Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Fad Diets

You know, like that one the USDA is pushing?

Interesting, and sadly funny post:

"Defining fad diets as 'diets that do not have scientific backing, that have no underlying principle, and do not perform well in the long term' Feinman cleverly points out that the current nutritional dogma on low-fat diets fits this definition of a fad diet very well. There is no real science behind low-fat science, and the writings of the 'father of the lipid theory of heart disease' Ancel Keys have been widely discredited, even back in the 1950s when they were first published. The political action that was taken to promote the low-fat dietary theory came out of Senator George McGovern’s report on the matter, and was written by a young staff member who was a vegetarian. Many researchers were at the hearing, captured on TV by CBS and on Youtube here, and objected strongly to the lack of research to back such a dietary philosophy. McGovern's response: 'we Senators don’t have the luxury that a research scientist does of waiting until every last shred of evidence is in.'

"The rest of Feinman's report is excellent with solid information that I hope many will take the time to read. The real goal Feinman is desiring to accomplish is to attack the problem of diabetes, and not attack other researchers with emotional terminology such as 'fad diets.' One of the biggest attacks against carbohydrate restricted diets is the supposed lack of long-term studies on their effects. Dr. Feinman answers this crticism:

"It might be said that basic science tends to take a bottom-up approach, placing emphasis on fundamental mechanism, in this case the importance of the glucose-insulin axis, whereas medicine frequently favors a top-down approach favoring long, large-scale trials. I would argue that the nature of diabetes suggests that we start with underlying biochemistry, placing the burden of proof on those who think that the short-term effects of carbohydrate restriction will not persist as long as the diet is adhered to. Along which lines I offer the following real conversation:

"Endocrinologist: There are no long-term studies on low-carbohydrate diets in diabetes.

"Richard Feinman: Well, let me ask you this. Suppose, for some reason, your patient had gone on the Atkins diet since their last appointment. If they came in having lost weight, with improved HbA1c, improved lipid panel, and you had to reduce their medication, what would you do? Tell them to stop because there are no long-term studies? What would you do?

"Endocrinologist: I would tell them to keep doing it.

"Richard Feinman: Good call."

Here's the link to Fineman's study, "Fad Diets in the Treatment of Diabetes":

"Use of the term 'fad diet' reflects the contentious nature of the debate in the treatment of diabetes and generally targets diets based on carbohydrate restriction, the major challenge to traditional dietary therapy. Although standard low-fat diets more accurately conform to the idea of a practice supported by social pressure rather than scientific data, it is suggested that we might want to give up altogether unscientific terms like 'fad' and 'healthy.'"