesting questions.

    "Insulin affects the brain such that it tells us we're full, so we stop eating."

    Not quite. It's leptin that tells the brain we're full, but high levels of insulin block its action (leptin resistance). See The Skinny on Obesity videos on this site.

    Beer makes us particularly fat because it contains maltose, a sugar --> beer belly. You see skinny whiskey-drinking alcoholics, but skinny beer-drinking ones, not so much.

    Rice doesn't need to contain an addictive substance in order for people to eat too much of it. Once the cycle of insulin / leptin resistance gets going, (and how it does is probably THE question that needs to be answered) it's self perpetuating and any starch will feed the cycle.

  39. Alexandra, I read Wheat Belly only half-way through, but pretty much agree with the whole thing. I did read GCBC in full and frequently refer to it.

    The effect of insulin on the brain and food intake comes from evidence about injecting insulin directly into the brain. Insulin affects food intake directly. You're saying insulin causes insulin resistance in the brain, which then leads to leptin resistance, which then prevents leptin from telling the brain to stop eating. That's completely probable, but it doesn't refute what I said about gluten and its opioid properties, which would also cause us to eat more of it. It's just another way for wheat to do its job.

    Rice does not indeed need to contain an addictive substance, but if it does not, then there's no explicit reason to eat more of it, therefore no reason to believe Asians eat lots of rice, especially in light of the effect of insulin on the brain and food intake.

    We can't discount the possibility that wheat also contains other substances besides gluten and starch which would directly affect insulin resistance in the brain, and then lead to leptin resistance and further consumption. But then, if such a substance leads directly to insulin resistance in the brain, there's no need to look at leptin for the effect on food intake since insulin has a direct effect on food intake in the brain too, and insulin resistance would also mean insulin is not doing its job anymore.

    To answer THE question, it's probably very simple. Induce insulin resistance in the liver first, the rest will follow.

  40. Wade Henderson
    You know, I just happened upon this site and I'm unsure as to whether a hflc diet is better than a quality lfhc diet.
    I've just seen too many millions in rural Asia living and being active and not ending up with the epidemic we see in the West.
    However as has been noted, when those in Asia begin to eat the more Western diet, they are at even greater risk than those in the West.

    I do have one theory as to why things have gotten so much worse in America over the past 50 to 60 years.
    1. Food is everywhere
    2. Food is more often designed to be bad, with ever more refined carbs and sugars.
    3. We're drinking far more calories than ever before.
    4. Food, compared to 50 years ago has just become too good... tasting too good.
    upscale restaurants on one end, and fast food on the other end, all designed to appeal to eaters on a massive scale.

    Food, food, has just become a altogether bigger deal than it was 50 years ago.
    Too much choice, too much emphasis, to fancy and too tasty.
    To easy to get around the clock.

    Added together with less activity and of course we have huge problems.

    Now everyone is debating the perfect diet to cure all of the above as though there is some mystery as to why everyone is ending up like they are.

    Again, folks in rural Asia, whatever you think about their diets, are not surrounded by tasty variety each and every day. They eat in a fairly boring fashion, day after day, week after week, month after month.
    Yes, they have feasts for special days, but in America, every day is "feast day".

    Now everyone is examining perfection when the above probably has more to do with the outcomes we've seen in the past decades.

    Food is just too darn good, too darn easy to get, too darn a important part of our life.

  41. Alexandra M
    "Food is just too darn good, too darn easy to get, too darn a important part of our life."

    Bullshit. I remember when I used to dread going to my aunt's house for Sunday dinner or holiday dinners because no matter how hard I tried I would end up overeating. The food was incredibly delicious, and even though I took the tiniest possible portion of each dish (often just a mouthful), I would always end up groaning at the end, as did everyone else. It actually wasn't pleasant.

    Yet now people easily ingest huge quantities of mediocre food and still want more. How did that happen? It must be because people got hungrier. And what caused that to happen?

    Did you watch The Skinny on Obesity?

  42. I'm with you on this one, Alexandra.

    Wade Henderson, taste is not universal, but hormones are. So maybe sugar doesn't taste good to everybody, but it certainly causes the same hormonal changes in everybody. I used to eat tons of McD's, but now a Quarter Pounder tastes like cardboard to me. Maybe they changed the recipe, but I don't think it's changed so much. Instead, I think I've changed my tastes.

    It's not just me. Amylophagia, for example. Starch literally tastes like sawdust yet they named a disease after it. Some people just can't stop eating it by the spoonful. This kid the other day refused to eat sugar-sweetened meringue, but gobbled up all the strawberries, plain, nothing added, not even a spoon.

    Food tastes better when we're hungry, but becomes repulsive when we're full. This change of tastes happens in the same meal. How can food suddenly lose its taste after just a few minutes? It's not the food, it's our hormones. The same hormones that regulate our fat tissue, also regulate our hunger and satiety, which ultimately causes the food to taste good so we eat, or taste bad so we stop eating. It wouldn't make sense otherwise.

  43. Wade Henderson
    OK, I just read a small bit on Lustig and I agree about sugar and hfcs, especially in drinks, but elsewhere also.

    I also agree about refined carbs and even too much of those that aren't refined but are the poorer ones... spuds and white rice.

    However, the first article about Lustig I read included the following passage..

    "At BAM, (Berkeley Arts Museum) a good crowd came out despite rain and “dead week” to hear him, and kept him talking for twice his allotted time with questions — about low-carb diets (they aren’t the answer for most people), omega 3 fats (eat wild fish), meat (we need some, for the amino acids), and how much alcohol is OK (a little is good, not too much) — that finally had to be cut off."

    Yes, eating at your aunt's house was so wonderful you ate until you were full, just like lots of did for Thanksgiving or when given meals by especially wonderful cooks.
    However back then, most of us weren't getting such meals 7 days a week.
    No, most of us were eating meals that were far more plain and less inviting.
    Also snacking was far less frequent and Soda pop was for a special occassion, not 2 cans per day.

    Nor were we subjected to 24/7 tv commercials or fast food outlets on every other corner.

    Back in the 50's and 60's, fast food was something we got once a month, and our intake of cola was about 1 per week at most.

    Let me borrow from what another site, Livestrong, said about Lustig's dietary ideas..

    "Based on his research, Lustig recommends reducing your sugar consumption because sugar stimulates insulin production. The glycemic index is a numerical ranking system used to indicate how fast and how high a particular food can raise our blood glucose levels. Lustig recommends restricting high glycemic carbohydrates like candy, and focusing on healthy carbohydrate foods such as legumes, vegetables and whole grains. These types of carbohydrates digest slowly, triggering less insulin production. Lustig also recommends eating fruits because they are fiber-rich, which also slows sugar digestion. Lustig does not necessarily recommend a low-carb diet; he recommends choosing healthy carbohydrates that will not create a surge in insulin levels."

    Am I missing something here?
    Apparently Lustig also thought that earlier versions of the Japanese diet, with the rice, were not producing problems, much as what I said I had observed in rural Asia when I am there.

    Again, I fully agree that the current American diet with both the amount of carbs, sugars, fructose and fat, is all deadly. Less of all those, and a population not so obsessed with unlimited food NOW..

  44. Wade Henderson
    OK Alexandra and folks, I just watched Dr. Lustig on both of the videos
    Sugar: The Bitter Truth, and all of The Skinny on Obesity group... I think I saw 4 and there is one still to come out in a few days.

    Well, I agree with everything he seems to be saying.
    Having said that I don't hear him saying anything about people eating normal amounts non-refined carbs such as brown rice, whole wheat pasta, legumes, and a long list of others in normal non-excessive portions.
    I would and do choose brown rice over white and limit such items as plain spuds, mashed spuds, etc.

    Perhaps I'm missing something, but I don't see Lustig tellling people to cut out all the carbs they can. Nor do I see him suggesting the traditional rural Asian diet, where a good portion of their calories come from rice. Obviously it would be better if they ate brown rice, but very few do.

    Did I not hear him correctly?

    Anyway, I think his presentation is great and really points the way EXCEPT, he'll have the forces of the entire food industry fighting him. Imagine the corn industry.... Iowa... the presidential primary. Especially when they have to stop pushing so much corn into ethanol.
    What they gonna do with all that corn? Sell it to the world...

  45. Wade Henderson,

    To be frank, I usually ignore Lustig. We already have Gary Taubes who is much more knowledgeable on diet and health, probably the most knowledgeable person on this planet today. He did many lectures too that can be found on Youtube. The most famous is the Berkeley lecture. Even if I ignore Lustig, he's still probably right about the whole thing. In one interview, Lustig even ripped off Taubes' typical shtick after he attended an AHS convention where Gary was giving another lecture. But before that, he was all over fructose, and saying glucose is good for us.

  46. Wade Henderson
    Martin, have you followed or seen the "debates" or exchanges between Taubes and Stephan Guyenet?

    Well, I've gained some ideas from reading here and watching Lustig, however it is very difficult to personally see so many rural Asian villages and peoples where they are not overweight nor suffering from increases in diabetes etc. and who easily get the majority of their calories from carbs, as have their ancestors for centuries.
    They were lean, and remain so for the most part, while their cousins in the more prosperous cities begin to suffer all the ills we see in the West.
    To me it appears to be a increase in the refinded carbs, sugars, sugar drinks, and fats, often from animal products.

    However, its hard to watch Lustig and not come away feeling his sugar culprit is perhaps highest on the list. Sugar, refined carbs, and the fact that they're often mixed to gether in products that are high in fat.
    As I've said, I am not vegetarian, just trying to do the best I can.
    I do think watching Lustig I may cut down from 1.5 to 2.0 drinks (beer, wine) down to limiting it to just one a day, especially considering I'm don't weigh much and 1 beer for me is probably like 1.35 for a average weight person.
    And perhaps not fill myself to full with so much brown rice. However, having said that, I do need calories to maintain my weight.
    If not carbs then what do I eat to keep the weight from dropping.
    No way I'm gonna start eating steaks and cheeses. Far too much data suggesting that things like prostate cancer are linked to such diets full of those fats.

    My my my, whats a lad to do?

  47. The first thing a lad should do is see if the hypotheses that came out of the observational studies are actually true. A lad would do this by looking for experimental studies that test those hypotheses. Otherwise that lad is acting based not on facts, but on belief. Granted, this lad could still find success but then not because he knew the facts so this success would mostly be accidental. For example, if our lad believed that both meat and carbs are bad for him, then cut those out of his diet, he would find success. But he could never be sure which part gave him success. But then since he was successful, he could continue to believe things that are not in fact true, if at least one of the things he did do was not in fact involved in his success. That's where experimental studies come in. They will tell our lad which thing he did that gave him the success, and which thing he didn't really need to do. I mean, our lad is a smart fellow and he would certainly not want to do things uselessly, now would he. Or worse, he would not want to do things that actually hinder his efforts simply because he did not have all the facts.

    I kept an eye on the Taubes-Guyenet exchange. Stephan lost big time. He was doomed from the start, both because his position was untenable, and because he's not that good a debater in my opinion.

  48. Wade Henderson
    Look, I and the hundreds of millions of rural traditional Asians, have evey indication that our currrent diet is working to our benefit.
    What are the reasons, the benefits, of switching to eating as Taubes would suggest.
    Or are his recommendations only for those who are obese or at risk?

    For a person like myself and for most of the rural Asians on traditional diets, why should we change to Taubes way of eating?
    Will more meats or fats improve our health? How many studies suggest that to be true?

    Obviously for the hundreds of millions who have problems, they many need to make the decision on how best to lose weight and reduce risk.

    Everyone, including Lustig seems to be in favor of more veggies, more fiber, and eating complexed carbs when we consume such. And of course less sugar, much less sugar especially in drinks.
    But I hardly think anyone, using evidence, is suggesting folks like myself should begin eating more meat to gain some advantage or to improve our already excellent health. And the same would hold true for the many millions of rural traditional Asians.

    Kind of reminds me of the missionaries going to Hawaii to save them.
    These dietary prescriptions seem to change every dozen or so years, with each wave having its followers completely convinced they are so correct and thus happy to pass on the proof in the form of science and studies. They have no doubts.

    Well, I am not sure about any of the current pure solutions. The studies abound and have for decades. I'll keep reading but won't leap off my current ship without some obvious incentive for doing so.
    I'll need something better than Stefansson's all meat trial to convince me to start eating burgers and bacon on a regular basis.

  49. Galina L.
    I remember reading about studies that animal proteins and animals fats are protective from cancers. From the top of my head I recollect it was in the analysis of China Study by Denis Minger, just please google it, and also check her review on the "Forks versus knives", it may give you the information your are interested in. I will find more on the subject if you ask me to do so. There are a lot about benefits of the meat products on the Weston Price website, and they are not LC folks.
  50. Alexandra M
    "Obviously it would be better if they ate brown rice, but very few do."

    It's not obvious at all. The obsession with brown food is just part of what I call the "Hippie Nutritionism Belief System." Asians discovered millennia ago that the nutritional value and resistance to spoilage of rice were greatly improved by parboiling and then milling. That's why they do it. There are nutrients in the husk, but they are not as available to the body, being bound up as they are in the indigestible fiber.

    The same is true of wheat: leaving the bran, which contains oils, makes the grain more susceptible to spoilage. Also, the high bran content of the bread made from it speeds the journey through the digestive tract, reducing the absorption of nutrients. So it's a trade off. "Whole" grains may contain more nutrients, but it's harder for the body to get any benefit from them.

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