Category Archives: Weight Loss

High Glycemic Load and High Glycemic Index Eating Linked to Weight Regain and Higher Blood Sugars

“Would you like a load?”

My headline says it all. Click for my definitions and discussion of glycemic load and glycemic index.

From Diabetes Care:

OBJECTIVE To examine longitudinal and dose-dependent associations of dietary glycemic index (GI), glycemic load (GL), and fiber with body weight and glycemic status during 3-year weight loss maintenance (WLM) in adults at high risk of type 2 diabetes.

RESEARCH DESIGN AND METHODS In this secondary analysis we used pooled data from the PREVention of diabetes through lifestyle Intervention and population studies in Europe and around the World (PREVIEW) randomized controlled trial, which was designed to test the effects of four diet and physical activity interventions. A total of 1,279 participants with overweight or obesity (age 25–70 years and BMI ≥25 kg ⋅ m−2) and prediabetes at baseline were included. We used multiadjusted linear mixed models with repeated measurements to assess longitudinal and dose-dependent associations by merging the participants into one group and dividing them into GI, GL, and fiber tertiles, respectively.

RESULTS In the available-case analysis, each 10-unit increment in GI was associated with a greater regain of weight (0.46 kg ⋅ year−1; 95% CI 0.23, 0.68; P < 0.001) and increase in HbA1c. Each 20-unit increment in GL was associated with a greater regain of weight (0.49 kg ⋅ year−1; 0.24, 0.75; P < 0.001) and increase in HbA1c. The associations of GI and GL with HbA1c were independent of weight change. Compared with those in the lowest tertiles, participants in the highest GI and GL tertiles had significantly greater weight regain and increases in HbA1c. Fiber was inversely associated with increases in waist circumference, but the associations with weight regain and glycemic status did not remain robust in different analyses.

CONCLUSIONS Dietary GI and GL were positively associated with weight regain and deteriorating glycemic status. Stronger evidence on the role of fiber is needed.

Steve Parker, M.D.

PS: The book below will help you keep your glycemic index and glycemic load low, thereby preventing weight regain.

Is the Paleo Diet the Easiest to Stick With?

I’ve never eaten rabbit, but would try it. A patient in Florida cooked squirrel for me. Tastes like chicken, as I recall.

An article at Public Health Nutrition suggests that, yes, the paleo diet is one of the last to be abandoned. I’m not paying the $35 for access to the full article, so I don’t know which diets were considered. I assume all the popular ones.

Abstract

Objective: To use Internet search data to compare duration of compliance for various diets.

Design: Using a passive surveillance digital epidemiological approach, we estimated the average duration of diet compliance by examining monthly Internet searches for recipes related to popular diets. We fit a mathematical model to these data to estimate the time spent on a diet by new January dieters (NJD) and to estimate the percentage of dieters dropping out during the American winter holiday season between Thanksgiving and the end of December.

Setting: Internet searches in the USA for recipes related to popular diets over a 15-year period from 2004 to 2019.

Participants: Individuals in the USA performing Internet searches for recipes related to popular diets.

Results: All diets exhibited significant seasonality in recipe-related Internet searches, with sharp spikes every January followed by a decline in the number of searches and a further decline in the winter holiday season. The Paleo diet had the longest average compliance times among “new January dieters” (5.32 ± 0.68 weeks) and the lowest dropout during the winter holiday season (only 14 ± 3 % dropping out in December). The South Beach diet had the shortest compliance time among NJD (3.12 ± 0.64 weeks) and the highest dropout during the holiday season (33 ± 7 % dropping out in December).

Conclusions: The current study is the first of its kind to use passive surveillance data to compare the duration of adherence with different diets and underscores the potential usefulness of digital epidemiological approaches to understanding health behaviours.

Steve Parker, M.D.

Paleo Diet Reduced Body Fat and Waist Circumference

Paleolithic populations weren’t plagued by overweight and obesity

An extremely small study of only seven healthy inactive experimental subjects (BMI 29.4. so almost obese, average age 32) found a drop in BMI to 27.7 but no change in the measured adipokines while following a paleo diet for eight weeks. The investigators write, “Adipokines are considered a class of biomarkers indicative of health and metabolic disease. They are secreted from adipose tissue and act in an autocrine, paracrine, or endocrine manner and have been implicated in the regulation of metabolic health and eating behaviors.”

Here’s a link to the full text article in International Journal of Exercise Science. The abstract:

The Paleolithic diet, characterized by an emphasis on hunter-gatherer type foods accompanied by an exclusion of grains, dairy products, and highly processed food items, is often promoted for weight loss and a reduction in cardiometabolic disease risk factors. Specific adipokines, such as adiponectin, omentin, nesfatin, and vaspin are reported to be dysregulated with obesity and may respond favorably to diet-induced fat loss. We aimed to evaluate the effects of an eight-week Paleolithic dietary intervention on circulating adiponectin, omentin, nesfatin, and vaspin in a cohort of physically inactive, but otherwise healthy adults.

Methods: Seven inactive adults participated in eight weeks of adherence to the Paleolithic Diet. Fasting blood samples, anthropometric, and body composition data were collected from each participant pre-and post-intervention. Serum adiponectin, omentin, nesfatin, and vaspin were measured. Results: After eight weeks of following the Paleolithic diet, there were reductions (p<0.05) in relative body fat (−4.4%), waist circumference (− 5.9 cm), and sum of skinfolds (−36.8 mm). No changes were observed in waist to hip ratio (WHR), or in adiponectin, omentin, and nesfatin (p>0.05), while serum vaspin levels for all participants were undetectable.

Conclusions: It is possible that although eight weeks resulted in modest body composition changes, short-term fat loss will not induce changes in adiponectin, omentin, and nesfatin in apparently healthy adults. Larger, long-term intervention studies that examine Paleolithic diet-induced changes across sex, body composition, and in populations with metabolic dysregulation are warranted.

Steve Parker, M.D.

During Maintenance of Weight Loss, Low-Carb Eating Allows You to Eat More…Calories

Low-Carb: Spaghetti squash “spaghetti” with meaty sauce

From The Journal of Nutrition:

In this analysis of a large feeding study, we observed higher estimated energy requirement on a low- compared with high-carbohydrate diet during weight-loss maintenance. The magnitude of this effect (about 200 to 300 kcal/d, or ∼50 kcal/d for every 10% decrease in carbohydrate as a proportion of total energy) and the numerical order across groups (Low-Carb > Moderate-Carb > High-Carb) are commensurate with previously reported changes in TEE [total energy expenditure], supporting the carbohydrate-insulin model.

Source: Energy Requirement Is Higher During Weight-Loss Maintenance in Adults Consuming a Low- Compared with High-Carbohydrate Diet | The Journal of Nutrition | Oxford Academic

In other words, in order to maintain weight loss, you have to (or can) eat more calories if you’re eating low-carb versus high-carb. If your chosen calories are expensive, this could be a drawback. On the other hand, many folks who lose weight complain that they just can’t eat very much or they’ll gain the weight right back. So, if they eat low-carb style, they CAN eat more……calories. Just not more Doritos and Ding-Dongs.

Steve Parker, M.D.

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Low-Carb Diets Improve Cardiovascular Disease Risk Factors

This Shrimp Salad is truly low-carb

A meta-analysis by Chinese investigators found that low-carb diets improve cardiovascular risk factors. Specifically: body weight (lowered), triglycerides (lowered), HDL-cholesterol (raised), blood pressure (lowered systolic and diastolic, but less than 2 points).

Additionally, they found increases in total cholesterol  and HDL-cholesterol. Some consider those to be going in the wrong direction, increasing cardiovascular risk. The study authors, however, considered these increases “slight,” implying lack of real-world significance.

I’ll not fisk the entire research paper. Have a go at it yourself by clicking the link to full-text below.

The researchers included 12 randomized controlled trials in their analysis. They defined low-carb diets as having less than 40% of calories derived from carbohydrates. If you’re eating 2200 calories a day, 39% of calories from carb would be 215 g of carbs/day. That’s a lot of carb, and wouldn’t be much lower than average. I scanned the report pretty quickly and didn’t run across an overall average for carb grams or calories in the low-carb diets. The “control diets” had 45–55% of calories from carbohydrate.

Here’s the abstract:

Background

Low-carbohydrate diets are associated with cardiovascular risk factors; however, the results of different studies are inconsistent.

Purpose

The aim of this meta-analysis was to assess the relationship between low-carbohydrate diets and cardiovascular risk factors.

Method

Four electronic databases (PubMed, Embase, Medline, and the Cochrane Library) were searched from their inception to November 2018. We collected data from 12 randomized trials on low-carbohydrate diets including total cholesterol, high-density lipoprotein cholesterol (HDL-C), low-density lipoprotein cholesterol (LDL-C), triglycerides, and blood pressure levels, as well as weight as the endpoints. The average difference (MD) was used as the index to measure the effect of a low-carbohydrate diet on cardiovascular risk factors with a fixed-effects model or random-effects model. The analysis was further stratified by factors that might affect the results of the intervention.

Results

From 1292 studies identified in the initial search results, 12 randomized studies were included in the final analysis, which showed that a low-carbohydrate diet was associated with a decrease in triglyceride levels of -0.15mmol/l (95% confidence interval -0.23 to -0.07). Low-carbohydrate diet interventions lasting less than 6 months were associated with a decrease of -0.23mmol/l (95% confidence interval -0.32 to -0.15), while those lasting 12–23 months were associated with a decrease of -0.17mmol/l (95% confidence interval -0.32 to -0.01). The change in the body weight in the observation groups was -1.58kg (95% confidence interval -1.58 to -0.75); with for less than 6 months of intervention, this change was -1.14 kg (95% confidence interval -1.65 to -0.63),and with for 6–11 months of intervention, this change was -1.73kg (95% confidence interval -2.7 to -0.76). The change in the systolic blood pressure of the observation group was -1.41mmHg (95% confidence interval—2.26 to -0.56); the change in diastolic blood pressure was -1.71mmHg (95% confidence interval—2.36 to -1.06); the change in plasma HDL-C levels was 0.1mmHg (95% confidence interval 0.08 to 0.12); and the change in serum total cholesterol was 0.13mmol/l (95% confidence interval 0.08 to 0.19). The plasma LDL-C level increased by 0.11mmol/l (95% confidence interval 0.02 to 0.19), and the fasting blood glucose level changed 0.03mmol/l (95% confidence interval -0.05 to 0.12),which was not significant.

Conclusions

This meta-analysis confirms that low-carbohydrate diets have a beneficial effect on cardiovascular risk factors but that the long-term effects on cardiovascular risk factors require further research.

Source: The effects of low-carbohydrate diets on cardiovascular risk factors: A meta-analysis

Steve Parker, M.D.

PS: The Paleobetic Diet provides roughly 60 grams/day of digestible carbohydrate.

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Has Your New Weight Loss Plan Failed Already? I Can Help

That excess weight can shorten your life

If you’re down at least 4–5 pounds (2.5 kg) since making that weight loss resolution Jan. 1, that’s great. Keep it up. But most folks did well for a couple weeks and started gaining the weight back. Don’t be too hard on yourself. Weight management is not a walk in the park. You probably weren’t adequately prepared for the challenge.

Longterm success requires careful forethought. That’s why I’ve written this eight-part series.

Questions beg for answers.  For example . . .

Which of the myriad weight-loss programs will I follow?  Can I design my own program?  Should I use a diet book?  Sign up for Nutri-System, Weight Watchers, or Jenny Craig?  Should I stop wasting my time dieting and go directly to bariatric surgery?  Can I simply cut back on sodas and chips?  What should I eat?  What should I not eat?  Do I need to start exercising?  What kind?  How much?  Do I need to join a gym?  What methods are proven to increase my odds of success?  How much weight should I lose?  Should I use weight-loss pills or supplements?  Which ones?  What’s the easiest, most effective way to lose weight?  Is there a program that doesn’t require willpower?  Now, what were those “top 10 super-power foods” that melt away the fat?  Am I ready to get serious and stick with it this time?

This series will answer many of these questions and get you teed up for success.  Teed up like a golfer ready to hit his first shot on hole #1 of an 18-hole course.  Take 10 minutes to read the following articles.  The time invested will pay dividends for years.

C’mon now. Let’s be realistic.

Part 1:  Motivation

Immediate, short-term motivation to lose weight may stem from an upcoming high school reunion, swimsuit season, or a wedding. You want to look your best. Maybe you want to attract a mate or keep one interested. Perhaps a boyfriend, co-worker, or relative said something mean about your weight. These motivators may work, but only temporarily. Basing a lifestyle change on them is like building on shifting sands. You need a firmer foundation for a lasting structure. Without a lifestyle change, you are unlikely to vanquish a chronic overweight problem.  Proper long-term motivation may grow from:

  • the discovery that you feel great and have more energy when you are lighter and eating sensibly
  • the sense of accomplishment from steady progress
  • the acknowledgment that you have free will and are responsible for your weight and many aspects    of your health
  • the inspiration from seeing others take charge of their lives successfully
  • the admission that you have some guilt and shame about being fat, and that you like yourself more when you’re not fat  [I’m not laying shame or guilt on you; many of us do it to ourselves.]
  • the awareness of overweight-related adverse health effects and their improvement with even modest weight loss.

Appropriate motivation will support the commitment and willpower that will be needed soon.

PS: I’m thinking of how Dave Ramsay, when he’s counseling people who have gotten way overhead in debt, tells them they have to get mad at the debt.  Then they can attack it.  Maybe you have to get mad at your fat.  It’s your enemy, dragging you down, trying to kill you.  Now attack it!

Part 2:  The Energy Balance Equation

An old joke from my medical school days asks, “How many psychiatrists does it take to change a light bulb?”  Only one, but the light bulb must want to change.

How many weight-loss programs does it take before you lose that weight for good?  Only one, but…

Where does the fat go when you lose weight dieting?  Metabolic reactions convert it to energy, water, and carbon dioxide, which weigh less than fat.  Most of your energy supply is used to fuel basic life-maintaining physiologic processes at rest, referred to as resting or basal metabolism.  Basal metabolic rate (BMR) is expressed as calories per kilogram of body weight per hour.  Even at rest, a kilogram of muscle is much more metabolically active than a kilogram of fat tissue.  So muscular lean people sitting quietly in a room are burning more calories than are fat people of the same weight sitting in the same room.

The major determinants of BMR are age, sex, and the body’s relative proportions of muscle and fat.  Heredity plays a lesser role.

Energy not used for basal metabolism is either stored as fat or converted by the muscles to physical activity.  Most of us use about 70 percent of our energy supply for basal metabolism and 30 percent for physical activity.  Those who exercise regularly and vigorously may expend 40–60 percent of their calorie intake doing physical activity.  Excess energy not used in resting metabolism or physical activity is stored as fat.

If you want to lose excess weight and keep it off, you must learn the following equation:

The energy you eat,

          minus the energy you burn in metabolism and activity,

               determines your change in body fat.  [read more]

Cute mouse, but a slave to instincts.

Part 3:  Free Will

The only way to lose excess fat weight is to cut down on the calories you take in, increase your physical activity, or do both.

Oh, sure.  You could get a leg amputated, develop hyperthyroidism or out-of-control diabetes, or have liposuction or bariatric surgery.  But you get my drift.

Although the exercise portion of the energy balance equation is somewhat optional, you must reduce food intake to lose a significant amount of weight.  Once you reach your goal weight you will be able to return to nearly your current calorie consumption, and even higher consumption if you have increased your muscle mass and continue to be active.

Are you be able to reduce calorie intake and increase your physical activity temporarily? It comes down to whether we have free will.  Free will is the power, attributed especially to humans, of making free choices that are unconstrained by external circumstances or by an agency such as divine will.

Will is the mental faculty by which one chooses or decides upon a course of action; volition.

Willpower is the strength of will to carry out one’s decisions, wishes, or plans.

If we don’t have free will, you’re wasting time trying to lose weight through dieting; nothing will get your weight problem under control.  Even liposuction and weight-reduction stomach surgery will fail in time if you are fated to be fat.  The existence of free will is . . . [read more]

Part 4:  Starting New Habits

You already have a number of good habits that support your health and make your life more enjoyable, productive, and efficient.  For example, you brush your teeth and bathe regularly, put away clean clothes in particular spots, pay bills on time, get up and go to work every day, wear your seat belt, put your keys or purse in one place when you get home, balance your checkbook periodically.

At one point, these habits took much more effort than they do now.  But you decided they were the right thing to do, made them a priority, practiced them at first, made a conscious effort to perform them on schedule, and repeated them over time.  All this required discipline.  That’s how good habits become part of your lifestyle, part of you.  Over time, your habits require much less effort and hardly any thought.  You just do it.

Your decision to lose fat permanently means that you must establish some new habits, such as regular exercise and reasonable food restriction.  You’ve already demonstrated that you have self-discipline.  The application of that discipline to new behaviors will support your commitment and willpower.

Exercise isn’t very important for weight loss, but critical for preventing weight regain.

Part 5:  Supportive Social System

Success at any major endeavor is easier when you have a supportive social system.  And make no mistake: losing a significant amount of weight and keeping it off long-term is a major endeavor.

As an example of a supportive social system, consider childhood education.  A network of actors play supportive roles.  Parents provide transportation, school supplies, a home study area, help with homework, etc.  Siblings leave the child alone so he can do his homework, and older ones set an example.  Neighbors may participate in carpooling.  Taxpayers provide money for public schools.  Teachers do their part.  The school board oversees the curriculum, supervises teachers, and does long-range planning.

Success is more likely when all the actors work together for their common goal: education of the child.  Similarly, your starring role in a weight-loss program may win an Academy Award if you have a strong cast of supporting actors.  Your mate, friends, co-workers, and relatives may be helpers or hindrances.  It will help if they . . . [read more]

Part 6:  Weight Goals

Despite all the chatter about how to lose weight, few talk about how much should be lost.

"This can't be right!"

Down 4 pounds in 6 months. I’ll take it!

If you are overweight, deciding how much weight you should lose is not as simple as it seems at first blush.  I rarely have to tell a patient she’s overweight. She knows it and has an intuitive sense of whether it’s mild, moderate, or severe in degree.  She’s much less clear about how much weight she should lose.  If it’s any consolation, clinicians in the field aren’t always sure either.

Five weight standards have been in common usage over the last quarter-century . . . [read more]

Part 7:  Creative Visualization

How will your life be different after you make a commitment and have the willpower to lose weight permanently?

Odds are, you will be more physically active than you are now.  Exercise will be a habit, four to seven days per week.  Not necessarily vigorous exercise, perhaps just walking for 30 or 45 minutes.  It won’t be a chore.  It will be pleasant, if not fun.  The exercise will make you more energetic, help you sleep better, and improve your self-esteem.

After you achieve your goal weight, you’ll be able to cut back on exercise to three or four days per week, if you want.  If you enjoy eating as much as I do, you may want to keep very active physically so that you can eat more.  I must tell you that I rarely see anyone lose a major amount of weight and keep it off without . . . [read more]

Part 8:  Choosing A Program

I listed most of your weight-loss program options in the introductory comments to this series.  Now it’s time to make a choice.  And it’s not easy sorting through all the options.

Straight away, I must tell you that women over 300 pounds (136 kg) and men over 350 pounds (159 kg) rarely have permanent success with self-help methods such as diet books, meal replacement programs, diet pills or supplements, and meal-delivery systems.  People at those high weights who have tried and failed multiple different weight-loss methods should seriously consider bariatric surgery.

I respect your intelligence and desire to do your “due diligence” and weigh all your options: diet books, diet pills and supplements, bariatric surgery, meal replacement products (e.g., SlimFast), portion-control meal providers (e.g., NutriSystem), Weight Watchers, fad diets, no-diet diets, “just cutting back,” etc.  You have to make the choice; I can’t make it for you.  Here are some well-respected sources of advice to review before you choose . . . [read more]

Last modification date:  November 1, 2017

High Protein Diet May Prevent Regain of Lost Weight

Filet mignon and sautéed asparagus

Weight loss can change your metabolism in such a way that promotes regain of lost weight. For successful weight-losers with prediabetes, a higher protein diet could help with prevention of regain. How much higher protein? 25% versus the usual 15% of calories from fat.

This is important research since most people who lose fat weight gain it back, typically within the subsequent 6–12 months.

For the boring details, keep reading.

ABSTRACT

Background

Weight loss has been associated with adaptations in energy expenditure. Identifying factors that counteract these adaptations are important for long-term weight loss and weight maintenance.

Objective

The aim of this study was to investigate whether increased protein/carbohydrate ratio would reduce adaptive thermogenesis (AT) and the expected positive energy balance (EB) during weight maintenance after weight loss in participants with prediabetes in the postobese state.

Methods

In 38 participants, the effects of 2 diets differing in protein/carbohydrate ratio on energy expenditure and respiratory quotient (RQ) were assessed during 48-h respiration chamber measurements ∼34 mo after weight loss. Participants consumed a high-protein (HP) diet (n = 20; 13 women/7 men; age: 64.0 ± 6.2 y; BMI: 28.9 ± 4.0 kg/m 2) with 25:45:30% or a moderate-protein (MP) diet (n = 18; 9 women/9 men; age: 65.1 ± 5.8 y; BMI: 29.0 ± 3.8 kg/m 2) with 15:55:30% of energy from protein:carbohydrate:fat. Predicted resting energy expenditure (REEp) was calculated based on fat-free mass and fat mass. AT was assessed by subtracting measured resting energy expenditure (REE) from REEp. The main outcomes included differences in components of energy expenditure, substrate oxidation, and AT between groups.

Results

EB (MP = 0.2 ± 0.9 MJ/d; HP = −0.5 ± 0.9 MJ/d) and RQ (MP = 0.84 ± 0.02; HP = 0.82 ± 0.02) were reduced and REE (MP: 7.3 ± 0.2 MJ/d compared with HP: 7.8 ± 0.2 MJ/d) was increased in the HP group compared with the MP group (P < 0.05). REE was not different from REEp in the HP group, whereas REE was lower than REEp in the MP group (P < 0.05). Furthermore, EB was positively related to AT (rs = 0.74; P < 0.001) and RQ (rs = 0.47; P < 0.01) in the whole group of participants.

Conclusions

In conclusion, an HP diet compared with an MP diet led to a negative EB and counteracted AT ∼34 mo after weight loss, in participants with prediabetes in the postobese state. These results indicate the relevance of compliance to an increased protein/carbohydrate ratio for long-term weight maintenance after weight loss. The trial was registered at clinicaltrials.gov as NCT01777893.

Source: High Compared with Moderate Protein Intake Reduces Adaptive Thermogenesis and Induces a Negative Energy Balance during Long-term Weight-Loss Maintenance in Participants with Prediabetes in the Postobese State: A PREVIEW Study | The Journal of Nutrition | Oxford Academic

Steve Parker, M.D.

PS: I didn’t read the whole study. I leave that to you.

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Real-World Comparison of Paleo, Mediterranean, and Intermittent Fasting Diets for Weight Loss

New Zealand researchers didn’t find much difference in outcomes between the three diets: intermittent fasting, Mediterranean, or paleo.

I don’t have the full article so know few details about the diets. For instance, there are many different intermitting fasting diets: which one did they use?

250 overweight adults chose which diet they wanted to follow for 12 months. Participants got a 30-minute educational session on their chosen diet and then were set loose. They may also have chosen “standard exercise” or high-intensity interval training.

From the report abstract:

RESULTS:

Although 54.4% chose IF [intermittent fasting], 27.2% Mediterranean, and 18.4% Paleo diets originally, only 54% (IF), 57% (Mediterranean), and 35% (Paleo) participants were still following their chosen diet at 12 mo (self-reported). At 12 mo, weight loss was -4.0 kg (95% CI: -5.1, -2.8 kg) in IF, -2.8 kg (-4.4, -1.2 kg) in Mediterranean, and -1.8 kg (-4.0, 0.5 kg) in Paleo participants. Sensitivity analyses showed that, due to substantial dropout, these may be overestimated by ≤1.2 kg, whereas diet adherence increased mean weight loss by 1.1, 1.8, and 0.3 kg, respectively. Reduced systolic blood pressure was observed with IF (-4.9 mm Hg;  -7.2, -2.6 mm Hg) and Mediterranean (-5.9 mm Hg; -9.0, -2.7 mm Hg) diets, and reduced glycated hemoglobin with the Mediterranean diet (-0.8 mmol/mol; -1.2, -0.4 mmol/mol). However, the between-group differences in most outcomes were not significant and these comparisons may be confounded due to the nonrandomized design.

CONCLUSIONS:

Small differences in metabolic outcomes were apparent in participants following self-selected diets without intensive ongoing dietary support, even though dietary adherence declined rapidly. However, results should be interpreted with caution given the exploratory nature of analyses.

Source: Intermittent fasting, Paleolithic, or Mediterranean diets in the real world: exploratory secondary analyses of a weight-loss trial that included ch… – PubMed – NCBI

I probably won’t bother to read the full report. You’re welcome to it for $35 USD. The abstract doesn’t convince me it’s worth my time and money.

Steve Parker, M.D.

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Ketogenic and Very Low-Carb Diet Effective for T2 Diabetes for at Least Two Years

This Avocado Chicken soup is very low-carb. Use the search box to find the recipe.

It’s well-established that very low-carb and ketogenic diets over the short-term usually do a good job for folks with type 2 diabetes: better blood sugar levels, fewer diabetes drugs needed, improved lipids, lower blood pressure, etc. Many people—from patients to dietitians to physicians—question whether the diet and associated improvements can be sustained for more than a few months. The study at hand looked at results two years out, and found definite clinical benefit and sustainability.

First, a quick point to get out of the way. In the U.S., HgbA1c is reported as a percentage. But other countries often report HgbA1c in mmol/mol. It’s not easy to convert one to the other accurately, so when you see values in mmol/mol below, be aware they’re only my approximations, not the researchers’.

Here’s how the researchers did their study, published in the summer of 2019.

Scientific Method

262 adults with type 2 diabetes (average age 54) were enrolled in the intervention group, called CCI (digitally-monitored continuous care intervention via a web-based app). 87 were assigned to “usual care.” For all participants at baseline, body mass index averaged 37-40, HgbA1c averaged 7.6% (60 mmol/mol), and they had diabetes for an average of eight years. The CCI group monitored beta-hydroxybutyrate (a ketone) levels, glucoses, body weight, etc, and uploaded results via the web-based app. The app also facilitated an online peer community for social support. For those who preferred in-person education (about half of the total), clinic-based group meetings were held weekly for 12 weeks, bi-weekly for 12 weeks, monthly for six months, and then quarterly in the second year. Continuous Care Intervention included individual support with telemedicine, customized nutritional guidance (emphasis on sustained nutritional ketosis), and health coaching.

The 87 Usual Care folks were recruited from the same geographic area and healthcare system. The received care from their primary care physician or endocrinologist and were counseled by a dietitian (ADA recommendations) as part of their diabetes education. Medical care was not modified for the study. This group had less intense clinical measurements than the CCI cohort.

Of the 262 participants who started with the CCI group, 218 remained after one year. So 44 drop-outs. Of these 262 pioneers, 194 remained for the entire second year (so 24 more drop-outs). If those drop-out numbers seem high to you, be aware that they are NOT. Even the Usual Care group of 87 had 19 drop-outs over the two years.

So what happened?

Reductions from baseline to two years in the CCI group included: fasting insulin, weight (down about 10% or 11.9 kg), blood pressure (systolic and diastolic), HgbA1c, and triglycerides. Those are all going in the right direction.

Other findings for the CCI group: HDL-cholesterol (“good cholesterol”) went up. Excluding metformin, the use of diabetes control drugs in the CCI group dropped from 56% of participants to 27%. Some dietitians fear the ketogenic diets are bad for bones, causing calcium to leak out of bones, weakening them since calcium is the main mineral in bones. But spine bone mineral density in the CCI group was unchanged over the two years.

The “usual care” group had no changes in those measurements or diabetes medication use.

Now, to understand some of the investigators results, you need to know their definitions. Diabetes remission = glycemic control without medication use. Partial remission is “sub-diabetic hyperglycemia of at least 1 year duration, HgbA1c level between 5.7-6.5% (39 to 48 mmol/mol), without any medications (two HbgA1c measurements).” Complete remission is “normoglycemia of at least 1 year duration, HgbA1c below 5.7% [39 mmol/mol], without any medications (two HgbA1c measurements).” Diabetes reversal per Supplementary Table 2: Sub-diabetic hyperglycemia and normoglycemia (HgbA1c below 6.5% or 48 mmol/mol), without medications except metformin.

The CCI group had resolution of diabetes (partial or complete remission in 18%, reversal in 53%), which was not seen in the usual care group. Complete remission was achieved in 17 (6.7%) of the CCI group. HgbA1c in the CCI group at two years dropped from average of 7.6% (60 mmol/mol)  to 6.7% (50 mmol/mol).

Conquer Diabetes and Prediabetes

Metformin is the most-recommended drug for type 2 diabetes

“CCI diabetes reversal exceeds remission as prescriptions for metformin were usually continued given its role in preventing disease progression, preserving beta-cell function and in the treatment of pre-diabetes per guidelines.”

The average dose of insulin in CCI folks who were using insulin at baseline decreased by 81% at two years. (Have you noticed the price of insulin lately?)

Beta-hydroxybutyrate is a ketone, and at a certain level in the blood, indicates the presence of ketosis on a ketogenic diet. “The 2 year beta-hydroxybutryate (BHB) increase above baseline demonstrated sustained dietary modification.”  “…the encouraged range of nutritional ketosis (> or = 0.5 mM) was observed in only a minority (14.1%) of participants at 2 years. On average, patient-measured BHB was > or = 0.5mM for 32.8% of measurement over the 2 years.”

Bottom Line

In summary, the CCI group—eating ketogenic and/or very low-carb—showed sustained beneficial effects even two years after start of the study. I suspect the Virta app, clinic-based group meetings, and individual support and coaching contributed significantly to the participants’ success.

Steve Parker, M.D.

PS: By the way, many of the study authors are affiliated with Virta Health Corp., which I assume is a for-profit company. Virta provided funding for the study. Could that funding have unduly influenced the results? It’s always possible but I have no evidence that it did. If not already available, I expect a commercial version of the program will be within 12–24 months.

Reference: Athinarayanan, S.J., et al (including Sarah Hallberg, Jeff Volek, and Stephen Phinney). Long-Term Effects of a Novel Continuous Remote Care Intervention Including Nutritional Ketosis for the Management of Type 2 Diabetes: A 2-year Non-randomized Clinical Trial. Frontiers in Endocrinology, Vol. 10, article 348, June 19, 2019.

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Can You Avoid Muscle Loss on Low-Calorie Diets?

Greek salad with canned salmon

The parts of your body that aren’t fat tissue are collectively called fat-free mass or lean mass. Fat-free mass includes muscle, organs, bones, water, connective tissue, etc. Reduced-calorie diets are often linked to reduction of body components—like muscle—other than the desired loss of excess fat.

One proven effective way to preserve muscle mass on a reduced-calorie diet is to consume adequate protein. Judicious exercise also helps.

I haven’t read the full article below, and probably won’t. For what it’s worth, the authors say fat-free mass can be preserved during a very low-carb ketogenic diet via adequate intake of vitamin D, leucine, and whey protein. Do you think maybe they’re selling a particular supplement?

The abstract isn’t very well written. Or is it the title that’s misleading?

Abstract

The loss of fat free mass (FFM) that occurs during a weight loss secondary to low-calorie diet can lead to numerous and deleterious consequences. We performed a review in order to evaluate the till-now evidence regarding the optimum treatment for maintaining FFM during low-calorie diet. This review included eligible studies. In order to maintain FFM during a low-calorie diet, there are various diet strategies: adopt a very-low carbohydrates ketogenic diets (VLCKD) and take an adequate amount of specific nutrients (vitamin D, leucine, whey protein). As regard the numerous and various low-calorie diet proposals for achieving weight loss, the comparison of VLCKD with prudent low-calorie diet demonstrated that FFM was practically unaffected by VLCKD. This is possible for numerous mechanisms, involving insulin and insulin like grow factor-I – growth hormone (IGF-I-GH) axis, and which acts by stimulating protein synthesis. Considering protein and amino acids intake, an adequate daily intake of leucine (4 grams/day), and whey protein (20 grams/day) is recommended.

Regarding vitamin D, if the blood vitamin D has low values (<30 ng/ml), it is mandatory that an adequate supplementation is provided, specifically calcifediol because in the obese subject, this form is recommended to avoid seizure in the adipose tissue: 3–4 drops/day or 20–30 drops/week of calcifediol are generally adequate to restore normal 25(OH)D plasma levels in obese subjects.

Source: Current Opinion On Dietary Advice In Order To Preserve Fat Free Mass During A Low-Calorie Diet – ScienceDirect

I had never heard of that obesity-calcifidiol connection.

Steve Parker, M.D.

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