Thursday, May 5, 2011

Venus Revisited

Some people still think it is impossible to get as fat as Venus of Willendorf eating only meat and fat. 

Supposedly it is just too difficult to eat excessive calories when eating only meat and fat.

OK, a thought experiment.

Let's say that Venus is 100 pounds overweight.  That translates to 350, 000 stored calories.

Let's say she ate only 100 excess fat calories every day...about two teaspoons of pure fat. 

No one can tell me that it is too difficult, too painful, impossible to eat two teaspoons more fat than you need every day.

There were plenty enough calories available in ice age Europe for any one to have 100 extra calories per day on average.  They were hunting critters like mammoths:

Source:  Prehistory.com

These animals had 20-30% body fat, and weighed on average 6-8 tons, i.e. 1200 to 1600 pounds.  One animal would provide at least 240 pounds or more of adipose tissue:  840, 000 calories of pure fat.  Twenty people (the estimated typical size of a paleo tribe) would have had 420, 000 calories each just from the fat of one animal, and upper Paleolithic people were killing these animals en mass. 

She starts at age 20.  How long will it take her to store up that excess 100 pounds?

One hundred excess calories per day for 3500 days, about 10 years, will result in 100 pounds of excess adipose weight.

She is obese by age of 30.  From a measly two teaspoons daily of excess animal fat.  

People don't grow obese in a year or two.  It takes time.

As Stephan pointed out recently, the reward value of food plays a dominant role in the genesis of obesity.  Stephan wrote:

"Experiments in rats and humans have outlined some of the qualities of food that are inherently rewarding:
  • Fat
  • Starch
  • Sugar
  • Salt
  • Meatiness (glutamate)
  • The absence of bitterness
  • Certain textures (e.g., soft or liquid calories, crunchy foods)
  • Certain aromas (e.g., esters found in many fruits)
  • Calorie density ("heavy" food)
We are generally born liking the qualities listed above. In addition, aromas and flavors that are associated with these qualities can become rewarding over time."
Upper paleolithic diets of Europe had fat, meatiness, and caloric density;  all inherently rewarding.  Its easy to eat those extra two teaspoons of fat, your brain rewards you for it and you certainly do not get a stomach ache from it.  

Compare, in your own experience, the pleasure you get from eating fat, to the pleasure you get from eating boiled potatoes, sweet potatoes, or rice served without any fat.  Which do you enjoy more, one 4-ounce boiled potato (about 100 kcal), or two tablespoons of cream (also about 100 kcal).

Its obvious which has the higher caloric density.  Your brain gets more reward from the cream than the potato.  Which reminds me, I've never met a person who binges on boiled potatoes.

Moreover, when we eat extra carbohydrate, it increases metabolic rate by about 10% of the calories consumed, and converting carbohydrate to fat consumes at least 10% of the calories in the carbohydrate.  But eating extra fat has no thermogenic effect, and since it is already fat, ready to store, essentially none is lost in the process of storage.

This means most people find it a little more difficult to consume excess energy in the form of whole food starch (e.g. potatoes) compared to consuming excess energy in the form of fat.

If carbohydrates make people fat, then why does Japan have an obesity rate of only 3.2%, in comparison to the Grecian 22%?  Seven times more obesity in Greece, than in Japan.

Grecian diet:  About 40% energy from fat, 45% from carbohydrate
Japanese diet:  About 60% energy from carbohydrate (mostly white rice), 25% from fat

A beautiful theory slain by ugly facts?  Make your own conclusions.

By the way, you don't need "high" insulin to store fat.  You just need 1) normal insulin (not type 1 diabetic), 2) acylation stimulating protein, a potent regulator of fat synthesis, and 3) an excess of dietary fat.

I can easily imagine Venus eating just a little too much meat and fat often enough to average an extra 100 calories daily, for 10 or more years, gradually growing obese.  Her intake just exceeds her output by a small amount.  The same way that people grow obese today...over a long period of time, with no obvious overeating. 

 I simply do not find compelling any attempt to explain Venus by force-feeding rituals, potato or honey binges, or similar scenarios.  People do not get obese like this in a month, and ice age Europe most likely did not supply any carbohydrate-rich foods in quantities necessary to make them responsible for this level of obesity.

70 comments:

Melissa said...

"Which do you enjoy more, one 4-ounce boiled potato (about 100 kcal), or two tablespoons of cream (also about 100 kcal)."

Eeew, neither. Put them together and I might eat them reluctantly, put salt and pepper and I'd definitely eat them.

I am amazed that anyone in that era could get so fat on meat because of how disgusting the fat is of most wild game. I suppose they had different tastes, but there is really no way to know much about the Venus, such as whether she had some other disorder. I'd also be curious to see what starch grain analysis says about diets in that region.

Christopher said...

It's hard to disagree with the idea that excess calories of any type could lead to weight gain.

It seems like the ability to store most of the energy one eats would have been selected for at some point.

Perhaps the Ancient Venus got that way with dietary fat - but now we have quite a few Modern Venuses (and Victors), and I would suggest that their obesity is caused more directly by the modern processed and refined foods.

In other words, plenty of women grow obese in modern times on low-fat diets.

It would be foolish to think of a "paleo diet" as incapable of causing obesity. That doesn't make a "paleo diet" any less ideal, does it?

guitargrl325 said...

This is all very interesting(and kind of scary!). Thank you for posting.

Question-Do you feel, in light of this information that a female on a high fat diet(greater than 50% as you suggested to one of the commentors) would gain weight even if overall calories were at a deficit?

I've gone from a nearly vegan(I know, I know) diet to a primal style diet with my fat at nearly 70%(20% protein and 10% carbs from fruits/veggies and some dairy), but my overall calories at least 500-700 less per day than I was consuming as a vegan(and my carbs about 150-200g less) but I am finding myself gaining fat when for 2 years I maintained my weight at a higher calorie/much higher carb.

Only been doing it a month so I'm very new to all this and I'm trying to devour all the information I can!

Ps, I've already been chastised into dropping the dairy!

JML said...

What do you make of steatopygia which, according to wikipedia, is "believed to be an adaptive physiological feature for female humans living in hot environments, as it maximizes their bodies' surface-area/volume ratio but keeps enough fat to produce hormones needed for menstruation"?

Sue said...

If someone is not losing weight would you tell them to cut calories? If they are very low carb and around 1500 calories would you say drop calories for a while OR add more carbs and less fat? So many posts I've read lately of people not losing weight after a few weeks or months on paleo. These people will not lose weight if constantly been told that they probably have messed up metabolism and its not the calories.

Sue said...

Just subscribing to comments.

Beth@WeightMaven said...

Okay, I think that it's plausible that Venus got heavy without lots of carbs.

But I think it's implausible that she got that way 100 calories at a time. I don't agree with everything Taubes has written, but I agree with him that relatively small increases in calories should be noise.

As he says, if all it takes to become obese is to misjudge intake by a small amount, the question isn't why some people are obese, the question is why isn't everyone?

I'm also skeptical that ice age Europe could provide enough calories in general -- carbs, fat, or protein -- for Venus to be eating 100 excess calories a day for 10 years.

My vote is still for some sort of pathology.

Don said...

Christopher,

What about in Japan? Its not true that plenty of Japanese women grow obese on low fat diets. Only 3% of Japanese women are obese, compared to about 30% of Americans. Americans are not eating low fat, compared to Japanese.

Don said...

guitargrl,

We have evidence that people and animals on low fat, high carb, lower protein diets have higher basal metabolic rates than people on high fat, low carb, higher protein diets. This is partly because carbohydrate ingestion stimulates carbohydrate oxidation and has a thermogenic effect of about 10% of calories consumed, whereas fat ingestion does not stimulate fat oxidation and has no thermogenic effect (except for medium chain triglycerides).

I no longer believe that primal = high fat, low carb. The concept of eating from hunter-gatherer food groups has validity, but I doubt the idea that evolutionary diets (i.e. those prior to the emergence of H sapiens sapiens) had lots of fats.

Don said...

JML,

The hypothesis seems sound to me. In other words, women with this feature are leaner on the trunk and limbs, allowing them to dissipate heat more efficiently (an advantage in the heat), while keeping all the fat necessary for hormone regulation on the buttocks.

Don said...

Sue,

For many people, decreasing carbs and increasing fat itself causes the 'wrecked' metabolism, because decreasing thermogenic carbs while increasing non-thermogenic fat will result in a lower overall metabolic rate. So I would first suggest continuing to eat hunter-gatherer foods, no dairy fats, at an appropriate caloric level, and reduce fat to 30% of energy or less, mostly unsaturated and adequate omega-3, reduce protein to 15% of energy (less insulinogenic animal protein), and substituting paleo carbohdrates, i.e. tubers and fruits.

Sue said...

Thanks Don.

Don said...

Beth,

Regarding your skepticism about caloric availability in ice age Europe, I edited the post to address that.

So, you are saying that it is impossible to fill up a bucket one drop at a time? Well, whatever you believe, research has shown that the body stores excess dietary fat with 97% efficiency. That is, 97 of every 100 excess fat calories consumed becomes body fat. Storing excess carbohydrate calories, in contrast, is only 77% efficient; 23% of carb calories get lost in converting the carbohydrate into lipid. Furthermore, high protein intake also increases weight gain versus low protein intake given the same number of calories.

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/3799509

In addition, some studies show that people eat to satisfy carbohydrate requirements. If given a high fat diet they will keep eating calories until they consume adequate carbohydrate:

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/2718915

Christopher said...

On Japan:

I didn't mean to say that low-fat diets cause obesity, but that (just like low-carb diets) they also don't prevent it.

What I see as the conclusion here:

Macronutrient composition alone does not dictate whether a diet will cause fat gain. If the goal is to avoid fat gain (or encourage fat loss) then the requirement is a "negative energy balance" at the fat cells.

The question is then how to achieve that. As constructors of low-carb test studies have often found, low-carb diets seem to promote consumption of fewer calories.
******
Aside from all this - in my mind, the benefit of a paleo diet is health, not carefree avoidance of obesity.

Don said...

Christopher,

Japanese are very healthy also, most longevous of all industrialized nations, very low rates of diseases of civilization.

Low carb diets may promote lower caloric intake, but they also have a higher food efficiency, and thus promote fat gain more efficiently even at lower caloric intakes. Lower caloric intake can result in fat gain when food efficiency increases and basal metabolism is depressed. See Venus Revisited, 2.

Sue said...

Christopher said:
"Aside from all this - in my mind, the benefit of a paleo diet is health, not carefree avoidance of obesity."

I want a diet that can do both.

Pretty In Primal said...

Don, how does all of this jive with PCOS diet recommendations? Won't lots of starchy tubers and fruit be a big issue?
Thanks!

Makro said...

Lots of interesting stuff to discuss here, well worth the read.

I´ll try to segment my comments a bit to avoid wall-o-text syndrome.

First, on the venerable Venus:

1) It´s always hard to guess the significance of pre-historic artifacts, since, well, we have to pretty much guess.

Some future observer who found the ruins of our cultural remains would be, for instance, amazed at the prevalence of faster-than-light spaceships, men who fly and shoot laser beams out of their eyes, blood-drinking monsters, the sheer commonness of high-speed car chases, etc. etc.

Hence, it´s a bit tough to guess if the Venus is prevalent because it is representative of something common, or if it stands for something extraordinary.

2) Humans 35 000 years ago were probably, contrary to common belief, not identical in a biological sense to modern humans.

Evolution works rather quickly when evolutionary pressures are stepped up. Hence, assuming that fattening 35-10 000 years ago can be compared to fattening today is hazardous.

Indeed - fat accumulation patterns can still vary *hugely* between modern-day populations, due to non-environmental reasons, as the phenomena of steatopygia illustrates nicely:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Steatopygia

I can see two potential reasons for this:

a) Extreme fattening was more adaptive adaptive during the last glacial maximum, for obvious reasons. (Unreliable food supply, it was very cold)

b) Rapid environmental change (much as the introduction of low-quality processed foods today) led to pathological fattening because of insufficient adaption to the food supply.

I´d say I personally find a) to be the most likely explanation, provided that the Venus-esque physique was indeed a common phenomenon.

Makro said...

A short personal comment on the palatability of fat: I have yet to feel the impulse to gorge on butter (or cream for that matter), or a longing for fat.

Certainly, I find fat palatable, but it does not provoke the urge to overeat (I am consciously aware that I am overeating when I overeat). The combos that provoke overeating in me usually contain sugar, or possibly a coctail of carbohydrate and fat.

Makro said...

Re: Caloric surplus.

You write: "
Let's say she ate only 100 excess fat calories every day...about two teaspoons of pure fat.

No one can tell me that it is too difficult, too painful, impossible to eat two teaspoons more fat than you need every day."

Now, it is hardly "painful" to eat a third of a potato either, but that will accomplish the same task.

I personally think that it is unreasonable to assume that humans need to consciously control their caloric intake with less than a 1 percent deviation from their daily requirement in order to avoid pathological obesity.

Rather, I would (as stated above) venture that Venus and steatopygia are examples of adaptive fattening, while present-day obesity (mostly) and metabolic syndrome are examples of a pathological phenomenon.

My personal model of pathological obesity is hence more like that for Edema, I.e. while there is indeed a "positive fluid balance" present in cases of Edema, it would be wrong to presume that the cause is "drinking too much and peeing too little".

Makro said...

"Japanese are very healthy also, most longevous of all industrialized nations, very low rates of diseases of civilization."

The problem with cross-country comparisons is that they are very weak in terms of explanatory precision.

They can be useful sometimes in setting the limits of the discussion (high carbohydrate consumption does not appear to make the Japanese obese), but the complete lack of even a comprehensive list of the variables involved in creating different outcomes between nations is a serious flaw.

For an interesting illustration on the topic of life expectancy and health, let's have a look at what happens to the descendants of the Asians who moved to the USA.

Interestingly, they are probably the most long-lived group in the world. (Life expectancy: 86.6 years, compared to 82.6 for Japan)

http://www.measureofamerica.org/wp-content/uploads/2010/04/A_Century_Apart_-_Data_Tables.xls

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_countries_by_life_expectancy

Is this extraordinary boost in life expectancy to be attributed to higher US fat consumption? Or one of the other myriad of variables that differ between countries and populations that we haven´t accounted for?

Makro said...

To finish off my comment spree (sorry for the rampage, but this series of posts was both provocative and interesting), I´d like to note what actually happened during the great American obesity epidemic of 1985 onwards. (1985 is the first year post-war where calorie consumption per day exceeds 3300)

Data: http://www.ers.usda.gov/Data/foodconsumption/Spreadsheets/nutrients07.xls

Consumption 1984:
Calories: 3300
Saturated fat: 51 g.
Protein: 101 g. (no animal / vegetable breakdown available)
Mono- / Polyunsat. fats: 93 g.
Carbohydrate: 409 g.


Consumption 2006:
Calories: 3900
Saturated fat: 54 g. (+3 g)
Protein: 111 g. (+10 g)
Poly- Monounsat. fat: 116 g. (+23 g.)
Carbohydrate: 474 g. (+65 g)

The main caveat is that the supply-side nature of these stats makes it possible that especially a significant share of the cooking oils were never actually consumed.

In any case, I just find it hard to support the notion that the US obesity epidemic is in any way, shape or form related to the consumption of animal fats or animal products.

Gyan said...

That fat is rewarding to brain, does it by itself not imply that human body is adapted to prefer it?

Perhaps the key is regular steady consumption of fat vs intermittent fluctuating consumption. Maybe the Venuses were obliged to have steady high-fat consumption and no lean periods.

guitargrl325 said...

Thank you for your response. It has definitely thrown me for a loop(in a good way!) and has me seriously re-considering how I appropriate macros in my diet.

I would venture to say that my macros when eating vegetarian(and maintaing my weight as opposed to gaining as I have been on higher fat/much lower calories) were similar to the 15pro/55carb/30fat you have suggested. It would make total sense to me that were I to follow those same ratios again, but of course, switching out real protein for the gluten and soy crap, ditching the lentils and pastas I ate for potatoes and fruit that I might see weight loss not just maintenance.

Thank you for all you do!

cschaewe said...

So how do you reconcile what you're saying here with what you said six months ago, here: http://donmatesz.blogspot.com/search/label/How%20to%20lose%20fat

And I'm not trying to be snide, I'm seriously curious. Everything you're saying is very thought-provoking - and very frustrating for someone who just switched to a "high-fat" (about 50%) diet from a low-fat diet (upon which I lost about 15 pounds in 2 months), because I thought it would be healthier. I'm going to continue eating "real food" and following Kurt Harris' recommendations, but my head is spinning!

Beth@WeightMaven said...

Don, I believe you can fill a bucket a drop at a time. I'm just skeptical that in ice age Europe there were enough extra calories over a long enough duration for that kind of weight gain without some other underlying factor.

Malena said...

This is exactly in line with my own observations. I tried a LCHF for a couple of weeks, got depressed, lethargic and gained weight (which I don't do easily).

Those unfortunate days when I overeat, if it was mostly carbs I wake up sweating and am so hot the day afterwards people think I am mad going around without a jacket. I suppose the ability to convert carbs into heat differs among people. I'm a lean person and never feel cold whereas everyone around me has so much clothing, I shudder when thinking of it, my skin itch by the thought of all those garments. If I overeat mostly fatty foods and protein, I wake up felling sluggish, with reddish skin, red eyes, as if I had feasted on alcoholics.

I've never understood why paleo/primal = LCHF. Its very strange. I actually think those promoting the high fat and protein version of paleo/primal have some sort of food addiction to dairy and bacon. I have heard that among friends. They say "but I feel so good eating yoghurt/cheese/cream, its really good for me, I have always ate dairy" etc etc and then once they quite they loose weight, often lots of water weight, they get less swollen in their bodies, which perhaps points at the hormonal disturbances fatty diets can cause.

I feel at best when I eat about 60% carbs, and then slightly less calories from protein than fat. Depending on the type of protein. If it is low in purine, e.g. from white fish, crayfish and eggs, then it is ok with slightly larger amounts of protein than fat. I learned a lot about food adjustment from Metabolic Typing (the book, not the easy digested fluff found on the Internet).

Don said...

Pretty in Primal,

PCOS is largely about excess androgen levels. The DIANA (DIet and ANdrogens) study addressed this. The researchers used an Asian-esque diet to lower androgens in Italian women. Increasing carbohydrates from whole foods will not make PCOS worse, on the contrary it will likely make it better.

Don said...

Makro,

The upper Paleolithic European food supply was NOT unreliable. Please re-read the info on the mammoths. Kill a few dozen of these and put them in cold storage and your tribe is set for a year.

I totally disagree with your claim that we are genetically significantly different from Upper Paleolithic humans. Please produce some evidence for this, rather than simply assert it.

Don said...

Makro,

First, you got your caloric numbers wrong. You have to eat a whole 4-ounce (100 g) potato to get the same calories as in 2 teaspoons (10 g) of fat. Fat has 10 times the caloric density of potatoes.

Second, who said anything about conscious control of caloric intake being the key to controlling fat accumulation? Not me. Not what I am saying at all.

I forward the rather radical idea that if you don't eat enough carbohydrate, your brain will drive you to continue eating protein and fat until you either 1) ingest enough carbohydrate, 2) ingest enough protein to meet the carbohydrate drive, or 3) max out your ability to metabolize protein and fat, EVEN if this lead to excessive energy intake.

Don said...

Makro,

So Japanese who move to the U.S. live an average of 4 years longer than those who stay in Japan, on top of an 82 year life expectancy in Japan.
That's a 5% increase. Hardly "extraordinary." The fact still remains that the Japanese, eating the Japanese diet, live longer than Americans and have about 1/10th the obesity rate. Both are advanced industrialized nations with modern medical intervention. The only really relevant difference is diet.

Don said...

Makro,

Perhaps you have never heard of threshold phenomena in biology. Once you pass a certain threshold, it doesn't matter how much more of the stimulus you add, the response stays the same.

Americans eat a lot more animal protein and fat than Japanese, and more is land animal, compared to the Japanese being more fish. It is very possible that Americans eat an amount of land animal protein and fat that exceeds a threshold for effects. To see the effect of animal protein on obesity you have to vary it over a larger span than common in America or between the two time points you cited. See Venus Revisited, 2.

BTW, I am NOT saying that refined carbs can't contribute to obesity. Why do so many people think in black and white, all or nothing?

Don said...

Gyan,

Fat stimulates the brain positively because it represents concentrated energy. In an environment where highly concentrated food energy is relatively scarce, finding highly it is highly rewarding. So, the fact that the brain finds fat highly rewarding actually suggests that our ancestral environment didn't have all that much readily available fat. If it was common, there would be no reward in finding it.

Don said...

cschaewe,

I know, I now have to revise or delete that post and rewrite. I was misguided by Taubes et al, the overfocus on insulin, and left aside all this other data of which I was aware, as if it didn't exist.

Kurt G. Harris MD said...

@Don

You said:

"That's a 5% increase. Hardly "extraordinary." The fact still remains that the Japanese, eating the Japanese diet, live longer than Americans and have about 1/10th the obesity rate. Both are advanced industrialized nations with modern medical intervention. The only really relevant difference is diet."


Actually, as a population statistic, a 5% increase in longevity is fairly significant. This is comparable to the magnitude decrement in longevity between those who have moderate obesity and those who do not

http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/03/090319224823.htm

It is also about half the difference in life expectancy associated with having DM - about 7 or 8 years.

And there is another "real difference"

That is that most north americans are caucasian, and most japanese are asian. DIfferent subspecies of Homo sapiens, actually.

I would think two different subspecies of H sapiens (genetic analysis supports that there are enough differences to support the subspecies concept - only political correctness militates against use of the term) might lead you to at least consider that there are substantial genetic differences that might influence longevity. Longevity is a heritable trait independent of diet.

As far as the significance of the venus figurine, it seems quite plausible to me to that anything made a fetish of is more likely to be rare than common.

The equivalent icon from our own era would be a vogue cover with Kate Moss, would it not?

There are numerous examples of cultures that overfeed women on purpose and they all have thinness as the prevailing norm. Why would such have not been the case with the model for the venus figurine?

As far as the possibility of fat mass gain without carbohydrate, I am curious who the "paleos" are who allegedly advocate this idea. I see ideas like this on low carb forums but can't think of a single "paleo" voice that claims it is impossible to gain fat by eating only fat and protein.

Long ago on my own blog I used the desert island thought experiment - imagine that you are rescued after 30 days with no food and the ship has only spam and lard on board. Of course you would regain weight rapidly. Low leptin levels, ASP and basal insulin alone will allow you to regain your fat stores.

It's always possible to override your setpoint on either CHO, fat or some combination of excess fuel. This seems completely incontroversial to me.

So I agree that the figurine supports the claim that someone lived in that period had that body habitus and could serve as the model without benefit of plant food.

Although I wonder who really needs to be told this?

Other than that the figure tells us nothing, but does suggests to me that gross obesity was rare enough to be fetishized and so most likely much rarer than in our own time and culture.

It certainly tells us nothing at all about the general preferability of high fat vs high carb diets- if one even believes in the concept of "macronutrinet ratio" as a useful one - I really don't.

Don said...

Kurt,

1. I said 5% is not extraordinary. I did not say it was not significant.

2. So the fact that Japanese have only a fraction of the rates of life shortening heart disease, cancer, Alzheimer's, etc. found in the U.S. has no influence on their longevity? Or, are you also saying that these diseases that cut life short in the U.S. are genetic, and Japanese are genetically protected, in which case it may not matter what we eat?

3. I already said that the figurine says only that at least one upper Paleolithic European woman was obese. I never said it was common. Though it may have been.

Some people remain relatively lean even while eating the SAD. "Only" 30% of Americans are obese; 70% are not. Does this mean that neither the SAD nor NADs hare obesogenic? Does it mean that 70% of Americans are genetically well adapted to the SAD and the NAD?


4. I don't recall anywhere saying that any "paleos" advocate the idea that no one can get fat eating only meat and fat. In the original post I said "some people."

5. Apparently some people who read my blog need to be told this. Apparently readers of you blog also needed to be told....I'm guessing that's why you came up with your shipwreck thought experiment?

6. People are claiming that humans are completely adapted to the upper Paleolithic diet of meat and fat AND that humans can't get fat eating only meat and fat. I adduced the Venus figurine to cast doubt on both of these ideas. So far as I know there are no 'fetish' obese women or men among the Kitavans. Among Japanese, only 3% are obese. Among the obese are the Sumo wrestlers. They do force feed themselves; they also eat more protein and fat than the typical Japanese. Better food efficiency, as supported by research on Caucasians...see Venus Revisited, 2.

Clinical studies of caucasians put on a Japanese style ad libitum low fat, high carb diet don't support the idea that caucasians and Asians significantly differ in nutritional metabolism. Try searching for studies that test ad libitum low fat diets (NOT calorically restricted low fat diets).

In this one, done in Tennessee, they lost a pound per week:

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/8281220

In this one done in Arkansas, older men and women lost about a pound per week lost 0.5 to 1.0 pound per week over 12 weeks on an ad libitum low (18%) fat, high (63%) carb diet; subjects on the control 45% carb, 41% fat diet:

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/14744846

I don't think the literature supports a position that macronutrient ratios don't matter, unless none of the achieved outcomes matter either. I guess ultimately that's true, since even the leanest and healthiest bite the dust in the end.

Makro said...

“The upper Paleolithic European food supply was NOT unreliable. Please re-read the info on the mammoths. Kill a few dozen of these and put them in cold storage and your tribe is set for a year.”


I am happy to admit that I am rather ignorant on the finer points of mammoth hunting, but eating anything that is mobile (might be tough to find one sometimes), very strong (sometimes the hunters lose), etc. might pose some reliability challenges. I guess it depends on what the threshold for “reliable” is.


“I totally disagree with your claim that we are genetically significantly different from Upper Paleolithic humans. Please produce some evidence for this, rather than simply assert it.”

Given that we are talking up to (or more than) 1000 generations here, and some huge environmental shifts, I´d be shocked if there haven´t been major changes to our genome and metabolism in the last 10-30 000 years.

Overall, the notion that human evolution “stopped” as soon as we turned into homo sapiens is most likely wrong, I.e. see:
http://www.anthro.utah.edu/PDFs/accel.pnas.smallpdf.pdf

If anything, the opposite is most likely true.

“Using the 3.9-million HapMap SNP dataset, we found that selection has accelerated greatly during the last 40,000 years.”

Finally, it seeems pointless to argue if we might be different in regards to fat accumulation compared to people who lived 10-30 000 years ago, given that there are huge genetic differences between population groups that are alive even today with regards to where they put on fat, etc.

Makro said...

"First, you got your caloric numbers wrong. You have to eat a whole 4-ounce (100 g) potato to get the same calories as in 2 teaspoons (10 g) of fat. Fat has 10 times the caloric density of potatoes. "

Sorry, I ignored the "4-ounce" part by mistake, as it means nothing to me, and I ended up with this potato instead:

http://caloriecount.about.com/calories-potatoes-white-flesh-skin-baked-i11357

Whoops. (I´m European, ounces aren´t really my thing...)


"Second, who said anything about conscious control of caloric intake being the key to controlling fat accumulation? Not me. Not what I am saying at all. "

Fair enough, but if conscious control of caloric intake is not the point, I really don´t see the use of even bringing up caloric density, the slight surplus that´s needed to gradually become obese, etc.

"I forward the rather radical idea that if you don't eat enough carbohydrate, your brain will drive you to continue eating protein and fat until you either

1) ingest enough carbohydrate,

2) ingest enough protein to meet the carbohydrate drive, or

3) max out your ability to metabolize protein and fat, EVEN if this lead to excessive energy intake."

This hypotheis is radical indeed, but I´m pretty sceptical of it, as it runs counter to every human weight-loss trial that I have ever seen published (see some of my earlier references).

Putting people on a calorie-unrestricted diet that is high in fat and protein but low in carbohydrate generally results in significantly more weight loss compared to a calorie-restricted low-fat, high-carbohydrate diet.

This is the exact opposite result of what we should expect if your hypothesis was correct. No matter what happens in OLETF rats, etc. etc.

I should also add that the hypothesis runs entirely counter to my personal experience. Well, not really *counter*, as I don´t fear the potato making me fat or japanse food (yum!) giving me metabolic syndrome.

But when I want to shave off some fat for the summer, etc. I usually turn to a higher fat diet, works fine for me.

Makro said...

"So Japanese who move to the U.S. live an average of 4 years longer than those who stay in Japan, on top of an 82 year life expectancy in Japan.
That's a 5% increase. Hardly "extraordinary.""

Well, given that Japan is already the longest-lived country in the world, I would say that a large, unselected population that lives 5% longer is rather extraordinary.
But to each his own I guess.

"The fact still remains that the Japanese, eating the Japanese diet, live longer than Americans and have about 1/10th the obesity rate. Both are advanced industrialized nations with modern medical intervention. The only really relevant difference is diet."

Although I agree that the Japanese diet is vastly preferable to the Standard American diet (SAD), I disagree that diet is the only relevant factor (we really don´t know).

More importantly, I disagree regarding the aspect that you have picked out from the myriad of possibilities (fat content) as being the 'only really relevant difference' to be considered, especially in the context of what actually happened during the Great American Obesity Epidemic (see above).

Makro said...

"Perhaps you have never heard of threshold phenomena in biology. Once you pass a certain threshold, it doesn't matter how much more of the stimulus you add, the response stays the same."

I´m sorry, but I just can't see that a 3 g increase in animal fats could be significant (or cross a threshold), especially with much larger increases in the consumption of sugar, carbohydrate and vegetable oils staring us in the face.

This is especially so as the present-day level of consumption is *identical* to consumption during the decidedly much slimmer 50-ies and 60-ies. Fear of fat seems to have started taking a toll during the 70-ies, 80-ies, and 90-ies with a slight rebound in consumption during the 00-ies.

Hence, if anything, saturated fat consumption during the heyday of the obesity epeidemic was *lower* than the previous level.

As for protein, the increase (about 10%) hardly comes from land animals. On the contrary, the consumption of land animal staples, I.e. pork and beef, *decreased* during the US obesity epidemic (I.e. 1983/84 vs. 2008, beef: -14%, pork -4%).


"Americans eat a lot more animal protein and fat than Japanese, and more is land animal, compared to the Japanese being more fish. It is very possible that Americans eat an amount of land animal protein and fat that exceeds a threshold for effects. To see the effect of animal protein on obesity you have to vary it over a larger span than common in America or between the two time points you cited. See Venus Revisited, 2."

Not really - modern-day USA has seen what is probably the most radical shift in metabolic trends ever. The incidence of diabetes has *doubled* since 1990.

The share of obese people has also doubled, after previously being rather stable. These are huge shifts, and comparing them to actual nutrient consumption is far more interesting than guessing semi-randomly which aspect(s) of Japanese culture, food and genetics that is causing them to be slimmer than Americans.

Furthermore, it is very relevant to note (see above) that Asians subjected to American conditions display even better health outcomes as compared to Asians who reside in their home countries.

Anyone who *really* wants to feel their head spinning on this topic should head here, and check out page 234:

http://www.sph.uth.tmc.edu/course/occupational_envHealth/bamick/RICE%20-%20Weis%20398/marmot_japanese.pdf

It´s at your own risk though, you have all been warned.


"BTW, I am NOT saying that refined carbs can't contribute to obesity. Why do so many people think in black and white, all or nothing?"

I think that indicting protein, carbohydrate and fat as all somehow causing metabolic derangement* feels way off the mark. Personally, I think macronutrient ratios are only interesting in narrow therapeutic scenarios (I.e. deffing bodybuilders or epileptic children, etc.).

* I see little reason to care if people put on fat mass if the fat increase is not associated with metabolic syndrome. There is no reason to offer those lasses with steatopygia liposuction or a starvation diet...

Makro said...

"Among the obese are the Sumo wrestlers. They do force feed themselves; they also eat more protein and fat than the typical Japanese. Better food efficiency, as supported by research on Caucasians...see Venus Revisited, 2."

Please. Nutrient composition of Sumo diets, two different groups of wrestlers:

http://www.ajcn.org/content/29/10/1167.full.pdf+html

Calorie composition:

Carbohydrate: 56-78 %
Fat: 9-15%
Protein: 13-28%.

Avg. Japanese consumption:

Carbohydrate: 65 %
Fat: 20 %
Protein: 15%.

Whatever makes them fat, it sure isn´t the fat.

Oh, I guess it´s all of that nasty animal protein (in group 2, that is). Well, here is the composition of the staple sumo feeding dish:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chankonabe

"The bulk of chankonabe is made up of large quantities of protein sources (usually chicken (quartered, skin left on), fish (fried and made into balls), tofu (or sometimes beef) and vegetables (daikon, bok choy, etc)."

So it´s the fact that they sometimes (but not usually) eat beef that explain their girth!

(Well, the girth of one of the groups, at least...)

Makro said...

Regarding your weight loss trials:

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/8281220

"The low-calorie group lost significantly more weight (males 11.8 kg, s.d. 6.4; females 8.2 kg, s.d. 4.2) than the low-fat group (males 8.0 kg, s.d. 1.3; females 3.9 kg, s.d. 3.7)."

"Follow-up data collected 9-12 months after completion of treatment on 65% of the subjects completing the study showed no significant difference between the two groups in weight losses from baseline (low-fat group 2.6 kg; low-calorie group 5.5 kg)."

So, to sum things up, when I give references showing that high-fat, high-protein diets show better effectiveness as compared to low-fat, calorie restricted diets in reducing weight (as opposed to inducing obesity in those exposed), you reply that this is irrelevant, as surely a non-calorie-restricted-low-fat diet would perform even better.

Ignoring that this is something of a non-sequitur regarding the main hypothesis being discussed (fat and protein driving metabolic derangement), I am still surprised that you subsequently post a study showing that a low-fat, non-calorie-restricted diet has a *lower* effectiveness than a restricted one.

Walter said...

You're missing a zero here:

These animals had 20-30% body fat, and weighed on average 6-8 tons, i.e. 1200 to 1600 pounds.

Which means you might be missing a zero here too:

One animal would provide at least 240 pounds or more of adipose tissue: 840,000 calories of pure fat.

David said...

Don,

Hoping you can comment on Taubes' recent blog post where he attempts to scientifically validate his assertion that gaining fat is almost entirely related to insulin levels, which are determined by the amount of starchy carbs in the diet:

There’s nothing particularly controversial about the science involved. If you doubt insulin regulates fat accumulation in fat cells, you can literally look it up in any good biochemistry or endocrinology (the study of hormones and related disorders) textbook – the latest editions, say, of Lehningers Principles of Biochemistry or Williams Textbook of Endocrinology, which are the authoritative texts in their respective fields. Look up the word adipocyte (the technical term for fat cell) and this is what you’ll find:

First Williams (and I’ll translate the technical terminology immediately after):

The activity of LPL within individual tissues is a key factor in partitioning triglycerides among different body tissues. Insulin influences this partitioning through its stimulation of LPL activity in adipose tissue. Insulin also promotes triglyceride storage in adipocytes through other mechanisms, including inhibition of lipolysis, stimulation of adipocyte differentiation and escalation of glucose uptake.

To understand what this means you have to know that LPL is the enzyme (in less technical language, the thing) that works to pull fat from the circulation into whatever cell it happens to be sitting on. If that cell is a muscle cell, the fat is used for fuel. If it’s a fat cell, the fat is stored. Triglycerides are the form that fat is stored in fat cells and transported through the blood stream in lipoproteins. Adipose tissue is fat tissue and adipocyte is the fat cell.

So what Williams says is that fat is stored in different tissues (partitioned) depending on how this enzyme LPL is distributed on the cells of those tissues, and its insulin that to a large extent determines this. Then it adds that insulin promotes fat storage through other mechanisms as well — it creates new fat cells (stimulation of adipocyte differentiation), and it inhibits the escape of fat from the fat cell and its use for fuel (lipolysis), and it also increases the uptake of blood sugar (glucose) into the fat cell, which might not be relevant but the authors of the textbook don’t apparently know this, and neither did I when I wrote Good Calories, Bad Calories.

Now here’s Lehningers Principles of Biochemistry:


High blood glucose elicits the release of insulin, which speeds the uptake of glucose by tissues and favors the storage of fuels as glycogen and triaglycerols, while inhibiting fatty acid mobilization in adipose tissue.

Lehningers uses the other spelling of triglyceride – triaglycerol – to denote the fat in the blood and in our fat cells, and we get high blood glucose by consuming carbohydrate rich foods, which end up as glucose (a carbohydrate) in our blood stream. We also tend to have high blood glucose when we have a condition called insulin resistance, which is the underlying defect in obesity, diabetes and heart disease. When Lehningers says insulin inhibits fatty acid mobilization that’s pretty much the equivalent of what Williams is saying about insulin inhibiting lipolysis.

The point of both is simple. Insulin puts fat in fat cells. That’s what it does. And our insulin levels, for the most part, are determined by the carb-content of our diet — the quantity and quality of the carbohydrates consumed. (Or if Jenny Brand Miller and her colleagues are right, also by our fat content — the lower the fat in the diet, the higher the insulin and vice verse.) The way to get fat out of fat cells and burn it, which is what we want to do with it, is to lower insulin. This has been known since the early 1960s.

Toban said...

Cream is a bad proxy for paleo fat sources because cream is unlike animal fats in that it's always tasty. I find animal fats (lard, tallow) taste good when I'm hungry but can be a bit revolting when I'm full.

I also think the "extra 100 kcal each day" idea is suspect. My Taubesian instincts tell me that eating an extra 100 kcal one day would be easy, but the next day you'd be less hungry and so each day it would become harder and harder to maintain that caloric intake.

I think what might be at the bottom of all this is that there are other factors besides diet that influence fat storage.

Michal said...

Don wrote:

"I totally disagree with your claim that we are genetically significantly different from Upper Paleolithic humans. Please produce some evidence for this, rather than simply assert it."

There's whole new subbranch of anthropology called "accelerated evolution". The assumptions are simple: increase in population size increases number of total mutations in humanking, new challenges (dieseases, new types of economy, new foods) cause strong selection preassure. John Hawks has good information on this:

http://johnhawks.net/weblog/topics/evolution/selection/acceleration/accel_story_2007.html

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CUo6cop4vXg

You should also review Gregory Clark ("Farewell to Alms"), with his work being how economy affected human demographics and behavior as short time ago as in the Middle Ages.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IwCfoECh2f4

There's also a book "10 000 years explosion" about changes that occured to humans during Neolithic.

http://the10000yearexplosion.com/

BTW. They have some "paleo" chapter left out of the book.

http://the10000yearexplosion.com/henry-and-the-cape-buffalo/

Michal said...

So we have a suggestion of:

1) Increasing consumption of carbohydrates

2) Eating "fat to 30% of energy or less, mostly unsaturated and adequate omega-3"

Isn't this a pro-cancer diet? Polyunsaturated fatty acids are known immune system blocker, and are implicated in increasing your chance of getting cancer. High sugars suuport development of cancers by feeding them.

http://raypeat.com/articles/articles/unsaturated-oils.shtml

"Fifty years ago, it was found that a large amount of cod liver oil in dogs' diet increased their death rate from cancer by 20 times, from the usual 5% to 100%."

http://raypeat.com/articles/articles/unsaturatedfats.shtml

http://raypeat.com/articles/articles/unsuitablefats.shtml

http://raypeat.com/articles/articles/unsaturated-oils.shtml

Helen said...

Kurt Harris,

Asians and Caucasians are *not* different subspecies of homo sapiens. They are different phenotypes. There are no human subspecies.

Alan said...

I find non locked-metabolic-ward studies unconvincing. That they are all we are likely to have ever since the percentage-of-jury-award lawyers took control, is not a good enough reason to trust them.


@Don
In your opinion, do the different macronutrients have different "stick to your ribs" satiation effect?

@Melissa
In my experience, grass-fed animals have exceptionally little fat. That doesn't stop butchers from calling connective tissue "fat", just because it isn't red muscle.

skylertanner.com said...

"By the way, you don't need "high" insulin to store fat. You just need 1) normal insulin (not type 1 diabetic), 2) acylation stimulating protein, a potent regulator of fat synthesis, and 3) an excess of dietary fat. "

This is what people don't understand: the moment you drift over maintenance energy requirements on a high fat diet, all of the excess fat calories are going straight into the fat cells without so much as a toll station to slow it down. The gambit is that those fat calories satiate before that threshold is reached. For most this happens, but not for all.

Of note: I eat a high fat diet.

Fatima said...

Japanese high life expectancy seems to be greatly exaggerated. This article in Economist discusses the issue
http://www.economist.com/blogs/freeexchange/2010/09/pensions

"relatives lived with decomposing corpses for decades in order to collect pension income"

I would instead take a look a Japanese living in the USA to see if the diet that produces obese bodies in caucasian population results in the same in eastern asian. We all know the answer - the east asians still remain slender on a regular muffin/donut diet.

The majority of obese asians seem to be not the eastern but a south east asians.

Perhaps we should consider racial differences before recommending Japanese diets to every race?

Emily Deans, M.D. said...

Rats will binge on fat alone. That is well supported in the literature. Humans preferentially binge on pasta, bread, sweets, and salty snacks, and very rarely binge on fat alone.

I am also concerned by the high suicide rate in Japan (though that could certainly be a cultural artifact).

Certainly the carb/serotonin link is something to consider - especially for women who tend to have lower levels of tryptophan anyway - but I have also heard many anecdotes of long term low carbing curing PMS as long as one watches the PUFAs, and carbs leading to sugar binges and mood swings. I'm willing to believe some folks do better at certain ends of the spectrum - I'd like to see a plausible theory that would explain all of the above with a set macronutrient ratio.

Rob A said...

Thanks for this post, Don. Didn't finish reading through the comments, but I appreciate taking on the low-carb myth that a diet of primarily protein and fat alone cannot allow one to gain fat.

My question is in response to the idea that we can seemingly accidentally consume 100 calories per day more- is this actually possible? It seems to me that something has to be going on to ratchet up the body's setpoint. In response to the Twinkie Diet, Stephen Guyenet wrote:

'Since a pound of body fat contains roughly 3,500 calories, eating an excess of 80 calories per day (1 piece of toast) should lead to a weight gain of 8 lbs of fat per year. Conversely, if you're distracted and forget to eat your toast, you should lose 8 lbs of fat per year, which would eventually be dangerous for a lean person. That's why we all record every crumb of food we eat, determine its exact calorie content, and match that intake precisely with our energy expenditure to maintain a stable weight.

Oh wait, we don't do that? Then how do so many people maintain a stable weight over years and decades? And how do wild animals maintain a stable body fat percentage (except when preparing for hibernation) even in the face of food surpluses?

...

The answer is that the body isn't stupid. Over hundreds of millions of years, we've evolved sophisticated systems that maintain "energy homeostasis". In other words, these systems act to regulate fat mass and keep it within the optimal range.'

If indeed the bodyfat level exhibited by the Venus models is not optimal, how is it that the body seemingly forgot that it those extra 100 calories a day would be disadvantageous, and instead overate and stored them as fat? Why, as in overfeeding studies, would the defense mechanisms of increased metabolic rate, blunted appetite, reduced absorption of ingested calories, etc. not kick in for such an individual?

Seems to me that something else must have been going on that facilitated the extra calories being stored as fat, rather than expended or prevented from being ingested, as you would expect based on what we gather about the way the body fat setpoint seems to work.

Do you have any thoughts or speculation as to what might trigger that sort of hormonal disregulation, dietary or otherwise?

Helen said...

I want to refine my previous statement to say that there is only one extant human subspecies, and that is us, homo sapiens sapiens. All of us.

Have a great vacation, Don! I'm really enjoying your recent series and the debate that it's stirred up.

Helen said...

@ Fatima,

I can't remember where I read this, but I have heard that Asians (can't remember which group, maybe Japanese) immigrating to the U.S. who adopted a Western diet but maintained a traditional family structure and lifestyle had better health outcomes than those who maintained their traditional diet but adopted a Western family structure and lifestyle. If that's true, that throws another monkey wrench into the works.

Don said...

Makro,

You mistake percentages for absolute values, assuming that Sumo wrestlers don't eat more protein than the average Japanese because they eat a similar proportion, then you cite Chakonabe as the Sumo dish, which is composed of chicken, fish, tofu or beef, etc....all protein and fat. Moreover, even your percentages show Sumo diets to have up to twice the amount of protein of the typical Japanese diet by % of calories. The data I cited included at least one human study (somehow everyone ignores them, and wrongly accuses me of using only rat studies...) showing that increasing the proportion of protein in a mixed diet increases fat deposition. This again is most likely a threshold phenomenon and a consequence of the mix of protein, fat, and carbs. Any diet that results in a caloric reduction for anyone will result in some fat loss. Several long term studies don't show much difference between low carb and high carb diets in free living humans.

Don said...

Makro,

My other point was that if you compare an ad libitum low carb diet to a calorically restricted low fat diet you have not isolated one variable. One arm has both low fat and caloric restriction (deliberate restriction of food intake despite hunger) and the other has only low carb diet, no deliberate restriction. I have no doubt that deliberate restriction influences the outcome (harder to comply).

BTW my hypothesis is to account for phenomena I see in free-living humans, not what you can find in controlled trials. Controlled trials are NOT real life, and they are of necessity short term. There are a whole host of factors involved in trials that increase compliance (reporting to authorities, filling out forms, comraderie, etc) over a short-term trial, enabling people to override drives (hunger drive, carb drive, etc.) for a time. Thus, these only give us clues as to what might work for long term maintenance or for those who have a very large amount of weight to lose which will take a long time.

Plus, we are talking about two different things...what drives weight gain, and what works for weight loss. People can lose weight on high fat diets, high protein diets, high carb diets over a short term. Cutting carbs out of the diet may reduce food intake for many reasons, not just biochemical (e.g. simple loss of interest in more fat and protein "I can't bear to eat another steak, I want something different") and result in weight loss. This says nothing about what caused the weight gain in the first place, i.e. what mechanism(s) drive people to eat more than they need.

Don said...

Makro,

You also made the mistake of citing U.S. population diet statistics to dismiss the idea that high fat or high protein diets might drive obesity. You need data on what obese people have eaten, not what the mythical average person has eaten. It is perfectly possible that obese people have eaten more protein or fat than the average, and others (lean) have eaten less.

If you don't think protein or fat (or some types of protein or fat) can play a role, you'll have great difficulty explaining the data showing that vegetarians are typically leaner than omnivores and people moving in the direction of less animal food in the diet have a slower rate of annual weight gain.

"Men and women who changed their diet in one or several steps in the direction meat-eater right arrow fish-eater right arrow vegetarian right arrow vegan showed the smallest mean annual weight gain of 242 (95% CI 133–351) and 301 (95% CI 238–365) g, respectively....Lowest weight gain was seen among those who, during follow-up, had changed to a diet containing fewer animal food."

http://www.nature.com/ijo/journal/v30/n9/abs/0803305a.html

BTW I am NOT recommending a vegetarian diet...only pointing to and trying to make sense of the data.

Notice that in this study people gained only average of 1/2 to 3/4 pound per year. Sounds small but if it is fat, over 20 years it adds up to enough to put one in the obese category.

Finally, I am not saying that ONLY fat, or ONLY protein can drive fat gain. I have a hypothesis that will account for how any macronutrient imbalance relative to an individual's sweet spot can drive weight gain.

Don said...

Fatima,

I seriously doubt that enough people hide their deceased parents to substantially affect average age of death in Japan. But why pick on Japanese. A high proportion of Americans spend the last few years of their lives in nursing homes, hardly alive. Unless you consider vegetative living in nursing homes " quality living", these people exaggerate the healthy life span of Americans.

Re Asians staying lean on Westernized diets: Wrong.

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed?term=Obesity%20and%20Central%20Adiposity%20in%20Japanese%20Immigrants%3A%20Role%20of%20the%20Western%20Dietary%20Pattern

"Groups of obese subjects and those with central adiposity consumed higher proportions of energy as fat and lower as carbohydrate than those without obesity and central adiposity (p<0.05). Stratifying by generation, second-generation was shown to take more energy as fat than the first-generation (p<0.05). In the regression models, protein intake was the only variable significantly associated with body mass index. Replacing body mass index by the waist circumference, male sex and protein intake were shown to be independent predictors of central adiposity. When second-generation was taken, total energy intake and all macronutrient intakes became significantly associated with body mass index (p<0.05) but only protein intake predicted waist circumference. We speculate that Japanese-Brazilians, genetically prone to insulin resistance, when exposed to unfavorable environment will express a number of metabolic disturbances. A deleterious dietary pattern may contribute to weight gain, was associated with abdominal fat deposition in particular a protein-rich diet, and reflected by their waist circumference. Intra-abdominal fat could be triggering insulin resistance, which would explain the increased prevalence rates of diabetes, dyslipidemia and hypertension seen in Japanese-Brazilians."

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/2031486

"The mean body mass index (BMI) was substantially lower for Japanese men in Japan than for Japanese men in California or Hawaii for each 5-y age group. Mean BMIs in Hawaii and California were similar. Values for subscapular skinfold thickness were also lower in Japan than in Hawaii or California in all age groups. Although total caloric intake was not greatly different between Japan and Hawaii, the percent caloric intake as fat was two times greater in Hawaii."

This study showed Japanese men have a lower body fat content than Japanese American men, although their caloric intakes were similar. The difference appeared in fat intake. The Japanese-Americans ate twice as much fat and had the higher body fat content (on a similar caloric intake).

Don said...

Michal,

OK, assuming that human evolution has speeded up since the stone age, in what direction did the nutirtional pressures of the agricultural revolution send human metabolism...toward adaptation to higher intakes of meat and fat, or higher intakes of starch and less of fat and animal protein?

I'm not saying I agree with the claim that we are metabolically significantly different from people living 100K years ago. I am saying, if you think that increasing populations etc have increased the rate of mutations and adaptations, then we should expect that the agricultural revolution made us more adapted to starch-based, lower fat diets....not more adapted to meat-and-fat based diets. The argument appears to work completely against the claims of low carb advocates, who seem to think we should eat low carb because (so they claim) that's how our ancestors ate.

Don said...

Walter,

Thanks, I corrected it. It strengthens the argument that there were no food shortages causing this obesity (which is a crazy notion anyways).

Don said...

David,

No, there's nothing controversial about insulin driving fat storage. What is controversial is, what is causing chronic hyperinsulinemia?

The Kitavans and the Japanese clearly stand as evidence that it is NOT high carbohydrate intake that causes hyperinsulinemia. Kitavans have insulin levels half of those of Swedes

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/10535381

while consuming 50% more carbohydrate as a percent of calories.

"The low serum insulin that decreases with age in Kitavans adds to the evidence that a Western lifestyle is a primary cause of insulin resistance. Low serum insulin may partly explain the low prevalence of cardiovascular disease in Kitavans and probably relates to their marked leanness."

This clearly does NOT support the idea that high carbohydrate diet drives insulin drives fat storage.

Its not only about how much insulin gets released after a meal, its about whether or not that insulin and carbohydrate is quickly and efficiently cleared from the blood. I think we have a lot of evidence that dietary saturated fats and proteins increase insulin resistance, at least when consumed in conjunction with carbohydrates.

Don said...

Rob A,

Not picking on you here, but isn't it obvious that it is possible to overconsume just 100 kcal extra daily? I say so because we have plenty of overweight and obese people in the U.S. and they got that way over a long period of time.

What drives it? Probably muscle insulin resistance plays a major role in the storage part of it, although I don't see why that should be the only player in storage. The question really is, why doesn't the body correct it? The answer lies in the central nervous system reward system and the mind. We all know that we can override the body with the mind to a certain extent. We may feel full after a meal, but when someone presents dessert, suddenly we have room for it.

Its like asking, why do people (bodies) get addicted to destructive drugs, shouldn't the body self-correct this destructive behavior (smoking, meth, cocaine, whatever)? Answer: body would probably like to correct it, but brain gets addicted to the pleasure delivered by the poison. Just the same, the brain might get addicted to the flavor of everything drenched in fat, leading to overconsumption on various days, possibly averaging out to anything from 100 to 500 extra calories per day...maybe undereating some days, overeating 1000 calories the next, just right the third and fourth days, then 500 over on the fifth, then starving oneself on the sixth, then just right on the seventh....averages out to about 200 excess per day, but not literally 200 excess on every day.

Don said...

Michal,

Ray Peat...So if you feed dogs large amounts of cod liver oil and they get sick, you conclude that any amount of PUFA is toxic. That's good reasoning (not).

Dose makes the poison. Many things that are essential in a certain amount (oxygen, water, EFAs, amino acids, chloride, iron, etc I could go on and on) become toxic at a higher dose. Using Peat's reasoning, we should not breath oxygen, eat any iron, or drink water because all are toxic at some dose.

Moreover, in terms of cancer promotion, butter and tallow may surpass fish oil.

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/2070488

"At the termination of the studies (6-8 weeks of diet feeding) mean human breast carcinoma volume (MCF-7 and MDA-MB231) was the largest in mice fed the 20% corn oil diet, intermediate in mice fed the butter or beef tallow diets and the least in mice fed the fish oil diet."

So eating butter and tallow at 20% of the diet(1% corn oil was added to the tallow to ensure adequate intake of linoleic acid i.e. to prevent omega-6 deficiency) appears more cancer promoting than eating fish oil. Some studies show that fish oil suppresses cancer growth:

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/8231658

I think the unique effects of marine fats and oils explains why the Eskimos escape many of the problems otherwise associated with high animal fat diets.

Don said...

Alan,

We don't eat macronutrients, we eat foods. Many people find potatoes, oat meal, etc very satiating (and I'm not advocating oatmeal, only reporting) I can't put my finger on the study right now, but in one of my Primal Potato articles I cited a study that looked at a satiety index...potatoes were at the top. But its not about finding the most satiating macronutrient. We have multiple nutrient needs, and a drive to meet all those needs. Any unmet need can lead to disatisfaction. People missing iron, for example, will keep eating, even things that are inedible, trying to meet that need.

Rob A said...

Don,

I don't contest that we can eat more than we burn in any given day or week. But as you mention:

" The question really is, why doesn't the body correct it? The answer lies in the central nervous system reward system and the mind."

That was what I was asking about. My follow up is: why are some people susceptible, and others not, eating precisely the sort sorts of foods? Why didn't everyone with the same unlimited access to mastodon calories become obese? Do you have any speculation on that, and what, if anything, it would take to ratchet the setpoint back down? What it would take for their central nervous system to function as it does in the many individuals who don't struggle with obesity?

And another point is just to clarify that it may not simply be a matter of gluttonous overeating, subject to simple revision by willpower. Those cues for hunger and lethargy and so forth are sometimes far outside our control, and so the answer may lie somewhere else, such as in figuring out how the body extricates itself from that addictive and unhealthy pattern. But again, how exactly to do that is a big big question.

CarbSane said...

Congrats Don!

I think you're looking for the Holt Satiety Index: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/7498104

I had the full PDF at one time but can't seem to find it on my HD at the moment. I don't think it's online, that journal only goes back to 1998 online if memory serves.

A number of hits come up using Holt's work that contain the list. Here's one: http://www.dietandfitnesstoday.com/satiety-index.php

KUTGW!

Kurt G. Harris MD said...

@Helen

you said: "Asians and Caucasians are *not* different subspecies of homo sapiens. They are different phenotypes. There are no human subspecies."

recent genomic studies indicate you are wrong. Risch, Feldman and Wright agree with me.

There are five continent based races, all genetically distinguishable. A race and a subspecies are the same thing. Only political correctness militates against use of the word "subspecies" for race.

For a good discussion of this with evidence from modern genetic methods, see Before the Dawn by Nicholas Wade.

The point is there are substantial genetic differences between asians and caucasians, and genetic differences in propensity to longevity may well be one difference. In any case, one must be aware of genetic differences as well as cultural or dietary when comparing two different races.

Helen said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Helen said...

Kurt Harris -

Homo sapiens sapiens is a subspecies. We are all members of this subspecies. Other subspecies of homo sapiens are now extinct. (There may in fact have only been one other homo sapiens subspecies, homo sapiens idaltu.)

What is the subspecies nomenclature for Asians? For Caucasians?

Here are two articles with a different view from yours:

"The Use of Racial, Ethnic, and Ancestral Categories in Human Genetics Research," Race, Ethnicity, and Genetics Working Group, National Human Genome Research Institute

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1275602/?tool=pmcentrez

"Genetic variation, classification and 'race,'"
Lynn B Jorde & Stephen P Wooding, Nature Genetics

http://www.nature.com/ng/journal/v36/n11s/full/ng1435.html

It's not mere political correctness to question the scientific use of the term "subspecies," or, for that matter, "race."

You were using the term "subspecies" to create an argument refuting Don's thesis.

While there are some distinct clusters of genetic variants in historically geographically distinct human groups, and while such differences are worth examining in light of health and medicine, "different subspecies" sounds, at least to lay ears, like a stronger difference than terms like "different ancestry" or "different phenotype." Your use of the term "subspecies" to make your argument therefore would tend to mislead the reader, intentionally or not.