Dear Ms Pike,
announced a new campaign, to be conducted by your government at taxpayer
expense, that would endeavor to alert Victorian residents to the alleged
"dangers" of low-carbohydrate diets. To the best of my
knowledge, this action is unprecedented in Australian political history,
for no state government has ever taken it upon themselves to issue
warnings against a specific diet, despite the fact that certain dietary
regimens have indeed been directly linked to ill-health and death. Such
potentially dangerous nutritional regimes include vegan diets, which
have claimed the lives of numerous infants around the world, and
resulted in legal proceedings against the misguided parents of these
youngsters.(1) Along with their potentially fatal effects on infants,
vegan diets have also demonstrated the ability to harm children,
adolescents, and even adults. So far, while you have had much to say
about low-carb nutrition, you have not uttered a word about vegan diets.
Before I discuss just why you are so wrong on low-carb diets, lets take
a closer look at vegan regimens.
Vegan Diets - Fast
Track To Ill-Health
many nutritional shortcomings, vegetarian diets supply sub-optimal
amounts of vitamin B12 and essential long-chain omega-3 fatty acids such
as DHA and EPA. B12 is essential for optimal cognitive function, while
DHA is a major component of brain tissue. Not surprisingly, analyses of
blood samples from vegetarians consistently show lower dietary and lower
blood levels of long-chain omega-3 fatty acids. (2-7) These fatty acids
can be formed in the body from plant-based omega-3 fats, but numerous
studies show that the conversion rate is very low.(8,9) Because of their
complete abstinence from animal foods, deficiencies of these and other
nutrients are much more pronounced in vegans than in lacto-ovo
vegetarians. Below are observations, published in peer-reviewed
journals, of the harm that can befall those following these truly
- In 1986,
Dutch researchers observed that vegan infants had markedly lower B12
levels and impaired psychomotor functioning when compared to control
infants.(10,11) On the basis of these findings, the researchers made
dietary recommendations to the families of the infants, who
subsequently began switching their youngsters to lacto-vegetarian,
lacto-ovovegetarian, or even omnivorous diets. On average, the
children were six years old when the dietary change took place. In
2000, researchers reported on follow-up examinations of these same
subjects, who were now aged between 10 to 16. Two-thirds of the
formerly vegan adolescents still suffered from B12 deficiency,
whereas all of the subjects in a similarly aged omnivorous control
group had normal B12 levels. When given a series of cognitive tests,
the ex-vegan group achieved poorer results than the
lifetime-omnivore group. A significant association was found between
low B12 status and poorer performance on tests measuring fluid
intelligence, spatial ability, and short-term memory. Because fluid
intelligence involves reasoning, the capacity to solve complex
problems, abstract thinking ability, and the ability to learn, the
authors pointed out that: "Any defect in this area may have
far-reaching consequences for individual functioning."
researchers found that, compared to omnivores and lacto-ovovegetarians,
vegans suffered a higher frequency of abnormal electroencephalogram
(EEG) readings, a test designed to detect abnormalities in the
electrical activity of the brain (13). In one of their studies, B12
supplementation improved EEG scores in most of those registering
abnormalities, but three of the vegans failed to respond to heavy
supplementation with either oral or injected B12.
- In 2000,
French researchers reported the case of a 33-year-old patient who
lost most of his eyesight after following a strict vegan diet since
the age of 20. Ironically, the man had adopted the diet for
"improved health", and did not use any supplements. Blood
samples showed that his levels of vitamin B1, B12, A, C, D, E, zinc,
and selenium were all measurably below normal. Vitamin B12, in
particular, is vitally important for maintaining the health of the
optic nerve that transmits signals from the eye to the brain.
Administration of intramuscular and oral multivitamins normalized
blood levels of the aforementioned nutrients, but his eyesight did
not recover. They concluded that the nutritional deficiencies in the
patient's vegan diet - particularly the insufficient amount of
vitamin B12 he had been absorbing - were the most likely cause for
the optic nerve deterioration that had resulted in irreversible
recent newspaper article ('Health
fears for Atkins diet', Hearld Sun, March 15, 2004),
you stated that: "When we know something is bad for people, like
smoking, then we let people know what the health risks are". I
eagerly await to see if your department issues any warnings against
vegan diets, for unlike low-carb diets, these posess a demonstrated poor
And what about low-carb
In response to
criticisms of your sadly misguided campaign against low-carbohydrate
diets, you also stated in the aforementioned article: "Some
people might come out and say, 'This is a nanny state - now they are
telling us what to eat' ... But while I don't think it is the role of
the politician to dictate individual preference and behaviour, it is my
role to point out when something can actually harm you."
Seeing as you
are taking it upon yourself to become a taxpayer-funded dietary
commentator, it behooves you to learn as much as possible about the
dietary regimens you intend to comment on. The statements you have made
so far in regards to low-carbohydrate diets clearly show that you have
not done this.
You claim that
low-carbohydrate diets raise the risk of cancer, heart disease,
osteoporosis, and even depression. From what peer-reviewed literature
did you obtain such information?
The claim that
low-carbohydrate diets raise the risk of heart disease strains all
boundaries of logic. Low-carbohydrate diets, via a reduction in cereal
grain intake and an increase in meat and fruit and vegetable intake,
increase the ingestion of many key heart-healthy nutrients. These
include vitamin C, bioflavonoids, magnesium, carnitine, long-chain
omega-3 fatty acids, vitamins B6, B12, and folic acid.
and vitamin C are important for the formation and maintenance of the
collagen inside our arteries. Vitamins B6, B12 and folic acid lower
blood levels of homocysteine and C-reactive protein (the former is
believed to be directly atherogenic, the latter is an accurate measure
of inflammatory activity in the body and a far superior predictor of
future CHD risk than LDL cholesterol).(15-17) Long-chain omega-3 fatty
acids, meanwhile, have demonstrated an ability to reduce CHD and overall
mortality in randomized clinical trials, not just in the
wishful-thinking minds of health bureaucrats. Magnesium and carnitine
are essential for muscular contraction and energy production; both have
been shown to lower mortality from CHD and heart failure in overseas
trials.(18-20) When researchers compared a low-carbohydrate diet with a
high-carb diet, they found that the former increased carnitine
absorption, despite the equal carnitine contents of the two diets.(21)
"healthy" cereal grains (whole or otherwise) contain no
vitamin C, no B12, contain only omega-6 fatty acids but no omega-3 fats,
contain phytates that impair the absorption of magnesium, and contain a
substance known as pyridoxine glucoside, which has been shown to reduce
the availability of vitamin B6 by 75-80%.(22) The only dietary
intervention trial to compare the effects of increased whole-grain
intake on CHD outcomes was the DART trial; in this study, men assigned
to eat more brown bread and wheat fiber actually suffered a slight
increase in CHD mortality (in the same study, men who were instructed to
eat a low-saturated fat diet experienced no change, while men instructed
to consume fish/fish oil reduced their CHD risk by almost a third).(23)
Sorry, but I
don't see any reason why cereal grains should even be included in
anyone's diet, let alone form the foundation of said diet. No-one
"needs" cereal grains; in fact, those with gluten sensitivity
and celiac disease should quite literally avoid them like the plague!
Maybe you would care to include these facts in your future public
Meat is by far
the richest source of carnitine, vitamin B6, B12 and (in the case of
organ meats), folic acid. Animal foods are also the only
non-supplemental source of long-chain omega-3 fatty acids (brain tissue
is the richest source, followed by fatty fish).
plant foods (fruits, vegetables, and nuts) - the kind encouraged by
virtually all of the current crop of low-carb authors - contain
magnesium, folic acid, bioflavonoids, and are the richest dietary
sources of vitamin C.
Those who are
still obsessed with "risk factors" (e.g, much of the medical
establishment) should know that low-carb diets typically raise HDL
cholesterol, improve the HDL:LDL ratio, and lower elevated triglyceride
levels, while low-fat, high-carbohydrate diets often have the opposite
effect. In clinical studies, low-carbohydrate diets have repeatedly been
shown to produce significant fat loss; overweight and obesity is
well-known to be associated with an increased risk of heart disease (and
one's food choices, adopting a low-carb diet may result in an increase
of saturated fat intake. Despite the hysterical anti-saturated fat
rantings of mainstream low-fat proponents, there exists no sound
scientific evidence whatsoever to support any causative role for these
fats in the pathogenesis of CHD. Consider carefully the following facts,
available in the scientific literature for anyone who cares to look:
decades worth of dietary intervention trials have completely failed to
produce any reduction in CHD that can be attributed to
cholesterol-lowering or saturated fat restriction.(24)
the only cholesterol-lowering strategy that has shown any noteworthy
benefit in the reduction of CHD - the use of statin drugs - does not
even work by cholesterol-lowering. These drugs operate via
anti-inflammatory, artery-dilating, and antioxidant mechanisms.(25-41)
proclamations of many that meat and animal fats cause cancer are rather
remarkable considering the complete lack of reliable clinical evidence
to support such a notion. Even the allegedly "strong"
epidemiological evidence is highly suspect. For example, if meat and
saturated fat caused cancer, then vegetarians should by all rights
experience lower rates of cancer. As a pooled analysis of the largest
vegetarian studies shows, they don't.(42)
One of the few
randomized clinical trials to examine the above topic was the Polyp
Prevention Trial. In this study, over two-thousand patients who had one
or more confirmed adenomatous colorectal polyps (adenomatous polyps are
considered forerunners to colorectal cancer and are used as markers for
colorectal cancer risk) removed within the previous 6 months were
randomly assigned to follow either their usual diet, or a low fat, high
fiber diet. Compared to the controls, subjects assigned to the
high-fiber diet significantly increased their intake of whole-grains and
legumes, and ate an average of 2.25 more servings of fruits and
vegetables each day. The intervention group was also advised to reduce
their consumption of red meat, which they did.
consumption in the control group averaged 34%, while those following the
treatment diet reduced their fat intake to only 24%. After 4 years,
colorectal cancer was diagnosed in 10 subjects from the high fiber
group, and only 4 from the usual diet group eating more red meat. Even
after excluding those diagnosed within the first year of the study, the
results were similarly unfavorable; 4 cases in the intervention group as
compared to 2 in the control group. Polyp recurrence was virtually
identical between the two groups.(43)
studies, the one fat that shows consistent tumor-promoting effects is
the omega-6 fatty acid linoleic acid (found in so-called
"heart-healthy" polyunsaturated vegetable oils).(44) While
animal fat consumption in America has remained stable over the last 100
years (in terms of grams consumed per person per day), the consumption
of vegetable oils and margarines has risen dramatically.(45,46) During
this time, age-adjusted cancer rates have also risen in both males and
females. To hold stable animal fat consumption responsible for rising
cancer rates requires a complete abandonment of one's rational
The claim that low-carbohydrate diets will cause cancer appears
especially fanciful considering they have been shown to reduce tumor
size in animal studies and have been used with success as part of the
treatment of cancer patients.(46a,b,c)
Ms. Pike, the
well-worn claim that high-protein diets can cause osteoporosis really is
a bad joke, considering that it is a well-established fact that protein
is an essential component of bones, and that epidemiological studies
repeatedly show that it is low-protein intakes, not high protein
intakes, that are associated with reduced bone density.(47)
typically claimed that high protein intakes will cause an increase in
calcium excretion. Researchers recently examined this premise by
performing a series of experiments in which intestinal calcium
absorption was measured (using dual stable calcium isotopes) in pre- and
postmenopausal women who were fed diets of varying protein content.
Unlike a number of similar previous experiments, the diets of the women
were tightly controlled, and the wide variations between individuals in
calcium absorption were countered by using each women as her own
control. Under these well-controlled conditions, the researchers found
that calcium absorption was significantly lower during periods of low
protein consumption (0.8g/kg and below) than during periods of high
protein consumption. The researchers concluded, in a rather understated
manner, that these studies "call the traditional high protein
hypothesis to question". No kidding!(47)
The claim that
low-carb diets cause depression has been doing the media rounds recently
after Massachussetts Institute of Technology researcher Judith Wurtman
and her team allegedly found an increase in depressive mood symptoms on
people eating high protein diets compared to those following low-protein
diets. This study has not yet been published, so there is no information
on the exact diet the control and intervention groups followed, the
methods used to determine mood changes, etc, etc. I contacted the MIT
media department shortly after news of the study broke requesting more
information, and never received a reply. One should refrain from using
this study as evidence until its results are peer-reviewed and
published. It should be noted that Judith Wurtman has authored books
promoting low-fat, high-carbohydrate diets. While that in itself is no
guarantee of impropriety or bias, she can hardly be considered a totally
impartial voice on the subject. During the nineties, Wurtman also
published several papers singing the praises of the now defunct diet
drug dexfenfluramine - ironically, for its ability to reduce
overconsumption of carbohydrate-rich foods!(47a,b) Dexfenfluramine was
eventually pulled from the market by the FDA in 1997 due to safety
And that's not all...
Ms. Pike, if
you intend to be a credible and objective source of information to the
Victorian public on low-carb diets, then it is incumbent upon you to
point out, in addition to their alleged flaws, any health benefits they
may possess. Researchers have indeed uncovered several characteristics
of carbohydrate-reduced diets that could prove extremely valuable in the
quest for improved public health.
have been over a dozen randomized dietary intervention trials
published since the mid-eighties, ranging in duration from four
weeks to one year, that directly compared the weight-loss efficacy
of low- and high-carbohydrate diets. None of these has shown
superior weight loss on the latter, apart from a highly suspect
here for details)
conducted by Richard Fleming, the Nebraska cardiologist who obtained
the late Dr. Atkins death report under highly dubious circumstances.
In every study except Fleming's, low carbohydrate diets produced
either markedly superior weight loss or statistically
non-significant differences in weight loss.(48-65) Despite the
oft-repeated claim that low-carb diets are hard to stick to, most
studies reporting drop out rates have found higher rates of
attrition in the low fat, high-carbohydrate diet groups.
- In addition
to spiraling obesity rates, we are currently experiencing an
epidemic of type 2 diabetes, the prevalence of which began
accelerating skywards soon after orthodoxy embraced the low-fat,
high-carbohydrate paradigm. Numerous studies have compared the
effects of lower- versus higher-carbohydrate diets on blood glucose
control and, in virtually every instance, the
carbohydrate-restricted regimens produced superior results.(66-81)
Given that the United Nations has forecast over 300 million
diabetics worldwide by 2025, the potentially beneficial public
health implications of carbohydrate-restriction are enormous.
Recently, a team of researchers from Kuwait University placed 102
obese adults on a low-carbohydrate diet. For three months, these
folks ate 20-30 grams of carbs per day from green vegetables and
salad, and 80-100 grams per day of protein in the form of meat,
fish, fowl, eggs, shellfish, and cheese. In addition to losing over
13 kg (27lbs) of unwanted chub, the participants lowered their
fasting blood glucose levels from 7.0mmol/l to 5.4 mmol/l.(82)
Ms. Pike, please take a good look at those fasting blood glucose
figures. If you are familiar with the new guidelines of the Expert
Committee on the Diagnosis and Classification of Diabetes Mellitus,
you will know that a fasting blood glucose reading of 7.0 is the
lower limit for diagnosis of diabetes, while a reading of 5.4 is
inside the recently-lowered normal-range limit.(83) In other words,
these dieters commenced the study with a mean fasting glucose level
in the diabetic range, and after twelve weeks had returned this to
the normal range!
Here in Victoria, the incidence of diabetes is over 7 percent (and
increasing), while the prevalence of overweight and obesity is
estimated to be 61%, figures similar to those seen in North
America.(84) Why on earth are you trying to scare Victorians away
from an effective treatment for both of these conditions? If you are
truly seeking a solution to the growing diabetes problem here in
Victoria, you should at the very least be calling for more research
into these diets. Instead, you are diverting the money that could
fund such trials into warning people away from the very diets that
could save their lives!
carbohydrate diets are proving themselves to be invaluable in the
most surprising of circumstances. High-protein diets have been
traditionally regarded as a no-go zone for individuals with kidney
impairment, but in a recent issue of Diabetes, Italian
researchers reported that a special low-carbohydrate, unrestricted
protein diet, based on low-iron foods, produced dramatic benefits in
patients with advanced kidney disease. Compared to patients
following a traditional low fat, low-protein, high-carbohydrate
diet, those on the low-iron, low-carbohydrate diet were 50% less
likely to progress to the point where they either died or required
kidney replacement.(85) Very low carbohydrate, or ketogenic, diets
are also a well-established and effective treatment for childhood
diets may eventually prove themselves to have life-extending
properties. In animal research, the only consistent intervention
that produces increases in life span is calorie-restriction. Whether
the same applies to humans has not yet been established, but we do
know that cutting calorie intake often produces marked improvements
in important health parameters, such as blood glucose control.
Unfortunately, telling people to voluntarily limit their calorie
intake on a long-term basis tends to be a very poorly-received piece
of advice. Low carbohydrate diets, however, may render such
unpopular admonitions redundant. Dietary intervention studies have
revealed a rather unique phenomenon; subjects following low
carbohydrate diets, despite being told to limit only carbohydrate
intake and to eat unrestricted amounts of protein and fat, often
inadvertently reduce their total calorie intake to levels similar to
those seen in subjects who have been explicitly instructed to lower
their total calorie intake.
possible life-extending effects of low carbohydrate diets have not
escaped the attention of longevity researchers at Baltimore's
National Institute of Aging. In a recent journal article they
stated: "The Atkins Diet is ketogenic resulting in reduced
appetite and therefore a reduced calorie intake; individuals who can
comply with the diet may therefore exhibit some physiological
changes observed in rodents and monkeys subjected to caloric
restriction including reduced body weight, and decreased insulin and
Do Your Homework.
Ms. Pike, it
is unfortunate that you did not sit down and review the evidence before
embarking on your misguided crusade to save Victorians from the supposed
harm that awaits them if they adopt low-carbohydrate nutrition.
Scandalous media reports arising from misleading press releases by
vested interests do not constitute reasonable grounds for commencing a
campaign that has the potential to affect public health, for better or
the recent media commotion over low-carbohydrate diets can be traced
back to an American vegan organization known as the Physicians Committee
for Responsible Medicine. If you are not familiar with this group, whose
behavior so far has been anything but responsible, then I suggest you click
"Committee" in fact serves as a front-group for the People for
Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), a radical animal rights and vegan
activist group that has given documented financial aid to green
your heroic streak was triggered into action after Australia's most
popular current affairs show featured footage of a Melbourne
nutritionist claiming that "medically-supervised low-carbohydrate
diets" had caused sixty deaths. You should know that this
individual was referring to deaths that occurrred over twenty years ago
among individuals following liquid protein diets, a crucial fact that
was conveniently ommitted (click
here to see for yourself).
These deaths did not occur among people following the current crop of
popular low-carbohydrate diets, people eating real food - you know,
meats, eggs, dairy, fruits, nuts, and vegetables! Needless to say,
several hundred calories per day derived solely from protein-based
powder and water does not constitute a healthy diet, regardless of
whether it accompanies a low or high carbohydrate intake.
It should also
be mentioned that the individual who appeared on A Current Affair
issuing these misleading claims also has authored a number of low-fat
diet books. You may like to read a detailed critique of this author's
work, and his subsequent reply to this critique, at the following links:
How Low Will the Anti-Low-Carb Crowd Go?
Reply to Bilsborough
Ms. Pike, Your
Actions Have Consequences - Bad Ones!
ago, I received an e-mail from a business owner in NSW who, a little
while back, started an innovative low-carb meal delivery service in
response to the growing popularity of low-carb diets. The ready-made
meals delivered by her business include lean meats and vegetables, and,
to avert the stigma associated with saturated fats (no matter how
misguided this sentiment may be), derive their fat content mainly from
monounsaturated sources. Until recently, this individual was doing a
roaring trade, having established a franchise chain of 15 outlets
delivering delicious low-carb meals around the country. This
entrepreneurial mother-of-three saw a niche and filled it, via honest
and productive effort (something that more of our politicans should try
to emulate), and started reaping the rewards that were rightly hers.
That is, until
some misguided politician appeared on national TV and in the nation's
newspapers announcing her latest novel waste of money - an
"Since the negative PR has appeared in the recent news, my
company is really suffering", said our understandably
disheartened low-carb entrepreneur. "Here in Sydney it was as if
someone has 'turned off the tap', that's how quiet our phones have been.
It is a devastating blow to our businesses from which we hope to
recover, but there are no guarantees."
stop ringing because they had subsequently died from heart disease and
cancer, or because they were hospitalized with broken osteoporotic bones
and/or depression, or because they had fallen prey to some other alleged
adverse effect of low-carb diets?
stopped ringing because, not being familiar with the scientific
literature, they relied on the media to deliver their diet and health
information. So when a bunch of radical vegan activists from North
America tried to infer that the death of the late Dr. Atkins was a
result of his own dietary prescriptions, and the media lapped it up,
they became worried. When some axe-grinding nutritionist from Melbourne
appeared on A Current Affair and told the nation that low-carb
diets had killed sixty people, they got scared. And when a Victorian
politician announced that low-carbohydrate diets were such a threat to
public health that her government was going to actively warn people away
from them, people ran for the doors. Not being familiar with the
scientific literature, which actually indicates that low-carb diets
possess an array of favorable qualities and are definitely worthy of
increasing research attention, these folks evidently believed what they
were hearing on TV and in the newspapers.
volumes I read and hear about how people supposedly distrust politicians
and how they distrust what they read in the papers and see on TV, a
significant portion of the population in this country appears to have
been suckered beautifully by yet another fallacious government and media
Forgive me if
I'm wrong, but I thought the notion of someone getting off their butt
and "having a go" was supposed to be admired here in
Australia. I don't know about others, but I think it is extremely unfair
for someone who was making an honest, productive living to now be faced
with the prospect of going out of business simply because of misleading,
I also think
it is extremely unfair for some politician to take my tax money, and use
it to tell me how I should abandon the very diet that has personally
brought me nothing but benefits! Puhleez!
unfair of all is that thousands of people are being scared away from
diets that have clearly been shown to benefit a number of common
conditions - diabetes and obesity, for example - and hold great promise
for treating many other ailments.
Ms. Pike, I
know you have already travelled a fair way down your proposed path, and
it might make you look rather silly if you abandon your sadly-misguided
anti-low-carb campaign after creating such a commotion in the media.
Nonetheless, I urge you to study the scientific evidence thoroughly, and
then carefully reconsider your current stance. There are far better ways
to spend taxpayer funds than on discouraging people from trying diets
that may just benefit their health, and from sending flourishing
businesses down the tube. I know such a change in stance will not
impress the flour and baking industry, who are lobbying hard to try and
avoid the same fate that is currently befalling their counterparts in
the US, where low-carb diets have undergone phenomenal growth, but I
think your primary concern should be public health, not the financial
well-being of vested industries.
To tell Bronwyn Pike that taxpayer funds
should be used in a more responsible manner, e-mail: email@example.com
Government Rolls Out Anti-Low-Carb Propaganda Machine
loss fads: the facts and fallacies
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Anthony Colpo is an independent researcher and
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Disclaimer: This article
is presented for information purposes only and is not intended as
medical advice. Persons with medical conditions should institute dietary
changes whilst being monitored by a competent medical practitioner.
© Anthony Colpo 2004. http://www.theomnivore.com