Sunday, July 01, 2007

High School Science Teacher Gets All Snobby With Me Over Low-Carb Support Columns

Because I have put my blog out there as an authoritative voice regarding the low-carb lifestyle, I often receive e-mails from students who are enrolled in a class of some sort and they decide to do a project about livin' la vida low-carb. I think that's pretty awesome considering all the negativity regarding this way of eating nowadays. Maybe we'll change a few minds along the way.

From research on fad diets (I bear with these people describing low-carb this way) to the rise and fall of marketing trends, I've talked with hundreds of students and teachers alike about my opinions regarding low-carb. It's something I enjoy doing and I'm always happy to help further the education of anyone with ears to hear.

A few days ago, I received another one of these e-mail requests from a high school science teacher working on a project about low-carb diets. Sweet! What he wanted from me was source articles that would be unbiased PRO-low-carb. He ideally wished for government sources, but that's a BIG FAT NO-GO!

Here's what he originally wrote to me in his e-mail:

Dear Jimmy,

I'm a high school science teacher and am trying to do a lesson plan on low carbohydrate diets, which involves the students reading 3 web pages for and 3 against, taking a side and arguing an exposition.

I was wondering if you could point me to what you think would be the 3 best web articles on low carb diets I could use. I'm looking for sites that are reliable, as non-biased as possible, well-cited and are written by an expert, ideally by a government health authority. Thanks!

Thinking he'd appreciate a wide range of sources to choose from, I responded with the following e-mail telling this high school science teacher about the best and brightest in the world of low-carb research.

This was my response:

THANKS so much for writing and best wishes on your assignment.

You're not gonna find a government health authority supporting low-carb...virtually all of them say that low-carb diets are only good for short-term weight loss, but not recommended for long-term.

But there are plenty of researchers who are finding otherwise:

Dr. Jeff Volek at the University of Connecticut
Dr. Eric Westman at Duke University
Dr. Richard Feinman at SUNY Downstate
Dr. Mary Vernon at the University of Kansas
Dr. Stephen Phinney at UC-Davis
Dr. Jay Wortman in Canada

There are many others, but these are the best of the best. As for web sites, you may want to check out the following:

Regina Wilshire's "Weight of the Evidence" blog
The official Atkins web site
Laura Dolson's About Low-Carb Diets web site

I realize my opinions about low-carb do not qualify for what you are looking to do with this assignment, but I wish you well in finding resources that are unbiased from either side. Let me know if I can assist you further.

Thinking that would be PLENTY of information to help him find what he was looking for the assignment, imagine my surprise when I received a response from him the next day stating my sources weren't good enough for him.

Hi Jimmy,

Thanks for your reply, but those websites are fairly broad--I am looking for specific articles. I can only expect my students to read 3 pages on each side, not look through entire websites.

These are the three I have found for the 'no' argument:

QuackWatch page on low-carb by Dr. Stephen Barrett

Australia's Better Health Channel column on "Weight Loss And Carbohydrates"

The Australian Heart Foundation's response to very low-carb diets (PDF file)

They are single articles that can be read in about 10 minutes--that's pretty much what I am after. Would you happen to know of anything similar I can use for the 'yes' argument?

Alrighty then, I didn't know I was gonna have to do this teacher's job for him. I gave him the names and web sites where he could find what he needed, but I guess he wanted me to do all the footwork to rebut the vegetarian supporter and two Australian government resources against livin' la vida low-carb (if he wanted to find that, he might as well have gone to the FDA, USDA, ADA, AHA, or any other American health organization for the opposition!

Okay, fine. I have three PERFECT pages for his students to read about the positive aspects of the low-carb diet which are "well-cited" and written by low-carb experts. See if you agree.

THANKS again! I was simply giving you points of reference in my previous e-mail. But, sure, I have specific articles for your students to check out:

Kent Rieski's fantastic "Top Ten Nutritional Myths, Distortions and Lies That Will Destroy Your Health"

Anthony Colpo's classic "Why the Low-Fat Diet is Stupid and Potentially Dangerous"

The Stanford A to Z Study published in JAMA earlier this year showing Atkins ranked best for weight loss and improved health among all diets

These three should be more than enough to counter the three you have chosen. THANKS!

Thinking I had done my due diligence going well above and beyond the call of duty to provide this teacher with ample ammunition for his young skulls full of mush to absorb, you're never gonna believe what happened next.

He wrote me back again! It seems he wasn't very impressed by my suggestions for supportive low-carb diet web pages.

Here's the snobby response he gave me about the pro-low-carb sites:

The first page is way too long to expect my students to read and is almost kind of obviously corny (nutritional program performing healing miracles is not something even high school kids would take seriously and will give the 'no' side an unfair advantage).

The second page seems to be more about low-fat diets than anything else.

And the third link is just about one study--not an article about low carbohydrate diets.

Thanks anyway, I'll keep trying.

Oooooooookay. So he didn't like MY suggestions and he obviously didn't read Colpo's brilliant column because it is NOT at all in favor of low-fat diets. It makes the low-carb argument succinctly and with all the proof to back it up.

Since I OBVIOUSLY don't have a clue what he's looking for, I thought I'd open up the floor to my highly-intelligent readers to come up with the ultimate pro-low-carb information pages on the Internet for this hard-to-please high school science teacher.

I'm assuming these are his very specific parameters:

1. Must be supportive of low-carb diets without biased opinions.
2. Must be pithy and readable within 10 minutes.
3. Must be supported by numerous respected sources.

Do you think you know any good web sites for him that meet these requirements? If so, then please share them in the comments section below. I'd love to give him MORE than three just in case he gets all ornery on me again thinking some of them aren't good enough. THANKS for your feedback!

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Blogger Neal Winkler said...

Looking for "authoritative" sources is all well and good when used judiciously, but when pressed too far is a logical fallacy. Since this is an area where there is honest debate, no "authority" can lend credence to either side - the only authority that counts here is your own critical thinking. That said, I honestly don't know if there are any government "authorities" that have ever said a nice word about low-carb dieting.

Besides, the government is hardly an unbiased source of information. Ignoring any financial interests they may have, they have the trust of the people to lead them in the right direction of health to lose. Can you imagine what would happen if one day the government came out and said, "Oh yeah, we were wrong about that carbs and cholesterol stuff. Eating less carbs is a perfectly healthy thing to do and is pretty much healthier for everyone, and cholesterol doesn't cause heart disease." No one will have confidence in any of their advice ever again. How could the falsification of their hypotheses make them anything but biased?

7/01/2007 11:21 PM  
Blogger The Bunnell Farm said...

I think it's blood sugar at issue here and it's link to carbohydrates. Granted the financial interest that our government has inherited and the momentum mentality that this inherent interest is tied too is a concept with far reaching implications. That said I will take us back to blood sugar and then cholesterol.

Blood sugar, it appears to me and it's effects on our minds and bodies and our hormones and glands seems to be the core of this issue. Sugar per say and carbohydrates per say being the conduits of this sugar. Sugar is known to have adverse effects on our minds and systems via blood sugar rises. Linking carbohydrates and sugar seem to me to be our dilemma here. Even corn syrup is seen as carbohydrate rather than the sugar that it actually is. Therefore corn and potatoes and wheat and grains and lentils are seen as good food rather than high carbohydrates. The fact that these are all hybrid to produce maximum sugar content seems to escape about everybody. It's all right in front of us it's just a matter of sorting it all out and prioritizing what needs to be prioritized.

We on the front lines in all this know where the priorities lie. The population and our leaders as a whole do not know how all this links together. We have a very hard time understanding this phenomenon ourselves and even that after years of focusing on same. Sugar is carbohydrates and carbohydrates is sugar = blood sugar, gets lost in all this. Our mindset says this is food and this is a good thing and the production of this good food is a good thing and the mass production of this food is a good thing also. The fact that this food is almost pure sugar gets lost.

The cholesterol debate centers on clogged arteries and plaque. The assumption being that carbohydrates are basic fundamental foods and meat and fat are the same. (fundamental foods). Therefore each, plant and then meat having a fundamental place in our diet. The fact that our plants have become sugar factories is not considered. Our veins are plugging. The fat from our meat causes this plugging is also an indisputable fact. The effects of sugar and fat combined on our bodies and the effects of each of these singularly is what's on the table.

Were pretty much saying that the fat without the sugar does not clog our arteries. We are saying that our cholesterol's levels and triglyceride and our blood sugar levels prove this.

Obviously this is an unproven hypothesise at this point but one we firmly believe in. One we will stake our lives on and even that of our children. Potent stuff. I hope were right!

7/02/2007 9:26 AM  
Blogger Jimmy Moore said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

7/02/2007 9:38 AM  
Blogger Robin Bayne said...

I'm sorry, but after all that you have already provided I'd let him do his own research.

Wouldn't the students benefit by doing the work themselves?

7/02/2007 9:48 AM  
Blogger Jimmy Moore said...

A very wise and astute blog reader suggested the following URLs for the 'yes' argument for low-carb diets: here, here, here, here, here, and here.

What do you think? Are there any others that are better?

7/02/2007 9:54 AM  
Blogger Jimmy Moore said...

Robin, I wholeheartedly agree. But it sounds like this teacher doesn't want his students exposed to any "tainted" opinions about livin' la vida low-carb from people who have actually done VERY well on them.

He only wants the "facts" as he knows them. And we all know what THAT means. :)

7/02/2007 9:55 AM  
Blogger cjcbrown said...

How about Men's Health, "Low carb diets work, and they're healthy" for one on the pro side. It at least has scholarly references.

I can see the teacher's requirements. Given his assignment, 3-page articles fit in the time. It would take a whole semester for high schoolers to do more depth.

Unfortunately, where we are, the best writers have put forth their argument in whole books, not 3 pages. Atkins, Eades, Bowen. It is necessary to counter all that bull from the govt.

7/02/2007 1:06 PM  
Blogger PJ said...

Well, I see the teacher's point of view here. He is somewhat required, because of his role, to have sources which are at least marginally 'legitimate' as 'medical expertise', and he is trying to break down the information into a fairly simple, succinct package, in part so it is easily 'comparable' for debate.

The Drs. Eades do have a package of research references for doctors, and perhaps some of those would qualify... though if it is entire research papers, maybe not.

I haven't had time to look at the links you put in the comment above but will do, thank your resource for those.

I was saying the other day that it is so common for the same old tired anti-lowcarb stuff to get endless replay from media, from doctors without more modern education on the latest research (or who get it from media and drug companies!), etc. that what we really need in this field is a huge FAQ that can have multiple primary sources and commenters and that can address this kind of thing. If you go to one of the anti-LC areas and see Point X, you should be able to go to the LC FAQ and find that with a search, and then see the facts on it, the arguments that dispute the claims against, the reference to research regarding it, selected quotes or excerpts from experts on things pertaining to it, etc.

It would save so much time. Every person eating lowcarb having to reinvent this wheel is ridiculous.

7/02/2007 1:13 PM  
Blogger Jimmy Moore said...

Jackie Eberstein is working on that project as we speak, PJ! I'll let you know when it's up and ready. :)

7/02/2007 1:29 PM  
Blogger Pot Kettle Black said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

7/02/2007 2:06 PM  
Blogger Scott said...

One of my favorite articles as I began livin' la vida low carb was "What if It's All Been a Big Fat Lie?" published in the New York Times.

7/02/2007 2:22 PM  
Blogger Jimmy Moore said...

I LOVE the Gary Taubes article in the NY Times, too, Scott. But it's probably WAY too long for this teacher. I can't wait for Taubes' new book expanding the premise from that article coming out in September! :)

7/02/2007 2:36 PM  
Blogger Jimmy Moore said...

Pot Kettle Black wrote:

These might be beyond what he's looking for, but:

"Ketogenic Diets & Physical Performance"

"Lutz: The Colonization of Europe and Our Western Diseases"


"Low Carb Diets: Their case in diabetes management"

Lastly, as something way more readable, he might troll the where Adam Campbell (& his partner, Dr. Jeff Volek) hold forth on LC studies and diets.

7/02/2007 2:40 PM  
Blogger Carol Bardelli said...

Hey, Jimmy I'm writing a Ph.D. dissertation, will you do my research? ;)

I think the guy has a lot of nerve to keep asking for more. You gave him excellent leads and he was too lazy to do the research himself.

Those kids would benefit much more if he made them do the research and form their own opinions than spoon feeding them three short articles.
He's doing them a disservice by not teaching them the art of researching on their own and developing critical thinking skills.

Finding a pro-low carb government source is a joke. He would do well to research why the government is anti-low carb and present that to the kids also.

7/02/2007 6:55 PM  
Blogger Jimmy Moore said...

Those kids will be in for a rude awakening when they get to college...that is, IF they get that far!

7/02/2007 7:05 PM  
Blogger Calianna said...

I'm sure we can all think of excellent articles that support low carb, without being extremly slanted... for that matter, most of us would be capable of writing one, because we all know of people who do perfectly well on low fat and see no reason to switch. (More power to 'em, I'm certainly not going to try to force them to cut the starch and sugar, and eat more fat and protein, if they're in excellent health and feel perfectly satisfied on low fat and minimal protein - they're just few and far between, IMHO)

The problem is, the teacher wants something that a high schooler can read in 10 minutes or less (at a high schooler's reading speed - and not all of them are college bound, so they often don't read anywhere near as fast an an adult), authoritative (scholarly? gov't supported? In other words, certainly not something one of us would write, unless Regina or a few other "authoritative experts" are up to writing such an article right now), and yet not biased in any way (as if the stuff they've been exposed to for their entire lives hasn't been biased *against* low carb)

Well, I'll go read the articles you linked to, but other than simply rebutting the claims against low carb, which are full of what "we all know", what else can we possibly say? It essentially becomes a case of "he said, she said". How is such a short article supposed to be at all convincing -without being biased? There are literally reams of misinformation out there on how "low carb is ineffective at best, and will most likely kill you", whether they're short articles, or complex, but poorly supported "authoritative" articles.

This is the sort of thing we're up against though - Just last night, during Andy Rooney's little rant on 60 minutes, he repeated the typical thing about how we all know that all that saturated fat will clog your arteries. Of course he was actually asking the dairy industry to give us real milk again, like the old fashioned stuff with full fat and the cream that rose to the top, so it was kind of ironic to hear him say that.

7/02/2007 7:31 PM  
Blogger Dreamboat said...

The list at hasn't been updated in a while, but it might be worthwhile to refer him there:

7/02/2007 9:42 PM  
Blogger tdawgssc said...

has anyone considered working on a wikipedia article related to this? that project Jimmy mentioned about a low-carb FAQ would fit in quite nicely over there, I would think, assuming all arguments are backed up with supporting websites (documentation)...

7/02/2007 11:36 PM  
Blogger David Godot said...

Here's a pretty good one:

Carbohydrate restriction improves the features of Metabolic Syndrome. Metabolic Syndrome may be defined by the response to carbohydrate restriction by
Jeff S Volek1 and Richard D Feinman, published in the peer-reviewed journal Nutrition & Metabolism.

7/03/2007 1:35 PM  
Blogger Jimmy Moore said...

Yeah, I like that one, too, David (even blogged about it previously).

But the teacher's response will probably be "that's only one study so it doesn't give the full picture."

Or some idiotic excuse like that. :-~

7/03/2007 1:40 PM  

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