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. Wade Henderson
    Alexandra M, Look you tell me to watch "The Skinny on Obesity". I watch all the episodes because you apparently agree with Lustig. Then I even watch his 1.5 hour video on sugar.
    I also read him elsewhere.

    You do realize he is not against the consumption of complexed carbs as a significant part of the diet for many people?

    Or are you selectively choosing only those elements of his ideas that you agree with?
    Lustig is not adverse to eating food items such as rice, though I'm sure he'd prefer the more complexed version.

    Is Lustig wrong? Or is it just that he isn't pure enough?

  2. Lustig can't be wrong because his is all over the place. He's as ubiquitous as Alec Baldwin so at some time he's said everything. "I am not against sugar" but it is a toxin. "I am not opposed to low-carb diets" but he would never use them because patients can't stay on them, never mind that the data show that they have better adherence than others. The problem with Lustig is that he has given up on scientific method and scientific rigor. His indictment of sugar is analogous to banning Hondas because the increase in traffic jams correlates with the increase in Hondas.

    From my perspective, he is making a parody of teaching biochemistry which is my job. A metabolic map is like any map. It tells you where you can go but it doesn't show you the traffic lights or the road construction. Also, what's missing from Lustig's compelling talks is data. The studies that support sugar as toxic are done at a total carbohydrate of 55 %. Under those conditions adding fructose is clearly worse than adding glucose, but is that what we want to know. Science is about the facts and understanding so, in some sense, there are no credentials but Lustig is simply not acting like a biochemist although he wants to take credit for being one. We could be wrong in our methods but he is definitely not a biochemist. The reason real biochemists don't like to jump in here is because we are reluctant to make sweeping statements. But we have some data and as far as we know, the effect of replacing fructose with glucose even under the conditions that he cites, is generally not as great as replacing any carbohydrate with any kind of fat.

    The bottom line from a therapeutic perspective is that the mass of data clearly shows that for diabetes and metabolic syndrome and obesity, dietary carbohydrate restriction is the best bet -- if it doesn't work, thou can try something else. If you want to take sugar out of the diet, even just sugared soda as a strategy for reducing total carbohydrate, that may be very effective for obesity. For diabetes, it may be better to reduce starch depending on the individual case and conditions. What's scary about Lustig is that he is on the American Heart Association panels, the group who have gone out of their way to attack low carb diets and to distort the scientific data.

    In term of the original thread on Asian diets, it is obvious that we don't know enough to make any clear statements although all the comments touch on relevant stuff. Overall, what we know is less than what we don't know but if you give up on scientific method, you've got nothing.

  3. Maggan A

    Why not try for a while and find out for youre self? Not eating rice wont kill you - while eating rice might in the long run turn out not to be so healthy (as many LCHF-people already have found out). But it is up to each and everyone to take chances with their health if they want to. I´m not one of them, that is for shure. I only eat what my body needs and rice is not on the list.

    If rice was essential I would be dead by now. As a matter of fact I would probhably never have been born in the first place if it was - my ancestors, the wikings - are (in)famous for a lot of things - eating rice is not one of them.

    I belive rice have had the same function for Asians as the potato have had for the nothern Europeans. It is the poor mans food to fill the hungy belly in lack of the good stuff like wild game that was only available among the rich and wealthy landowners.

  4. Wade Henderson
    So, if I were to eliminate 75% of my brown rice, and whole wheat pasta, whole what toast, exactly what would I increase to balance my calories? I am slender and losing half or more of my calories would require eating a lot more of something.
    I already eat a mountain of all types of veggies and salads.
    Are yams and such, perhaps squash etc, your idea of how I could replace those calories?

    What is left? Meat, butter, other dairy, oils, ? Or would one need to reduce physical activity to reduce energy output?
    Obviously adding in sweets, sugars is not a viable alternative.
    I suppose adding in lots of bananas might add fuel.
    I really can't eat less calories or I would slowly waste away.

    I'm thinking rural Asians face a very similar dilema.

  5. Maggan A

    LCHF menas replacing the carbs (rice, pasta, bread) with fat. The best fatsources ar animal fat. Eat fat fish like salmon and mackerel, dont cut of the fat from the meat, eat the skin from the chicken. Dont be afraid of eggs and dont forget butter, full cream and other fat dairyproducts.

    last but not least - forget about calories! Just eat until you are not hungry anymore - if you eat enough protein and fat it is very difficult to overeat.

  6. Wade Henderson
    And all the studies show no connectionb between all those fats, dairy, etc, and increased incidence of prostate cancer?

    I know they say the same thing about heart disease, but how about the Western diet's "connection" with a extremely higher incidence of prostate cancer compared to Japanese and other Asian populations?
    Not exactly the incidence, but the progression to a state where it causes problems.

    Or is all that increase just the result of all the extra refined carbs and sugars?
    Until I find better evidence of that, I'm not going to suddenly load up on fat meats, poultry, butter, creams etc.
    I'll keep reading but I've not seen anyone suggest that such a full fat diet is beneficial for the progression of prostate cancer ( a cancer which lies dormant in the majority of men as they pass into their 50s, 60, 70.s and beyond.)
    Apparently Japanese men have a similar incidence of such cancers, but they don't advance, thus never causing a problem in a much larger percentage of Japanese men.

    I'll keep looking into that.

  7. Maggan A

    The drugcompanies that pay for expencive studies (who else do you think pay for it?) are not intrested in knowledge preventing diseases with something as simple as natural food - unless you could put it in a pill an make zillions of dollars selling it.

    Keep looking in to it - but I would not trust Big pharma if I where you - just follow the money.

    It is your prostate - not mine ;-)

  8. Zepp
    Most people can count calories. Many have a clue about where fat lurks in their diets. However, fewer give carbohydrates much thought, or know why they should.

    But a growing number of top nutritional scientists blame excessive carbohydrates — not fat — for America's ills. They say cutting carbohydrates is the key to reversing obesity, heart disease, Type 2 diabetes and hypertension.

    "Fat is not the problem," says Dr. Walter Willett, chairman of the department of nutrition at the Harvard School of Public Health. "If Americans could eliminate sugary beverages, potatoes, white bread, pasta, white rice and sugary snacks, we would wipe out almost all the problems we have with weight and diabetes and other metabolic diseases."

    It's a confusing message. For years we've been fed the line that eating fat would make us fat and lead to chronic illnesses. "Dietary fat used to be public enemy No. 1," says Dr. Edward Saltzman, associate professor of nutrition and medicine at Tufts University. "Now a growing and convincing body of science is pointing the finger at carbs, especially those containing refined flour and sugar."

    Americans, on average, eat 250 to 300 grams of carbs a day, accounting for about 55% of their caloric intake. The most conservative recommendations say they should eat half that amount. Consumption of carbohydrates has increased over the years with the help of a 30-year-old, government-mandated message to cut fat.

    And the nation's levels of obesity, Type 2 diabetes and heart disease have risen. "The country's big low-fat message backfired," says Dr. Frank Hu, professor of nutrition and epidemiology at the Harvard School of Public Health. "The overemphasis on reducing fat caused the consumption of carbohydrates and sugar in our diets to soar. That shift may be linked to the biggest health problems in America today.",3,465492,full.story

  9. Alexandra M
    " apparently agree with Lustig."

    I suggested you watch the obesity video because you were speculating about whether insulin signaled satiety to the brain and the third video gave a pretty clear explanation as to how the interaction of hormones and blood sugar can cause people to be overfed AND hungry all the time.

    I found The Bitter Truth interesting because I learned something I didn't know about the way sugars are metabolized. I think he raises some interesting questions about why there's been an increase in the obesity rate even for babies. I didn't agree with his conclusion that sugar should be regulated like alchohol or tobacco.

    "Will more meats or fats improve our health? How many studies suggest that to be true?"

    Quite a few. Because as you're noticing, if you drastically reduce one thing in the diet, something else must replace it. The good studies that have been done of carbohydrate restriction (which necessitates and increase in fat and protein consumption) all show not only better weight loss, but improvements in blood pressure, lipid profiles (HDL-C goes up and triglycerides go down) and fasting glucose.

    For the last 30 years a huge uncontrolled experiment has been done on the public in replacing one macronutrient with another - fat, especially saturated fat, was replaced by carbohydrates on the advice of health "experts." People embraced the idea that fat in the diet equalled fat in the arteries because it was a simple, intuitive idea. Too bad it was wrong, and we're seeing the results.

    Now, that simple, powerful, WRONG idea has gained such intractablity that fat, and to a slightly lesser extent, meat have become as "moralized" as tobacco and laden with all sorts of emotional trigger words: "greasy killer," "artery clogging," etc. The fear of fat and the naive embrace of the "natural" means that kids who used to get whole milk now get fruit juice. Instead of scrambled eggs they get sweetened low-fat yogurt. Instead of getting a roasted chicken leg (with skin) they're getting whole wheat pasta with "all natural" sauce out of a jar.

    For myself, I did NOT get fat eating fast food and sweets or by drinking soda (never cared for any of those things). I took in the warnings about fat and tried to cook "healthier," replacing meats with whole grains, whole milk with skim, a pat of butter with a film of olive oil, avoiding eggs, eating more vegetables (steamed). Result? 60 pounds overweight by the age of 48.

    Thanks to Gary Taubes, I lost 50. Thanks to all the ignorant people around me warning me about my fat intake, I gained back 25. Now I've lost 15 again, in good part thanks to the growing number of people understanding how nonexistent was the science supporting the low-fat recommendations.

  10. Wade Henderson
    Goodness, what did I write that had anything to do with food that wasn't as simple as "natural food"..
    Or anything to do with trusting "Big pharma".

    Is the "money" following simple veggies and unrefined carbs to the exclusion of something else?

    I do agree that all the food processing companies would like to keep folks eating as they currently do and might/do support studies that would suggest their products are good.

  11. Zepp
    "Urological diseases have also been linked to the metabolic syndrome. Most established aspects of the metabolic syndrome are linked to benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH) and prostate cancer. Fasting plasma insulin, in particular, has been linked to BPH and incident, aggressive and lethal prostate cancer. The metabolic syndrome has also been shown to be associated with nonprostatic urological conditions such as male hypogonadism, nephrolithiasis, overactive bladder and erectile dysfunction, although data on these conditions are still sparse. Overall, the results of studies on urological aspects of the metabolic syndrome seem to indicate that BPH and prostate cancer could be regarded as two new aspects of the metabolic syndrome, and that an increased insulin level is a common underlying aberration that promotes both BPH and clinical prostate cancer. Urologists need to be aware of the effect that the metabolic syndrome has on urological disorders and should transfer this knowledge to their patients."

  12. Wade Henderson
    OK, good information, thank you.

    Now, while I don't like to use specific cases, in a overall view of things.

    I'm very slender, low/normal blood sugars, low blood pressue, exercise, no cardio problems.
    Should I be concerned that I could have, or could get metabolic syndrome that possibly could impact any potential for prostate cancer?
    Or am I just hunting some theoretical problem and would be changing my current diet to avoid such.
    Remembering that I eat very few refined carbs and almost no sugar, except what I add to my cup of tea in the morning.
    Normal healthy person, just trying to remain that way. Not a person who's health is out of wack from a long history of terrible foods of any type.

  13. Zepp
    Sorry for my spaming.. I just wanted to put some argument on the table!

    I do think that we shouldnt get in to the explanation of everything, let Lustig try to do this, he got some good points, but there are holes in his teory, but I think he points in the right direction.

    There are probably not one simpel explanation.. but the good thing is that we cant blame the fat for it, not that unprocessed animal fats.

    Probably is refined carbs and processede vegetabile oils a part of it.. and there is a lot of good evidens pointing in that direction.

    And Wade, you have altså some good points, about our modern food and our way of living.. must have some to do with it.. I dont think nobody can denie that.

  14. Zepp
    Wade.. if one is a slender healty person one do have more choises to select what to eat.

    And as you do says, there is seldome any good to eat junkfood.

    The good thing is that we know how to revert the metabolic syndrom, how it appears is teories, still to be proven.

    But there are som links.. its hyperinsulinemia, thats almost is the sign of it.

  15. Maggan A

    "I'm very slender, low/normal blood sugars, low blood pressue, exercise, no cardio problems."

    That is how most of us start our life in young age. But things start getting worse as we get older. I dont know your age - but if you are still young your slender figure and good health tell us nothing moore than normal. It is when we reach the age of 40 - 50 the problems starts and it is time to pay the bill for an unhelaty lifestile from younger years - slender or not....

  16. Wade Henderson
    Maggan, I'm well past 60, but I do agree, as I see my fellow neighbors running into problems, most of the only begin to get concerned at age 50 and beyond as some health issues begin to show up.
    Very few exercise or pay close attention to their diets.
    Most common, cardio vascular disease, diabetes, strokes....
    The combination of those three is like a neighborhood epidemic.
  17. Maggan A

    good for you if you past 60 and are still at good health - unfortunatley I belive you are an exeption to the rule - I wish more people had your health at that age.

    Now I wish you all good night. It is midnight in my part of the world ;-)

  18. Tia
    @ Maggan A:
    "I belive rice have had the same function for Asians as the potato have had for the nothern Europeans. It is the poor mans food to fill the hungy belly in lack of the good stuff like wild game that was only available among the rich and wealthy landowners."

    I want to remark that in comparison to the long term tradition of eating rice in Asia potatoes were established in Northern European foods only in the 18th century. They were intended to become the basic food for the people but there were lots of problems with acceptance.

    Being a descendant from a family of conservative landowners until my days as a child potatoes were not considered as the first choice among foods: They were difficult to cultivate, our soil was not fitting and there were lots of trouble with infestation by pests. After the famine in Ireland caused by problems with potatoes my family decided to cultivate only a minimum of plants and stick to their traditional farming.

    I used to listen to the stories of my grandparents and I suspect that my ancestors mainly lived on all kinds of cabbage with pork and they surely used every piece of their livestock. The precious grain was animal feed during winter times and not for human usage. Survival of livestock was the equivalent of survival of the human.

    In my opinion it is very unlikely that over such a short period and very few generations a genetic adaption to potatoes occurred. I think the problem is that in our modern lifestyle our energy input and output is not balanced anymore and according my experiences with 5 years living low carb it is easier to keep the input low with satisfying LC food.
    Only my 2 cents.

  19. Zepp,

    Steve from Diabetes Warrior blog, is doing experiments with a continuous glucose meter, exercise, and carbs. You said "we know how to fix metabolic syndrome, but it's just theories". After looking at Steve's experiments these last few days, I think we have more than theories.

  20. Zepp
    Sorry.. I meant that we know how to revert it, but we cant say for sure how it develops in the begining!

    And we know for 99% certainty that the precursor is hyperinsulinemia and insulin resistance.

    But those is complex to understand, and to explain.. but there are hypotesis.. still to be proven

  21. gallier2
    @Zia and others, before the advent of the potatoe in Europe the staple foods were the broadbean and split peas . Cabbage could not be the staple because of it relative low caloric density (that doesn't mean it wasn't widely consumed, but it didn't represent the biggest caloric source). We should not forget that the obsession of low-calories is only a very recent invention. Btw, these legumes were the only available source for the poors of complete proteins, meat being reserved for the aristocracy; a fact still reflected in the english language with its odd dual naming of animal/meats: veal/calf, mutton/sheep; beef/ox; pork/pig-swine; venison/deer. You will notice that the meats have french origin (veau, mouton, boeuf, porc, venaison) but the animal germanic origins (in high-german Kalb, Schaf, Ochs, Schwein).
  22. Maggan A

    Yes I know potatoes came in late on our plates :-)

    In sweden the stapelfood was the root called Swede or Rutabaga, which actually grew wild.

    I dont know exactly why they replaced it with potato but from what we know now maybe it was not such a good idea...

    The Swede/Rutabaga have only 6 gram carbs, while potato have 16 per 100 gram.

  23. The classic peasant staple was a boiled gruel of barley oats, or other grains, plus legumes; both components were called cereals. Turnips cabbage and other veges supplemented this.
    If poor 18th C british farm labourers are any indication, cheese and bacon were the main sources of animal protein (more flavour for lower cost, and less perishable)
    However, following the Black Death, low population and high wages saw a rise in meat eating for all classes that lasted more than a century. Europe was swamped in cheap, fresh meat that all classes could afford.
    See "Capitalism and Material Life 1400-1800" by Fernand Braudel
    Highly recommended
  24. Maggan A
    George henderson

    "Europe was swamped in cheap, fresh meat that all classes could afford."

    Maybe it was for some priviledge aristocracy - but it was never - and are still not - avalible for the Pesants. Not even today 2012 are wild game like elk and deer available and allowd to hunt for others than the landowners.

    The only alternative in the old days was to be a rich farmer hwo had kows, pigs and sheep - but than we are still not talking about peasents....very sorry but when we talk about access to good meat it has never been available for the poor. They had to rely on the occational wild birds, rabbit/hare and fish they could catch....

    that is capitalism - still alive and kicking.

  25. Wrong.
    Meat in those good years (15th and 16th centuries) was included in wage agreements of the lower-paid workers where documents survive.
    It was a labour-based economy; half the population had died. The survivors could get whatever they asked for their labour, which was the equivalent of oil today.

    Read the book:'s+carnivorous+century%22&source=bl&ots=0OHwF6OWjv&sig=xstm5Z5fPo9NFwGdy7eHVTrQWlk&hl=en&sa=X&ei=QkesT6ytFc2fiAfijsW1Aw&ved=0CGcQ6AEwCA#v=onepage&q=%22europe's%20carnivorous%20century%22&f=false

  26. Maggan A
    George Henderson

    It may depend of wich country we are talking about. In my part of the world (Sweden) the peasents - if they where lucky - they got a small house and a small peace of land to grow potatoes from the landowner - that was it. Unless they signed up to be a soldier in the kings army - than they could even get a uniform and extra food for the horse.

  27. Maggan A
    Forgot to say that for the little house and the small peace of land they had to work very hard for their boss.They did not get it for nothing....
  28. Galina L.
    I remember reading a wage agreement with laborers in England from the middle ages. There were a lot of details about the food which was provided by the lord. I remember some small detail because I found it funny - the laborers would be given salmon no more than 3 times a week, because salmon was considered less preferable choice of protein. In your discussion about food sources you forget such important item as fish. I know in Russia it was a very substantial part of nutrition for all classes through the history. Also, rye was cultivated widely in Central and Northern Europe before middle ages. It was there the main bread flour. .
  29. Maggan A
    Galina L

    Yes I recognice that story. Unfortunatly people in those days did not realise how good food it really was. A lot better than nowdays when the salmon is only worth half of what it used to be... nutritionwise...

  30. There's no doubt that agricultural labourers were the worst fed sector of society prior to modern times. However this was mainly due to population pressure and the oversupply of labour (like poverty today) and was relieved for 150 years by the Black Death (which pretty much sponsored the Renaissance thereby).
    "In the 14th century, Sweden was struck by the Black Death. The population of Sweden was decimated.[26] During this period the Swedish cities began to acquire greater rights and were strongly influenced by German merchants of the Hanseatic League, active especially at Visby"

    So it probably applied to Sweden too.

  31. Jill
    People who eat a lot of polished rice could develop a Thiamin deficiency which causes loss of appetite and weight loss.
  32. Wade Henderson
    Jill, and you are suggesting that this is the reason why Asian rice eaters stay slender?

    Watch out, or the market for "polished rice" will skyrocket.

    Actually, a well followed and very old diet, predating today's diet-mania, was the "Rice Diet" introduced in 1934 at Duke University by a medical doctor on staff. Walter Kempner.

    In light of all the over-the-top diet wars we see today, it would do one well to go back and read about Dr. Kempner and his success and his published papers.

    Using nearly the exact opposite of what we read here, Dr. Kempner had success with thousands of patients over many decades.
    Always pays to keep one's mind open to all the issues and history, rather than finding "the answer" and then searching only those facts which support your "conclusion".

  33. Galina L.
    I tried a rice low-sodium diet describe in #132 when I was young. It was my emergency weight-loss treatment awhile ago. It worked exactly like any other crash diet - very quickly for short period of time. Food tasted absolutely horrible even with dried fruits or sugar.
    I have been eating LC diet since Nov.2007, and feel I can do it forever, unlike unsalted rice..
  34. Jill
    Thank you for your response Wade. Thiamin deficiency or beriberi is a dreadful condition that can lead to coma and death. I wonder if a diet of mostly polished rice causes health problems including low weight.
  35. Wade Henderson
    Galina, Some folks can eat forever on a low-carb diet and some can do the same on a low-fat diet. As long as within those two types, they both choose their foods wisely, I imagine they are both going to greatly improve their health and numbers.

    Which of the two, if practiced optimally (with good ingredients), will produce the best outcome over 20 or 30 yealrs is probably the question.

    However, neither is of much value if one cannot sustain the general concepts.
    Thus there is no doubt that a low-carb diet is superior to a failed diet of any other type where the participant gives up within the first year.
    People have to figure out which diet they can sustain rather than making either the only way to salvation.

    Really, it often seems that one side of "followers" from either choice, spend a lot of energy trying to prove the other diet will produce a poor outcome, and that people/cultures that eat that way for centuries must have been wrong, and further, that there are other reasons for their ability to stay slender and healthy.

    There really are many shared concepts.

    Veggies good- eat lots more.
    Sugar bad- eats far less.
    Refined carbs bad- When you have carbs, make them complexed.
    Drinking calories bad, even when its real juice. (eat the apple, don't drink it)

    Just following those few ideas alone would probably reduce America's "excess" weight by about 30 to 40 percent over a decade or so.

    Not by chance that we are now seeing a concerted effort by the combined group of Coca Cola, Pepsi, Dr. Pepper, and the American Beverage Association, to combat what they fear will be a effort to turn them into the demons of the obesity epidemic.

    New York City is running the following ads.

  36. @ Wade,
    I agree with this generally apart from one thing; some complex carbs are highly refined;
    white flour, french fries, pasta, etc. are all complex carbohydrate (starch)
    Whereas honey is unrefined (except by bees) but high in simple sugars.

    The sugar companies are the new cigarettes.

    It is possible, and has been done, to compare low-carb and other diets, over increasingly long periods. Low-carb diets do come out better, again and again, but stickability with any diet is all-important.
    However, on a low-fat or low-calory diet your health only improves if there is weightloss; on high-fat, low-carb diets there is usually measurable health improvement even when weight stays stable.
    Low carbohydrate diets improve atherogenic dyslipidemia even in the absence of weight loss
    Richard D Feinman1* and Jeff S Volek2

  37. Galina L.
    @George Henderson,
    A regular low-fat diet is a feast when compared to the low-salt-low-fat rice diet, I can tell from my personal experience because I tried both. It is very possible for a low-fat diet to taste good and to be sustainable for at least that reason. I doubt Asian people eat very bland meals even if they don't put salt into their rice. I am not talking about populations which face hunger and almost constant food deficit. It is quite a different situation.
    At least in my case, low-fat eating controls appetite and hunger much worse than a low-carbohydrate eating, and I use LC to eat less without a discomfort. I grew-up in a fast-food free society, all my life I cook every meal for myself and my family, except when we travel, so I don't compare SAD with LF or LC . After turning 45, keeping my weight at reasonable range became more challenging, my LC diet also brought huge health improvements for me (migraines and allergies management, infection resistance, pre-menopause symptoms elimination and more), my mom also normalized her blood pressure with a LC diet.
  38. Wade,
    As far as I know, the Duke rice clinic is still functioning and doing well with success if you can live like that.

    As for complex carbohydrates, I can't help pointing to the "guest" post on my blog:
    The anagrammatic Dr. Ferdinand I. Charm points out that:
    Complex carbohydrates... still refer, in organic chemistry, to polysaccharides such as starches and for many years, it was absolute dogma in nutrition that complex carbohydrates were more slowly absorbed than simple sugars. Science advances, however, and when measurements were actually made it was found not to be so so simple, giving rise to the concept of the glycemic index. The term “complex,” had since then been used loosely but has currently evolved to have a more precise meaning derived from mathematics, that is, as in complex numbers, having a real part and an imaginary part although the recent Guidelines from the USDA make it difficult to tell which is which.

  39. Alexandra M
    " in complex numbers, having a real part and an imaginary part although the recent Guidelines from the USDA make it difficult to tell which is which."

    LOL! Nice one. ;-)

  40. Wade Henderson
    OK Richard, What I meant by "complexed" carbs would be "good" carbs.
    Anyone who can't investigate and figure out which are "good" and which are "poor" may not be a candidate for any plan that describes itself as depending on carbs for any significant portion of its calories.

    BTW, that would include about 80% of the people who bought into the "low fat" fad that was dominant in the past 20 years. The Snackwell, Entenmann's crowd.
    The "low fat" moniker that all too many use as a strawman when comparing diets with the intention of showing "low fat" is bad compared to any healthy low-carb plan.

    I'm certain that there are many reasonably intelligent people who are improving their health on both types of plans, when done proper fashion.
    Example, President Bill Clinton seems to have found his road to better health in a Ornish type of diet (although he attributes his current weight loss and heart/vascular/blood numbers to several proponents of similar plans)

    Tonight, on CBS5 in San Francisco, a local media doctor will begin a multi-night series promoting the Paleo diet. One she went on last year.
    She more or less claims it is "THE" answer. She seems a bit to far "born again" and never includes alternative views or methods for arriving at the same health gains.

  41. George Henderson
    Wade says:

    "Anyone who can't investigate and figure out which are "good" and which are "poor" may not be a candidate for any plan that describes itself as depending on carbs for any significant portion of its calories."

    Here Here. People will investigate pesticides or GM components, which represent a tiny portion of any diet, yet go through life without investigating the pounds of bioactive material - fats, carbohydrates, and protein - that they process every day.

    The SAD is so BAD that even an Ornish diet will greatly improve numbers, weight, etc.
    But compared to an Atkins diet, the Ornish performs very poorly in these areas.
    It is all relative.

    Also, the LC diet brings about improvement that allows many people (if not too far gone in DM2 or obesity) to eat carbohydrate (of the "safe starch" sort) again after a while and prosper.
    This can give the impresson that the LC was unnecessary, whereas in fact it was medicinal, and will be in future if metabolism breaks again.

  42. George Henderson
    A complex dietary carbohydrate, non-fibre, is usually a polymer of glucose; this could be amylose in starch, or glycogen in liver. Multiple sugar molecules are linked like freightcars = complex.

    A simple sugar (carbohydrate) is one, or two linked (disaccharide), sugar molecules, usually glucose, fructose, or galactose.

    Refining is any industrial process of seperation that results in a greater concentration of any one component, by the removal of impurities, fibre or unwanted nutrients.

    Fibre is those complex cabohydrates and simple sugars that cannot be digested, except in some cases by gut bacteria.

  43. Zepp
    Wade, there are no bad or good carbs, just carbs.. almoste pure energy, its about eating a lot of refined carbs without nutrition, that is the major problem today!

    And there was a lot of populatins that did eat a lot of carbs, but they get it from real food, or they eat it with real food, so they get all there essential nutrishment.

    And thera was populations that didnt eat a lot of carbs, but more meat and fat.. and they altso got all there essential nutrishments.

    And there was and are altso a lot of populations thet eat a lot of of carbs but lacks there essential nutrients, and get sick, like pelagra, beriberi, kwasiokor, rakitis.. and so on!

    So its probably more about malnutrition and to much energy, rather then "bad" carbs!

    And at last.. Asias population is not known to have the best healt or longevity, with som countrys being among does how is healty.

    Its those rich contrys, like Japan and Singapore, and they are as healty as same rich contrys in Europe and in North america.

  44. Megan Leonard
    You also have to consider these peoples' consumption of fermented foods like kimchi and other fermented delicacies that we do not normally eat in the West. They are extremely good for the gut and help promote overall good health.
  45. american girl
    My sister lived in Tokyo for 8 years. She gave birth to her last child in Tokyo & raised her 2 older children in the Japanese public school system. Thus she became immersed in Japanese culture. I went and visited 5 or 6 times, often for a month or so at a time. Being a chef (and also very interested in nutrition) I spent a fair amount of time cooking with some of the Japanese families in her neighborhood to learn home-style cooking. As a result, I can tell you that the hypothesis of this article is unfounded. The majority of Japanese people DO NOT eat brown rice, they eat white rice. Furthermore, being one of the most industrialized countries in the world, most Japanese people are indeed sitting at a desk all day (just like us) and they aren't crazy exercise freaks like we are here. It is true that the Japanese eat very few sweets and almost NO sugary drinks, but they do use quite a lot of sugar in their cooking. And yet even so, they are still very thin. I think the main reason for this is that they revere food and put a high value on eating a proper meal. They almost always eat 3 balanced meals a day consisting of protein, starch, & vegetables, even at breakfast. A typical breakfast or lunch might be a piece of fish, some rice, and some type of steamed vegetable. Most Japanese do not take vitamins (not even pre-natal!!!) instead their philosophy is to 'Eat 30 different foods a day' in order to get all the nutrients they need directly from their food. Processed junk food & snacking are not really part of their culture.The thing that most surprised me about the Japanese is that they DO NOT avoid animal fat or cholesterol. To the contrary, they consume raw egg yolks, liver & organ meats, lots of shell fish, rich pork-bone broths, and Japanese beef (Wagyu) is prized for it's very high fat content. In fact they traditionally either steam their food or cook with beef fat, not vegetable oils like we do here. Sukiyaki is always sauteed with a small piece of beef fat & the best pork tonkatsu is deep fried in 100% beef fat (and then served with a heaping mound of raw shaved cabbage and some rice). Thus, what I learned from spending time in Japan is that as long as you eat a balanced diet (and that means eating some animal fat) with lots & lots of vegetables and enough protein (wild fish or pasture raised meats), then having some starch along with your meal is fine and totally healthy. But definitely be sure to eat LOTS of vegetables & include animal fats. Making that small change in my diet was a revelation for me. And try to include seaweed as well. The Japanese eat tons of it for good reason: it's full of trace minerals & it inhibits insulin spikes. Having witnessed first hand the results I can tell you that eating a balanced diet like this really works. You will not feel the urge to snack and do not need to eliminate starch.
  46. Mick
    This is an interesting discussion!

    From my perspective the problem with this article its very first assumption that raising insulin is bad and makes you fat.

    This very much reminds of how the Cholesterol / Heart theory started back in 50's based on flimsy evidence and disregarding anything that proved otherwise.

    The low carb paleo community has been quick to jump on board this theory and defend it to seven hells and back, and again this really mimics the low-fat dogma of the 50's. Personally I was on that bandwagon for a few years and I had great results. But now I've introduced starch back into my diet I feel even better.

    There's a couple of things that disprove the "eatings carbs spikes insulin which stores as fat theory"

    A lot of what I know is taken from this site where the author debunks "insulin is bad" myth after researching many studies:

    The first one is that eating anything will cause your insulin levels to increase. The difference between low carb and high carb meals isn't that great as long as there is some mixture of protein and carbs.

    Secondly higher levels of insulin suprress hunger -

    thirdly insulin is required for normal body functions such as building muscle.

    There is no doubt chronically high levels of insulin resulting in insulin resistance is not healthy for you, but for normal healthy people spiking insulin after meals is a very normal and necessary function for the body.

    Insulin also carries glycogen and amino acids into your muscle post exercise.

    Now about Asian people and rice I'd hypoethise the author has not spent a whole of time in Asia, like the previous commenter who spent time in Japan I spent a lot of time in Korea and China and all of the generalisations they make are on partially right:

    1. They eat less refined sugar - This is probably true. I'm in Malaysia now and their sugar consumption is extremely high, they have one of the highest rates of diabetes in the world

    2. Eating unrefined starch like brown rice - Most people are eating white rice, the biggest difference between how east and west consume rice is that Japanese and Koreans only eat quite small portions with their meals. It's not considered the mainstay of the meal, merely a side dish as a filler.

    3. Asians are somehow more active than westerners - This is the main point I disagree with, I would say Eastern industrialised countries are about the same as the West. Not everyone in Asia is a poor working farmer!

    My own hypothesis is that insulin is not bad...chronically raised insulin and insulin resistance yes, its not good for you.

    The main things that have changed in the past 100 years in the west

    1. Sugar consumption has increased a lot
    2. Refined vegetable oils high in omega-6 fatty acids have increased
    3. Highly processed, very cheap, high carb food is easily available.
    4. Meal frequency has increased - people are eating 4,5,6,7 meals and snacks a day which keeps insulin levels high and possibly this has also increased total calories that people eat.

    I do not think carbs per se are bad as long as they are from a natural source and they're eaten with other healthy protein and fats.

    Check out martin berkhan's leangains for an example of a guy who carb loads after exercise to spike insulin and build muscle. I've also been following his method for a while now with very good fat loss results and generally feeling better.

  47. Melissa Luxmooe
    I don't normally weigh in on these conversations ..... each to their own. However, I think that your assumption that Asians eat brown rice is completely wrong. I have spent a lot of time travelling in Asian countries, spending time in the rural/traditional communities as well as the tourist areas and the ONLY time I have ever seen brown rice served in these countries was by a WESTERN 'Health' Cafe. Asians always eat white rice. In addition to this, they most definitely use sugar and lots of it. Perhaps not the white garbage in western countries but I'm sorry sugar is sugar as far as the pancreas is concerned.
  48. Wade Henderson
    OK, we all agree to disagree with the author about Asians eating brown rice.
    Anyone who has been there knows only about 1% of the rice eaten is brown.


    "American Girl' corrrectly describes the Japanese as eating animal products with many meals, along with the veggies and rice.

    However I think one might get a false impression if one assumes they eat servings that are anywhere similar to what Americans eat.

    Some data, from 1999

    Beef consumption in Kilos per capita -- Japan 11.7 USA 45.3
    Pork consumption in Kilos per capita -- Japan 17.0 USA 31.7
    Poultry consumption kilos per capita -- Japan 13.7 USA 49.6

    Source, US Department of Agriculture.

    Now, no doubt, they eat more fish than Americans do.

    You may also want to compare mainland Japan with the Japanese island of Okinawa.
    To the extent you trust Wikipedia, you can read a brief synopsis of what they eat, percentages of animal products, veggies, carbs and the like. They are famous for eating a certain variety of sweet potato even more so than rice.

    Okinawans are well known for their traditional eating individuals having one of the longest lifespans.
    I do understand however that newer generations have been changing their ways with Westernization.
    This shift is mentioned in the paragraph.

    Still, the Okinawans and their health has long been examined as a example of ONE way in which a person might want to live a healthy life.
    As I've stated, in all my travels to Asia, I cannot just throw out these examples where millions and millions of people live healthy lives while never avoiding carbs, yet at the same time eating very few of the garbage carbs and sugars we see so common in the American obese population's typical diet.

  49. Chris
    Quick question.

    I avoid sugar (desserts, candy, soda) like the plague. Eating it makes me feel bad. I also try to avoid junk carbs (chips, crackers, etc) and fake fats.

    I do eat a lot of fruit (along with good fats, protein, greens and lesser amounts of whole grain carbs (brown rice, cracked wheat, etc). I know that fruit has fructose, but Lustig says it also has fiber which slows the absorption of sugar.

    Is fruit a problem?


  50. September Amyx
    When I returned to the US after a tour overseas in the military it was 1979. Just about that time was when the government and everyone else starting saying that fats were bad for your health. Within a couple of years, eating meat with meals moved from being around about one third to one half of each meal, to being about one tenth. On top of that, they were telling everyone to eat lean, no red beef or pork, eat chicken or fish because they needed to avoid cholesterol. From that point on our society everyone became fatter and fatter. First of all, no one realized how we used to have 3 square meals a day after a decade of that, kids had become adults seeing and hearing all about no or low fat. The reason that cholesterol was supposed to be bad was because of the large number of heart attacks that men had in the 1950's. However, those numbers declined significantly in the 1960's, and has never returned to that level. The science that came out about cholesterol has been disproved, however I rarely encounter anyone who knows that. Because of the mandate on low fat, a lot of food in our diets became altered with abnormal components in order to create the low fat kind. Butter, cream, lard, etc. There have been studies done that show that people who don't eat processed food and avoid sugar usually don't have a weight problem. People know about that sometimes, but EVERYONE has gotten used to fast food, and processed food, and simply cannot connect the dots to live with whole foods. That is mainly because they are kept at a frenzied pace at work (stress, weight goes up) and whenever they try to diet they are sabotaged by lack of correct information regarding food, and the addictive substances put into processed and fast foods that cause them withdrawal symptoms (addiction, weight goes up). I actually read a study recently where the conclusion was that 'this food additive does have a high addiction property.' This wasn't a study by MD's to help weight loss, this was a study done by a food company.
    The low level long term exposure to pesticides has been known to cause changes in hormones that resulted in such things as micro-penises, breast growth in men, attention disorders, abnormal relationship behaviors, lack of coordination, apathy, and more.
    What this means is that daily- we are exposed to and consume addictive foods, we are exposed to false information designed to increase stress, we are working in jobs that used to take 4 or 5 people to do which increases our stress. AND the daily pesticide exposure that can't be avoided steadily causes hormones to erode our ability to perceive, analyze, and problem solve, have normal relationships, care about life in general, and we are so awkward in motion we stay away from group exercises.
    Do you think that obesity is all our fault through human ignorance and laziness?! Not!
    There is going to be a third element soon, and that is genetically engineered or modified food. It's already been proven that it causes problems in the environment in insects and mammals. But supposedly even though humans are mammals, we are assured that the crops are safe to consume. I used to believe in my government.
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