What if…

And then, one Thursday, nearly two thousand years after one man had been nailed to a tree for saying how great it would be to be nice to people for a change, a girl sitting on her own in a small cafe in Rickmansworth suddenly realized what it was that had been going wrong all this time, and she finally knew how the world could be made a good and happy place. This time it was right, it would work, and no one would have to get nailed to anything. Sadly, however, before she could get to a phone to tell anyone about it, a terrible stupid catastrophe occurred, and the idea was lost forever.” 

Douglas Adams 

What if there was one way to lose weight that was the correct way. One way that would always work. In the name of moderation, let’s say a method that works 90% of the time – there will always be the odd case of Prader-Willi or some strange genetic disorder that screws up the perfect statistics. So let’s say 90% and round it up.

So, a way to lose weight that always works. Let us also say that this method already exists and that it has been around for ages, and although many know about it few know it is the right one.

Let us also imagine that there are two main foundations to the method. One is the reduction of inflammation, in which the intake of easily digestible carbohydrates and the intake of omega 6 fatty acids amongst other factors play important roles. The other foundation is the increase of lipolysis (getting the body to burn its own excessively stored energy instead of asking for external energy), because weight loss and fat burning are two parts of the same. In increasing lipolysis the reduction of insulin and glucose levels are of paramount importance. Doing so requires the reduction of easily digestible carbohydrates.

Now let us say that this method i.e. eating mostly animal products, supplementing with vegetables and taking in copious amounts of non omega 6 fats and no refined carbohydrates, always works. But we don’t know it, because too few of us are looking at the details, and to many are focusing on the entire weight loss “package.”

In weight loss studies the participants lose weight by utilizing different approaches, but no approach ever has a 100% success rate. All participant may lose some weight, but some lose more than others and some often nothing at all. But no matter the method, lost weight often returns quickly. These results have led many researchers to think weight loss in it self is futile. It has led some to reason it is all due to lack of willpower.

But might the results fool us?

Imagine you start following the Atkins diet. You lose lots of weight during the first weeks. But then you start feeling unwell. You get tired, light headed and you get headaches and your stamina is not what it used to be.

So you decide to increase your intake of carbohydrates. The symptoms disappear and in a short while the lost weight has returned. From that moment on you proclaim that you have tried everything from Ornish to Atkins, but nothing worked for you.

But let’s say one of the many weight loss regimes you tried actually was the right one. That “this time it was right, it would work” but “a terrible stupid catastrophe occurred, and the idea was lost forever.”

You forgot to put salt on your food.

Salt is important when you restrict your carbohydrate intake and you often have to increase your salt intake with carbohydrate restriction, not decrease it as many does.

Such a simple, stupid little thing could separate success and failure. It could deprive you of the chance to finally get it right.

There are many less significant factors that can easily mess thing up despite us having the foundational principles right and thus make the whole strategy seem futile. Salt is one, stress another. Too little sunlight or even to little carbohydrates are yet others.

Imagine that the right way is already here, but we are blinded by our search for quick fixes, inability to deduct or simply our lack of knowledge.

When I first learned of carbohydrate restriction it all sounded so easy. I thought everybody could lose weight if only they were taught the basic principles – the foundations. I’ve changed my mind now. Not getting professional help could be what keeps you from finally getting to the truth.

The great tragedy of it all is that most weight loss strategies will be unsuccessful most of the time and you will not know if your unsuccessful attempts are because the basic principles are wrong or if you got them right, but a minor detail was out of whack.

Like talking to a brick wall

To disagree only as much as the evidence permits
Jamie Scott, the Primal Muse hit a brick wall recently. Metaphorically speaking, of course. The wall’s embodiment was a narrow minded and rude purveyor of what to the untrained eye might look like science.

Scientific disagreements are fascinating because science as a “reality exploring tool” does not or rather should not actually have disagreements. That is, at least not in the “difference of opinion” definition. This is because the data and methods are what they are and leave little room for personal interpretation. A scientific disagreement, I believe, is more often a refusal or a failure to agree in which personal opinion has no other part but to cause the actual refusal.

– The evidence does not support recommendations to reduce intake of saturated fat to avoid or treat heart disease.
– I disagree.
– …?

Are scientific disagreements simply the result of insufficient knowledge?

I am hoping to start earning myself a ph.d. in the near future. As often, funding is sparse and getting scientific studies up and running is a tedious process. In the process there are many professors and wise men and women to meet with. Sometimes when talking to the very people who are in charge of educating the nation’s finest in the fields of health and nutrition I find that I disagree strongly with some of the things they have to say.

Although, I feel disagree is not the proper wording. To me, disagree implies a matter of opinion when what it really is, is a matter of facts. Sometimes I know with certainty that the person across the table is wrong. We don’t disagree, this is a conflict. There are contradictory statements and at least one statement is wrong.

I find myself thinking that “…boy this person hasn’t done his homework!” But rarely is the moment a good moment to air my disagreement (and thus being in an open conflict) out loud even if in the most humble manner. These are the very people whom I am thoroughly dependent upon to climb my way up the ladder of knowledge, steadily ascending towards a decent job and paycheck. A disagreement must wait and make way for a smile and a nod.

I know how this may sound, and let me make a small defensive note. I am in no way attempting to put myself above these very skilled and experienced people. In no way do I like the feeling of knowing something that my adversary obviously has gotten wrong or should know.

The thing is, it only takes one small fact which one person possesses and the other do not to make a conflict. The conflict isn’t based on a disagreement of opinion, but on a lack of knowledge. The lack of knowledge is regardless of the total amount of knowledge the conflicting parties may possess.

However, when experiencing those tongue biting moments I wonder. I’ve been taught how scientific paradigms rarely change and when doing so it is often because new blood comes in and old blood goes out of the particular scientific community. I’ve been told that one of the reasons why scientist rarely change their mind and leading hypotheses is because they are humans, subject to the same mentality as the rest of us and as we know, the rest of us don’t like being wrong.

But how often really, are scientists exposed to hypothesis-slaying data or information and still manage to shield their belief and change the premises in a most acrobatic manner? How often really, is the ego to blame and how often is the disagreement caused simply by a lack of knowledge?

More and more often I am inclined to think the latter most likely. Being no expert on the human psyche I find it very odd if so many people would intentionally lie and deceive for personal gains and to save face.

Now, I am not trying to excuse people like the Muse’s brick wall. As scientists, it is their responsibility to be updated or to at least to know when they are not. A lack of knowledge may cause conflicts but the cause of insufficient knowledge often seems consciously self imposed – an unwillingness to seek out the correct, important or “alternative” information.

So paradigms linger on and disproven hypotheses remain because some people don’t bother to read a book. How many keepers of the saturated fat – heart disease dogma do you think has chosen not to read Colpo, Kendrick or Ravnskov and dismissed the literature simply from reading the title of the books? My guess is many, and so the conflict remains.

The occasional twat knowing he’s wrong, but unwilling to admit it is the exception and not the rule.

Many, if not most of these people are good people, and for the time being, acting as protector of the hill and are thus prone to fall into defensive mode. But, they are acting in the belief that they are in fact doing good – spreading and accumulating knowledge – being the horsemen of science and reason. How delusional we can be.

It is a misconception that every conflict has to parties, as it is a misconception that one of the parties comprising the conflict must be right and the other wrong. It only takes one.

And sadly it the world of conflicts, when rational arguments bounce off like the sun’s rays in a mirror blinding you in return, the only remaining alternatives are surrender or full-on battle.

Come on guys, you’re smarter than this

Just because a wording, written or spoken is simplified to better communicate the message at hand, it does not mean we should think simple thoughts.

When I tell my pupils that sugar makes us fat (the word fat can be replaced by sick with no consequences for the argument), they look at their bottle of coke, then down at their skinny teenager body and say, “Oh yeah! I drink a lot of soda, but I’m not fat”

I can excuse and understand the response because I know a 14 year old has too little experience in logic thought. They are on a constant pubertal high and struggles to imagine consequences beyond those of tomorrow. And they are always out to get you and prove you wrong.

Patiently, I can explain to the teenager that “…all that sugar is going to make you fat, but not instantly. Not now, but in time.” “Sugar make us fat,” does not mean “Taste sugar and expand immediately.”

I find it more difficult to excuse the adult population who has a longer track record in being exposed to logic and who are consistently being reminded of the complexities of life.

Life gets more complicated after puberty. Black and white turn into shades of grey. Not because life itself changes, but because we gradually see the complexities. Fortunately, life also gets less confusing with age, but that’s a different matter.

The Twinkie professor is losing weight while eating junk. Does this prove that junk food is not to blame for obesity and lifestyle disease? No, of course not. You are smarter than that.

– Sugar may cause diabetes.
– But many people eat high sugar diets, and do not get diabetic…
– So?

Sugar still causes diabetes. Stop thinking in absolutes. You can be smarter than that. Never mind the fact that I said “may”. We are complex organisms. Our genes differ in type and expression. We live in different environments and we feel different feelings. When too many factors coincide, sugar causes diabetes. I did not say always.

Eating a low carb diet will make most overweight people lose weight. The fact that your friend heard of a person not losing weight on a low carb diet, does not mean carbohydrate restriction is not an effective weight loss tool. Stop for a while and think. You should be smarter than that.

– Overweight may be caused by a too large intake of carbohydrates.
– But what about all those skinny Asians on a high rice diet?
– What about them?

Carbohydrates may still cause overweight and may still be the single most important factor in developing overweight. We are complex beings in a complex world. When too many factors coincide, carbohydrates will make you fat. An insufficient amount of factors have coincided in the people you are referring to. Stop thinking in absolutes. Be smarter than that.

– Grains make us sick.
– But most people here eat lots of grains and many are not sick.
– So?

Most people do not know how great they can feel, how good their heath can be. Just because you don’t consider yourself sick, does not mean your health couldn’t be much better.

Your recurring headaches, your stiff joints in the morning, your inability to concentrate, falling asleep on the couch when you get home from work, your mood swings and all the rest of those small symptoms you notice every day, but never consider to be anything but the normal state, are all signs of something being wrong. It is possible to feel great most of the time. You just haven’t experienced it yet or have forgotten Grains may be to blame for the fact that we no longer know how good we can feel as humans.

The black swan disproves the hypothesis claiming all swans to be white. Or so we are told. But the one fat person eating a low carb diet does not prove that carbohydrate restriction is not a very effective weight loss tool. It proves nothing. Stop thinking in absolutes. You need to be smarter than this.

Poppers swan example is perhaps not the best example for everyday use. If you knew there were no black swans yet encountered one during your walk by the water, you’d look for the punk with the spray can.

If most data indicate easily digestible carbohydrates as the primary cause of overweight and you see people that over time live on diets high in easily digestible carbs, yet remain lean, look for the punk with the spray can. Look for the confounding factors. There are many. The hypothesis remains.

The most horrible examples of a juvenile mind stuck in a body that has been pushed through a scientific education are found in the riders of the thermodynamic approach to weight management – those claiming overweight is caused by a too high energy intake. Those that tell you to count your calories and to calculate your energy expenditure despite the fact that they themselves have never bothered about energy in or out yet still stay perfectly thin.

In these people, the bell that should have gone off in the back of the mind is malfunctioning. Perhaps because of a lack of animal products in the diet. Perhaps because of the grains. No matter the cause, the result is an inability to see the gargantuan crack in their own wall of logic.

Stop thinking like a teenager. You have to be smarter than that.

The Twinkie professor has proven nothing and no headline has ever given you all the information you need to refute a theory.

Smoking causes lung cancer. The observation that your grandmother smoked all her life without getting cancer and dying of old age at 100 years, is not refutation material.

Jumping out of a plane without a parachute will kill you. There might have been people who have survived even this, but jumping out of a plane without a parachute will kill you. Just as grains make you sick and smoking gives you lung cancer.

The troublesome issue at hand is largely rhetoric in nature. Our constant efforts at trying to be skeptic, open minded and to prove others wrong result in alarmingly silly discussions. If each and every utterance should consider all related and relevant factors, our language will no longer be suited for communication.

“Carbohydrates may make you fat” is a better wording than, “carbohydrates may, in time, if ingested in high insulin raising form, and if ingested in the face of full glycogen stores, especially if ingested in a low nutritious form such as corns or in combination with a high omega 6 diet, and if ingested in periods of stress and in an individual whose genes make him or her susceptible to endoplasmatic reticulum stress and insulin resistance, make you fat.”

The first wording is no less correct because of its inferior word count and the sentence does not mean carbohydrates will always and under any circumstance inflate you beyond recognition upon touching your tongue. The second wording elaborates and describes very normal circumstances.

The first wording is not an absolute and if you consider it so, it is because you think in absolutes. Stop doing that. It only makes things worse.

Remember, media wants you to think in absolutes. A story considering all the factors will only appeal to the scientist and will not appear in your newspaper. This will confuse you, as the media will through using absolutes constantly contradict itself. One day carbs are good, the next day they will kill you. Stop and think. For the sake of sound minds everywhere, you must be smarter than this.