Thursday, August 16, 2012

Eggs will kill ya dead!

Today I happened to catch on the local news a story about how eggs are going to kill ya! They're going to kill ya dead, just like cigarette smoking! I just had to go find this study. Luckily the school I teach at subscribes to the journal it was in.

I have some huge problems with this study. The first is, it's not a random clinical trial. They only surveyed (yeah, nice waste of money) people coming to a vascular prevention clinic. Uh, is it just me, or do you think that people who are unhealthy, sick, and/or have a family history of illness are the most likely to go to a clinic like that?

Looking at Table 1 in the study, mean Triglycerides are high and so is BMI. So a lot of the participants are overweight. I wonder if there are any normal, healthy people in this survey? There's also a few diabetics thrown in for good measure. I didn't see where they controlled for that. But wait, because it gets better.
Table 1, click for larger version

Looking at Table 2, I almost fell out of my chair. From laughing. The people who ate the least eggs, <50 in "egg years", were the youngest. Their ages were 55.70 +/- 17.03 at first visit, so some of them were as young as 38.67 years. Now as the egg consumption goes up, so do the ages.  The people who ate the most eggs were much older. Their ages were 69.77 +/-11.38 at first visit. The youngest in the high consumption group was 58.39. That seems like some underhanded chicanery if you ask me!

Table 2, click for larger version

Of course the older people are going to have more instances of heart disease and thicker arteries too because of their age. They even state that in the article, that the older people have more plaque. Oh, but wait! The study says they "adjusted" for age. Why instead of poking around with numbers, actually study the same age groups? Or would that be because there wouldn't be any correlation? (Never mind causation.)

One could easily draw the conclusion that eggs have nothing to do with the thickness of the plaque, but with age. I could just as easily draw the conclusion that as you get older you eat more eggs. That's valid right? Or maybe the more eggs you eat, the older you get. Maybe if you never eat eggs you'll never get old? I'm screwed in that case!

It's interesting that they say that there were 2831 patients with data on egg yolk consumption, but only 1231 were used for various reasons. I'm sure those reasons were all good right, like not anything to do with throwing out data we didn't like, right? Right?

Also of interest, is that they found that fasting cholesterol, BMI, Triglycerides, HDL cholesterol and LDL cholesterol were not significant predictors of the thickness of plaque. Just egg yolks! 

In my humble opinion, considering that the sample was unbalanced, not random in the least and that more than half of the data they had access to was thrown out, that this amounts to someone with an agenda, with an axe to grind. Because if you really wanted to help people, and you really wanted to find out what was causing heart disease, you wouldn't have such poor research methods. However, if what you really want is to push an agenda, you won't care about data or ethics or anything else. You won't care if you kill people, so long as yours is the voice that is heard, so long as yours is the message that is received. Because diet is a religion to quite a few people out there, on all sides.

Just so you know, I'm my own experiment in this case. I eat at least three eggs almost every day. If I drop dead of heart disease, well, we won't know if it was the eggs that caused it, or my propensity for fountain diet cokes :P

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Low carb, Hypothyroidism, and How to Lie with Statistics

I'm just an artist. An artist that read Darrell Huff's "How to Lie with Statistics". It's an old book, published sixty years ago now. Apparently people have been using statistics to lie about things for a while now.

I had heard something about low-carb diets causing hypothyroidism (repeat after me, correlation is not causation). As it stands, it seems to me that there is no way to know definitively whether they do or not, because the subject has never been studied. Oh, but you say, what about all those studies that are cited by so many bloggers. One of the first posts I found when I delved into this notion, was by blogger Anthony Colpo, and I read his post on the matter. Not withstanding the rudeness (which is not just on his side of the argument but rather all about the blogosphere as it were [did y'alls mothers not teach basic manners?]), I did think he might-could-be on to something. Until of course I looked at the studies he cited.

I never understood exactly why an underpowered study was, well, underpowered until I read Huff's book. You see, if you don't have enough of a sample size, what you have is chance. Yes that's right, pure unadulterated chance. The same sort of chance that you have flipping a coin. The explanation that Huff gives is crystal clear, and I urge you to buy his book and read it. If you flip a penny ten times (let's say to represent the outcome of ten patients in a study), you might get that it comes up heads eight out of the ten times. But you might get that it comes out heads two of the ten times. You would have to flip thousands of times (or maybe study 100k participants because humans have more than two variables) to come out with any sort of reasonable data to study.
"The importance of using a small group is this: With a large group any difference produced by chance is likely to be a small one and unworthy of big type...How results that are not indicative of anything can be produced by pure chance--given a small enough number of cases--is something you can test yourself at small cost. Just start tossing a penny... Only when there is a substantial number of trials [or participants] involved is the law of averages a useful description or prediction."--Darrell Huff, How to Lie with Statistics p.39-40
The two studies Colpo cites in his article, Dietary-induced Alterations in Thyroid Hormone Metabolism during Overnutrition and Isocaloric carbohydrate deprivation induces protein catabolism despite a low T3-syndrome in healthy men are woefully underpowered. The first one used three, yes THREE participants to conclude that no carbohydrates induces low T3 over a week. Yes, a week. The second study had a total of six participants over the course of eleven days (the abstract doesn't say if that's 11 days for each diet, or 11 days total, but whether it is one or the other it adds up to bull-hockey). I suppose that's twice as good as the first study. Bull-hockey times two equals twice as much bull-hockey for your grant money.

There could be something to this and there might not be. If there is a higher incidence of thyroid problems among people who eat low-carb (and I don't even know that that is true, but IF it is) how do you know that the problems weren't triggered by the diet they ate before they ate low-carb, the crappy Standard American Diet? Or that since most people who do low-carb want to lose weight, maybe the obesity triggered their thyroid to go out of whack. Or maybe it was a virus they were exposed to. It could be absolutely any of the above, or none at all. A week long study is not enough for your endocrine system to adjust to the changes of going from a Standard diet to a low-carb diet. Six males or three random participants tells you nothing other than chance. It seems like most of the medical studies I read are run by Vegas gambling addicts. Let's throw the dice and see what we come up with! This is not science. This is nonsense.

Friday, January 20, 2012

You might think...

... that after a while, the chorus of inaccurate information would be drowned in the sea of evidence. MSNBC's Health Today posted an article four days ago (I've been busy) on Paula Deen's diabetes. They basically say the same old tired non-sense about how it has nothing to do with what you eat, that if you only maintain your weight and exercise more you won't get diabetes, unless of course you are predisposed to it because of genetics.

What’s important when it comes to diabetes prevention is not what you eat, but rather, how much, said Linda Siminerio, director of the Diabetes Institute at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center.

“To my knowledge no particular food has been linked to an increase in the risk of diabetes,” Siminerio said. “It’s being overweight and inactive.”

Linda Siminerio ought to be ashamed of herself. How does one become director of a Diabetes Institute without having a grasp on biochemistry? What in the hell does she think makes people gain weight? What food could be cut out to make them lose weight effortlessly? I'll give you three guesses. Carbohydrates(!) make you gain weight (if you are insulin resistant). End of discussion.

Excessive carbohydrate intake (along with damage to your mitochondria, maybe from eating trans-fats or all the fake processed crap or something else unknown or all of the above) exacerbate insulin resistance, which in time leads to diabetes. See! I understand that and I'm a freakin' artist. I'm probably more qualified than she is to talk about what diabetics and those at risk of diabetes ought to eat. Why? Because I have a brain, some common sense, and can look at the data and draw a conclusion. Ms. Siminerio on the other hand is beholden to the "establishment". She can't say anything that hasn't already been dictated or she'd probably lose her cushy position as director of some Institute on Something.

Oh, but you say, "Some people eat carbohydrates and they don't get fat or get diabetes." And I say, that's fantastic for them. The bottom line is, if your metabolism is "broken" you can't eat carbohydrates. I know, it's very sad. I like brioche and donuts as much as the next person. But like recovering alcoholics liking their alcohol, I know that if I eat them, I will gain all the weight back.

Here's the deal. Doctors and these "experts" are just humans. Half of them probably aren't even as smart as the average person. In fact, I've come to the conclusion that none of them have even half the common sense of your average American. That's a sad state of affairs. I've seen day laborers with more sense than Ms. Siminerio and her "expert" friends. Link

I'm rambling now, and I have a ton of other things to do than rage about the stupidity of people. How many more people have to DIE before these asshats stop spreading lies and misinformation? >_<

I'll leave you with something heartening, on the way home today, I saw a sign at a local Tex Mex place that said "Low Carb Plate $7.95" :)

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

We Protest SOPA/PIPA

This site will be blacked out on January 18th to protest SOPA/PIPA.

So much for smaller government.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Oh noes, Sausage causes cancer

The Daily Telegraph reports that eating sausage will give you pancreatic cancer. I'm just screwed then because I eat a lot of sausage and a lot of red meat. Funny, so did our ancestors and they didn't die of cancer very often.

I'll keep this short because it's waaaaaay past my bedtime, but they drew these conclusions by doing a meta-analysis on eleven studies that used food recall questionnaires. What a waste of time and money.

The latest study, published in the British Journal of Cancer, is from researchers at the respected Karolinska Institute in Stockholm, Sweden. [Respected? By whom?]

They examined data from 11 studies, including 6,643 cases of pancreatic cancer.

I'll bet not one of those studies asked how much wheat they ate, or considered macro-nutrient intake. Of course not, because it's all a bunch of BS. They want us all to be vegan but eat Monsanto's genetically engineered crap while we're at it.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Low Carb Brownie Recipe

I made the chocolate covered peanuts recipe from the other day again today. It's a real winner, everyone in the house likes it, which means I keep running out. Anyway, after I made it, as I was licking the pan before washing it, I had an epiphany. I thought the chocolate part would make a good base for brownies. And boy was I right! Everyone loved these brownies:
Brownies (Low Carb, cake type)

1 stick butter (8 T.)
2 T. cocoa

2 eggs
3/4 c. splenda
1/4 c. erythritol (buy it here)
1 tsp vanilla
3/4 c. almond flour (buy it here or grind your own)
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt

Melt butter on very low heat. Add cocoa and stir until smooth. Remove from heat.
In mixing bowl, beat eggs until light. Add sugar and stir well.
Then add the above together (after the cocoa has cooled off a little).
Add vanilla and stir.
Add dry ingredients and mix thoroughly.

Bake on 350 degrees in a well greased 8x8x2 pan for thirty to thirty-five minutes.

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Healthier Scammers

While on Facebook today, I saw an ad for a website called Healthier Post claiming to promote health and weight loss. I told you the other day that I could find something to make me face-palm every day of the week! They're out to sell you a supplement of course, and I am sure that there are probably hundreds of others just like them, but I'm picking on them because I saw their ad.

I perused their website, and honestly I wouldn't have bothered writing about them, except for the fact that they are touting patently false information, and some of it would be almost comical, if it weren't for the fact that this information will make you sick and could kill you. Now, some of the information on their site was reasonable. They advocate avoiding sugar and processed flour. I think we all agree those things are not good for you. But how about this?

This is a screen capture from a page on their website, text hi-light is mine

The idea that your body cannot process fats and oils is one of the most absurd things I've ever read. And I was an Art History major for a while, trust me when I say that I've read a lot of absurd things. I'm not going to get into the biochemistry behind fatty acid metabolism, mostly because I barely understand it myself. (If you want to learn more about biochemistry as it relates to health and weight loss I suggest checking out Hyperlipid's blog, as he knows more about this stuff in his pinky finger, than I do in my whole brain.) What I will say is this, it's very basic science to understand that your body doesn't know fat you eat from fat you store. It's all fuel to your body. If what they said were true, and your body could not "process" fats and oils, humans would not have made it out of the paleolithic. If there is nothing to eat, what do you think your body runs on? It runs on fat released from your adipose (fat) tissue and ketone bodies manufactured by your liver. Your brain can use ketone bodies for fuel instead of glucose once ketone levels are sufficiently high. Research has shown that brain cancer patients could benefit from zero carb diets because brain cancer likes glucose but cannot use ketones. Go figure.

But it gets better! On another page they tell you to avoid the following foods in order to lose weight. It sounds almost like the standard government advice, but the text below has more ridiculous assertions that have no basis in biochemistry.

Another screen shot from their website, emphasis mine

Three things here, first of all your body doesn't view "natural" sugar (whatever they mean by that) any differently than any other sugar. Sugar is sugar. Glucose and fructose are all handled in exactly the same way by your body and it doesn't matter what the source is. Next they say that fats and oils are toxic. Apparently they've never heard of essential fatty acids. You know, those things that are required for you to continue living. I don't know about you but I like living, and I like to eat fat too. Now lastly, they say that you should cut these foods completely out of your diet. You know, you'd almost think they were advocating veganism, but they're not. A few paragraphs down they say, " should eat proteins like steak, fish, chicken, and eggs to keep you strong and give you the energy to exercise." Are they just stupid? I'm not entirely sure, but a great portion of steak, fish and all of egg yolks are fat. Maybe they're just uneducated, out to sell you a product, and have copy and pasted various (and thus contradictory) text from around the web.

The moral of this story is, if a website promotes "fast" weight loss, advocates colon "cleansing," wants to sell you something to lose weight, and does not understand that just because something is "natural" doesn't make it good or safe, do like Monty Python and RUN AWAY!

Friday, January 6, 2012

Recipe: Chocolate Peanut Butter Bark

I have come up with the perfect treat if you're eating low-carb. It tastes just like chocolate covered peanuts but in the form of something like toffee bark, in that it is poured into a pan.

I'm calling it:

Chocolate Peanut Butter Bark
1 stick + 2 T. of butter (total of 10 T.)
6 T. cocoa

4 T. peanut butter
1 1/2 c. splenda
1/2 c. erythritol (buy it here)
2 packets stevia
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
heavy cream as needed (appx. 3-4 T.)

2-3 c. peanuts (depending on how much cream you add)

Melt the butter on low heat in a sauce pan. Add cocoa and stir until smooth. Add the the peanut butter and stir again until smooth. Turn the heat off.

Add sweeteners and vanilla, and again, stir, but it won't be smooth. At this point, you'll want to add enough cream to make it smooth again. You may need to turn the heat back on at this point. If the mixture winds up a little thin, it's okay because it will harden in the fridge.

Don't stop stirring while the heat is on

Add peanuts and stir until they are thoroughly covered. For the last batch I made I tried peanuts from a local place that still had the skin on them, and they came out just fine.

Pour the mixture into a quarter sheet pan that is covered with parchment paper. Spread the mixture over the pan.

Parchment paper is the best thing since sliced meat :P

Refrigerate for a few hours until hardened. Once hardened you can break into chunks and put them in a container and freeze them. It's very good frozen! Actually it's just damned good :)

The final product, great for everyday snacks or a party

The entire recipe has the following nutritional content (according to the Nutrition Data website):

5645 calories (all that butter yum!)
505 g fat
139 g saturated fat
213 g carbs
64 g fiber
184 g protein

That's 149 grams of net carbs in the entire recipe. You can eat maybe three pieces before you've really had quite enough. There's probably about 5 grams of carbs per chunk, depending on the size of the chunk. And a whole lot of yummy fat to mediate those carbs.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Face-Palm Thursdays: Because two million years of evolution is obviously wrong

I should start a new trend where I publish things that make me face-palm on Thursdays. Actually, in this subject I could probably find enough things to make me face-palm every day of the week, possibly multiple times a day. US News has the skinny on what will make you skinny. Not really.

Face Palm: Best Diets for the New Year 2012

Top of the list? A diet, called the DASH diet, developed by the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI). You guessed it, eat your recommended number of carbs plus all those "healthy" whole grains, and just don't eat salt and saturated fat and you'll lose weight, especially if you cut back on calories! How does that work anyway? And they say that "rigorous studies" showed that this diet can lower blood pressure. Funnily enough, they don't quote exactly which "rigorous studies" they're referring to.

I'm not going to list all of the craptacular diets they put at the top of the list, (and believe me, I know all about craptacular diets having been obese for most of my life and trying repeatedly to lose the weight and being unable to), but they put Atkins towards the bottom. While their "rigorous studies" obviously prove that cutting back salt and eating whole grains defeats heart disease (really! I'm super cereal! pun totally intended) they dis Atkins because all the studies were too short and the data was not statistically significant. You can read that again, but I assure you, you didn't misread it.

Now, the Vegan Diet did better than Atkins and the Paleo diet despite the fact that it "may not provide enough of some nutrients." No kidding. But it ranks higher than ones that are better for you? Well, I believe that's called cognitive dissonance.

And what did they put at the bottom of the list? The Paleo Diet. Because 2 million years of evolution is obviously wrong. To whatever quack job wrote the article on US News, go live with the Inuit for a year like Stefansson did and get back to me on the lack of dairy and grains. Here's what they say about the nutritional breakdown of the Paleo Diet:

Fat. At about 39 percent of daily calories from fat, a sample Paleo menu exceeds the government’s 35 percent cap by a bit.

Protein. The government recommends 10 to 35 percent of daily calories come from protein; the Paleo diet clocks in around 38 percent.

Carbohydrates. At 23 percent of daily calories from carbs, it’s far below the government’s 45 to 65 percent recommendation.