Tag Archives: fiber

Fish oil. Pills or directly from the source? Opus 118.

As a proponent of consuming fatty fish (sardines, salmon, etc.), I was interested to read the new fish oil study; as an opponent of meta-analyses, however, not so much.  A meta-analysis is a type of study whereby the researcher thinks of something they want to prove, then cherry picks studies that best support their point.  Or perhaps I’m just biased.  Nonetheless,

Association between fish consumption, long chain omega 3 fatty acids, and risk of cerebrovascular disease: systematic review and meta-analysis (Chowdhury et al., 2012)

In brief, regarding whole fish consumption, 3 servings per week reduced stroke risk by 6% and 5 servings by 12%.  Surprisingly, there was no effect of fish oil pills that contained ~1.8 grams of long chain omega 3 fatty acids.  What this study lacks is any information about the dose of EPA and DHA (the major bioactive fatty acids in fatty fish); and with 38 studies analyzed, I’m not about to try to figure it out (sorry team)…  a serving of fish can have anywhere from 0 to 1 gram of EPA and DHA; 1.8 grams of long chain omega 3 fatty acids can have anywhere from 0 to 1.8 grams of EPA and DHA.  Therefore, I’ll resort to reviewing two of my favorite fish studies of all time: DART and GISSI.  For a more detailed review of fish oils and these studies, check out The poor, misunderstood calorie (chapter 9).

divide and conquer

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Coconut flour is a protein & fiber powerhouse, Op. 90

and similar to almond flour, it’s gluten-free and anti-hyperglycemic (i.e., the opposite of white flour).

Glycaemic index of different coconut-flour products in normal and diabetic subjects (Trinidad et al., 2003)

In this CROSSOVER study, different doses of coconut flour were incorporated into common test foods to see how they impacted the blood glucose response to said test foods.  The total carbohydrate load of each food was 50 grams and to make a long story short, coconut flour dose-dependently reduced the glycemic index.

There’s a lot happening in that figure, but basically the foods with the least coconut flour (e.g., white bread) elicited far greater increases in blood glucose than foods with the most coconut flour (e.g., coconut flour brownies).  Mechanistically, this is most likely due to coconut flour’s fiber and/or fat content (both of which slow down glucose absorption and both of which are markedly higher in coconut flour compared than white flour).

Coconut flour: anti-hyperglycemic

Moving on,
the lipid component of coconut flour, coconut oil, is kind-of-amazing in itself.

1) Coconut oil is a perfectly suitable substitute for butter if you’re following a casein-free diet (e.g., GFCF).  You don’t need to be a molecular gastronomer or food scientist to try it; refined coconut oil can be used just like butter (“virgin” coconut oil, on the other hand, retains a strong coconut flavor).

2) Coconut oil is rich in the magical ketogenic medium chain fatty acids (e.g., C12 laurate) and to over-simplify a series of very elegant studies on diet and diabetes (detailed in Diet, diabetes, and death [oh my] [highly recommended reading if you’re into fatty acids, etc.]), coconut oil is remarkably protective against diabetic pathophysiology; a property not shared with lard, corn oil, or shortening.

Indirect confirmation of the presence of ketogenic medium chain fatty acids in coconut oil can be seen in this study by Romestaig.  Rats fed a diet rich in coconut oil ate more calories but gained less weight than rats fed a high butter or low fat diet:

Coconut oil-fed rats (solid black circles) ate more than the butter group but weighed less.  Coconut oil-fed rats ate WAY more than the low fat group but weighed just as much.  Nice, huh?  Getting back to the point, this is virtually identical to what happens on bona fide ketogenic diets (see Episode 2 of the ketosis series and Ketosis, III), where carbohydrates are kept below 5% of calories (which is phenomenally low, 25 grams on a 2000 kcal diet).

Coconut flour: anti-hyperglycemic
Coconut oil: ketogenic
Coconut protein ?  … calorie for calorie, coconut flour has more protein than most other flours.

In recent study on diabetic rats, Salil showed that coconut protein completely protected against alloxan-induced diabetes (this study was published in 2011; unlike the earlier studies referenced above, researchers are no longer allowed to give fatal doses of alloxan to rats and count the days until they die.  Nowadays they just look at the surrogate marker blood glucose [it goes up very high in diabetes]).  Alloxan is a pancreatic toxin which destroys insulin-producing beta cells.

Group 1 (open bar) = controls group.  Group II (black bar) = fed coconut protein.  Group III (vertical stripes) = diabetic.  Group IV (diagonal stripes) = diabetic and fed coconut protein.  A diet high in coconut protein made these rats invincible to alloxan… just like coconut oil.  Coincidence?  (to be continued)

Coconut oil and coconut protein are both present in coconut flour.   While it’s not as expensive as almond flour, coconut flour is still pricier than regular white flour.  But people love their baked goods, pastas, and breads.  If there is ever going to be a way for these foods exit the realm of “empty calories,” the first step is abandoning white flour.  Maybe your muffins won’t be so big and fluffy, but neither will your ass.

calories proper



Decepticon Promicor (soluble corn fiber), Op. 81

I heard a comedian say he wished exercise was like high school; once you get your diploma, that’s it.  You never need to do high school again.  Unfortunately, the same isn’t true with artificial nutrition.  the mad food scientists are at it again.

Enter: Soluble corn fiber (SCF), mass produced by Megatron Promitor

Over a decade ago, Atkins released low carb bars.  Well, they weren’t actually low carb per se, they were low sugar.  This was accomplished by replacing sugar with glycerol (a sugar alcohol) and polydextrose (a pseudo-fiber).  While their bars are made from cheap ingredients and low quality protein, sugar alcohols and pseudo-fibers are certainly better than sugar.

Later, sugar alcohols took off in popularity, appearing in Met-Rx Protein Plus, Detour Lean Muscle, Dymatize Elite Gourmet, etc., etc.  Glycerol was prominent in Labrada and Pure Protein bars.  Supreme Protein bars use glycerol and maltitol, and a LOT of ‘em.  Quest took a stand against glycerol and uses the lower calorie and more stomach-friendly erythritol (if it ends in “-ol,” its probably an alcohol).

More recently, the field took a considerable philosophical leap forward and starting using real fiber, good fiber.  Inulin appeared in some Atkins bars, VPX Zero Impact, and the original Quest bars.  Quest has since switched to another good fiber, isomalto-oligosaccharides.  Unfortunately no one is using GOS, yet, but they will … mark my words (that’s a prediction, or stock tip… not a threat).

But now the field has taken a turn and we have another artificial ingredient, a pseudo-fiber, with which to deal.  “Soluble corn fiber (SCF)” first appeared in Splenda Fiber packets and then in Promax LS bars.

If you’re like me, you’re asking yourself: what is this stuff?  Is it real fiber?  Is it like the super fibers inulin and GOS?  Hello Pubmed

Divide and conquer

Stewart (2010) compared SCF to 3 other fibers and maltodextrin, 12 g/d x 2 weeks =

Pullulan, a rather potent fiber, is not well-tolerated.  Resistant starch (an insoluble fiber), soluble fiber dextrin, and SCF were all OK.  The gut microbiota seemed to have no preference, as short chain fatty acid production was similar in all groups (perhaps 12 grams is subthreshold?).  Similarly, health biomarkers, hunger levels, and body weight were unaffected.

Boler (2010) compared a commercially available SCF preparation to polydextrose, 21 grams per day for 21 days in 21 healthy men (cute.)

NFC, no fiber control; PDX, polydextrose; SCF, soluble corn fiber

In this study, however, SCF didn’t do so well.  It caused gas and reflux.  Perhaps this wasn’t observed in Stewart’s study because of the lower dose (12 vs. 21 grams).  Furthermore, polydextrose reduced while SCF increased short chain fatty acid production, both of which resulting in a higher acetate:butyrate ratio.  So unlike 12 grams of any of Stewart’s fibers (including SCF), the gut microbiota seems to respond to 21 grams of SCF.  And they pooped more (both fiber groups).

Data are expressed as log cfu/g feces.

Interestingly, SCF was remarkably bifidogenic.  Much more so than PDX, MOS (see Yen et al., 2011), and inulin (see Menne et al., 2000), but WAY less than GOS (see Silk et al. 2009).

the holy grail

This same group reported a more detailed analysis of the gut microbiota which unfortunately did NOT exactly confirm their earlier finding (Hooda et al., 2012):

Data presentation is different in the two publications, and if both are true, then SCF selectively increases a few specific strains of bifidobacteria but reduces many others (enough to increase the total amount but decrease the variety).  The functional implications of this are unclear (to me).

In the meantime, SCF appears to be at most an OK pseudo-fiber substitute.  Megatron Promitor is not likely to test it against the super fibers (e.g., inulin, GOS, etc.) any time soon, so we won’t know if it’s an advance or simply a side-step.  Such is life.

calories proper