Fat People Lose Their Thinking Skills Faster Than Thin People

Lifted from Business Insider, who lifts stuff all the time:

Fatter people are more likely to lose their memories and brain power quicker than those who are thinner, according to British research.

Those who are obese, and have other health problems such as high blood pressure and high cholesterol, lose their memory and thinking skills almost a quarter faster, found researchers at University College London.

Their study was based on almost 6,500 Whitehall civil servants, whose health was monitored between the ages of 50 and 60.
They were weighed and measured, their blood pressure and cholesterol levels were taken, and they were also asked what medication they were taking.

In addition, they were asked to perform mental tests three times during the decade, which were used to assess memory and other cognitive skills.

Of the 6,401 civil servants in the study, nine per cent (582) were obese. Of those, 350 were also classed as “metabolically abnormal” – meaning they had two additional risk factors such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol, were taking medication for either condition, or were diabetic.

The researchers found the obese tended to lose their mental powers faster than their thinner colleagues, while those who also had additional conditions lost their memory and thinking skills fastest of all.

The latter group experienced a 22.5 percent faster decline on their cognitive test scores over the decade than those who were healthy.

Archana Singh-Manoux, of the Paris research institute Inserm, who contributed to the study, said their results indicated the idea that people could be obese but still healthy was flawed.

Shirley Cramer, chief executive of Alzheimer’s Research UK, said: “We do not yet know why obesity and metabolic abnormality are linked to poorer brain performance, but with obesity levels on the rise, it will be important to delve a little deeper into this association.

“While the study itself focuses on cognitive decline, previous research suggests that a healthy diet, regular exercise, not smoking and controlling blood pressure and cholesterol in midlife can also help stave off dementia.

“With dementia figures spiralling towards a million, the findings suggest we should be conscious of our general health throughout life.”

Of course, it could have something to do with being a fat British civil servant – these’s types of observational studies are fraught with danger when you start extrapolating their conclusions to people outside the study.

Still interesting, though it doesn’t explain all the thin stupid people – fat people have *certainly* not cornered the market on stupidity, as can be evidenced by reading the news.

What Is the World’s ‘Best Diet’?

I just stumbled over Yoni Freedhoff the other day when I read his article in US  News. I’m going to be checking this guy out much closer. He’s a bariatric physician in Canada, and wrote this:

Your best diet is the one that keeps your calories reduced, your hunger at bay, your cravings controlled, and provides you with a regimen that isn’t merely one you can tolerate, but rather one you can honestly enjoy. The reason there are so many diet books and gurus out there is that there truly isn’t one right way to go.

So feel free to wade through the bookshelves, sample from the gurus, and poll your best friends. They may offer up some really wonderful suggestions and strategies. But ultimately, never let yourself get cornered into a dietary pigeonhole. If one approach isn’t working for you, try to identify what it is you’d need to tweak in order to like it. And when it comes to those real-life moments where what you want doesn’t fit with your chosen approach, try to remember that perhaps it’s that very inflexibility that’s led you to give up altogether in the past.

Live the healthiest life that you can enjoy, not the healthiest life that you can tolerate.

like that – a doc who understands happiness must be part of any weight loss plan.

Read the whole article – it’s worth your time.

I’m going to be reading his blog Weighty Matters very closely in the next few weeks, to be sure.

Know It All Diet Researcher Says He Knows It All – No Further Discussion Necessary

Not too long ago I read an interesting article in the New York Times entitled In Dieting, Magic Isn’t a Substitute for Science. It starts with a question that deserves a thoughtful answer:

Is a calorie really just a calorie? Do calories from a soda have the same effect on your waistline as an equivalent number from an apple or a piece of chicken?

The reason the NYT is even asking this question now is because of the research that recently came out that seems to indicate that high protein or Atkins-like diets have a small metabolic advantage over simply calorie-counting.

Now – the study was small – it is really, really hard to do this sort of research. Expensive and time-consuming – and unless you do these studies on prisoners, it’s hard to be sure exactly what these subjects ate exactly. Nonetheless, it is an interesting finding, when put into perspective as less than definitive.

The NYT talked to Dr. Jules Hirsch, emeritus professor and emeritus physician in chief at Rockefeller University, who has been researching obesity for nearly 60 years, who quickly dismissed this study as so much hogwash.

Now, I don’t want to be accused of taking a cheap shot at a gentleman I do not know, but the good doctor has been involved in research for 60 years, during which time the population has only gotten fatter. Something’s going on here:

Fat People Are Destroying America

Thank GOD we’ve sorted that out.

Some of us thought it was Wall Street destroying Amreica. Some thought it was illegal immigrants. Others thought it was moral decay.

All wrong – its fat people doing it.

Fat people, according to this article in Reuters, are a drain on the economy. Let me cherry pick a few of the high points in this insightful article:

  • U.S. hospitals are ripping out wall-mounted toilets and replacing them with floor models to better support obese patients.
  • The Federal Transit Administration wants buses to be tested for the impact of heavier riders on steering and braking.
  • Cars are burning nearly a billion gallons of gasoline more a year than if passengers weighed what they did in 1960.
  •  the obese are absent from work more often than people of healthy weight.
  • Even when poor health doesn’t keep obese workers home, it can cut into productivity, as they grapple with pain or shortness of breath or other obstacles to working all-out.

Sadly, we fat folks disappoint the public health researchers because, unlike smokers, we don’t die off as quickly, reducing the societal burden.

It must be self-satisfying to thin folks to be able to blame our frigging GASOLINE CONSUMPTION on fat people instead of the fact that they all want to drive gas-guzzling SUVs. And of course, businesses are concerned that they won’t be able to work you to death as fast if you’re obese.

What I want to know now is which candidate – Romney or Obama – are going to do something about these fat people.

Is This Pro-Atkins Article Too Good To Be True?

From the Palm Beach Daily News:

Johns Hopkins researchers have made the proponents of the always controversial Atkins diet very happy.

A recent study presented at the American Heart Association’s March meeting lauded low-carb diets such as Atkins for producing weight loss and belly fat loss — linked to heart disease — more efficiently than low-fat diets.

It goes on:

And in case this point was lost to those critics of Atkins, a press release from Johns Hopkins said, “These results show that weight loss, along with exercise, is important for improving vascular health, and suggest that following a low-carb diet rather than the conventionally recommended low-fat diet for weight loss is not a concern in terms of vascular health.”

If I were a shareholder in Atkins Nutritionals, which I’m not, I might be tempted to say, “so there” to all those naysayers.

But I’ll let Atkins staff do that.

“The findings from the Johns Hopkins study demonstrate what we already know to be true: Atkins has many scientifically validated health benefits, including improvements in cardiovascular health markers,” said Colette Heimowitz, vice president of nutrition and education for Atkins Nutritionals Inc., in a press release Atkins quickly put out. Continue reading “Is This Pro-Atkins Article Too Good To Be True?”

Why Don’t We Keep This Low Carb Stuff to Ourselves?

In my ninth year doing this, I am more convinced than ever that eating copious amounts of saturated fats for nearly a decade has not only proved harmless to my health, but has prevented me from being 60 pounds heavier, diabetic, and having to be treated for GERD. It’s probably also prevented me from sky-high cholesterol and unmanageable high-blood pressure to boot.

I was so convinced of this that I maintain this blog to spread the good news about achievable weight loss and better health.

But is this a stupid thing to do? Continue reading “Why Don’t We Keep This Low Carb Stuff to Ourselves?”

Great News, America! It Appears We Can’t Possibly Get Fatter Than We Are

The Wall Street Journal reported that, for some reason, America’s rising obesity rate stopped rising in 2003.

Actually, it’s not just the good ‘ol USA that this is happening in, but the entire world.

Researchers don’t know why, exactly, so they trot this out – at least this is the summary from the reporter:

The reasons for the leveling off — like the sharp increase that preceded it — aren’t precisely clear, the papers say. Flegal and her colleagues cite the usual array of presumed factors: an expansion of the food supply, energy imbalance, the possible effect of environmental endocrine disruptors. But they say more research is needed into the factors causing the sharp rise, as well as the plateau now.

Coincidentally, 2003 coincides with the beginning of the Atkins low carb craze.

Just sayin…


Fatty Foods Addictive as Cocaine in Growing Body of Science

Is the mainstream media starting to take notice?

This article from Bloomberg is a must-read, I assure you. It discusses research that shows the addictive properties – real, serious, addictive responses to junk food as serious as the chemical dependency of drugs – occur.

I think that while the entire article is worthy of a careful read, one aspect jumped out at me – the total unscientific response the researchers got when they initially tried to get funding for the research:

Scientists studying food addiction have had to overcome skepticism, even from their peers. In the late 1990s, NIDA’s Volkow, then a drug addiction researcher at Brookhaven National Laboratory on Long Island, applied for a National Institutes of Health grant to scan obese people to see whether their brain reward centers were affected. Her grant proposal was turned down.

“I couldn’t get it funded,” she said in an interview. “The response was, there is no evidence that food produces addictive-like behaviors in the brain.”

Wait…isn’t the point of research to find evidence?

I guess if you don’t look for something, it doesn’t exist…right?

Oh. Notice the unconscious bias in the headline. It should be ‘fattening foods’, not ‘fatty foods’…

Food Paranoia

You know how you sometimes know things but really don’t know them?

I had come across this article in the New York Daily News about veggie burgers. Veggie burgers are looked upon by many as superior replacement for the much-maligned hamburger made from ground up cows. Leaving out the fact that cows are considered a stupid, but somewhat charming and endearing animal that no one wants to watch being ground up, veggie burgers are considered much healthier than the flesh of our barnyard friend and resident of children’s books. It is also supposed to be better for the environment: you picture fields of crops gently swaying in the breeze rather than the chaos of the feedlot and the horror of the slaughterhouse.

Most people don’t picture vats of hexane, a petrochemical byproduct found in gasoline, being used to extract the oil from the pesticide-laden GMO soy that makes up the main ingredient of your oh-so-low-fat veggie burger.

Yep – to make that veggie burger – or a lot of them, at least, you take the soybeans, crush them up, and soak them in this gasoline byproduct, which acts as a solvent and helps the manufacturer extract the oils from the beans and allow the consumer to feel proud of how little fat they are eating compared to those nasty, nasty burgers made from animals.

Here’s what Wikipedia has to say about the toxicity of hexane – slightly redacted so you don’t nod off:

The long-term toxicity of n-hexane in humans is well known.[6] Extensive peripheral nervous system failure is known to occur in humans chronically exposed to levels of n-hexane ranging from 400 to 600 ppm, with occasional exposures up to 2,500 ppm. The initial symptoms are tingling and cramps in the arms and legs, followed by general muscular weakness. In severe cases, atrophy of the skeletal muscles is observed, along with a loss of coordination and problems of vision. Similar symptoms are observed in animal models. They are associated with a degeneration of the peripheral nervous system (and eventually the central nervous system), starting with the distal portions of the longer and wider nerve axons.

In 1994, n-hexane was included in the list of chemicals on the US Toxic Release Inventory (TRI).[8] In 2001, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency issued regulations on the control of emissions of hexane gas due to its potential carcinogenic properties and environmental concerns.[9]


Anyway, it can’t be all that bad, right? Manufacturers must get all that stuff out. When the extraction is done, it must be completely removed, or evaporate…or something…right?

Again, from Wikipedia:

According to a report by the Cornucopia Institute, hexane is used to extract oil from grains as well as protein from soy, to such an extent that in 2007, grain processors were responsible for more than two-thirds of hexane emissions in the United States.[10] The report also pointed out that the hexane can persist in the final food product created; in a sample of processed soy, the oil contained 10 ppm, the meal 21 ppm and the grits 14 ppm hexane.[10] The adverse health effects seem specific to n-hexane; they are much reduced or absent for other isomers. Therefore, the food oil extraction industry, which relied heavily on hexane, has been considering switching to other solvents, including isohexane.[11][12][13]

If you would like to read the full report from the Cornucopia Institute on soy, it’s here. It’s well worth the read if you are curious about the health benefits of soy.

The issue is larger than just veggie burgers, though. It turns out that most cooking oils are also extracted from their seeds in a similar process, so unless you buy expensive cold expeller-pressed oils where the oil is squeezed out rather than extracted through solvents, your oil – soybean, canola, olive, corn, etc. – has had a little hexane bath.

And don’t think if you don’t use those oils, you aren’t exposed. After the oil is extracted, what remains (at least for corn and soybean) ends up in a myriad of ‘low fat’ products.

This leads me to a larger – much larger conclusion that I already knew, but didn’t really act upon – until now.

I do not trust government to protect me from unsafe food. Nor do I believe their guidelines for healthy eating.

But I am not a scientist. And I take everything I read with a grain of salt. People have agendas. People distort findings. The truth is impossibly hard to find in all the conflicting messages.

So I am proceeding on my own personal set of assumptions. I don’t know if they are right. I don’t know if I am wasting my time. I don’t really know if my low carb diet is going to kill me tomorrow – but it is my decision. If I am wrong, I only have myself to blame. Here they are:

  • Become a hell of a lot fussier about what I eat. Even more so than I am already.  Yes, it makes me even more of a pain in the ass, which might be hard for some to imagine. So be it.
  • Eat animal fat and protein from animals raised properly – from a real farm, not a corporate farm.
  • Get all my carbs from veggies. No grains.
  • Eat minimally-processed foods.
  • Eat everything possible organic.
  • Read every damn label. If any ingredient sounds like something from chemistry class – don’t buy it.
  • If it comes in a box, has a glorious 4-color picture of what it’s supposed to look like when served – don’t buy it.
  • If it comes in a box and is endorsed by the American Heart Association – don’t buy it.
  • If it has the word ‘healthy’ anywhere on the box – don’t buy it.
  • If it is considered a ‘convenience food’ – don’t buy it.
This totally eliminates a wide swath of what I call ‘crutch foods’ – ones that help you stay on a low carb diet because they mimic high carb foods.
Sorry, Atkins bars – this means you, too. And my beloved low carb bread. And my cheap bologna habit.
It means eating a much smaller variety of foods. It means paying a lot more for the organic versions. It means cooking more. It means going to 3 or 4 stores to find what I want. It’s a big damn hassle.
And it might not change a damn thing with respect to my health or my weight.
But I’ve placed my bet.

Fake Fat Makes You Fat – Stuns Researchers – Low Carbers Say ‘Meh’

The gist of this story about Olsetra, the fake fat that they sometime use in chips to lower the calorie count, shows that rats that eat the stuff not only eat more calories, but eat more calories even after they stop eating it.

The writer of the story appears to be stunned, and writes the following:

This counter-intuitive finding shakes the conventional wisdom that substituting lower calorie, lower fat foods for the full-fat versions will help reduce overall caloric intake and encourage weight loss.

In other news, water runs down hill. Researchers amazed.

How many times must researchers be ‘stunned’ before they realize that just calorie counting doesn’t work?

Here’s another learned response from a puzzled professional:

“It goes against what you might think — you remove calories from food and you’ll lose weight, but at the end of the day the chemical manipulation of food leads to increased weight. We don’t understand exactly why yet, but research continues to show this is true,” ABC News Medical contributor Dr. Marie Savard said.

Actually,  Dr. Savard, it is not only the chemical manipulation that does it, but many other factors in food – both natural, unnatural, and processed that will do it. An understanding of nutrition beyond the ‘calories in, calories out’ myth could help you puzzle this out.

Stop by any Low Carb hangout on the Internet – you’ll find plenty of friendly and helpful people would would be happy to explain it to you.