Saturday, August 19, 2006

Malaysian Nutritionist Can Take His Low-Fat, High-Carb Diet Advice And Shove It

Mahenderan says to gorge on carbs while almost ignoring fat and protein

There are a lot of people who are out on the diet lecture circuit spouting off their ideas about what people should be eating for a healthy lifestyle. I certainly don't have anything against anyone who wants to share their opinions about diet and nutrition, but the least they can do is be responsible with the information they are sharing with people who are vulnerable and highly impressionable about what to do about their own desperate weight situation.

This Malaysia-based The Star column features the dietary commentary from a nutritionist named Mahenderan Appukutty who is a sports science lecturer from the Universiti Teknologi MARA (UiTM). Like most nutritionists, Mahenderan doesn't think very highly of the Atkins/low-carb diet approach to healthy eating and makes it quite clear in this story with the headline "Yes to carbs!"

Mahenderan encourages people to "throw your Atkins Diet out the window" and to start eating between 60-70 percent carbs per day because it is "your main source of energy."

"We’re talking rice, pasta, bread, noodles, starchy products and fruits like banana."

Why would I want to do that? The blood sugar spikes that would result from eating all of those carbohydrates would cause my body to feel incredibly lethargic again. Futhermore, the excessive carbs from eating nearly three-fourths of my caloric intake from foods like those listed by Mahenderan would not be burned as energy, but rather stored as fat. EEEK!

As much as people like Mahenderan want to believe people need to have carbs to survive, the truth is your body doesn't NEED carbs at all since it can produce its own carbs through an amazing process known as gluconeogenesis. When you are livin' la vida low-carb, the last thing you want to do is overrun your body with unnecessary carbohydrates, no matter how "healthy" they may supposedly be for you.

From the perspective of an athlete training for performance, Mahenderan said a high-carb diet maintains glycogen levels inthe liver and muscle tissues so you can do your very best. Furthermore, he added that high-carb foods have lots of nutrients that are good for the body.

Okay, that's all well and good, but what are the facts? Glycogen is a form of starch which does store in the liver and muscle tissues. But what happens when the body produces too much glycogen from an overconsumption of carbs? What happens to all that extra glycogen then? Hmmmm? IT'S STORED AS BODY FAT! This is the ugly part of eating too many carbs that people like Mahenderan and this dietitian don't want people to know about.

Recommending EIGHT servings of carbs per day, equivalent to four cups of rice or eight slices of bread, Mahenderan said that is for people who aren't exercising at all. For active people who workout one-hour-per-day doing a moderate exercise routine, they NEED to eat another 5g of carbs for every kilogram more that they weigh.

"Meaning a 60kg person needs 300g of CHO a day. Each individual varies in their diet needs. It’s best to consult a nutritionist or dietician to find out what’s a balanced diet for you."

Whoa, whoa, whoa, wait just a minute here. Is Mahenderan serious? Do you know how much 60kg is? JUST 132 POUNDS! Is he really suggesting a 132-pound person eat THREE-HUNDRED CARBS?! What about me at 235 and exercising daily? That would be about 500g of carbs recommended by Mahenderan for me!!! Be still my fluttering heart!

Who in their right mind would EVER suggest people eat that many carbs? Oh, I forgot, we are talking about an indoctrinated nutritionist here who refuses to even give credence to any other dietary recommendation other than low-protein, high-carb and low-fat diets. But there are much better ways for people to eat healthy than making them eat more carbs than their body needs.

Mahendran made one of the most idiotic statements I think I have ever heard from someone who purports to be an advocate for health.

"As a rule, any type of [carbohydrate] works for active people."

Oh really? So Mahendran thinks that as long as you are "active" (and this recent survey revealed many overweight and obese people think they are), then you can have all the sugary snacks, including chocolate cake, lemon ice box pie, Twinkies, Doritos, potato chips, French fries, pizza, french toast, cereal, ice cream--need I keep listing all of the carb-loaded possibilities--that you can stuff in your mouth! What a joke and very, very bad advice from another so-called "expert" when it comes to nutrition.

I am very much in favor of people implementing exercise as a permanent daily habit into their lives, but I would NEVER suggest they start eating more carbs to fuel their workouts. If the more you exercise, the more carbs you need to consume is true, then why did this study suggest the obese need to exercise TWICE as much as normal-weight people? If carbs are fueling the workouts, then when is stored fat supposed to get burned?

That's why the low-fat, high-carb diets make you fatter while low-carb, high-protein diets actually make the body burn stored body fat. Isn't that what people who want to shed pounds REALLY cares about the most?

Mahenderan warns, "Be careful, excess [carbs] in your body converts to fat."

Ya think? Then perhaps your recommendations should be altered significantly especially for those athletes who are choosing low-carb as their preferred method of eating as they train their bodies for optimal performance.

But Mahenderan didn't stop there. His next target: PROTEIN!

His recommendation for protein is a wimpy 10-15 percent of total calories, with a little more for athletes who are training for endurance. He laments that most people eat too much protein and says that could be dangerous on the body.

"Since the body cannot store excess protein, your liver and kidney will work overtime to detoxify and eliminate protein by-products. He quickly added, "But you may suffer from muscle fatigue or wear and tear if your body lacks protein."

You can't have it both ways, Mahenderan! Either you think protein is not good for you or not. This thinking of, well, you need to eat a little, but not too much is as wishy-washy as anything you could say. You should be ashamed of yourself for leaving people with such a poor image of protein since it is an essential element in controlling hunger which in turn keeps caloric intake reduced.

While there are morons out there spouting off their mouth about how low-carb, high-protein diets cause damage to your body, the reality is that protein is one of the best macronutrients you can consume if you are one of these people who gets hungry a lot. That's one reason I have a five-egg breakfast to help me start my day off right and it keeps me satisfied for hours.

Finally, Mahenderan takes on the subject of fat and says people need to eat 30 percent of their calories from this macronutrient group. He correctly states that you get twice as much energy from fat than you do carbs or protein. However, he laments the fact that fat slows down metabolism and needs oxygen to completely metabolize it.

"If you’re in the midst of a prolonged activity, your body doesn’t have time to burn the fat to replenish your energy loss."

That's EXACTLY what I have to say about carbohydrates! If you are using carbs to fuel your physical activity, then what happens to those carbs once the body is at rest? STORED FAT! With fat consumption, the body doesn't have any carbohydrates to burn off so it immediately begins burning the fat you eat AND the stored fat. For people desiring weight loss, this is a beautiful thing! :D

Finally what would a nutritionist commentary be without the infamous phrase we get from all of them when they talk about diet and nutrition?

“Eating a balanced diet with a variety of food in moderation is more important.”

I firmly believe that low-carb gives me all the "balanced diet" that I need to live a long, healthy life better than it would have been when I weighed over 400 pounds. The whole notion of eating in moderation is silly and does not work as an effective means for many people to get their weight under control. It just doesn't.

What do you think about this advice from Mahenderan Appukutty from Malaysia? Is he all wet? You can tell him exactly what you think about his dietary recommendations by e-mailing him at I'm sure he would just LOVE to hear from the "Livin' La Vida Low-Carb" blog readers with your response to his comments. Feel free to share with the rest of us what you write to him if you do! :)

As for me, Mahenderan can take his low-fat, high-carb diet advice and shove it! It's ain't workin' for me no more!


Blogger Adam said...

I appreciate your position but I couldn't disagree with you more. Carbs are not as bad as you make them out to be - especially if you are active. I suggest you check out the very real nutritional science & research behind the book, "The China Study" by T. Colin Campbell. I certainly changed my stance on Low Carb - and I used to be a major advocate.

8/19/2006 1:44 PM  
Blogger Jimmy Moore said...


THANKS for commenting (even if you profile picture is about the scariest one I think I've ever seen before!), but I am fully aware of Campbell's "The China Study."

Unfortunately, Campbell couldn't have been more wrong if he tried and my friend Anthony Colpo did an excellent job rebutting many of the points in his book by accurately pointing out the radical vegan slant that Campbell took throughout his book. In fact, vegetarians and vegans quote from "The China Study" like it is their Bible now.

I stand by my correction of the egregious flaws in the arguments presented by this nutritionist today and encourage others to do the research for themselves to see who is telling you the truth.

My own experience is all I need.

8/19/2006 5:26 PM  
Blogger Lee said...

Carbs is what raises cholesterol. Try this. Get your cholesterol checked. After 3 months on a low carb diet, check them again. If taking out the majority of carbs improves your cholesterol, wouldn't that mean that eating a high carb diet would result in bad cholesterol. I mean... duh, people. I overheard a lady next to me in a restaurant recently. She had just come back from her Dr's appt and found out here cholesterol was elevated. Immediately she wanted to take out everything that had some kind of fat in it. She ended up ordering a salad with just vinegar. I bet she was hungry in an hour. Me? I went home with a full belly of steak and salad and lower cholesterol.

8/19/2006 6:20 PM  
Blogger Newbirth said...

>That's one reason I have a five-egg breakfast to help me start my day off right and it keeps me satisfied for hours.<

This is kind of off topic, but have you considered that 5 eggs a day might be the reason your cholesterol is so high? Have you thoughts about

1) adding flax seed and
2) cutting back on the eggs and getting retested?

I think the eggs I ate might be the reason my cholesterol spiked at my last test, and am cutting back to no more than 6 per week until my retest.

8/21/2006 1:16 AM  
Blogger Newbirth said...


I'm on very low-carb and can go pretty long and hard at the gym. In fact, one of the trainers said I was OVERtraining and to cut back on my cardio (my weight lifting was fine). I cut back a little, but I love working out so I am probably STILL overtraining.

8/21/2006 1:20 AM  
Blogger LCforevah said...

Several thoughts about Mahenderan and what he may be trying to do. The first thing that hit me was that maybe he was going for controvery to garner publicity. Then, since he is affliated with a university, I think it's just ignorance--since American universities have proven to be such hotbeds of nutritional misinformation, why should Malaysian universities be any different?

Two other things--One, Malaysians don't seem to have the weight problems (yet) that Americans have, and so it's easy for Mahenderan to say it's okay to eat so many carbs, as they haven't affected him personally. Two, I am guessing that Malaysian products are not filled up with HFCS yet, so the fattening effects of processed carbs aren't manifested for the Malaysian population.

Somewhat OT, do you notice how most nutritionists giving advice against low carb here in the US have either not ever been fat, so they really haven't experienced the difficulty of losing on high carb, or, are somewhat overweight and are encouraging others to do something that doesn't work for them ?

Jimmy, you do such extensive research on the Web that if you have ever run across a successful high carb dieter who has kept it off, I would really like to see a picture of him or her. It just seems to me that I have never found one.

8/21/2006 4:53 PM  
Blogger Science4u1959 said...

People like Mahenderan should be prosecuted for negligence with criminal intent and scientific misconduct, as well as willfully touting harmful and baseless propaganda. Maybe he too has been heavily, um, "sponsored" by some Big Pharma boys.

Actually, last week I returned from Malaysia and Singapore. I can assure you that the average Malaysian diet -i.e. the dietary habits of the man in the street- is not only absolutely delicious but also predominantly low-carb - one of the reasons, thank God, why obesity and the slew of obesity-driven illnesses are not rampant (yet) in the Asia/Pacific region.

Mr. Mahenderan should go back to medical school and demand a full unconditional refund. He appears to actually believe the crap he's been taught. I hereby nominate him for my 2006 Darwin Award. Congratulations!

8/22/2006 3:05 AM  
Blogger LCforevah said...

It's good to know that the Malaysian diet is mostly low carb -- would you please describe what a typical breakfast,lunch,dinner could look like?

Unfortunately if Malaysian med schools are anything like in the US, the nutritional information found there is nonexistent, and Mahenderan just follows the party line.

8/22/2006 11:48 AM  
Blogger dhevi77 said...

Can I just butt in here very rudely and mention a couple of things. While I respect the way you've been dieting and your researched philosophy behind it, I think your critique of Mahendran's article is way too harsh.

I was born and bred in Malaysia, and currently working in a college in Australia, where I deal with information on nutrition on a daily basis. And information on which foods are 'bad' and which are 'good' fluctuate so much it's a nightmare.

But anyway - Mahendran, first off, is writing for The Star newspaper, not exactly a medical journal. It shows that he's trying to simplify things as much as possible for a nation that is only now beginning to grasp the implications of a long-term healthy diet, as opposed to fad diets that don't work ( I should know, I was one of them ). In a nation that's currently being plundered by food multinationals peddling all kinds of nonsense ( there're still people going on the beetroot and vanilla ice-cream diet ) a sentence like "have a moderate balanced diet" is still something new and that people might take seriously, given his credentials.

2. Malaysians on average are much much smaller than Americans - and the same goes for their food portions. Hence to take a 60kg person as an example is well into the average weight over there - and to mention something like 300g carbs might be in order to shock them into re-considering the 'carbs is poison' debate. ( BTW - HOW you think taking more protein and less carbs is gonna make you feel more full in the long run is way beyond me ).

My main compunction with his article, though, is his lack of advice on how to exercise/incorporate more movement in daily life. Unlike the fitness boom in the West, in Malaysia the concept of 'exercise' for its own sake is seen as a rich man's activity - those who're so rich they actually need to exercise for health, not work. Jogging is not much of an option, given the humidity, and especially for women since it would be regarded as unseemly. Gym-going is again seen as an elitist activity and the average joe wouldn't know a dumbbell from a football. IMO Mahendran should've concentrated more on that aspect.

Lastly - you wanted to know the typical breakfast lunch dinner for the Malaysian - it depends on your ethnic group - whether you're Malay ( ie native ), Chinese or Indian, since all three races live there in large numbers. Rice is the main staple for all three, and bread is seen as a 'Western' food, consumed mostly as toast for breakfast. The high-fat dishes would be the curries, made with coconut milk, which is supposed be high in cholesterol, and the healthiest food is supposed to be the Chinese stir-fries although if you're eating restaurant versions it won't make much of a difference. Meat consumption is high althoug so are vegetables. The problem lies in sweets and dessert - all three races, of different backgrounds, spell a great variety of sweets and puddings and biscuits and cakes in all manner of taste, texture and consistency. And with so many races, the festivals are aplenty, and every race celebrates the festival of the other race as well, with the respective sweets involved, so people are eating a lot of festive food almost every three months ( there's Chinese New Year, there's Hari Raya for the Muslims, there's Deepawali for the Indians, then Christmas, then New Years etc ).

10/09/2006 2:52 AM  
Blogger Jimmy Moore said...

THANKS for sharing your opinions, dhevi77. You are welcome to comment here anytime.

10/09/2006 8:27 AM  

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