This article originally published March 4, 2010.
Dr. Michael Eades Gets His Butt Kicked…Again!
Note: This article contains strong language. Please close this page immediately if you are a minor or easily offended.
Poor Dr. Michael Eades. He’s a hyperbolic book author with an overblown ego and a penchant for belittling others, but when I gave him a taste of his own medicine a couple of years ago, he was rattled to his core. The Atkins-imitating author has been smarting ever since and has not wasted a single opportunity in trying to discredit and denigrate me.
Except that is, for his promised dissection of Chapter 1 of my book The Fat Loss Bible. Despite boasting how easily he could destroy the claims I make in that chapter, and despite stating over two years ago he would have the dissection posted within days, it never appeared.
Up until mid-2008, Eades had made a habit of regularly attacking me with a pathetic mix of defamatory lies and easily disrobed references to 'science'. But after the online whipping I gave him here, Eades wisely stopped penning self-destructive articles about our MAD conflict, limiting his attacks on me to the occasional whimpering low-key snipe on his blog.
However, after reading my recent article discussing the negative effects of ketogenic low-carb diets on mood and cognitive function, Eades has snapped back into suicide mode. In the "Notes” section of the article I discussed the duplicitous and selective citation employed by the late Dr. Atkins and, almost as an afterthought, Eades. Despite his intermittent feeble anti-Colpo snipes, Eades disingenuously claims he had “forgotten” all about me until readers emailed him about the article. Enraged by my article, Eades finally pulled out his keyboard and tapped out his “dismemberment”, part 1 of which he posted on his blog on February 8.
And it’s a complete dud.
Like every previous episode in which he has misrepresented and lied about the research, all Eades achieves with his latest rant is to further highlight his own duplicitous and deceitful nature.
He doesn’t realize it of course. Every drunken bum thinks he’s Brock Lesnar after a few beers – right up to the point where he gets the stuffing knocked out of him by someone whose strength and reflexes haven’t been dulled by the silly juice. The lavish sense of smugness and self-congratulation oozing from Eades and his followers is truly a sight to behold. If he wasn’t such a pompous old dreck, I’d actually feel sorry for the guy. He’s spent almost two and a half long years seething over me and piecing together his dismemberment, and now it’s about to be destroyed within minutes.
Over Two Years of Blinkered Research Finally Rears Its Ugly Head
There is so much misleading garbage in Eades’ dismemberment that it would take a Western Australia-sized web post to refute it all. Eades has given me so much material to work with that it’s hard to know where to begin.
Paranoid Low-Carbers: “Everyone in the World is Biased and Corrupt….Except Us of Course!”
Well, let’s start with the knee-jerk tendency of Eades and his unthinking followers to reflexively dismiss anyone who reports negative findings about low-carb diets as incurably biased and even corrupt. When someone attains or relays research findings that contradict cherished low-carb dogma then, in the feeble myopic minds of low-carb zealots that person/s simply must be a partisan ambassador for the low-fat/high-carbohydrate paradigm and cannot be anything other than rabidly prejudiced against low-carbohydrate diets. The possibility that these people simply went about their jobs, performed their research and reported the results in an honest straightforward manner is simply unthinkable to the low-carb crowd. Nope, if you say or do anything that conflicts with what they wish to believe, you are a dietary bigot. You simply must have started out with a biased hypothesis and selectively sought out evidence to confirm it.
The greatest irony of all is that this is exactly what low-carbers themselves do.
So before I start destroying Eades’ distorted reporting of the research, I’d like to clear up a question that is obviously troubling Eades and many of his simple-minded ilk.
In his comments section, Eades ponders with a fellow sympathizer as to why I have a “violent” opposition to metabolic advantage dogma (MAD). Gee, I didn’t know holding a well-considered and thoroughly researched critical opinion on MAD could be considered violent, although I guess in the overly sensitive mind of blinkered low-carb diet-gurus anything’s possible. But hey, it’s not like I’ve ever physically beaten anyone up over MAD.
For the record, and as those who read my very first Internet articles many years ago will know, there was a time when I actually believed that low-carbohydrate diets offered a metabolic advantage. When I first experimented with low-carbohydrate diets a decade ago I read the rationale behind MAD and, at the time, it sounded plausible. Of course, a lot of theories that initially sound plausible are quickly disrobed upon closer inspection. And so it was with MAD.
A number of realizations eventually dawned on me:
1. When I needed to get shredded, merely eating low-carbohydrate didn’t do the trick; I had to do what I had always done, and that was to create a calorie deficit by cutting calories and/or exercising more. Ditto for my clients.
2. During the early 2000s, when Atkins-mania was at its peak, I personally witnessed two females who diligently followed the diet – and gained weight (and it certainly wasn’t muscle). In the bizarre world of Atkins, where carbohydrates and insulin were the final arbiters of weight loss, this was inconceivable. In the real world, where calories determine weight loss, the reason for the fat gain was obvious. When these girls switched to Atkins and started eating “all the steak and cheese you want!” their calorie intake rose to a point where it exceeded their calorie expenditure. The end results were not at all pleasing. Both girls promptly dumped the diet and eventually lost the excess fat they’d gained.
The final awakening occurred when a reader of my old TheOmnivore website wrote to me asking if there were any metabolic ward weight loss studies looking at low-carb versus high-carb diets, correctly pointing out that free-living studies could hardly be considered reliable. At the time, I was only aware of two such studies that could be measured in weeks rather than days (which, I might add, appears to be two more than what Eades was aware of when he wrote his book). I subsequently began hunting down and examining all the ward studies I could find, and the results were clear – the metabolic advantage was a fantasy that existed only in the minds of low-carbohydrate diet promoters.
In other words, I arrived at my conclusions on MAD the same way I arrived at my conclusions on saturated fat and cholesterol: from empirical observations and extensive research. In both instances I actually started out sympathetic to the theory in question, but impartial analysis of the research led me to the only conclusion I could honestly come to. In both instances, the theories were nonsense.
That’s the difference between me and people like Eades et al: I’m non-partisan enough to continually examine both sides of a debate, and man enough to admit when I’m wrong. The MAD crowd, in contrast, are not interested in seeking out the facts but merely strengthening the beliefs they already hold. I hold the open but critical mindset of a scientist; they are afflicted with the myopic and closed mindset of religious dogmatists.
So to all you MAD believers, your accusations that I started out with a theory and selectively sought out research to confirm it are just like the rest of your malicious claims – utter rubbish. If you folks really want to jump on your high horse and lecture someone about the evils of confirmation bias, go chastise Eades and the rest of the MAD anti-scientists like Gary Taubes, Feinman and Fine, et al. Those guys can really teach you a thing or two about starting out with a theory then selectively accumulating research to support it. Taubes, for example, admits that his present obsession with the carbohydrate-insulin theory of weight loss began, not from a thorough and impartial review of the research literature, but from reading the infomercial-like low-carb diet book Dr Akins New Diet Revolution.
What more can I say…
The reality is that low-carbohydrate advocates applaud my work on saturated fat and cholesterol because it suits their agenda to do so. But my conclusions on MAD are the last thing they want to hear, so they rationalize them away by distorting the research and slandering me personally. When Eades and his fellow MAD cohorts falsely and maliciously accuse me of lying, of starting out with a pre-conceived conclusion, of distorting data to suit my own needs and even abusing steroids and suffering "‘roid rage", no-one on the MAD side of the debate sees anything wrong with such slander. When an especially demented MAD zealot loses the plot and decides to become my very first Internet stalker, repeatedly rejoining my forum under different usernames after being banned for argumentative trolling and making sexual taunts about yours truly, no-one in the MAD movement blinks an eyelid. Eades acts like a misogynistic pig towards a couple of undeserving female academics, calling them “idiots”, snidely dismissing their academic status by referring to them as “chicks”, and describing their work as “breathtakingly stupid”. He calls me, among other things, ”clueless, humourless, slippery, dull, pigheaded, a prat, a pipsqueak, a sniveling dreck, a legend in his own mind” - then boasts about what a wonderfully upstanding “civil” diplomatic person he is. No one in the MAD movement sees any incongruence with this lunacy, but when I systematically and convincingly expose their dishonest and demented behaviour for all the world to see, I’m accused of being “violent” and acting like “Jerry Springer”.
Yep, they’re a twisted bunch, the ol’ MAD crew. And Eades is certainly no exception. His mental deficiencies are not merely manifested by his poor social conduct, but also his woeful inability to accurately report on research findings.
The Liebel et al Study: Eades Begins Dismembering Himself
While Eades ignores the many studies that don’t support his MAD beliefs, he spends a lot of time on the handful that he believes do. One of these is the paper by Liebel et al that reported the results of inpatients of the Lipid Laboratory of the Rockefeller University Hospital between 1955 and 1965 who were fed liquid-formula diets of various carbohydrate and fat composition. These diets were prepared in the research kitchen of the university’s hospital and contained a constant 15% of energy from protein.
Eades belittles the results of this study on the grounds that they were not obtained from a randomised clinical trial of homogenous patients, but from the archived data of patients who followed low-, high- and/or intermediate-carb diets in crossover fashion. Crossover studies have the added advantage of eliminating the differences between individuals in weight loss response. Low-carb shills don’t like crossover studies, because they can’t use the excuse that individual differences between patients explain the lack of any evident statistically significant effect for the low-carb diets (they never stop to consider that the very same excuse could be put forward for the high-carb diets). In a crossover study, the exact same patient is being used to test both high- and low-carb diets. If there’s no difference between the two diets in weight loss, that’s because there’s no difference between the two diets in weight loss.
Let’s give the MAD crowd a few moments to think that one through…
And, although there is absolutely no evidence to even suggest the researchers skewed their data, he insinuates that they were biased and may have selectively retrieved and massaged the data, “forty years after the fact”, to support a preconceived conclusion. The pompous and conceited Eades also portrays the participants of not just this but all ward studies as a bunch of dubious lower-class morons.
Eades also raises the spectre of cheating, something that I will have plenty more to say about later. But for now I’ll just point out that Eades’ stance on cheating is utterly untenable. According to the deluded one, free-living studies where there is unfettered access to entire supermarkets, restaurants, cafes, pubs, McDonalds, Burger King, Dominos, Wendy’s, Haagen Daaz, parties, all-you-can-eat buffets, and kitchens stocked with ice cream, biscuits, and soft drinks, are perfectly acceptable as evidence for MAD. However, he claims that ward studies cannot be accepted as evidence against MAD because although they are far more tightly controlled, there does inevitably remain a possibility of cheating. The ability to cheat in the various ward studies has ranged from relatively easy to virtually impossible, but Eades tars them all with the same brush, making an exception only for the sloppiest, such as the Rabast studies (he makes an exception for these studies, of course, because they support what he wants to believe. Or at least he thinks they do. I’ll dismantle these studies in detail in Part 2).
So Eades obviously wants the Liebel study thrown to the scrap heap of history, right?
Not quite. He wants me to throw it to the scrap heap of history so that I can’t use it against MAD, but despite raving on about what an atrocious project it was, he does an about face and lovingly embraces it as proof of MAD.
Eades cites the data reported for subject 3, "a 55-year-old male with a BMI of 32, [who] maintained his weight on a high-carb formula at 2871 calories per day". According to Eades, this subject "then required 3501 calories to maintain his weight on a 70% fat, 15% carbohydrate diet".
Eades triumphantly proclaims: "Sounds like a metabolic advantage to me".
To someone like Eades, it quite possibly does. But to any intelligent person who cares to actually scrutinize the study for him/herself, it is nothing of the sort. It is simply another example of Eades' perpetual willingness to spout misleading bullshit in order to keep you from learning the truth about MAD. For the record, the subject in question did not eat 2,871 calories per day on the low-fat diet nor 3,501 calories on the low-carb diet while maintaining the same weight. He ate 3,313 calories on the high-carb diet and 3,313 calories on the low-carb diet. For the benefit of all those low-carbers whose glucose-deprived brains are a bit slow to register, I will repeat - he ate the exact same amount of calories on both diets.
It is laughable to see Eades’ brain-dead followers soak up his misleading representation of the Liebel results – as the reader comments on his blog show, most are happy to non-critically accept his one-sided nonsense so long as it supports what they already believe. But for those of you are not brain-dead MAD automatons, here’s a direct link to the article at the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition site, where you can check the calorie data for yourself:
I know full well that, sadly, the vast majority of people who read articles with research citations or links to studies never bother to actually read the studies. But in this case, I urge everyone to go ahead and click the link above…even you dopey MAD folks who hate doing stuff like this because it involves, you know, thinking. C’mon now, you can do it, it’s not that hard.
That’s it - point…and…click…and…
OK, right now you should have a PDF of the study opening up on your screen. What you now need to do is scroll down to page 2 of the PDF and take a good look at Table 1. In the 1st column, the one titled “ID”, look for the number 3 – that’s the man Eades portrays as MAD’s shining knight in armour. OK, now I want you to scan all the way across to the column 2nd from the right, the one titled “Energy”. This column displays the actual daily energy intake of subject 3 in kilojoules (kJ). In other words, the actual amount of daily kJ subject 3 ate on each diet (to be doubly sure of this I recently emailed Dr. Jules Hirsch, one of the study authors, who indeed confirmed the figures in this column were the actual kJ intakes of the subjects). To convert the kJ figures to calories, simply divide them by 4.184.
As you can see, subject 3 ate 13,862 kJ/day (3,313 cal/day) on the 15% carb diet and 13,862 kJ/day (3,313 cal/day) on the 85% carb diet.
Now, scan your way back to the 4th column from the left, the one titled “Mean weight”. As you can see, subject 3’s mean weight during the 15% carb diet was 96.21 kg, and during the 85% carb diet it was 95.91 kg. So in reality, subject 3 ate the exact same number of calories on both diets and his mean weight during the two feeding periods was a bee’s cajone lower on the high-carb diet.
Eades must honestly believe I’m as dumb as his followers, who live vicariously through him in the vain hope he will one day finally prove me wrong. In their desperation and blind worship, they never even think to check for themselves the research he cites. Did he really think he was going to get away with yet another pathetic attempt at distorting the evidence?
Evidently so. Eades has been living in low-carb la-la land way too long.
Eades wants you to believe that subject 3, merely by holding his protein intake constant and switching from an 85% carbohydrate diet to a 15% carbohydrate diet, was able to increase his resting energy expenditure by a whopping 630 calories per day. To put this figure into perspective, that’s about the same number of calories subject 3 would have burned pedalling vigorously on a stationary bike for 40 minutes![Ainsworth] Eades wants you to believe that simply by switching to a low-carbohydrate intake, it is possible for the human body to magically start additionally burning the same amount of calories that would be expended during 40 minutes of strenuous exercise, each and every day.
This ladies and gentlemen, is 100% pure, shameless, unadulterated diet guru bullshit.
So where on Earth did Eades get the figures of 2,871 calories per day for the low-fat diet and 3,501 calories on the low-carb diet? Where does he get off giving the impression that subject 3 “required” over 600 calories more daily to maintain his weight on the 15% carb diet?
Let’s go back to Table 1. Find the data for subject 3 again, and then scan over to the 8th column from the left, the one titled “Days on diet”. As you can see, subject 3 spent 23 day on the 15% carb diet, but only 18 on the 85% carb diet. Now, scan your way back over to the 5th column from the left, the one titled “WT INT*”. The figures in this column are the mean weights adjusted in light of the fact that the subjects spent different amounts of time on both diets. Using the daily weight data and the different durations of the diets, the researchers used a mathematical formula (shown on page 2 of the PDF) to calculate a “corrected” kJ intake. These are the figures of 12,016 and 14,652 you see in the far right column titled “CORREC kJ”. They represent the estimated daily kJ required for weight maintenance, calculated in light of the fact that the subject spent 5 more days on the low-carb diet.
The use of statistics, and methods such as linear regression, for the purpose of prediction is just that – a method for estimating the probability of a potential or postulated outcome. These methods are not to be taken as actual proof of an outcome, something that seems to escape the endless chorus of commentators who cite the results of epidemiological studies as if they were as solid as those from randomised controlled clinical trials. Those familiar with statistics will also know that different tests can be employed for the same problem, and different data can be entered into the same equations. While mathematics might be considered a “hard science”, the truth is that statistics is an inexact and highly variable science, one that can be (and frequently is) manipulated to attain a desired outcome. Don’t get me wrong – unlike Eades, I’m not insinuating that Liebel et al were biased charlatans who selectively massaged the data. What I am saying is that even with best intentions, predictive modelling is just that – prediction, a scientific method of speculation. The probability of throwing a coin and landing heads is 50/50. That does not mean however, that, if you just landed heads you are guaranteed to land tails on your next shot.
What would have happened when calculating the CORREC kJ figure if subject 3 had actually spent more time on the high-carb diet? We don’t know. What would have happened if, ideally, the subjects spent an equal amount of time on both diets? Again, the truth is that we don’t know.
What we do know is what actually happened: Subject 3 spent 23 days on a 15% carb diet eating 3,313 cal/day, and his mean weight during that time was 96.21 kg. He spent 18 days on an 85% carb diet consuming 3,313 cal/day and his mean weight was 95.91 kg.
The only place these actual figures could possibly constitute a metabolic advantage for low-carb diets is in the deep dark, cavernous confines of Eades’ angry, vengeful mind.
You’ll notice that while Eades was quick to mention the data of subject 3, he was rather shy about mentioning the data of subject 13. Maybe Eades is superstitious, or maybe he just doesn’t want you to know that her reported results totally contradict those of subject 3. Given Eades’ track record thus far, I’m betting on the latter.
Subject 13’s mean and adjusted weights barely changed during the study, but take a look at her actual and adjusted intakes in the far right columns. You’ll note that she actually ate 1,842 calories on the high-carb diet, but only 1,785 on the low-carb diet. Her mean weight was 520 grams higher on the low-carb diet. But her adjusted figures in the CORREC kJ column were also 1,842 calories on the high-carb diet and only 1,785 on the low-carb diet. Now if I was a biased high-carb shill, I’d be inclined at this point to say something really dumb like, “Sounds like a metabolic advantage to me – for high-carb diets!”
The truth is, when one considers the impact of natural daily variation in weight (crikey, my weight routinely varies up or down by a kilogram daily), the Liebel study does not in any way confirm the existence of a metabolic fat loss advantage for low- or high-carb diets.
As the researchers stated: “Even with extreme changes in the fat-carbohydrate ratio (fat energy varied from 0% to 70% of total intake), there was no detectable evidence of significant variation in energy need as a function of percentage fat intake.”
Eades took offense to the brief but factual summation I awarded to the Liebel study in my book, accusing me of “flimflammery”, but what I wrote is exactly what happened – a group of subjects followed isocaloric diets of varying fat and carbohydrate content in crossover fashion, and their weight remained constant throughout the various feeding periods.
Further confirmation of this can be garnered from Table 2, which features the pooled actual and corrected kJ intakes of all 13 subjects. As you can see, the table contains actual and corrected kJ figures adjusted for both the weight and bodily surface area of the participants. You can also see that there is no difference between the low- and high-carb diets, while the kJ requirement figures for the intermediate-carb diets tend to be slightly but insignificantly higher. Again, if I was a biased intermediate-carb shill who - like Eades - pretends that meagre non-significant differences are in fact significant when it suits him to do so, I’d exclaim to the world that these results represent a metabolic advantage for intermediate carb diets. Of course, they represent nothing of the sort.
I’ll further discuss Eades’ belief that non-significant magically becomes significant when it suits him in due course, but for now it’s pretty clear that the data from the Hirsch et al paper cannot be used to claim a metabolic advantage for low-carb diets. Which is what both the original authors and yours truly concluded.
So let’s see, who should we trust: clinical researchers from the Rockefeller University, New York – who did not make millions pimping sectarian diet books and have never displayed any evidence of impropriety – or Eades, the biased low-carb author with an obvious vested financial interest in the MAD paradigm, a rabid desire to prove me wrong at all costs, and an established history of distorting evidence in favour of MAD?
Gee, that’s a hard one…
Eades is a sneaky little gnat. He knows full well that most readers wouldn’t bother to pull up the above study, and even if they did, most wouldn’t have a clue at what they were looking at unless they were walked through it step-by-step by someone with a sound knowledge of research methods. He deliberately fails to mention that the so-called higher caloric “requirement” of subject 3 exists nowhere but in speculative mathematical calculations. He cites the corrected kJ estimate of subject 3 as if it were the actual energy intake during the study, and deliberately avoids telling readers that subject 3 in fact ate the exact same amount of calories on both diets and maintained a marginally lower mean weight on the high-carb diet. He offers no mention of subject 13, whose results flatly contradict MAD and he offers no explanation of Table 2 in the study, which showed no difference in the subjects’ caloric requirements during weight maintenance during the different diets. In fact, he makes no mention of Table 2 at all.
If they handed out black belts in bullshit, Eades would be an undisputed 10th degree grandmaster. The guy generates more bovine excrement than a Kansas feedlot.
Size Does Matter
Speaking of bullshit artists, one of the time-honoured signs of a professional BSer is the issuing of bold pronouncements that they subsequently play down or even flatly deny in response to negative publicity. Politicians, who make a career out of bullshitting, do this all the time. The aging Eades has taken a leaf out of their book by first hyping the living daylights out of the metabolic advantage theory, then doing an about face and insisting that he never claimed it was that big a deal, that hey it only amounts to a difference of 100-300 calories a day.
To see what a slippery little sucker Eades really is, click the following link, where you see him post what is quite possibly one of the most absurd and inappropriate comparisons ever made by a low-carb diet author (and given the fantasy-based mindset of most low-carb authors, that’s really saying something):
Eades compares the 1,570 calorie/day high-carb diet used in the famous Minnesota study[Keys] with a 1,560 cal/day diet used in a study by Stock and Yudkin[Stock]. The total daily calorie intakes were almost identical, but virtually every other aspect of these two studies was worlds apart.
The young men in the Minnesota study required an average of 3,492 calories per day for weight maintenance, which was unmercifully slashed overnight down to only 1,570 calories. That’s a massive drop of almost 2,000 calories per day that the young men had to endure for a period of six months. Their carbohydrate intake during this period was 275 grams daily.
In the Stock and Yudkin study, the participants’ average self-reported maintenance intake was 2,330 calories per day. During the experimental period, they ate 50 grams of carbohydrate and their daily energy intake was estimated to be 1,560. This reported deficit of 770 calories was maintained for a mere two weeks. In other words, the calorie deficit in the Stock and Yudkin group was far milder than that in the Minnesota study and lasted only a fraction of the time.
Most of the Minnesota men were already lean while the participants of the Stock and Yudkin study were overweight. This is important because research repeatedly shows that when subjected to severe calorie restriction, lean people will lose far more muscle than their overweight counterparts. Not surprisingly, the folks in the Stock and Yudkin study experienced relatively trouble-free weight loss, while the Minnesota men lost ungodly amounts of muscle, became emaciated, and many suffered long term psychological disturbances as a result of their experiences. One participant remained so depressed after his prolonged period of starvation that he deliberately chopped 3 of his fingers off.
From these two utterly incompatible studies, posted complete with scary pictures of emaciated young men and horror tales of finger-chopping, Eades concluded – and proclaimed to the world - that the difference between an isocaloric low-fat and low-carb diet was the difference between safe weight loss or dangerous emaciation, between being a happy camper or being a self-mutilating manic depressive.
What a load of complete and utter bollocks.
I completely dismantled Eades’ claims here:
The honest way to examine this issue would have been to retrieve studies where the fat loss and muscle-preserving effects of high- and low-carb diets were compared in a randomised clinical trial containing a low-carb and a high-carb diet group, or a crossover trial where the same subjects were assigned to both diets in randomised fashion. But honesty is not a characteristic I’d associate with Eades – he is a shamelessly biased low-carb shill. So he instead cherry-picked two studies conducted on different continents involving two vastly different populations. This was the only way he could obtain research results that appeared to confirm his hypothesis.
How would the Minnesota men fared if they had tried to maintain their schedule on a 1,570 calorie/day low-carb diet? Given the available research, they would have become just as emaciated and lost just as much and quite possibly more muscle than they did on the low-fat diet. And if their low-carb diet was a ketogenic one, then the available evidence suggests that their mental state would have become far worse than what it did (click here to review this evidence).
After I smashed Eades’ blatant one-sided and unashamedly sensationalist comparison, he suddenly started complaining that I was making a mountain out of a molehill, that he never really meant to give the impression that the metabolic advantage was that big a deal. Sure doc…that’s why you posted a load of alarmist tripe claiming that an isocaloric low-fat diet turns you into a suicidal skeleton. And that’s why you claim in your book Protein Power that obesity is primarily a function of carbohydrates and insulin, not calories.
What a joke.
Eades then went on to claim that the MAD religion he subscribes to only believes in a metabolic advantage of 100-300 calories (although he does an about-face in his dismemberment and falsely claims a 600+ calorie advantage for subject 3 in the Liebel study). Eades has since taken to repeating these figures incessantly but has never, I repeat never, explained exactly where he derived these magical figures. Like many people, I suspect he simply pulled them from his archaic posterior.
Indeed, in response to a reader’s query in the comments section of his “dismemberment”, Eades admits that no study actually shows a thermogenic increase of 100-300 calories from low-carb diets and simply replies: “That’s the number I’m estimating based on the many studies I’ve read over the years.”
What studies? Has any one ever shown any increase in daily calorie expenditure among folks following isocaloric low-carbohydrate diets?
The best Eades can do is continually refer to his buddies Feinman and Fine, but I have to agree with diet wizz Lyle McDonald when he says the only thing to be learned from Feinman and Fine’s MAD rantings is “how you can write a lot of words and still say absofuckinglutely nothing”.
Feinman and Fine endlessly drone on about the alleged thermodynamic advantage of low-carb diets, but like their fellow MAD fantasist Eades, they present absolutely nothing in the way of tightly controlled evidence to show it actually exists.
The complete lack of evidence for MAD may be why Eades now appears to be playing down the metabolic advantage even more, and backing away from his earlier hyperbollocks even faster. He now complains that clinical trials are not sensitive enough to detect his precious metabolic advantage. Explains the deluded one:
“Because the caloric differences brought about by a metabolic advantage (at least as I see it) are so small, weighing subjects in pounds and kilograms may miss it.”
Read that quote again folks.
This ladies and gentleman, is the world famous, obesity-busting, dietary all-star metabolic advantage that Atkins, Eades, Taubes, Feinman and Fine and various other low-carb promoters have been tossing off about for decades on end. This is the famous metabolic advantage the low-carb shills would have you believe makes the difference between weight loss success and failure. A difference so bloody miniscule it cannot even be measured in pounds or kilograms…even though this is exactly how every person on the planet with access to a scale measures their weight.
That’s right folks, the metabolic advantage, even if it exists, is so utterly pissweak that it has to be measured in grams and ounces! Or is that micrograms? Or nanograms? Who knows, just take your pick depending on whichever measure suits your fancy at any given moment - after all, that’s exactly what Eades does.
We’re told by Atkins that the metabolic advantage is so powerful that at 2,000 calories a day, a person on a low-carb diet can lose weight but a person on a low-fat diet can actually gain weight!
We’re told by both Eades and Gary Taubes that the metabolic advantage is so powerful that carbs and insulin, not an excess of calories, are the true causes of the obesity 'epidemic' (Eades denies he said this, but again, he’s lying - it’s right there on page 302 of his yawn-inducing Atkins knock-off Protein Power where he claims: "Although it's almost always attributed to excess calories, obesity is more related to the multifaceted actions of insulin and glucagon on the storage of fat". Eades has also awarded a massive amount of manlove on his blog to Taubes and his book Good Calories, Bad Calories, which also insists that obesity is a function not of excess calories but carbohydrate and insulin).
We’re told by Eades that the metabolic advantage of low-carb diets is so powerful that it’s the difference between successfully and happily losing weight or becoming psychotically depressed and looking like a famine victim.
And I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve written about the fallacy of MAD, only to have some angry chubster write to me:
“You’re wrong Colpo! I ate 800 calories a day on a low-fat diet and gained weight! But then I switched to a low-carb diet and started eating 3,500 calories a day and dropped fifty pounds!”
Yeah, from your belly to your butt, mate…
(Interestingly, despite their vociferousness, when I write back to these folks asking for clinical proof of their calorie intakes and weight loss, I never hear from them again. Hmmm…)
Yep, this is the same monumental metabolic advantage that caused me to become the subject of unbridled hate-mongering from low-carb zealots five years ago when I pointed out that it was false and that calories, not carbs or insulin, were the true arbiters of fat loss.
But now we have one of the world’s most ardent promoters of this so-called metabolic advantage admitting it’s so pathetically small, that after weeks and even months of following a low-carb diet, the weight loss difference is so microscopic it has to be measured in grams/micrograms/nanograms.
Wow, I’m sure that will come as a huge relief to someone who needs to lose 100 pounds of chub!
Let’s give Eades credit where credit is due. He is absolutely correct in finally admitting that the metabolic advantage is so small as to be essentially meaningless. He’s still slow to recognize one thing though - the only tiny thermogenic difference that has been detected in tightly controlled trials comparing low-versus high-carbohydrate nutrition occurred during the latter. That’s right folks, the high-carbohydrate diets. We’ll discuss this in more detail later, but first, let’s continue on with the dissection/dismemberment of Eades’ dissection/dismemberment/disgrace/dis-blah-blah-blah…
Putting Words in My Mouth
“Even AC agrees – based on the literature – that low-carb diets result in less lean muscle loss and greater fat loss than low-fat, high-carb diets”
I have stated ad nauseum that in numerous studies protein - not low-carb intakes but protein - causes a slight increase in muscle retention at the expense of fat. In other words, by eating more protein, you may keep a bit more muscle and lose slightly more fat, without affecting overall weight loss (I say “may”, because this effect has not been observed in all high- vs low-protein trials, which may be due to variations between studies in protein amounts prescribed on the high-protein diets). And I have also stated ad nauseum that this muscle-preserving effect occurs with both low and high carbohydrate intakes. As for high- versus low-carbohydrate diets, the available research indicates that ketogenic variants of low-carb diets increase muscle loss (I discuss this research in The Fat Loss Bible, but it appears poor old Eades just couldn’t make it past chapter 1).
Unfortunately, many low-carbers are so dumb they earnestly believe high protein intakes are exclusive to low-carbohydrate diets. Anyone who has ever worked with athletes and especially bodybuilders will know that high-protein, high-carbohydrate diets are commonplace. But your average low-carber, whose idea of exercise is waddling his/her fat ass over to the cupboard to grab another Atkins Advantage bar, doesn’t know this. So when they read my comments on protein and muscle preservation, they automatically assume I’m talking specifically about low-carb diets. This is why I really wish stupid people would cease and desist in reading my websites and books.
But again, I’m getting ahead of myself - the inferior ability of ketogenic low-carb diets to preserve muscle mass will be discussed in due course. Right now, pour yourself a nice hot cup of green tea, sit back, relax, and watch Eades fall flat on his face in his most spectacular fashion yet.
Cheating: Eades Delivers The Knockout Punch – To Himself
Ah, cheating. This is Eades’ central and tour de force argument. According to the geriatric guru, metabolic ward studies aren’t the tightly controlled endeavours that I make them out to be. According to Eades, they are in fact “rife” with cheating. According to Eades, this spells the death knell for both me and chapter 1 of my book.
Eades doesn’t realize it yet, but his “cheating” argument is about to blow up in his face and show him for the myopic and incoherent dimwit he truly is.
First of all, I have no doubt that there have been instances of cheating in metabolic ward studies. After spending over 40 years on this planet, if there’s one thing I’ve learned it’s that humans are an especially shifty and flawed species. Humans are unique among animals in that they are their own main predator - no other animal species on this planet could even dream of killing the number of humans that humans have. Given that human beings are readily capable of killing, maiming, raping, stealing and extorting, it’s not at all unreasonable to suspect some members of this same species have successfully smuggled a few Snickers bars into a research ward.
But just as murder, rape, theft and extortion are not standard behaviour among the vast majority of law-abiding citizens, neither is cheating among ward participants. I’ll discuss this in detail in Part 2, but for now I’m going to play Eades’ game. I’m going to play the Devil’s Advocate and assume that cheating was indeed par for the course in all the metabolic ward studies I have included in Chapter 1. I’m more than happy to do so, because it further highlights what an unthinking goof Eades is.
Because it’s a well-known fact that the satiating effects of low-carb diets tend to be greater than those of low-fat/high-carbohydrate diets. This has been routinely borne out in controlled research. So if cheating is rife in metabolic ward studies, then all the available evidence indicates those on the high-carbohydrate diets must have cheated the most. Which means that they ate more but lost the same amount of weight. Which means that they, not the low-carbers, experienced a metabolic advantage!
In light of the research showing that low-carb diets are more satiating, one can arrive at only two conclusions:
- Cheating did not occur in the ward studies cited in Table 1 to any significant degree. The lack of any difference in fat loss noted in these studies reflects the non-existence of any metabolic advantage.
- Cheating did occur, and was most likely to have occurred in the high-carbohydrate group. Because they were most likely to have eaten more, yet still lost the same amount of weight, they were the ones most likely to have experienced a metabolic advantage.
There is a third possibility of course, the possibility that the low-carbers cheated the most yet still lost the same amount of weight, and hence experienced a metabolic advantage. However, when we review the evidence regarding dietary macronutrient composition and satiety (below) it becomes readily apparent that the likelihood of this possibility is extremely low. If Eades is going to stand by his cheating argument, then he has to acknowledge the abundance of evidence showing that, if cheating occurred, it was far more likely to occur on the high-carb diets.
Eades Gives it Good and Hard – To Himself
That’s the problem with continually telling lies - sooner or later you will trip up on your own bollocks. A person telling the truth has little to worry about – so long as he sticks to the facts he is on solid ground. But when someone who continually spits out untenable claims and propositions is challenged, they are forced into the position of having to concoct even more untenable claims and propositions to support their original hogwash. Continued long enough, the pathological BSer spins a web so complicated and self-contradictory that his false claims begin to conflict with each other. At that point, all but the dopiest observers (Eades’ faithful followers, for example) can see the spurious nature of the BSer’s claims.
And that’s exactly what’s happened to Eades. His MAD claims are a sad litany of self-contradiction and back-tracking. In his book Protein Power he proclaimed to the world, as Atkins had done before him and Taubes has done since, that carbohydrates and insulin – not calories - were the real causes of obesity. MAD, according to low-carb zealots like Eades, was allegedly so powerful that it explained the obesity 'epidemic'. On his blog in 2006, he posted an utterly absurd comparison using two cherry-picked studies to falsely claim that low-carb diets are superior for fat loss, mental health, and muscle preservation.
But after I highlighted the patently idiotic nature of his blog post, Eades quickly started backing away from his earlier hyperbole, claiming that he never said the metabolic advantage was that big a deal, but the blatant dishonesty of this claim can be readily witnessed by anyone who cares to read page 302 of his book and his aforementioned 2006 blog post.
Nonetheless, after the dressing down I gave him I think it’s pretty safe to say Eades won’t be posting another ridiculous cherry-picked cross-country comparison in support of MAD. Instead, Eades suddenly began watering down his MAD proclamations, insisting that he had never made MAD out to be a “big deal” and claiming that the metabolic advantage was only around 100-300 calories per day.
In his latest MAD excursion, he is now admitting that the mythical low-carb metabolic advantage is so pathetically small that it won’t even register on your bathroom scale.
In his own mind, Eades really seems to believe he’s owning this debate. The reality is that, like a well-trained monkey, he’s performing predictably and right on cue. By allowing me to get under his skin, the acid-tongued Eades has unwittingly enlisted himself as a highly productive accomplice in my quest to remind the world that the low-carb MAD theory is a useless wank and that if people truly want to get lean, they need to focus on creating a calorie deficit via sensible nutrition and increased physical activity. It was a similar statement five years ago that made me the target of endless derision and hatred from the low-carb movement, but now their post-Atkins leader is robotically confirming my contentions.
But it gets even better.
By insisting that metabolic ward studies are riddled with cheating, Eades is now unwittingly supporting a metabolic advantage for high-carb diets!
Stupid Is As Stupid Does
Our boy Eades has really dug himself into a very deep pit of poop this time. After reading this, and given his past history of changing tunes faster than a 14-year-old girl’s iPod, Eades will no doubt start frantically denying there is any difference in satiety between low- and high-carb diets and will maintain this could not possibly have played a role. But the evidence is undeniable – low-carb diets routinely trump high-carb diets in terms of satiety and spontaneous calorie reduction. And in this instance, Eades is going to have a hard time claiming studies finding superior satiating effects of low-carb diets are the work of biased anti-low-carb researchers…
The Satiating Effects of Low-Carb Diets
There are a number of mechanisms by which low-carb diets enhance satiety:
1. Stabilization of blood glucose and insulin levels as a result of reduced carbohydrate intake. This prevents swings in blood sugar and insulin levels that can interfere with the body’s satiety feedback system and trigger hunger[Mayer][Chaput]. This is the most common mechanism, as reduced carbohydrate intakes are obviously an integral feature of low-carbohydrate diets.
2. Increased fat intake. Low-carbohydrate diets frequently, but not always, involve an increase in fat intake. If the low-carb dieter has previously followed a low-fat diet then a switch to low-carb eating may well produce an increase in fat intake. Dietary fat triggers the release of the satiating hormone cholecystokinin (CCK) that acts to prolong feelings of fullness by slowing gastric emptying time.
By the way, you don’t need to be a lard-slurping keto fanatic to enjoy the benefits of fat-induced CCK release. University of California, Davis researchers compared meals containing 20% energy from fat, 17% protein, 63% carbohydrate, with meals containing 38% fat, 17% protein, and 45% carbohydrate[Schneeman]. These meals were further divided into meals containing dairy and non-dairy fat. The results showed greater CCK response to the higher fat meals. Interestingly, meals with dairy fat also produced greater CCK responses than those with non-dairy fats. This and other studies also found that women have a greater response CCK response to fat ingestion than men, and that the satiating effects of CCK are enhanced by stomach distension[Burton-Freeman][ Melton][Kissileff].
It should be pointed out that while CCK release is usually associated with increased fat intake, at least one study has found an increase in CCK levels on a low-carbohydrate (South Beach) diet during which fat intake actually declined (no overall change was recorded in protein intake, the greatest change was in carbohydrate intake). This study, however, was a free-living endeavour that relied upon self-reported intakes, so the true accuracy and significance of these findings is unknown[Hayes].
A far more controlled study indicated that protein may also have an effect on CCK. This study involved the consumption of both high-protein/low-carb and low-protein/high-carb breakfasts. Despite similar fat intakes, the high protein meal produced a significantly greater increase in CCK levels. The high protein breakfast also reduced appetite and caloric intake during the following lunch meal by 105 calories, but the difference was not statistically significant[Blom].
3. Increased protein intake. Low-carbohydrate diets sometimes, but not always, involve an increase in protein intake. If the low-carb dieter was previously following a low-protein diet (as recommended by some low-fat and vegetarian promoters) then a switch to a low-carb diet may involve an increase in high-protein animal products such as meat, dairy and eggs. The satiating effects of protein have been repeatedly demonstrated in clinical studies[Astrup][Halton].
Many of the studies I have just cited were short-duration single meal studies. Let’s now take a look at what happens to satiety over the longer term when we manipulate dietary carbohydrate, fat, and protein content.
More on the Satiating Effects of Low-Carb Diets
To get the ball rolling, I think it is most fitting that we examine a study Eades himself unsuccessfully attempted to use in a dubious attempt at supporting MAD. Yep, I’m talking about the infamous 1970 Stock and Yudkin paper he quoted in his stupendously stupid Minnesota post. For some strange reason, Eades doesn’t talk much about this study nowadays – maybe he doesn’t want to draw attention to the fact that it actually shows MAD to be complete garbage.
This study was not a ward study but, hey, that shouldn’t be a problem for Eades and his MAD cohorts, who harbor the delusion that totally uncontrolled free-living studies are superior to more tightly controlled semi- and full-ward studies.
The subjects were three men and eight women, aged from 21 to 51 years. They were instructed on how to keep intake records of all food and liquids consumed for two-week periods on their usual high-carbohydrate diet and on a low-carbohydrate diet. On the latter, the subjects were asked to take between 300-600 ml of milk daily, and "as much meat, fish, eggs, cheese, butter, margarine, cream, and leafy vegetables as they wished". The subjects in effect, were allowed to eat as many calories as they wished. The only restriction was the consumption of no more than fifty grams of carbohydrate per day.
So what happened? Did these patients eat more calories yet still lose weight thanks to a magical, mystical metabolic advantage? Nope. They ate less calories, and they lost weight thanks to the plain old effect of physiological and biochemical reality.
Prior to commencing the low-carb diet, the subjects’ mean self-reported daily intakes were 84 grams protein, 124 grams fat, 216 grams carbohydrate, and 2,330 calories. During the low-carbohydrate diet, the mean intakes were 83 grams protein, 105 grams fat, 67 grams carbohydrate, and 1,560 calories.
Whilst happy to spuriously use the Yudkin paper in a manner that supported his own claims, Eades didn’t bother to share with his readers a rather pertinent comment by Yudkin himself in an earlier paper describing a similar study:
“The alternative explanation is that the “high-fat” diet leads to weight loss because, in spite of its unrestricted allowance of fat and protein, it is in fact a low-calorie diet. This was the explanation that one of us had already put forward (Yudkin 1958). Such a view is simple and orthodox, and therefore unspectacular. This is probably one of the reasons why many have preferred to accept the more exciting theories based on some postulated but unproven defect in metabolism.”[Yudkin]
Dr John Yudkin was a prolific and highly respected British researcher who was not in any way biased against low-carbohydrate diets; in fact, as anyone familiar with Yudkin’s writings will know, he was quite partial to them. Nevertheless, he thought the metabolic advantage concept was bollocks. Eades, however, simply ignored this and proceeded to creatively misrepresent Yudkin’s research in support of MAD.
A more recent study by Miller and colleagues enrolled eighteen overweight adults in a study evaluating dietary intake and weight on their usual diets and a low-carb diet[Miller BV]. Subjects were instructed to follow the first two phases of the diet described in Dr. Atkins’ New Diet Revolution which, as everyone alive in a non-comatose state knows by now, dismisses caloric restriction and instead advises carbohydrate restriction. Total daily intake of calories and nutrients were calculated from self-reported 3-day food diaries and body weight was measured at the end of each 2-week period.
During their usual diet, the subjects' mean intakes were 96 grams protein, 113 grams fat, 265 grams carbohydrate and 2,481 calories. During the first two-week "Induction" phase of the Atkins Diet, mean intakes were 102 grams protein, 99 grams fat, 21 grams carbohydrate and 1,400 calories. During the "Ongoing Weight Loss" phase, mean intakes were 111 grams protein, 112 grams fat, 24 grams carbohydrate and 1,558 calories. In other words, after switching to a low-carb diet, the subjects began consuming around 1000 calories per day less than what they did on their usual high carbohydrate diet.
Not surprisingly, they lost weight: 3.8 kg during the first 2 weeks, and 1.5 kg during the last 2 weeks. The weight loss of 3.8 kg in the first 2 weeks was 1.8 kg greater than what would be expected from the degree of caloric restriction, but before MAD zealots start pumping their tubby fists in the air, it should be remembered that body composition was not measured and the difference could easily be explained by glycogen and fluid losses. This was pointed out by the researchers themselves who wrote: “the unanticipated additional weight loss is consistent with the 1–2-kg weight loss seen with glycogen mobilization (in liver and muscle) and ketosis-induced diuresis (increased delivery of sodium to distal lumen of the kidney by non-reabsorbable ketones inducing water loss) that occurs with LC diets. “
Numerous studies have shown that significant glycogen and fluid losses occur in the first week of ketogenic diets[Yang][Kreitzman]. Eades, who probably believes in the Flat Earth theory, tries to deny this phenomenon, but glycogen and fluid loss during low-carb dieting does indeed occur (as anyone who has ever tried to maintain a strenuous training regime on a ketogenic diet will know only too well). Again, in the interests of keeping this article shorter than War and Peace, I’ll discuss the topic of fluid and glycogen losses further in the next installment.
For now, just remember that the only calorie-wasting “metabolic advantage” that would have occurred in this study is the type accompanied by loud raspberry sounds and soiled underpants. Gastrointestinal side effects were common during the Atkins Diet, with thirty-three percent of the participants experiencing diarrhea (22% suffered from constipation, 22% suffered from nausea, 22% experienced headaches, 22% reported vision disturbances, 17% reported bad breath, 17% suffered muscle cramps, and 17% reported worsening mood. No wonder low-carbers are a cranky lot…)
The researchers concluded: "Weight loss can be explained by the self-selected lower caloric intake on The Atkins’ Diet". And maybe a little runny action in the keester region…
Meanwhile, Back at the Ward…
One of the limitations to the above studies is that they involved free-living subjects who self-reported their intakes. InThe Fat Loss Bible, I discuss at length the well-documented problems with reliability and accuracy of self-reported food intake data. What happens when people are placed in a far more supervised environment and fed ad libitum low-carb diets? Does their caloric intake still decrease?
Let’s find out.
At the General Clinical Research Center of the Temple University Hospital, Dr. Guenther Boden headed a 3-week ward study with ten obese type 2 diabetic subjects[Boden]. For the first week of the study, the subjects were instructed to continue their usual diet. The clinical research center kitchen provided all food and beverages, and weighed and recorded everything that was consumed. The subjects’ mean daily intakes during this period were 137 grams protein, 154 grams fat, 309 grams carbohydrate and 3,111 calories. During this period, the patients’ weight remained stable.
On days 8-21, the researchers then placed the subjects on a low-carbohydrate diet. Carbohydrate intake was reduced to 21 grams per day, but no restriction was placed on their overall caloric intake; the participants were free to “eat protein and fat as much and as often as they wanted”. Despite this, their caloric intake dropped by a whopping 1,000 calories per day. The mean daily intakes during the low-carbohydrate phase were 154 grams protein, 161 grams fat, 21 grams carbohydrate and 2,164 calories.
During the low-carbohydrate diet, mean body weight decreased by 2.02 kg from 114.43 kg to 112.41 kg. Of this, 360 grams was attributed to water loss and 1.65 kg of fat loss - which is the amount one would expect based on the calorie deficit achieved by the patients. No metabolic advantage, no mysterious aberration of the First or Second Laws of Thermodynamics, just the plain old reality that establishing a calorie deficit is required for weight loss, and the amount of non-water weight lost is commensurate with the magnitude of the calorie deficit.
Of course, Eades would have you believe that ward studies really aren’t very well controlled and that we therefore can’t trust these results. Rather than believe the suspect claims of someone with an established history of distorting evidence to suit his own agenda, wouldn’t it be better to directly ask the actual head researcher of this study? That’s exactly what I did, and here’s what Dr. Guenther Boden said:
“Our study volunteers were housed in our clinical research unit, were under 24 hour supervision, had no chance to sneak in food (and had no motivation to do so ).They never left the ward during the study.”[Personal communication with Dr Guenther Boden, March 3, 2010].
Bottom line: This study was as tightly controlled as anyone could possibly hope for, and makes a mockery of the poorly controlled slop that low-carb fanatics like Eades serve up in support of MAD.
Another study showing the appetite suppressant effects of low-carb diets was conducted by Dr Roland Stimson and his colleagues from the University of Edinburgh[Stimson]. They took 17 men (mean BMI 35, mean age 38) and had them complete two phases of a randomised crossover study. Each phase comprised a three-day weight maintenance diet followed by 4 weeks of either a high fat/low carbohydrate (protein 30%, fat 66%, carbohydrate 4%) or moderate fat-moderate carbohydrate diet (protein 30%, fat 35%, carbohydrate 35%) diet. Both diets contained 5.5 MJ per kg of food served, with similar proportions of saturated fats. In this study, food was available ad libitum (i.e., the participants were free to eat as much or as little as they wanted). Food offered and food left uneaten was weighed to generate caloric intake data.
Now before we discuss the results, it bears mentioning that this was a ward study in which the volunteers ate their main meals and slept overnight in the research facility, but were allowed to go to work during the day. So how prevalent was cheating in this study? Again, instead of relying on extremely suspect insinuation and speculation from a blatantly biased low-carbohydrate huckster, I asked the actual researcher who headed the study. Here's what Dr Stimson told me:
"To answer your questions, yes it is possible that volunteers can 'cheat', as although they are resident in the institute for meals and overnight, they go to work during the day so could eat then even though we provide them with snacks. We knew of only one person who cheated with one meal, but they promptly felt guilty and told us. During the low carb diet, urine collections were performed very frequently and checked for ketones (the volunteers wished to eat carbs while on this diet so would have cheated with these foods), and these always showed ketones which is a good indicator of compliance. Of course, this would not allow us to detect cheating on the other diet."
In other words, if cheating did occur in this study it most likely occurred on the high-carbohydrate diet.
But Dr. Stimson continued: "Weight loss was measured daily and tracked to predictive charts based on the amount they ate with us so any substantial cheating would have showed deviation from our charts which did not occur. Thus, I feel very confident they did not cheat on these diets."[Personal communication with Dr Roland Stimson, Oct 1, 2007].
OK, so what did the study actually find? Well, the researchers routinely assessed the subjects’ self-reported hunger, and found that it was much lower on the low-carbohydrate diet[Johnstone]. This was reflected in their calorie intakes. The mean daily baseline intake of the subjects before the study began was 2,829 calories, which dropped to 1753 on the low-carb diet and 1907 on the medium carb diet. In other words, when left to their own devices, the subjects reportedly ate 154 calories/day less on the low-carb diet compared to the medium carb diet. Not surprisingly, the subjects lost 1.3 kg more fat during the 4-week low-carb phase.
The researchers didn't stop there though. They then took six of the subjects and had them consume low- and high-carb diets identical in calories (2000 daily) for 4 weeks each in crossover fashion. Despite being served equal amounts of calories, the subjects actually ate 66 less calories daily on the low-carb diet and lost a statistically insignificant 900 grams more fat on the low-carb diet over 4 weeks.
Once again, no metabolic advantage, just the laws of nature in action - as they always are. Eat less than what you expend, you lose weight. The lower your caloric intake, the more weight you lose.
Protein and Satiety
The aforementioned studies involved little to no change in mean protein intakes – the primary dietary manipulation was carbohydrate restriction. What about high-protein intakes? What happens to caloric intake when dieters start eating more of this macronutrient?
Weigle and colleagues placed nineteen subjects sequentially on three diets: 1) a weight-maintaining diet 15% protein, 35% fat, 50% carbohydrate diet for 2 weeks; 2) an isocaloric 30% protein, 20% fat, 50% carbohydrate diet for 2 weeks; 3) an ad libitum diet 30% protein, 20% fat, 50% carbohydrate diet for 12 weeks.
Satiety was markedly increased with the isocaloric high-protein diet, and mean spontaneous energy intake decreased by 441 calories per day, body weight decreased by 4.9 kg, and fat mass decreased by 3.7 kg with the ad libitum, high-protein diet[Wiegle].
Note that all the diets in this study contained 50% carbohydrate, showing that high protein intakes and the benefits they impart are not exclusive to low-carb diets.
A study by Arizona State University researchers randomised twenty healthy adults to two diets, both containing 30% fat[Johnstone]. One of these was a high-protein/moderate-carbohydrate diet (30% protein, 40% carbohydrate), the other a low-protein, high-carbohydrate diet (10% protein, 60% carbs). Both diets were equally effective at reducing body weight (5.7% vs -5.9% in the high- and low-protein groups, respectively) and fat mass (-8.9 vs -10.6% in the high- and low-protein groups, respectively). However, subjects on the high-protein diet reported feeling more satiated during the trial, particularly in weeks 3 and 4. Big deal, you may say, in light of the fact that it didn't increase their mean weight or fat loss. Well, before dismissing the results, consider the dropout data. Four subjects did not complete the study, one in each diet group dropping out due to out-of-state travel. The other two subjects were both from the low-protein group and they both quit the feeding trial at week 3 due to "unendurable hunger". Both subjects had difficulty complying with the study protocol and admitted eating food items in addition to the foods provided by the study diet.
Both of the above studies were free-living studies, but the findings of improved satiation from high-protein intakes are commensurate with the shorter-term findings in controlled laboratory settings of increased satiety from high-protein meals[Astrup, as previously cited].
It should be pointed out that not all long-term studies show greater satiation with high-protein diets and, not surprisingly, there is no greater weight loss when this occurs[Kleiner].
It’s All In The Calories
Carbohydrate restriction, by smoothing out the peaks and troughs in blood sugar and insulin levels, routinely produces improvements in appetite control. Dietary fat and protein exert improvements in satiety independent of carbohydrate intake; if one or both of these are increased in conjunction with a reduction in carbohydrate intake, the satiating effects of the latter may be magnified even further.
This folks, is how low-carbohydrate diets really work to produce fat loss.
The bottom line is that when compared head to head, the satiating effects of low-carb diets are, at worst, equal to and quite often superior to those of higher carbohydrate diets. I’m not aware of any studies directly comparing low- and high-carbohydrate diets and reporting superior satiety on the latter (for the record, by structuring your diet in an 'evolutionary correct' manner you can indeed eat a high-carbohydrate intake and still keep a lid on your appetite, but this method is never used in low-carb versus high-carb clinical trials where either liquid formula or cereal-rich diets are routinely used. I’ll discuss this further in an upcoming update ofThe Fat Loss Bible).
Low-carbers acknowledge the superior satiating effects of these diets - in fact Atkins wrote about the hunger-suppressing effect of low-carb diets in his best-selling book (one of the few things he did manage to get right on weight loss). And low-carbers incessantly moan about the perpetual hunger and weight gain they experienced on low-fat diets (then in the same breath attempt to claim they ate more than ever on a low-carb diet and still lost weight…zzzz…zzzz…).
So if metabolic ward studies comparing low- and high-carb diets show no difference in weight loss, and the reason for this is because the participants cheated, as Eades adamantly claims, then the only logical conclusion we can arrive at is that those on the high-carb diets cheated the most because these diets provide less satiety. Again, that means the high-carb dieters ate more calories while still losing a similar amount of weight.
Gee, sounds like a metabolic advantage to me!
Congratulations are in order for what must surely be Dr. Michael Eades’ most spectacular public screw-up to date! The guy has spent the last 15 years vigorously attacking and ridiculing the low-fat/high-carbohydrate paradigm, but in his desperate attempt to discredit me he’s inadvertently supported a metabolic advantage for high-carb diets.
Well done Doc, I’m sure your arch-rivals Dean Ornish, T. Colin Campbell, John MacDougall, and the rest of the entire low-fat movement will no doubt be delighted with you. And I’m sure your fellow low-carbers, who were counting on you to save the low-carb-metabolic-advantage theory, will be very proud of you!
(Excuse me for a moment, I’m just cracking myself up here…)
Low-Carb, High-Carb, Whatever…MAD Is Still A Fantasy
He didn’t realize it, but when Eades committed himself to the “ward studies = cheating” argument, he dopily committed himself to supporting a metabolic advantage for high-carb/low-fat diets.
(Sound of 10th degree grandmaster of bullshit attempting spinning roundhouse kick in defense of low-carb MAD and falling flat on his ass)
Do I think Eades is right when he inadvertently supports a metabolic advantage for high-carb diets?
Yes and no.
Yes - in that meals high in carbohydrate have been observed to induce slightly greater dietary-induced thermogenesis (the increase in metabolism that occurs after eating) than those low in carbohydrate[Tentolouris N][Maffeis][Swaminathan][Karst][Schwartz], although this finding is not universal[Nair][Labayen].
No – in that the difference, when evident, is so miniscule as to be essentially meaningless in tightly controlled studies comparing weight loss on high- and low-carb diets. This also applies to protein, which is the most thermogenic of the three dietary macronutrients[Johnston]. MAD proponents embrace protein as if it is one of their own, but this is just another example of MAD “flimflammery”. The fact is, anyone is perfectly free to eat a high-protein diet regardless of their carbohydrate intake. And, unless you are eating a bucket full of steaks each day, the extra calorie burn from increasing protein is so small as to be essentially meaningless in terms of overall weight loss[Scott CB][Mikkelsen][Whitehead]. The absence of any meaningful metabolism-boosting effect of protein was reported by Keeton and Bone back in 1935, and has been confirmed by numerous other researchers. In a 1957 article published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, Dr. Vincent P. Dole explained: "The theory that high-protein diets stimulate metabolic rate, and thus accelerate weight loss, is not supported by actual tests. High protein diets have been found to cause no faster losses of weight than isocaloric low-protein diets."[Dole].
The advantage of extra protein is that it may help you burn a little more fat and keep a little extra muscle while leaving the overall rate of weight loss unchanged (as I explained in The The Fat Loss Bible, a ketogenic carbohydrate intake is likely to increase muscle losses). It is for this reason, and for reasons of optimal muscle repair and recovery, that I recommend high-protein diets.
I know, I know…MAD shills endlessly wank on about “calorie wastage” and the “thermodynamic advantage” of low-carb diets, and they make repeated references to the First and Second Laws of Thermodynamics in a pseudoscientific attempt to give their arguments a veneer of scientific respectability. But what do actual real world research results show? What happens when we ignore the pseudoscientific self-flagellation of the MAD crowd and look at actual clinical trials that compared the thermogenic effects of low- and high-carb nutrition?
Metabolism and Diet-Induced Thermogenesis on High- Versus Low- Carbohydrate Diets
Researchers from São Paulo, Brazil investigated the effect of three diets with different proportions of carbohydrate, protein, and fat on resting metabolic rate (RMR) and diet-induced thermogenesis (DIT) in obese women. Diet 1 contained 12% protein, 16% fat, 72% carbohydrate; Diet 2 contained 43% protein, 26% fat, 35% carbohydrate; Diet 3 contained 22% protein, 68% fat, 10% carbohydrate.
The diets provided 80% of the women's RMR and were followed for 7 days each under semi-ward conditions, followed by a 10-day washout period in which they ate their usual home diets. During the seven-day diet phases, the volunteers came daily to the hospital's Metabolic Unit to obtain the experimental diets and to be seen by the physician. They ate all the meals inside the Metabolic Unit under close supervision, but they slept at home.
On day seven of each diet period, each subject consumed the last meal at 8 PM; the next morning, after a 12-hour fast, a measurement of resting metabolic rate by indirect calorimetry was performed after a rest period of 60 minutes. To determine the thermic effect of food, the subject then ingested the test meal (15% of the basal metabolic rate) with the same macronutrient composition as each 7-day diet, and indirect calorimetry was performed 30, 60, 120, 180, 240, 300, and 360 minutes after meal ingestion.
There were no statistically significant differences in the resting metabolic rate nor the thermic effect of food resulting from the three diets. The mean resting metabolic rates were 1783, 1785 and 1693 calories for the high, medium, and low-carbohydrate diets, respectively. The mean thermic effects of food (kcal/min) were -0.02, -0.01, and 0.05 for the high-, medium-, and low-carb diets, respectively.
The researchers concluded: "Obese women with normal lung function tests and consuming mixed hypocaloric diets showed no alteration in resting metabolic rate and a reduced or absent thermic effect of food independently of the macronutrient composition"[Suen].
“Strike one!” for the “low carb diets increase metabolism” theory…
In another study, Bandini et al measured total energy expenditure during a low-carbohydrate diet under free-living conditions using doubly labeled water[Bandini]. This measure of free-living total energy expenditure differs from 24-hour energy expenditure measured in a room calorimeter because of the greater and more varied energy expended in physical activity. Seven subjects followed two isocaloric diets of similar protein content for 9-21 days with a 4-10-day break between diets in crossover fashion. Diet 1 was a high-fat diet (83.5% of calories), while diet 2 was a low-fat diet (83.1% of calories) Resting and postprandial resting metabolic rate were measured by open circuit indirect calorimetry 2-4 times during each metabolic period, while total energy expenditure (TEE) was measured by the doubly labeled water method over an 8-13-day period. No significant changes in resting metabolic rate (RMR) were apparent on the two diets (1567 on the high-fat diet and 1503 kcal/d on the high-carbohydrate diet). Total energy expenditure was significantly higher during the high-carbohydrate phase of the diet (2443 vs. 2078). Activity estimated from TEE/RMR was greater on the high-carbohydrate diet but only approached statistical significance (p<0.06). Far from creating an increased calorie burn, total energy expenditure decreased by 365 kcal during the initial phase of the ketogenic diet, possibly due to the energy-sapping effects that occur upon commencement of these diets (and upon continuation of these diets if one attempts to remain highly active).
“Strike two!” for the “low carb diets increase metabolism” theory…
Hmmm, it’s not looking too good for the MAD crowd – one more strike and we’re going to have to kick their cellulite-ridden butts out of the stadium. Grab your popcorn folks, and let’s see what the most recent study to look at this issue found.
Bonnie J. Brehm and her colleagues from the University of Cincinnati conducted a trial with obese free-living women who were randomized to four months of a calorie-restricted low-carbohydrate diet or a calorie-restricted low-fat diet. The low-carbohydrate group lost more weight (a mean 9.79 vs. 6.14 kg) and more body fat (6.20 vs. 3.23 kg) than the low-fat group. There were no differences in (notoriously unreliable) self-reported energy intakes between the diet groups during the study. Propagators of MAD, of course, would hail such results as proof of their beliefs. Thankfully, Brehm and her team decided not to rely on creative speculation but to actually put the metabolic advantage theory to the test. Using indirect calorimetry, they measured the actual resting energy expenditure (REE) of the women at baseline and again at 2 and 4 months. There were no differences between the low-carb and low-fat groups at any time point.
Brehm and her team didn't stop there. They took eight women and had them report to the lab on two separate occasions. On one of these visits, the subjects consumed either a low-carbohydrate or low-fat breakfast of approximately 540 calories, distributed as 5% carbohydrate, 26% protein, and 69% fat (for the low-carb meal) or 69% carbohydrate, 11% protein, and 20% fat (for the low-fat meal). Post-meal energy expenditure was then measured over the following 5 hours by indirect calorimetry. DIT was actually higher after the low-fat meal than after the low-carbohydrate meal, although the difference (22 calories) was hardly earth-shattering.
With a sense of reason and clarity sadly lacking in deluded low-carb diet gurus, the Cinicinatti researchers concluded: “The differential weight loss is not explained by differences in REE, TEF, or physical activity and likely reflects underreporting of food consumption by the low-fat dieters.”[Brehm]
Unlike Eades, Brehm isn’t simply pulling theories out of nethermost anatomical regions. Research shows that underreporting is indeed common in free-living and epidemiological studies, is strongly associated with the conscious attempt to restrict the intake of calories, and that the reported percentage of energy from fat is often lower in underreporters than in accurate reporters[Black AE][Bathalon][Asbeck][Voss S][Tooze]. Meaning that, in diet trials where self-reported intakes suggest low-fat/low-calorie dieters ate the same or less than low-carb dieters, the opposite is quite likely true. This is discussed in detail in Chapter 1, but of course Eades kinda sorta 'forgot' to mention this critical information, which casts the results of many free-living studies in a whole new light.
As researchers from the University of Lund, Sweden stated in the September 2005 issue of the International Journal of Obesity: "A rapid initial weight loss occurs with a low-carbohydrate diet due to a suppressed appetite. There is as yet no indication of an increased metabolic rate and an increased thermogenesis by the low-carbohydrate diet."[Erlanson-Albertsson]
“S-t-r-i-k-e- T-h-r-e-e! MAD, you’re out!”
As the MAD team bow their heads and commence their walk of shame from the pitch, to the sounds of loud hissing and booing from frustrated dieters who were duped by their lies, let’s take a look at some more studies to really hammer the point home.
Twelve healthy women of normal weight which researchers assessed and classified as restrained or unrestrained eaters consumed 3 different isocaloric diets. The low-fat diet provided 15% protein, 10% fat, and 75% carbohydrate; the medium-fat diet provided 15% protein, 30% fat, and 55% carbohydrate; and the HF diet provided 15% protein, 50% fat, and 35% energy as carbohydrate. All diets were consumed as four meals daily for a duration of 3 days each.
The third day of each dietary period was spent in a respiration chamber. The subjects were allowed to move freely within the chamber, to sit, lie down, study, telephone, listen to the radio and watch television, but no strenuous exercise or sleeping were allowed. Therefore, most activities performed were of a sedentary nature. The subjects' physical activity was inconspicuously monitored by a radar system.
Within the group of restrained eating subjects, 24-hour energy expenditure was lower on the medium and high-fat diets compared with the low-fat diet. On the medium-fat diet, the difference reached statisitical significance. Within the group of unrestrained eating subjects, diet composition had no significant effect on 24-hour energy expenditure.
Body weight did not change significantly over the 2 days in free-living conditions, but decreased by 500 grams on the low-fat diet and 600 grams on the high-fat diet during the stay in the respiration chamber. Over the entire three day period, there were no significant differences in changes of body weight due to the composition of the diet[Yerboeket-van de Venne WP].
Hill et al fed eight adults (three men, five women) a high-carbohydrate (20% protein, 20% fat, 60% carbohydrate) and a low-carbohydrate (20% protein, 60% fat, 20% carbohydrate) diet for 7 days each in randomized, crossover fashion[Hill]. Six subjects were studied for an additional week on a mixed diet (20% protein, 45% fat, 35% carbohydrate). For each subject, total caloric intake was identical on all diets and was intended to provide the subjects' maintenance energy requirements. All subjects spent days 3 and 7 of each week in a whole-room indirect calorimeter.
Neither total energy expenditure, resting metabolic rate nor sleeping metabolic rate differed between the three diets. The only thing that differed was a greater oxidation of fat on the high-fat low-carb diet and a greater oxidation of glucose on the high-carb diet. Low-carbers rave on about the "fat-burning" effects of their diet, but big deal...if you eat more fat it doesn't take a rocket scientist to conclude that a greater amount of incoming fat accompanied by a reduction of carbohydrate intake will mean a greater amount of fat and less carbohydrate being burned for fuel. The fact that overall energy expenditure remains unchanged and the failure of tightly controlled studies to show any difference in fat loss that cannot be attributed to calorie restriction pretty much says it all.
Abbott and colleagues studied the effects of varying dietary carbohydrate and fat in Pima Indians, a population well-known for its disproportionately high incidence of insulin resistance, diabetes and obesity. In this instance, six of the 20 subjects were diabetic. Unfortunately this study didn't include a true low-carbohydrate diet, only a medium- and high-carbohydrate diet. Nonetheless, the study was very tightly controlled and simply serves to further underscore the futility of reducing carbohydrates in the hope of "boosting" metabolism.
The medium-carb diet contained 15% protein, 42% fat and 43% carbohydrate, while the high carbohydrate diet contained 15% protein, 20% fat and 65% carbohydrate. The subjects were admitted to the research ward on two separate occasions at least 4 weeks apart, eating a different diet on each occasion. According to the researchers: "The subjects resided on the metabolic ward for the duration of the studies. Activity was restricted to the ward, and alcohol consumption was strictly forbidden".
Twenty-four hour energy expenditure was measured in a closed-circuit indirect calorimetry chamber. No differences were noted in 24-hour EE between the medium- and high-carb diets in neither the diabetic or non-diabetic subjects[Abbott].
I should point out that in some of the above studies, the low-carb/high-fat diets actually produced small but non-significant decreases in DIT and/or EE. Unlike Eades, however, I’m not in the business of shamelessly making out non-significant findings to be something they’re not. Eades’ blatant hypocrisy on this matter will be discussed in Part 2.
People Who Still Believe in MAD Must Be MAD
Low-carb shills have repeatedly claimed a metabolic advantage supposedly caused by the magical metabolism-boosting effect of their favoured diet. When clinical scientists - as in real clinical researchers, not family practitioners/cardiologists-come-diet-gurus who dress up in white coats on their book covers in a superficial attempt to look 'scientific' – put this theory to the test, it fails each and every time. That, of course, won’t stop the hucksterbolic Eades from contriving another load of convoluted self-contradictory bullpucky in an attempt to save face, but all you need to remember is this – he has no actual clinical evidence involving real live human beings (not rats, pigs, or specially bred Ob-Wistar-Agouti-b3546-gene transsexual possums) to back his garbage claims. The best this bloke can do, after 2-and-a-half years of seething Colpo-hatred, is to maliciously sling mud at metabolic ward studies, the people who conduct them, and the people who participate in them. Even then, his claims quickly fall apart when subjected to close scrutiny.
Unfortunately, the DIT phenomenon has become a playground for dietary charlatans, who claim that by eating more of a certain macronutrient or food item your fat will magically begin melting away. To help put the issue of DIT in its proper perspective, remember that alcohol and caffeine are also thermogenic. How many people do you know that have successfully lost weight simply by drinking more booze or coffee? I don’t know about the folks in your neck of the woods, but in my experience copious consumers of caffeine and alcohol especially tend to be in poor physical condition and could hardly be considered inspiring advertisements for a fat-stripping metabolic advantage.
Low-Carb Diets in the Long-Term: A Metabolic Disadvantage?
Like I said, in tightly controlled ward studies ranging up to 2 months, the tiny thermodynamic advantage sometimes exhibited by high-carbohydrate diets doesn’t seem to make any real difference in weight loss.
However, I reserve judgement for what may unfold in the longer term. Given the well-established effect of low-carb diets in reducing thyroid hormone levels (specifically T3), there exists the possibility that very low-carb diets may negatively impact weight loss/maintenance efforts over the longer term [Danforth][Spaulding][Davidson][Azizi][Serog][Fery][Mathieson][Hendler][Burman][Phinney].
But that’s a whole other story. If enough readers are interested and time permitting, I might write about this topic in depth some other time (for those of you have my ebook The Fat Loss Bible, rest assured I will be including this information in a soon-to-be released update). My purpose here is simply to show that the low-carb MAD claims of Eades and his mindless followers are, well, pure madness.
Today we have learned that:
--Dr. Michael Eades is still selectively interpreting the research to suit his own agenda.
--Eades is still campaigning for a low-carb metabolic advantage, but is continually downplaying its size to a greater and greater extent.
--The claims made by Eades actually support a metabolic advantage for high-carb diets.
--Clinical studies have failed to find any meaningful difference in resting metabolism or diet-induced thermogenesis between low- and high-carbohydrate meals/diets. When small increases are found, they have occurred with the latter.
There is a tiny metabolic advantage – for high-protein, high-carbohydrate diets. However, at the protein and carbohydrate levels that most people consume, the difference in weight loss is virtually non-existent. Getting lean still requires the inescapable strategy that has worked since time immemorial – the creation of a sufficient calorie deficit via caloric restriction and/or an increase in physical activity.
Low-carbers despise me for emphasizing this inalienable truth, but after five years of virulent opposition they still have offered absolutely nothing in the way of controlled evidence to show that one can create fat-based weight loss in the absence of a calorie deficit. The reason for this is quite simple – it’s impossible.
I could probably leave it at that – but I won’t. Believe me, I’m just getting warmed up. Eades has chosen to restart this fight, and he’s given me so much BS to work with that I could easily turn my dissection of his dissection into an ongoing mini-series. Stay tuned for the next installment of The Great Eades Smackdown, 2010!, when I’ll further discuss cheating, the Rabast studies, significance vs non-significance, the utter stupidity of using animal studies to prove a low-carb metabolic advantage, and more.
Until then, adios!
To view Part 2 of The Great Eades Smackdown, click here.
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