I just read an article in the Family Practice News that shows once again that the low-carb diet is the Rodney Dangerfield of diets: it gets no respect. Especially not from the press.
The Family Practice News (FPN) is one of the so-called throw-away journals that are sent to physicians free of charge. The FPN is also one of the few of the zillions of these things that I get that I actually don’t throw away until after I’ve read it. Reporters working for the FPN seem to haunt the types of medical meetings I would attend if I could afford the time to attend every one I wanted to. Their reporting is pretty sharp and concise and for the most part honestly portrays the research it reports.
The December 1 issue contains an article on a poster presentation at the NAASO meeting a couple of months ago that I found interesting on a number of levels and wanted to pass along.
To set the stage, let’s go over a couple of things. First, NAASO stands for the North American Association for the Study of Obesity, which now goes by the name The Obesity Society. NAASO is the academic obesity research society. It’s members are primarily scientists working in academia on obesity research. But not all are academic researchers. They let me in. I have been a member since the mid 1980s and have attended numerous meetings.
Second, a few months ago I posted on a presentation from the last meeting of the American Heart Association (AHA) that received huge press coverage. This was the so-called study (it was actually a poster presentation just like the NAASO one I’m going to write about here shortly) that seem to indicate that the Atkins diet caused blood vessel damage. The findings of this ‘study’ were presented by the press in wide, wide coverage as an indictment of low-carb diets. As my analysis showed this wasn’t really a study, and the diet wasn’t really the Atkins diet. In fact, it wasn’t even really a low-carb diet.
In October 2007 (at about the same time the AHA meeting was taking place) NAASO had its national meeting in New Orleans. MD and I go to as many of these as we can, but we had a scheduling conflict that made us miss this one. Unlike the AHA, NAASO doesn’t publish an online compilation of the abstracts of all the presentations. You get a hard copy at the meeting, but no online resource. So, unless you’re there, you don’t really know what got presented.
A group from Duke presented a poster showing the results of their ongoing research comparing the effects of two different dietary regimens for weight loss. One of the groups of subjects were randomized to a low-carb dietary protocol – the other to a low-fat diet plus the drug orlistat (Xenecal or in OTC form called Alli).
The study, which is planned to last 48 weeks, includes 146 outpatients from the Durham Veterans Affairs Medical Center. All have a body mass index 27 kg/m2 or greater, and 46 of the patients also have type 2 diabetes. Their mean age is 56 years (range, 48–64 years); the majority are male, and roughly half are black.
In the 6 months that the trial has been ongoing, weight loss with both regimens has been similar (10–12 kg) and so has the reduction in waist circumference.
So, we’ve got patients on two radically different diets who have lost about the same amount of weight and, presumably, from the same areas. Yet the subgroup of these patients who have type II diabetes did radically better on the low-carb diet.
After 24 weeks, the mean HbA1c among the 22 type 2 diabetes patients in the low- carb arm dropped from 7.5% to 6.8%, a significant reduction. The HbA1c in the 24 type 2 diabetes patients in the orlistat arm went from 7.6 to 7.4, and did not fall significantly from baseline.
And more of the patients on the low-carb diet were able to get completely off their diabetic meds.
These are pretty impressive statistics when you consider that all the changes can be attributed to the diet composition and not simply the weight loss since both groups lost the same weight.
Is it just me or do you also find it interesting that this study wasn’t picked up by the press and disseminated everywhere as the Atkins diet study was? I wonder why not? It was the same type of presentation – a poster – at a major scientific meeting attended by hordes of reporters. Yet this study never made prime time news – only a throw-away medical journal.
Type II diabetes has reached staggering epidemic proportions in this country, and even kids are now starting to get what used to be called Adult Onset Diabetes (type II). It seems like the results of this study would be big news to those fighting the disease. Could it be that the press has an anti-low-carb bias? It certainly makes one wonder.