Dr. James Ntambi says some obesity attributed to high-carb diet
Although his September 2007 release Good Calories, Bad Calories has been met with much skepticism and criticism by those deeply entrenched in the conventional wisdom about diet and health who have interviewed him over the past couple of months since its release, New York Times science journalist Gary Taubes is adamant that the more than five years of research he conducted is merely the BEGINNING regarding the hypothesis that it is carbohydrates that is the root cause of obesity and other health-related diseases in people with a certain genetic disorder making them highly susceptible to rapid weight gain when they consume carbs of any kind. And he's definitely not alone now in this assertion within the medical community.
Dr. Andrew Weil understood it right away after reading Taubes' bestselling book as does Dr. David Ludwig who shared his own study recently on the ill effects of carbohydrates on the condition known as "fatty liver" disease. Now brand new research on the negative impact of carbs on weight and health sanctioned by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) is adding yet another layer of scientific truth and confirmation to what most of us who are livin' la vida low-carb already knew.
Lead researcher James M. Ntambi, PhD, Katherine Berns Von Donk Steenbock Professor of Biochemistry and Nutritional Sciences at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, and his team of researchers have discovered a specific gene in the liver known as SCD-1, short for stearoyl-Coenzyme A desaturase 1. I like SCD-1 better, don't you? :)
It turns out this SCD-1 gene may be the culprit in why some people who eat a high-carb diet keep gaining and gaining weight while others who consume the same diet don't. Apparently, this gene actually causes dietary carbs to be turned into stored body fat rather than being broken down for energy. Conversely, mice that did not have SCD-1 in their liver were able to use the carbohydrates instead of having it turn to fat. Hmmmmmm...
Dr. Ntambi even fed a starchy, sugary diet to mice without SCD-1 in their liver and the excessive carbohydrates were used up and not stored. In other words, the carbs were not a contributing factor to any weight gain in the mice without SCD-1. But normal functioning livers in the control mice with the presence of SCD-1 saw just the opposite happen--the high-carb diet they consumed quickly poured on body fat by eating the exact same food.
In the battle against the bulge, Dr. Ntambi said his study shows that genetic liver function seems to play a more critical role than thought that may react differently in people with varying levels of the SCD-1 gene.
"It looks like the SCD gene in the liver is responsible for causing weight gain in response to a high-carbohydrate diet, because when we take away the gene's activity the animals no longer gain the weight," he said. "These findings are telling us that the liver is a key tissue in mediating weight gain induced by excess carbohydrates."
The results of this study were published in the December 5, 2007 issue of Cell Metabolism.
Well, look what we have here. As much as the so-called health "experts" like Glenn Gaesser go around ignorantly spouting off their mouth about how consuming a high-carb, sugary diet is perfectly fine for people to manage their weight, along comes a monkey wrench in that theory that is invariably tied to genetics. It makes you wonder just how many people are walking around and have this SCD-1 factor going on in their liver. While I don't know for sure, I'd be willing to bet with high probability that this explains how I got to 410 pounds back in 2004 and why carbohydrate restriction worked so well for me to shed over 180 pounds.
And the eye-opening results of this study are not lost on Dr. Ntambi who believes this study should open the door for even more research into the damning role of carbohydrates in weight gain and producing excessive stored fat. He sees this as a solid first step in bringing about major changes in how obesity is treated in the future.
If it can be determined that SCD-1 exists in a more concentrated form among the overweight and obese, then the golden opportunity to offer a natural, dietary solution like livin' la vida low-carb to them exists and should be actively promoted to them.
"We think that obese individuals, in general, may have higher SCD activity in both the liver and in adipose tissue," Dr. Ntambi explained. "So, they may have a higher capability of converting carbohydrate into fat."
This is some of the most amazing research in favor of low-carb as a viable option for people struggling with weight issues to come out over the past few years because it lends credibility to the idea that lowering your carbohydrates is a very good thing for a whole lot of people. We already know from this Harvard study that people with high insulin levels don't do well on a high-carb, low-fat diet. Perhaps they have this SCD-1 gene, too. It's an exciting development for people like me who found merit in this way of eating independent from what my doctor and common societal knowledge told me was right. I believe this study could be a godsend for others who struggle being overweight, too, because it could convince them to take charge of their own weight and health like I did.
Sadly, the Standard American Diet (SAD) is chock full of carbohydrates galore no thanks in part to ridiculous food ingredients such as high fructose corn syrup (HFCS) that shows up in just about everything nowadays, especially soft drinks and candy. It's disgusting how little outrage there is over the presence of HFCS in so much of what we eat while people go around getting their panties in a wad over seeing a little bit of saturated fat on a food label (scaremongering by the American Heart Association and their "Bad Fat Brothers" campaign hasn't helped matters either). UGH! Are we bassackwards regarding nutrition nowadays or what?
Perhaps this is the kind of research that will FINALLY get the traditionalists to think outside the box and realize there is something more to the idea that consuming sugar is unhealthy and not conducive to weight management because of a genetic predisposition. Whether that has ever been clearly articulated before, it certainly has now with this study.
"This is a very good example of a diet-gene interaction," Dr. Ntambi noted.
In fact, this latest research is part of an ongoing look at other parts of the body where SCD-1 may exist, such as the liver, muscles, brain, pancreas and adipose tissue to see what would happen. When SCD-1 was nonexistent, it didn't matter how many carbohydrates the researchers fed the mice--THEY DIDN'T GAIN A POUND! It makes me wonder if my wife Christine is fortunate enough to have a low amount of SCD-1 in her body since she can get away with eating A LOT MORE CARBS than I can and maintain her weight (ya know, it makes me sick!). :D
Interestingly, Dr. Ntambi found a rather peculiar and distinctive dichotomy among those mice that lacked the SCD-1 gene--they GAINED weight on a diet higher in fat versus a diet high in sugary carbs and low in fat which protected their health as well. In other words, a low-carb diet provided no weight management benefit to them which lends credence to my philosophy that people need to find the nutritional plan that works for THEM and follow that individualized program to properly take care of their own weight and health.
So what does all this mean? The first thing that pops in my mind is how utterly meaningless and ridiculous it is to have universal health recommendations for the general population. While a low-fat diet has long been trumpeted as "healthy" for everyone, that's obviously just not true. Now more than ever we need to see the low-carb diet promoted alongside the low-fat diet as another option for those people with this SCD-1 condition. Otherwise, you're destined to keep those people fat for the rest of their lives because they'll constantly get frustrated when their weight fails to stabilize on a fat-restricted diet.
I'm thinking out loud here, but there ought to be a test where people can determine what the level of SCD-1 in their liver is. I'm not a doctor, but it doesn't seem like this would be very hard if you did a biopsy or blood test of the liver to see. Those who have a strong presence of the gene should be placed on a strict low-carb diet regimen and those with little to no SCD-1 (ostensibly thinner by default) would be placed on a strict high-carb, low-fat diet.
In the mice that did not have any SCD-1, glucose production was basically shut down which prevented excessive insulin to be created in the body but subsequently led to an increased risk of hypoglycemia, or low blood sugar (which is why a high-carb diet is necessary for blood sugar management for them). Additionally, glycogen stores are not able to be created because the oleic acid, which helps with the breakdown of carbs, is rendered useless since the body converts them into energy.
"It looks to us that if you don't have enough oleic acid - which the SCD enzyme makes - then the carbohydrate does not proceed through normal glucose metabolism," Dr. Ntambi concluded.
To confirm this, the researchers added oleic acid supplements to the diet of these SCD-1 lacking mice and their metabolism returned to normal function. But it looks like the more carbs consumed, the higher amount of SCD-1 is present which can produce an overflow of oleic acid which then leads to stored fat and thus obesity. So it's never a good idea to go too overboard on the carbohydrates, simple or otherwise, as has been previously suggested and encouraged many times before by supposedly educated health "experts."
Dr. Ntambi agrees.
"Too much carbohydrate is not good," he remarked. "That's basically what we are saying."
Well, it's about time SOMEBODY in the medical research world said it and I hope this is merely the start of an exciting new trend. My desire is that this research will continue forward by Dr. Ntambi and other courageous researchers willing to let the data speak for itself without being dictated b any preconceived notions or low-fat dogma. And it looks like Dr. Mary C. Vernon's dream that the NIH would begin funding more low-carb studies is coming to fruition. The ball is now moving forward on the research, so I'm ready to see even more of it in the coming years! BRING IT ON!!!
You can e-mail Dr. James Ntambi about his remarkable research on the role of the SCD-1 gene in the liver and the negative role it plays when combined with a high-carb diet at firstname.lastname@example.org. We need to encourage MORE of these kind of studies to be conducted, so share your positive comments with him about this one.
12-7-07 UPDATE: Here is Regina Wilshire's take on Ntambi's study.