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Misleading Science and Bad Reporting

Misleading Science and Bad Reporting
April 13, 2011 Patrick Nemechek, D.O.

This article in the LA Times was forwarded to me by friend who asked my opinion about it.

The article reports¬†on¬†a study¬†that¬†claims if you¬†eat more carbohydrates at dinner, you’ll lose more weight and improve your health.¬† What?!?¬† Eat more carbs and lose weight? This¬†concept is what made my friend scratch his head and send it my way.

I read the article and was first impressed that the general¬†phase of “more carbs at dinner” appeared 7 times ( including the title)¬†while¬†“more protein at breakfast and lunch” appeared only once.¬† The take home message for most readers who would scan this article is “more carbs at dinner equals improved health and weight loss”.

But my first thought when I read the¬†article was, “Geez, imagine that, another study showing more protein in the AM¬†makes you less hungry”.¬† But¬†the average reader without my scientific/nutritional background¬†wouldn’t get that impression from reading the abstract.

The study in question took a small number of police officers, had them all eat the same total daily amount of fat, protein and carbs in a  day but simply had some officers eat more protein (and less carbs) at breakfast/lunch and less protein (and more carbs) at dinner.  The other group of officers ate less protein (and more carbs) at breakfast/lunch with more protein (and less carbs) at dinner.

Basically it’s a look at shifting more protein to your breakfast and lunch from dinner.¬† This is really the¬†meaningful change in the subjects eating¬†pattern¬†¬†because most people who are overweight already eat too little protein in the daytime and too many carbohydrates at dinner.¬† What the public doesn’t need right now is some convoluted representation proclaiming “more carbs at dinner” is somehow healthy.

This article simply passes on bad science and gives it even wider distribution that it deserves.   I also noted that about a 1,000 readers had already reposted the article by the time I had read it.

My true opinion is that this should have been an article about misleading science in which investigators fail to evaluate and discuss both sides of the coin.  Why

Instead of including the potential¬†health benefit¬†of more protein at breakfast and lunch, they simply state,¬†¬†“A simple dietary manipulation of carbohydrate distribution appears to have additional benefits when compared to a conventional weight loss diet in individuals suffering from obesity.”

Not a word about the importance of increased protein eaten earlier in the day.  There is a great deal of scientific evidence demonstrating that protein has a much greater hunger-suppressing effect than carbs.  So I found it strange that the researchers where more focused on  the impact of carbs than the effect of protein.

What really made the difference in this study, “more carbs” at dinner or “more protein earlier in the day”?

As far as I am concerned, 2 major things occurred in this study.  All subjects were placed on a lower calorie diet which means they reduced the quantity of carbs they consumed in the day.  This will clearly assist in weight reduction as I have written about before.

Secondly, the protein in the AM has an excellent scienctific track record at improving metaolbic changes in the body and reducing hunger.  This article demonstrated that eating a greater proportion more protein earlier in the day (see this chart ) produces increased levels of skeletal muscle.  More skeletal muscle leads to a compensatory reduction in insulin resistance, reductions in fat mass as well as improvements in blood glucose, leptin, insulin levels, etc, etc, etc.

In a¬†society that is being poisoned by excessive carbohydrate intake, it strikes me as very irresponsible of a reporter to headline a trial with a promotion of “more carbs at dinner” helping any condition.

Anyone with half a brain who has even dared to review the recent literature knows that carbohydrates are a dangerous component of our food supply.¬†¬†Why would¬†these reporters¬†pass on the “more carbs” message without emphasizing the “more protein at breakfast and lunch”.

My take home message for you, be cautious about the advice you get regarding your health.

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