Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Low-Carb Stuff That's Caught My Eye Lately

Sometimes there's just so much "stuff" out there about livin' la vida low-carb that I want to tell you about, it's hard to get it all into individual blog posts. That's why on occasion I will compile all these little tidbits of information for you together in one big blog post because they're all worthy of being mentioned since I haven't had time to get to them yet. WELL NOW I'M MAKING TIME! :D

So, here goes on the low-carb stuff that's caught my eye lately:


One of my readers who works at a trade association that serves the supermarket industry shared a very interesting tidbit of information with me from a September 2007 Grocery SuperStudy from Willard Bishop. And it's quite interesting news for those of us who have dedicated ourselves to low-carb living: while "low-carb" (as a marketing label) is for all intents and purposes dead within the mainstream food industry right now (not surprising since most of the crap they put out a few years back as "low-carb" was anything but), there's another new victim that nobody is talking about--the "center store" foods.

You know what that is--high-carb, packaged, processed foods that appear in the center aisles. In other words, everywhere that people who are livin' la vida low-carb DON'T shop! HA! How about that?! According to this survey, this area of supermarkets is shrinking rapidly which makes the hottest new trend in grocery markets for 2008 the up-and-coming Tesco's Fresh & Easy Neighborhood Market stores which don't have hardly anything in their center store. Although they are based mainly in the Southwest, they have created the template for the next wave in grocery shopping for healthy living.

Here's an interesting quote from the Willard Bishop analysis:

"Center store generates 72% of total store sales and all of the true profit contribution (because the perimeter nets out at a loss). But, 29% of the center store categories lose money today (retailer activity-based costs are greater than gross profits collected including trade spending). And, 58% of the SKUs in the center store generate 95% of the sales.

This means that the final 5% of sales comes from 42% of the 60,000-plus SKUs. More than 40% of center store SKUs sell fewer than three units per store per week. Even though food retailers are challenged to earn a positive true profit contribution on the perimeter, it's an area of the store that they'll continue to focus on to differentiate and elevate their overall value proposition."

Did you get all that? The take-home message is that the vast majority of that stuff you see in the center aisles AIN'T SELLING more than 3 units a week. So if there are 48 packages of some favorite high-carb junk food sitting there the next time you go grocery shopping, keep in mind it may take FOUR MONTHS for that to sell through. Now you know why the food manufacturers load all that stuff up with preservatives. EWWW!


What we see in this New York Times column where members of the United States Senate are proposing a national ban on selling candy, sugary soda and other junk foods in schools is nothing new. Last year I blogged about former President Bill Clinton and the American Heart Association suggesting schools voluntarily implement such bans and this study show that sugar-free schools can actually reduce obesity rates. But why am I opposed to such measures that would make school lunches "healthier?" Two things.

First, what is gonna be the definition of the word "healthy?" If by healthy they mean they're gonna cut out the excess sugar, starchy carbohydrates and other such junk foods and replace them with fresh low-glycemic fruits and green leafy vegetables instead, then I'm all for it. But likely these meals will be low in fat and sodium while still including lots of sugar (which is fat-free!) and other such carbs which for all intents and purposes will defeat the purpose of banning the junk food.

Second, what business is it of the federal government to dictate to local school districts what they should be serving children for lunches? While too often national lawmakers just like to throw our money at a problem and hope it goes away, the real solutions are never even considered. If the school lunches at a local school are horrendous, then the parents of the kids attending that school should complain to the school and/or school board to demand better choices. And the worst case scenario, parents should pack their children a healthy lunch if the school refuses to offer better choices.

This is not an area where the federal government has any busy sticking its nose into. However, I do see it as rather hypocritical of these lawmakers to still allow the sale of Girl Scout cookies in schools even if this ban were to go into effect. And we wonder why our kids keep getting fatter and fatter while getting confused about what is good for them? Sheeeez!


Speaking of government, I couldn't help but notice this article about something one of the presidential candidates said while he was here in my hometown of Spartanburg, South Carolina recently. Although I still don't have ANY idea whatsoever about who I am going to vote for in next month's primary election, it was quite refreshing to hear that former Sen. Fred Thompson wants good nutrition and healthy living to happen within the family unit and not from the government.

Here's what he said:

"We shouldn’t be looking at the federal government in Washington first and working our way down, it ought to be just the other way around. With that, or whether you're talking about education, there's some things the federal government can't do."

Amen to that, brother! With our government telling us through the USDA and FDA over the past few decades that fat and cholesterol is gonna kill us while we should eat a diet consisting primarily of carbohydrates to be healthy, it's about time somebody on the national level is saying enough is enough. It is each the responsibility of each of us to take care of our own families and to get the government out of our refrigerators!


Three months ago, I had the privilege of interviewing a bona fide health expert from the UK named Dr. John Briffa. As an unapologetic supporter of solid nutritional science, Dr. Briffa has been disappointed by the obvious omission of data supporting livin' la vida low-carb over the past few years by researchers. And he let them know it in this blog post about the very latest studies showing the cholesterol hypothesis is a load of crap!

There's so much common sense in what Dr. Briffa wrote in this piece that I urge you to read it for yourself. He makes some excellent points about statin drugs, why cholesterol-lowering drug treatments work to possibly produce a lowered risk of a cardiac event, who the researchers are conducting these so-called studies, and what role the pharmaceutical industry plays in disease treatment. DON'T MISS THIS COLUMN!


One of the more preposterous statements I have seen in the nearly three years I have been blogging about diet and health has got to be what I read in this Diet Detective column by my fellow contributing writer Dr. Judith Wurtman, PhD, author of The Serotonin Power Diet (which I will be reviewing here soon). She claims that a study published in the October 2007 issue of Nature Medicine found that eating too much fat causes it to store in the liver which then creates a chemical that causes insulin resistance--a precursor to diabetes.

I looked for this study Dr. Wurtman cited and couldn't find it, so I wrote to her asking for the link. She responded back that she would locate it for me, but I never heard from her again. The whole concept that the consumption of saturated fat could even remotely lead to insulin resistance and then diabetes doesn't even make sense to me. Excessive carbohydrate consumption is documented to be most responsible for the development of insulin resistance, not saturated fat.

Since I had my doubts and wanted to see what some medical professionals had to say about this theory put forth by Dr. Wurtman, I sent a link of this column to several of my low-carb research friends for assistance. All of them were perplexed by what she had written and had never heard of any such research supporting this. But Dr. Mary C. Vernon summarized what she thought about this in her typical fashion:

This is actually a fairly widespread misunderstanding, that is, many people believe the data says that fat causes insulin resistance. Three thoughts come to mind:

1) This mis-interpretation occurs, I think, because the research is misleading in that carbohydrate is rarely analyzed or decreased enough.

2) Because the close relationship between available fuel sources (fats, carbohydrate and amino acids) makes it difficult to define a starting point. In modern-day vernacular--which came first, the chicken or the egg?

3) Clearly, each individual is born with a certain level of "insulin resistance." Some of this may actually be influenced by the intrauterine environment as well as by the gene set. I think one can actually see this, in a simplistic way, as the amount of insuln secretion generated by a carbohydrate load.

Add the long-term outcome of high insulin spikes to fat accumulation and "bulked up" fat cells, and insulin resistance increases. The dietary carbohydrate pushes the insulin levels up, but the fat cells' semipermeable membrane now has increased intracellular fat content and "leaks." (Dr. Sam Kline says fat cells don't like to be bigger than one micron).

Now the fat stores have entered the metabolic conversation and the blood sugar swings (pre and post prandially) get wider and wider. With high insulin levels chronically, fat transports into the mitochondria is damped down (via malonyl CoA's feedback on CPT) and fat burning decreases. All of this is interpreted clinically as "increasing insulin resistance."

IF YOU DON"T DROP THE INSULIN LEVELS LOW ENOUGH BY HOLDING DIETARY CARBOHYDRATE DOWN, THEN YOU WILL NEVER SEE THE PROCESS STOP. Even though this is a logarithmic relationship, it behaves in patients as if it were an off-on switch. Even as few as 5 grams of carbohydrate can change some individuals with vigorous insulin response from fat-burning to fat storing.

As always, Dr. Vernon delivers wisdom that puts things back into the proper perspective. I'm sure Dr. Wurtman means well with her conclusions, but it seems there's a lot of assuming it is the saturated fat that is the culprit and not the carbohydrates. This is a DAILY battle within the realm of low-carb and science.


Leave it to Dr. Jonny Bowden to cut right to the heart of the matter in a letter to the American Beverage Association who had responded to a column he wrote about sodas and obesity. You'll see a brilliant response on his blog to the claims made by the Senior Vice-President of Science Policy for that group named Maureen L. Storey, PhD. Dr. Storey states there is no link between soda consumption and heart disease and that sugar substitutes like aspartame are completely safe and acceptable for human consumption.

Dr. Bowden took great pleasure in answering each of the points made by Dr. Storey by exposing the error in her analysis of the points she made. There were four major points he made backed up by evidence to prove each one, but I absolutely loved the way Dr. Bowden ended his letter to Dr. Storey:

"I understand your need to put a favorable spin on this, just as the sugar industry puts a favorable spin on sugar. But might I remind you of the words of Upton Sinclair: 'It is difficult to get a man to understand something, if his salary depends upon him not understanding it.'"

OUCH! That quote could certainly zing a lot of people involved in the diet and health industry, wouldn't it? :D


I just about flipped when I saw this Grand Rapids Press story about a man named Steve Cormier. It seems 52-year old man was able to lose weight and get healthy by livin' la vida low-carb. And he's STILL doing it to this day by paying attention to his carbohydrate intake and being ever mindful of what he's putting in his mouth. My favorite quote was this:

"I don't care about calories at all."

Now THAT is the sign of someone who is on the Atkins diet by the book. If you are working the plan as the late great Dr. Robert C. Atkins outlined in Dr. Atkins' New Diet Revolution, then you don't have to count calories. I'm coming up on four years of eating this way and I have yet to count the first calorie I put in my mouth. Instead, I keep my carbs reduced to the level I need to keep my weight in check and the calories manage themselves. WAY TO GO, Steve! Keep it up, my friend!


You know how much I enjoy recipes, so I couldn't resist sharing this one from Quad-Cities Online with you. Submitted by Laura Carson from Moline, Illinois, this is a rather simple-to-make low-carb cheesecake that could be an awesome addition to your holiday festivities. Here are the ingredients you will need to make this recipe:

3 packages (8 ounces each) cream cheese
1 cup sour cream
2/3 cup Splenda
1 teaspoon vanilla
3 eggs
Non-stick cooking spray (Pam)

CLICK HERE for the instructions about how to make this cheesecake--livin' la vida low-carb styled, baby!


I've really enjoyed expanding the horizons of the "Livin' La Vida Low-Carb" brand to other places on the Internet, not the least of which is YouTube. The "Livin' La Vida Low-Carb On YouTube" segments I do with my wife Christine are a load of fun and it is something we look forward to doing each and every week. One neat thing is it has attracted a new audience of people looking for answers to their dieting questions.

Here's an example of one I recently received:

I know you probably get thousands of messages daily. I always said that I was going to write you asking you some questions that I'm curious about.

The first question is, knowing that fat is equivalent to 9 calories per gram, many of the low carb foods are loaded with calories. That said, I am 6'3" 340lbs (Was 385), and with approximately 30 minutes of working out on a cardio machine, I lose 462 calories. How much of that is 'fat' being burned?

I know that with certain heart rate percentages, you burn fat/carbs, but I'm assuming I'm burning 100% fat, since I probably have very little to no carbs at all.

So if I'm losing 462 calories and 1 gram of fat is 9 calories and 1 pound of fat is 453 grams it would take (9*453 calories) to burn 1 pound of fat. This seems impossible to do. Assuming my BMR is around 4500 calories a day...I probably eat less than that...but just doesn't seem right...Can I get some input?

Hopefully you understand this.

Is your head spinning too? Mine sure did after I read this e-mail about ten times in a row. Finally, I just stepped back, took several deep breaths, and realized EXACTLY what this person needed to hear. This was my response:

Hey there and thanks so much for writing. I'd be delighted to answer your questions:

Just so you know, I don't count calories. Never have since I started livin' la vida low-carb. You don't have to worry about fat having more calories than carbs and protein because it's not about the calories. Your body functions differently when you reduce the carbohydrate in your diet because you are using dietary fat as well as stored fat as fuel for your body.

So, when you workout for 30 minutes and burn 462 calories, it depends on whether you are burning carbs (a low-fat diet) or fat (a low-carb diet) for fuel. It takes about 20 minutes of exercise to burn off all the excess carb stores when you are eating a high-carb, low-fat diet, but you start shedding STORED FAT right away on a high-fat, low-carb diet. WOO HOO! Isn't that cool?

There are obvious benefits to the amount of intensity of your workouts, so having small spurts of all-out, give-it-everything-you-got effort to burn even more calories and, thus, stored fat.

Don't obsess over the calories you put IN your mouth when you are eating low-carb. When I started at 410 pounds, I was eating about 3,000-4,000 calories a day while keeping my carbs down to around 20-30g carbs during my ongoing weight loss. Today, I STILL eat about 2,500-3,000 calories and maintain my weight just fine.

It's unproductive to think about this too much...just eat your fat for fuel, keep carbs to a minimum, ENJOY the foods you get to eat, and simply live your life confident you will shed the pounds and get healthier than you ever have before. It's NOT impossible because I did it. And so can you!

Sometimes we can think so much about all of this that it can frustrate you into overeating carbs to reduce the stress! UGH! I don't waste any brain cells on needless over-analyzing my diet like that. NEVERMORE!

Have you seen something about low-carb in the news that you feel is worthy of my attention? Feel free to e-mail me a link to the story anytime at I do a lot of research, but that doesn't mean I see everything. THANKS for your support for the work I do here and keep on livin' la vida low-carb!

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Blogger Casey said...

Hi, Jimmy: That low-carb cheesecake looks delicious; I'm making it befor the week is over. You told me in e-mail to go ahead and blather away about low-carb recipes on my blog, Margin Notes, so: Recently I posted a really excellent recipe for ricotta gnocchi that really satisfy pasta yearnings.(
They're a bit time-consuming to make,but you can do them ahead: they freeze perfectly.

12/12/2007 12:02 AM  

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