Saturday, March 10, 2007

Is Your Diet Balsa Wood Or African Hardwood?

Hidden deep within the long list of comments posted about the article by New York Times science writer John Tierney entitled "The Low-Fat Diet Flunks Another Test" in response to the JAMA study that found the Atkins diet was best last week was #153.

Rather than make you scroll through all the comments of that fantastic post to get to the comment posted by Robin Baker, I'll share it with you here. She makes several excellent points about how livin' la vida low-carb used to be the norm within the medical community several decades back, but times have obviously changed.

Here's what Robin wrote about that:

Let's go back forty-odd years to the mid sixties:

Me: "Doctor, I've got fat."

Doctor: "Give up sugar, potatoes and bread" (he didn’t mention rice or pasta as no one in England ate them at the time).

Me: "How about fatty foods?"

Doctor: "Within reason they don't matter. So long as you control your carbohydrates, the body accepts the fats it needs and rejects the rest."

Calories in equals calories out, but per my doctor, not metabolized in the case of excess fat, so long as I controlled my carbs!

Outstanding points that absolutely needed to be said. But it was the illustration Robin Baker gave next that absolutely NAILED it and I've never heard it put this way before. It's an analogy about the difference between carbs and fat that should be used early and often when trying to explain how livin' la vida low-carb works to burn stored fat.

Here is her masterpiece illustration:

On calories in/calories out, try this one too: Take a four ounce block of balsa wood and a four ounce block of African hardwood. Add a box of matches. Calorific value of the two blocks is about the same.

Strike a match and light the balsa. It will burn away all by itself. Now use the rest of the matches trying to light the hardwood. You’ll be lucky if it catches.

So the calories you used to "metabolise" (burn) the balsa were vastly fewer than for the hardwood. For balsa, say carbs. For hardwood, say fat. Get it?

Holy cow, that's absolutely BRILLIANT!!! Why haven't I heard this used before?! Can you imagine the visual this could provide to people giving LIVE talks about livin' la vida low-carb in front of an audience? I bet NOBODY would ever be able to get that image out of their mind when thinking about a high-carb, low-fat diet vs. a low-carb one ever again. This is indeed a POWERFUL way to drive home the point!


Robin goes on to explain that she is a 62-year old woman who has been "wonderfully successful" on the Atkins diet since 2004 (hmmm, same year I lost 180 pounds!) and says her current blood works shows her cholesterol levels, including HDL and triglycerides, are "perfectly normal." She lost 20 pounds and has kept it off ever since.

To the naysayers, she ended her comments with a sinister little "Heh!!" YOU GO GET 'EM, ROBIN! Congratulations on your Atkins success and keep laughing in the face of those who still refuse to understand. Maybe one of these days the light will finally come on for them, too! We can only hope.

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Blogger Science4u1959 said...

Indeed this is a brilliant analogy! I love it! In fact, I heard the same thing in the UK quite often from people in their mid-sixties: doctors would indeed give such sound dietary advice to anybody who had become overweight. Give up sugar, potatoes and bread was the standard and very effective solution. Indeed, based on the beliefs [sic] of "experts" (not on any sound science, mind you) this has significantly changed. I have some 40 year old cookbooks that I use for some interesting, authentic recipes. In the foreword, the beginning of the fat-bashing era is already very clear: the writer explains that the various old-fashioned recipes in the books have been changed to minimize the use of lard, tallow, butter, and other animal fats, and thus are much more "healthy"...

Interesting to see is that in even older cookbooks amazing amounts of fats are called for in all kinds of recipes. Some of them use a full pound of butter! It specifically states that this should be freshly made butter (what they mean is raw, unpasteurized butter, which is high in healthy fats and high in fat-soluble vitamins as well).

I love to browse through these old books. Most of it would make "modern" dietitians shudder, but in reality these recipes are very healthy and very delicious. Our ancestors knew very well what was healthy as well as tasty, and most lived to very old age, without any of our modern ailments and diseases. We should study history more.

3/11/2007 4:53 AM  
Blogger TESS said...

How absolutely Excellant!!! I think she summed it up pretty well and had she got her comments in first there probably wouldn't have been over 150 comments made. Kinda hard to fight that evidence!!!

3/11/2007 8:56 AM  
Blogger Cindy said...

Excellent example!

I have also used the 60s as an example of how dieting once was. I went on my first diet in 1968, I was in 8th grade. It was a "teenage version" of weight watchers. I can remember being told, no bread, pasta, potatoes (skins ok), etc. We also had available "diet" bread, which was essentially 1/2 the thickness of non-diet bread.

3/11/2007 8:33 PM  
Blogger Calianna said...

Cindy - I was about to say that cutting out/down on all the starches was what old style diets used to always be about.

They used to tell you to eat cottage cheese - which is fairly low carb and high fat, especially compared to the diet foods they push on the public these days.

3/11/2007 9:54 PM  
Blogger John said...

Great analogy! I'd never thought about it that way, but it's so very true!

3/12/2007 10:36 AM  

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