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Old 08-27-2003, 07:38 AM   #1
Barry Cooper
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I've looked at a lot of sites, and read a number of books, and still have this question: what is the epidemiological evidence, if any exists, in favor of reduced carb or insulin control diets? Specifically, have diets of this type (or even any of the specific diets, Zone differing from Atkins significantly, for example) ever proven of merit in reducing risks of heart disease, cancer or other health problems? I'm willing to buy a reduced risk of type 2 diabetes, but am curious about the rest. The theories make sense to me; I'm just looking for hard evidence. I know we have a lot of students of these diets on this site.
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Old 08-27-2003, 10:14 AM   #2
Robert Wolf
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Barry-

I'm going to use a bit of circular logic here. Cardiovascular disease (including stroke, heart attack, atherosclerosis), cancer, depression and a HOST of other diseases are all linked to and occur at higher rates in type 2 diabetics. So if one has a protocol for reducing the instances of type 2 diabetes one reduces all these other problems.

As far as epidemiology...it has been noted by anthropologists for over a hundred years that huntergatherer groups do not suffer from our diseases of civilization. Not untill they adopt our refined higher glycemic load diets.

If one puts hyperinsulinemia into pubmed there are thousands of papers ranging over dozens of diseases and all with the hyperinsulinemic state as a key factor.

Loren Cordains site www.thepaleodiet.com has numerous review papaers with proposed mechanisms for cancer, acne, diabetes and others diseases. They are well worth reading.
Robb
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Old 08-28-2003, 06:02 AM   #3
Barry Cooper
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Robb,

Thanks for the feedback. What I'm really doing here is playing the devil's advocate. I have read the studies showing that cholesterol and saturated fat intake seem to have little or no correlation with subsequent development of atherosclerosis and heart disease. This flies in the face of received wisdom. I personally have always had my cholesterol checked from time to time--and the results are consistently good--but I know people with good cholesterol who have had heart attacks. So I'm wondering, if everything we've always been told, and which made sense, is wrong, what evidence do we have that the contrary theory--which also makes sense--is correct?

As you know, in science you have to control for variables, and when you have multiple explanations, you have to control for them. In the case of fossil and archeological evidence, the past is gone, and you can't change variables very easily. For example, I personally believe that stress is a factor in the developement of atherosclerosis. It seems entirely possible to me that hunter-gatherers endured less stress than city-dwellers living on top of each other in excrement-filled sewers.

It also seems likely to me that city-dwellers were malnourished. They did not get enough animal protein because there wasn't enough to go around. You can't be healthy eating only wheat or only millet, or whatever. They also didn't have toothbrushes, like we do, so tooth decay will happen in that environment, and tooth decay causes problems in and of itself.

Likewise, as far as evolution, the Mayfly is well-adapted. Those things are born, mature, reproduce, and die in a month. They've been doing it for millions of years. For people, reproduction would require the strength to survive, but only to age 20 or so, after which further life is unnecessary. We don't know how many millions of people in prehistory died just after reproducing.

The key issue, as I see it, is that we are in a scientific age. We don't have to speculate when we can test. Controlled studies are different than extrapolations from past events, and as far as I can tell, very little actual data has been generated as far as low carb or controlled carb diets.

I hasten to say, I personally feel best when I am following the Zone Diet. I feel good, my energy is high, and my weight is controlled, so I follow that diet. But, aside from Barry Sear's erudite explanations of why the Zone works, there is almost zero actual data supporting that or any other diet. That's why people get so confused. The main people funding studies are Pharmaceutical companies, who are highly biased. As far as I can tell, Framingham has generated remarkably little useful data.

I guess my point is that although we have elaborate plausible theories, we can't yet back much of it up from data generated in the modern world. Evolutionary and archeological "evidence" is "overdetermined", as we used to say in graduate school. There are multiple plausible or possible causalities, all of which overlap and affect one another in ways that are at least difficult and probably impossible to measure at this point.
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Old 08-28-2003, 08:03 AM   #4
Roger Harrell
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Robert,

Just one comment on hunter gatherers not experiencing our deseases. This can stem from a huge number of factors, not the least of which is cohabitation with animals and high population density. Epidemic diseases were unknown until animal husbandry and densly populated areas began to occur. I agree with avoiding refined high glycemic load diets, but caution on it being the sole root cause for all, it is part of a very big picture.
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