Thursday, January 17, 2008

Junk Science Runs Amok

I've seen so many stupid headlines this morning that I'm not even sure where to start. So I guess I'll just pick one and go with it.

How about this article on a website called ThirdAge. Initially I was just going ignore this piece of propaganda. It's just the same old thing we always hear. Atkins is bad for your heart, blah, blah, blah. But the last couple of paragraphs had me duct taping my head to prevent it from exploding, so I had to share at least that part.

Supposedly there was a recent study done by the University of Maryland Medical Center in Baltimore that concluded that the Atkins diet puts you at higher risk for heart disease after only one month. I say supposedly because they never actually provide the name of the study... or even a link to it.

Here's the part that caught my attention:

The Maryland researchers didn't let study participants actually lose weight for the study on diet's impact on heart disease, the leading cause of death in the United States, because they said benefits of weight loss might initially mask other risk factors.

For the study, 18 healthy adults followed each of the low-carb diets for a month with a month on their normal diets in between. The Atkins diet, where 50 percent of calories come from fat, increased levels of bad LDL cholesterol. It had a negative impact on blood vessel dilation, which can cause increased blood pressure. It also produced an increase in markers for inflammation, which is a gauge of a potential heart attack.

The parts I put in bold might as well had flashing neon signs around them when I first read them. So I'm assuming since they didn't want the participants of this study to lose weight, they kept their carbs high enough to keep them out of ketosis. They never tell us what the percentage of carbs/fat/protein are. If they didn't apply Atkins the way it was meant to be utilized, that would affect the outcome of the study tremendously. Who's to say that the participants weren't given a diet of 100 carbs or more (which is still low by American standards)? How do we know the carbs used in the menu planning weren't junk carbs? Sorry, I need more evidence to convince me they even tried to be objective here.

The second red flag was the fact that they were having people alternate their old diets with the Atkins diet every other month. How in the world do they expect to see results this way? Who's hair-brained idea was that? Blood lipids don't change over night. It takes time. Essentially they were using Atkins and improving lipid profiles, only to turn around the next month and undo all that was staring to change for the better. Then back to Atkins, then back to SAD (Standard American Diet). Do you see the idiocy of this? It makes absolutely no sense.

Then they insist that it raises bad LDL, blood pressure, and inflammation. This runs contradictory to every person I know who has had their lipid profile checked after the first few months on Atkins. I don't know a single, solitary person who has had these results when properly following the Atkins diet, and I know a LOT of people doing Atkins.

Added: I just did a search on "diets impact on heart disease study" and found the study on the University of Maryland Medical Center website. They give a bit more detail than the above article:

It turns out they had the participants, which were 9 women and 9 men, try one of three diets for a month, then go on their regular diet for a month, then try one of the two remaining diets, then again on their regular diet, then try the last diet. If their weight fluctuated more than two pounds in their weekly weigh-ins, they then adjusted the diet to stop the weight loss. (Again they had to have made modifications to the Atkins diet... Most people lose more than two lbs the first week!)

From the UMMC website:

The researchers used blood tests to determine levels of blood fats, including cholesterol, and markers for inflammation. They used ultrasound equipment to measure whether blood vessels dilated after a month on each diet, which is a healthy response, or whether the vessels constricted, an unhealthy response.

Ok. Pop quiz! Who can tell me what's wrong with this picture? They are still testing cholesterol. Cholesterol has no effect on heart health. Studies have never proven they do, yet they keep beating this dead horse.

Then there is always my favorite remark such as this:

Dr. Miller adds that many people on the Atkins Diet cannot stick to it, so the weight starts coming back. Because of that diet’s tendency for inflammation, he says weight gain on Atkins could be a double whammy.

Again, I know a lot of people who are sticking to the Atkins diet. Many of them have been doing it for years and not one of them have keeled over with a heart attack. In fact, they are in the best health of their lives! And does this statement imply that a low-fat diet is easier to stick to? I personally know more people, that have quit low-fat dieting, than I can count.

There are a few others articles of junk science I could share, but we'll save those for later. Comments anyone?


OhYeahBabe said...

I can't imagine why anyone would fund such crappy studies. Poor design, and poor outcome because they only see what they are looking for. Grr.

Sparky's Girl said...

They get funded by companies and councils who want to be proven right. Who wants to fund a properly conducted study if it might prove them wrong? It's just easier to tweak the results or leave important factors out.