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Hypothyroid-like symptoms, energy balance, and diet quality

Symptoms: fatigue, cold-intolerance, hair loss, decreased libido, constipation… sound familiar?



Hypothyroid-like symptoms occur relatively frequently during times of rapid fat loss, and this may be at least partially dependent on diet quality.  Another component is the fact of being in an energy deficit, but this is difficult to evade on a weight loss diet.

Jane Plain has a post about how high fat oxidation and heat production induced by low carbohydrate diets is partially responsible for the relatively normal metabolic rate despite low thyroid hormones, similar to the Bisschop and Ebbeling studies discussed below.  And another one, discussing the importance of energy balance.  Sam Knox wrote about carbohydrate restriction and functional hypothyroidism, or lack thereof despite altered thyroid hormones.   Also, Dr. Eades’ first-hand clinical experience; and Anthony Colpo’s take vs. Paul Jaminet’s response.  And more on thyroid biology by Jack Kruse.  Edit: Amber posted about thyroid levels & diet on Paleohacks.

Most agree on one thing: large energy deficit = hypothyroid-like symptoms.

Food choices and diet quality is important, too.

The negative impact of low calorie diet-induced weight loss on thyroid biology and energy metabolism is well established, but this figure from Agnihothri and colleagues sums it up rather nicely (2014):Agnihothri

Rapid fat loss causes a decline in TSH and T3.

And in this study on long-term calorie restriction (3-15 years), a similar phenomenon occurred (Fontana et al., 2006).  However, TSH was normal (unlike in Agnihothri’s study), possibly because they were not actively losing weight:


Fontana diet

Note: calorie restricted diet had adequate protein…  low T3 because they’re weight-reduced and hypoleptinemic, and normal TSH because they’re not actively losing weight.

But then there’s this study, which shows active weight loss does not necessarily cause reduced TSH levels, if the diet is ketogenic (Yancy et al., 2005):


Yancy diet

Also, this study showed reduced T3 after 11 days on a ketogenic diet, but it didn’t impact TSH or resting energy expenditure , suggesting no hypothyroid-like symptoms (Bisschop et al., 2001):Bisschop REE

Bisschop TSH

And lastly, from the [notorious] Ebbeling study:


Low TSH and low T3, but highest energy expenditure in weight-reduced patients on very low-carbohydrate diet.


Agnihothri: Low calorie diet-induced active weight loss: low T3 and low TSH; probably low energy expenditure and hypothyroid-like symptoms.

Yancy: Ketogenic diet, active weight loss: normal TSH.

Fontana: Weight-reduced, weight-stable (CR): low T3, normal TSH.

Bisschop: Ketogenic diet, weight-stable (11 days): low T3, normal TSH, and normal energy expenditure (indicative of no hypothyroid-like symptoms)

Ebbeling: Very low-carbohydrate diet, weight-stable (4 weeks): low T3, low TSH, normal energy expenditure (indicative of no hypothyroid-like symptoms).


In all of the above studies, leptin mirrored body fat.  And all of the old Rosenbaum & Leibel studies showed the reduction in thyroid function after low calorie diet-induced weight loss could be repaired with leptin treatment.  Their 2002 paper had it all (Rosenbaum et al., 2002)… replacing leptin levels to pre-weight loss levels, which required roughly 3 mg/d, completely restored thyroid levels and energy expenditure:


Carbohydrate restriction appears to throw a wrench in the gears.

We also know from rodent studies that excess carbohydrates, particularly fructose, can induce leptin resistance.  Perhaps by improving leptin sensitivity, carbohydrate restriction attenuates some of the hypothyroid-like symptoms associated with an energy deficit.  This would explain the findings of Bisschop’s and Ebbeling’s studies, and would be in line with the known impact of carbohydrate restriction on lowering plasma triacylglycerols, and the theorized (and somewhat controversial) association between high triacylglycerols and low leptin sensitivity.

If you’re on a weight loss diet and are experiencing cold intolerance, fatigue, low libido, or any other hypothyroid-like symptoms, consider either upping the calories or lowering the carbs (or this?).

calories proper


Can MCTs skirt the need for strict keto?

Part I.  Ketones are made from fat in the liver.  But dietary fat has a lot of places to go and people to see, so it rarely gets to the liver en masse to a degree great enough to stimulate ketosis.  Not so much for medium chain triglycerides (MCTs).  Upon entry (ingestion), MCTs go to the liver and are metabolized to ketones without passing GO or collecting $200… but is this sufficient to reap the benefits of a ketogenic diet?


MCTs (C8-10) comprise ~14 of the fat in coconut oil, and 9.2% in dairy.  As such, average MCT intake is low – ~2% of total fat intake [because we eat a lot of vegetable oil and not a lot of coconuts].

Exhibit A.  Weight-loss diet that includes consumption of medium-chain triacylglycerol oil leads to a greater rate of weight and fat mass loss than does olive oil (St-Onge and Bosarge, 2008)

Healthy people assigned to either ~21grams of either MCTs or olive oil (~12% of total calories on a hypocaloric 1650 kcal/d weight loss diet) for 16 weeks:

This.St Onge BW

Continue reading


Protein bar takedown, part III (or V)

No more pretense or cute backstory; I just like reviewing ingredient profiles of protein bars.  It’s a hobby of mine:
Candy in disguise, Op. 73 (circa April 2012)
Decepticon Promicor (soluble corn fiber), Op. 81 (June 2012)
Candy in disguise II, Op. 87 (July 2012)
Protein bar round-up, take II (September 2012)


This is a review of Netrition’s “highest rated” bars.  Important notes about this category: these are not necessarily “new” protein bars, or even the bars everyone buy (“best sellers”).  They are the bars everyone who votes like the most.  They’re not the healthiest either… but some come close.   Continue reading


Yo-yo dieting revisited, a thought experiment

If at first you do not succeed, try, try again.  Opus 94.

Yo-yo dieting is “probably” not good, but giving up is worse IMO.  I say “probably” because obesity researchers have empirically tested just about every single weight loss intervention except this one.  Furthermore, you’d be hard pressed to find an obese population who’d agree to undergo an intensive weight loss regimen, only to intentionally regain the weight.  Rinse.  Repeat.  The study would be a nightmare to design from a philosophical perspective, and psychological torture to the volunteers.  But what if they did?  Would they end up with more fat mass?  Less?  Right back to where they began?

Changes in energy expenditure resulting from altered body weight (Leibel, Rosenbaum, and Hirsch, 1995)

Maybe you don’t recognize the study by name, but you have definitely heard about their key finding: weight loss causes a decline in metabolic rate which makes further weight loss or simply maintaining more difficult.  The other finding was that the opposite also occurs: during weight gain, metabolic rate increases to drive weight back down to its starting point.


All-in-all this was a great experiment and it has a lot of street cred; nobody including myself has ever had anything really bad to say about it.  In brief, volunteers were fed either: 1) the maximally tolerated amount of self-selected foods (~6500 kcal!) until they gained 10% of their body weight; or 2) 800 kcal of a liquid formula (40% fat, 45% carbs, and 15% protein) until they lost 10% of their body weight.  

When lean subjects gain 10% of their initial body weight, 80.1% of it is fat mass.  In obese subjects, however, only 58% is fat mass.  Thus, obese people gain more muscle and less fat than lean people during weight gain (e.g., the holidays).  After a 10% weight loss, 64% of the weight is fat mass in lean subjects while a whopping 84% is fat mass in obese subjects.  Thus, obese people lose more fat and less muscle than lean people during weight loss (e.g., New Year’s resolutions).

Here goes nothing:
Take a 100 kg (220 pounds) obese person who has 50 kg fat mass (50% body fat) and a 70 kg (154 pounds) lean person with 14 kg fat mass (20% body fat). After 10% weight loss, body weight declines by 10 kg in the obese subject and 7 kg in the lean subject.  83.6% of the weight lost (~8 kg) is fat mass in the obese subject and 63.7% (~4 kg) is fat mass in the lean subject:

After 10% weight regain, body weight increases 9 kg in the obese subject and 6 kg in the lean subject.  60% of the weight gained (5 kg) is fat mass in the obese subject and 80% (5 kg) is fat mass in the lean subject:

Rinse.  Repeat:


By the end of 3 complete yo-yo cycles, the obese person is down 3 kg body weight, but more importantly their fat mass has declined by 9 kg, from 50% to 42% of their body weight (winner!).  The unfortunate lean subject, however, despite being 2 kg lighter, now has an additional 2 kg of fat mass; in other words, they lost weight but got fattier (20% body fat to start out, 23% by the end).

To be clear, this study has never been done.  But Leibel, Rosenbaum, and Hirsch’s data are impeccable so any flaws in this hypothesis don’t stem from there.  The lean subjects in their study were 154 pounds; clearly not a population in dire need of weight loss.  Perhaps yo-yo dieting got a bad rap from skinny people trying to get skinner, who instead got fattier and told everyone else to give up if dieting didn’t work the first time.  I’m not against pharmacotherapy or bariatric surgery for those in whom diet has failed, but saying “I’m not against” it is a far cry from saying “I’m for it.”  Furthermore, given the results from this thought experiment, among other things, I’m definitely saying “try, try again.”

calories proper


Non-sequiter nutrition II, a sugar-thought experiment

The average western diet contains about 50 grams of fructose from a variety of sources ranging from beneficial fibrous fruits to the more insidious sugar-sweetened beverages, soda and juice.  50 grams of fructose.   2 1/2 cans of Coca-Cola.

50 grams x 4 kcal/g = 200 kcal

200 kcal / 2,000 kcal = 10%

10% of your calories are provided by fructose

Even the very high end of fructose intake rarely exceeds ~85 grams, which is still < 20%.  My point?   This is nowhere near the 60% used in mouse diet studies.  Disclaimer: I think fructose causes leptin resistance because of data from such studies.  60% fructose is the fructose that causes leptin resistance and increased susceptibility to obesity.  What does this say about “normal” levels of fructose intake?  Toxic doses cause leptin resistance and obesity susceptibility in mice, well, because they’re toxic, and fructose toxicity just so happens to manifest like that (in mice).   60% is toxic.  15 cans of Coca-Cola per day (depending on who’s counting); but is it relevant?

39 grams of sugar, roughly half of which is fructose

In mouse studies, toxic doses are used for practical reasons- it’s cheap.  The animals can be rendered leptin resistant, glucose intolerant, and susceptible to obesity within a few months of feeding this expensive purified synthetic diet.  This probably (probably) takes over 100 times longer in humans simply because it’s nearly impossible for humans to ingest mouse-toxic-levels of fructose.

1. If the dose was based on body weight (like a drug; e.g., mg/kg or mpk):

60% fructose x 12 kcal/d = 7.2 kcal.  Divided by 4 kcal/g = 1.8 grams per day.

1.8 grams for a 40 g mouse = 45 g/kg.  For a 70 kg (154 lb) human = 3,150 grams of fructose or roughly 12,600 kcal.  I.e., 150 cans of soda or about a week’s worth of calories.  In other words, you’d have to eat a hypercaloric fructose-only diet for months.

2. If the dose was based on calories:

60% fructose x 2,000 kcal/d = 300 grams = 15 cans of soda or doughnuts per day.   News flash: that’s gross, but it won’t kill you.

fructose: still not as dangerous as playing in traffic

How about just lowering your lifetime sugar exposure.  39 grams of sugar is worse than 0.01 grams of stevia or sucralose.  Anyone remember “water?”  Even if you believe “a calorie is a calorie,” exclusively, it’s still really hard to burn off 39 grams of sugar.  Try running 2 miles.  Skinny kids might do this automatically after drinking a can of soda or eating a doughnut.  Not most adults.

Don’t play in traffic either.

calories proper


Resveratrol, energy balance, and another reason to distrust health journalism, Op. 79

The great red wine compound “resveratrol,” at it again.  Disclaimer: 150 mg of resveratrol per day is too low and 30 days is too short to detect anything close to what was seen in the infamous resveratrol mouse study (Baur et al., 2006 Nature), which showed resveratrol to be the best drug ever on the planet.

This study, on the other hand, utilized the highest quality study design and was published in a great journal, but was a flop.   And the media got it wrong too:  “Resveratrol holds key to reducing obesity and associated risks.”  No, it doesn’t.

Calorie restriction-like effects of 30 days of resveratrol supplementation on energy metabolism and metabolic profile in obese humans (Timmers et al., 2011 Cell Metabolism)

The study design was pristine.  Kudos.

Sample size too small (n=11) and study duration too short (30 days), but it was a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled, crossover study.  And although this type of drug study does not require such a thorough assessment of compliance (a pill count would’ve sufficed), the authors tested blood levels of resveratrol and its metabolites… cool.

On the docket: resVida, DSM Nutritional Products, Ltd.

Divide and conquer

The table above shows baseline characteristics in placebo and treatment groups, but this is peculiar because although the study was randomized (which is confirmed by the high degree of similarity between the two groups), it was also a crossover.

Brief review of my Prelude to a Crossover series (I  & II):

phase 1) half the subjects get drug and half gets placebo

phase 2) both groups get nothing for a washout period

phase 3) everybody switches and gets the other treatment

There are technically two baseline periods (before phase 1 and before phase 2), and all the subjects are in both.  As such, there is only one set of baseline values, so I’m not sure what the data in the above chart actually reflect.  Is this a mistake? or are these data only representative of one of the treatment sessions (which would be an egregious insult to the prestigious crossover design).

In any case, the subjects were all clinically obese, ~100 kg (220 pounds), BMI > 30, body fat > 25%, but otherwise metabolically healthy (fasting glucose levels of < 100 mg/dL).

But here’s where it starts going from technically flawed to weird:

Insulin levels may have been statistically significantly lower after resveratrol compared to placebo, but not after considering baseline insulin was ~15-16 mU in both groups.

insulin proper

The authors noted that after treatment, insulin levels were 14% lower in resveratrol compared to placebo (green circle).  BUT whatever was in that placebo pill was almost twice as good!  The placebo reduced insulin levels by 27% (red circle)!  (take THAT!)  I’m glad the authors reported these data instead of burying them, but they illustrate yet another flaw.

150 mg resveratrol (10-15 bottles of red wine) for a 220 pound person = 1.5 mg/kg; 200x less than what Baur gave his mice (300 mg/kg). Interestingly, however, this produced plasma levels of resveratrol almost 3x higher (180 vs. 65 ng/mL). I have no idea how this happened, but the benefits and lack of toxicity [at such a low dose] bode well for recreational resveratrol supplementation.

As mentioned above, resveratrol was totally safe, but how to interpret this is unclear.  Our options are: 1) good; 2) meaningless; or 3) simply not bad (which I suppose is kind-of-like #2).  It could be interpreted as meaningless because resveratrol, the anti-aging drug, is meant to be taken for a very VERY long time (i.e., forever).  This study proved that resveratrol was safe when taken for 30 days which is considerably shorter than forever.

Furthermore, the dose was phenomenally low, ~150 mg/d, so anything other than “totally safe” would be a huge red flag.

Does resveratrol in fact mimic calorie restriction, as stated in the title?  During calorie restriction, food intake declines (by definition), metabolic rate and insulin levels also decline, but free fatty acids and fat oxidation increases.  In the resveratrol group metabolic rate and insulin declined (recall however that the placebo was pretty impressive also in this regard), but free fatty acids and fat oxidation decreased.  Although proper calorie restriction trials in humans haven’t happened yet, some of these  effects don’t jive.  A decline in metabolic rate will reduce the amount of fat burned.  But relative fat oxidation also declined, leading to what could be a profound reduction in fat burning… coupled with no change in food intake (noted by the authors) this will result in increased fat mass.  Energy Balance 101- no ifs, ands, or buts.  This study was far too short-term to detect a meaningful increase in fat mass, but if these preliminary findings are true (and my interpretation of the data are correct), then this drug might just make you fat.

Oddly enough, they did detect an increase in fat accumulation in skeletal muscle:

(perhaps instead of calling it a calorie restriction-mimetic, the authors should’ve gone with exercise-mimetic, citing the athlete’s paradox (e.g., van Loon and Goodpaster, 2006)

In contrast to the popular antidiabetic drug rosiglitazone, which shifts fat storage from liver (where it causes a host of health maladies), to adipose, where it can be stored safely indefinitely, resveratrol shifted fat storage from liver to skeletal muscle.  This is interesting because while the fat storage capacity of adipose is seemingly unlimited, I doubt the same is true for skeletal muscle, which needs to do a lot of stuff, like flex.

If these findings are true, which I seriously question, then it would be interesting to see what happens to skeletal muscle fat stores after a few months, considering they doubled in only 30 days (this is unbelievable, literally).

The authors try to make the case that the increased muscle fat came from adipose, but until they report body composition data, this is a tough sell.  The elevated fasting free fatty acids support their claim, but the accompaniment of unchanged meal-induced FFA suppression with lower adipose glycerol release don’t; perhaps the missing glycerol is being re-esterified to nascent adipose-derived free fatty acids?  Increased adipose tissue glucose uptake would be supported by the lower glucose levels, but that is already more-than-accounted for by the increased RQ (indicative of increased skeletal muscle glucose oxidation).

There are some mysteries in these findings, and the improper handling of crossover data do not help.  If this paper is true and my interpretation of the energy balance data are correct, resveratrol might just make you fat :/

Unless of course you’re a mouse, in which case it’ll make you better in every quantifiable measure.

calories proper

p.s. I don’t think resveratrol will really make you fat, I think this study elucidates nothing.


taking the fun out of FODMAPs

bring a gun to a knife fight, part II: why “oligosaccharides” are the odd-man out.

The “O” in FODMAPs refers to “oligosaccharides” and includes a very important group of gut-friendly nutrients: prebiotics.  While some specific oligosaccharides are problematic, others are highly beneficial.

The good guys: isomalto-oligosaccharides (MOS), inulin and FOS, and galactooligosaccharides (GOS).  These nutrients stimulate the growth of healthy gut bacteria (bifidobacteria), alleviate gastrointestinal distress, and promote overall well-being.  These are all oligosaccharides, which are unfortunately excluded from the low FODMAPs diet.

support for the above claims:

MOS: Yen et al., (2011)

FOS: Costabile et al., (2012)

GOS: Walton et al., (2012)

Yen showed that at doses of 11 – 22 grams of MOS increased both bifidobacteria and lactobacilli, and improved gut symptoms in a dose-dependent manner.  Similar symptomatic improvements were seen by Chen et al. (2001) with 10 grams MOS per day.  MOS are rarely found in the diet but are present in physiologically relevant doses in Quest Protein Bars.

Inulin is a more complex version of FOS and the form found in the diet (garlic, onions, endive, etc.).  In 1995, Gibson and colleagues showed that both inulin and FOS were roughly equivalent in efficacy: 15 grams of either one increased bifidobacteria and lactobacilli.  Later, Menne et al. (2000) showed that as little as 8 grams of inulin per day increased both bifidobacteria and lactobacilli (moreso than 22 grams of MOS) with a greater effect on the former.  And Kleeson (1997) showed that up to 40 grams was even more effective and was relatively well-tolerated (confirming my suspicion that not all oligosaccharides are created equal…).  Both NOW Foods and Jarrow make high quality inulin/FOS supplements.

Overall, GOS is the most promising.  Depeint and colleagues (2008) showed that 3-7 grams of GOS per day for a week caused a huge and selective increase in bifidobacteria in healthy adults.  Silk (2009) showed even greater benefits in IBS patients.  IBS patients usually exhibit some degree of dysbiosis; indeed, while it isn’t a perfect comparison, Depeint’s healthy subjects had 10 times more bifidobacteria at baseline compared to Silk’s IBS patients.  Unfortunately, however, GOS is yet to go mainstream.  It can be found in Bimuno, which isn’t cost-limiting  until you factor in shipping charges (only sold from the U.K.).  GOS are also present in a variety of infant formulas, which, given their relative scarcity, is a pretty good indicator.

Why is this article sub-titled “bring a gun to a knife fight”?  Because supplementing the bifidobacteria or lactobacilli directly have little impact on the gut microflora.  Even at doses in the billions, almost none of them even survive (see Larsen et al., [2006]; and Tuohy et al., [2006]).  But when combined with some of these oligosaccharides, their effect is markedly improved (Bartosch et al., [2005]).  Probiotics are far more expensive than these prebiotic oligosaccharides, so unless someone had severe GI symptoms, inulin/FOS is the way to go.  On the other hand, if you have IBS, are experiencing gastrointestinal distress, or have recently undergone a course of antibiotics, then a combination of a blend of bifidobacteria combined with inulin/FOS is probably the best treatment.

Be good to your gut.

“Death sits in the bowels; a bad digestion is the root of all evil” – Hippocrates, circa 400 BC

calories proper


the opposite of food, Op. 76

Processed non-junk food


as close to “non-junk” as processed food can be

Notice the inverse relationship between fat content and the number of ingredients in these three commercially available sour cream products.  This is processed food.

Cultured pasteurized grade A cream and milk, enzymes.

Cultured Milk, Cream, Nonfat Dry Milk, Whey, Modified Corn Starch, Sodium Phosphate, Guar Gum, Carrageenan, Calcium Sulfate, Locust Bean Gum, Gelatin, Vitamin A Palmitate.

Fat Free:
Cultured Low-fat Milk, Modified Corn Starch, Whey Protein Concentrate, Propylene Glycol Monoester, Artificial Color, Gelatin, Sodium Phosphate, Agar Gum, Xanthan Gum, Sodium Citrate, Locust Bean Gum, Vitamin A Palmitate.



Fat-Free Half & Half

not cream

In general, “Half & Half” refers to a 50:50 blend of whole milk and cream.  People think it’s better than cream because it has less fat.  Whole milk is about 3% fat by weight, while cream is about 30%.  Mix ‘em together and you end up with Half & Half, which is somewhere in between (12-14%).  Fat has a profound effect on flavor and texture… so how exactly does “Fat-Free Half & Half” taste and feel just like regular Half & Half?!?  Muah ha ha ha haaaa!

divide and conquer

From what I can gather, the fat is replaced with corn syrup and pharmaceutical grade thickeners, emulsifiers, etc., scientifically engineered to mimic the precise flavor and texture of Half & Half.  There are even artificial colors added to make it look like cream.  There are artificial colors added to make it look like cream?  AYFKM?  For some reason, I find this oddly offensive.  It is to these artificial colors which I object.  I want this concoction (that is advertised as better than cream) to look like whatever “corn syrup, carrageenan, sodium citrate, dipotassium phosphate, mono and diglycerides, and vitamin A palmitate” looks like.  And it should release a pale green mist upon contact with coffee.

The sugar in Fat-Free Half & Half comes from corn syrup, while that in real dairy is lactose.  Glucose is sweeter than lactose, and there’s 2-3x more sugar in Fat-Free Half & Half.  Does this mean people use less of it?  I doubt it, because the additional sweetness is probably necessary to compensate for the lack of fat.

And what about all the other additives in Fat-Free Half & Half?  This is reminiscent of the introduction of trans fats into our diet by way of replacing butter and lard with margarine and shortening…

Carrageenan is partially responsible for improving the mouthfeel and texture of Fat-Free Half & Half.

carrageenan. Looks scary, right?

At high doses, it’s an inflammatory gut irritant.  Given coffee’s not-so-gut-friendly reputation, do you really want to push it with carrageenan?

On another note, carrageenan is used to design some of the most beautifully artistic desserts.

In this context, I’m reminded of the phrase: “the dose makes the poison.”  In other words, those dishes are a dietary rarity, reserved for the most special of occasions.  At that level of exposure, it could be a blend of carrageenan, trans fat, sucrose, and Red #40, you could eat 5 of them at a time, and you’d never experience any malevolent effects.  But what about a few tablespoons in your coffee every morning for 30 years???  (alternatively, perhaps I’m underestimating carrageenan exposure a bit) (other, more sordid uses of carrageenan)

Avoid processed foods, especially when they’re no more convenient or healthy their conventional counterparts.


calories proper


P.S.  Perhaps I was a little too hard on Fat-Free Half & Half.  It’s not as bad as microwave popcorn, or this classic:

One 43 gram Twinkie contains 5 grams of fat, 25 grams of sugars, 1 gram of protein, no fibre, 150 kcal, and over 35 ingredients:

  • Enriched Wheat Flour – enriched with ferrous sulphate, B vitamins (niacin, thiamine mononitrate, ribofavin and folic acid).
  • Sugar
  • Corn syrup
  • Water
  • High fructose corn syrup
  • Vegetable shortening – containing one or more of partially hydrogenated soybean, cottonseed or canola oil, and beef fat.  [trans fat]
  • Dextrose
  • Whole eggs
  • Modified corn starch
  • Cellulose gum
  • Whey
  • Leavenings (sodium acid pyrophosphate, baking soda, monocalcium phosphate)
  • Salt
  • Cornstarch
  • Corn flour
  • Corn syrup solids
  • Mono and diglycerides
  • Soy lecithin
  • Polysorbate 60
  • Dextrin
  • Calcium caseinate
  • Sodium stearol lactylate
  • Wheat gluten
  • Calcium sulphate
  • Natural and artificial flavours
  • Caramel colour
  • Sorbic acid (to retain freshness)
  • Colour added (yellow 5, red 40)




a novel gut health diet paradox, Op. 75

The low FODMAPs diet

FODMAPS  – Fermentable Oligosaccharides, Disaccharides, Monosaccharides, and Polyols.  Basically, FODMAPs are a bunch of sugars that are poorly digested in some people and cause a fantastic variety of health problems ranging from bloating and abdominal pain all the way to chronic fatigue and anxiety.  AND a low FODMAPs diet seems to provide some relief (Ong et al., 2010; Staudacher et al., 2011).

Just like it’s weird name, it’s difficult to simplify the rules of the low FODMAPs diet, so here it is graphically:


Grains are excluded from GFCF due to gluten and from FODMAPs due to oligosaccharides.  Dairy is excluded from GFCF due to casein and from FODMAPs due to lactose (not sure where FODMAPs stands on fermented dairy like kefir or FAGE).  Thus, both GFCF and FODMAPs exclude grains and dairy.  However, GFCF doesn’t restrict fructose, which is excluded in FODMAPs (monosaccharide).  And last but not least, GFCF but not FODMAPs allows polyols, but as I’ll explain later, I don’t think polyols belong on this list (perhaps “FODMAPs” was just more pleasant-sounding than “FODMAs”).


FODMAPs vs. low carb

A low carb diet is low in both FODMAPs and gluten.  But perhaps similar to polyols, some leniency should also be applied to casein, as standard low carb diets don’t restrict casein but still improve a variety gastrointestinal symptoms (and quality of life in IBS patients; Austin et al., 2009).  Alternatively, a dairy-free low carb diet would cover all your bases.

or you could bring a gun to a knife fight, part I.

Alterations in gut bacteria are frequently associated with gastrointestinal problems, and two classes of nutritional supplements aimed at modifying the gut flora seem to help.  “Probiotics” contain the buggers themselves, while “prebiotics” contain their fuel.

divide and conquer


With regard to the former, “bifidobacteria” seem to be the major player.  Bifidobacteria are the highest in the gut of breast fed babies and lowest in elderly folk.  They are lacking in IBS sufferers (Kerckhoffs et al., 2009; Parkes et al., 2012), and supplementation with bifidobacteria-containing probiotics improve a variety gastrointestinal symptoms (B. infantis 35624 [Whorwell et al., 2006]; B. animalis DN-173 010 [Guyonnet et al., 2007]; B. bifidum MIMBb75 [Guglielmetti et al., 2011])

B. infantis 35624 is found in Align.

B. animalis DN-173 010 is found in Dannon’s Activia yogurt.  But as with most yogurt products, it comes unnecessary added sugars.

Personally, I’d recommend a blend like that found in Jarrow Bifidus Balance (which comes preloaded with its own stock of prebiotics, to be discussed later).

Back to the paradox (or a shameless teaser for next week’s episode): the low FODMAPs, GFCF, and low carb diets all have beneficial effects on gut health but reduce bifidobacteria.  Bifidobacteria supplements and bifidogenic prebiotics are also good for the gut.

a far more enigmatic paradox than the French one, IMO, to be continued…


calories proper


Candy in disguise, Op. 73

on the chopping block:To recharge between hunting, gathering, and avoiding predation, our Paleolithic predecessors snacked on gluten-free energy bars comprised of a variety of fruits nuts, and vegetable oils all stuck together with Mother Nature’s sweet sticky honey and dates.  <end sarcasm>

For the record, I’m not a card-carrying member of the Paleo community; just looking out for a respectable nutrition movement.

NoGii No Gluten Paleo Bars” should not be confused with anything healthy.

INGREDIENTS: Dates, Honey, Organic Cashews, Almonds, Apple Juice Sweetened Cranberries (Cranberries, Apple Juice Concentrate, Sunflower Oil), Sesame Seeds, Dried Unsweetened Tart Cherries, Sunflower Seeds, Unsulphured Dried Apples, Freeze-dried Strawberries, Strawberry Juice Concentrate, Organic Sunflower Oil. ALLERGENS: Contains Tree Nuts (Almonds and Cashews).

Full disclosure:

Case closed.

On a more positive note, NoGii No Gluten Paleo Bars have no added sugars.  Indeed, those were saved for their “NoGii Kids Bar.” 

INGREDIENTS: Soy Protein Crisps (Soy Protein Isolate, Tapioca Starch), Marshmallow Creme (Sugar, Brown Rice Syrup, Crystalline Fructose, Invert Sugar, Water, Egg Albumen, Agar, Gum Arabic, Natural Flavor), Brown Rice Syrup, Organic Brown Rice Crisps (Organic Brown Rice, Organic Brown Rice Syrup, Sea Salt), Rice Syrup Solids, Maize Dextrin (Dietary Fiber), Organic Canola Oil, Organic Agave Syrup, Whey Protein Isolate, Organic Palm Oil, Vanilla Yogurt Drizzle (Sugar, Fractionated Palm Kernel Oil, Whey Powder, Nonfat Dry Milk Powder, Cultured Whey, Soy Lecithin [emulsifier], Vanilla), Vegetable Glycerine, Natural Flavors, Sea Salt, Soy Lecithin, Mixed Tocopherols (Natural Vitamin E), Purified Stevia Extract, Lo Han Extract.

NoGii proudly advertises “NO HIGH FRUCTOSE CORN SYRUP” and “ALL NATURAL,” but this is despicable, ESPECIALLY because these are targeted at children.

Divide and conquer

  1. Agave syrup has MORE fructose than high fructose corn syrup (it’s like higher fructose corn syrup).  Why brag about “no high fructose corn syrup” if you’re only going to include a higher fructose substitute?
  2. Crystalline fructose.  (yes, that would be 100% fructose).
  3. Invert sugar is chemically virtually identical to high fructose corn syrup.  This is deceitful… it wouldn’t be so bad if they didn’t advertise (in all capital letters) “NO HIGH FRUCTOSE CORN SYRUP” directly on the website.
  4. Lastly, there’s nothing “Brown Rice” about “Brown Rice Syrup.”  It’s just plain syrup.  It may not have fructose, but it’s still just a blend of simple sugars.

NoGii is pulling no punches, so neither am I: they are trying to trick parents into feeding their kids something that they may not have had they known what was really in it.

NoGii.  Worst company of the week.  No, of the month, because they are targeting children.

A superior alternative:

Quest Low Carb Gluten Free Protein Bars

calories proper