About three weeks ago, an upcoming family wedding and a trip to the mall with my daughter to shop for dresses forced me to look at the spare tire that has grown around my waist. AS usual, all the health concerns in the world had been postponed, but vanity moved me. So I did the thing that always works for me. I went and bought a cheap glucometer and testing strips at Walmart, I went on a low carb diet, and I commenced doing situps several times a week. Three weeks later, I am proud to say I can get into clothes that haven’t fit me for years. No need to buy a new one, I can recycle an old one.
In the process I have been reading a lot of low carb diet sites. Not coincidentally many of them are run by people who have diabetes. Here is one created by Jenny Ruhl. That spare tire around my middle is a sign that I probably have metabolic syndrome which is a precursor to diabetes. In addition, both parents, my older sister and my cousin were diabetics. Diabetes causes a huge percentage of our medical care costs. According to this article, diabetes and diabetes related illnesses cost more than 100 billion dollars in 2007 alone. So where does the government come into this, other than paying the bills? The government, every single day, recommends that we consume the very kind of food that, evidence very strongly suggests, helps to cause diabetes and makes it worse. When actual clinical studies have been done of the impact of a low carbohydrate, high fat diet on diabetes, the result is that it does a much better job of controlling blood sugar levels and preventing complications of diabetes than the hitherto recommended high carbohydrate low fat diet. You can read about other studies here and here. Now, what does the government tell people every single day. Well, look on a milk carton or some other nutrition labeled foods. It tells you that the recommended daily allowance of carbohydrates is 300 grams. Yes it does. It says that. I couldn’t believe it myself so I went and checked again. It tells us that 60 percent of our caloric intake should come from carbohydrates. When I try to counsel my diabetic and pre-diabetic friends to try a low carb diet for their diabetes I am up against the government and what I call the nutritionist establishment. And make no mistake about it, this is a matter of life and death for diabetics or people prone, as I am, to diabetes. Diabetes is an underlying condition in a lot of kidney disease, heart disease and circulatory diseases leading to amputations and blindness. Dana Carpender, an author who came to low carb dieting as I did, primarily to lose weight is more eloquent than I on this subject. She notes, as have I, that telling diabetics to eat what they like just take medication is like telling a person who is allergic to peanuts to eat up, just keep the epinephrine handy. Dr. Richard Bernstein appears on many panels and has done much research. He is an M. D. and a pioneer in treating diabetes. But his most important credential is that he was diagnosed as a type 1 diabetic 64 years ago and is a) still alive and b) still healthy.
Many of the sources I have linked to above can give you all the science as to why low carbohydrate diets work to a) bring about weight loss and b) help diabetics keep their blood sugars under control. Here is the overly simple summary. The main thing you can eat that causes your blood sugars to go way up is carbohydrates. Fats and proteins don’t impact your blood sugar a lot. It therefore seems intuitive that the way to avoid high blood sugars, which is the definition of diabetes, is not to eat them. There are a variety of reasons, which Dr. Bernstein, among others, discusses in his book, about why carbohydrates make some people (those of us with the obesity gene) fat. Our bodies are really good at storing fat but they usually do it in response to carbohydrates. Please note before you make a nasty comment, that I said SOME people. Some people, on the other hand can feast away on some other diet and be perfectly healthy. Great. WE are back to the peanut analogy. Just because my body reacts to a high carb diet by getting fat and having high blood sugars doesn’t mean that you can’t eat them if they don’t affect you the same way.
However, as Gary Taubes notes in his book “Why we Get Fat”, that since the government began to recommend a high carbohydrate low fat diet, the problem of obesity has increased, pardon the pun, enormously.
And behind all of this, there is a politics. Leftwing politics. My introduction to this particular version came in the 70’s, back when I was a liberal. A friend recommended that I read Frances Moore Lappe’s “Diet for a Small Planet”. To get the full impact of the left wing nuttiness, you need to read the original edition. To sum it up, in a book in which Ms. Lappe claimed that “meat is murder”, she argued, based on Paul Ehrlich’s scaremongering “The Population Bomb” that the only way to fend off massive starvation was for all of us to switch to a vegetarian diet. By eating meat, and beef in particular, she argued, we were depriving starving children in third world countries of food. The rationale was that it takes x amount of grain to feed a cow to the point of butchering and that the meat derived will feed only so many people, where that same amount of grain could feed ten times as many people, or something like that. I don’t have the original copy but that is the gist of her argument. Later editions have been revised because, unfortunately, the massive starvation predicted by Ms. Lappe and Mr. Ehrlich never happened. In the meantime the vegan-vegetarians took over significant parts of the Department of Agriculture and started pushing this idea as being “healthy” for us. The recommendation was not based on any actual scientifically valid studies, and Jenny Ruhl has a fine explication on her website as does Dana Carpender, as to what constitutes real science in the nutrition field. (Retrospective reporting studies are the worst because people tell the researcher what he wants to hear.) It was based on a left wing vegan/vegetarian ideology. An ideology which, for some people, is almost a religion and not based on much science at all. See, for example, Lierre Keith’s “The Vegetarian Myth”. I hasten to add that if you are a vegan or vegetarian and that way of eating satisfies you, I am not trying to convert you. I am asking that you not try to force it on me. If you are a member of Red State, you most likely don’t want to force it on me. But the people who put out the food pyramids and the propaganda, for them it was a religion. They are still trying to persuade diabetics to become vegetarians.
Like Dana Carpender, because I know people who are diabetic and suffering from kidney failure and heart disease, because some of my loved ones have died, essentially from diabetes, I am morally outraged at a government that not only doesn’t prescribe what is a healthy diet for them but prescribes the opposite, one that is most UNhealthy for them. Like Dana, I understand that there are people who, upon being told that they are going to have to choose between bread, pasta, potatoes and sugar on the one hand, or a longer life on the other, there are those who will choose to eat carbs. And there are many people like Dana and Dr. Bernstein and Gary Taubes who are trying to give them good advice. My choice and argument here is that the government should get out of the business of recommending dietary guidelines altogether. Like so many other things that they do, they have made a real mess of it. Dr Bernstein and Gary Taubes and Jenny and Dana should only have to fight the pro carbohydrate vegetarians, they shouldn’t have to fight the government too.