Low carb revolution comes to West Virginia
Why were nearly 100 citizens including the wives of two NFL Hall of Famers gathered at Sam Michael’s Rec Center last Thursday? My friend Melanie Miller was igniting the social media world and sharing her story and some simple food rules that can reverse “disease” and restore health and people were doing it. Melanie and I met at a community health meeting where several were talking about more exercise initiatives and even “Weight Watchers” as a means to fight obesity in a community. I challenged this by bringing up “what about the person who has a rod in their ankle, they and about 20% of the population have a disability where they cannot do adequate exercise. Do we just forget about them and let them get fat and diabetes?”. Across the table was Melanie who had a rod in her ankle and gained 100 pounds after this horrible event and was struggling to find her health again. The Revolution was ignited.
The method costs nothing and 1000s of people around the world have used this eating style for over 100 years to prevent and reverse obesity and diabetes. Even Hollywood actors use this method when they need to gain or lose weight for a role. The event was hosting by myself, Melanie, and former medical patient Terry Caswell; both whom had gotten their lives back and were now helping others. The demand was high to share more. We had nothing to sell: no products, no monthly plans, no pills, no surgery, no hour long gym sessions. Also no calories or points to count, no fitness trackers or apps; just eat adequate protein, fat to satiety and limit carbohydrate. Exercise is great for your health, but it is not for weight loss. [Need convincing. Watch this lecture. Rebranding Exercise: Why Exercise is the World’s Best Drug, Just Not a Weight Loss Drug ]
In the beginning of my medical career I promoted the idea that a high-carbohydrate diet/low fat was essential for athletic performance and for heart health and exercise was the key to weight control. I continued to promote a high carbohydrate diet until 2011 when I was the lead on a US Air Force project designing programs to help Airman pass the fitness test. I realized by looking at the data that the failures correlated with obesity, not physical activity levels. So I threw out everything I thought was true about nutrition and approached the topic without bias, just as I had done years before while challenging the dogma that feet needed highly supportive shoes with a heel to run and walk.
Prior to 2011 I was constantly eating and chasing carbs: big cereal bowl with skim milk for breakfast, more bread for lunch, an afternoon snack bar, dinner was spaghetti (a pound sometimes), even before bed and at 2 am I downed large bowls of cereal and skim milk. My weight was ok so I thought this was normal and patients should just do the same, exercise and burn the calories. “A calorie is a calorie”.right?
Then I came across a 2002 New York Times article by Gary Taubes called “Maybe It’s All Been a Big Fat Lie” which led me down the rabbit hole. After 5 years I have researched by reading a basement full of books and over 1000 articles, as well as discussions with 100’s of patients coming through our hospital and stress test lab. This exposure introduced me to ideas that myself and other physicians had not been taught during medical training.
I have had the privilege of working with the leading sports science mind of our time Dr. Tim Noakes of South Africa. He acquired adult diabetes and rethought everything he though was true also, then changed his life and practice. Now South Africa is experiencing a “Banting” Revolution which is now invading the shores of the UK. West Virginia is next! [Banting was a famed British undertaker who lost tremendous weight by giving up starch]
So how did we arrive to this place of ill health? Is diabetes and obesity new disease or maybe a mismatch of human design in an environment which it has never been exposed. Why are humans making conscious choice that impair our survival when no other animals do this? Let’s look at it from two views.
If are a Creationist you might reflect on Einstein’s famous quote “I want to know God’s thoughts, the rest are details”. (Why were we created to efficiently store carbohydrate energy?)
If you believe we evolved then here is a thought from Theodosius Dobzhansky: “Nothing in biology makes sense except in the light of evolution” . (What is the survival benefit did energy storage and conservation?)
Together with Dr. Noakes and another colleague Dr. Daniel Lieberman of Harvard we lay out seven simple facts which begin to explain the paradox. Are humans designed to be healthy or are we designed to survive in times of famine?
1. Insulin resistance is the most common medical condition present in a majority of the world’s populations (over half the population in the US has diabetes or pre-Diabetes). This is probably a normal human state to be efficient at storing carbohydrate and likely served a purpose before sugars were available 24 hours a day.
2. Those with insulin resistance who eat high carbohydrate diets develop persistently elevated blood insulin concentrations. Higher insulin levels promote more resistance. So it is a doom loop unless you reverse it. Why do people fail on Weight Watchers? Look up the Zero Point list. If you are insulin resistant and eat bananas and mango all day it is a disaster.
3. Persistently elevated blood insulin concentrations (hyperinsulinemia) over many years are the direct cause of many of the chronic medical conditions that currently plague modern societies and correlate highly to feared conditions such as Alzheimer’s and many cancers.
4. Obesity is a disorder of abnormal fat accumulation driven by hyperinsulinemia in those with insulin resistance eating more carbohydrate than their insulin-resistant bodies can handle. You gain weight because you are insulin resistant, which is present before the obesity and diabetes. You do not become insulin resistant because you are lazy and glutinous.
5. Obesity cannot occur without an associated dysfunction of the brain appestat that determines when we are hungry and regulates how much we eat. Carbs are addictive and hit the happy centers of the brain. The body will also defend the obese state hormonally.
6. Dysfunction of the appestat is caused by the addictive, highly processed, industrial diet that has become the global norm since the 1977 Dietary Guidelines that demonized real foods as being “unhealthy”, paving the way for the current global epidemics of obesity and type 2 diabetes. I believe that we would have a healthier nation if the government (and their agencies) did not tell us how to eat.
7. The reversal of these conditions requires that we promote the consumption of real foods that do not cause hyperinsulinemia and appestat dysfunction. These are foods with healthy fats, proteins, and non-starchy veggies. If you eat carbs you burn carbs, if you eat fat you burn fat.
The future of West Virginia and maybe the world depends on whether or not we understand these 7 simple truths and stop giving dietary advice that in my opinion is the cause of ill health to the majority of our citizens. Yes the majority, an article in last month’s Journal of the American Medical Association estimate the prevalence of either diabetes or prediabetes to be above 50%, and this is likely an underestimate of people as these subjects have already failed to compensate for the stress of insulin resistance and a high sugar environment. There is also a pre- prediabetes. Ask yourself what is your trajectory. Are you heading for safe harbor or over the cliff? Two simple questions can answer this. Is your body composition changing and what is your Hemoglobin A1c (measure of average sugar). Both of these should be ideal, not merely under the bar when we consider it disease.
I witness patients everyday needlessly suffer from lack of education on what is going on in their bodies and living each day with the dismal outlook that the lousy way they feel is the future. Poorly conceived dietary recommendations based on poorly conducted science has resulted in arguably the greatest tragedy in the history of medicine, and is now effecting national and global health. Despite advanced medicine the trajectory of our children may be to die sooner and sicker than our parents.
There is undeniable basic science that healthy essential fats are needed for a healthy body but the food category of “fats” does not appear on the “My Plate” (www.choosemyplate.gov/ ). If a citizen with no nutritional background were to look at the plate the government is promoting and it does not even include fats he/she would take the assumption that fats are inherently bad and should be avoided at all costs. This is what many in our country do and their health suffers the consequences. Health care professionals and citizens do not understand the breadth of insulin resistance and even the highly promoted Mediterranean style diet might not be optimal for all, even if optimal for one who is not insulin resistant.
So I conclude that the only thing we know about truth is that the truth changes. Do not get wrapped up in what Stephen Colbert coined as Truthiness. You too can join the Revolution at Melanie’s Weight Loss Journey on Facebook. For specific information on this type of diet and lifestyle go to Part 1 and Part 2 on tworiverstreads.com/simple-food-rules/.