Low fat non-vegan diet results in lowest rate of heart disease

Published 3.20.2017
Mondays are when I offer up brief takes on recent interesting items in health, nutrition and fitness. The first one today is not-so-brief.

Recent research results land another blow against the idea that a vegan diet is required for heart health— or that low fat diets are "dangerous." Apparently the low carb crowd is getting hot and bothered by these results. The study focused on the heart health a remote Bolivian people called the Tsimane.

The Tsimane are not vegan— of course they are not. There are no vegan cultures. A vegan diet is only possible in a modern society where supplementation and food fortification is possible. Humans are not herbivores, they are omnivores.

The Tsimane do represent a point in favor of not sitting. The Tsimane people are not sedentary, spending only 10% of their daylight hours being sedentary (such as sitting) while in the US the number is 54%. This is a point in favor of my admonition to just stand up. The Tsimane are not simply standing of course, they are either hunting, gathering, or farming by hand. Still standing is better sitting, and modern screen based jobs can be done while standing.

The Tsimane diet also represents a point for a low fat diet. Wild game is lean, despite the delusional assertions of certain “paleo” bloggers. The bulk of the diet is unrefined, fibrous carbohydrates. Also note, the Tsimane farm. So somehow their adoption of agriculture has not been the kiss of death to their health as the delusional myths promulgated by “paleo” bloggers would have it.

The Tsimane have other health issues that modernity has eliminated. The modern society that comes closest to the Tsimane in terms of artery health (lack of calcified plaques which is the marker used) is the Japanese— in fact, looking at the error bars on the Tsimane data, the difference between the Japanese and the Tsimane is not significant.

The Tsimane eat wild game (monkeys, mostly) and fish. They do not eat dairy or any other high fat foods. Their fat intake is 14%— which by any definition is a low fat diet. 72% of their diet consists of fibrous carbohydrates (aka “teh ebil carbz"), leaving 14% for protein.

Frankly, I’d rather eat like the Japanese and get most of the same effect. Pritikin's diet, which has similar macronutrient levels, might meet the criteria as well.

Bottom line: Fill your plate mostly with plants (unrefined, fibrous carbohydrates) and a bit of lean meat, with minimal added fat— be it in the form of plant oils or dairy.

Even more evidence that eating fruits and vegetables is healthy, in striking opposition to what Yusuf Salim presented recently. A big problem is that all of these studies use patient recall. And either you believe that people lie and the data is useless, or you think the data are usable. You don’t get to say you like the data when it supports you and that you don’t like it when it doesn’t. This is another meta-study, so it’s usefulness comes down to which studies it chose to include and whether they can actually be compared.

This is the way to get people to eat more vegetables: Cook them in interesting and delicious ways. This is fabulous news if it becomes a trend— even if vegetable only restaurants don’t catch on. Just the working with vegetables as the sole ingredients in interesting dishes would be a great advance. No proselytizing needed, just tasty dishes. And I love the fact that he’s eschewing fake meats and nut “cheeses.”

Hip fractures are slightly lower with the Mediterranean diet.

After adjustments, women scoring in the highest quintile for Mediterranean diet adherence reported a lower risk for hip fracture (hazard ratio (HR) 0.80, 95 CI 0.66-0.97), and had an absolute risk reduction of 0.29%, compared with women who ate the DASH diet or adhered to the 2010 U.S. Dietary Guidelines, Bernhard Haring, MD, MPH, of the University of Würzburg in Germany, and colleagues, reported in JAMA Internal Medicine.

Haring's group looked at total bone fractures and hip fractures reported among 90,014 women, ages 50-79, who were enrolled in the WHI from 1993 to 1998 and followed for a median of 16 years through 2014.

This isn’t really news, I watched a British TV show years ago that made the exact same point. Soups are more filling then eating solid foods. Of course it’s a bit more complicated, it takes longer to eat whole foods than soups or smoothies (especially cold soups and smoothies) at least hot soups slow you down a bit because they have to cool.

“Blending won’t have a significant negative impact on fiber,” Spiller reassured me. “Fiber is what’s responsible for the viscosity of a smoothie and its impact on the bacteria of the large bowel. Mashing fiber up into small pieces should only enhance its availability for the bacteria. Its prebiotic effect is definitely unimpaired––it might be enhanced, even.”

So soups over smoothies. The earlier show only talked about soups made with vegetables, meat, and broth.

An outline of the recent paper on the fast mimicking diet. My opinion remains the same, this diet would be a disruption t the way I live my life. Therefore, I would not stick with it.

What looks like an easy way out does yet also have it shortcomings: (a) the subjects' blood lipids did not improve (neither total, nor LDL, or HDL cholesterol and their ratios); (b) the treatment may have been free of health-relevant side-effects, side-effects that will have many people fall off the wagon, however, existed, nevertheless (e.g. fatigue, weakness or headache see additional figure); (c) with no effect on peak values of glucose, insulin, IGF-1 etc. on the non-fasting days, it's far from being obvious that the treatment will have any of the hoped for long-term effect.


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