Thursday, April 26, 2007

University Of Calgary's High-Fat Diet Study Abdicates The Role Of Carbohydrate

Dr. Tavis Campbell blasts fat, but completely ignores the carbs

I'm sure you've seen all the news stories out of Calgary, Alberta Canada over the past couple of days about the study showing how "dangerous" eating one high-fat meal supposedly causes to stress and high blood pressure, haven't you? You can't help but notice an attention-grabbing headline like "One Fatty Meal Won't Hurt? Think Again" from our friends at CBS News.

Can they really be THIS stupid?! Yeah, they can, and so can the researchers who conducted this flim-flam research. I'll explain why you should be suspicious of the study findings in a moment.

Lead researcher Dr. Tavis S. Campbell, assistant professor of psychology at the University of Calgary, along with his fellow researchers observed 30 healthy adults who fasted the night before consuming one of two predetermined meals:


Take a good hard look at this "high-fat" breakfast: A McDonald's meal with a sausage McMuffin, an egg McMuffin, and two hash brown patties. EWWWW! Oh, my stomach's churning just thinking about eating all of that! Incidentally, the "low-fat" breakfast was dry cereal with skim milk, a cereal fruit bar, fat-free yogurt, and a glass of orange juice. Yuck, that doesn't sound very appetizing either!

Both of these meals had about 800 calories, but the "high-fat" meal consisted of 42g fat while the "low-fat" meal only had 1g fat. The researchers also added a sodium supplement to balance the salt differential between the two meals.

A couple of hours after the meal, the study participants were put through some stress tests to see how their body would react to both mental and physical stress. For example, they were asked to perform public speaking about a sensitive and personal subject as well as dipping their hand in ice water.

The researchers measured their cardiovascular response, including blood pressure, heart rate, and resistance within blood vessels. What they found was the "high-fat" study participants experienced higher blood pressure than those who ate the "low-fat" diet. They conducted the experiment twice to confirm the results.

Therefore, Dr. Campbell concluded that eating just one "high-fat" meal can induce stress which is a precursor to cardiovascular disease. In other words, the researchers believe it's the fat that may bring on a heart attack or stroke.

But they would be just as wrong as this study on saturated fat from last year. Why? Just take a look at the macronutrient breakdown of the "high-fat" meal again. Yes, it is indeed high in fat, but it is also high in something else. Oh yeah, carbohydrate!

Is it possible that the combination of a high-fat with high-carb diet brought about the "exaggerated cardiovascular reactivity" and not the saturated fat content of that meal? I'd love to know what Campbell and his researchers would have found in their study if the participants had thrown away the English muffins and replaced the hashbrowns with a salad and full-fat Ranch dressing (thus making it a low-carb meal).

There's no doubt in my mind the results would have been MUCH different compared with the high-carb, sugar-loaded low-fat meal. It's amazing how researchers like this Dr. Campbell so conveniently look past the high-sugar, high-carb content of these "high-fat" foods in their experiment and just automatically assume it's gotta be the fat. No, Dr. Campbell, it doesn't!

This study was published in the April 2007 issue of The Journal Of Nutrition.

Wouldn't you know the lead researcher was going to play up the "high-fat" aspect of this one meal?! Yep, Dr. Campbell didn't disappoint one bit.

"It's been well documented that a high-fat diet leads to atherosclerosis [hardening of the arteries] and high blood pressure, and that exaggerated and prolonged cardiovascular responses to stress are associated with high blood pressure in the future," Dr. Campbell contended. "So when we learn that even a single, high-fat meal can make you more reactive to stress, it's cause for concern because it suggests a new and damaging way that a high-fat diet affects cardiovascular function."

Oh cry me a freakin' river, Dr. Campbell! What a bunch of ridiculous hogwash that you are spreading about fat consumption. You really need to read up on some of the latest studies about how protective fat consumption is when it is combined with a reduced carbohydrate intake. Please read the research conducted by Dr. Jeff Volek, Dr. Eric Westman, Dr. Stephen Phinney, Dr. Jay Wortman, Dr. Mary Vernon...there's MANY more, but that'll keep you busy for a while.

With such nonsensical misinformation about a high-fat diet like this, it is more important than ever that we distiguish to people that it is the carb consumption and not the fat that leads to heart disease. One of these days that truth will FINALLY get through. That's why we must be vigilant about sharing the facts every moment we can.

E-mail Dr. Tavis Campbell your concerns about his study on a "high-fat" diet at

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Blogger Science4u1959 said...

This so-called "study" is a load of crock! Who sponsored it? The anti-fat mafia? Ha! Consuming and evaluating (by means of ice water immersion?) ONE nutritionally completely worthless meal is a "scientific study"? What a total joke. But what else can one expect from a psychology buff? The man isn't even educated in nutritional science! Dr. Tavis Campbell should be ashamed of himself.

His study is worthless, a total travesty of the scientific method and an insult of our intelligence.

According to this farce, my arteries should be harder than titanium now, completely clogged up, and I should have died of CVE a decade ago. Instead, all my biomarkers are excellent and I am in better health than I was in my youth. (and that's a long time ago!)

Not only REAL, tightly controlled, randomized scientific studies as well as clinical evidence, but certainly also the anthropological record completely contradicts and debunks this sort of nonsensical "research".

Just another example of waste of money, bad science, and bloody propaganda!

4/26/2007 11:19 PM  
Blogger Fat Victoria said...

The high fat meal is also high carb! How about testing them with a high fat, low carb meal like bacon and eggs?!?

4/27/2007 1:01 AM  
Blogger laurab said...

Not only is that meal high-carbs, but has no one thought that maybe ANYTHING that comes from McDonalds isn't the best control for the study? There's probably a wealth of icky things in that meal that can effect you adversely, not just fat or carbs.

Plus, who eats all that from McDonalds?

4/27/2007 9:43 AM  
Blogger ari said...

Thanks for pointing out this research, Jimmy. Here was my email to Dr. Campbell:

Dr. Campbell-

As a fellow scholar and academic, I fully understand the importance of quality research in furthering mans' understanding of our own systems and dynamics. That said, I was appalled upon reading your most recent research publication.

As an avid supporter of a controlled carbohydrate lifestyle, I have come to understand the physical and psychological benefits of eating healthy, nutrient dense foods in the absence of refined carbohydrates. Personally, I have lost over a hundred pounds, lowered my total cholesterol and triglycerides, improved every measurable marker of health according to my doctor, and went from a fat couch potato to an active athlete and energetic member of society. And yes, I did this eating saturated fat (along with lots of fruits, vegetables, and unsaturated fats).

Study after study of well controlled, peer reviewed research has shown little to no deleterious effect of saturated fat on the diet in the absence of refined carbohydrates. In fact, several studies have shown improvements in cardiovascular and hormonal markers in the body. Had you done your background research more carefully, you would have found these recent studies being published by various researchers (i.e. Dr. Jeff Wilek, Dr. Eric Westman, Dr. Stephen Phinney, Dr. Jay Wortman, and Dr. Mary Vernon to name a few).

That said, your recently published research completely glosses over the effect of refined carbohydrates (i.e. the muffin/bread served with the fast food sandwiches as well as the hash browns) on the physical body. In light of much recent science, this is an error of omission which, in my opinion, invalidates your research. It is a sad day in scientific research when those on the front lines choose to ignore important data which is counter to their hypotheses. I understand that this is one of the sad symptoms of the "publish or perish" mentality that exists among researchers. However this is not what science is about, and it saddens me to see such atrocities in research.


Dr. Ari Goldstein

4/27/2007 1:29 PM  
Blogger renegadediabetic said...

Add to that, McDonald's hash browns have 2 grams of Trans Fat per serving. The carbs in this meal are mostly refined carbs, plus the potatoes.

4/27/2007 4:47 PM  
Blogger Amanda said...

Have you read the study? It has nothing to do with a low carb diet. Obviously Dr. Campbell is interested in blood pressure research and data like this is extremely important when doing any study where you are measuring blood pressure. Basically this study proves that you need to control participant diet when measuring blood pressure or you could have skewed results. The study proved that one high fat meal created exaggerated cardiovascular reactivity – not that one high fat meal “may bring on a heart attack or stroke” – but a long term eating plan of high fat foods on a regular basis likely will result cardiovascular disease – this point has been scientifically proven by many researchers in thousands of studies and is not the point of Dr. Campbell’s study. To spell it out for you, he is comparing high fat to low fat, not high carb to low carb or high sugar to low sugar; I find it fascinating how you take such offence to a study that has nothing to do with your Atkins ways. Self absorbed? I think so.

4/30/2007 12:18 PM  
Blogger Jimmy Moore said...

Yes, Amanda, I did read the study and Dr. Campbell looked at the high-fat vs. low-fat diet. By their very nature, a high-fat diet is low in carbs while a low-fat diet is elevated in carbohydrate.

The fact that the study participants who ate a high-fat and high-carb diet does not mean a high-fat diet is necessarily unhealthy.

Why doesn't Dr. Campbell change the macronutrient makeup of that "one meal" so that it is mostly fat (even as much as 75-80 percent fat)? Why do they have to mess up this healthy high-fat meal with carbs, Amanda?

The cardiovascular reactivity was due to the CARBS, not the fat as Dr. Campbell so erroneously concludes. So whether you like it or not, this IS about low-carb.

Now who's being "self absorbed," Amanda. The fact that you think this study has NOTHING to do with livin' la vida low-carb proves just how ignorant you are.

But thank you for your comment anyway.

4/30/2007 1:29 PM  
Blogger Science4u1959 said...

Amanda wrote: "but a long term eating plan of high fat foods on a regular basis likely will result [in] cardiovascular disease – this point has been scientifically proven by many researchers in thousands of studies"

Strange... I have a medical database here in my server(s) of more than 14.000 studies, and none of them proves anything of the sort of what you claim. In fact an objective analysis proves quite the opposite - that regular consumption of fat, especially saturated fats (!!!) is extremely healthy and that it is carbohydrate, not fat, that causes cardiovascular issues.

Maybe I should use another database engine?

4/30/2007 2:41 PM  
Blogger Amanda said...

Jimmy…when you read the study you see that the low-fat meal is high-carb (3 times as many simple carbs as the high-fat diet – it is sugar cereal, etc). If we follow your logic, there should be larger reactions to this low-fat / high carb meal because the high-fat meal has far fewer carbs. The results are what they are…and hopefully you don’t think that the findings from one study are so threatening to the low-carb lifestyle that you need to attack it unfairly. With respect to calling me ignorant, Jimmy, I have always enjoyed your blog and am really disappointed – I expected something more clever from you ;).

With respect to science4u1959, I don’t know what database you are referring to that doesn’t have references to saturated fat and CVD, but ones on the internet do (try Google).

4/30/2007 11:48 PM  
Blogger Jimmy Moore said...

It's not so much that I think the study is "threatening," Amanda, but that it doesn't provide all the facts that the average Joe and Jane need to know. If you feel my opinions about the study were my way to "attack it unfairly," then perhaps Dr. Campbell and his ilk should grow a thicker hide.

I'm glad you have enjoyed my blog, Amanda, but as a regular reader you know I call a spade a spade and never mince my words or opinions as it relates to livin' la vida low-carb.

It's not my intention to get into a meaningless match of tit for tat, but rather to share opinions that will incite comment. Sounds like mission accomplished.

THANKS again for your remarks, Amanda! Please feel free to post your opinions anytime...even if you're wrong. :D

5/01/2007 12:09 AM  
Blogger Science4u1959 said...

Amanda: I was just being sarcastic. Of course my database is full of references to studies about saturated fat. My point was that none of these studies prove that regular intake of fats, especially saturated fat, causes cardiovascular events. There is simply not a single, tightly controlled, randomized scientific study proving this. Not one! Of course there are some epidemiological studies trying to make that link, but these do not prove anything either. After all, association does not prove causation - there are far too many confounding factors in such studies. Just because night is followed by day, doesn't prove that a day is caused by night. The REAL reason, of course, is the fact that our planet rotates on it's axis.

When one objectively analyzes the published, peer-reviewed scientific literature, one discovers rather quickly that all the hype and fat-phobia currently part-and-parcel of mainstream belief of "experts" is just that: belief. It is in no way based on any hard, irrefutable science known to man - and certainly not nutritional science. Fats are an essential macronutrient, period. No matter what (whether or not Google'd) self-proclaimed "experts" and "diaticians" in populist articles say or pretend to prove.

I realize that I am often blunt and possess the charm of a railroad car when I am talking about topics that make my blood boil, but the truth is the truth and it needs to be said. High-fat, low-carb dietary regimens deserve to be defended against the (many) nutritional delusions and outright lies out there, because they contain one essential "ingredient" that no other can boast of: the truth.

And what's the beauty of all of this? All required essential information is (still) open and free for anybody who cares to take a look in the published, peer-reviewed scientific literature.

5/01/2007 12:42 AM  

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