I thought I would share with you an interesting experience I had this weekend on another blog. “What”, you say, “are you doing on someone else’s blog when you neglect your own so badly?”. Guilty!
Anyway, let’s start with the more important stuff. Isabelle, my little low-carb miracle, is growing like all get-out. She is at the 95 percentile for height and 75th for weight at 20 months. She is adorable, of course, but also appears to be very smart. Yes, all parents think that, but we have our son to compare with. He is a smart boy, does well at school and is a pretty sophisticated thinker for his age. When he was at the age of 20 months, he was no slouch either. What seems to distinguish Isabelle is her amazing comprehension. She is speaking lots of words now but no sentences yet. On the comprehension side, she understands pretty much everything we say to her. She responds appropriately to directions like, “go to your bedroom so I can change your diaper”. She is very conscious of what she wears. When dressing, some things she approves of and others she will refuse to wear. That one seems to be hard-wired. Alex could care less how we dressed him and only recently gets picky with his attire and then only occasionally. It’s probably a gender thing.
The other thing about Isabelle is that she has not been ill. There was a short bout of runny nose about four months ago but she has never had a rash or fever. I think that is somewhat remarkable, especially as Alex is an efficient vector, bringing home every virus that passes through the herd. He brings the virus home but doesn’t succumb to it himself, of if he does, has a very mild bout of it.
Anne and I generally don’t get sick, either, although this spring I had about a week of mild cough and runny nose. That is unusual for me since I have been doing low-carb. In the old days, I would get at least one doozy of a cold per winter, sometimes more. I really do think there is an immune system benefit from restricting carbs.
Apparently, there are other potential benefits, too. I was at the annual scientific meeting of the Nutrition and Metabolism Society in Baltimore a couple of weeks ago. All the usual suspects were there: Richard Feinman, Mary Vernon, Eric Westman, Jeff Volek, Jackie Eberstein, Abbie Block and Steve Phinney. It’s always a great way to reconnect with all these terrific colleagues and there are usually some interesting presentations, too.
There were two speakers who are doing research on ketogenic diet and cancer. Thomas Seyfried is a researcher at Boston College who believes passionately that we have the whole cancer paradigm wrong. He argues that mutagenesis is not the primary event that drives cancer cells to appear. He makes what I think is a convincing case that cancer might be primarily a metabolic disease. He believes that the primary event is a metabolic dysfunction in the cell at the level of the mitochondria, the result of which is a shower of reactive oxygen species (aka free radicals) which then damage the cellular DNA leading to cancer-causing mutations.
This would explain a couple of puzzling things. Firstly, there is evidence that as a person gains excess weight their risk for a whole bunch of cancers goes up in parallel. Why would having a bit of extra fat tissue on board increase your risk of a variety of cancers? If your weight gain was the result of a disordered metabolism and the same problem caused cancer the mystery is solved.
Secondly, the whole chemotherapeutic approach to cancer is targeted at DNA and cell replication. Success rates vary with some good results and lots that aren’t so good. If the primary problem is one step removed and we are targeting therapies at a point downstream from where the real cause of the problem resides, this would explain these less than stellar success rates.
Dr Seyfried presented some remarkable results where, in rats with human tumours, the cancer is basically stopped by a low-carb ketogenic diet. He had some case studies in children with brain cancer which were compelling, as well.
Eugene Fine, a researcher in nuclear medicine at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York, is doing a study on whether a low-carb ketogenic diet can be used as a cancer therapy. The details of his study can be found here:
While it is too early to say that this diet will prevent cancer or that it can be used as a cure, both presentations were fascinating and certainly suggest that there will be more to this story in the future.
Gary Taubes has a new article in the New York Times Magazine on the harms of sugar. You can find it here:
It is a good review of current and historical evidence and touches on the issue of cancer towards the end. I highly recommend it, as I do with pretty much everything Gary writes, including his recent book, “Why We Get Fat”. If you found “Good Calories, Bad Calories” too much of a challenge, I urge you to get the recent book. I call it GCBC lite.
Now, about my being banned for “troll like behaviour”. A colleague told me to check out Diabetes UK as they had released a position on low-carb diets. The position paper, of course, turned out to be a disappointment, no surprise there. But I noticed that among the forums on their site, there was a large one devoted to low-carb diet for diabetics. Wow! That’s pretty cool for some kind of semi-official diabetes site. Or, so I thought.
Anyway, I plunged in and registered in order to post. Through an initial exchange of emails with the moderator I learned that I was forbidden from using my professional designation in the user name. That meant that I couldn’t call myself Dr J. Okay, not a big problem, so I signed up as canuck1950. I’ll leave you to decipher that.
There was a thread asking whether it was safe to do low-carb during pregnancy. Of course I have an opinion on that. After posting a couple of things there that appeared to be well received, I noticed that the moderator posted an admonition that some dangerous ideas were being put forward and that people should consult with their nurses for advice or some such thing. Clearly an attempt to refute my advice that there is nothing to fear from continuing a low-carb diet during gestation. Okay, no biggie.
Then, on a thread by Viv who posted her experience doing basically Atkins induction, I noticed there was some hesitation about eating fat and saturated fat. So I plunged in with my dissertation on why the evidence that has emerged lately in this area should allay anyone’s fears about these dietary components and that the only way to sustain a low-carb diet over the long haul after you have stopped losing weight is to replace your internally stored fat calories with fat added to your diet. Well, that wasn’t well received by the moderator at all. He insisted that low-carb and low-fat together was the only way to go and that it was sustainable over the long term. This is what they call in the UK a “load of bollocks”. I didn’t use those terms but tried a couple of times to explain why that is just not possible. It was clear fairly early on that the moderator was annoyed with me but I persisted. It’s not that I care so much what someone claims to be doing even when it is clearly preposterous, but in this case, he was using his position as moderator to promote his ideas as “the only way to go” when it was clear to anyone with a basic understanding of human energetics that he was delusional. Anyway, my reward for continuing to challenge him was that I was declared to be a troll and banished from the forum. He indicated that I could re-register in a week’s time only if I provide credentials indicating that I am an authority on this subject. They had already made it clear that they were not impressed with academic credentials but somehow the irony of that demand was lost on them. The unfortunate thing was that being cut off prevented me from making a final post to say, “I rest my case”.
The most interesting thing about this little fiasco is that it was quite apparent that, even though they claim to be proponents of low-carb dieting for diabetics, they were very fearful of what it means to do a truly low-carb diet. They remain very much caught up in the fear of fat paradigm. And their claim to be able to have it both ways, to eat low-carb and low-fat, means they are not only fooling themselves but actively propagating the irrational fear of fat that prevents many people from achieving maximum success from a low-carb diet. It did occur to me that perhaps their real purpose is to deflect people away from a true low-carb diet as we know that people with diabetes or metabolic syndrome can get off all their meds that way. When I see things like that I suspect the hand of Big Pharma could be at work (or I could be paranoid).
Anyway, if you want to amuse yourself, you can find the forum at this site:
If you feel compelled to register and comment in their fora, I would encourage you to do that. However, be forewarned that the moderator is a bit of a tyrant (apparently he is a retired policeman). I would ask only that you do not identify me or direct people to this blog. I have been lucky in terms of not having to deal with hostile and unreasonable people here and I don’t want to have to start now.
I think this is, above all else, a cautionary tale. There are lots of people out there who will lead you astray when it comes to diet. Everybody is different and there is lots of individual latitude in terms of carbohydrate tolerance but one thing is clear – if you have insulin resistance you have developed a carbohydrate intolerance. You need to restrict carbs to avoid the conditions associated with insulin resistance and the multitude of medications used to treat those conditions. If you go low enough to get below your individual threshold of tolerance, you can avoid the problems and can usually get off all the meds, too. There are big vested interests who benefit from selling those meds. Are they actively trying to subvert the movement to low-carb? I don’t know. But I do know this – they would be crazy not to.
Happy low-carbing on this Easter weekend!