Lowcarbezine! 16 January 2002

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Hey, Gang -

I got it out on time this week! I trust you're impressed. ;-)

That's because I just had so much material to go with; I actually could have gone on. It's always nice when you have more ideas that you know what to do with! As it is, this issue is crammed with info that I'm sure you can use - or at least will keep you entertained for a minute or two.

So read on! I'm going back to the cookbook manuscript.


All contents copyright 2002 by Hold the Toast Press. All commercial reproduction and/or use is expressly prohibited. As always, feel free to forward Lowcarbezine! to any family or friends you feel might enjoy it, provided that you forward it in its entirety.

Lowcarbezine! welcomes reader input! If you have a question, a recipe,a product review, a low carb success story, send it on in!! dana@holdthetoast.com All submissions become the property of Hold the Toast Press. If you don't want us to print your letter, just let us know, and we won't!

However, please note -- although I really do read all my email my very own self, I get a lot of mail - generally over 200 posts a day (not all of them about Lowcarbezine!), so I can't promise to answer every post personally. Or I'll never get the cookbook written!

Low Carb On a Budget

Feeling broke? You're not alone. With my husband back in graduate school, we're feeling the pinch around here, too. Now that we're officially in a recession, maybe it's time to talk again about eating low carb on a budget.

After all, many of the traditional penny pinching moves don't work for us - we're not going to stretch a pound of ground beef with pounds and pounds of bread crumbs, or mix it with rice, or serve it over noodles. So what's a low carber caught in a tight economy to do?

First of all, get clear on the fact that cheap, starchy food is not inexpensive. Nothing that makes you tired, fat, cranky, and potentially very ill can possibly be considered inexpensive, even if they're giving it away. Furthermore, that stuff makes you hungrier, remember? Food that just makes you want to eat more and more is not a great economy move.

(And of course, quite a lot of carb-y, processed garbage isn't even apparently cheap. I've long considered cold cereal to be a conspiracy to get consumers to pay $3 - 4 for fifteen cents worth of grain, and Pringles have to be the most expensive way possible to buy potatoes.)

Still, there's no question that real, nutritious food is often pricey. Here are some ideas for eating healthy within your budget:

* Your body does not care whether you get your protein from lobster or from chicken - so buy the least expensive cuts of meat, and buy them on sale. I recently bought 30 pounds of chicken leg-and-thigh quarters for 29c a pound, which is practically giving it away. At the same time, I could have paid around $2 a pound for boneless, skinless chicken breasts. Even though the breasts are all meat, there's no question which of these choices is going to give me more protein for my grocery dollar. Around here - "here" being the Midwestern United States - ground beef goes on sale now and then for as little as 89c a pound. This is when I buy a pile of it, make it into patties, and freeze it. I also cruise the meat and fish cases for in-store markdowns - meat that has been there a day or two, and has been discounted. This is about the only way I buy expensive cuts, like lamb chops. I virtually never buy meat that is not on sale.

* Which leads us to another point: A deep freeze is one of the best investments you can make, because it lets you buy sale meat in bulk. We bought our deep freeze - a large, upright model - second hand, for $225, including delivery; it even came with a 2 week warranty, in case we got it home and it didn't work. It hasn't given us a moment's trouble. If you're buying a used freezer, keep two things in mind: First, it's best to buy from an established and reputable local dealer in used appliances; they know that they have something to lose if you feel you got a bad deal. And second, don't buy a freezer that is more than about 5 years old. Not because they wear out - they don't, much - but because great advances have been made in energy efficiency, and if you buy a freezer that's much older, you'll pay extra in electricity to run it.

* One thing you should not buy in large quantity, regardless of the sales, is frozen vegetables. I have learned the hard way that the shelf life of frozen vegetables (which I much prefer to canned) is pretty short. Even if they're on sale, don't buy more than you can use up in a month or so, or when you open the bag you'll find a bunch of shriveled little green things entombed in ice crystals. Not appetizing.

* Buy low carb vegetables and fruits in season. Unless you find a stupendous bargain on asparagus, it's going to be far cheaper to buy cabbage in January. It will also be cheaper to buy grapefruit (about 10 g per half) than cantaloupe or strawberries, this time of year.

* Shop around. If you're in the habit of doing all of your shopping at one grocery store, you may be losing money. I have seen cauliflower at $1.29 apiece and $3.98 apiece in the same week, at different stores. If the budget's tight, you can't afford not to be aware of differences like that! Never assume that one store has the best prices on everything - one of the cheapest stores in my area for everything else tends to have high meat prices. Pay attention! That money represents your time and your labor!

* Check out the discount stores that offer only house brands. We have two chains of this sort in my town, Aldi and Save-a-Lot. I do a stock-up trip to Save-a-Lot (it's closer than Aldi) every six weeks or so. I can't get everything I need there, but the stuff I do get is remarkably cheap - tuna at 2 cans for a buck, bacon for $1.29 a pound, canned mushrooms for 29c, pork sausage for $1.29 a pound, etc, etc, etc. Other things I buy at these el-cheapo stores: blocks of basic cheese, like cheddar, also cheese "singles", and shredded mozzarella, canned tomato sauce, canned tomatoes, mayonnaise, tea bags, instant tea, sacks of onions, other basic veggies, like cucumbers, peppers, cauliflower, scallions, and such; dry roasted peanuts, canola oil. This is also where I bought my chicken leg-and-thigh quarters so cheap. If you have one of these stores in your area, you really need to go and explore. By the way, I also like these stores because they're far smaller than your standard grocery store, and there very few decisions to make! So long as I go at a slow time of the week, I can get in and out quite quickly with a whole pile of food. (If you go at a busy time, however, I admit the lines can be pretty long. Hint: Go toward the end of the month. A lot of the folks who shop at these stores are on very, very tight budgets, and don't have any money at the end of the month.)

* Check out specialty stores. You'd think that health food stores and little ethnic groceries would be more expensive than big chain grocery stores, but it's not always true. My health food store, Bloomingfoods, has herbs and spices in bulk, which is far cheaper than buying them in little shaker bottles. You can even bring your empty shaker bottles and refill them if you like. They also are my source for bulk pumpkin and sunflower seeds, bulk vinegar, bulk soy sauce, vital wheat gluten, oat bran, wheat bran, hazelnuts, and other low carb baking needs. I also shop quite a lot at Sahara Mart, a local Middle Eastern/gourmet/health/grocery store, where I get, among other things, the best prices on shelled almonds I've ever seen. (For those of you in the Southern Indiana area, Sahara Mart also carries a terrific selection of low carb specialty stuff. It's at the corner of 2nd and Walnut, here in Bloomington.) The point here is to take advantage of the various stores around you to find the lowest prices on the things you use regularly.

* Does this sound like you'll have to spend all your time grocery shopping? You won't. As I mentioned, I go to Save-a-Lot about every 6 weeks, sometimes let it go to 8, and stock up. I stop in at Sahara Mart when I'm uptown anyway, getting my hair cut, or going to the library, or something; takes me 10 minutes. Bloomingfoods is my closest grocery store, and the place I run out to if we're out of cream or peanut butter or something, so it's easy to pick up the other things I need while I'm there. It's not a matter of shopping more, it's more a matter of rotating where you shop.

* If you don't have one of these all-house-brand stores in your area, do try the house brands at your local supermarket. And if you don't like one store's house brand of a given item, try another store's version. For the very most part, house brands are made by the same manufacturers, and to the same standards, as name brands. And remember, "different" doesn't mean "worse" - we get used to things. If a product is less expensive, try it a time or two before deciding whether you like it or not.

* Do more of your own cooking and prep work. We've become a society of people who will do nearly anything to avoid having to cook, and it's costing us dearly. Paying people to do your cooking for you has always been the prerogative of the rich. You will pay far less per pound for a head of lettuce than for bagged salad; far less for whole chickens than for boneless, skinless chicken breasts. If you're short on both money and time (and hey, who isn't?), use the time-honored trick of doing a couple of hours cooking on a weekend or a day off every week. You can make your own bagged salad, a pot of soup or all-meat chili, a big batch of cole slaw, cut up vegetables for munching with dip - whatever appeals to your family - and stash them in the fridge. This will give you a major leg up on cooking all week long, without the expense of convenience food.

* Another place where cooking will save you mucho bux is when it comes to low carb specialty treats. Making your own low carb cookies and bread is cheaper than buying them.

* Although Splenda is - at least in my opinion - the best artificial sweetener on the market, since it is still under patent, it is relatively expensive. Consider keeping saccharine, or, if you like it and tolerate it well, aspartame, on hand for things like sweetening coffee or tea, or adding a little sweetness to a salad dressing or a dish of yogurt. Both are available in generic versions which are quite cheap. Save the Splenda for baking and such.

* Drop diet soda in favor of iced tea. Whether you make it from tea bags or from instant tea, it's far cheaper than even generic soda - and better for you, to boot. You can, of course, choose the sort with caffeine, or decaf - and you can even mix the two if you want to reduce, but not eliminate, your caffeine intake.

* Use food up. I confess I'm not as good at this as I should be, especially with the vast piles of leftovers that recipe development is creating around here. Still, letting leftovers grow fur in the back of the refrigerator is not good economy. Take them for lunch. Turn them into soup. Use them for omelet fillings. Freeze them for a night you don't feel like cooking. Have a weekly Smorgasbord Night, where you heat up and serve all the leftovers of the previous week. In short, remember that you've paid for that food - and the energy to cook it - and don't let it go to waste.

* Watch the portions. Do you really need to serve 8 ounces of meat per person, or will 6 do? If you have a family of five, this modest restriction will result in your serving 10 ounces less meat per dinner - and 6 ounces of meat will still give you about 42 grams of protein, surely as much as any body needs at one meal. The "super-size it!" culture has led us all to expect portions that are overflowing our plates, but we really don't need them. Remember, you should be eating enough to satisfy your hunger, but not much more. This, of course, will also speed your weight loss. If you're uncomfortable with the idea of cooking less - many of us have a "deprivation mind set", and become nervous at the idea of restriction of food - try cooking the same amount, but serving smaller portions in the kitchen. Eat what's on your plate, wait for five minutes, and then see if you want more.

* Get the family used to eggs for dinner at least once a week. I just paid $1 for two dozen eggs on sale, and even when they're not on sale you can generally get them for 99c a dozen, at least around here. That comes to just over 8c per egg, or just over 16c for a two-egg portion. Add to that the fact that eggs are endlessly versatile, and cook in no time flat, and you can see that you can't afford not to expand eggs into roles other than breakfast.

* If you have children in the house, remember that chips, cookies, cold cereal, soda, and other junk are not a right, and you are not a terrible parent if you refuse to spend money on rubbish, instead putting those (many!) dollars toward good, basic food. If the kids want garbage badly enough, let them spend their money on it. Handy hint: Basic bulk popcorn - the kind you pop in a popper, not the microwave - is dirt cheap. It also has 13-16 grams or so of usable carb in 3 cups, popped - about the same carb load as 15 potato chips. If they want snack food, buy a popcorn popper, and teach them to use it.

* Here's my most radical suggestion: I urge you to consider economizing on virtually everything else, and buy good food. If you have to choose between eating real, healthy food, and buying a bigger house, let the kids share a room, and feed them well. If you have to choose between meat and vegetables, and a new car, buy a reliable used car, and nourish your body. If you have to choose between allocating a dollar to your food budget or your clothing budget, eat right, and shop at yard sales and the Goodwill; you'll look better healthy in used clothes than you will fat and sick in designer fashions. Do not think that I take these suggestions lightly; I write this while wearing a second-hand sweater, sitting in a house that is far smaller and shabbier than I would like, with a 12 year old car in the driveway - but with good food in my stomach.

Food is the stuff of life. You are creating your body out of it. It affects the quality of your life in every possible way; your energy level, your mental health, your physical mobility, the rate of your aging, your risk of degenerative diseases, your longevity. If you have growing children, the importance of good nutrition for them is, if anything, even greater than for you; food will make a difference in their grades, their behavior, their risk of getting involved with drugs and alcohol, and of course, their risk of obesity and ill health.

Treat food with the respect it deserves, and I promise you, it will not let you down.

For approximately a zillion ideas on how to save money, plus a welcome attitude adjustment regarding our consumer culture, I highly recommend The Complete Tightwad Gazette, by Amy Dacyczyn: http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0375752250/lowcarbohysoluti . Unbelievably useful, practical, and fun to read. My only caution: Dacyczyn advocates cutting your food budget by eating lots of "healthy" low fat carbs in place of meat. 'Nuff said. But the rest of this book is dynamite.

You and I May Be Feeling Broke, But The World Is Full of the Genuinely Poor

And they don't just have a tight food budget - they're starving. You can help, every day, and it will cost you nothing but a moment of your time. Just go to: http://www.thehungersite.com and click on the button, and The Hunger Site's sponsors will donate food to the hungry worldwide. Then go to http://www.stopthehunger.com and click on the button, and Stop the Hunger's sponsors will donate food to hungry folks in the USA.

I know of no easier way to do a little charity. So bookmark the sites, and click every day!

Low Carb Chef Chocolates Are Back!!!

Pure De-Lite's new cookies, in Peanut Butter and Chocolate Tootsie are FLYING off the shelves! Plus we have four varieties of low carb bread in stock, ready to ship! LOWEST PRICE ON THE NET FOR PRO SLIM PASTA! http://www.webbalah.net/shoplowcarb.html

Beyond the Glycemic Index

By now, many, if not most of you are familiar with the idea of the glycemic index - the rating of how quickly and far any given carbohydrate will push up your blood sugar. For those of you who are new to low carbing (congratulations on that New Year's Resolution!), here's a quick rundown of the concept:

The glycemic index, often abbreviated "G" or "GI" (as in, "low-G carb" - I usually just call them "low impact" carbs) was first explored as a way to control diabetes. For quite a while, scientists believed that simple carbohydrates, aka sugars, were absorbed quickly, and complex carbs, aka starches, were absorbed more slowly, and therefore were safer for diabetics, and would act as a far steadier supply of energy. Actual tests of the blood sugar impact of various carbohydrates showed this theory to be wildly simplistic, aka dead wrong.

Tests of the glycemic index were done thusly: A group of test subjects was assembled, some of them diabetics, and some of them not. Their fasting blood sugar was tested. Then they were each given a carefully measured portion of the food to be tested. It is important to understand that these portions were measured to contain a specific amount of carbohydrate - 50 grams -- not a specific amount of the given food. In other words, the test subjects would eat about one and a half medium sized potatoes, or, or about 12 teaspoons of sugar, or a little over two cups of cherries - what ever amount of the food was needed to provide 50 grams of carbohydrate.

Once the subjects had eaten the test food, their blood was drawn at regular intervals for several hours, and their blood sugar tested, so that the researchers could observe how quickly it went up - and came down. These results were then averaged out between the test subjects, and that average was compared to the blood sugar impact of a "reference food". Originally the reference food was glucose, the most basic sugar, but some scientists eventually changed over to using standard, soft, puffy, grocery store white bread as the reference food, feeling that it had more real world significance. Whichever reference food they chose, it was given the rating of 100; the other foods were given a number which stood for how quickly or slowly that food raised blood sugar when compared to the reference food.

(Good to know: When glucose is used as the reference food, white bread is about a 70, and glucose ends up being something like 130 or 140. If you're consulting a chart of glycemic indices, it's important to know which reference food they're using, or you won't fully understand the numbers.)

These tests of the glycemic index made it clear that the old idea of sugar = fast, starch = slow was erroneous. There were lots of surprises - for instance, the fact that baked potatoes will jack blood sugar around faster and harder than an equivalent amount of table sugar (although, of course, the potato will also contain more vitamins.) It was found that whole wheat loaf bread is nearly as hard on blood sugar as white bread, but for some odd reason whole wheat pita bread has a far more modest impact. We also learned - thank heaven! - that rice cakes, the dieter's penance, nasty, styrofoam-like things that they are, have a sky-high glycemic index, and can't be considered health food by any stretch of the imagination.

(Do you know what food has perhaps the highest glycemic index of any tested, with a heavier-duty blood sugar impact than pure glucose? Tofutti, the tofu "ice cream" sold in health food stores. On the glucose scale, it's a 115, while really-truly ice cream is only a 61.)

Several things appear to influence the blood sugar impact of carbohydrate foods. Fiber is one - the higher the fiber content, in general, the lower the glycemic index, apparently because fiber holds the digestible carbs you eat like a sponge, time releasing them into your blood stream. This may well account for quite a lot of the research showing that eating a high fiber diet is healthy; by eating a lot of fiber one may moderate some of the bad health effects that come with the blood sugar roller coaster.

Degree of processing also makes a difference; eating whole boiled wheat kernels is easier on your blood sugar than eating coarse-ground wheat bread, which in turn is easier on your blood sugar than eating puffed wheat.

Perhaps most controversial, we learned that some fruits and vegetables had a higher glycemic index than anyone had previously suspected. In particular, carrots were found to have a high glycemic index, and for that reason, many low carb dieters avoid them like poison, to the point of picking little bitty shreds of carrot out of their salads.

Remember the point I made several paragraphs back, that it was important to understand that the glycemic index tests involved eating whatever sized portion of the test food was needed to make up 50 grams of carbohydrate? This is the weakness of the whole concept. Because of this particular point, some foods were made to appear taboo for the carbohydrate intolerant, when in reality, they could be tolerated in the sort of quantity that people generally eat them.

Carrots, it turns out, are a case in point. It is apparently true that eating enough carrots to consume 50 grams of carbohydrate will jack your blood sugar around pretty good, but do you know how many carrots that is? More than fifty of those little baby carrots, that's how many. I don't know about you, but I don't like carrots that well! In other words, while a half a cup of carrots contains more, and higher-G, carbohydrate than, say, a half a cup of cucumber, they're not something we have to shun altogether. For instance, I made a pot of soup yesterday, and I included, among other vegetables, one sliced carrot. Assuming that we call the whole potful 6 servings, that carrot added a bit less than a gram of usable carbohydrate to each serving, and it surely improved the flavor, and the vitamin content.

Enter the concept of the glycemic load.

"Glycemic load" is a new way of using those glycemic index tables to make them apply more realistically to food as people actually eat it. To calculate the glycemic load of a given food, you simply multiply the glycemic index of the food (using the white bread scale) by the number of grams of carbohydrate that are actually found in an average serving of that food. For instance: the glycemic index of soft drinks is about 97. There are about 42 grams of carbohydrate in a twelve ounce can of soda. 97x42 = 4,074, or something you really don't want to touch. Pumpernickel bread has a glycemic index of 71, and about 16 grams of carbohydrate per slice. 71x16 = 1,136; still pretty heavy duty. But while cooked carrots have a glycemic index of 56, a half-cup serving has only about 8.2 grams of carbohydrate - 56x8.2 = 459.2, or nowhere near as scary as either of our other examples.

(I should point out here that, for some reason that no one has explained to me, these values are actually expressed with the decimal point in a different place: the glycemic load of soda would be expressed as 40.74, pumpernickel as 11.36, and carrots as 4.59.)

You can see the usefulness of this concept - it gives us a real-world idea of what various foods are likely to do to our blood sugar, and our bodies. It is interesting to note that the Harvard Nurses Study has looked at the glycemic load of the diets of the participants, and has found that the risk of heart disease goes up with an increasing glycemic load. This, of course, will come as no great surprise to those of you who have seen a rapid and marked improvement in your bloodwork since going low carb.

Please keep in mind that none of this can tell you how much carbohydrate is appropriate for your own personal body. I know that I gain weight if I eat too much carbohydrate, regardless of the source. If you need to stay below, say, 60 grams a day, you need to stay below 60 grams a day, and the fact that those carbs have a more modest blood sugar impact won't keep you from gaining weight. Conversely, by sharply cutting your carb intake you are dramatically reducing your glycemic load, even if you were to get all of your very few grams of carb from sources with a high impact.

However, there is little question that you will do yourself a favor by choosing what few carbs you do eat, by and large, from those with a modest glycemic index. And the day may not be too far off when officialdom scraps the dangerous food pyramid, and instead hands out daily glycemic load guidelines, and a big improvement it would be, too.

Indeed, the most encouraging thing to me about all this research on the importance of glycemic load is that the whole concept of limiting carbohydrate intake for health is becoming more and more accepted in the medical community.

For the most extensive list of glycemic indices I've been able to find, look here: http://www.mendosa.com/gilists.htm This gives the rating both on the glucose scale and the white bread scale. To calculate glycemic load from these ratings, multiply the white bread scale number of the food in question by the number of grams of carb in a serving.

Reader Review of How I Gave Up My Low Fat Diet and Lost Forty Pounds!

This Really Works!!!

Our daughter loves this diet and encouraged my husband and I to try it. We started on June 1,

2001, and by the middle of September we had lost a combined total of 100 pounds. Since then, we have shared this book and diet with many friends and all have had success. With the maintenance plan, we have kept the weight off and plan to stay on this eating plan forever. I also have to share this; before the diet, I was on Lipitor and blood pressure medication. Since being on this plan, my cholesterol and blood pressure have dropped so I no longer need any medication. WOW!!

Cheryl R Wester from Maple Grove, MN , January 5, 2002

Thanks, Cheryl, and congratulations to all of you!

To read this and other reviews of How I Gave Up My Low Fat Diet and Lost Forty Pounds!, visit http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0966883101/lowcarbohysoluti

To read the first chapter for FREE, and see my before-and-after photos and my smiling face, visit http://www.holdthetoast.com

To order How I Gave Up My Low Fat Diet and Lost Forty Pounds! visit http://www.holdthetoast.com/order.html

This Month In Carb Smart Magazine: Beginning or Restarting a Low Carb Diet!

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We have a huge selection of your favorite low carb products, and everything is at a discount!

If you're low carb and smart, you'll shop Carb Smart! http://www.webbalah.net/carbsmart.html

Reader Success Story

This is one of the most dramatic reader success stories I've ever been sent:

Hi Dana,

My name is Helen. I am 27 yrs old and live in Wellington, New Zealand. I have struggled with weight since puberty and also from irregular periods. I was diagnosed in 1999 with Poly Cystic Ovarian Syndrome. Through a group of women that meet regularly with PCOS I learnt about the low carb diet and how it can help us balance our hormone problems and with the insulin resistance that we suffer from. I was put off the diet by a dietitian friend who spouted the usual stuff about no long term proven results and was depressed by her enthusiasum for the pryamid/low fat diet which had not helped me over the years!

In January of this year I started a popular low fat diet. I lost weight, but every second night was depressed or suicidal. At the end of each day I was hungry and was shoving veggies down in order to be eating something. I felt waterlogged from the excess amount of vegetables I was eating also. I was at this stage suffering from the worst fatigue in my life, the gaps between my periods had reached 4.5 months and were anovulatory (didn't ovulate). My husband and I would like to conceive and visited my Doctor for help who told me to come back in 6 months before they could do anything.

In March of this year, after reading Doctor Atkins' New Diet Revolution, and with my mouth watering at what I COULD eat, I embarked on my low carb journey. Since January I have lost 66 pounds in what I think is the easiest most enjoyable way to go. From the first week my energy has been fantastic. I no longer have to sleep all the time. I don't have big sleep ins anymore and get more done in the weekends. People are forever commenting on my wonderful skin and eyes as well as the weight loss. Since March I have been having a 31 day average cycle, something I haven't had for 12 years. I get cramps and crave chocolate when my period comes like any other woman!

As a sufferer of PCOS I get acne every month. I have not had any for the last 4 months and my hair growth has slowed somewhat. My bowel movements have come right and I feel the best I have ever felt in my life. When I go onto carbs for over 60 minutes I do not feel too well so I know that this is the diet for me for life.

I have not felt guilty about eating for 9 whole months. I enjoy choccie cake, muffins, biscuits, lollies and gourmet meals - all low carb and delicious! I visited my Doctor after 6 months and she was getting out of her chair in excitement to look at my charts - couldn't believe the weight loss of 50 pounds at that stage and I had done it all without their help!

I have 48 pounds to go, which I know in the next 10 months shouldn't be a problem. Because I have cycles we are able to try for a baby each month. I feel great where I am right now and know that whatever anyone says, this is the way to go - you are the only person that knows your body and how you feel.

Thank you,

Helen Westerbeke

Oh, Helen! What an incredible story! I'm sure you now have almost 12,000 sets of fingers crossed for you, waiting to hear when you get pregnant. Congratulations!

Attack of the Pseudo-Science!

Reader Marge Halpin sent me this link to a story regarding a report from the American Cancer Society: http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/news/fullstory_5595.html , and wanted to know how to refute the article's claim - that is, that there is an "association" between animal fat in the diet and breast cancer. Like all of us, she is plagued by people who warn her about the "dangers" of her low carb diet, and she wasn't sure what to say to them.

The answer is simple: This "study" is so unscientific as to be laughable. Here's all that they did: They looked at the overall consumption of animal products in a given society, and then at the rate of breast cancer, and found that societies that ate more animal products had, in general, more breast cancer.

Note that they did not look at the diets of the women who had actually contracted breast cancer. They did not look at individual eating habits at all. Nor did they explore any other possible risk factors that these various societies might have had in common, or protective factors that the nations with lower breast cancer risk might have shared. Indeed, it looks very much like these "researchers" (and I use the term loosely) had the desired result already in mind, and designed their "study" to reach the conclusion they wanted.

There is a very, very important scientific truth that these people have chosen to ignore: Correlation is not causation. Let me repeat this, because it is, indeed, such a vital concept: Correlation is not causation. In other words, just because two things happen together does not mean that one causes the other.

For example, if I were to accept the scientific "method" that this study employed, I could easily prove to you that the ability to spell well was dependant on the size of your shoes. Why? Because in every elementary school in the world, you will find that, over all, the children with the biggest feet are the best spellers. This, of course, is because the biggest feet belong, by and large, to the older children in the upper grades, who have much more experience with spelling. Big feet, big shoes - so, the size of your shoes must affect your ability to spell!

Just as in this admittedly silly example, the study "linking" consumption of animal products to breast cancer completely ignores a host of other possible factors. Here are a few for starters: Meat is expensive; therefore the highest consumption of animal products is likely to be in the wealthiest nations. Do you think that wealthy people are also likely to eat more sugar and highly processed foods than those living in impoverished Third World nations? Do they consume more chemicals and additives along with those processed foods? Do you think that perhaps those of us who live in wealthy, developed nations are more likely to be exposed to pollutants, both from industry and from cars? Is it possible that rich people drink more alcohol, and use more recreational drugs than poor people? Do you suppose that poor women have little choice but to have many children, and to breast feed them? Delaying or avoiding childbearing has been linked with breast cancer, and breast feeding is apparently protective. Do you think, perhaps, that folks who don't have animal products to eat fill up on vegetables, with their protective phytochemicals? Is it possible that poor people get more exercise, what with having little choice but to walk - or, if they're lucky, bicycle - everywhere they go? Could exercise be protective?

The list of possible factors is endless; I came up with these few possibilities within a couple of minutes. Here's another, at least as silly as the conclusion reached in this article: Maybe something about being prone to breast cancer makes women crave animal products. Do I believe this? No, of course not. But it makes at least as much sense as the conclusion reached here by the American Cancer Society.

Interestingly, this very article presents another possible factor: It states a correlation between exposure to sunlight, and a lower risk of breast cancer. Once again, it must be remembered that correlation is not causation - there may be some other factor at work here. However, if sunlight is, indeed, a protective against breast cancer, could it account for the appearance that animal foods are a risk? In other words, do folks who eat few animal products also get more sunlight? If we go with the notion that wealthy nations eat more meat, and poor nations eat less, we see that perhaps poor people walk wherever they go, getting sun exposure while they do so. Poor nations also have a higher proportion of subsistence farmers - people who work all day in the sun. Further, they are far less likely to have abundant electrical power, and artificial lighting, forcing them to rely on sunlight for illumination - no night shift workers or club kids.

So could it be that those who eat few animal products also get more sunlight? Very possible. If, indeed, sunlight is protective, this alone might account for a big chunk of the differing breast cancer rates.

In short, this "study" says nothing worth paying attention to. That the American Cancer Society would ballyhoo - or even give a moment's consideration - such junk makes me wonder if they're trying to cover their posteriors as decades of "eat low fat to avoid cancer" advice crumble around them. After all, just a couple of years back, the New England Journal of Medicine published an extensive review of 7 studies regarding the effect of fat intake on breast cancer risk, and found that not only was a low fat diet not protective in any way, but that the highest risk of breast cancer was in the women with the lowest fat intake. The Harvard Nurses Study - perhaps the biggest and longest-running study of its kind in history, and a study which does, indeed, look at the eating habits of the individual - comes to exactly the same conclusion: that it is a low fat diet that predisposes a woman to breast cancer.

If I were the ACS, I'd be scrambling for cover, too.

Move along. Nothing to see here.

Product Review

I have a very nifty little item in front of me - the Low Carb Success Calendar from Just Ducky Productions. This is a wall calendar with attractive, black and white, pen and ink illustrations, motivational quotations for each month, and low carb recipes. Cleverly, the recipes are printed so that you can cut them out and they'll fit right in your card file; a very nice touch. They're tasty-sounding, too - they include Pumpkin Cheesecake, Broccoli Quiche, Reuben Casserole, and 9 more. I like the quotes, as well - "We can do anything we want to, as long as we stick to it long enough." - Helen Keller; "Never give up! Never give up! Never give up!" - Winston Churchill - just a couple of the luminaries whose wisdom graces these pages. Another nice touch is room each month to write down your goals.

In short, if you need a calendar for 2002 - or a gift for someone who is low carbing - this is a very nice choice. The 2002 Low Carb Success Calendar is being distributed through my pals at Low Carb Grocery: http://www.webbalah.net/shoplowcarb.html . Check it out!

That's it for this issue! See you in two weeks!


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