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The Sugar Conspiracy (theguardian.com)
413 points by oska on Apr 7, 2016 | hide | past | web | favorite | 352 comments

Jack Lalanne (American fitness guru) stated "If man made it, don't eat it". I recall reading that and scratching my head at the sheer number of food products that encompassed. I thought it a rather presumptuous statement.

Five years later and after many books and articles on nutrition I now fully agree with him. When I hit the grocery store I skip the middle aisles and head straight for the fish and meat counter or the fresh fruit and veg section.

My only (dietary) vices are coffee and the odd glass of wine (both very much man made).

I think that the human body has evolved to run on a certain fuel and of course we adapt but it takes time. Grains and milk are relatively recent to our diet (past 10000 years) so you will see some people who can and some who can't digest them. Sugar however and all the other myriad man made products on store shelves are even more recent and apart from as occasional treats should really be avoided.

As an aside one incredibly beneficial thing people can do for their health is exercise. The lymphatic system which helps rid the body of waste substances is 'pumped' by respiration and physical activity. If you want to eat that cupcake or enjoy that cold glass of beer be sure to exercise it off. It really is incredible how effective exercise can be at covering a multitude of dietary sins!

>If man made it, don't eat it

That's way too simple. It's a kind of naturalistic fallacy as applied to food.

If you think your produce area is where you should be getting your calories (not disagreeing), it fails the "if man made it, don't eat it" test spectacularly. Basically everything you see there has been shaped by man. A (stunning) example: one species of plant, brassica oleracea, has been selectively (i.e., artificially) bred to produce a wide range of different cultivars including, cauliflower, cabbage, kale, broccoli, kohlrabi, brussel sprouts, and more. NONE of these produce items are "natural."

Getting back to the linked article a bit, if you think fructose is bad, you should know it is very natural. Obviously it occurs in fruits and honey has more fructose than refined sugar and about the same as high fructose corn syrup.

(As a side note, I'm of the opinion we should be engineering foods to make them better for us. We as a species have been doing similar things to our food for thousands of years.)

> it fails the "if man made it, don't eat it" test spectacularly. Basically everything you see there has been shaped by man. A (stunning) example: one species of plant, brassica oleracea, has been selectively (i.e., artificially) bred to produce a wide range of different cultivars including, cauliflower, cabbage, kale, broccoli, kohlrabi, brussel sprouts, and more. NONE of these produce items are "natural."

You're overthinking this. "Is this food packaged and processed with preservatives, a list of 40 ingredients, and has a shelf life of 6 months to 5 years? Then I'm not buying it. Is it meat or product? It's ok." This is referring pretty specifically to Franken-foods, not GMOs (which I too think are a great idea, and essentially optimizing our agricultural practices over the last 20,000-whatever years).

I'm not overthinking it. I gave that as an example of people not thinking about food. The heuristic, even applied as you would prefer, is a poor one. I don't buy into the philosophy at all.

Quick example, my mother-in-law (who is into all kinds of weird "food woo" (she's a drink-raw-milk-only, avoid-adrenal-stressing-foods, etc. kind of person) once handed me a some sort of baked good--a bread perhaps--and mentioned, "It has no preservatives." My quick, honest, reply was "bummer." She had meant to "no preservatives" as being a good thing, as lots of folks do. The thing is, preservatives are a GOOD thing (well, unless you're preserving your food with something known to be harmful). It means less food waste, and that you're less likely to be unknowingly eating (mildly) spoiled food.

We have made missteps in our advancement in the production of food, and we as a whole don't eat as healthy of food as we should, but on the whole, modern agricultural practices are a good thing, as are some modern processing of food that people don't like because it's not "natural." I'm swayed by the preponderance of quality evidence on this, not anecdotes, intuition, and studies that represent noise in the data due to known problems with the generation of data.

I think some folk here are misinterpreting my original post (perhaps I wasn't clear enough). Neither I, nor I imagine Jack Lalanne were advocating we return to hunter gatherer foraging.

Whilst Jack Lalanne's quote 'if man made it don't eat it' is simplistic it's basically saying go for the steak or the bag of salad leaves rather than the corn dog and powdered mash potato.

This isn't about 'weird' foods like raw milk, or taking things to the nth-degree. It's just common sense advice that humans seldom make a food healthier by tinkering with it. As close to its natural form as possible is invariably best.

Does that mean I'm not gonna pepper my cod fillet, of course not. But I sure as heck am not going to buy a pre-battered pack of frozen 'fish fingers' given the choice!

I understand your sentiment. I'm pushing back against it being expressed in terms that promote a naturalistic fallacy. Why? Various reasons, but one is because the naturalistic fallacy is actively harmful, not just as it applies to food.

>This isn't about 'weird' foods like raw milk, or taking things to the nth-degree. It's just common sense advice that humans seldom make a food healthier by tinkering with it. As close to its natural form as possible is invariably best.

That's the thing. The first and last sentence of this quote run contrary to each other in the cited example. When we process raw milk by pasteurizing it, we are making it BETTER. We've tinkered with it, to use your word. "As close to its natural form as possible is invariably best" (emphasis added) is not necessarily true. (As an aside, there is nothing "weird" about raw milk other than your lack of exposure to it. I grew up in rural Wisconsin in the 1980s--as a kid, I've had plenty of raw milk. We all did living there. Heck, I used to milk cows and I once tried to see if I could squirt raw milk directly from the teat into my mouth at arms length--it doesn't get much fresher! As an adult, I avoid raw milk because I know better.)


Related to battered fish, what's better (from a health standpoint): if you batter your own fish or you buy pre-battered fish? All else equal, most people would still say that as a matter of intuition will say that battering your own is better. If "feels" like the correct answer. But the real answer would be that it depends on what you battered it with and what the company battered it with. The reality is that many people who actively complain about "processed foods" are fine with the processing done as long as they are the ones doing it. Regardless of what the reality may be, a homemade noodle somehow feels healthier than a store bought one to those folks.

(And yes, I realize my battered fish question isn't what your fish example was talking about at all. I just ran with it in a different direction and am not trying to misrepresent what you said).

When you process your own food, you have full control over it and what goes into it.

I have no idea what they are putting into commercially processed foods, how long they are cooked for at what temperature. (Well I have an idea of what goes into chicken nuggets having watched Jamie Oliver https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XKSoiDtdi9s).

Is the "naturalistic fallacy" really a fallacy? Is is it really just another of the many fallacious fallacies?

I think there's logic to regarding more recent food innovations with greater skepticism. Same with many innovations. Over a shorter time period, the long-term consequences of the innovations have not yet become fully apparent. With things that have been used for thousands of years we can assume that had a long-term issue arisen, the food or practice would likely have been abandoned.

Radium watches, DDT, hydrogenated vegetable oils, ....

> As close to its natural form as possible is invariably best.

The problem is that these simplifications and generalizations are invariably broken. According to this, for example, raw meat should be better than cooked meat.

>> It's just common sense advice that humans seldom make a food healthier by tinkering with it

While true, this isn't because humans are incapable of improving food. It's because the ways our species has been improving food recently have been driven by capitalism; we've been making it easier to grow and giving it more appealing taste so that it's easier to mass produce and sell. These qualities, especially the taste 'improvements', often result in significant reductions in nutritional quality. If Big Aggro were instead focusing on making our veggies more nutritious, I'm confident that they would succeed.

It's not driven by capitalism (any more than any transaction ever has been), it's driven by consumerism. Twinkies would not be manufactured or sold if people didn't like gobbling them up at the available price. Stop blaming corporations (which are just made up of people) and simply blame your fellow citizens for being a bunch of idiots.

It is driven by both capitalism and consumerism.

> Stop blaming corporations (which are just made up of people)

The market is an emergent phenomenon. A market is indeed made up of corporations which is made up of people, but this does not mean that "just made up of people" is an adequate answer.

No way, you are just wrong. Markets existed well before capitalism and well before corporations, and they exist where neither of those things exist.

You're right, but your point doesn't negate my point that dissecting an emergent phenomenon to 'simply' be the sum of its parts is a comprehensible way to understand the phenomenon.

It got to a point where governments had to mandate that certain processed foods (e.g. bread, breakfast cereals) must contain extra vitamins and minerals - just to keep the population from damaging themselves.

Fish fingers are nutritionally pretty good - low calorie, high protein, and freezing is a good way to preserve food without adding things you have to ask questions about. The cheaper ones also tend to use more sustainable fish, and mechanical recovery maximises yield from a scarce resource.

Do you seek out pre-domestication forms of fruits and vegetables, or do millennia of genetic engineering through selective breeding not count as "tinkering with it"?

> the steak

A carefully carved out subset of an animal that lived on a carefully maintained agricultural plot, fed a precisely calibrated diet, and slaughtered at a precisely chosen time. An animal of a special humans have been breeding and molding for thousands of years.

> bag of salad leaves

Again, species we have been cultivating and changing for so long that we would no longer recognize its original wild form. Lettuce is related to daisies.

> It's just common sense advice that humans seldom make a food healthier by tinkering with it.

That common sense makes no sense, why would we spend effort making things worse for ourselves?

We tinker with things because it improves them. Sure, sometimes we don't discover the long term implications for a while (like with sugar), but in general, we cultivate and process because it makes things better.

Cassava that isn't processed is poisonous, as are many beans. Eating most fish that isn't deep frozen or thoroughly cooked is a good way to get worms. The same would be true for beef and pork too, except that we humans have so carefully managed (tinkered with?) our livestock that we've eliminated most of their parasites.

Given a choice between a package of heavily processed bacon from the grocery store, or a fresh chunk of wild boar meat that you hunted and killed yourself, which is better for you? Well, the latter is a hell of a lot more likely to give you trichinosis.

> As close to its natural form as possible is invariably best.

So, like:

Corn: http://evolution.berkeley.edu/evolibrary/images/relevance/Z_...

Watermelon: https://cdn1.vox-cdn.com/thumbor/CRPlJWtfmDnCTNMv02Cx1DSiaws...

> I sure as heck am not going to buy a pre-battered pack of frozen 'fish fingers' given the choice!

That's not because the fish fingers are unnatural, it's because they're made of shitty, cheap ingredients.

Given the choice between, say, a nice cheese (a very heavily processed food involving a number of chemicals and months of human attention) versus finding a wild bee's nest and drinking all the honey, the former would be healthier for you, even assuming you don't get stung.

If you want to eat things that are good for you, "natural", "unprocessed" or "free from human tinkering" are simply not useful signals. They're not even that well-defined.

I'm of the exact same dietary philosophy as yourself. I derived it through reading and experimentation before paleo was even a thing, as it appears Jack Lalanne did as well. Most people who attack a simple sensible diet like this are really just exposing their own insecurities and desire to not give up the crap they injest themselves.

Lol, this isn't to do with insecurities - more to do with science.

I get that to many, science is a boogeyman - but come on, we're meant to be better than that on HN, since you know, so many of do actually have science backgrounds?

My parents owned a sheep property growing up, and I went to an agricultural school - the whole point of modern agriculture, and husbandy pratcises is that we do intentional thinks to manipulate animals/plants, to be safer for us.

Oh, and my wife is a veterinarian - and occasionally she gets crazies in, who think they can roadkill or dead wildlife - she's like, yeah, genius, great way to give yourself worms.

And preserved foods is...well, just that - to preserve food.

You know, like pasteurised milk?

Humans have been preserving food for millennia - it's just that our techniques have evolved a bit more than "add salt, let it dry in the sun".

I think many people might be equating junk food (i.e. sweets, chips etc.) with all modern foods - that's a logical fallacy. Food companies optimised for things consumers want - whether that's long shelf-life, for taste, for convenience etc.

We are so incredibly lucky these days - that we have massive range of foodstuff - just make sure you read the food labels, and pick the foods you want.

If convenience, or high-sweetness isn't what you want - then don't buy those products. Buy other products!

Ultimately, corporates aren't some evil faceless entity - nor do I believe there's some mysterious conspiracy going on.

They simply create what they think people will buy - and hence, make them money.

But I agree with parent - the whole "eat stuff that humans haven't touched" is a bit of a stupid argument - it's like romanticising pre-historic men.

In reality - they probably had hard, short lives, and were subject to parasites and infection constantly - a lot of it via the food they ate.

You are attacking an invisible bogeyman you concocted yourself. No one said anything about being anti-science. Your reactionary stance is anti-science. I'm not sure what your wife's profession or crazies she met or anything else you've said has to do with the topic at hand.

There are a thousand choices you can make when it comes to diet. It's not an all or nothing, democrat or republican, us vs them proposition. What the previous poster was getting at is that typically, for each choice you can make with your diet, a good rule of thumb is that the less processed a food is, the more likely it is to be better for you. That doesn't mean it's always true in every case, or that occasionally a bit of processed food will kill you, or whatever other straw man you are chasing after.

In any case, there IS plenty of science backing up the negative health effects of processed foods:









Plenty of linked studies here as well:


Do you have any science to back up your claims?

You have just confirmed my point.

It isn't an all or nothing stance.

And the whole black-and-white "Don't eat processed foods" rule is exactly what I'm arguing against.

I don't think it's a good rule of thumb - you need to actually put some thought and consideration into what you're eating - e.g. read the food labels!

Everybody's personal stance is difference. For example, I eat heaps of "processed foods" - heck, I eat Soylent (https://www.soylent.com/) which is about as processed as you can possibly get.

Please also read the parent I was replying to - https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=11444941#

Also, with regard to the articles that you spammed your post with (I assume you just keep a notepad with these around grins):

1. Article 1 (Too much added sugar is bad for you, and can lead to heart disease) - not to put a fine point on it, but no sit sherlock? Like, seriously? It doesn't matter whether it's processed or not (e.g. "natural" sugar, or say, honey), if you drizzle sugar all over your food, to the point of excess, yes, it's going to make you fat and at higher risk of heart disease. 2. Article 2 (Diet Quality) - There are two paragraphs (or clustered paragraphs) that reference "processed" in this article - the first refers to eating less red meat and less processed meat - so yes, I'm guessing that too much "natural" steak, or too much spam isn't great for you. I don't think anybody ever regarded spam as a health food (although I could be wrong, spam was before my time). There are ways to process meat and have it be healthy - the tradeoff, is I suppose you don't get the awesome taste of spam (lol), or the incredibly long shelf-life. The second point is that whole grains are better for you, as they are digested more slowly - you get the full grain, as opposed to just the tasty part. 3. Article 3 (Processed food can be addictive) - Reading the article, we learn that processed foods in this case is code for foods like "chocolate, French Fries, pizza, and ice cream" - umm, I think the point of those foods it that they taste good? As in, nobody ever said, gee, I feel like health food, let me get some of that pizza or ice cream. sigh*. The whole damn point of these foods is that they're engineered to taste food - they're not exactly marketed as "health foods", so it's not exactly like pizza or ice cream companies are misleading you. Also, chocolate is interesting, in that it can be very "natural" - but still very addictive.

I'm not going to go through and decipher/debunk every single one of your articles.

But my point is simple - there's very little in the way of a blanket "don't eat processed foods" in the links you posted.

For some people, they might think it a useful guideline - but I suspect in this case, they're throwing out the baby with the bathwater.

For myself - I just read the food label, and exercise some common-sense. If it's confectionery, or it's a "treat" food (whether processed or natural - although to be honest, it's more a spectrum of how processed, since nearly any food you can legally buy is processed to some degree), I exercise moderation.

With 5 minutes of Googling, I can find similar analogues to argue that so-called "organic" or natural food is bad or even toxic for you:

http://blogs.scientificamerican.com/science-sushi/httpblogss... http://www.elephantjournal.com/2013/03/eating-organic-may-be...

In general - I think modern agriculture and food techniques have been a boon for humanity - they've given us safe, large-scale food production to feed the masses. We've eradicated pests/diseases from our crops, and also engineered our crops to be more pest/disease resistant, have higher-yields and taste better. So we've been "processing" food for a long time. And we've moved from salting/drying things, to more modern preservation techniques, that preserve the nutritional content and taste of our food as well, and prolong shelf-life and packability of foodstuffs.

But of course, then we have modern inventions like the Twinkie, or the <insert junk food of choice>. I honestly hope people aren't arguing these are health foods. But if you argue that "processed" foods are bad, because they also gave us the Twinkie - well, you're basically throwing out all the added benefits (convenience, low-cost, shelf-life) of modern foods.

Even the fresh fruits/vegetables we buy are quite "processed" - I actually prefer this to so-called organic food-stuffs, because I know the food safety regulations around your supermarket fruit/vegetables are so much stricter than for organic farms. And I'm also fine with buying a pre-packaged salad in a sealed plastic bag, even though it's processed, because I know it was probably washed by machine, and they have health and safety checks in the processing pipeline, to ensure pathogens are at acceptable levels. (although I do confess to occasionally rinsing them again, for possibly irrational reasons).

it's really hard maintaining this discussion, as your responses keep dragging in things that have nothing to do with what I said. I have nothing against science, modern agriculture, selective breeding, basic packing and cleaning techniques, etc.

And calling "rule of thumb" black and white indicates that you aren't familiar with the typical usage of the term, which is the opposite of "black and white".

If you can't conceive of the concept of processing as being a spectrum of more or less transformation of the initial food item, then there isn't any reason to further this discussion. If you think that cleaning lettuce is the same as using a bioreactor to change the chemical structure of a food, you are just plain wrong.

Err, what exactly are you against?

You said:

> I'm of the exact same dietary philosophy as yourself. I derived it through reading and experimentation before paleo was even a thing, as it appears Jack Lalanne did as well. Most people who attack a simple sensible diet like this are really just exposing their own insecurities and desire to not give up the crap they injest themselves.

> a good rule of thumb is that the less processed a food is, the more likely it is to be better for you".

The things you have just named are processing - so it may make more sense if you actual clarify what exactly it is you are against?

What does it mean for a food to be "less" processed, then?

Yes, you are overthinking it. The statment clearly wasn't to be followed blindly, but just a reminder that processed food is generally the least quality food you can get.

It's like trying to fight an add tag line with logic, it just doesn't make sense. We all know "number one in stuff" is not to be taken as is.

Still, if you do avoid industrialy processed food, you usually see your health improved tremendously.

TL;DR: don't be that guy : https://encrypted.google.com/url?sa=i&rct=j&q=&esrc=s&source...

You are overthinking it. It's sound-bite-sized dietary advice.

The intent, I'm sure, is to advise people to avoid foods that have undergone an industrialized food-preparation process, to produce a shelf-stable product that can be shipped in cardboard boxes. As an aggregate, those foods are overwhelmingly prepared according to USDA and FDA recommendations, resulting in the very common replacement of fats with simple carbohydrates, addition of preservatives, and the use of additional additives to improve flavor and texture.

That maxim is to be applied in the grocery store, while looking at the product in your hand. If it's a bag of potato chips, you look at it and think, "how is this made?" Then you are supposed to remove the boiling in oil and the slicing, and buy raw, whole potatoes instead. If it's a package of Oreos, you're supposed to read the ingredients, be horrified at the claim that it is food, and perhaps buy a nice, crisp apple instead.

You're not going to achieve optimal nutrition with sound-bite-sized dietary advice, but if there isn't a lot of space left in your brain's on-die cache, it could help to avoid making the most horrible dietary decisions. But only if it is good bite-sized advice.

If you decide to only eat "natural" foods, you're throwing the baby out with the bathwater. And also, you may have a bizarre and nonsensical concept of what is "natural". But it will probably stop you from eating the foods most highly suspected of causing health problems, such as those containing trans-fats, fructose, or poor Na:K or Ca:Mg proportions.

On the other hand, what evidence supports the need to avoid "mildly spoiled food"? We could do with a bit of healthy skepticism over the seriousness of spoiling, expiration dates, defects, refrigeration, or molds and bacteria in our food. We'd probably save more food and maybe cut back on excessive sugar and salt intake(common preservatives) if we had a better understanding of what can and can't be eaten raw, rotten, and less than perfect.

The conception that salt is bad for us is, I think, ludicrous. Most of us are not eating even a smidgeon of the amount of salt that our ancestors would have eaten, when nearly all meats and fish not eaten immediately after slaughter were preserved literally caked in salt or brines.

The connection to hypertension is pretty conclusive, at least for some portion of the population. Here's one article about it:


Late life heart disease probably hasn't been a major factor in our evolution, but it's easy to sketch out how a lifetime of dietary choices that encouraged high blood pressure would have some impact in the last years.

Then ignore (filter) the woo-woo au naturale fruit cakes. Every message gets distorted, perverted thru transmission. But sometimes there's some actual signal buried in all that noise.

Also, modern food production is not an unqualified great thing.

Too simplistically: We consumers are harmed when optimal food production techniques drive nutrition policy, vs human nutritional needs guiding food production.

Over use of HFCS, soya, whey, etc has caused a great deal of human disease. It's now an expensive public health issue.

What may cause you (intellectual) discomfort is when the woo-woos conflate health and environmental issues. Again, filters.

And please remember that everyone's just trying to move forward best as they can. My mother also imparts some terrible, well intentioned advice. But it's not like I'm going to fix her misunderstandings. I just try to guide best as I can and lead by example.

There are highly processed food ingredients like whey protein and resistant corn starch, oat fiber, etc which have compelling health-promoting effects.

The problem is that people are ignorant with regards to the purpose and effects of various food additives/ingredients, so they just take the simplified stance "more ingredients = bad" rather than do a little research. As a heuristic it might be fairly functional (you can still eat unhealthily without processed foods though), but it means you're going to spend a lot of time preparing food and you're missing out on the opportunity for engineered superfoods.

"There are highly processed food ingredients like whey protein and resistant corn starch, oat fiber, etc which have compelling health-promoting effects."

Cod liver oil comes to mind ...

I would seriously doubt claims of health benefits of the incomprehensible ingredients on the ingredient list. Those things are there because of the constraints of "manufacturing" food that is appealing, stores well, ships well, etc. It's not about what's good for you---it's about what isn't acutely toxic and maximizes the company's profits.

It's simple because it's a heuristic. I'm pretty comfortable with my nutrition, but when friends ask me to summarize it it's very difficult for me because I've spent an unholy amount of time researching it. Things like Pollan's famous quote or "avoid man-made things" are targeted at the 99% of people who aren't as obsessive about it as I was at one pt, but still very much want to eat healthy. It has its false positives and negatives obviously, but it has a pretty great trade off between correctness and complexity.

If you consider it as a heuristic instead of taking it literally, your objection about artificial selection of produce is also more or less irrelevant. Man had a hand in shaping those plants' current genome, but if we disappeared tomorrow nature would keep making (most of) them. It's still easy to distinguish from, say, donuts and still useful as a heuristic.

I replied to a sibling with what I meant to reply to yours. See there.

One quick thing I would add is, "NO" nature would not keep making them. It is only our direct action that props up these artificially selected species (q.v., hybrids that require us to actively produce them, or your favorite variety of apple which is a clone of some great-grandparent tree or the fact that these crops would not compete well with other plants because we've selected them for their food production, not overall hardiness. They'd be out competed. They put too much of their energy into producing stuff that doesn't optimally help produce a new generation, and thus require our tending).

Your statement is a bit like saying "if we disappeared tomorrow nature would keep making sheep." Probably not (at least medium term). Sheep generally require our protection to avoid being killed. It probably wouldn't take long for a predator species to take hold in a given area and kill them all.

But you would agree that there's a qualitative difference between a Snicker's bar and a banana, right?

Sure, the banana is a selectively bred, sterile monocrop but the candy is made of 20 ingredients, resembling nothing found in nature in composition and nutrition.

> It's simple because it's a heuristic.

Simplistic heuristics have failed hard before in nutrition, so why do we keep repeating the new ones?

The only one that makes any sense is "Eat food, not too much, and mostly fruit and veg".

> The only one that makes any sense is "Eat food, not too much, and mostly fruit and veg".

Michael Pollan, who promoted (and possibly introduced) that slogan in his book In Defense of Food, goes on to explain that "Eat food" means more specifically "don't eat anything your great-grandmother wouldn't recognize as food" (p. 148). In short, he agrees exactly with Jack Lalanne: avoid processed foods.

>If man made it, don't eat it

I think a better heuristic, is "Just eat what your great-grandma ate". Or avoid the middle of the supermarket as much as possible.

Simply eating more fat and less sugar/carbs, I have lost 10+ pounds and feel much better. These nutrition fads have done more harm than good. My mother switched from butter to Crisco when I was a kid, then she banned salt from the house, and bought (high sugare, low fat) snack wells for us. All based on poor/pseudo science.

The diabetes and obesity are modern problems caused by a diet that our bodies haven't evolved to handle.

>I think a better heuristic, is "Just eat what your great-grandma ate"

Unfortunately that's not always possible as we have selectively bred over time for appearance, size and/or sugar content in our fruits, vegetables and even meat at the expense of macro- and micronutrients.

We have also begun overly sanitizing our foods, pasteurizing everything and adding antibiotics to the detriment out our gut microbiome.

In many cases the food our great grandmas ate doesn't exist anymore.

My grandma (and probably my great grandma, I've no idea) grew most of the food she ate.

> I think a better heuristic, is "Just eat what your great-grandma ate". Or avoid the middle of the supermarket as much as possible.

I like that!

I had some friends over for a small dinner party a few weeks back. One of them was helping me in the kitchen butter some sour dough bread. Mid-way through she stopped agog just staring. I looked to where her eyes were staring and realized she was shocked at how much butter I was smearing on each slice of bread.

I'm active and believe in eating a lot of natural fats, but I realized that even young adults subscribe to the demonization of saturated fat. (I might also be a little too inclined to eat butter and coconut oil - so moderation - as always is important if we're to not alienate everybody).

Mmmm... Deep fat fried chicken with the skin on. Collards cooked low and slow with a ham hock. Mashed potatoes and gravy. Apple pie with a Crisco crust. Oh, wow. Now I'm starving.

Same here. Though my grandmother lived to 93 on that diet so...

> I think a better heuristic, is "Just eat what your great-grandma ate".

Snarky "lead paint?" aside, this only really works if you're also as active as great-grandma was. Chances are she got a lot more exercise than we modern folk do.

If you read the article you would have seen this

"There has been no commensurate decline in physical activity, in either country – in the UK, exercise levels have increased over the last 20 years."

Sure, exercise is important, but a potential lack of it is not the problem. The most significant way you can interact with you body is through the food/drink you put in your mouth.

Food has changed so much over the past few decades that most people no longer eat food but instead consume food like products.

"Since 1980" and "the last 20 years" aren't "great-grandma" territory.

Fructose is not bad when its delivered with fiber. When you eat fruit, you are getting mostly fiber with a small portion of sugar. When you are eating refined sugars such as high fructose corn syrup you are getting very little or no fiber. The lack of fiber allows the sugar to be absorbed extremely quickly, which overloads your liver.

I see the "if you think fructose" is bad trope a lot, and I think it's dangerous.

In a natural environment, the only real sources of fructose are either fiber-heavy (most fruits) or somewhat rare (honey, berries).

Fructose is bad. It's certainly something that should be eaten in moderation.

Your food is not being engineered to be better for you. It's being engineered to be cheaper and easier to produce and sell. There are trade-offs.

Fructose is not bad, no food is inherently bad. It's all a matter of degrees.

If you consume 10 cans of coke a day, and you're over your maintenance caloric intake by 1000 calories daily. guess what? you'll get fat and probably not be healthy. if you overconsume sweet potatoes by 1000 calories over your maintenance intake daily. guess what? you'll get fat and probably not be healthy.

Fructose is actually bad but that isn't the whole story. Fructose is only bad when consumed at a poor ratio relative to glucose. If you are eating 1:1 fructose/glucose, you can properly digest and use the energy from both. If you are too skewed towards fructose, it is less likely your small intestine will successfully digest the fructose, and it will make it to your large intestine and cause IBS, inflammation, hormonal disruption, etc. Reference low FODMAP diet and frustose malabsorbtion if you want to read into it.

The article points out that there's no solid evidence suggesting a strong correlation between caloric intake and obesity.

Fructose is NOT inherently bad. When liver glycogen stores are depleted, fructose has no negative health effects. The problem is when you are eating in a calorie surplus, and the only way for the liver to deal with that fructose is via de-novo lipogenesis.

>If man made it, don't eat it

Yeah it does come across as too simple. I've heard a variation of it, also attributed to Lalane, that says, "If it comes in a wrapper, don't eat it." The idea is that if it's in a wrapper, it has preservatives added, and also sugar added to make it taste good.

In any case, it seems people love attributing quotes to Lalane!

Meat is usually wrapped. Some places wrap fruit and vegetables.

I think people trying to give nutritional advice should just list the actual categories of food they're referring to, rather than trying to get cute. If you want to say "eat unprocessed fruit, vegetables, and meat, and avoid the rest" then just say that. To me, whenever I see somebody trying to get clever with their wording, it just comes off as moralizing. It feels like either "you should know this man-made stuff is bad for you, you idiot" or "I'm better than you because my food is 'natural.'"

Would "unprocessed food" stuffs mollify you? He's speaking, giving useful actionable advice, to a broad audience. But, please, continue to pedant.

Sucrose = glucose + fructose. Glucose good, fructose bad. Fiber in fruit prevents uptake of fructose. Which is why orange is okay, orange juice bad. A pretty good example of Lalanne's messaging.

>Would "unprocessed food" stuffs mollify you?

No. See sibling responses. I'm not being pedantic, I'm trying to point out natural != good. Processing != bad either. Cooking is processing, and is a good thing, most of the time. I mentioned preservatives in a sibling reply, again generally a good thing. For example, the "no preservatives" crowd often have been very selective in the data they've looked at. That's all. Question assumptions about what's is and isn't bad for you. (And there is plenty of refinement and such that isn't good for you--don't get me wrong).

Leonroy may believe, as i do, that consuming fructose is less/not bad when its in a natural dose and taken with its natural cofactors. Fruit normally contains fiber too.

Great documentary called Fed Up: http://fedupmovie.com/#/page/home

It basically posits that ALL sugar, from fructose, to organic brown sugar to high fructose corn syrup is broken down to the same basic molecule: glucose.

Even white rice, potatoes and bread break down similarly. It was sobering viewing and highly recommended. The 5:2 diet proponents also suggest the same thing from their research - that natural sugars are no better than unnatural sugars (at least according to the doc).

Naturalistic fallacy does not apply to food (it only has only ever been formally applied in moral philosophy)

The idea that more natural foods are generally healthier than less natural foods is based mainly on inductive reasoning, eg. breast milk vs baby formula, grass fed cattle vs grain and animal protien fed cattle, vitamins in plants vs vitamins in tablets, animal welfare limits vs antibiotics and growth stimulants etc

I'm just not so sure we're smarter than nature when it comes to what is best for our bodies.

A fairly high percentage of the fruits and vegetables you're eating are man made, insofar as they've been genetically engineered through selective breeding to produce things more palatable to the average consumer. Fruit in particular should probably only be eaten in moderation like any other sugar-filled treat.

And exercise, while useful for building muscle mass and increasing your capacity for physical exertion, isn't particularly useful for covering up a poor diet - it would take more than two hours of jogging to burn off the calories in a small Big Mac meal from McDonalds, for example. If you want to lose weight, it's far, far more efficient to simply eat less.

Even the fruits and vegetables from centuries ago were "man-made". The wild versions are mostly inedible. What we eat is the result of millennia of breeding and cultivation. There is no bright and shining line between "natural" and "man made" for most of our food. Ever since we started practicing and depending on agriculture, all of our food is, to some degree, "man made".

By the way, I am unaware of any evidence that fruit should be eaten in moderation.

I tend to agree even though it goes against a common paleo claim. Just go to a deserted tropical island and you'll find mangos and coconuts seemingly every bit as sweet as those which have been bred for their sweetness.

There is no evidence. This whole thread is filled with misinformation and anecdotal evidence. The article lays its foundation on Lustig claims while his Bitter Truth talk had outright wrong claims.

There have been studies pointing out fruits even help decrease symptoms of diabetes.


The conclusion of the randomized study above was that the intake of fruit should not be restricted, despite the fear that sugar makes you die.


This one has a mainly fruit diet for its participants. 2500kcal of fruits per day. No one had any serious side effects.

These "not man-made", paleo, keto, low-carb and other diets are all fads. All of them. They promote an unhealthy relationship with food. Not unhealthy as in philosophy but unhealthy scientifically (orthorexia + the humongous evidence that food is not poison).

It's a much higher chance that the American population is extremely orthorexic and that they avoid fruits and veggies thinking that pesticides and sugar will kill them. This unhealthy relationship results in overeating highly caloric foods like meat, dairy, eggs, drinks etc.

I highly recommend

In Defense of Food: An Eater's Manifesto


The Gluten Lie


for anyone thinking they have an unhealthy relationship with food that could cause them to have an unhealthy diet.

Eggs aren't all that high calorie. 3 eggs swimming in added cooking fat (2 tablespoons of butter) would be about 450 calories and would constitute a significant portion for all but the heartiest eaters.

There is of course no need to bath them in fat, 1 egg has ~80-90 calories, they are mostly water.

They are certainly higher in calories than vegetables, but if you consider the typical diet, they are not towards the high end of calorie density.

"When I hit the grocery store I skip the middle aisles and head straight for the fish and meat counter"

Those pretty packages of meat are just as much "man made" as the foods you demonize. If you want to eat meat, I suggest hunting and only using your teeth and hands (claws?) to kill your prey and to eat the meat raw; gotta eat all of it too, no picking and choosing what parts you want either.

"If you want to eat that cupcake or enjoy that cold glass of beer be sure to exercise it off."

This is HORRIBLE advice. Treating exercise like a punishment for enjoying food is like a one-way ticket to Eating Disorder Town. Diet and exercise are important, but they should be used to compliment each other and not to negate being bad at the other.

There's a world of difference between a 'package' of meat and a corn dog. I love eating meat, I see no need to 'hunt' for the thing. In the same way I love apples, I'm not going to grow an Apple tree in my yard and only eat apples from that.

To be honest there's a big problem with seeing exercise as a 'punishment'. I enjoy exercising just as much as I enjoy a cold glass of beer (before or after) and to be frank my advice suggest the two are complementary.

That wasn't my point. My point is your distinction between "man-made" and "not-man-made" food is completely arbitrary and based on your personal preferences.

Your point is nitpickery. You know perfectly well what OP means when he refers to processed food as man made food. No one would misunderstand it. What you consider to be an arbitrary distinction (which in itself is an arbjtrary distinction), is in this case rather clearly defined.

You believe that humans evolved to eat certain foods, but you ignore that we also evolved to be lazy and avoid unnecessary exercise. Maybe we evolved to eat everything we could get our hands on and to live to 40 years old in order to propogate. What about the fact that we evolved to carry and support tons of parasites? (look up the guy who walked barefoot around latrines in the 3rd world to pick up worms which he carries and is willing to sell you... he'd not a crackpot, either) What about the fact that we did not evolve to be immune to smallpox (and all the others), maybe we are supposed to get it.

I'm not taking sides here, I'm saying that you are being selective about what you choose to believe in a way that is not entirely supported by science. Yes you can selectively come up with science to support your beliefs, but what this article is about is how for many many years in modern times we all arrogantly believed the wrong science.

Your comment strikes me that you are not reading the news story about sugar as a cautionary tale against believing things that could quite well not be true.

I myself doubt that there is a magic diet that makes us live a long time, because living a long time is not something we evolved for; rather, we evolved to eat anything we could get our hands on because living thru times of shortage was more important than maybe having an allergy that made us gassier. 2nd order effects have a lot of trouble overcoming firsts.

And if you enjoy exercise, great! but if you don't enjoy it, remember that the hour you spend running will not lead to you living an hour longer, so you just shortened your overall enjoyable life, while you also increased your carbon footprint which is a socially selfish thing to do. See what I mean? these things just cannot be reduced to formulas for how we should live.

I disagree with the parent, but there are several issues with your post as well.

For starters, it's wrong to suggest that there's a direction or purpose to evolution[1]. The current shape of human life is no indication that we have 'progressed' from where we previously were, or where we will be in the future (as far as evo bio is concerned). As such, to suggest that we were 'supposed' to get smallpox because we did not evolve a natural immunity to it is not a statement that conforms to our understanding of evolution. Neither does it make sense that, because in the developed world, people have tended to become more sedentary, it is a desired end goal for humans to become 'lazier'. If that were the case, we should also be willing to argue that childlessness is the desirable state for living organisms, as the more education and wealth humans accumulate, the less likely they are to have children[2]. I don't fully follow your reasoning on exercise, but as it is intended to counteract the documented effects of overeating, I'm not sure it is a sound thesis to suggest it won't increase your lifespan.

1: http://www.talkorigins.org/faqs/evolphil/teleology.html 2: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BkSO9pOVpRM

I used "we evolved" in the sense that he used it so I could communicate with him; in actuality, I subscribe to the Selfish Gene hypothesis where "we" really don't matter at all. Our genes compete for survival against not surviving. They compete against each other inasmuch as they are in competition but otherwise they cooperate in the sense of accepting each other as part of the environment in which they propogate.

there is a direction and purpose to evolution, it's: replicate or cease to exist.

> Jack Lalanne (American fitness guru) stated "If man made it, don't eat it".

He also said "if it tastes good, spit it out" which is just retarded, as there's plenty of things that taste good that are good for you (bananas, apples and broccoli jump immediately to my mind). I respect the man for his accomplishments, but those two quotes aren't among them.

> The lymphatic system which helps rid the body of waste substances is 'pumped' by respiration and physical activity.

This I've always "felt" to be true, as it seems to me that my allergies get better with exercise. That being said, you can't outrun your fork, and even if you're eating "healthy", if you eat too much, you will gain weight. I'm not saying you can never have a tasty treat again, just don't try to compensate for it via exercise. Work it into your daily calorie budget.

You are skipping the fact that most meat and produce products for sale ARE man made was well. Cows as they currently exist never roamed the wilds. Most fruit and veggies are so different form the wild forms that we wouldn't even identify them as the same fruit.

Not saying these are not better for you then Fruit Loops, but it good to keep some prospective as how man made or man "designed" ALL our food is.

> You are skipping the fact that most meat and produce products for sale ARE man made was well.

Did a man (or machine) literally put it together with two hands? This is the distinction being made.

> My only (dietary) vices are coffee and the odd glass of wine (both very much man made).

I don't think I'd consider either of those man-made in the sense of being heavily processed: coffee is simply roasted coffee beans with hot water poured over, and wine is pressed grape juice allowed to ferment.

If wine is just grapes, it must be vegan-compatible, right? But it isn't!

Not only is wine sometimes made with products like nuts and milk, it can even be made using fish guts!


A French wine maker told me this. I had no idea...these "extras" are not on the label.

If you're vegan for moral reasons, isinglass is a problem. If not, the isinglass falls out and isn't actually present in the finished wine in a significant quantity.

> Not only is wine sometimes made with products like nuts and milk, it can even be made using fish guts!

Wine is even made with people!

Alcohol producers have fought really really hard against nutrition labels on their products.

Wow! Do you know of any specific labels made using fish guts? This sounds interesting.

It's not fish guts, but one of the fining agents used is made from chitin from shrimp: https://winemakermag.com/26-a-clearer-understanding-of-finin...

In that same article isinglass is listed as a fining agent, it is collagen from fish swim bladders.

Coffee beans are fermented first.

> wine is pressed grape juice allowed to ferment.

That's more likely to get you awful vinegar than anything even remotely resembling wine.

How would one get wine from grapes without fermentation?

Saccharomyces yeast turns sugars into ethanol. Acetobacter bacteria turns ethanol into acetic acid.

It's all about controlling the cultures you use for the fermentation.

That's why home-brewers have to be so careful about sterilizing their fermentation vessels and boiling their liquids. You absolutely, positively do not want the wrong microbe getting into your booze. If it's a wild one, it could end up synthesizing any number of organic chemicals that can negatively affect the final product.

That's not how it works. Acetic acid fermentation needs oxygen, alcohol fermentation doesn't. You need to prevent fresh air from getting into the vessel, but that's it. You don't boil anything.

Kefir culture, which contains both types of microbe, is perfectly happy turning sugar into alcohol into vinegar inside a sealed vessel. If you wanted to stop it, you would need to evacuate the vessel or fill it with an inert gas. If you also had a microbe in there that split water into H2 and O2, you'd have no chance at all at more than about 0.5% alcohol by volume in there. I'm not aware of any existing kefir culture that has such a microbe in it, but once one was adopted it would be near impossible to get rid of it while saving the rest of the culture.

The boiling happens with beer, mostly. With wine, you're usually relying on the yeast that naturally occurs on the surface of the grapes, so if you boiled (or pasteurized) it, there would be no fermentation unless you added additional yeast. That sometimes happens, because some people prefer consistency to authenticity.

Home brewers use fermentation vessels that allow gases to escape through a liquid trap and the whole process is done at positive pressure. You can bet your ass that those vessels are thoroughly sterilized before each use.

We may be talking past each other here.

Yes, we are. Kefir is made acidic by the lactic acid, not acetic acid. Lactic acid is indeed produced in wine.

Fermentation produces so much CO2 that it quickly fills up the vessel and pushes any remaining oxygen out. People didn't know where yeast comes from until recently. You're making it far more complicated than it is.

Kefir most definitely has vinegar in it, especially if you're getting towards the bottom of the batch, after all the sugars are gone. That's what takes it from "just a bit tart" to "whoa, that's sour".

Though it depends a lot on your culture. The "kefir" sold commercially in the US does not have yeast in the culture, and therefore no alcohol or vinegar. It doesn't really qualify as real kefir. You have to acquire cultures and make your own to get the full experience. You also have to acquire a taste for it.

Tha simplest and best advice I've read was in an article called 'We should all eat more DNA' [http://blog.oup.com/2016/01/we-should-all-eat-more-dna/].

It follows one simple guideline 'Avoid anything that lacks DNA.'.

>Grains and milk are relatively recent to our diet (past 10000 years)

People have been eating wild wheat for at least 50,000 years and archeologists published a paper in the December, 2009, issue of Science on their discovery in Mozambique of stone tools with wild grain residues dating some 105,000 years ago.

Also keep in mind that most of humanity is lactose tolerant now while less than 1% was even 10k years ago and the prevalence of blue eyes has increase from a rounding error to over 6% of the human race. Human evolution is 100 times the rate it was in prehistoric times according to some estimates.

Common wheat of today is probably not what people were eating 50k years ago.


Definitely true! Ditto for a lot of plants and animals we eat.

Most of those fresh fruit and veggies are man-made, too. Modern tomatoes, corn, squash, broccoli (check out what we did to wild mustard plants: https://nicolecooks.files.wordpress.com/2011/01/f2104.jpg), etc. are nothing like what's found in nature. Your wine's probably closer to naturally occurring than they are - we get drunk squirrels from fermented fruits every year.

Judge each food on it's nutritional merits, not by some arbitrary naturalistic fallacy criteria.

I prefer the idea of, if it comes in a box or bag or bottle it should be avoided. If you do choose to partake then read the ingredients and if you cannot find them separately in the store you most likely don't want the item you are considering.

Man made food IMO is the victim of .. men. As soon as we could cook and eat for pleasure we optimized for it. This era is just going too far (lots of industrialized food is scrapes coated in sweetener and whatever to make it tongue friendly). I can't help but to think it's all a consequence to our desires and lifestyles. We have more time to do nothing so we do them to tickle pleasure centers. Everything is unbalanced, you don't walk or run to catch food, you sit, and so you don't care about getting nutrient but satisfying the needs for thrill. Loop.

I find there is cognitive dissonance here for a lot of folks - I personally agree that fresh, natural ingredients are good, but at the same time I'll drink soylent. I don't know where I stand on all this because I am afraid that in future years, I'll find out that I have small intestine cancer because of all the soylent I drink, but at the same time - we SHOULD be able to understand how the body works and that all things are knowable. Would just love to get folks thoughts on this.

Yeah it's always tough challenging every preconception society has created in us - I of course am not immune to that by any means.

Whilst I can imagine soylent is nutritionally dense and quite possibly very sound from that point of view the work of Weston Price would strongly suggest a major problem with lack of good mastication.

The skull isn't as static a structure as we might believe it turns out and lack of effective nutrition AND chewing caused many problems in people (weakening of the jaw and facial muscles and subsequent narrowing of the palate and skull) according to his studies.

Basically we can try and stray from the path our ancestors took but not too far too quick! Our bodies only evolve so fast so yep, even soylent probably has its downsides.

Very interesting how people can all subscribe to an orthodoxy for so long, ignoring evidence to the contrary.

Max Planck: “A new scientific truth does not triumph by convincing its opponents and making them see the light, but rather because its opponents eventually die, and a new generation grows up that is familiar with it.”

There is no evidence for what Lustig says. He produced one mediocre paper after multiple attempts. That's it. It's not science. It's just an attempt to distract from the real issue.

It started with pet food. Attempts at making plant based foods for dogs and cats initially failed, becuase the animals didn't want to eat these unnatural diets. But a solution was found: the so called "palatants". When they were added to the food, animals ate it.

Naturally, somebody thought of using these in human food as well. It didn't work as expected - it turned out they don't work by making the food tastier, they work by disabling the satiety response. Once the palatants get into your bloodstream, you won't feel satisfied no matter how much you eat until your body can get rid of these these chemicals. You may feel that your stomach is completely filled and stop eating, but you won't ever feel that you ate enough.

Since adults would get suspicious if they got more hungry, it started with child menus. The idea was the same as with pet food - if children eat a lot of the food, their parents will buy it again.

Now we have at least two generations of people who believe it's perfectly normal not to feel satisfied until their stomach can't hold any more food and that staying not obese requires arduous discipline. Our perception of normal weight has changed as well, for pets and human alike. Cats, when fed unaldutered meat eat to stay very skinny, with body shape that many modern guidelines show as "very thin" or "underweight". But many people today think of them as naturally fatty animals.

Many of these chemicals are approved food aditives and are listed usually as emuglators, flour conditioners or something similarly inconspicious.

Interesting, I've never heard this before. Any sources?

Fascinated by your response, including the history. I'm assuming you are referring to MSG and similar chemicals. What are your sources?

I mean tetrasodium pyrophosphate and similar chemicals. But there may be many more that can cause such effects.

Do you have any sources for this? I'm looking for academic literature on the effects of tetrasodium pyrophosphate on satiety, but I can't find anything.

There's been lots of evidence of the harm caused by sugar in many other studies, and mentioned in this article, besides the ones Lustig did, which I think, confirms he was right.

No, there has been no evidence.

Yes, consuming high amounts of fructose on a daily basis has some serious side effects. Consuming the same amount of glucose doesn't.

This just means that the amount of fructose intake should be moderated.

Seems to be that the majority of this community believes there are concept such as healthy food, unhealthy food, superfood etc. These concepts are scientifically non-existent.

There's such a thing, scientifically, as an unhealthy diet and healthy diet.

Sugar can be a part of a healthy diet. So can hamburgers, so can everything else.

There's been bunch of evidence for UK and Australia (where fructose intake decreased over the years) but they still got fatter and fatter.

Sugar tax is idiotic.

Lustig: Sugar makes people obese.

Reality: Carbs, fat and sugar makes people obese.

American population started eating ridiculously huge amounts of food. They'll get fat no matter what they eat if the caloric intake is 3700kcal per day.

A very very powerful thing that most of us forget when we start reading all the conflicting evidence about carbs / sugar / fat:

You can experiment on yourself for free! Obviously this won't prove how everyone's body works. But it will teach you something very powerful about how your own body works.

Go off sugar for 3 months, make your mind and do it, and note the changes in your organism.

Or go off carbs totally for a few weeks, and feel what happens to you.


Make up your own experiments, the only danger is that you may end up lying to yourself about what you ate, or not be sure about the composition of the stuff you ate...

Disclaimer: I'm not an expert on this, just describing my own experience (which may be subjective/biased/completely misinterpreted by me).

If you're mostly sedentary in a first-world country, going off sugar/carbs-dominated diet brings your insulin sensitivity to its natural levels (which, very probably, it hasn't been since the moment you started eating adult food). For me this had the amazing effect of becoming more alert and productive mentally and more aware of my body physically. As an athlete, I suddenly discovered that I can be underperforming because I'm lacking fuel, and not because I'm tired, and that if I "fuel up" by eating carbs, I can expect a surge of energy that will allow me to perform well. Needless to say, the discovery was amazing, I felt like a finely tuned sports car or something.

Back when I was eating a regular western diet, my insulin sensitivity was low, and "injecting" fast carbs made me drowsy, not full of energy.

Needless to say once I experienced that new state, I got hooked, so sticking to good eating habits haven't required tremendous will power for me. Getting there, though, did.

I noticed this effect when I lost weight in the last 7 months, I dropped 60 odd lbs by switching to a diet of eggs, meat (mostly chicken), fish, low fat/carb dairy (cottage cheese, 0 fat greek yoghurt etc) and a large amount of vegetables (mostly steamed).

After a few months on that diet anything rich in sugar gave me a massive short lived energy rush, I actually didn't much like the feeling so now I only eat complex carbs and hardly anything with a lot of sugar (lots of cruciferous vegetables, not a lot of high sugar fruits).

I've found that throughout the day my mood and general feeling is pretty constant rather than up and down like a yo-yo.

I had a similar experience when I removed sugar and almost all carbs for 5 months. Switched to mostly protein and fat (meat/tuna/eggs/cheese/vegetables)

One major change was much higher "energy"/"alertness levels after lunch and after dinner. No more sleepy low energy "food coma" feeling after meals.

Where I would usually feel like laying on the sofa after a long day's work and dinner, now I had the urge to go out on my bicycle, even at night and in winter cold.

Although I have to admit that like most people who do drastic diet changes I had a relapse and went back to eating sugar again after the five months. This relapse happened gradually, where I naively convinced myself that I was no longer addicted to sugar, and started by having a treat once a week, which quickly became once a day ...

The mental change is still ingrained in me though, I now treat sugar like a dangerous addictive substance and I'm trying to get rid of it like any other "substance abuser".

I feel carbs in general can be my best friend if I use them wisely. But yes, pure sugar is just too potent. Sort of like taking pure heroin instead of an ibuprofen to treat a headache.

I recently did this as well and my experience has been the same. Did it mainly to manage my energy levels better. Now less reliant on caffeine and less prone to energy swings. Also in much better shape.

Can you go into more detail about what a regular western diet is and how your new diet differs?

By western diet I meant the gratuitous consumption of highly potent energy sources in the form of white bread/soda/cake/sugar/etc., which is common in North America (can't speak about the rest of the Western world, I hear that Europeans are lean compared to North Americans).

Anyway, my approach is simple and unscientific, but it seems to work for me. I just treat any carb-rich food as fuel (there is a difference as to "slow" vs "fast" carbs, but it's not important for the purposes of this discussion :)).

So, since it's fuel, I use it as such. For example, if I'm in my sedentary/low stress mode, I eat just a token amount of them. If I'm preparing for a gruelling match or bulking up at the gym, I'll load up on carbs (ideally the day before the match). If I'm cutting, I reduce the amount considerably.

As for fat/protein/fiber, that's pretty much an invariant. I just eat a normal healthy amount. I do increase protein intake on the days I work out a lot, though.

> I hear that Europeans are lean compared to North Americans)

A lot of them [us] are catching up, especially in the UK, where the diet has been Americanized.

Except your kidneys excrete more electrolytes and water, and it can take weaks to adapt, and theoritically some people will never fully adapt.

I would have to drink 1 gram of warm saltwater and my headache would instantly go away.

So how you feel is deceptive. If I would drink a Vanilla Latte at Starbucks now, I would get a serious headache...

>So how you feel is deceptive.

Well, yeah you are right. At some point you will have to read and educate yourself a bit to try and guess what is happening to your body.

But as a rule of thumb if you stick to a no sugar habit for 3 months your headaches should not last for more than a few weeks, if they don't subside and you keep feeling "unhealthy" obviously its time to get medical advice, but I argue the same would be true if you were to keep to a sugar heavy "current normal" sort of diet.

Lite salt is better, it has sodium and potassium.

Nusalt (potassium chloride) tastes like something that will kill you. But I drank it everyday and about 3 grams of salt.

I put it in some chicken broth, it's a lot more tolerable that way.

You're quoting a physicist. Nutrition isn't a science as hard as physics. As a given science subject moves away to more complex system (human organisms, social organisms), the notion of light (or the truth) gets rather diffuse. It's harder to define something as the light (or the truth), because phenomena and its causality simply get harder to prove.

Yes that's true but there are still facts that can be established for nutrition or biology etc and I think his statement can still ring true for any type of science. They can all be victims to politics and other human failings. Although possibly more so for the less "hard" sciences as it's harder to prove an assertion.

It's just amazing how the point that sugar causes obesity and other harms has been ridiculed for decades but is now starting to be widely accepted. Huge amounts of data were ignored, and now the case is pretty overwhelming.

People can't 'ignore' data they don't know about. It (the data) was buried and hidden (conspiracy maybe?). Now it seems things are swinging back to the other side of the pendulum and people are going ketogenic.

One has to wonder if the extremes are problematic.

No carbs vs. no fats might turn out to be a bad thing as well.

It makes me wonder if as humans we make generalities too often that cause us to take up sub optimal behaviors that have long term negative outcomes.

Yeah, that's true. My nutritionist-wannabe facet is also mesmerized by this, and I can't avoid preaching this to everyone - try to limit added sugar as much as you can. Use artificial sweeteners if you really need; they may be problematic, yes, but sugar surely is!

> Use artificial sweeteners if you really need; they may be problematic, yes, but sugar surely is!

People have really weird relationships with food, often taking concepts to the extreme. Too much sugar is bad, so limit added sugar intake as much as possible and prefer artificial sweeteners to sugar.

Rather than sensibly moderating consumption we've gone from eating far too much of one thing, to trying to eat none of it, and indeed trying to replace it with something completely artificial. Not to sound like one of those "anything that's natural is better for you" people.

It's just a lateral move.

Yes, you're right. I think we're starting to see many reactions like "oh, it's just another diet fad" because exactly of what you describe, things being taken to extremes. Anyway, what I recommend - from what I gather by my little research here and here - is to limit, not abolish, added sugars.

Max Planck: people have confirmation bias

You: but he's a physicist, in biology things are harder to prove

(the point is that people have confirmation bias even when things are 'easier' to prove)

Aren't they?

Personally I think that if 'facts' were noticably easier to prove in Physics then we wouldn't have consumed the last third of a century of physicist brainpower on String Theory (et al), blocking students of competing theories from funding/tenure, with no useful results to show for it. The stuff that's easy to prove has broadly already been proved... but... I don't think that's relevant.

People have confirmation bias regardless of being shown evidence, it's the central feature of confirmation bias that you interpret new information in a way that supports your pre-existing view. It's a human trait not a feature of the subject matter.

"(the point is that people have confirmation bias even when things are 'easier' to prove)"

You have just summarized "https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Praise_of_Folly" by Erasmus.

I fail to see the point of making that point, sorry.

I agree. Biology and Physics are very different fields. Physics - where every action has an equal or opposite reaction. Biology - many many variables where its difficult to measure the effect of one change.

Likely because it seems so intuitively logical that fat in your body comes from fat in your diet. Want to stop getting fat? Stop eating fat. It seems so obvious, despite being wrong at the fundamental level.

And yet, as the article doesn't quite point out, eating all the protein you like won't make you more muscular (unless you also do regular strenuous exercise).

Obviously you can't just eat your way to a six pack. If you're trying to make a point worthy of an "and yet" prefix, it's lost on me.

You can get fat by eating too much protein. Or too much fat. Intense overeating of any macro-nutrient is a bad idea. The thing is, it's harder (though by no means difficult) to overeat fat or protein.

The dangerous thing about carbohydrates is they are by far the easiest to overeat, and may have the greatest health consequences. That's a scary combination.

> You can get fat by eating too much protein.

This appears unlikely/citation needed. You may die from it, but not by getting fat.

For example, see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rabbit_starvation

" If there are enough rabbits, the people eat till their stomachs are distended; but no matter how much they eat they feel unsatisfied. Some think a man will die sooner if he eats continually of fat-free meat than if he eats nothing, but this is a belief on which sufficient evidence for a decision has not been gathered in the North. Deaths from rabbit-starvation, or from the eating of other skinny meat, are rare; for everyone understands the principle, and any possible preventive steps are naturally taken."

Of course not a six pack, since the primary ingredient for a six pack is an absence of fat. I'm just talking muscle volume here. "And yet" was probably the wrong choice of words; I really meant "Indeed", I think.

The way I read it, it's poking a hole in the "you are what you eat" adage that people take at face value for "if you eat fat you get fat".

By extension of this adage, then, if you eat fat you get fat. If you eat carbs you get starchy, and if you eat protein you get muscley. We know the second two aren't true, but the first one sticks for some reason.

It's for precisely that reason that I can't fathom how even this sticks with people. "you are what you eat" (in this literal a sense) sounds like something you grow out of around the time you figure out object permanence.

It really should have a different name. That would have solved a lot. If we called fat grams mutons or something.

Or lipids.

The paper mentioned in that paragraph titled "Does Science Advance One Funeral at a Time?" [1] is pretty interesting.

But also sad. Not sure how that problem will be solved...

[1] http://www.econ.upf.edu/~fonsrosen/images/planck_complete_12...

The problem is that the food industry has been pumping money into research while governments have withdrawn most of it. The whole "butter is good" article in the times was funded by the US dairy industry. Gov funded research still does not agree with it.

I will take butter every time over margarine and other spreads. Simply on the grounds of how they are made. One is a food, the others entirely chemical processes.

Nearly all the butter is bad is funded by the spread industry.

Margarine's production is more complex but it doesn't seem too wild: http://www.madehow.com/Volume-2/Butter-and-Margarine.html

Either way the milk is coming from a cow pumped full of hormones and antibiotics.

Ah, perhaps. Neither are allowed in the EU. Hormones not allowed at all, and milk disposed of until antibiotics no longer register in milk after treatment.

Fairly recently UK was prosecuted for not checking antibiotic levels adequately.

I'm of the belief that butter is good (or at least, not bad).

ah, but a LOT of publicly funded research is not freely available... (yet)

Even with all our rules, science is not exempt from the (un)conscious bias of man- a new scientific truth affects the structure of the group that practices in that field. But according to Kuhn in The Structure of Scientific Revolutions, this resistance serves a purpose:

"By ensuring that the paradigm will not be too easily surrendered, resistance guarantees that scientists will not be lightly distracted and that the anomalies that lead to paradigm change will penetrate existing knowledge to the core."

I think this is one of the worst thing about humans as a generation. If everyone accepted scientific evidence and research as the truth as soon as it was available I believe we would evolve much faster.

There is no such thing as instantly available scientific evidence. Even in physics, hypotheses can take decades to decisively be confirmed or rejected (is string theory true? We don't know. Is holographic universe hypothesis true? Probably no, but we don't know. Is there an event horizon in black holes which light can't ever escape? Hawking recently famously changed his mind and now telling us it might not be).

In biology, there is even less certainty and established theories routinely fail to reproduce. Is Central Dogma of Molecular Biology true? How it couldn't be with such a name? Well, no, there is now a lot of evidence against it.

And don't even get me started on climate science.

[Planck's Principle][1]:

> A new scientific truth does not triumph by convincing its opponents and making them see the light, but rather because its opponents eventually die and a new generation grows up that is familiar with it.

— Max Planck, Scientific autobiography, 1950, p. 33

[1]: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Planck's_principle

That is an incredibly poor understanding of science.

Except in this case Lustig is not correct and sugar is not some evil food out to make everybody fat and diabetic.

It's typical how most people really want to immediately buy into the simple fixes and religiously believe them without knowing why it worked. Overweight? Must be the fructose (recently) / carbs (a while back) / fats (further back). Same old story. Somebody makes rounds in media and makes a lot of money after publishing a book with something "new" - a simple fix.

Fortunately we have people like Lyle McDonald, Alan Aragon, Guyenet out there talking some sanity. Unfortunately, they never make it to mainstream media.

Some Resources:



https://medium.com/@lylemcdonald/highly-processed-carbohydra... (A comment by Lyle on the rhetoric posted by Ludwig)

Very few public, true fitness instructors and dietitians are following the simplest rule ever - decrease calories to lose weight. This method is not that popular, its to tricky since it requires for person to calculate foods, which makes it unpopular for lazy. But it is absolutely the best method to lose weight fast, decrease calorie intake and create shortage.

This doesn't always work. Many people, myself included can fail to lose weight on a restricted calorie diet. I spent 12 months eating below 1200 while working out religiously (4-6 days a week with 30sh mins of cardio followed by 45sh mins of weight lifting). In the beginning I lost weight and fast. At 5'9 I went from 240 down to 148 lbs in 7 months. At 148 I still had excess fat on my body and no matter how hard I worked out it went nowhere. I was borderline starving myself and everything I read said "it's simple calorie in vs out". It became obvious to me that wasn't always true. It's frustrating to hear people spew that when I'm weighing chicken breasts with 110% certainty of what my caloric intake is vs my out and here I was, not losing a damn pound.

I wish I could say I know what was going on. I have theories as I spent months of my life trying to turn the tables. I eventually gave up and just continued to lift weights and eat normal. Now 4 years later I still have that fat I couldn't lose but I'm a lot bigger (muscle). That fat hasn't gone anywhere and in the 4 years I've yo-yo'd with different attempts to get rid of it. The fat I have is not normal.

This doesn't always work. Many people, myself included can fail to lose weight on a restricted calorie diet.

I spent 12 months eating below 1200 while working out religiously (4-6 days a week with 30sh mins of cardio followed by 45sh mins of weight lifting). In the beginning I lost weight and fast. At 5'9 I went from 240 down to 148 lbs in 7 months.

You just described an example showing that a restricted calorie diet can be wildly successful. The former quote seems provably false using the latter.

Honestly, this is what I just read from your post.

I can't lose weight on a restricted calorie diet. Here is an example of how I lost a huge amount of weight on a restricted calorie diet.

Not saying it isn't effective, just only that it doesn't work in some cases. It's a fallacy to say it's simply calories in vs out. As I said in my post, I lost weight but then I stopped losing weight and still haven't lost a large amount of weight using that method.

I would think that if you've hit a plateau on weight loss within a health weight range (which from the sounds of it, you are within a healthy weight range) then you won. Maintain that, and don't worry about having a little extra fat.

Maintaining a reduced calorie diet seems to be the issue, most people cannot do this.

Wrong. I maintained ~1200 calorie life style for several extended periods after losing my initial weight in an effort to get rid of the last 10sh lbs of fat with no success. If its simply calories in vs out then I would have succeeded several times over. It's not simply in vs out in some cases which is what I'm trying to point out and what Goronmon has failed to understand.

It's not simply in vs out in some cases which is what I'm trying to point out and what Goronmon has failed to understand.

You'll never find a diet/exercise/plan that allows one to achieve indefinite weight lose.

Funny as that happens to be exactly what I'm arguing. "it's not as simple as cal in vs out."

How tall are you? What's your build? Yours sounds like a pretty damn successful story, congrats!

Calorie in vs. calorie out is a simplistic way of looking at it. It is certainly true for a first-order approach, though. There is much more to it, such as timing, consumption of fiber with sugar, metabolism, etc. etc. However, the most important factor which should be taken on first for the largest immediate changes is calorie in/out.

I'm curious how much fat you have now? In my experience: With effort I was able to get to about 90% of my goals, but the last 10% is extremely stubborn and I haven't been able to get past it. From what I understand, it would require extreme tactics, such as 10 hours of sleep nightly, eliminating all stress and amino acid accounting to eliminate.

I might suggest reducing the cardio greatly and replacing it with briefer, higher-intensity cardio, btw. The body seems to adjust intake demands very well in response to cardio. Also, what supplements do you use? Finally, I'm a little concerned when you say the fat you have is not normal - you may be straying into the unrealistic psychological zone, but obviously I can't tell much from here. I just don't want you to be obsessing over a physique that is already quite acceptable. Congrats again, your discipline should be inspiring to lots of people... hope you comment doesn't stay gray long.

5'9, I would say mesomorphic build with maybe a lean towards endo (I can put on muscle mass easily). Definitely a good success story, 70+ lbs in 7 months aint easy! I've tried a great deal of things. Uping fiber, zero carbohydrates (most effective at weight loss), fasting, intermittent fasting (also very effective with zero/low carb).

Can't say how much I have at the moment. Definitely in an upswing since I've been trying to bulk a little. I has this incredible ability to store water (most likely do to fat deposits) and look fluffy. If I zero out my carbs I will piss 20x that day and at 180 lbs the fat will look exactly the same as it did when I was at 148 lbs. Once I look at some bread my body will hold onto everything I drink and I'll fluff right up.

I've read that the last 10% will take all the effort of the first 90% and then some. I tried as I could to power through it and I can honestly say whatever is keep that last 10% is stronger than I am. When you starve for several weeks straight and lose nothing it's hard not to be defeated. I've considered for several years now going under the knife to win it but the prohibitive cost has kept me away from that and the desire to not be defeated by my body.

As I mentioned I've cycled weight lifting / cardio / diet dozens of times over the last few years to keep my body guessing without success.

Supplements: fish oil, multi-vit, whey, creatine, and sometimes fiber.

By not normal I mean old brown adipose or subcutaneous fat with very poor circulation which inhibits the bodies ability to flush hormones through it. This is the fat I've had for 20sh years (was overweight as a child) and I believe the body has practically forgotten about it so to speak.

Have you considered that it's excess skin because your weight was pretty high for your height and you were losing over 10lbs a month?

Absolutely. Definitely not excess skin.

One problem with calories is it definitely is not a simple mathematical "calories in / calories out" formula. Roughly it is a good guideline. But the body also is able to adapt to changes in calorie consumption and mass. (See myth #1.)


Most advice I've heard suggests that going way below your basal metabolic rate calorie consumption isn't that great of an idea, because your body adapts to that reduced calorie range (some people call this "starvation mode"). I would hazard a guess (though this is just a postulate without any data I could find) that this especially applies when you are at a more "normal" weight already.

There's a reason why weight loss is often described as a "lifestyle change".

I've considered "starvation mode" and for a while I tried cycling my caloric needs (high week, vs low week or two) in fruitless attempts to game my body. I attempted this in larger cycles as well, several months normal vs several weeks of intense dieting. Same issues. The fat wouldn't budge, I'd drop all the water my cells held onto during carb up periods and the fat would sit there. Gives the impression I've lost weight but it was really just water.

My theory from my research is that the fat in question is the oldest (fat I've had since youth) and do to it's age has poor vascularity which inhibits the bodies ability to mobilize it. I've read somewhere that your body will over time reduce blood flow to fat (the veins will over time diminish in size and density those areas) which reduces the flow of hormones into that fat and subsequently your bodies ability to break it down and expel it when needed.

I'm no anatomy expert and this is something I read many years ago so I can't argue it's accurate.

Are you sure it wasn't a mental issue? How were you measuring fat? 5'9 and 148lb isn't close to being overweight. I'm just under 140lb at 5'9 and I'm quite thin. It looks like I have some around my stomach due to poor posture, but that's it.

Definitely not. If you are curious I have pictures. (at home, would need to wait till I'm off work)

It's frustrating for sure. And it's not as simple as everyone makes it to be.

The calorie in / calorie out has a lot of variables that need adjustment. It's very important not to go on an aggressive diet but requires working down from what you consume right now where the weight is stable (maintenance calories). Unfortunately, what most people don't talk about is the effect of LBM loss and its effect on the RMR/BMR [1]. Your energy expenditure decreases further as you lose the LBM. It will be further worsened if you went for a very aggressive weight loss strategy with very low calories as your body will adjust to that and your hormones might be temporarily imbalanced [2].

Weight lifting and a full strategy for fat loss is essential for long-term success.

I personally do believe metabolic damage (or the better term metabolic slowdown) does happen, but it can be fixed by gradually going back to the correct maintenance calories with a solid weight lifting program (3x per week works) to back it up for a few months. This will result in some gains in the short-term (hopefully more of it being LBM). And you can go back to the fat loss phase again from there.

To add to it, the course the calorie in / calorie out model isn't as simple since macros still need some thought. You definitely need about 0.6-0.8g of protein / lb of bodyweight to gain muscle or about 0.8-0.9g / lb to maintain it at times of calorie deficit. [3]

[1]: http://www.bodyrecomposition.com/fat-loss/lean-body-mass-mai... [2]: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12609816/ [3]: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22150425

You might be a good candidate for some newer devices for non-invasive fat removal. Take a look at CoolSculpting, which freezes fat cells (leading to apoptosis), or Vanquish, which uses deep RF stimulation to heat fat cells and kill them. CoolSculpting has been around for about 5 years and has already been used for over 3 million treatments and seems to be pretty safe and effective. Vanquish and SculpSure (uses lasers) are much newer.

Looking into these though I'm always wary of things like these. Any personal experience?

At what body fat percentage does your weight loss stall at? Are you insulin sensitive? Do you have good testosterone levels? Do you have a high stress lifestyle or chronic anxiety, or consistent sleep deprivation? You can get these things tested, and they may give you clues as to what's going on. Your body won't burn the fat you'd like it to if it's not in a good hormonal state.

I can't comment on bodyfat percentages since I've yet to do an accurate (float) test. I've used the electronic method before and it was at around 17-21% at the lowest). I can't comment on insulin sensitivity, never been tested. Testosterone levels were normal. Stress and anxiety comes and goes, would say it's regularly above average but over 5 years there has to have been times where it was normal during very cardiovascular heightened periods (backpacked the pacific crest trail), same goes for sleep. I sleep well 80% of the time I feel.

Calories counting diet always work. What you are seeing here is miscalculation probably. Here, send me a PM and I will look over your diet. There is NO WAY you could be on a "fatter" side eating only 1200 calories. You wont cheat the chemistry, you wont run a car on half the fuel it needs.

Certain diets (the food and drink regularly consumed) make it much easier to decrease calorie intake. This is partially why it bothers me so much to hear "a calorie is just a calorie". "A calorie is just a calorie" if you happen to be a calorimeter. The person consuming only unprocessed meats and vegetables is going to have a much easier time consuming 2000 cal/day in perpetuity than someone who's in an addictive cycle consuming sugary, processed foods like might be found at your average American buffet. I've tried both and the former is a breeze.

That simplest rule ever isn't unpopular because it's "tricky," it's unpopular because hunger is one of our most fundamental motivators, and it's extremely difficult to consistently overcome it. It's on the same level as advocating abstinence as a method of birth control. Sure, it works great if you can do it, but expecting people to actually stick to it, or calling them names when they don't, is ridiculous.

Weight loss is hard because you need to figure out some motivator which can outweigh the drive to eat, or you need to figure out a way to satisfy the drive to eat without actually eating lots of calories. It seems to me that fancy advice like "more protein, less sugar" or "avoid processed food" just boils down to this second one; these are foods which fill you up more for any given number of calories.

you're just plain wrong on your first point. most fitness instructors/trainers tell their clients to eat less and eat better, and to count calories. i don't even know where you got this idea. you're conflating the bullshit commercials you see on tv with actual, real life trainers at actual real life gyms.

second, and more importantly, this advise is nearly useless. this is like telling an alcoholic to just drink less, or a heroin addict to just stop using. yes, great. eat less, thanks bro. what a revelation.

obese people are addicted to food. they are killing themselves and it's a psychosomatic issue, not a math problem. it requires education, a real desire to change, sometimes special diets to break mental barriers, and a lot more work than just a simple statement like "eat less calories". i guess you must think everyone else is just stupid, right? so simple! just eat less calories. silly addicts, if they only knew about physics...

It's an obvious, but entirely uninteresting fact.

It's like telling poor people the way to escape poverty is to make more money than they spend.

Of course that is true, but they would be more interested in how to do it, not what to do.

Very true. Sugar is not the entire story of why calorie consumption increased, after all.


"ERS data suggest that average daily calorie intake increased by 24.5 percent, or about 530 calories, between 1970 and 2000. Of that 24.5-percent increase, grains (mainly re-fined grain products) contributed 9.5 percentage points; added fats and oils, 9.0 percentage points; added sugars, 4.7 percentage points; fruits and vegetables together, 1.5 percentage points; meats and nuts together, 1 percentage point; and dairy products and eggs together,-1.5 percentage point.)"

I do think going light on highly processed food (including refined sugar and refined grains), and going light on calorie dense oils and fats is pretty good advice for any diet. But that's entirely due to the impact on calorie consumption, not due to any other health bogeyman.

This is the qualitative to saying drug addiction can be cured by just stop doing drugs. While technically true, it's much easier said than done.

It's tricky though because you can't quit food cold-turkey. You have to overcome the addiction while still partaking in it.

On a website where we talk about smartphone apps to do the most trivial things, it seems weird to glorify any method of losing weight other than the easiest and shortcut-iest.

This is going to be an unpopular opinion, but you don't even need to track calories. Just have a mindful sense when you eat, slow down, and ask "do I need to eat this? Will it make me healthier and stronger?" before most meals, and try to answer "yes" 90% of the time you actually eat.

> This is going to be an unpopular opinion, but you don't even need to track calories. Just have a mindful sense when you eat,[...]

I neither track calories, nor have "a mindful sense" when eating. My trick is to have no limitations in regards to the kind of food I eat with one rule: eat no more than one meal a day.

This is like playing darts blindfolded.

The dart board is a moving target, anyways. All I care about is an average weight loss over a period of time. Maybe it's from experience, but I've never had problems consistently losing or gaining weight by eating by feel.

A million times this. People think that the second law of thermodynamics doesn't apply to them because "biology is complex!", which sounds an awful lot like the creationists.

You can't outrun your fork. Even if you want to create a caloric deficit through increased activity level, you'll need to hold intake constant, therefore you most likely have to track it to begin with. These days with things like MyFitnessPal there is no excuse. And while it's possible to lose weight without tracking (I've done it), it's not nearly as straightforward.

If people are truly lazy, they'd put down the fork, as that's all that's needed, no time "wasted" at the gym necessary. But hunger is a hard thing to beat, and willpower can be used up, not to mention a lot of other factors (mindless eating, eating for comfort or to self-medicate, etc).

I used to have this viewpoint but now I'm ashamed of it. I'm athletic, and my body weight tends to stay the same no matter what I eat and how much I exercise. I've gone on serious binges just for the fun of it and not gained a pound. I've also gone through days of food poisoning without noticing any significant drop in weight. I now make an effort to eat healthy, not because of weight but because I think it's the best thing to do for my body and future even if I don't see any difference at the moment.

Sure, calories in and out matter, but it's very clear to me that the human body is complex, and if someone else has a body that reacts similar to mine, only with a significantly higher normal, I feel very sorry for them.

>A million times this. People think that the second law of thermodynamics doesn't apply to them because "biology is complex!", which sounds an awful lot like the creationists.

Well there are ways that make hitting a calorie deficit easier for some people. For me that tends to come from low carbs and lots of fat. I'm still losing weight because I'm at a deficit but I'm able to maintain that because I don't feel hungry like I do when I eat carbs.

People tend to overlook the pervasiveness of food addiction

> People tend to overlook the pervasiveness of food addiction

People have this misconception that "addiction" can only be to something that you can live without (such as drugs, alcohol, gambling, the Internet or gaming), when in truth you can be addicted to anything. If there's anything I'd demonize refined sugar for, it would be that it's easy to get addicted to, especially as it's put into far too many foodstuffs. Otherwise, it's just calories, and if you want it, fit it into your daily caloric budget.

Trans fats were indeed terrible for you, I think we are still pretty sure of that.

And I personally object to the typical strategy with fructose- "You say it's twice as sweet as sugar so we can use half as much? Nonsense, we're going to use FOUR times as much, and it'll be EIGHT times as sweet!" - so I'm happy to see ordinary sugar being used once again.

So even if the trend is misguided, some good things can happen.

Simple fixes can work at the onset of a problem, before things get complex -- before your endocrine system gets imbalanced. Unfortunately too many have no clear obesity threshold or apply comparative analysis against cohorts who are also gaining weight.

While it seems unimaginable today, in the 80's a breakfast cereal commercial begins, "Can you pinch an inch ?". This commercial ran so often that it forced a lifelong association: more than 1 inch of belly fat means you are out of shape.

I have probably pinched myself once a day, every day, for decades. When I am "out of shape" I stop drinking my calories (juice, soda, milk). It's effortless and only takes a few days to recover.

Wait too long with any problem and there will be no easy fix.

Sorry, I have to share the commercial: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SWUBIbsSB2c

I think if anyone did this to their wife today, it would be grounds for immediate divorce and instant social-media shaming.

Stephan Guyenet, obesity researcher and neurobiologist, critiques the carbohydrate-insulin-obesity hypothesis put forward by Lustig, Taubes, et al. He and Lustig exchange arguments here:




One diet that reflects these findings and is tested personally is "5:2 fast diet, proposed by M. Mosley. This method really is effective in reducing the ill effects of modern food and lifestyle and is easy to turn into normal weekly behavior pattern. https://thefastdiet.co.uk/

That sounds like a typical fad diet. What differentiates it, and what evidence do they have for their claims?

The companion documentary (Eat, Fast, and Live Longer) is worth watching - https://vimeo.com/50912488

Personal note: I've been following this diet since Jan 1. I also run ~ 70 miles/week. I've run 3 of my best marathons this year and lost 5 stubborn lbs (145 -> 140, I'm 5'8"). There are other styles of intermittent fasting. I'm enjoying this way of eating.

Aside, a related BBC/Horizon documentary I saw years ago flipped the question of obesity on its head and asked: Why Are Thin People Not Fat?


One of the problems with the word "diet" is the implicit connotations with fad-y short-term weight management strategies that never last. The same thing happens with the word "fast", but the implications are often religious. It's very easy to dismiss 5:2 for these reasons.

Looking at 5:2 simply as a "pattern of eating", however, makes it easier to consider not only the apparent health changes but also other potential benefits, including:

- Reduction of IGF-1 - Prolonged period of not eating as a means to promote cell repair - Shining a light on the cultural norms around eating three square meals a day with/without snacks in between.

After watching the documentary it seems like 5:2 may be more than just another "fad" diet.

I can link to this good artice in The Americal Journal of Medicine, Achieving Hunter-gatherer Fitness in the 21st Century: Back to the Future. http://www.amjmed.com/article/S0002-9343(10)00463-8/pdf

And the subsequent discussion on HN: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=10863626

Funny, I do the other way around! 5 days fast, 2 days eating. I think a 2 day fast is a bit harsh; you 'pay' the price of hunder the first day, but only have one day really of 'benefiting' from it...

In my case if I have to do it, I'd rather pay the price the first day, then keep the momentum. Also the third/fourth day there is a payout as you get a nice 'mental high'...

And blimey, the friday evening you can eat anything and it'll taste heavenly :-)

That's a great way to do it. There's so many benefits to intermittent fasting. Research shows it can: reduce oxidive stress on DNA, thus reducing Cancer. Plus it helps you eat fewer calories in a day. It reduces inflamation. It reduces the chance of type 2 diabetes. It even helps you produce BDNF which reduces the chance of mental disorders like parkinsons! Plus many more benefits, too many to list here...

Right now, alot of dieticiens are still behind the research, but they're slowly getting caught up.

Even the new york times published an article admitting that breakfast was not the most important meal of the day. they showed metastudies that showed there was absolutely NO evidence that showed breakfast was better for your health (other than some correlation based studies). It's time to jetison breakfast and live as our ancestors lived - the way we evolved to live. Nobody back then ate 3 meals a day - this is a new phenomenon started recently within the last several hundred years. the roman army conquered all of europe on just 1 meal a day: called lunch, and they got more excercise than any of us. And before that, people ate infrequently because the food supply was so unstable, often going for days without food.

With most 5:2 diets, you are not supposed to fast two consecutive days.

Non the less 2:5 sounds cool; please come back to report your experience! :)

Oh I've been doing it for years! As soon as I notice the waistline expanding, or I feel like a bit of 'detox', I try to schedule myself on a week where the fridge isn't too full of nice and/or perishable things, and I have a good mean on sunday night.

Then it's occasional fruit juice in the morning (bit of an energy boost) and coffee only until the friday.

It's a lot easier than it sounds, the 'key' thing is preparation; pick a week were you don't have a lot of 'social' to do, or any heavy physical things planned, and near empty fridge is good; instruction to the family not to decide to cook your favorite meal during the week and so forth.

Otherwise it's as reported; hunger on the first day mostly, then nothing; you get a bit of a metallic taste in the mouth, but tolerable... You get what I only can describe as a 'high' on the third/fourth day.

I lose roughly 1Kg a /day/ with that method, so if you do it once every quarter or so, that's largely enough to make up for some the odd chrismas/party/easter and so on :-)

This isn't for everyone. I had a period when I got really into fasting (I loved the challenge), often doing 24 hour and 48 hour fasts.

However, one time I tried to go for three days, and on the third day I got suddenly extremely lightheaded while hanging out with friends, and it was a scary enough that they insisted I end the fast right there (I agreed). My enthusiasm for fasting was tempered quite a bit after that.

Maybe that wouldn't happen the next time I tried going 3+ days, but I don't want to risk it.

Also, I've noticed that driving any serious distance while even on the second day of a two day fast, or concentrating on hard programming problems, can be pretty difficult. That's the main reason I don't do it much anymore (I was in high school and had nothing better to do when I was fasting before).

Fasting in the 5:2 method does not mean not eating all day. It means reducing the amount of calories to 1/4 of typical daily value. Usually it comes to having light breakfast, 180-220 kcal, skipping lunch and finishing the day with 250-350 kcal dinner.

I'm not informed on this topic - but isn't this dangerous? I mean, if your numbers are correct, an average adult loses 6% of their bodyweight doing this over 5 days. How does this affect your productivity and sleep?

It's practically impossible that that is all body fat. 1kg is over 7000 calories.

The body is more than 50% water, so weight is highly variable based on water retention, and fasting causes the body to excrete a lot of water.

For one, no salt intake will cause you to lose water. Secondly, glycogen depletion also causes you to lose water. The metallic taste in the mouth is ketosis, proof of glycogen depletion.

I used to do it on and off for a year or more 15 years ago.

I did it just for fun but noticed significantly improved productivity during the week.

I too would drink juice in the morning and possibly juice or 2 sugarcubes at lunch but not always and no calories otherwise.

To ease into fasting I would start by skipping dinner. Skipping breakfast was then easy (for me at least) and the rest of the week was no problem.

Then during a boring week in the military I decided to test what I had heard that we have 80% left when we feel completely exhausted. So after a couple of days of my "normal" fasting (IIRC) I skipped even my breakfast juice and continued without. Later that day I went to the gym and started lifting weights. 15 minutes into that I was completely drained and I was shaking for hours afterwards (again IIRC). That was my last time. :-/

I want to try again, but with a family it is way harder (and that experience kind of scared me.)

This honestly sounds like some kind of eating disorder.

Or hacker news :-)

In this case: body/mind hacking.

Here is a more balanced and more scientific article about sugars and health:


Definitely. Lustig made numerous claims in his Bitter Truth talk that were just incorrect.

Here are articles that are unbalanced but on the other end of spectrum (pro sugar).



It's interesting that in the USA the calorie consumption rose from 80s to 00s from 3100 to 3600.

In the UK and Australia they eat less fructose but more calories.

Everyone keeps on getting fatter.

There's not a single food to blame. Any food can't be healthy or unhealthy. Diets can be healthy or unhealthy. Thinking otherwise is a sign of unhealthy relationship with food. Avoiding stuff because it is carcinogenic (processed meat) or correlates with cancer (red meat) is ridiculous.

Eating large amounts every day (which is what most of the obese do) isn't?

I don't care if apples have cyanide or 60g of fructose will give me liver disease. I won't eat 50 bananas a day, I won't eat 100 apples a day, I'll eat agave syrup all over my pancakes and won't feel a thing. It's food. I enjoy it. Having fructose in it, or animal products just means I can easily overdose if I consume it every day but I won't.

It is sad to see how we are going from fat phobia to carb phobia, repeating the same mistakes 50 years later.

I have genetic metabolic disease and I have thought about this many times. My conclusion is simple enough: Eat real food, ignore the macros, listen to your body and adapt your food intake accordingly. Paul Jaminet's diet [1] is the closest I have found to fit this idea.

[1] http://perfecthealthdiet.com/

What is real food?

I disagree strongly. Eating shouldn't make you tired. I could eat 2 1/3 pound greasy cheeseburgers with toppings but if I skip the buns, I feel like I ate nothing.

There is something legitimate to intermittent fasting, ketogenic diets, avoiding refined carbs, avoiding bread etc.

I have a serious disease that is thought to prevented by ketogenic diets. And I think there's an equal chance I got the disease from refined carbs as anything else.

I also know many so-called experts in this field (MDs) and they know nothing; and worse they do not want to know anything.

My conclusion is simple: just don't eat bread or drink any sugary drinks.

Fitness trainer here once told me don't eat any white carbs after 2pm so no white potatoes, bread, pasta ect. That pretty much has worked for me combined with daily exersize (cycle, pull up bar, walking a lot) and staying away from sugary drinks and carb snacks like chips completely. I'm not fitness model fit but good enough fit and also have diabetes in the family history which luckily so far have avoided (mid 30s)

>>> I disagree strongly.

Do not see why. In fact, I agree with you 100%.

>>> I have a serious disease that is thought to prevented by ketogenic diets

Are you epileptic ? Know a couple of kids with secondary epilepsia that are doing great with a keto diet

If you don't mind me asking, what disease did you get?

Not the OP but since they said the disease might have been caused by refined carbs, the most likely candidate is diabetes.

There is strong evidence that a ketogenic diet helps prevent/diminish seizures in epileptic patients. And there's some initial but promising research it can help reduce symptoms of Alzheimer's disease – and possibly Parkinson's and ALS. There's also some very early research that a ketogenic diet might slow the growth of certain cancerous tumors. But specifically for cancer, there's also evidence that a ketogenic diet has no long-term improvement of survivorship – though might have short-term improvement. My conclusion is that the science is still very much out, and it's way too early, from my layman's reading, to make any claim about those diseases being caused by refined carbs.

Mitochondrial myopathy. Simply put, I do not produce enough energy to keep my body up and running.

There are many possible causes; in my case, it is a single large scale deletion in my mitochondrial DNA.

Symptoms are varied. In my case: extremely weak eye muscles (I have both ptosis and diplopia), intermittent fatigue, mild aerobic exercise intolerance and hot intolerance.

From a scale of 1 to 10, being 10 the worst, I rate myself at 3. So, I am doing fine. Watching what I eat, doing some exercise and controlling stress made a big difference in my quality of life (going from 7 to 3)

    mild aerobic exercise intolerance
What happens when you perform aerobic exercises?

Difficult to describe. Malaise is the closest word I can find to describe the feeling.

Macro tracking is the best way to fine tune your body composition and measure what actually works for you.

Collecting data is never a bad thing and is always worth doing.

I did macro tracking a couple of years. At the end, "listening to your body" is just a unconscious way to track macros.

> Eat real food, ignore the macros, listen to your body and adapt your food intake accordingly

The middle two pieces of advice seem somewhat contradictory. I usually get a pretty strong sense for which macro I'm primarily hungry for. "listening to my body" is intimately tied to picking the macros that make up my meal[1]. Or did you mean something more like "avoid planning macros contrary to your appetite signals"?

[1] obviously I don't have meals that consist entirely of protein powder or fruit juice, but it just gives me a sense of what type of food to emphasize in meal to avoid the irritating " full but still hungry" feeling.

>>> avoid planning macros contrary to your appetite signals

This. Same for planning ahead gym workouts.

Sound cautionary advice. I also have to work/plan around some weird diseases.

The audience for "pop nutritionists" is the normal, healthy human. Whatever that is. I'd LOVE for their to be a model, baseline, reference healthy human. To study and emulate. Then I could compare and contrast myself to that model, adjust accordingly.

On the flip side, note that some of the nutrition plans are meant for certain conditions. Like the Univ of Wash doctor who "cured" his diabetes patients with all meat diets.

OP here. I have read all the replies and the "What the hell is real food ?" appears several times.

In this context, "real food" means anything that you would find in nature in the same form - excluding changes due to cooking - as you would eat it. Some examples:

- Potato, orange, nuts, milk, eggs, meat: Real food

- Bread, Pasta, Chocolate (no cocoa): Nope

I know that this leaves lots of grey zones (butter, coffee, ...), but you get the idea.

I cannot help but recognize that my approach is very simple; some would say simplistic, and I would partially agree, but it has been working great for me. Bear in mind that my metabolism is completely broken, so you mileage may vary.

this is terrible advice. 'real food' is a term that means nothing.

you're simplifying to the point where you aren't any help at all.

>>> 'real food' is a term that means nothing.

Please see my post above.

>>> you're simplifying to the point where you aren't any help at all.

Completely possible. It has helped me tremendously though.

Here is what worked for me to lose fat (weight), but not muscle.

It really is simple.

- Reduce carbs/sugar intake to around ~100 grams/day, this varies slightly per person. Just reducing bread/grain intake alone is a TON. Grains are turned into glucose, same as sugar, it's effectively the same thing. This also means getting rid of all sweats, processed food. They are just bad for you whether you are overweight or not...don't do it. Occasional is fine.

- Drink water. Often times when you are hungry, you're dehydrated. If you drink soda or something else, do the "diet" version at least. Diet Coke, Miller Lite, etc.

- Portions. Most restaurants in the U.S. server portions that are way too big. Eat half your plate, then wait 10 - 15 min while having a conversation with others or whatever, do something else. Take your mind off food. I bet after 15 min, you won't be that hungry anymore. That super tired feeling you get after a big meal...yeah, you should never have that. That means you overate.

- Get your heart rate up for at least 10 min a day. Try to do an hour, but sometimes that's not practical with limited time, etc. Even just doing jumping jacks for 10 min will do the trick...Just do it. It's crazy how many people will go a day...a week..or more without out ever getting their heart rate above 100 bpm... That's terribly bad for you.

Forget all the fads or popular, trending stuff out there... They try to sell you on quick fixes. Weight loss is not a quick fix. Instead of viewing it as trying to lose weight, just look at it like trying to live a healthy life style. Don't obsess checking the scale everyday or counting calories. Take a picture of yourself in underwear once a week in the mirror. Every month, not any smaller intervals, check your 4 pictures from that month and see how far you've come. This should drive you more.

That's it, you'll be healthy in no time.

Hasn't it been shown that artificial sweeteners can mess with your blood sugar level and may be just as bad for you as sugar? It seems like it would be best to wean yourself from the craving for sweets.


Yeah, there is a lot of different studies about artificial sweeteners, it's a pretty controversial topic...

They probably aren't great for you, but I don't think it's near as bad as consuming 40g of sugar/High fructose corn syrup per soda...

Ideally you stay away from both, but If you are going to drink a soda/sweetened drink, go with the one with 0g sugar and 0g carbs...

Its too easy to intake an stupid amount of carbs and sugar from just liquids...3 sodas in one day and boom...140g of carbs/sugar already...even worse, their "empty carbs", which is to say, it provides you with no nutritional energy/value.

Note: I'm not a dietician/nutritionist. Just someone who has used the above methods and have had great results.

When I was taking nutritional chemistry in the late 70's the idea that serum cholesterol had little to do with consumed cholesterol was something our professor repeated over and over again. The next 40 years I heard the opposite over and over again. Now people are finally accepting this fact.

I think the you are what you eat maxim is somewhat responsible for the strange dietary beliefs held by many.

The book "Cholesterol is not the culprit" was an eye opener for me especially given how one never heard about alternative viewpoints and experiments on this topic.

[In response to a now-deleted comment]

It is still a fringe theory in the context of "mainstream" nutritional science. It just happens to also be a theory that aligns surprisingly well with evidence. This paradox is what makes the story increasingly interesting to the community and media.

Whether or not the fundamentals of this line of argument turn out to be ultimately correct, it shines a light on the way practical science can become myopic.

except it doesn't align with evidence, unless you cherry pick. people have been getting fatter as fructose consumption has declined, and the studies Lustig & Taubes use to demonize sugar/fructose are done in rats that were fed ungodly amounts of it.

the answer to why people are getting fatter isn't some evil sugar molecule; it's that people are overconsuming food.

"Look at a graph of postwar obesity rates and it becomes clear that something changed after 1980. In the US, the line rises very gradually until, in the early 1980s, it takes off like an aeroplane."

Not that I disagree with the premise of this article, but the graphs I can find show that there is a steep increase in the late 70's, not after the Dietary Guidelines were written in the early 80's.

> but the graphs I can find show that there is a steep increase in the late 70's, not after the Dietary Guidelines were written in the early 80's.

But still, the upward trend follows the cultural meme that "fat is bad" that started propagating in the early 1970s. The dietary guidelines only formalized that bit of "scientific wisdom".

(naturally, correlation does not equal causation, but it does often indicate a phenomenon of interest, worthy of further investigation)

You are correct....

The McGovern committee (of the U.S. senate) published the first Dietary Goals For The United States in 1977. This was supposed to reverse the epidemic of heart disease.

McGovern rubber-stamped the prevailing views first made popular by Ancel Keys' Seven Countries Study, published in 1970. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Seven_Countries_Study

So the steep increase in starting in the late 70s is right on time....

Perhaps people thought science had "solved" how people get fat (eating fat) and ate more assuming if they avoided fat, they wouldn't get fat. "I can eat an entire box of snackwells and there's only 5 grams of fat!"

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