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Eating for Health, Not Weight (nytimes.com)
108 points by rhollos on Sept 24, 2012 | hide | past | favorite | 85 comments



With an Ivy League PhD in physics, I'm a big fan of science.

I have not observed a scientific approach to diet effective in promoting health.

In my albeit limited observation, I observe no correlation between knowing a lot about food, digestion, etc and fitness or healthiness. In particular, American culture appears to approach diet most scientifically, yet has probably the least healthy population. Meanwhile, many illiterate cultures appear to have healthy diets (implying thousands of years of trial and error, admittedly a form of science, works).

My observations are anecdotal, not data, so feel free to dismiss them as such. I just suggest all scientific results so far, compared to what we'd need to meaningfully predict healthiness in a diet, negligibly less anecdotal.

The body is incredibly complex and diet involves multiple internal systems -- digestive, motivational, cardio-vascular, etc -- interacting with huge varieties of foods -- themselves sets of incredibly complex systems. Looking at parts of these systems doesn't seem effective in helping people get healthy, at least not at the level science is at today.

Generations from now science may be able to grasp this complexity and predict healthy diets at the individual level. For now, I appreciate people researching it, but I found all of their predictions for what makes healthy food based on so many untested assumptions and other logical jumps as to be worthless for anything but displaying the pre-conceived notions of the experimenters.


I'm very scientifically bent, but yeah, nutrition science seems to amount to roughly superstition at this point. A little bit of knowledge combined with an ironclad belief in rationality is a dangerous thing - our gut instinct seems to work much better in this case. Unfortunately, the FDA can't admit that they have no idea how things work.


Nasa and the DoD have done a fair amount of research into Diet and found it's mostly not that complex of an issue assuming you eat a verity of foods, have plenty of exercise, and a reasonable caloric intake.

Humans are omnivores with the ability to create most important vitamins, other than 2 major vitamin issues, C because we can't create it and cooking food destroys it, and D because we need sunlight to create it. There are also plenty of individuals with specific food issues. But, consider while eventually it will kill you, a healthy person with a good died can have zero vitamin C intake for a month with no noticeable side effects. http://idlewords.com/2010/03/scott_and_scurvy.htm

PS: I think the real issue is the assumption that the perfect diet is going to some sort of fortified bean paste. Simply picking a random ethnic food at each meal is a much better option.


PS: I think the real issue is the assumption that the perfect diet is going to some sort of fortified bean paste. Simply picking a random ethnic food at each meal is a much better option.

Ironically, hummus is a very healthy ethnic food.


The problem is that nutrition is a highly political topic, even though it may not seem like it from a distance, and often times these studies are financed by someone who is looking for data that jives with their results.

Overwhelmingly, the research that I have seen has recommended consuming carbohydrates only in the form of fruits and vegetables, and ignoring grains almost entirely, as well as limiting the consumption of red meat and consuming much greater quantities of fish and seafood.


> American culture appears to approach diet most scientifically, yet has probably the least healthy population

What makes you think this? Assuming you mean the USA, I would think there are countries in northern european where diet is on average approached more "scientifically". For example, national nutrition recommendations are taken very seriously and abided by in school/workplace cafeterias.


> Meanwhile, many illiterate cultures appear to have healthy diets (implying thousands of years of trial and error, admittedly a form of science, works).

Hit the nail on the head. America is too young of a country and culture, we don't really have a national cuisine. Perhaps burgers and fries, but those are nothing more than the product of our early adoption of industrialized food production.

National cuisines from other cultures have sort of "symbiotic" properties which increase their nutritional properties. I'd have to re-read Michael Pollan's The Omnivore's Dilemma to find specific examples, but I remember things along the lines of soy sauce or rice vinegar enhancing the nutritional value of rice as an example.

This is one of the reasons America is plagued with fad-diets like Atkinsons, etc. that have no real proven benefits. American's grasp at straws asking "What am I supposed to eat?!" while other cultures don't have to wonder.


Isn't the problem rather that it is difficult to stick to a diet? The illiterate cultures you cite probably don't pass a McDonalds every day on their way to their hunting grounds.

How to make diets stick is simply another field of science, which apparently still needs a lot of work.


That's one part of the problem, but we also don't have great data in the first place on what diets should be stuck to, especially when it comes to solid evidence of long-term outcomes. We have better data about short-term weight or muscle loss/gain, but whether some diets result over a lifetime in higher or lower rates of heart attacks, or other organ failure, has little solid data, with the exception of a handful of clear carcinogens. A lot of arguments end up extrapolating from a few observed patterns of variation (e.g. what seem to be positive effects of the "Mediterranean diet", which might also be conflated with non-diet lifestyle factors), then attempting to figure out what factors explain those observations.


There has been research showing healthier outcomes from those eating predominantly plant-based diets. That means: less meat than what most Americans have been eating. However, when in 1977, such guidelines were introduced with "less meat", the meat industry pushed back hard [1, see history of DGA '77], which prompted a revised 2nd edition. This revised 2nd edition dropped less meat and instead focused on nutrient composition ("leaner meats, less fats").

So the politics of food science won't let the government publish "less meat, more vegetables" type of research. Instead, it's veiled in micronutrient suggestions. THen people go and buy vitamin supplements to hit the targets, instead of eating the damn dark leafy greens.

[1] http://www.nal.usda.gov/fnic/pubs/bibs/gen/DGA.pdf


This is so true! And yet the government's food pyramid was until recently promoting processed carbohydrates as the main dietary staple. While you can't really pick a diet scientifically, they all seem to agree this is the one group of foods you want to avoid.

As a side note, the government's new pyramid is even worse ... they've realigned the bars so you have no clue what percentage of each group is desireable. And their own literature totally ignores the yellow bar (what is it?). Check out http://www.choosemyplate.gov/food-groups/downloads/resource/... for a laughably meaningless info-graphic.


I'm not a fan of the food pyramid, but on page 11 of the PDF you linked, it clearly shows that yellow corresponds to "fats and oils."


> American culture appears to approach diet most scientifically

I don't think this claim can be substantiated. The belief that "a calorie is a calorie" is an axiom in American culture. Despite having been shown by Feynman to be wrong some 30 years ago.

The American culture believes that cholesterol intake is harmful, despite lack of evidence for that (despite a lot of time searching). Similarly for blood pressure and salt (which correlate for 5%-20% of the population, but otherwise a "normal" range of salt intake does not cause hypertension, and too little sodium DOES cause problems)


As a person doing data analysis for several research departments of a large North American hospital, I 100% agree with this.


Here's some more anecdotal "diet of nations" theories:

Climates with less sunlight and more cold require humans to consume more meat to absorb its Vitamin D. Nations that aren't as far north don't have to eat as much meat, or they may be closer to a coast and consume more fish/shellfish. In addition, the warmer climate may lead to its inhabitants being outdoors more often, which may lead to more overall exercise.

A food culture based on centuries of the local inhabitants using what they have available may lead to increased health. For example, if the local food happens to store well and can be harvested en masse, and isn't threatened significantly by drought or floods, they may just naturally eat less food because it's availability is greater than those of other cultures. For example, Freekeh is a mediterranean grain staple which is harvested early in the season, which reduces the threat of rain, drought, pests and vermin, which not only increases the total average yield but reduces the need for chemicals to ensure a good harvest.

Another factor which may affect the diet is the length at which one needs to go to harvest their food. Some foods are quite labor intensive to gather or prepare and thus a lot of time and energy will be taken just to get the food ready to consume, while other foods can be picked off the ground and eaten. Some also can only be harvested at precise intervals while other are available nearly year-round. This may lend to either a "storing fat for the winter" gorging when food is available, or the opposite, eating lightly and occasionally whenever it is desired.

Finally, there are general cultural differences when it comes to how and when to consume food. In Mexico (and I would assume many parts of latin america) it is typical to have a small breakfast, a quite large late lunch and eat dinner after 9PM. In other parts of the world the custom may be to eat a pastry for breakfast, a light lunch and a healthy balanced dinner early in the evening with different beverages throughout the day to tie one over.

When it comes to America, there seems to be a culture of sport that many parts of the country are lacking. If you see some kids playing soccer, chances are they're mostly not "white americans". Baseball used to be a favorite summer pasttime, but I don't see that many kids playing stickball in the streets these days. And in winter, besides ice hockey in the north you won't see a whole lot of outdoor sport played by kids or adults in America (unless it's some sort of amateur league team sport). Many other countries play sports year-round which no doubt contributes to a healthier overall lifestyle.

Finally there's our unique food culture and history. We're not a very old nation, so there hasn't been a very long time to develop a history of eating particular food. On top of that we're a geographically large nation with lots of different food staples throughout different regions. And as modern progress has sped the production of new ways to make and consume food, our culture has embraced the cheap-and-easy mode of bulk consumption that encourages we pay an additional $0.50 for another 10 ounces of soda. It's just too damn easy to eat unhealthy crap in our country, and we're almost proud of that. Compare that to nations that have eaten the same way for centuries and don't have the same history of new food businesses pioneering ways to produce crappy food, and you can see how our way of eating is more of a popular novelty than a real food culture.

I'll leave the food influences by religion of a region to someone more familiar with that, but it's safe to say that religion has influenced diet for thousands of years.


I'll leave the food influences by religion of a region to someone more familiar with that, but it's safe to say that religion has influenced diet for thousands of years.

I'd say the major way has been by affecting alcohol consumption. My religion bans various little things, but the big change in diet in becoming religiously observant (I'm mostly not, mind you) is the sheer number of ritual meals involving rather large glasses of wine, usually red.

Given the heart-health effects of wine, it might almost cancel out how fat the Orthodox tend to get from sitting around studying religious law all the time.


>>In addition, the warmer climate may lead to its inhabitants being outdoors more often, which may lead to more overall exercise.

This may have been true back in the day, but these days most people have A/C in their homes and are not very likely to venture out during hot weather.


So the major factor here is generally proposed to be dietary fiber. People on a high-fiber diet are healthy, and that's really the major separating variable between laboratory diets like the one in this article and real diets that make you fat. Going off the description of dishes in the article, I'd estimate the subjects had a daily fiber consumption of 40-60 grams, most of it soluble.

Studies that look at meat consumption generally do not control for fiber, though they usually mention the correlation in many populations between increased meat consumption and less fiber consumption. Of course there are correlations with fiber and CAD and cholesterol. But we already knew that.

It's a rather significant confounding factor when anyone uses an extremely high-fiber test diet to argue for the health value of various other characteristics of said diet. This author does it all over the place. Frankly, a mere 12 pound loss over five years may not really be too impressive, depending on where they're starting. I imagine Mark Sisson could post better results than that. Similarly, I imagine the guy who wrote The China Study could post better results than that... most diets will!

What they've got statistically significant, but pretty much any diet that cuts out processed foods alone will show statistically significant changes...

The sole really impressive thing is the prostate cancer improvements: but there are too many confounding factors to determine what, precisely, is causing the improvements. Maybe there's some anticancer compound in a vegetable emphasized in the diet. Diindolylmethane comes to mind, or beta-caryophyllene.


Do you have any sources to support dietary fiber as the real causal factor, as opposed to other diet / lifestyle variables?


Is it worth taking fiber supplements? It seems tough to get enough fiber even with some fruits and vegetables every day.


Forget the supplements. Eat the real thing. There's more to a natural vegetable than a supplement. There might be undiscovered nutrients that aren't in a supplement.

For example, omega 3 fatty acids and the benefits of some antioxidants are relatively recent discoveries. SO now, we have supplements w/ those nutrients in it. But the science might still be missing an interaction between nutrients or a difference in how nutrients are absorbed.


I take ~2 grams of metamucil, in tablet form, once a day. It's ~1/4th the recommended dosage for people who are using it as a suppliment, however it is inexpensive and helps me make sure I get at least some fiber (I eat on a very erratic schedule).

However, IIRC two stalks of Celery will give you more fiber.


I've personally lost 35 pounds in 5 months on keto, and I've had all my cholesterol levels drop, along with my blood pressure. (Which probably has more to do with my weight loss than the meat-based diet.) I literally can't lose weight while eating any amount of carbs; I ate 1250 calories a day for 2 months, lost 5 pounds, and was miserable. (Yes, 1250. I was super anal about calorie counting, and only drank water + black coffee. It sucked.)

The long and short of it is that every person has a slightly different combination of body chemistry quirks, so there's never really a one-size-fits-all method for losing weight. You've got to find something that works for you, considering both weight reduction and quality of life. If I didn't love meat so much, I'd probably be in a tough situation.


What you did was not a healthy way to lose weight and unless you make a LIFESTYLE change that you can live with for the rest of your life then you will find yourself repeatedly using this starvation technique to lose weight unhealthily. Find something sustainable, keto is not sustainable for most people, and especially not at 1250Calories...


I think you misread the comment. Ketogenic was one diet, 1250kcal/day was another. I lost a significant amount of weight on a ketogenic diet as well but it's been about a year and a half and it's hard to keep away from those carbs...


Either way both methods are not sustainable which is the point I'm trying to make. 1250kcal is way too low and as taligent said, keto is used by bodybuilders to lean out a few weeks before competition, it is not something they do for long periods of time. I think the key to prolonged success is to make permanent lifestyle changes that you can commit to for the rest of your life.


I actually did the 1250kcal method for a full year when I was 10 years younger, and it worked like a charm. It required a LOT of discipline and extremely careful calorie counting, but it definitely worked.

Being in my late 20s now, 1250kcal is just not sustainable, but going with keto is working great and is likely to remain so for a long time. It helps that all I ever drink are water, tea, black coffee, and milk. (That's been the case my entire life, so that part isn't unusual.)

I eat eggs/sausage/bacon for breakfast (one of the three), then I eat an earlyish dinner of steak or bratwurst. Since I'm on Adderall XR, lunch never happens. On days I feel like carbs, I go out to Ivanna Cone (amazing local gourmet ice cream) for half a scoop. That consistently puts me at less than 30g of non-fiber carbs per day, with a fairly steady decline in overall weight. I'm never hungry outside of meal time, and I don't have problems saying no to carbs, aside from when I'm eating out with friends.

Once I've lost the weight I want to lose (another 20 pounds or so) I'll be able to figure out what level of carbs I can have without gaining on a daily basis, and live with that.

I have to eat carefully, but not eating carefully is what got me fat in the first place, so that's just what I'll have to deal with.


There are more and less extreme forms of every diet. What Keto is for weight loss, Low Carb is for maintenance.

If you are 5kg overweight, a "sustainable lifestyle change" will be sufficient. And there are those people for who even the severe risks of a gastric bypass outweigh the damage their weight does. Quite obviously, in between those extremes, there will be people were an unsustainable diet will be healthier than staying at their weight or losing it only slowly. And why not choose a diet that has been shown to minimize the loss of lean body mass.


1250kcal is unhealthily low for an adult male. My weight loss intake is between 2000 and 2500. BMR in a healthy adult male is 2500ish alone, tack on any sort of activity and it's easy to get your TDEE well past 3000. A deficit of ~1000 a day should be enough to sustain about 2lbs of loss per week.


Getting into a keto state is by the far the fastest and most reliable way to lose weight. Probably also hard to maintain as it can be hard to get that full feeling like you do with carbs.

It is the same diet which professional bodybuilders use. And they know EVERYTHING about how to lose weight since every % of body fat they lose can make a massive difference in muscle definition.


Schwarzenegger's book on bodybuilding (which I read in the late 90's) had a fairly long section on ketosis. He actually bought urine testing strips to make sure he didn't go into ketosis. When cutting, he reduced his carbohydrate intake, but he immediately increased it again at the first sign of ketosis for reasons he explained in some detail. AFIK, most successful bodybuilders eat tons of carbs while bulking and then try to go as low as possible without going keto while cutting.


Bodybuilders generally have not bothered with keto, until recently.

They just do the standard bulk (overeat in the off season, gain muscle and fat) in the off season and cut (heavy calorie restriction to cut the fat) to look good on stage.


I was in a similar situation to yours, until I took MSM (review: http://www.vitaflex.com/res_msmreva.php). It's a little-known, little-researched substance (my link only contains refs to veterinary studies), but reportedly contained in raw meat and vegetables. Once I began taking 3-5g a day (powder form), I have been almost unable to put on bodyfat, and already lost a good deal of it. People say it changes carbohydrate metabolism, but I suspect it's also got to do with detoxification (bodyfat stores toxines - can't find studies for that) and the fact that it does away with candida.



Hm the conclusion there appears to be that claims for it aren't based on research as there is very little, which the parent acknowledges.

The weight loss claims here are of course anecdotal, but it certainly seems worth a try, given that it seems perfectly safe. Presumably the worse that can happen is you simply pass it out of your system and it does nothing.


According to the research, unused MSM is processed by the renal system. In relatively high doses, no adverse effects were observed but I'd be cautious about effects which didn't get observed, especially from prolonged use for which there are inadequate studies. So the worst that can happen in passing it out of your system might be: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Renal_failure


Ah, point taken! That wouldn't be such a good outcome :-)

I slightly regret the response now actually, I was being quite majorly hand-wavey, I guess the fact that there is a great deal of uncertainty here and the promise of easy weight loss has combined to provide some bias here :-)


There is no indication (neither anecdotal nor peer-reviewed) that this poses a problem. All the quackwatch page says is "Well we found no objections, but be careful nonetheless, even though there is no indication that it it's dangerous to take MSM". That's a speculative conclusion based on assumptions, not exactly what I would expect from someone debunking quack myths based on scientific reasoning.


This part is also notable:

  In October 2000, the FDA warned [Karl Loren] that the long list
  of therapeutic claims he was making for these products made them
  drugs would be illegal to market without FDA approval. The letter
  stated that the FDA had seen no evidence that the products were
  safe and effective for their intended uses.
Absence of evidence that it's safe doesn't necessarily imply that it's unsafe. However, one should be cautious until peer-reviewed research on the long-term effects have been studied.


Very interesting, it's available from health food shops in the uk, labelled as helping with joint pain. Since I also get a bit of that I'm going to have to try this. Do you have any other links that discuss its use for weight loss?


Interestingly there is hardly any information on weight loss. I'm quite sure that there are not many people taking as much as I do (the effect occurs with 2 teaspoons daily). I know for certain that this dose has quite quickly done away with candida (no white tongue anymore, and IBS almost gone), while lower doses were not as effective.


You lost me at detoxification


Why? What's wrong with that? Do you think the stuff we ingest nowadays will completely leave our bodies? Side products from maldigestion? Traces of BPA, pesticides, antibiotics? Don't you think the body will deposit some of those toxines _somewhere_ if we don't drink enough every day, allowing for flushing them out?


Are you still on that diet? If not, how are you maintaining your new weight?


I am still on keto, and it's continuing to come off. I'm not insanely strict with myself, so I'm not losing weight as fast as I could be, but I've found a good balance based on my personal activity level and quality of life considerations.

Once I've lost the weight I want to lose, I'll keep on with keto, and just gradually increase+track my carb consumption, until I find the a point where I start to gain weight... then I'll set that as my limit.

Long story short, it's a lifestyle change.


This is just a terrible, terrible article. It's not actually saying anything.

Here is how I've looked at this and I think most people would do well to do the same.

What are your goals? Are you obese and looking to lose a massive amount of weight? Are you a bit overweight and looking to lose the last 10 lbs? Are you looking to "look better naked"? Are you looking to gain muscle? Are you looking to get better at x, y or z sport? Are you looking to just have a decent lifestyle? Are you looking to maximize your lifespan?

There are others, but you get the idea. Without knowing the goal, you can't know how to eat. There are quite different approaches to all of the above and if you just choose one approach, it probably won't be optimal for the goal you have.

I hate articles like this, they paint every approach with the same brush and you can't possibly do that. Know your freakin' goal and then optimize your eating to support that goal.

If anyone wants some suggestions on what/how to eat, just state your goal and we an riff from there. It really isn't that tough.


I guess you didn't read much of the article - the goal is stated in the title.

There's a ton of stuff out there on plant-based diets like the one described here. See the video Forks Over Knives on Netflix.


> What are your goals?

I think the point is that in the short term goals can vary a lot (e.g. "obese and looking to lose a massive amount of weight" vs wanting to tone up) but in the long term they converge on having a long, healthy life.


http://www.awlr.org/1/post/2012/09/response-to-dean-ornishs-...

Fascinating response piece highlighting many of the issues in the linked op-ed. Definitely worth reading.


Some good discussions taking place here, and I responded to some of the individual points made, but I wanted to chime in and say that the Paleo mode of thinking, which suggests that we should eat only what we "evolved" to eat, is bullshit.

There are a multitude of problems with the assumptions underlying the Paleo diet. First, the statement that the human genome evolved during the Pleistocene period rests on the gene-centered view of evolution, which is described by prominent biologists as excessively reductionist. It's akin to "Darwinian fundamentalism", and as with fundamentalism of any kind, it's dangerous thinking.

Second, the idea that 10,000 years is not enough to ensure an adequate adaptation to agrarian diets is questionable. For example, humans got a lot better at tolerating lactose just a few thousand years after animal husbandry was invented. Similarly, scientists have observed increases in the number of copies of the gene for amylase, which digests starch. This appears to be related to agriculture. Both of these changes in human physiology suggest that 400-500 generations may be enough to sufficiently adapt to changes in the environment.

Third, we have evidence to suggest that the diet of Stone Age humans did in fact include refined starches and grains that are excluded from the Paleo diet. This evidence shows Paleolithic societies processing cereals for food use at least as early as 30,000 years ago, and possibly even as early as 100,000-200,000 years ago.

The bottom line is that the Paleo diet is based on a misunderstanding of biological evolution and seems to be inspired by a naive adaptationistic view of life.


Sometimes it just doesn't work, no matter what. Sometimes you're just meant to be big. I am a former wrestling local city champion, currently a kickboxer, and also practicing jujitsu. I move fast and sprint like I'm 140 pounds, I can roundhouse kick someone that's 5'9 in the head, and I'm almost at a split. I can do 50 pushups, 12 pullups, once ran 8 miles, and have done high intensity cardio 5 days a week for 2 hours everyday. Yet I'm 250 pounds and a huge gut.

My diet? Eggs, veggies, rice, fruits. No sugar at all, and yet I have not been able to lose weight for the past 2 - 3 years. I have slowly watched the scale climb up no matter how many calories I cut or how many carbs I don't eat. Sometimes you just can't fight your body and you're meant to be who you are.


Without logging your caloric intake (no estimates, logging everything you eat as it actually is), it is very easy to convince yourself you arent eatng too many calories. Hoewever, for practical matters, if you do not have a significant health issue, if you eat less calories than your body burns you will lose weight. In the vast majority of cases, it really is that simple.

Find an app or website that is easy for you to use and try logging all your food (include snacks and things that you may consider to be "little"). Figure out based on your weight and activity level (be conservative) what you need to eat to lose 1-2 pounds a week and hit the goals If you do this honestly for an extended period of time, you will lose weight.


yes buy a gram scale and keep it on your kitchen counter then use http://www.myfitnesspal.com/ or http://www.fatsecret.com/ to measure all food

best investment i;ve made trying to put on muscle


>>Sometimes it just doesn't work, no matter what. Sometimes you're just meant to be big.

The only people who are "meant to be big" are those with hormonal imbalances. And even then, modern medicine can address most of their problems.

>>Sometimes you just can't fight your body and you're meant to be who you are.

It's true that you can't fight your body if you eat more calories than you consume. I noticed that the only part of your diet you listed was the type of food you eat. What about amount? Do you weigh your food, or have some other type of calorie estimation method? If not, you'll eat like a pig (especially at your activity level) and never realize it.


> The only people who are "meant to be big" are those with hormonal imbalances. And even then, modern medicine can address most of their problems.

Apparently you don't watch rugby.


What does that even mean? Rugby players are big because they want to be big, not because they can't help it.


How can you possibly believe there is no genetic component in professional athletics?


You need to get your thyroid checked. Diet and exercise are 100% effective at fat loss PRECONDITIONED UPON your hormones being not out of whack.


On the up side, it would seem from recent evidence that you're probably not at too much risk health-wise. High cardiovascular fitness seems (from a lot of studies, at least - IANAD) to correlate better with positive health outcomes than low BMI.

And on a side note - speaking as a fellow martial artist with flexibility problems, I'm envious of your flexibility!


Do you track what you eat? I would be interested to see what your average week of food is like.


have you had a period where you blew out and perhaps multiplied the actual number of fat cells in your body ? I wonder if liposuction could be productive to lower the fat cell count back to something more manageable if so ? and like the other poster,maybe drop the fruit a bit lower just to see if it helps but of course go straight back on if no benefit as fruit is excellent


You do know that rice/fruits get converted into sugar, right ?

If you switched to just vegies and meat I guarantee you would lose weight.


In addition to this, it's worth noting that not all calories are created equally. If you process your food to make juices, smoothies etc (or buy it already processed), then you'll get a greater, more immediate hit of energy than if your body broke it down itself.

http://blogs.scientificamerican.com/guest-blog/2012/08/27/th...


But you also end up getting all of the fructose and none of the fiber, which your body needs for processing the fruit without the sugar hit. Lustig: "When god made the poison, he packaged it with the antidote."


This:

"WHAT you eat is as important as what you exclude — your diet needs to be high in healthful carbs like fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, soy products in natural, unrefined forms and some fish, like salmon. There are hundreds of thousands of health-enhancing substances in these foods. And what’s good for you is good for the planet."

can't possibly be right for everyone. I've read (and read the debunking of) plenty of points of view, but I'm fairly sure a soy-based diet isn't right for me, and all of the neatly packaged dietary points of view (keto, Sisson, Mediterranean, Weston Price, veg-*) aren't universal. Nutrition still has a long way to go, and this reads like a brochure.


Yep. Grains is proven to be suboptimal, causing inflammation in the intestines and the rest of the body (http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2821887/). And soy acts like estrogen in one's body, not exactly what I would like - it might even be that this is the reason for less prostate cancers (prostate cancer patients are even given estrogen as treatment).

I do agree though that low-carb diets don't cut it health-wise, omitting fruit entirely just does not seem right, considering humans have always eaten them. Also, eating immense amounts of red meat seems to be related to all sorts of illnesses. I have adapted another view: If it's fresh and organic, it can't be wrong, and the occasional rice bowl or apple is cool. Junk food or processed food containing transfats or shredded soy should be restricted (like, one day per week).

UPDATE: Processed food is literally everywhere if you don't cook yourself - most restaurants use ready-made "components" to achieve speedier meal preparation. I think it's hard (or expensive) for people eating out to get a healthy meal, especially in the US.


> Grains is proven to be suboptimal, causing inflammation in the intestines and the rest of the body (http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2821887/).

From the study, it is refined grains that are problematic, while whole grains are recommended:

"In conclusion, whole grain consumption may be related to lower circulating plasma concentrations of PAI-1 and CRP, which in turn could lower the risk of type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease. These findings suggest that the protectiveness of whole grains in relation to type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease may be due to an effect on plasma inflammatory protein concentrations and reinforces the public health recommendations that whole grains be consumed daily as part of a healthy diet. Refined grain intakes were positively associated with PAI-1 concentrations, indicating that refined grain intake could have proinflammatory effects."


"I think it's hard (or expensive) for people eating out to get a healthy meal, especially in the US."

My son has significant medically diagnosed food allergies, wheat, soy, casein (milk). We've been living this for 7 or 8 years. Trust me, overwhelming at first, but eventually you get used to it...

Salad. Doesn't have to be boring either. Seems like any animal you can grill can be sliced up and dropped on a pile of yummy seasoned vegetables and fruits and nuts. Go very light on the salad dressing, ask for it on the side rather than dumped on top to create the typical salad dressing swimming pool.

Careful selection of side dishes turns the stereotypical restaurant steak dinner into a pretty reasonably paleo meal.

If you think about it, for a light winter lunch, stereotypical no-bean chili is meat, tomatoes, and spices, not much to complain about if you don't dump crackers/sour cream/cheese all over it.

Fajitas also worked well for me. A fajita wrapper only weighs a couple grams, and restaurant dining is a special event... everything else is mostly paleo diet. Look out for soy flavoring and corn syrup in the sauces.

Stereotypical roasted beast dinner is usually OK. A slab of beef roast with veggie sides and fruit salad... stay away from the garlic bread and (usually) the gravy.

Most non-grain breakfasts are paleo. Whats not to like about an omelette, or a hash, ye olde bacon and eggs, etc. No pancakes and syrup, and no toast, obviously.

Depending on your medical orders (prescription?) or diet choice, your first month or two will be all "Oh no I am gonna starve!" but after awhile that problem just melts away.


>>I do agree though that low-carb diets don't cut it health-wise, omitting fruit entirely just does not seem right, considering humans have always eaten them.

This is very dangerous line of thinking that is unfortunately popularized by Paleo diet nutjobs. While it's true that our ancestors ate fruit, we don't know how much of it they ate. Furthermore, even though they ate fruits, they had very active lifestyles. They were nomads who very rarely stayed in one place for very long, and all the activity they did (carrying heavy things, walking/running everywhere, hunting, etc.) allowed them to efficiently utilize (rather than store) the sugars in fruits.

Compare that to today, where most fruit eaters are sedentary individuals who sit in front of the TV or the computer all day. For them, eating something that is high in sugar is not going to be healthy.

It's worth pointing out that the main thing that makes fruits "healthy" is anti-oxidants and fiber, both of which can also be found in veggies. Except veggies have very little if any carbs, and are therefore far superior for weight management.


Veggie != veggie, starchy vegetables like peas or potatoes (hm, are potatoes veggies at all?) are high in carbohydrates. My mention of fruit was meant as moderate use. I for one don't respond so well to fructose, and generally don't eat much fruit - say, a banana after gym. But I would not leave out fruit entirely (when not on a low carb diet).


I find it distressing that all of these very well educated, well researched, and up-to-date authorities on Diet continue to write OpEds for the NYT with basically polar-opposite positions.

Here we have Dean Ornish basically coming out with a position almost completely contrary to Gary Taubes.

Perhaps, one day, someone will do some long term randomized trials with a unbiased observer and we'll discover the truth.


I don't know about Dean Ornish, but Gary Taubes is a journalist, as far as I know, not a nutrition expert. Maybe his research on his books turned him into an expert, not sure.

I have to admit the Good Calories, Bad Calories book seemed a bit unstructured to me. In the end it was just listing a load of studies in favor of his thesis. It left me wondering if perhaps he only selected those that supported his claims.

The problem with researching diets is probably the long term aspect of it. How do you make people stick to a diet you randomly assign to them for 20 years? It also has an ethical component, because you might assign unhealthy diets.


Gary Taubes is not just a journalist. He is a science journalist with a background in physics. This is an important distinction because he has the necessary training to correctly interpret scientific studies. That's what his book is about: it's a huge meta-study that explores the history and the current state of nutrition science. And his ultimate finding is that mainstream nutrition science is wrong and it's carbs that should be avoided, not fats.


But ultimately why believe him instead of some other scientist? Because his book is thicker? I also noticed that he had a bit of a tummy when I saw a YouTube video of him.

I've read another thick book advocating plant based diets and metaanalyzing lots of studies, The China Study. GC,BC is a bit thicker, though.


I think I already gave you the answer: Taubes' book is a comprehensive meta-study that examines the merits and pitfalls of most prominent studies in the field of nutrition science. This allowed him to draw broader conclusions than any specific study.

Really though, you just have to read it, apply your critical thinking skills to it, and make up your own mind.


" I also noticed that he had a bit of a tummy"

Well, the book he wrote, is titled, "Why WE get fat." It's not, "How did we get so thin."


Actually, Gary Taubes recently started http://nusi.org/ as a way to fund scientifically proper research on nutrition. I look forward to seeing what they come op with.


I really would like to eat healthy. I already exercise a lot and have a good body weight. I'm not looking to lose weight, but to optimize my quality of life (e.g. feeling good, being productive, have the energy to exercise). All the "scientific" diets seem to do that. I know bits and pieces about Paleo, read parts of Taubes' book, have vegan friends, and now this. They all claim to be scientific and healthy. I have a hard time figuring out which is true, and end up making my own rules. Does anyone have a good framework for evaluating these health recommendations?


"Does anyone have a good framework for evaluating these health recommendations?"

Its stomps all over certain religions, so we can't talk about it in public, but here on hacker news, if your ancestors evolved for millions to hundreds of thousands of years eating it, its probably an excellent biochemical match to you today, plus or minus recent dental issues WRT to cooked vs raw. If you think your ancestors were drinking beer, corn syrup sodas, pizzas and big macs a million years ago, or that the earth is only 6000 years old and humans have always eaten rice grains and beans because god told them they have to (LOL), you're going to have very serious issues with this advice.

Eat what your ancestors ate. And I'm talking pre-agricultural revolution not mom and dad. Cooking is OK because your teeth have evolved to support it. I wouldn't advise going much beyond that other than "special snacks and special events".


Some may remember Dr Ornish for his involvement with Steve Jobs' cancer treatment:

http://www.bulletproofexec.com/steve-jobs-dr-dean-ornish-and...


"Being overweight is not necessarily linked with disease or premature death."

This article lost me right here; I thought "fit but fat" had been debunked and that controlled studies showed that just being overweight was, by itself, a health risk. You need citations for this kind of bold claim.


How true is the paleo assertion that cereal grains contain inflammatory and anti-nutrient compounds?

http://www.direct-ms.org/pdf/EvolutionPaleolithic/Cereal%20S...

>we have seen that patients who ate mostly plant-based meals, with dishes like black bean vegetarian chili and whole wheat penne pasta with roasted vegetables, achieved reversal of even severe coronary artery disease. They also engaged in moderate exercise and stress-management techniques

How much of that health improvement is from diet and how much is from exercise?


"How true is the paleo assertion that cereal grains contain inflammatory ... compounds?"

Ask any of the 1% or so of the population medically diagnosed with celiac disease. If wheat was "invented" today instead of being a popular historical ethnic food, there's no way the USDA / FDA would allow it to start being sold knowing it makes so many people very ill.


You could say the same of peanuts or milk products or shellfish.

Wheat isn't dangerous, it's just not very good for you.


Eat food, mainly plants, not too much. Is that so hard?




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