Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Blame Canada

Low carb diets have always been the "ugly red-headed stepchild" of the dieting world. Despite over 100 years of evidence that reducing your intake of sugar and refined carbohydrates can help you lose weight, lower your blood pressure, raise good cholesterol, and reverse type 2 diabetes, low carbing is still called a "fad". Not only that people who promote the diet are called quacks, zealots, and accused of endangering people's health. As long as a few random doctors (like Atkins and Eades), or a lone science reporter (like Gary Taubes) sang the praises of a low carb lifestyle, it was easy to dismiss them as a wacko minority who just didn't understand the truth.

The "truth" according to the mainstream is that saturated fat causes heart disease, all calories are created equal, and you should eat lots of whole grains (carbohydrates). If you weigh too much, you need to cut calories and exercise more. This "diet" advise has resulted in ever-growing obesity numbers and has a miserable 95% failure rate. For the longest time, people were told their obesity was their own damn fault and evidence that sugar, carbohydrates, and things like high-fructose corn syrups are to blame was ignored.

But now a group of people in Canada are proving, once again, that refined carbohydrates and sugars are the primary cause of obesity and disease. In 2007, the Namgis First Nation of Alert Bay, Canada gave up refined foods and sugar and returned to a more native diet. Their rates of obesity, metabolic syndrome, and diabetes were up to five times the national average. Dr. Jay Wortman, Senior Medical Advisor - First Nations and Inuit Health Branch of Health Canada, believes that the introduction of western carbohydrate-rich foods which replaced the traditional diet is the primary cause. By returning to native food sources of wild salmon and oolichan grease (a fish oil) but still allowing grocery store foods like vegetables, beef, pork, bacon and eggs (basically foods with protein and fat but no starch or sugar), they were able to make an approximation of their traditional diet without requiring people to go out and kill a moose with their bare hands. It was, in a way, the Northern Exposure version of the Atkins Diet.

From the CBC website article about the diet: "Permitted foods include; beef, pork, chicken, fish or seafood, cauliflower, broccoli, all the salad greens, eggs, cream, but not milk. Milk contains lactose, which is sugar.

Not permitted are starches like pasta, rice, potatoes, bread and sugar. Dr. Jay Wortman believes that it was the introduction of these by Europeans over a hundred and fifty years ago that caused the rise of diabetes and obesity.

And so the key to this diet is the avoidance of starch and sugar because those were not common components of a traditional diet.

An interesting component is oolichan grease. It's a very healthy fat and in the fact it was a big part of the diet in the past, was one of the reasons it was such a healthy diet."

While the final data is still being evaluated, this diet study sponsored by Health Canada and the University of British Columbia has produced profound results. A reduction in study participant weight, lower blood pressure, diabetics able to reduce or eliminate medication, lower bad cholesterol numbers, etc... Study participants are now encouraging other First Nations to return to their native diet to reap the health benefits enjoyed by their ancestors.

The documentary about this study entitled "My Big Fat Diet" is currently being aired in Canada. Until it is available on DVD, there are some YouTube video clips available (below) as well as a radio interview with Dr. Wortman that can get started on your own quest to "go native". Remember, you don't have to be a member of the First Nation to start a low carb diet to lose weight and improve your health. Anyone can do it! If, however, you want to bury your head in the sand about how healthy a low carb lifestyle is and you still want to believe fat people are stupid, lazy gluttons, things are going to get much harder for you. Don't blame me, blame Canada.

Video Clips
Challenge from the Cheif
Intoduction to "My Big Fat Diet"
More from "My Big Fat Diet"

Radio Interview
The Current


Mayberryfan said...

So the Canadians are on-board the low-carb bandwagon, eh?

Thanks for the great post, 'Zilla!

Btw, you're my FAVORITE giant lizard!

Wifezilla said...

Ya, eh?

(And thanks, eh?!)


Tracy said...

I'm hoping this doc gets the Canadian Diabetes Association to take notice and make some changes - and helps put an end to the decrease in natural native food stocks.

And gets Dr. Wortman on Oprah! No more Dr. Oz! Hope it'll air in the States.

PS - If you get it, The Lens and CBC in general is known for fantastic documentaries and they are staunchly non-partisan regarding the content they air. Nice for a national broadcaster.