Low compared to what?

August 26, 2011 § 1 Comment

One of the more annoying things that I have gotten trapped into lately is the low carb fight.

This isn’t because there is some question in my mind about the benefit of reducing carbs in one’s diet. It’s more about the label “low”. Or “high” for that matter.

The labels are much too general to have any meaning.

This came to a front recently when I had an argument about low carb with Yulia, made a general ass of myself (not too hard I might add) and saw then next day that there was a big food fight at the Ancestral Health Symposium about the same topic between Gary Taubes and Stephen Geyunet.

What was interesting about all these arguments was that everyone pretty much agreed on the basics. but in focusing on the details we all got caught up in the wrong points for no reason in particular. A big culprit in this in particular was the term “low”. Likely, because it has no actual meaning.

This is apparent when you look at the arguments of a “low fat” vs a “low carb” diet in any study. None of these studies ever agree on what these terms mean. If you look at what Atkins thinks a “low Carb” diet is (around 15% of calories), and what Ornish thinks low carb is (around 50% of calories) you have a massive gap. Not something you can dismiss at all, but a substantial gap that impacts the entire discussion forward. If you read a headline that says “A Low Carb Diet does Blah Blah Blah”, the first question needs to be, what do you mean by low?

Even without worrying about confounders and other variables in the study, what the hell does “low” mean?

Then best response to any of this that I have seen is the chart from the diet that I like (Primal Blueprint), that gives specific targets in grams. 50-100 is “low” 100-150 is “normal” and 150 + is high. You might not agree with these numbers, but at least they are numbers, not arbitrary words.

I should note, they also seem to work.

But that isn’t even the point. If we all argue with undefined terms, it doesn’t matter what the data might say, because we are all spouting a bunch of gibberish. We need to define our terms, and work the debate from there. Then we can start to agree or disagree and know what the hell the other is actually saying.

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