Sunday, March 11, 2007

Warning: Milk Might Be Harmful to Children

How would you like that headline on your dairy case? Or instead of "Got Milk?" on posters, they end up reading "Got Trans Fat?" No doubt the trans fat ban enthusiasts would love to extend the ban to include all things dairy and beef, if they could. The insistence by law that all bakeries in New York must ban butter due to its high trans fat content is having an interesting ripple effect with the public - maybe there's too much government intervention here at controlling people's diet. Maybe there's little data to support the claims that people, not lab rats, will have a lower incidence of heart disease with the implementation of a trans fat ban.

Imagine if the New York City government were to ban the Adkin's diet because it contains too much trans fat? Would we want that, too? I would find that intervention too excessive, alright, especially given the recent study that the Adkin's diet with its highest protein and fats (yes, trans fats, too) was the most effective at promoting weight loss and lowering blood pressure amongst four popular diets tested head-to-head over a 12-month period. Interestingly, other studies in 2002 have demonstrated that the Adkin's diet was also more effective at lowering serum cholesterol that the American Heart Association's recommended diet as well.

But how does one explain this? How could a diet high in fats and protein possibly promote weight loss?

It's simple: because weight loss is not dependent on the fat content of our food. Rather, it is most associated with the presence of the anabolic hormone insulin. Insulin is a major determinant of the sensation of hunger and converting carbohydrates to fat. Adkins knew this. He promoted it for years. But many wouldn't listen. His theory flew in the face of the various dietary groups promoting quick, ready-to-eat, nutritious breakfasts with lots of vitamins and nutrients (and carbohydrates). Remember Carnation "Instant Breakfast?" Stirred with milk, you had the fast and furious super-sweet breakfast that gave you the energy and nutrients to conquer the day! And enough carbohydrates (24 grams even in their no added sugar variety) to stimulate the additional secretion of insulin to stimulate hunger after the bolus of carbohydrates was resorbed so you'd want to eat more and pack on the pounds!

Obesity and weight gain are directly correlated to the development of hypertension, diabetes, and the "metabolic syndrome," and as such, are significant contributors to the development of cardiovascular disease. Certainly genetics play a role, too. But whether the trans fat ban will have any effect on the improvement in the obesity epidemic by promoting increased carbohydrate consumption in America remains doubtful.



Lisa said...

Ok, so now I'm confused. Is Atkins good or bad? Or do I just throw up my hands and say (as I have been known to do in the past)"Cholesterol didn't cause the problem with my heart and it isn't going to fix it. I'll eat what I want."

DrWes said...


You're not the only one who's confused. The messages promulgated by the media are as varied as the diets out there. I happen to believe, based on available prospective, randomized studies, that Adkins (and low-carbohydrate options, like "sugar-busters") are good diets to lose weight and lower cholesterol when done correctly and in conjunction with physician supervision.

I also believe, that human nature is such that sticking to diets is incredibly difficult to do and takes remarkable discipline. Part of my concern is that with all of the trans fat hype out there, that people will believe that just because foods are labeled "trans fat free" that they'll still eat fats and carbs to excess because they really don't understand the metabolic forces at play (insulin hypersecretion, etc).

The trans fat advocates have done a spectacular job of scaring the public about the dangers of trans fat, but is this what it will take to solve the obesity epidemic? Does the public really understand the difference between types of fats?

Here's a thought: if you have to lose weight - educate yourself. Read first, diet later. Understand what's involved with Adkins or a diet that works for you - it's not just "avoid all carbs"... Then make a plan with your doctor. Set goals for yourself that are realistic. Consider an exercise regimen. Then give it a shot.

What have you got to lose?

Shig said...

Thank you, thank you, thank you. My mother lived on margarine and every kind of low fat food you could buy, my mother bought. Now she has IDDM, HTN and a qaudruple bypass. And she never did lose weight. I think Atkins was a genious. Love the Mehmet Oz/Michael Rozier plan too.