Beware the experts

The analysis of 53 studies, involving 67,000 dieters found who cut back on fat were two and a half pounds heavier after a year than those who embraced a “low carb” approach.
For decades, there has been debate over the merits of a low fat diet, which was endorsed as the best route to weight loss in the 1970s.
Now major research, published in the Lancet Diabetes & Endocrinology, backs a low carbohydrate approach as a more effective diet.

Because, of course, those experts have been telling us the wrong thing all these decades.

And to think that it all started out as a Woody Allen joke, the idea that fat was good for you.

11 thoughts on “Beware the experts”

  1. In May I discovered I was diabetic. I did some research and switched to a low carb, high fat diet (which is already widely known in diabetic self-help groups). Since then I’ve lost a stone and a half, improved my cholesterol and lowered my blood sugars to normal levels.

    At its simplest, type 2 diabetes is an inability to metabolise carbs. So it makes sense to avoid them. And that means getting your energy from another source – fats.

    The evidence base for this has been growing for years, but the saintly NHS still recommends large amounts of carbs for diabetics, and that route just leads to diabetes getting progressively worse over time. Indeed, the standard assumption about diabetes is that it just gets worse. Well I’ve reversed the symptoms using this diet, and there are many others who also have.

    Diabetes is said to cost the NHS a bomb, yet there seems no appetite to raise awareness of a dietary approach that has a solid theorietical base and growing evidence that it actually works. Just imagine the savings to be had, even if this only worked for only 25% of T2 diabetics.

    Sorry – this is my new hobby horse – I’ve done a lot of reading about this over the last few months. Can you tell?

  2. The science and epidemiology has always been mixed on the impact of fat in the diet. Most of the recent results are that it is the energy intensity of the diet that determines the outcome. Carbohydrates had been considered good because they were lower energy intensity than fat. Lower fat was therefore recommended. Controlled trials do reinforce that low-fat, low-energy diets work. But so do low-carb, low-energy diets.

    I suspect what the physiological science has missed is the behavourial part. People feel guilty about eating fat so the go to the high-carb stuff when they want to cheat (snacking and drinking) on the diet. Low-carb diets limit the snacking options.

    Under-reporting of food consumption and over-reporting of exercise make all epidemiological studies difficult to interpret . They are really talking about behavioural outcomes from different dietary recommendations, as measured by energy intensity of the actual diet, measured by the weight loss/gain observed.

  3. I recently dropped bread and potatoes from my diet and have lost almost a stone in around 8 weeks. No other changes in lifestyle at all.

  4. Bloke in North Dorset


    All that’s happened there is you’ve taken a load of calories out of your diet and your body is finding a new lifestyle/weight equilibrium. That would have happened no matter which calories you avoid.

    You also need to look at what’s happened other health indicators as well to know how much of a benefit removing bread and spuds has been.

  5. This book highlighted the con-trick of the low-fat/high-carb industry 20 or more years ago. I’m not surprised that Geoffers and DannL thrive on their diets.

  6. jgh,
    ‘fraid it ain’t so. All carbs convert to sugar when digested. But diabetics can’t process that sugar so it sits in the bloodstream in ever increasing quantities. That then causes nerve damage which, if untreated, can lead to blindness, amputated limbs and eventually deaded.

  7. “it all started out as a Woody Allen joke, the idea that fat was good for you.” Oh bollocks, Tim. The idea that fat was good for you was standard until the megalomaniac crook Ancel Keys got going.

  8. Whatever the truth about diets alarm bells should be ringing when you see the phrase “The analysis of 53 studies”. Unless all the studies were conducted with the same rigour and design combining them is a meaningless concept. Imagine one study had 20 Buddhists, and another 200 Scottish nurses, or whatever how can you possibly combine them to get a meaningful result. Were all the studies of equal duration. If one lasted ten weeks, and another ten years again how can they be combined. When people are dieting it takes will power, thy might be able to keep that up for weeks, but for years? And so it goes on, I’m sure you can add your own list of questions to my list. The fact that most of them are probably based on self reporting means there has been no scientific rigour at all.

    As John at Numberwatch says this is building a strong chain from weak links.

    I’d just say this “evidence” suggests that eating a high fat diet won’t necessarily lead you to gain weight.

  9. @ Ian Reid
    They don’t all have to be conducted to the same standards – they just have to be conducted to decent standards and the guy/gal conducting the meta-analysis has to be aware of each standard and the variance and confidence intervals of each.
    I should be very wary about diet studies covering a fortnight (I can still remember losing over 10% of my weight in a fortnight without any dietary plan – but that was going back to college just after Christmas when my mother had somewhat overfed me and taking a lot of exercise). However I should expect that 53 studies include a few sound ones.

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