Thursday, June 18, 2009

Low-Carb Doesn't Work!

Low-carbers hear it over and over. "I can't get to goal." "Nobody I know has reached goal." "Almost all the low-carb gurus are obese."

There are many reasons for weight loss to slow or stop while low-carbing. Read any of Dr. Atkins' books or follow any of the low-carb websites and you will find lots of possible explanations, including factors like low thyroid function and yeast infections.

Another reason for failure to lose weight and for weight regain on low-carb is seldom mentioned. An example is pictured above--low-carb substitutes for high-carb foods. (The picture is taken from a post about a low-carb sponge cake at Cafe Nilson.) But low-carb substitute foods are still low-carb! Why should they interfere with a low-carb diet?

A 2005 study on binge eating in rats may give some insight. In one experiment, the rats were separated into two groups, food-sated and food-restricted. They were then exposed to several food choices, including normal rat chow and a cereal called "Choc and Crisp" which appears to be a German version of Cocoa Krispies. The food-restricted rats took about three minutes to find the rat chow, and they ate about half a gram of it. By contrast, they found Choc and Crisp in only ten seconds and when they reached it, they ate nearly five grams of it.

As expected, the food-sated rats were not interested in the rat chow. They took about 20 minutes to wander over to it and when they got there, they didn't eat it. However, even though these rats had already eaten until they were full, the food-sated group took one fiftieth of that time (25 seconds) to find the Choc and Crisp, and once they reached it, they ate 3 grams of it, or 60% of the amount the food-restricted rats had consumed.

To confirm these responses, each rat was put on a runway with a food-filled box at the other end. When the goal box contained rat chow, it took the food-sated group about 40 seconds to reach the goal, while the food-deprived ones took about 10 seconds. Not surprising. However, when the goal box contained Choc and Crisp, both groups made the trip in about five seconds, though the food-restricted group was a little faster. One might expect that after the first day, the rats would be less excited about the Choc and Crisp, but the time needed to reach the goal boxes persisted over ten consecutive trial days.

The obvious conclusion is that if you feed pet rats with Cocoa Krispies, they will probably get fat. A less obvious inference might be that if a low-carber is freqently exposed to low-carb versions of very enticing high-carb foods, he or she will probably eat those foods to excess. The rat study indicates that the easy availability of very palatable foods may shut off the body's ability to adjust food intake to match energy expenditure. What happens in a rat does not necessarily happen in a human, but their tendency to eat much more of a very palatable food is definitely something to consider when low-carbers have a hard time reaching or maintaining their goal weight.


Jade said...

Hi there Stargazey,
Thanks for this enlightening post. This is what I am struggling with. Why are the low-carb leaders (I am focusing in on the middle-aged women like me - men seem to fare better) like Dr. Mary Vernon, Dana Carpenter and Laura Dolson.... all obese. I have every cookbook by Dana Carpenter. She looks like a fun person. I am sure I would just love her to death if I ever met her. But I look at her photo and think "OMG, that's me if I don't watch out." So my biggest question is this- Where is the balance? How can we be healthy and fun-loving and active but only carry around as much "baggage" as we really need. When I think of my excess weight as a bag of dog chow that I am toting around, I ask myself WHY?? This bag of dog chow is heavy and I want to put it down. Induction is meat and fish and cheese and eggs with two cups of salad and one cup of cooked veggies. Where did all of these "treats" come in? I am trying so hard to work this all out. I lost weight quickly on a restricted calorie diet. I really don't want to do that again. But it worked. I think I am one of the "Choc and Crisp" rats. Always trying to get that little bit more. Thanks Stargazey for an intersting article, jade

Stargazey said...

Jade, the more I see the obese low-carb leaders, the more I think that eating the low-carb equivalent foods makes people lie.

Yes, it' possible to overeat on meat, fish and low-carb vegetables. But think about

low-carb chocolate bars
low-carb bread
low-carb muffins
low-carb peanut butter
low-carb lasagne
low-carb pizza
low-carb brownies
low-carb cheesecake

Which sounds more like Choc and Crisp--the meat and vegetables or the low-carb substitute foods? Which are extremely palatable and hard to give up--the meat and vegetables or the replacements for what we loved when we were high-carb? Which would we overeat to the point that our bodies' weight regulatory systems would be overwhelmed? [As an aside, being somewhat low-carb, the substitute foods do eventually produce satiety, so the set point for weight gain won't be as high as it was in our high-carb days.]

Many low-carbers suffer from binge eating disorder. They are addicted to the low-carb substitute foods. (Yes, addicted. Check out my posts on dopamine.) They love being in the food coma, but afterward they hate themselves for stumbling. They shade the truth about what they ate, how much they ate and even where they ate. They start lying to themselves and lying to others and can't figure out what's wrong.

But they can't lie to their bodies. The effect of low-carb equivalents hangs under their chins, around their bellies and on their hips. Their lives are all about food. They hang out with people who will support them in their addiction.

Is this being "healthy?" I don't think so, but until an addict decides to face his or her own addiction, all the rest of us can do is watch and perhaps learn a lesson or two from their example.

pooti said...

Hi Stargazey!

Sorry to take the blogs away cold turkey. But I received a post on both of them by "Anonymous". I'm guessing it was Didirina, again. But it sent me to a post about libel.

I apologize in advance for the threadjack here. I love your blog. I don't know where else to post this information for now.

I don't for one moment believe I was conducting libelous material. Why?

1. I have no malice for him, the man. I do have disgust for his actions and feel the public need to know of his actions.

2. What I've said about him are not lies. I can back it up with examples and quotes from him.

3. I don't want to stop his business. I want to educate the public so they can make an informed decision.

However, something in the article struck home. Do I really care enough about this mission: to let people have knowledge so they can make an informed decision about low carb and health? I mean, do I care about it enough to risk litigation?

Something about the way he has responded to me, and accused me of being malicious (libelous in itself, when I feel no malice toward him) each time I post a negative post, leads me to believe he could tie me up in litigation for years.

Now, he wouldn't get anything. I'm poorer than a church mouse, but hey, that's ok. But do I really want the hassle of court appearances and attorneys? Nah. It's not worth it to me. So the blogs came down. I pulled them.

I'm trying to decide whether to relaunch this weekend - once I have a minute to think. I don't know that my voice is that important out in the lc world. I don't know that people get much from my menus.

So there ya have it. :(

My email is i.pooticus(the symbol at) for anyone who would like to reach me. I hope you don't mind me posting this here?

(By the way, I really like your blog!)

Stargazey said...

I don't know what to say, Pooti. I am very saddened to lose your blogs, though. Let me think on it a bit.

Chris said...


I understand you concern but it is sad that you were forced into this.

Sue said...

What a shame. But you've got to do what you feel is necessary. Hopefully, you start another blog.

lynn said...

Oh no Pooti! I am another fan of your blogs.

I also don't think he could afford to sue you or that he even has a case. Plus it would kill his reputation and he could not take that.

Stargazey said...

Pooti, I've followed the discussion over at ZIOH, and the consensus seems to be that he probably doesn't have the resources to sue you successfully, but the grief it would cause you would still be considerable.

I'm sorry to lose your blogs on my favorites list, but somehow I think you will be back, making your unique contribution to the world of low-carbing.

Here's Pooti's e-mail in case anybody missed it above:
i.pooticus(the symbol at)

Jimmy Moore said...

Pooti, I certainly hope you continue to blog and I don't have anything personally against you writing about whatever is on your mind. You are a gifted writer and communicator whose voice deserves to be heard as much as the next person. We don't always agree, but I have always greatly admired the work you have done sharing about your experiences.

I don't know who has threatened to take legal action against you, but it wasn't Jimmy Moore. Anyone who knows me personally realizes filing a lawsuit is not a part of my character. I have too much good work to do spreading the message of healthy low-carb living at my various web sites to concern myself with comments about me or the way I live my life. Life's just too short for that.

So, I say all this to tell you that I encourage you to come back, blog faithfully as you have been, share honestly from your heart about whatever is on your mind (as I know you will), and allow all of us to learn and benefit from what you have to offer. I wish you nothing but great success in all you do in life, Pooti, and I am thankful to have people like you out there living their lives the best they know how. BEST WISHES TO YOU!

pooti said...

Well good grief. Just kiss my ass and call me fanny on that one! I'm gobsmacked is what I am!

JM you're a hoot. That's what you are! That was quite nice and like the Grinch I almost felt my heart grow three sizes as I read it.

THANKS! for the compliments on my writing style and blogs. Yes, everyone knows you are bigger than me and more gracious. What I do want you to understand is that I have nothing against you as a person. I just disagree stridently with the direction(S) of your messages. And I believe people really must be given the opportunity to see both sides of the coin before buying it.

So JM, can I get that in writing by any chance (that you will not personally sue me for blogging about you and helping to raise your traffic by doing that? BTW, I didn't think of friend Tooter did...wish I had though)??

Stargazey does anyone know if a third party can sue me for libel on someone elses behalf if Jimbo gives me his blessing?

Stargazey said...


Pooti, I published your comment, but for future commenters this is a science blog. If the comments get too rowdy, I won't be able to accept them. Decorum, please.

pooti said...

Sorry Stargazey! Not trying to be vulgar. That's an old Southern expression and one used frequently here in Texas. No disrespect intended and also not wishing to highjack your blog!

Thanks for hosting this commentary! :hugs:

Jimmy Moore said...

Pooti, I'm very sincere in asking this of you and in the spirit of reconciliation and understanding I'd like to request your comments which you can send to my e-mail address at about the specific messages I am communicating to people that you disagree with.

We probably have a lot more in common than you realize and the emotion of the personalities involved has clouded that from shining through. However, on the areas where we do disagree, I'd love to see what they are specifically free from the entanglements of conjecture.

Stargazey, I appreciate your kindness and graciousness for posting my comments. THANK YOU!

pooti said...

Jimmy, it is so much simpler to keep it a matter of public record instead of putting it in email. Besides, you will only make the private email public at your will and discretion so it's a moot point.

I won't take up any more of Stargazey's gracious hospitality discussing this with you here.

DogwoodTree05 said...


In general I agree with this post although it is speculative and lacking in supporting data.

I used to be a vegan and ate real food on that diet, rather than fake meats and the like. As a transitioning animal and plant-eating low carber, I continue to eat real food prepared from scratch. If you're going to be vegan, be vegan and enjoy plant foods for what they are. If you're going to be low carb, celebrate and enjoy nature's incredibly delicious and nutritious bounty of animal and plant foods.

Unknown said...

Excellent post and I couldn't agree more!

People who are obese have an eating disorder of some kind and until they acknowledge it, they are just lying to themselves and lining the pockets of the diet industry, including the low carb gurus.

Me? I'm a recovering binger and I can easily recognize it in others - especially when they post photos of their plates of food and describe it in such a way as if it were a shot of porn.

LowCarb is the perfect diet for bingers, hey I can eat all I want as long as the carbs are low!

I speak from experience having done low carb. Sure I lost weight, but I never conquered my binge disordered thinking.

I ended up having to seek professional help with an ED expert and lots of work with a few nutritionists.

Two and a half years later, I believe I'm on the road of recovery. My battle will never be over, but the demons are held at bay.

What I'd like to know is, why don't people turn to those who study nutrition and it's effects on the body and metabolisism first when seeking help to lose weight? i.e. one who actually does a physical exam?

Why is it our first line of defense to buy into the latest fad? The latest diet book? The latest weight loss life story?

I too shake my head in wonder about all the Low Carb leaders still being obese. Sure there is a million reasons for that, but c'mon, they're still raking in the $$ off of their low carb books, products etc.

I'd think more people would want to follow Jillian Michaels, dang she's gotta body! Or Jared Fogle, he's kept his weight off for 10 years! Or even Richard Simmons (I could name even more low fatties who've kept their weight off but I think I made my point)

Stargazey said...

Hi, whatsonthemenu! I've responded to your longer comment on the Be Encouraged post, so I'll "see" you over there!

And hello to C as well! You asked, What I'd like to know is, why don't people turn to those who study nutrition and it's effects on the body and metabolisism first when seeking help to lose weight? i.e. one who actually does a physical exam?

That a question that's answered in a book called Good Calories Bad Calories by Gary Taubes. Briefly, after World War II, nutritional science was taken over by a physiologist named Ancel Keyes. He and his followers gradually persuaded the medical community of something called the cholesterol-lipid hypothesis. Though it scientifically questionable, it was intuitively logical and as such was swallowed hook, line and sinker by the medical community. It is only with recent studies that an alternative hypothesis, the carbohydrate-insulin hypothesis, has been shown to have considerable validity both for weight loss and for health markers. Unfortunately most doctors have more training in pharmacology than they have in nutrition, and they will often end up prescribing a low-fat/low-calorie diet and a statin for their patients simply because they aren't aware of the science that contradicts both approaches.

DogwoodTree05 said...

"I'd think more people would want to follow Jillian Michaels, dang she's gotta body! "

Jillian Michaels does have a great body, but keep in mind that she probably doesn't look as perfect in real life as she does in the edited photos we see in media.

Unknown said...

I've read Good Calories Bad Calories, found it fascinating.

I am of the belief that we as humans, are unique individuals.

While I find that info fascinating, I'm more perplexed that as humans, we naturally seek to help ourselves first, before consulting a professional. And by professional, I'm talking about someone with a degree ;)

and I don't nessisarily mean physicians.

I recently had to tow my car into the shop to get the transmission fixed. While I know how to change a tire and the oil, a tranny is a little more complicated and I needed a pro.

Should I have purchased a book or two? Followed the example of a sucessful transmission repairman's blog and try it myself? It never even entered my mind.

Yet when it comes to our health, we as humans often try to fix ourselves first. Why do you s'pose that is?

Is the answer just as complicated? I'm certain a lot of factors come into play, for myself, money is the big one.

Unknown said...

Jillian Michaels does have a great body, but keep in mind that she probably doesn't look as perfect in real life as she does in the edited photos we see in media.

I watch her on the Biggest Loser and Larry King, not much air-brushing there.

Not that I promote a low fat diet, but there are lots of the 'gurus' who were once obese and now look like they practice what they preach.

DogwoodTree05 said...


The transmission analogy doesn't fit. Repairing a transmission is fairly standard procedure that any competent mechanic could perform. Nutrition and optimal dietary choices are by no means standardized, and conventional wisdom has proven wrong. Secondly, the mechanic is actually performing a service and not just dispensing information that you could have gotten elsewhere.

DogwoodTree05 said...

RE: Low-carb Doesn't Work!

I'm wondering if an independent body has verified the net carb content of St. Julian breads. I bought some nitrite-free deli meat on sale along with Finlandia cheese and wanted some low-carb bread to make sandwiches. The lowest carb bread at the supermarket was Manna from Heaven, with about 8 net carbs. The next lowest carb bread was an Ezekiel sprouted grain with about 12 net carbs. The ingredients for these breads is comparable to St. Julians: a diverse mix of grains, legumes, and seeds. The only difference is the soy protein in the St. Julian bread. Even a so-called high-protein grain like amaranth is mostly carbs, and "whole grains" is the first ingredient listed in St. Julians one-carb bread. How can a bread made of whole grains and other ingredients have only one net carb?

Stargazey said...

Whatsonthemenu, I think they may do the net carb count by calculation rather than by measuring it in a laboratory. If they assume that none of the fiber digests into carbs, that may be how they reach such a low number.

If you have a glucose meter, you could eat a couple of slices before you've eaten anything else in the morning and see what they do to your blood glucose at 30 and 60 minutes. That should give you some idea of what the effective carbs are for you. Sadly I don't have a conversion equation to figure out effective carbs from a particular blood glucose value, but you should get some idea of how the bread will affect you.

DogwoodTree05 said...

I don't have a glucose meter. After asking here, I did a little googling and found a thread at LLVL which discussed this very topic. One commenter decided to quit eating the bread after it consistently caused large BG rises. Another commenter did the math and figured out from the total calories and grams of protein and fat that there must be at least 3.5 grams net carbs. At another website, a type II diabetic said that low-carb tortillas and breads still caused BG to rise.

I think I'll probably buy a loaf of Ezekiel and use one slice at a time to make open-faced sandwiches. The only other carbs I'll be eating that day are leafy vegetables, so one slice of bread shouldn't blow my carb count, not that I actually count carbs anyway.