Category Archives: diet

Saturated fat, cholesterol, and carbohydrates

“You catch more flies with honey…”

^^^good policy in general, but especially for debating in the realm of nutritional sciences.

 

A short while back, Nina Teicholz discussed low carb ketogenic diets and plant-based diets with John Mackey.  Although I disagree with the dichotomy (keto vs. plant-based), it’s well-worth a watch:

 

 

Three topics that could not be avoided in such a discussion: saturated fat, cholesterol, and carbohydrates.

 

 

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Meal frequency, intermittent fasting, and dietary protein

Dietary protein “requirements” are some of the most context-dependent nutrient levels to decipher, and depend largely on energy balance and even meal frequency.

An objective look at intermittent fasting (Alan Aragon, 2007)

Meal frequency and energy balance (Lyle McDonald, 2008)

New study: “Increased meal frequency attenuates fat-free mass losses and some markers of health status with a portion-controlled weight loss diet” (Alencar et al., 2015)

This wasn’t well-received in social media because bro-science & many low carb advocates say grazing is no longer in vogue — “it’s much better/healthier/whatever to eat once or twice daily, because intermittent fasting and all that jazz” …however, this may be problematic when it comes to meeting overall protein needs, which is particularly important when you’re losing weight.

 

 

The study: 2 vs. 6 meals per day, crossover.  

Conclusion: “On average, fat-free mass (FFM) decreased by -3.3% following the 2 meals/d condition and, on average, and increased by 1.2% following the 6 meals/d condition (P<.05).”  

 

fat-free mass

 

In other words, 6 meals per day was better for body composition than 2 meals per day.  But context is everything, and this hypothesis has been tested from a variety of different angles, so what does it mean?  

The relevant context here: 1) big energy deficit (1200 kcal/d for obese women is a pretty low calorie intake); and 2) “adequateTM” protein intake (75 g/d).

The standard dogma says that in the context of an adequate protein hypocaloric diet, meal frequency matters a LOT, whereas with high protein, it doesn’t matter as much.  Theory being that with an “adequate” (read: too low?) overall protein intake, the fasting periods are simply too long with only two meals per day; you need either: 1) higher protein intake; 2) increased meal frequency; or 3) more calories (ie, smaller energy deficit).  

In this study, BOTH diets suppressed insulin and induced weight loss, but the increased protein feeding frequency skewed the weight loss to body fat while preserving fat-free mass.   I actually agree with a lot of the bro-science in this case, and also think that 75 grams of protein is not enough in the context of a big energy deficit (if body composition is a goal).    




 

Historical precedence?

 

Meal frequency and weight reduction of young women (Finkelstein et al., 1971)

Relevant context:  6 vs. 3 meals per day (3 meals per day may not seem like that many more than 2, but it significantly cuts down on the duration of time spent with no food or protein).

Smaller energy deficit: 1700 kcal/d in overweight patients is less of a deficit than 1200 kcal/d in obese patients.

Higher protein intake: 106 – 115g/d.

Result: nitrogen balance (a surrogate for the maintenance of muscle mass) and fat loss were similar in both groups.  This study fixed two problems in the abovementioned study: 1) 3 meals is better than 2 in the context of an energy deficit; and 2) protein intake was higher.

 

And again here, with 3 vs. 6 meals per day (Cameron et al., 2010), just to make the point that 3 meals per day is better than 2 for preserving lean mass in the context of an energy deficit.

 

The effect of meal frequency and protein concentration on the composition of the weight lost by obese subjects (Garrow et al., 1981)

This study tested the opposite extremes: super-low calorie intake (800 kcal/d), much lower protein intakes (20g – 30g/d), and 1 vs. 5 meals per day.

Result: “a diet with a high-protein concentration, fed as frequent small meals, is associated with better preservation of lean tissue than an isoenergetic diet with lower-protein concentration fed as fewer meals.”

It basically confirmed all of the above.

 

Protein feeding pattern does not affect protein retention in young women (Arnal et al., 2000)

1 vs. 4 meals per day; and 70 grams of protein but no energy deficit (~2000 kcal/d isn’t very hypocaloric for lean young women).  In this study, no effect of meal frequency was seen, likely because 70 grams of protein isn’t inadequate when energy intake isn’t restricted.

 

 

 

1. PROTEIN “NEEDS” ARE HIGHLY CONTEXT-DEPENDENT

2. NEED =/= OPTIMIZATION

3. MEAL FREQUENCY & meal timing and peripheral circadian clocks > “MACRONUTRIENTS”

 

If you’re losing weight (ie, in an energy deficit), then intermittent fasting is cool if protein intake is high (above “adequateTM“)… the bigger the energy deficit, the more protein is necessary to optimize changes in body composition.

 

How much is ‘enough?’  Sorry, can’t give you a gram or even gram per pound of body weight answer… but if you’re losing weight and seeing no discernible effect on body composition (muscle vs. fat mass), then it may be prudent to consider eating more protein-rich foods… and paying more attention to sleep quality (which also greatly impacts nutrient partitioning).

No amount of protein will help you if circadian rhythms aren’t intact!!!

 

 

further reading:

Yes, it’s a high protein diet (Tom Naughton, 2015)

Protein requirements, carbs, and nutrient partitioning

Dietary protein, ketosis, and appetite control 

 

 

calories proper

 

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Good calories

Nuts are good calories.

I’m not a big fan of the omega-6 fatty acid linoleate, but that’s largely in the context of processed foods and confectioneries, where it’s more than likely no longer in it’s native form (Dc9,1218:2n6)… but in the context of unprocessed whole foods (eg, nuts), a little n6 is fine imo.

What are good calories?  They’re nutrient-dense and don’t generally lead to overeating… like the opposite of soda and junk food.  Nuts are low carb and many are highly ketogenic (eg, Brazils, macadamias, and pecans are ~90%fat).  Mr. Ramsey may even approve of macadamias because they have virtually zero PUFAs.

BONUS: magnesium, copper, selenium, many trace minerals and micronutrients, etc., etc.

I’m not saying you should crack open a can of Deluxe Mixed Nuts and sit down with nothing to do other than NOM NOM NOM ALL THE NUTZ.  I’m talking about a few nuts with a meal.  Possibly earlier in the day (coinciding with LIGHT); nuts are tryptophan-rich and this may improve melatonin onset -> good for circadian rhythms:

 

nuts and melatonin

 

 

Appetitive, dietary, and health effects of almonds consumed with meals or as snacks: a randomized controlled trial (Tan and Mattes, 2013)

In this study, the participants were instructed to eat a serving of almonds (~43g, ~245 kcal) daily for four weeks, at different times of the day (with breakfast, midmorning snack, lunch, or afternoon snack).

Regardless of when the almonds were consumed, the calories were practically completely compensated for.  The participants unwittingly ate less other stuff.  And in 3 out of 4 of the conditions, the almonds were so satiating that the participants actually ended up eating fewer overall calories.

That, in a nutshell, is what I call “good calories,” and I don’t think it’s too far from Taubes’ original definition… especially because it was accompanied with [modest] reductions in body fat (NS).  To be clear, they were instructed to eat more (in the form of almonds), but ended up eating less, BECAUSE ALMONDS.  This wasn’t a cross-sectional study, so no healthy user bias or other obvious confounders.

Further, the participants clearly weren’t obesity resistant.  They were overweight, obese, or lean with a strong family history of type 2 diabetes.  Sam Feltham would’ve been excluded.

This is not an isolated finding: another study showed a dose-dependent response to almonds: 28g or 42g consumed in the morning resulted in a compensatory reduction of hunger and total energy intake at lunch and dinner (Hull et al., 2014).  This wouldn’t happen with soda or junk food.

 

 

Another study tested ~350 kcal almonds daily for 10 weeks and concluded: “Ten weeks of daily almond consumption did not cause a change in body weight. This was predominantly due to compensation for the energy contained in the almonds through reduced food intake from other sources” (Hollis and Mattes, 2007).

Almonds vs. complex carbs? Almonds, FTW.

1 Brazil nut daily: “After 6 months, improvements in verbal fluency and constructional praxis (two measures of cognitive performance) were significantly greater on the supplemented group when compared with the control group.”    ONE FRIGGIN’ NUT!

 

http://www.dreamstime.com/-image11630100

 

Walnuts protect against alcohol-induced liver damage (in rats) (Bati et al., 2015) and may improve brain health (in humans) (Poulose et al., 2014).

Pistachios improve metabolic and vascular parameters (Kasliwal et al., 2015).

Meta-analysis (not an intervention study): nut consumption is associated with lower risk of all-cause mortality (Grosso et al., 2015). Yeah yeah yeah, I know, correlation =/= causation.  Whatever.

Nuts are good calories.  That’s all I’m saying.

 

Tl;dr: buy these and one of these, not this.

 

 

calories proper

 

 

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Carbs: Low vs. Lower

 

 

This was met with much backlash from the low carb cavalry, because, well, if low is good then lower must be better

I’m not anti-keto; but I’m not anti-science.  FACT.  

 

“…some people are not genetically equipped to thrive in prolonged nutritional ketosis.” –Peter Attia

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Circadian Disruption Impairs Survival in the Wild

…just read that huge disasters, ranging from Exxon Valdez to Chernobyl, may have been due, in part, to ignorance of basic principles of circadian rhythms.  Gravitas.

 

circadian rhythms

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Meal timing and peripheral circadian clocks

More on why breakfast in the morning, with light onset is important to avoid circadian desynchrony.

FOOD is excellent at entraining peripheral circadian clocks: if you restrict animals to one meal per day, their peripheral circadian clocks rapidly become entrained to this, regardless of when the meal is administered (Hirao et al., 2010):

 

zeitgeber entraining

ZT0 = “zeitgeber time 0,” or “lights on.” pZT indicates a phase shift coinciding almost exactly with meal timing. Mice normally eat at night, but this doesn’t stop their peripheral clocks from entraining to the day time if that’s when their fed.

This study took it to the next level: they fed 2 meals per day, varying in size, time of day, and duration between meals in almost every conceivable combination.  Actually, it was a quite epic study… some poor grad students working, literally, around the clock, for months…

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Vitamin D, Fiat Lux, and Circadian Rhythms

Vitamin D synthesis is TEAMWORK!

Skin: 7-dehydrocholesterol + UVB = previtamin D3.
Liver: Previtamin D3 –> 25(OH)-Vitamin D3.
Kidney: 25(OH)-Vitamin D3 –> 1,25(OH)2-Vitamin D3 if you need it or 24,25(OH)2-Vitamin D3 if you don’t.

N.B. one of the major regulatory pathways occurs in skin: if you’re getting a lot of sunlight, then skin darkens to block this step.  Supplemental and dietary Vitamin D3 bypass this… but the dietary Vitamin D supply rarely produces toxicity because it’s not very abundant.  In other words, sunlight Vitamin D never reaches toxic levels.  Supps could (rare, but possible).

Disclaimer: I’m not against Vit D supps, but prefer sunlight whenever possible.

The other major regulatory step is in the kidney.  Production of 1,25(OH)2-Vitamin D3 is tightly regulated — so blood levels don’t decline until your very deficient… so 25(OH)-Vitamin D3 is a better indicator of skin production and dietary intake.

Disclaimer #2: this post is not about any of the pleiotropic effects of Vitamin D or D supps, which range in value from worthless to helpful to possibly harmful.

For some of that stuff, see:

Vitamin D: still a scam, still immunosuppressive… by Jane Plain

The Vitamin D seminar by Ivor Cummins

Vitamin D 101 by Kris Gunnars

The Vitamin D Debacle with Ivor Cummins and Sam Feltham

all of the above are more pro-D supps than me, which I find perfectly OK.

 

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OmniCarb

Why Low Carb?

OmniCarb (Sacks et al., 2014)

Study design & results in a nutshell:

5 weeks, low(ish) vs. high carb (40 vs. 58%) with the calorie difference split between protein (23 vs. 16%) and fat (37 vs. 27%).  In other words, the low(ish) carb diet was higher in protein and fat.  And there was 2 versions of each diet —  a high and low glycemic index.  Lots of crossing over; all in all, weak intervention but decent study design & execution.

Aaaand nothing drastic happened.  Goal was insulin sensitivity, not weight loss.

 

glucose and insulin

 

Important points:

1) The participants were relatively healthy at baseline.  Anyone on meds was excluded.  Average BMI 32.  Mostly educated non-smokers.  This population is expected to respond reasonably well to any diet (wrt body weight… see next point).

2) “Calorie intake was adjusted to maintain initial body weight.”

^^^this really knocks the wind out of low carb. One of the big benefits of cutting carbs is spontaneous appetite suppression –- two points here: 1) this effect is most prominent in obese IR; and 2) it is more relevant to weight loss.  By not targeting insulin resistant and/or type 2 diabetics, and feeding specifically to prevent weight loss, I ask you this: Why Low Carb?

3) the biggest difference between the two diets was carbs (45% higher in low[ish] fat group), but the biggest difference from baseline, was protein in the LC group (53% increase).  In other words, the Low Carb group had their carbs decreased from 50 to 40% of calories. *meh*

4) Body composition wasn’t assessed; so even if LCHP induced nutrient partitioning and improved body comp, we wouldn’t know it.

5) Everyone was eating cereal or oatmeal for breakfast, bread with most meals, and pasta or rice for dinner.  What did you expect?  Really?

REALLY?

Prior posts in what seems to be developing into a series of rants:
2 New Diet Studies
CICO and rant 

 

calories proper

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Circadian phase: role of diet

Circadian phase advance: going to bed earlier, waking up earlier.  Blue blockers at sunset, bright light at sunrise.  Flying east.  Autumn.

Circadian phase delay: staying up late, sleeping in.  Flying west.  Spring.  Using smart phones, tablets, and iPads in bed at night.  Light pollution.

Relative to adolescents, infants and children are circadian phase advanced.  This is part of what is fueling the movement to delay high school start times.  Kids are mentally better prepared to work later in the day.  With early school start times, performance is down in the morning, but they kill it on video games after school.  Delaying start time by an hour won’t totally fix this, but could help.

Edit: it seems like a similar movement is happening for adults, too – ie, starting work an hour later.

I’m not saying everything healthwise deteriorates with age, but the gradual circadian phase delay that occurs with aging and overusing blue light-emitting devices at night might not be a good thing.  If a particular diet can promote phase advance, why not? (at least it’d be countering the phase delay).

 

 

Possible role of diet

In the top half of the figure below, it’s mice fed a “normal diet (ND) (high carbohydrate)” (Oishi et al., 2012).  During normal “light dark (LD)” conditions, movement and feeding is concentrated in the active phase.  When the lights are permanently turned off in “dark dark (DD)” conditions, the free-running circadian clock begins to shift slightly forward (phase advance), but nothing drastic.

 

Phase advance high protein diet

 

In the bottom half of the figure, during normal LD conditions the mice are switched to a low carb, high protein diet.  Note how activity shifts leftward (phase advance) during the LD condition.  When low carb, high protein-fed mice are then switched to DD, we can see a clear circadian phase advance.

 

High protein metabolism

 

Low carb, high protein-fed mice ate more but didn’t get fat; physical activity and body temperature were unchanged.  But this post isn’t about that.  Gene expression of key circadian transcription factors in liver and kidney exhibited phase advances.

The next figure is study to the one above, although instead of switching to a low carb, high protein diet, the mice were switched to a low carb, high fat diet (Oishi et al., 2009).

Note the similarity of control (high carb diet) mice: gradual phase advance when switched to DD:

 

Ketogenic circadian phase

 

The phase advance is markedly enhanced in low carb, high fat-fed mice.

The circadian regulation of activity is similarly affected by low carb, high protein, and low carb, high fat diets.  What do those two diets have in common?

A bit of a stretch? carbohydrate restriction mimics some aspects of avoiding artificial light at night and being young: phase advance.  Whether the carbs are replaced with protein or fat doesn’t seem to matter in this aspect.

 

Wanna know what else can do this?  FOOD.  The food-entrainable oscillator (FEO) kickstarts circadian rhythms.  Rodent studies have shown that timed feeding, regardless of the actual time, consistently realigns the circadian expression of numerous genes (eg, Polidarova et al., 2011 and Sherman et al., 2012).

So what’s the hack?  Food: do more of it, earlier in the day.  Phase advance.  Kind of like avoiding artificial light at night or being young.

 

Oh, and mice exposed to dim light at night (who are pretty much metabolically screwed)? phase DELAYED (Fonken et al., 2010).

 

Dim light at night phase delay

 

 

 

calories proper

 

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Vegetable oil fatty acids are not essential. 

They are conditionally essential at best, only if docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) is lacking.  We can’t synthesize omega 3 fatty acids, and indeed they do prevent/cure certain manifestations of “essential fatty acid (EFA) deficiency” (Weise et al., 1958), but DHA can do all that and more.  Not that I recommend this, but a diet completely devoid of 18-carbon vege oil fatty acids will not produce EFA deficiency in the presence of DHA. (“vege,” rhymes with “wedge”)

Essential fatty acid metabolism

 

The “parent essential oils” are linoleic acid (LA) and alpha-linolenic acid (ALA).  The others, which I think are more important and the truly “essential” ones are eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA), arachidonic acid (AA), but mostly just DHA.

The first manifestation of EFA deficiency is dermatitis (Prottey et al., 1975).  Some people say LA is necessary to prevent this, but it would be better phrased as “LA prevents dermatitis;” not “LA is necessary to prevent dermatitis.”  All of the evidence suggesting LA is essential is in the context of DHA deficiency.

Technically, we can convert a bit of ALA to DHA, estrogen helps, testosterone doesn’t (women have better conversion rates)… and I’d speculate that the reverse is probably easier (DHA –> ALA).

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