Category Archives: Grains

Low carb, low glycemic index, or something else entirely

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 nothingsauce nothingburger.  Goal was insulin sensitivity, not weight loss.

 

glucose and insulin

 

 

 

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Whole grains aren’t all they’re cracked up to be

WUUUT *rimshot*

A new study on whole grains demonstrates how nuanced & complicated nutritional science can be.

Substituting whole grains for refined grains in a 6-wk randomized trial favorably affects energy-balance metrics in healthy men and postmenopausal women (Karl et al., 2017)

Sounds simple enough…

Study design: adequate to address the questions being asked.  Isocaloric, weight-maintenance diets.  Biggest differences between the two diets were whole grains (0 vs. 200 g/d) and insoluble fibre (15 vs. 30 g/d).

Disclaimer: I’m not a huge fan of cereal fibre, but that’s irrelevant for the point of this post.

 

 

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VEG*N

I’m not vegan but the “Anti-Vegan Because B12” argument is lame.  B12 insufficiency is largely due to malabsorption, not steak deficiency.

Many people take supps, but somehow anti-vegans think B12 invalidates veganism.  It doesn’t.  Also, 1) tons of B12 in oysters; 2) nori B12 works in humans and rats; and 3) mushrooms still haven’t been ruled out as a legit source.  Whether you consider these foods vegan or not is a different story.  Many non-vegans are B12-deficient, too -> all the steak in the world won’t help if you can’t absorb it.

I’m not undermining the severity of B12 deficiency, just noting some basic facts.

My bias: things like T2DM, obesity, and even some cancers and mood disorders are due primarily to circadian arrhythmia, sleep, & LIGHT… and secondarily to diet.

When it comes to diet, mostly plants plus some animal is optimal for humans in our modern #context, regardless of which Ice-Age Paleo-Fairy Tale™ you subscribe to.  Things like sleep, LIGHT, and activity, among others, seem way more important than debating historical [theoretical] dietary minutiae.

Lastly, this particular debate isn’t “vegan vs. keto.”  THEY’RE NOT MUTUALLY EXCLUSIVE.  “Eco-Atkins” is a thing.  Animals provide a convenient source of LC protein, but it can be done without them.

 

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Keto myths & facts

:::begin rant:::

Trigger warning?  Maybe.

Disclaimer: I’m pro-LC (P<0.05), but not anti-LF because LF works better than LC for some people.  And with the exception of things like keto for neurological issues, I think macros take a back seat to many other factors.

Myths: carbs cause insulin resistance (IR), diabetes, and metabolic syndrome.  Carbs are intrinsically pathogenic.  If a healthy person eats carbs, eventually they’ll get sick.

And the only prescription is more keto.

 

cowbell

 

And of course all of this could’ve been prevented if they keto’d from the get-go.

Proponents of these myths are referring to regular food carbs, not limited to things like Oreo Coolattas (which would be more acceptable, imo).  Taubes, Lustig, Attia, and many others have backed away from their anti-carb positions, yet the new brigade proceeds and has even upped the ante to include starvation.  Because “LC = effortless fasting?”

Does this sound sane?

“No carbs ever,
no food often…
otherwise diabetes.”

 

 

oreo-coolatta

 

no one in their right mind would say lentils & beans cause diabetes

 

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the insulin-obesity hypothesis is under attack

…but it isn’t dead, imo, because that would be really hard to do.  Like, seriously.

 

 

side note: please consider the modern views of Taubes, Lustig, Gardner, Attia, and others on Carbs™.  They’re less “Carbs-cause-obesity, keto-for-all, etc.,” and more thinking it might not be Carbs™ per se, but rather processed and refined foods.  And #context…  And I tend to agree at the moment (nuances and caveats are subject to change, as more evidence accumulates).

 

disclaimer: I haven’t seen the full text of Hall’s recent study, but that’s not really relevant to what I want to discuss.  In other words, I don’t think the full text will provide any additional details on this particular point.

 




 

Tl;dr: this study was not designed to prove or disprove metabolic advantage or the insulin-obesity hypothesis.

It’s in the study design:  four weeks of low fat followed by four weeks of low carb.  We KNOW that weight loss slows over time (especially if calories are controlled, as they were in this study).  It has to do with the order of treatments.

Weight loss-slowing over time in the Minnesota Experiment:

 

 

Minn-Starvation-weight

 

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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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Non-celiac gluten sensitivity

Gluten is protein, not carbs.  A gluten-free diet is frequently low-carb, because most dietary gluten comes in the form of bread (and wheaty foods).  But believe it or not, bread is an incredibly complex food… many different proteins, carbohydrates, and nutrients that could be problematic for some people (more on this later).

Gluten is not a FODMAP, but most gluten-containing foods are.  Gluten is actually very rich in the amino acid glutamine.  Gluten, not bread.

So we have three studies on purified “gluten,” asking if it’s the gluten, FODMAPs, or something else in wheaty food that is problematic.

Study #1. No effects of gluten in patients with self-reported non-celiac gluten sensitivity after dietary reduction of FODMAPs (Biesiekierski et al., 2013)

Strong study design; patient population was people who thought they were gluten sensitive (but definitely not celiac).

This is the study which led journalists to claim non-celiac gluten sensitivity doesn’t exist, and it’s really sensitivity to FODMAPs, in part, because of this:

 

 

low FODMAPs and gluten free

 

 

Baseline = low gluten diet
Run-in = low gluten and low FODMAPs

 

Here’s the fly in the ointment:

 

symptoms returned in all participants

 

After the run-in period, subjects still followed their gluten-free diets but also received either 16g relatively pure gluten/d (High gluten), 2g gluten + 14g whey protein (Low gluten), or 16g whey protein (placebo).  GI symptoms returned in all participants.  So, low FODMAPs worked for about a week, but then symptoms returned regardless of whether they were eating gluten or not.  In other words, neither low FODMAPs nor low/no gluten worked very well in this study.

But this study may have introduced a brilliant new confounder: food intake was strictly controlled — the experimental diets were different from their normal diets.  Restricting gluten and FODMAPs may have provided some transient benefit, but if the new experimental diet introduced something else that caused problems, then that may explain the gradual return of symptoms…

bollixed?

 

 

Study #2. Small Amounts of Gluten in Subjects with Suspected Nonceliac Gluten Sensitivity: a Randomized, Double-Blind, Placebo-Controlled, Cross-Over Trial (Di Sabatino et al., 2015)

It was another high quality study design: “Randomized, Double-Blind, Placebo-Controlled, Cross-Over.”  And it was addressing a basic question: do people who strongly suspect they have non-celiac gluten sensitivity (NCGS) really have NCGS?  Alternatively, is NCGS real?

Intervention was strong:

1) 4.375 grams of gluten or placebo (rice starch) daily for a week.  This is roughly equivalent to two slices of bread (note: this is way more than enough gluten to destroy the intestines of a patient with bona fide celiac disease).

2) important: they defined the what they would classify as NCGS prior to starting the trial.  A priori.

61 patients strongly suspected of NCGS started the trial, and one withdrew due to gluten-related symptoms in both the gluten and placebo groups.

 

Results:  regardless of whether they were assigned to gluten or placebo FIRST (prior to the crossover), most patients reported gluten-related symptoms.  More importantly, 3 of the 59 patients exhibited significantly worse symptoms on gluten relative to placebo according to the endpoint they defined prior starting the trial.  In one sense, this could be interpreted to mean 5% of people who strongly believe they have NCGS actually have NCGS.

 

gluten sensitive patients

 

Two patients reacted just as selectively strongly to the placebo as the three “real” NCGS patients did to gluten.  Rice-starch sensitivity?

 

See here for a more detailed description of the statistics involved in this study.  I’m willing to accept the “5%” rate, despite the strength of the placebo-responders, whereas the author of that blog post is not.  That’s fair, imo.

And here is another article which questions the legitimacy of NCGS based on this study.  I don’t think that’s totally fair.

And Raphael’s post, where he humorously concludes: “[Gluten-free] does not include advice to sport a gas mask when walking past bakeries.”

 

 

Study #3. Effect of gliadin on permeability of intestinal biopsy explants from celiac disease patients and patients with non-celiac gluten sensitivity (Hollon et al., 2015)

 

 

gluten increases intestinal permeability

 

 

“Delta TEER” is basically the amount of intestinal permeability in intestinal explants exposed to media + gluten (experimental condition) minus those exposed to plain media (control condition).  A better control condition, imo, would’ve been something like they did above: substitute gluten with another protein like whey protein.

 

NC: healthy people
RCD: celiac patients in remission
ACD: celiac patients with active disease
GS: non-celiac gluten sensitivity

 

Active celiac samples responded significantly worse than those in remission, which is good as it functions as a positive control for the experimental protocol.

 

However, gluten sensitive samples responded significantly worse than celiac remission samples; actually, they responded just as badly as celiac samples with active disease.  Celiac disease is supposed to be a million times worse than non-celiac gluten sensitivity… and statistically speaking, even permeability the normal samples declined as much as NCGS samples.

 

This led some to conclude that gluten is bad for EVERYONE.  I’d say it means the assay is bollixed.  Occam’s razor?

 

 

My advice: don’t be anti-science, but don’t use bad science to justify diet choices.  We simply need better studies on non-celiac gluten sensitivity and FODMAPs.

If bread doesn’t work for you, don’t eat bread.  You’re not missing much.

 

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CICO and rant

“Wait… what?  nutrient partitioning?”

Calories In, Calories Out should not be interpreted as “eat less, move more,” but rather kept in its more meaningless form of: “if you eat less than you expend, you’ll lose weight.”  At least then, it’s correct… meaningless, but correct.  Eating less and moving more is no guarantee of fat loss, in part, because total energy expenditure isn’t constant and there’s that whole thing with nutrient partitioning.

For obese insulin resistant folks, this is Low Carb’s strong suit: it causes “eat less, move more”spontaneously.

For some obese insulin sensitive patients, for whatever reason, their adherence and success is greater with Low Fat.  You might say, “yeah, but those suckers had to count calories.”  To that, I’d counter with: “it doesn’t matter, THEY WERE MORE SUCCESSFUL COUNTING CALORIES ON LOW FAT THAN NOT COUNTING ON LOW CARB.”  The spontaneous reduction in appetite obviously didn’t cut it.  Do not be in denial of these cases.

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Gut microbiome & short-chain fatty acids: resistant starch vs. prebiotics

Bifidobacteria undoubtedly like resistant starch (RS).  They bind and hold on tight, an effect mediated by cell surface proteins.  Big thanks to Tim Steele for passing along many of the studies cited here.  One of said studies showed that treatment of bifidobacteria with proteases abolished the RS binding; but even dead critters would bind if their cell surface proteins were intact (Crittenden et al., 2007).  

I suspect fermented foods have this all figured out.  The microbes in sauerkraut are going to be embedded in & all around the cabbage polysaccharides; likely protected from digestive enzymes (to a degree) and holding on tight.

Something similar has been shown for galactooligosaccharides (GOS) (Shoaf et al., 2006).  In this study, GOS, but not a variety of other fibres, inhibited the binding of pathogenic gut microbes to intestinal epithelial cells.

These mechanisms are likely not mutually exclusive, and both seem like they could benefit the host (us).

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On resistant starch and blood glucose control

For overall health and well-being, fermented foods like sauerkraut and kefir are great.  Especially when following a low carbohydrate diet which is generally low in the types of foods which feed the gut microbiome.

For those with gastrointestinal problems, the gut microbiota is probably involved.  Whether it is bacterial overgrowth or dysbiosis, gut bugs are usually the culprit.  Treatment options vary widely, ranging from global extermination with vinegar & a low fibre diet (as per Jane Plain), or remodeling the microbiome with a prebiotic like galactooligosaccharides.   Probiotics like bifidobacteria can help, too, if they’re administered with either prebiotics or fermented foods (they need something to nourish them in transit).  Dark chocolate is also an excellent vessel.  Resistant starch is another option, although the question remains as to whether or not this is compatible with a low carbohydrate diet.

Resistant starch has been around for a while, and when I was in school it received about 10 minutes of attention during the fibre lecture.  But Jimmy Moore and Richard Nikolay have been talking about it a lot lately so I decided to freshen up on the topic.  In brief, it can be therapeutic for GI issues, but some studies have shown mixed effects on glucose & insulin metabolism.  The former is virtually unarguable, but I found the latter interesting.  And the impact of resistant starch on ketosis is included as well.

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