Mass Confusion

Let me never fall into the vulgar mistake of dreaming that I am persecuted whenever I am contradicted.
― Ralph Waldo Emerson

There are many confusing things in the world today. Just scroll through the headlines.

I know I’m confused. For example, I’m confused about why anyone cares if Alec Baldwin yelled at someone again? And I’m really perplexed about why anyone with the sense God gave a squirrel–celebrity or not–would take a picture of themselves naked and then put it into a “cloud” of digital information that is out of their own control. And why are people confused that nations who have been enemies for all of their existence are shooting at and invading one another? And those are just the first three questions that popped into my head after scanning this morning’s headlines.

More apropos to our discussions, though, are some headlines from the New York Times.

First, a headline in the Health section: “A Call for a Low-Carb Diet:”

People who avoid carbohydrates and eat more fat, even saturated fat, lose more body fat and have fewer cardiovascular risks than people who follow the low-fat diet that health authorities have favored for decades, a major new study shows.

Well yee-haw slap your grandma; it’s only taken thirty-five years to figure this out.

The new study was financed by the National Institutes of Health and published in the Annals of Internal Medicine. It included a racially diverse group of 150 men and women — a rarity in clinical nutrition studies — who were assigned to follow diets for one year that limited either the amount of carbs or fat that they could eat, but not overall calories…

Note that this was actually a study. It wasn’t asking 2,000 people to try and remember every single thing they ate over the last three years, and then throwing out the ones with findings that don’t fit what we already think.

By the end of the yearlong trial, people in the low-carbohydrate group had lost about eight pounds more on average than those in the low-fat group. They had significantly greater reductions in body fat than the low-fat group, and improvements in lean muscle mass — even though neither group changed their levels of physical activity.

While the low-fat group did lose weight, they appeared to lose more muscle than fat. “They actually lost lean muscle mass, which is a bad thing,” Dr. Mozaffarian said. “Your balance of lean mass versus fat mass is much more important than weight. And that’s a very important finding that shows why the low-carb, high-fat group did so metabolically well.”

First I would like to say, and I mean this in the nicest possible way: I told you so.

Second, I would like to say what the New York Times naturally meant to insert here and just clearly forgot: OOPS! Oops! HA HA! Sorry! Sorry we’ve been telling you to eat low fat all this time! Telling you you were stupid, fat, and lazy if you didn’t see success on a low-fat diet! Hahahahahaha! Oh well! Our bad!

In the end, people in the low-carbohydrate group saw markers of inflammation and triglycerides — a type of fat that circulates in the blood — plunge. Their HDL, the so-called good cholesterol, rose more sharply than it did for people in the low-fat group.

So this was a nice article to read. What’s confusing to me, then, is that on the same day in the same section of the paper we have this: “Recipes For Health: Israeli Couscous, Bean, and Tomato Salad.”  This monstrosity, far from being a recipe for health, is a recipe for disaster if you eat it regularly. Especially if you’re substituting it for real food. With gobs of grain and beans, a full serving throws you a whopping 54 grams of carbohydrates, which you wash down with a meager 3/4 a tablespoon of olive oil.


Want to make that recipe better? Here’s what you do:

1. Leave out the grain

2. Double the olive oil

3. Don’t make the cheese “optional”

4. Toss a little lemon juice in there

5. Eat it as a side to some kind of meat (this would go well with chicken or shrimp)

But of all the things I read today, my favorite comes from here. We’ve talked about how so much research is being done into so many niche areas of medicine and health every day that it’s hard for a doctor to even keep up with their particular field of interest; let alone other areas. These two articles were posted within a day of each other on the same site: (a very useful site dedicated to keeping doctors up on all the latest research, which I peruse daily):

Stimulation of either the right or left vagus nerve appeared to improve cardiac function in patients with heart failure, researchers said here…In addition to the improvement in left ventricular function, about 70% of the patients in the ANTHEM-HF study improved their NYHA heart failure class by at least one class.

And here’s the second;

Stimulating the vagus nerve didn’t improve cardiac function in heart failure patients, researchers reported here…The trial was neutral, with no change between groups over six months,” Zannad said.

Both of these trials were reported at the same conference. Which one do you think your cardiologist will decide to believe? Care to flip a coin?

So I think if we’ve learned anything today it is this: Please don’t take pictures of yourself without your clothes on. If you do, please don’t give them to Apple to hold for you. If you do, please don’t come crying to me when they end up plastered all over the the internet.

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