I’ve most recently put up yet another couple of posts that many perceive as me attacking the Low-Carbohydrate Diet, The Ketogenic Diet, and The Paleo Diet.
- A Mild Critique of the Low-Carb-Diet Encouragement to Add Fat
- Can Eating Mashed Potatoes With Your Meals Cause You To Eat 30-40% Fewer Calories?
I suppose you could say that, but those saying it ought at least juxtapose my approach now, with my approach back when I was all the rage over my brutal attacks of low-fat, low-cholesterol, low-saturated fat, white meat & fish only, grain-based diets, vegetarian diets, vegan diets…grant whores…etc.
For those who don’t see that, allow me to explain. Here’s some reading material.
Hegelian dialectic, usually presented in a threefold manner, was stated by Heinrich Moritz Chalybäus as comprising three dialectical stages of development: a thesis, giving rise to its reaction, an antithesis, which contradicts or negates the thesis, and the tension between the two being resolved by means of a synthesis. Although this model is often named after Hegel, he himself never used that specific formulation. Hegel ascribed that terminology to Kant. Carrying on Kant’s work, Fichte greatly elaborated on the synthesis model, and popularized it.
On the other hand, Hegel did use a three-valued logical model that is very similar to the antithesis model, but Hegel’s most usual terms were: Abstract-Negative-Concrete. Hegel used this writing model as a backbone to accompany his points in many of his works.
The formula, thesis-antithesis-synthesis, does not explain why the thesis requires an antithesis. However, the formula, abstract-negative-concrete, suggests a flaw, or perhaps an incomplete-ness, in any initial thesis—it is too abstract and lacks the negative of trial, error and experience. For Hegel, the concrete, the synthesis, the absolute, must always pass through the phase of the negative, in the journey to completion, that is, mediation. This is the essence of what is popularly called Hegelian Dialectics.
Well, I’ve just always used Thesis —> Antithesis —> Synthesis because it sounds rather elegant, is more easily light-goes-on graspable by the average guy, and that’s how I was first exposed to it over 25 years ago. And, I’ve always referred to it as Hegelian Dialectic for the same latter reason.
There’s another way to look at it, however, and it fits rather well when we’re talking generally about dietary recommendations around some central theme or combination of themes (e.g., low fat, low cholesterol, grain-based…FDA Food Guidelines). We’re talking about Dietary Narratives. So:
[Dietary] Narrative —> Counter-[Dietary] Narrative —> New [Dietary] Paradigm
…At which point, the new paradigm splits up into some number of different or competing narratives with different emphases, whole new narratives emerge by various implications of the new paradigm, or new science raises new questions. In dietary parlance, Grant Whores trash all their grant applications in draft and begin drafting new ones. At any rate, the NDP gives rise to various DNs, any number CDNs emerge to counter them and a NDP comes out of it. Rinse. Wash. Repeat.
So, back when I was attacking all of the bullshit of SAD, FDA guidelines, industry recommendations to eat a lot more of what cheap crap they package and peddle, and such fringe-ass fucktardedness as people eating less “animal” than grazing cattle, it was simply such a target rich environment that there was no need to quarrel with low-carbers or paleos. But here’s what’s most important about that: I saw it as counter-productive to attack LC, Paleo, or any of its advocates beyond nit-picks…BECAUSE WHY? Because both, separately or combined, were themselves excellent as a Counter Dietary Narratives to all the bullshit, and so for the other part, I promoted them heavily as counter-narratives far better than the conventional “wisdom.” Do you see?
Then, now see this. In my view, all the low hanging fruit has been scooped up by LC and/or Paleo and saving the world is just not my bag, man. I’m a Darwinian. Better to just have a lot of Paleo babies and let the Idiocracy do what it does. Life is short. I spend my efforts on people with at least enough brains to understand that a plate of whole, real food is superior to Pop Tarts and Hot Pockets, washed down with sugar water…or the refrigerated processed vegan food section at “Whole Foods” Market. Plus, there’s enough attention and anecdote out there that nobody hasn’t by now heard of the LC or Paleo diet.
There’s more. The way I see it, now we have the dominant counter-narratives of LC and/or Paleo being such purists, so intransigent, that’s it’s them, and not all the others, predominately, who are standing in the way of a new, synthesized paradigm. Over the years I’ve been observing, I’ve seen the CW side back off or change course on a number of things (absolute fat, saturated fat, more meat, eggs, butter over margarine, cholesterol, and others). In a sense, CW is leapfrogging LC and Paleo by assimilating and integrating some of the best ideas and science that make the most sense, and going straight to a new paradigm; while LC and Paleo expect to incorporate nothing much at all, and still uphold themselves as the best competing narrative. I predict this will fail and they’ll be increasingly marginalized into irrelevance.
I see signs of this all over. Even just last week, this article (Paleo diets = weight gain) covering this study (A low-carbohydrate high-fat diet increases weight gain and does not improve glucose tolerance, insulin secretion or β-cell mass in NZO mice). Yep, it’s a mouse study, which everyone jumped on immediately because it challenged stuff that’s taken for granted per the bias in the LC and Paleo communities. Yet, Peter at Hyperlipid references mouse studies all the damn time, has been doing so for years and years (and he’s a veterinarian), and how many of you have seen the folks who came out of the woodwork last week to bash this study ‘because: mice,’ bash Peter? See? If a mouse study can’t falsify or even call into question your biases, how then can one substantiate or confirm them with a different mouse study?
Low-carb, gluten free cake, anyone? It’s special. You can eat it, and have it too. See, the knee-jerk is to find anything to get adherents to not even look. Sure, they’ll link it up in order maintain a semblance of objectivity, people could read it—but most don’t really want to—but given almost any plausible reason, they’ll breathe a sigh of relief and just not go there. Mission accomplished. Want an example? Peruse 100% of the comments on Nora Gedgaudas’ take-down post. Who would wager money that any important number of those commenters absolutely read the whole study, or even the article? I doubt a single one. It’s all hand-clapping over a performance and expressions of gratitude over Nora being so diligent in relieving everyone of the imperative to think for themselves. Believe me, I’ve been there, on the receiving end of claps for telling people what they wanted to hear, and in a certain style.
But do you mean to tell me there’s absolutely nothing of potential value there, in that study? How about for someone like me, who has seen many of the same physiological responses reported by hundreds of commenters on LCHF diets over many years now? And what’s more, seeing the same people improve by getting to more of a rational…dare I say balanced…whole and real food diet that includes plenty of fat—but sensible amounts—and plenty of carbohydrate—but sensible amounts—primarily from whole cell carbohydrates (e.g., sugar is an acellular carbohydrate).
…Anyway, the foregoing puts me a in a conundrum. By introducing things for Paleo folks to think about, like potatoes since 2009, and a handful of other things since (resistant starch, legumes, honey, and even true whole grains recently), I have endeavored to improve the Paleo narrative by offering a slightly-counter narrative for incorporation. And on the method side, I’ve offered that there can be a wide spectrum, from pretty low carb to pretty high carb, pretty low protein to pretty high protein, mess with those primarily—and try to ditch most of the added fat. I believe it’s a formula for success all around, keeps the Paleo deal ahead of the competition, etc.
I’m happy to recognize that there are a special few out there, and probably others, who have tended to “nudge the narrative.” I’ll credit my three favorites: Sisson, Wolf, and Kresser. Denise Minger is great too, but she just doesn’t publish much. Feel free to give mention to others in comments. Then, of course there are some, primarily on the fitness side, who’ve never really bought the purest LCHF version of LC. Tons of those, but my favorites would be Keith Norris, Skyler Tanner, and Clifton Harski.
I’m still enthusiastic about encouraging Paleo to nudge forward, keep improving the narrative so that all the really important stuff (Real Whole Quality Food; quasi-evolutionary context; cook at home!) doesn’t get co-opted and just called The Real Food Diet (probably already exists, but Paleo is sexy and incorporates other lifestyle elements).
And please, folks, please don’t allow your commercial endeavors to become so important, so out of your control, that they lose all meaning beyond the marketing hype needed to meet a bottom line or bask in profits at the expense of integrity.
However…to my mind, the low-carbohydrate diet has such a systemic flaw that I find it unsupportable, except, and importantly, for therapeutic measure…such as weigh loss in extreme obesity, severe metabolic derangement, diabetes control for some (particularly those whose brains and diligence don’t function well as a pancreas), and the handful of other conditions where LC has demonstrated therapeutic efficacy, such as epilepsy.
The systemic flaw in my view is treating all carbohydrate roughly the same. And you can’t get around it. It’s not the Low-Some-Moderate-Some-High-Some-Carbs Diet. A carb is just a carb. Some number of grams of table sugar = some number of grams of potato. They’ll make distinctions for protein and fat, but not carbs, because it’s the low-carb diet. By definition. This isn’t workable, and the first thing Paleo movers and shakers ought do is distance themselves from it and stop promoting it by proxy. That said, I see no problem with, let’s say, a lowish-carb diet, and I think that was even Atkins’ original vision. That often enough describes me, that and moderate carb, with occasional forays now into even high carb, low fat (but from whole, cellular carbohydrate—to make an absolutely necessary distinction).
And I must just say it: I think the recent descent into virtually zero carbohydrate, low protein, and insanely high fat by circus-clown Jimmy Moore and his ilk is just shameful. At 80%+ fat, with protein limited to 15% in order to be truly ketogenic, you are flirting with problems of malnutrition down the road. Run the numbers yourself. Moreover, it’s a gut starving diet, which compounds the potential malnutrition, since gut microbes help malnutrition in a number of ways. How many times did you hear LCers and Paleos warn vegans that they may not have B12 problems now, but just wait for 7 years down the road?
Literally the only glimmer of hope I see is Mike Eades’ most recent post where, he said:
As you might imagine, my bias falls in with the notion that the increased carbs are a major force in the hugely increased rate of obesity. You might be surprised to learn, however, that I’ve always had a little niggling doubt that carbs alone were the cause.
Why have I had niggling doubts? Because of observations I’ve made over the course of my life.
When I was a kid growing up in the rural Ozark Mountains, everyone I knew ate sugar. A lot of it. Everyone, and I mean everyone, ate bread at every meal. As far as people then were concerned, it really was the staff of life. Same with potatoes, though they weren’t eaten at every meal. People celebrated holidays and get togethers with pies, cakes, cookies, brownies, cupcakes, etc. Most folks started off their day with a bowl (or two or three) of hot or cold cereal with milk and sugar on it.
That’s acknowledgement of falsification at best, a serious confounder at least. Unfortunately, I just now scanned through the 120 comments so far, and I’d say 90% or more were only about how to avoid the bad fats (presumably in their same LCHF regime). Now, I want to be fair and not pin more on Mike than he may have intended. He’s saying that he’s doubting that carbohydrate is the sole cause of obesity. More importantly, he’s not saying he thinks a vegetable-oil free diet but with whatever carbs could be as healthy or healthier than a low-carbohydrate diet, which is fair.
Absolute health is hard to pin down, and I personally believe any normal individual can be perfectly healthy in wide ranges of real foods from all macronutrient groups, in all kinds of ratios and all kinds of mixing things up. But see, there again, I’ve excluded low-carb from most of those possible mixes (and so does every single Blue Zone on the planet, blowing LC out of the water in terms of disease and longevity…so far as we know yet and I doubt there’s be any revelations about Inuit). Paleo need not be excluded as a friend of any Blue Zone—save for the vegetarian religious cult—and really ought to be talking about Blue Zones a lot more and perhaps, HGs a lot less.
In conclusion, there is no path to being right, only towards a place called less wrong. This is the whole elegance of the dialectic process I so embrace. Being wrong —> less wrong is baked in the whole cake if you proceed honestly. This is not a process that ought be dominated by looking for things that support you being “right,” but for things that make you right in the only instance you can truly be right: when you find something that proves you were wrong. Then you’re less wrong, and you keep going, to find out what else you’re wrong about, ad infinitum.