Saturday, December 4, 2010


Pubmed is awesome. It makes us all into research giants from home. I've even made my own username and password in "My NCBI" and programmed in some automatic searches, so the first Saturday of every month (today, as a matter of fact), Pubmed sends me some emails about the latest research pertaining to my keywords of interest. Today I received several emails, one of which contained a link to this piece of crap review paper from some unfortunate primate researchers in Oregon, "Perinatal Exposure to High-Fat Diet Programs Energy Balance, Metabolism and Behavior in Adulthood."

In my endless optimism, I think, hey, maybe here is a paper that discusses some neurobiological programming related to the quality of the diet. That would be awesome! But no! Do me a favor and take a gander at the abstract. Here, I'll copy a sentence for you: " Evidence from a variety of animal models including rodents and nonhuman primates indicates that exposure to maternal high-fat diet (HFD) consumption programs offspring for increased risk of adult obesity. Hyperphagia and increased preference for fatty and sugary foods are implicated as mechanisms for the increased obesity risk." The takeaway point of the article is that if you eat a "high fat" diet in pregnancy, you will have fat, depressed offspring.

Now this is a review paper. I read the whole thing. There is next to no information on the actual macronutrient content of any of the diets studied (in rodents and primates). However, there is a seeming equilibration between "junk food diets" and "high fat diets" that sets my teeth on edge. And I've read enough Hyperlipid to know that a typical research "high fat" diet for rodents is comprised of sugar and crisco or some other trans fat industrial nightmare.

So if one were, say, a journalist, without knowing the context, who had the same "My NCBI" keywords programmed in that I do, one would find this review paper and pen some misinformed news item telling everyone to avoid fat while pregnant because it will make your kids fat and depressed. So pregnant women will eat their whole wheat toast with an apologetic smear of margarine and consider themselves healthy, and wonder why they fail the oral glucose tolerance test at 21 (or 28? I forget) weeks.

JUNK FOOD does not equal HIGH FAT DIET.

Junk food is loaded with vegetable fat, grains, and sugar, all cheap commodities to make cheap, industrial, disgusting "food."

If you load up on junk food during your pregnancy, studies of rodents and nonhuman primates indicate that your kids will be more likely to be obese and crave junk food, and will be depressed.

It is not about the macronutrients. Not for children with fresh pancreases and livers. It's about the quality. Give them nutrient-rich, fresh, non-processed amazing food. Forget about whether it is high fat or high carb. It doesn't matter. Just don't poison them with omega 6, trans fats, grains, and industrial fructose.

Well, I have to finish cleaning up before the babysitter comes over so my husband and I can enjoy a proper holiday party. How is it that a 29 pound 18 month old can undo my organization much faster than I can organize? #entropy.


  1. I'm with you on that one Emily. I have read that paper too and did the same as you - searched in vane for information, a supplemental table perhaps, on the composition of the diet used. Nada. It happens with increasing regularity.

    I have now taken to educating people in my workshops that researchers generally use one type of diet when they want to fatten (typically rodents) subjects up for this type of research - fructose & industrial oils. It works everytime.

  2. These scientists are catering to a very small clique of peer reviewers / grant reviewers. The terminology is chosen to make animal poisoning research sound like useful diet research, and to cater to the prejudices of funders who have a strong interest in promoting agricultural subsidies for corn, wheat, and soy and pharmaceutical statins.

    The tragedy is that there is intense popular interest in dietary science, and millions of people following these science stories that talk about "high fat diets." And few members of the public appreciate that these are actually moderate fat, low nutrient, high toxin diets; and that the results are not generalizable to other high fat diets.

    We would have much better science if, as I've argued on my blog, biomedical science were funded by the public. Let every taxpayer donate $300 to the research of his choice; we'd have the same level of funding, but much more productive research.

    Have a great party!

  3. Do you intend to contact the authors and discuss the paper with them? They may take your concerns more seriously than from the rest of us, though I doubt they will be very open to the dialogue. After all, their grant funding depends on telling the authorities what they want to hear.

    Also, in view of some of Chris Masterjohn's recent posts re choline, I wonder how much of the poor results in the rat high fat diet studies are due to choline deficiency (leading to fatty liver) as well.


  4. Drs Cynthia and David - perhaps I will contact them. Recently I have approached friends in high places who felt my interest in evolutionary psychiatry was "innovative and intriguing" and are willing to help me write a paper for a real medical journal. We'll see what happens.

  5. I've almost given up on getting the conventional wisdom makers to listen, however....

    1) My boss, his wife and their 2 labs work on asthma. They have recently been working on a model using rats that are obesity prone when fed a high fat diet (not all rats get fat) and found some interesting things related to airway hypersensitivity, neural control of airways and blood pressure, etc. at their last research conference I blasted the presenter over the fat make up of the diet, which they were clueless about. so they went and looked and are now investigating feeding the rats bacon, etc. instead of the crisco chow. they are also pulling all the linoleic acid out of the rat diets.

    2) as you know, i spend about half my time in the cardiac surgery ICU and have a fair bit of experience with the end products of coronary disease and heart failure. for 2010 we will have done 50+ VADs (artificial hearts) and 50+ transplants plus 400+ coronary bypasses. WE've also been the #1 ranked cardiac surgery program 4/8 quarters in the university health consortium. The head of the heart failure program and I are putting together some studies to look at the incidence of selenium deficiency in our patient population, Vitamin D (we live in Oregon after all, and I bet those folks are my colleagues in that paper of yours) and most significantly I've convinced him we should look at incident heart failure after statins, something that NO ONE seems to want to investigate.

    3) last week one of our cardiology guys gave grand rounds on the future of cardiac CT. really cool stuff. Unlike most he believes that cardiac CT is the thing to do and that traditional risk factors are worthless in the care of an individual. They've developed a new scanning algorithm that brings the rad dose down to the equivalent of 2-5 chest xrays. amazing really. we talked the other night about changing the paradigm from measuring lipids blah blah blah to getting one scan with a 5 year guarantee of no MI if it's clean. He's not quite on board with the high fat eating, but is open minded.

    4) our cardiac surgery chief and I share the belief that americans suffer from systematic carbohydrate toxicity due to processed foods. we work hard to get the work out.

    5) One of our general surgeons (Robert Martindale), a well recognized expert on nutrition worldwide is down with the high fat, avoid all omega 6, take your fish oil eating plan and generally goes about spreading the work

    so the point is, whenever i get frustrated, i think, there are important people out there who think outside the box, who don't do whatever the drug companies tell them, who can be organized and genuinely want people to be healthy and live well.

    keep up the good work.

  6. Dan, your boss will never get his animals sick enough for study with a diet of bacon. He'll have to add back in the linoleic acid... ;)

    The folks who wrote the paper were from a primate research lab, so I doubt they are colleagues of yours. I also don't doubt they had good intentions. There was a small section on a study of a "high fat diet" that was high omega 3 and the animals didn't have the same problems - but that bit of sense didn't translate to the analysis of the other studies.

  7. That's also terrific they are studying statins and heart failure. Seems obvious given the known myopathy problems with statins... I've always found surgeons in some respects to be more practical and logical than the medicine counterparts - in surgery (and your medicine specialty critical care) there is the need to solve problems now and figure out the most expedient way to do it - now. One has the luxury of being allowed to be more innovative and flexible. It doesn't surprise me that cardiac surgeons would be (possibly) more amenable to a high fat diet than cardiologists. But I suppose I can see why the cardiologists hold onto their lipid hypothesis and statins. If it isn't true, then what the heck have they been doing all these years?

    Psychiatrists face the same conundrum with our controversial medicines and the high placebo effect - though we have the advantage of treating actual symptoms rather than numbers. But it doesn't offend me to question the efficacy of SSRIs or any other medicine as long as it is done thoughtfully and without a distorted unscientific anti-psychiatry smear (which is unfortunately very common in some of the more popular critiques out there). Fortunately there are some terrific analysis papers out there including all the FDA data, published or not, which give us a very balanced view of the weaknesses and strengths of the SSRIs. It is not only unoffensive to look carefully, it is vital to question what we are doing to make sure we are helping people, on balance, rather than harming them.

    But I'm wandering far afield here. I'm interested in solutions of all kinds, but sensible public health solutions are preferred.

  8. Hi Dan! That's great to hear the anti-CW slant of some of your colleagues. Instead of switching to bacon, your colleagues who study high-fat diets in rats should compare the health of some rats maintained on the conventional high-n6 fat diet they used to use with rats maintained on a bacon diet that provides the same amount of calories from fat. In fact, comparing a range of iso-lipid diets where the lipid portion comes from various real food sources (fish oil, bacon, coconut oil, olive oil, etc.) versus industrial seed oils (Crisco, corn oil, soybean oil, etc.) would be most informative. At some point, I'd like to study the effects of such diets on rat cognition (I study cognition in rats, but have never undertaken a diet study).

  9. Ideally a good researcher would submit their study results to a small panel of other specialists to cross the t's and dot the i's on these types of gaps.

    it really renders their conclusions moot while providing ample fodder for the ongoing war against "fat" as an evil substance.


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