Dr. Glenn Gaesser is peddling in place with his nutritional blather
The damning evidence against a high-carb, low-fat diet keeps getting worse and worse all the time as studies continually show that particular nutritional approach is a uniquely unhealthy way to eat to live. British health expert Dr. John Briffa told me in a recent interview I conducted with him that a high-carb diet leads to a variety of negative health conditions.
"A high-carb diet can upset blood sugar and insulin balance that can lead to symptoms such as sweet cravings, fuzzy thinking, fatigue and waking in the night in the short term, and problems such as weight gain, type 2 diabetes and heart disease in the long term. Plus, high-carb diets often fail to really satisfy the appetite, making them quite unsustainable. It is just this sort of diet than can make ‘career dieters’ out of people. And these diets can be lacking in key nutrients, so that individuals can end up overweight and malnourished, all at the same time. Hardly ideal!"
Yikes! Add to everything Dr. Briffa just mentioned that fact that studies have show a high-carb diet also leads to lower HDL "good" cholesterol and much higher triglycerides, the development of esophageal cancer, a greater risk for developing Type 2 diabetes, neglible weight loss in most people, the development of Alzheimer's disease, is ineffective for weight loss among those who are insulin resistant, and is powerless against breast cancer, among many other health ailments.
Noted low-carb researcher Dr. Jeff Volek from the University of Connecticut (who recently released a book entitled the Men's Health TNT Diet co-written with Men's Health Features editor Adam Campbell) explained in my interview with him last September why it is simply futile to be eating a high-carb, low-fat diet as part of a healthy life.
"The potential problem with low fat/high carbohydrate diets is that they can exacerbate the features associated with metabolic syndrome, unless you also exercise or lose weight as part of the low fat diet. High carbohydrate diets increase triglycerides, lower HDL-cholesterol, and lead to greater fluctuations in glucose and insulin. There is also an emerging concept that carbohydrates tend to be more pro-inflammatory. To some extent the over-emphasis on carbohydrates explains why we have seen such an increase in diabetes."
With all this preponderance of the evidence AGAINST consuming a high-carb, low-carb diet for the sake of your weight and health, then obviously there can't be anyone in their right mind who would dare to RECOMMEND such a diet for people seeking to lose weight and improve their health, right?
Well, I did say "in their right mind" so that leaves the door open for people like Dr. Glenn Gaesser from the University of Virginia. He is an associate professor of exercise physiology and director of the kinesiology program in the Curry School of Education who doesn't mind telling people exactly what he thinks about livin' la vida low-carb as evidenced by this recent press release.
"That's just nonsense," Dr. Gaesser contended regarding the claim by people who eat a low-carb diet that it is the carbohydrates that made them fat.
He was responding to those of us who criticized this ridiculous study and his comments about it that released last week in the Journal Of The American Dietetic Association concluding that the high-carb, low-fat diet promoted by Dr. Dean Ornish was best among the most popular diets for heart health. Predictably, the Atkins low-carb diet was dead last (since they based the comparison on criteria that call for higher carbohydrate intake and lower fat intake, the result was not surprising!).
This Dr. Gaesser is a real piece of work, though. He claims there is nothing at all wrong with consuming sugar, white flour, processed and whole grains, and other high-glycemic (aka HIGH-CARB) foods as part of a healthy and fit lifestyle.
"There is no reason to be eating fewer carbs – they're not the enemy,” he exclaimed. "People who consume high-carb diets tend to be slimmer, and often healthier, than people who consume low-carb diets."
Oh now why did you have to go and throw in "than those who consume low-carb diets," Dr. Gaesser? Are you TRYING to pick an idealogical fight you know you can't win? Apparently so, because he contends there is NO COMPELLING EVIDENCE that points to carbohydrate restriction as a means for improving health. Um, would you care to click on any of the links I provided at the top of this blog post for all the evidence you'll need, sir?
It is quite obvious this professor has not done his homework and is simply adhering to the same old line of dietary convention that has led us to become the obese population that we are with declining health that just keeps getting worse. Because of high-carb, low-fat apologists like Dr. Gaesser, we have not moved the conversation about a healthy diet forward in this country because they refuse to give even a little credence to this way of eating that has helped so many of us manage our weight and health for the first time in our lives.
Of course, Dr. Gaesser has a vested interest in his hypothesis because he wrote a book in 2004 entitled It's The Calories, Not The Carbs as well as another book called Big Fat Lies: The Truth About Your Weight and Your Health that simply repeats his hypothesis regarding a high-carb, low-fat diet to control weight.
As if these written statements from Dr. Gaesser were not inflammatory enough, I have some audio from him to share with you so you can hear right from the horse's mouth exactly what he thinks about livin' la vida low-carb. CLICK HERE to listen to a few minutes of his argument in favor of high-carb, low-fat diets over the low-carb lifestyle.
I wrote an e-mail to Dr. Gaesser requesting an interview with him to further clarify his negative statements about low-carb, but he never responded. I was ready to give him an opportunity to state his case about why he believes what he does, but unfortunately he did not avail himself of that opportunity to speak to the low-carb community through my generous invitation.
However, leave it to one my incredibly faithful readers who took my advice at the end of this previous blog post to write an impassioned e-mail directly to Dr. Gaesser about her low-carb experience and she confronted him about his rather narrow-minded views about this healthy nutritional approach.
Here's what she wrote to him in an e-mail (this is AWESOME!):
Dear Dr. Gaesser:
I am now nearing 71 years old. For 45 years I faithfully followed the low-fat mantra of the AHA and ADA while my weight skyrocketed to 236 pounds, diabetes ran rampant, hypertension soared, my lipid profile ballooned, and I finally suffered a heart attack. Hunger and guilt plagued my efforts as I destroyed my joints from exercise abuse.
Four years ago I discovered the Atkins diet. I have lost 40 pounds effortlessly for the first time ever, my only diabetic medication is metformin, my lipid profile is now normal with no medicine, and my cardiologist says my heart keeps getting stronger. I consume far more calories than I ever did. Nearly 80% of my diet is saturated fat. At last life is good. If only I had known years ago what I know now!
Thousands of other people are finding the same fantastic results, yet you insist that a low-fat diet that failed them in the past is the answer. How do you explain my results?
Our fat-phobic society is sickly, obese, diabetic and heart-diseased because fat consumption has steadily decreased over the last 30 years. (See pages 232-233 in Gary Taubes' new book GOOD CALORIES, BAD CALORIES for verification.) Sure, a cookie or a piece of pie occasionally will do little harm, but the poison of carb addiction must be handled carefully, just like smoking and illegal drugs. I know from my own actual experience.
The statement "Most studies indicate that people who consume a lot of carbohydrates generally are thinner than those who do not" is ridiculous. Why are all those who eat mostly carbs every day and never touch fat and little protein, which is the majority, obese? Kids are perfect examples, and you know what is happening to them.
As long as the low carb success continues to spread, the more it will wipe out low fat misery. It is time to accept the inevitable and do all you can to get this nation onto the road toward health and vigor, even if it means giving up cherished, outdated beliefs.
BRAVO to this very brave and admirable reader!!! I could not have said it any better myself and I REALLY like the way she worded this. It was not just her belief about livin' la vida low-carb, but actually what SHE LIVES and that is very powerful. And that phrase "it will wipe out low fat misery" gave me chills down my spine! WOW!
But you wanna know what? It didn't end there. This Dr. Gaesser character actually had the gall to RESPOND to this impassioned e-mail from my reader with this rather terse and heartless e-mail designed to discourage her and single her out as the exception. What a real piece of work this professor is!
Here's what he had to say about my reader's e-mail to him:
I can understand your point of view if you have had success with low-carb eating. However, my comments on the news pertained to a thorough examination of literature that I had published in the October 2007 issue of the Journal of the American Dietetic Association, on the subject of carbohydrate intake and body weight. The article went thorugh a rigorous peer-review process, and the results are unequivocal: high-carb, low-fat diets are consistently associated with lower body weights in men and women, young and old. The studies included in my analysis represent data on hundreds of thousands of study participants.
Even eating a lot of so-called "bad carbs" was not linked to higher body weights. Some large studies even showed that eating lots of so-called "bad" carbs was linked to better weight control. I should also mention that consumption of sugar (perhaps the ultimate "bad" carb) is consistently linked to lower body weights in adults. The reasons for these findings remain unclear, but may have to do with the fact that high-carb diets tend to be associated with higher consumption of dietary fiber, especially cereal fiber, and cereal fiber has been linked to better weight control and good health.
One point of clarification: Taubes' assertion that fat intake has been steadily decreasing for the past 30 years is not true. Dietary fat intake--measured in actual grams of fat consumed per day--has not changed appreciably during the past 30 years. In fact, data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Surveys suggest that since about 1980 dietary fat intake of U.S. women has actually increased a bit. The PERCENTAGE of fat intake has decreased, but only because total calorie intake (mainly from carbs) has increased during this period. Thus the so-called "low-fat" period of the American diet is more aptly described as "high calorie"--and calories, regardless of type, do count. Taubes is clearly off base on this point.
Glenn A. Gaesser, Ph.D.
Professor and Director
University of Virginia
What a freakin' clown this guy is! I'm sorry, but he doesn't deserve to be respected with a moronic response like that one to a very reasoned and well-written comment. Can you believe someone who is supposed to be at least halfway intelligent as the professor of a major college in the United States of America would make the claim that eating SUGAR leads to LOWER body weights in adults? Say what? Has this professor completely lost his mind?! (It's just like the head of the Corn Refiner's Association attempting to tell me that high fructose corn syrup is healthy! Yeah, riiiiiiiiiggght!)
Regarding his rant against Taubes, he never claimed that fat consumption has steadily decreased. In fact, if you will watch that video I linked in this recent blog post with Gary Taubes, Dean Ornish, and Barbara Howard, then you will hear Ornish attempt to say the same thing about fat intake remaining static while Taubes defends his statement by saying it was the PERCENTAGE of fat intake that fell with carbohydrates taking up more and more of the macronutrient ratio.
When Dr. Gaesser made the statement that "Taubes is clearly off base," then it proved to me beyond a shadow of a doubt that he absolutely has no idea what he's talking about. Why do people like this feel like they have to get up on their high horse and act all sanctimonious about what they believe? Share your ideas about what you believe and do it in such a manner that people will be attracted to what you have to say based on the results. There's no need to drag down alternative choices that some of us have chosen to make for our lives.
The fact remains, Dr. Gaesser, whether you will ever acknowledge it or not, there are countless examples of people like my reader who courageously wrote to you with her story, this man typing this blog post whose life was forever changed for the better after losing nearly 200 pounds and living healthier than he ever thought possible, and many more who are quietly living their lives, watching their carbs, and never regretting their decision to eat a deliciously healthy high-fat, low-carb diet.
You may try to act like we don't exist, but the reality is clear--WE DO EXIST! And the good news is we ain't going anywhere anytime soon either, so expect us to continue to challenge people like you, Dr. Ornish, and anyone else who would dare disrespect us as human beings like you have because we have chosen a nutritional path that runs counter to what you believe.
As participants in the conversation about weight and health, wouldn't you want people to find their own customized pathway to success? That's my philosophy, Dr. Gaesser, and I challenge you to do the same for the sake of helping people beat their obesity and get healthy. It's for the greater good!
Would you like to send your own personal story to Dr. Gaesser about how livin' la vida low-carb has greatly improved your weight and health? Send him an e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org. I'm sure he'd LOVE to hear from about a hundred enthusiastic fans of livin' la vida low-carb, don't you agree? :D
10-11-07 UPDATE: Although he refuses to respond to my request for an interview, Dr. Gaesser has been quite responsive to many of you who have written to him. Here's what one of my long-time readers wrote to him yesterday:
I was amazed to read today that you are stating that junk carbs are not the cause of weight gain. These unrefined carbs are the major cause of so many health issues in not only the USA but the world and the problem for young and old alike.
There are just too many REAL medical studies showing the damage sugar is doing to our bodies to dispute. Personally, when I stopped eating the junk carbs I lost 75 pounds, kept it off for 3 years so far and my blood work looks excellent now where I was moving into serious danger in all areas.
My husband decided to drop the junk carbs and lost 60 pounds and also moved from pre-diabetic to excellent blood work also. At age 59 I've tried your so called low fat high carb way of eating and trust me, it stinks big time. I feel sorry for those people that you are influencing to continue their destructive path.
Here was Dr. Gaesser's smug response to my very successful reader:
My guess is that you and your husband must have been eating a lot of what you call junk carbs if you lost so much weight after eliminating them. And that is not inconsistent with my message. My evaluation of the science, that was published in the Journal of the American Dietetic Association, indicated that refined grain intake was not consistently linked to higher body weights.
In fact, carbohydrate intake was universally associated with lower body weights. In one study, published by Harvard researchers, men who who consumed the most refined grain weighed no more than men who barely consumed any refined grain. Also, sugar intake is consistently linked to lower body weights.
I am not advocating loading up on sugar and refined grain, but rather only wanted to make a point that blaming Americans' obesity problem on their consumption is not justifed. You may disagree, but these are the facts.
As a point of clarification, I do not advocate a low-fat, high-carb diet without qualifying that I also emphasize consumption of fiber-rich foods, mainly cereal fiber.
Glenn A. Gaesser, Ph.D.
Professor and Director
University of Virginia
I agree with my reader that this message from Dr. Gaesser is still VERY unstable dietary advice for people wanting to lose weight and get healthy. What say you?