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How "Heart-Healthy Whole Grains" Make Us Fat
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May 3, 2011
6:20 pm
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Caution: contains SCIENCE!

This article could easily be subtitled "The Study That Tells You Everything You Need To Know About Insulin, Blood Sugar, Carbohydrates, Satiety, And Obesity". Yes, I admit to a degree of hyperbole—but this study is so well instrumented and controlled, and its results so informative, that I believe it's important for everyone to read it.

PEDIATRICS Vol. 103 No. 3 March 1999, p. e26
High Glycemic Index Foods, Overeating, and Obesity
David S. Ludwig*, Joseph A. Majzoub*, Ahmad Al-Zahrani*, Gerard E. Dallal, Isaac Blanco, and Susan B. Roberts

Thanks to the American Academy of Pediatrics for making the full text of their archives…

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May 3, 2011
7:09 pm
Stabby
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That's some nice graph work there. Great post. I remember my rice milk, cereal and honey days...with great contempt. That was not fun! I didn't even need to lose weight but I thought it was healthy, durr. I had lamb balls, sweet potato and creamed coconut for breakfast today and didn't need to eat for 7 hours.

My one criticism would be that some of it will have to do with leptin and insulin sensitivity. The insulin response won't be as potent and hunger won't be quite as bad in ideal metabolic situations, but the secretion of peptide YY, CCK and all that is obviously better with fat and protein than carbohydrate so all of these dieticians try to coerce people into starving themselves should logically recommend the eggs, bacon and butter. Fat chance.

I also think that the inflammatory nature of grains ties into things, but that's a discussion in itself.

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May 3, 2011
7:57 pm
Chris
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Great post - having dabbled in the "body building" scene and always being an avid workout enthusiast (?) I can say I paid attention to the "GI" of things. That made me spiral WAY downwards, especially all the small meals. After a while it became insane the amount of work I had to put in. The irony? After I dropped the oatmeal (which I wasn't eating much of anyhow), skim milk (I preferred full-fat raw from Jersey cows anyhow. Tastes like icecream), and low-fat nonsense; I started feeling better. By that I mean, even though I got down to ~3-4% bodyfat it was rough on me, my body, and my mind.

Low-fat (and especially with moderate-carb to low-carb) REALLY does affect you. I never felt full, I lost all my libido [who thought a twenty-something could lose THAT?], and I always felt tired and hungry. I won't be making that mistake again. I'm pretty sure that I'm still recovering from it, but lesson learned. Plus, I forgot how good animal fat tastes. Try eating broccoli, steamed, without butter or coconut oil for a while. You'll learn quickly how DAMN GOOD it tastes.

Thanks again JS!

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May 3, 2011
9:22 pm
Peggy the Primal Par
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Hopefully some of the people that do eat bird seed will stumble upon this thoughtfuly analyzed study. But unfortunately, us paleoers already comfortably skip snacks and don't rip peoples heads off before dinner.

Anyway, thanks for taking the time! It's nice to see those numbers. I'm sure I'll probably reference this from time to time. :)

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May 4, 2011
12:02 am
julianne
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About this study. It tested meals with different Glycemic loads, and different ratios of protein, carb and fat.

It shows that a high carbohydrate meal made of oats is high GL, and has a bad response. A meal of starchy tubers may also show the same result, if the same GL was picked. That does not prove that grains are a problem, it proves that a high GL, high carb meal is a problem. To show grains are the culprit, you would have to compare a similar high starch paleo meal to the grain meal.

You would also have to compare a balanced 40:30:30 protein carb fat meal - one using grains as carbs, the other paleo carbs to compare paleo and grain carbs to see if there is a different impact. This would be another study.

What we can say from this study is that a high carb, high GL meal is much worse than a higher protein, higher fat,low GL meal.

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May 4, 2011
11:18 am
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Stabby:

No, insulin isn't the whole story, and leptin and PYY are other parts of an interdependent system I don't claim to completely understand.  I also agree that wheat has special 'appetitogenic' properties.  What I take from this study is that a quickly absorbed meal of whole grains, e.g. sugar (glucose) with impurities, leaves us all more hungry, and makes us eat more, than a slowly absorbed meal of real food, such as meat and eggs.

Aren't lamb balls kind of small?  How many of them do you need to make an entire breakfast?

Chris:

Getting yourself down under 9-10% bodyfat is rough anyway...I can't imagine doing it on a high-carb diet.  Ouch!  I'm glad you're back in a happier and healthier state.  

And no, I don't like steamed vegetables either.  I'll have mine sauteed, please, in butter or coconut oil.  Grilled is acceptable too if I can butter them afterward.

Peggy:

I do my best to write articles that you can forward to people who aren't already paleo, so they'll understand why you won't eat table bread or their delicious homemade muffins.  It's tough to overcome decades of dogma...I have the perhaps naive belief that reason and logic will help.

Julianne:

I agree with you that the results aren't as simple as "GI drives satiety", which is why I continually refer to the meals by content (instant oatmeal, omelet, etc.) instead of the "high-GI meal" and "low-GI meal" terms used by the study authors.  There are a lot more differences between the meals than just their GI, or even their macronutrient composition.

I partially disagree with you, however: the study does indeed prove that "heart-healthy whole grains" are a problem.  I agree with you that they're not the entire problem: other high-GI starches served with very little protein and fat are also very likely to be fattening...but as the study didn't measure that, I felt I should limit my conclusions to what was explicitly tested.  (I also find it interesting that the omelet + fruit was jiggered precisely to hit the Zone 40-30-30 proportions...I bet at least one of the authors was a Zone dieter at the time.)

I agree that it would be interesting to test some of those other comparisons to see if there are uniquely fattening characteristics for different starches, e.g. wheat vs. oats vs. potatoes.

JS

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May 4, 2011
11:21 am
Katie @ Wellness Mam
Guest

I wish I'd found this study a few weeks ago when I was writing a similar post! I'm emailing this to family members though. It seems like common sense to those of us who already eat this way, but hopefully as more research like this comes out, this info will be more mainstream.

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May 4, 2011
11:35 am
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Katie:

Isn't it a great study?  I found a link to it in the comments section of some other paleo blog...it wasn't featured or anything, just sort of left there as a "by the way". 

It's so hard to find anything that compares (mostly) REAL FOOD to hearthealthywholegrains: most studies just compare whole grains to junk food and conclude that whole grains are better...which is much like comparing "low-tar" cigarettes to regular cigarettes and concluding that the "low-tar" versions are healthy.

JS

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May 4, 2011
1:04 pm
kem
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New to your site, here via TWIP. Nice post. As you say, "eat like a predator, not like prey". I'm afraid this study, though, will not be front page news. Now, are all yor posts this interesting?

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May 5, 2011
12:40 am
julianne
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Darn - just did big post and your site didn't like it.

I agree with what you say. Re the author was zoning - likely it was done in Boston children's hospital and they designed a weight loss programme OWL as a result of this study. Sears lives in Boston too.

This study and the graphs are great - I'm glad you highlighted it.

I had an argument with Sears on this topic - as he only seems to have one paradigm 40:30:30. I argue that food quality matters more, he argues that ratio is paramount.
http://blog.zonediet.com/2011/01/24/increased-satiety-the-real-secret-to-weight-loss/

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May 5, 2011
5:53 pm
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Julianne:

That's a great dialogue, and I commend you for introducing paleo principles to the Zone people.  From what I know of the Zone diet, I agree with your take on it.

I'm sorry your post got eaten!  That's the first I've heard of that...I'll try a few tests myself and see if I can reproduce it.

Meanwhile, I make a practice of using ctrl-A and ctrl-C to copy my comments before submitting them to other people's websites, just in case that happens to me (which it has often enough to make the extra keystrokes worth it.)  You can paste it into Notepad or TextEdit if you're not sure it copied correctly.

JS

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May 5, 2011
6:44 pm
julianne
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I notice that posts with several links get eaten - they go into the spam filter I think. I did save and re-post, but I got the message back that it was a duplicate! So I started again.

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May 5, 2011
7:05 pm
WolfGirl
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I got to your blog from MDA and I gotta say, you are great. Witty and to the point. That was one heckuva interesting study - but not at all surprising.

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May 5, 2011
11:13 pm
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February 22, 2010
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Kem:

Thank you for the implied compliment!  

My strategy is to post a limited number of articles: it allows me to give each topic the time and energy it deserves, and it takes the pressure off to come up with something new every few days.  I'm happy with the results, and I think you'll find my other articles are of a similar depth.

Julianne:

OK, that makes sense: I'm running the Akismet spam filter.  Contact me next time a comment is eaten and I'll see if I can fish it out.  Also note that if you actually create a forum account (links in the right sidebar) and log in to it, your posts should bypass the spam filtering process, as well as automatically linking your website.

JS

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May 6, 2011
4:33 am
Sungrazer
Guest

I found it interesting that the high GI meal caused the highest spike in serum growth hormone. I am implying that that a low GI meal might be better for fat loss, while a high GI meal might be better for muscle growth. Then again, muscle growth is probably best for fat loss... ;)

All other graphs except growth hormone and epinephrine is about the same after the 4 - 5 hour mark. I wonder if it would be beneficial to eat a low fat, low protein, high GI meal 4 - 5 hours before a workout and then eat a protein rich and medium GI meal after lunch to allow an insulin spike to shuffle nutrients into the cells, and utilize the high GH levels.

It certainly rhymes with the leangains approach ( 16 hour fast / 8 hour fed state with fasted workouts ), which I am loosely following.

I'm only a n=1 experiment, but after eating primal for about 600+ days and working out I added about 150 grams of carbs per day into my diet, and dialed back about the same amount of calories in fat and I am now another notch in on the belt, while the weight stays the same.

Thoughts? :)

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May 6, 2011
8:37 pm
Walter
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I think your approach - fewer posts in greater depth is the way to go. I bookmarked your site and I've been following paleo since Art De Vany and partake of all the paleo/low carb usual suspects. If you didn't add value I wouldn't be here.

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May 7, 2011
12:30 am
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February 22, 2010
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Sungrazer:

Yes, that is indeed an interesting piece of data.  I'll have to do some research, though, to determine whether the spike is significant relative to that produced by, say, exercise.  It might also be an artifact of random noise, as GH secretion is very spiky and occurs periodically throughout the day.  I've filed the diet/GH connection under "something to look into further."

As far as adding carbs, I think that the more active you are, the more carbs you can/should ingest in order to keep your glycogen stores reasonably full.  I'm not sure how liver and/or muscle glycogen levels affect metabolism and, particularly, energy storage: that's another connection to file under "look into this further".

150g is about 600 kcal, which is about 20% of 3000 kcal, which is a reasonable daily intake for an active person.  I believe that <20% of calories from carbohydrate is more of a weight-loss tool than a state to permanently aspire to, and I personally don't do as well under that threshold, so I think I agree with you.  (Although some people do have metabolic issues that require them to stay VLC or else gain weight dramatically.)

Walter:

I appreciate your support!  It's good to know that people who have been around much longer than I have still find my articles valuable.  Attention is the scarce resource on the Internet, and I try to only demand it if I have something to say.

It's not the quick way to get readers -- but I'm not doing this for the money.  I'd rather have the respect of others in the field, and my small crew of perceptive commenters, than a million page views per month and pointless flamewars that need constant moderation.

JS

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May 11, 2011
12:36 pm
How “Heart-Healthy W
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[...] “Heart-Healthy Whole Grains” Make Us Fat How “Heart-Healthy Whole Grains” Make Us Fat - GNOLLS.ORG People consumed 81% more calories during the five hours after eating instant oatmeal than after [...]

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May 12, 2011
10:03 pm
CrossFit 312 »
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[...] articles: how heart healthy whole-grains make us fat recipe: paleo french salad dressing [...]

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May 15, 2011
11:07 am
Sno Valley CrossFit
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[...] How Heart Healthy Grains are Making Us Fat [...]

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