Monday, January 24, 2011

Book Review: The New Atkins For A New You

The New Atkins For A New You by Dr. Stephen Phinney, Dr. Jeff Volek and Dr. Eric Westman is next up for review.  This is an updated version of Dr Atkins program by three nutrition researchers.  Dr. Phinney taught at the University of Vermont, the University of Minnesota and the University of California at Davis.  Dr. Volek is a professor at the University of Connecticut and Dr. Westman is a professor at Duke.

            This book takes a more research based approach to Atkins’ decade’s old theory of the low carbohydrate diet.  I’m quite familiar with the research of Dr Westman and Dr. Volek.  I read a lot of their work while publishing my research on low carb diets at Harvard.  The book is well written and is based on the premise that carbohydrates are to be strictly limited to lose weight and improve health.  The program itself is very similar to the old Atkins as far as going through different phases of decreasing carbohydrate restriction as you approach your goal weight.  What is different about this book is that the authors have used current research to back up a lot of their claims and even to improve the diet from a nutritional standpoint, all while maintaining severe carb restriction.

5 Things I really like about The New Atkins For The New You
1) The latest research on carbohydrate, fat and protein metabolism are presented.  Many of their claims are indeed backed by science.
2) The diet is definitely more focused on vegetables than the previous edition.
3) The consequences of refined carbohydrate metabolism are very well explained.  This is hugely important whether you want to lose weight or improve your health.
4) Research concerning saturated fat and LDL particle size is very well presented.
5) They have a really great section about how body weight will vary from day to day and you should never get too wrapped up in one or 2 bad scale readings.  This is very important and I’m always saying this to my clients.

5 Things I disagreed with in The New Atkins For The New You
1) Severe restrictions on fruits and whole grains.  Although these can be added in a bit in later phases, they are underemphasized in my opinion.  Current research is quite definitive in detailing the health benefits of these of foods.
2) The recipes were a bit heavy on the full fat dairy (like cheese and cream), red meat and saturated fat.  It is a good idea to limit consumption of these foods.
3) I don’t think this book gives exercise its fair due.  It almost seems as if exercise is optional.  You can do it if you feel like it.  Current research shows you need to do a lot if you want to maintain weight loss.
4) The fat/protein/carb percentages seem a bit unrealistic to me.  For example, if you are a tall man you are instructed to eat 8 oz of protein at each meal.  Not including snacks that is 168 grams of protein a day.  When you are restricting your carbs to 30 grams a day on a 1500 calorie diet here are the percentages:
Protein 45% of calories, Carb 8% of calories and Fat 53%.  This seems unsustainable to me.
5) Non nutritive sweeteners are allowed on a consistent basis, up to 3 packets per day.  I have found that they definitely stimulate carb cravings and tend to undermine weight loss efforts when used on a daily basis.

Is The New Atkins For A New You worth reading?
            Absolutely!  This book is a big step forward when it comes to the low carb lifestyle.  While I don’t agree with a large percentage of the dietary recommendations, the book takes a nice look at how we metabolize fats, proteins and carbs and brings the latest research into the forum.  I wish more weight loss books did this!  I remember reading Atkins when I was a young nutrition student.  While I never fully bought into the program hook, line and sinker, Atkins was one of the first to note the dangers of sugars and refined carbs both for weight gain and health.  My current nutritional recommendations are indeed shaped by this knowledge.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Product Review: Streaks Motivational Calendar

            Streaks Motivational Calendar is an App for the Iphone, Ipod touch and the Ipad.  It was created by Fantzer, Inc and costs just $1.99 to download and use.  It is an extremely simple concept but it is also extremely effective.

            Streaks allows you to create a calendar with a goal in mind.  Every day that you are successful in obtaining your goal, you mark it down on your calendar for that day.  Streaks will keep track of your consecutive days of success.  It also will record your longest streak so you have something to shoot for. 

            It doesn’t sound like much but it is highly motivating.  Especially if you are competitive with yourself like I am and most of my clients are.  If you are having trouble with an element of your diet or lifestyle, download the app and make a calendar.  Say you are trying to do your cardio every single day.  You start the calendar and see how far you go.  Maybe you make it only  4 days the first try.  Then if you mess up, you start over and your goal is to beat your longest streak of 4 days.   Before you know it, you are accomplishing your goal for longer and longer periods of time. 

You can use Streaks for fitness goals (cardio, resistance training tracking), dietary goals (giving up sugar, not eating after 8:00 PM) or even lifestyle goals (like getting 7 hours of sleep).  Whatever your goals are, this little inexpensive app gives you a sense of control and competition. Sometimes that is enough to get you going towards a lifestyle change that you have been struggling with a bit.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Research Update: The Right Rice And Surprising News About Milk

White rice, brown rice and risk of type 2 diabetes
Archives of Internal Medicine 2010 170:961-69

This study was by my former research group at Harvard headed by Dr. Frank Hu, an absolute nutrition all star.  This is a prospective cohort study on 157,463 women and 39,765 men from the Health Professional Follow up study and the Nurses’ Health Study I and II that were followed for about 20 years.   Participants with the highest intake of white rice (≥5 servings per week) had a 17% increased risk of type 2 diabetes compared to those with the lowest consumption of white rice (<1 serving per month).  In contrast, participants with the highest consumption of brown rice (≥2 servings per week) had an 11% lower risk of type 2 diabetes when compared to those with the lowest consumption (<1 serving per month).

Take Home Message:  Switching from white rice to brown rice is an easy thing we can all do to reduce our risk of type 2 diabetes.  Possible mechanisms presented by the authors were the higher glycemic index and the lower fiber content of white rice compared to brown rice.  The increased risk of 17% for white rice is a high number considering that this is just one food.  I actually like the taste of brown rice better anyway J

Milk and hip fractures
Journal of Bone and Mineral Research 2010 Accepted article (to be published shortly)

This is a meta-analysis that was undertaken by Harvard’s Department of Nutrition in collaboration with some European research groups.  A meta-analysis is a type of study where a researcher searches the literature for all of the relevant studies on a subject and combines them statistically to come up with a summary measure of association.  For women, 6 studies were combined (195,102 women and 3,574 hip fractures) and they found no protective effect whatsoever for milk and hip fracture.  In men, 3 studies were combined (75,149 men and 195 hip fractures) and again they found no significant protective effect of milk on risk of hip fracture.

Take Home Message: This may come as a huge surprise to a lot of people, but milk may not be a big player at all if your goal is to reduce risk of hip or other fractures.  This is not the first meta-analysis to find a neutral effect of milk on risk of hip fracture.  In fact, from an ecological perspective, the countries with the highest dairy intake (Northern European countries) have the highest risk of fracture while the countries with the lowest intake of dairy (African countries) have the lowest risk of fracture.

If you’ve read my book or work with me privately, you already know that I’m not a big fan of dairy products to start.  #1) We are the only species to drink another species milk.  #2) Most adults are unable to digest the protein in milk. #3) Dairy was designed for the cow and they have 4 stomachs.   So how do you protect your bones?  Make sure you are getting enough vitamin D, get enough physical activity (both cardio and strength training) and be sure to get calcium from your diet independent of milk.  You can find it in dark green, leafy vegetables like lettuce, spinach and kale, beans, legumes, salmon, oranges and almonds.