[See the update at the end of the post]
Given his poor, childish, counter-productive behavior I kinda hate to plug the one of his works that’s unparalleled: The Great Cholesterol Con. While there are a couple of other books along these lines, Anthony Colpo’s book is the most comprehensive, well researched, and really serves as a great reference. I keep it handy at all times.
But Jesus is the guy ever a total asshat; by which I mean an asshole, but wrongly directed, no point. Do we not have enough total crap to go after from the cholesterol scammers to the fat scammers to the soy scammers to the anti-meat scammers to the statin scammers and on and on?
In case you don’t know, Colpo has run a most ridiculous campaign against Dr. Michael Eades, begun way back in 2008 or before. You can see all the posts at his state-of-the-art website.
What’s the dispute about? Dr. Eades thinks that low-carb diets afford some small “metabolic advantage” which he estimates at around 100-300 kcal per day and which is responsible for part of the success people achieve in a low-carb diet. In other words, if you had two people, one on low-fat high-carb and the other reverse, low-carb high-fat, the latter might lose at best an extra pound every couple of weeks, give or take, all else remaining equal. Is Dr. Eades right about that? I don’t honestly know, and hey, even if I disagreed and strongly, is that any reason to relentlessly pursue him in the manner Colpo has done? Is Eades out there carbing patients up so they’ll take plenty of insulin? Is he out there statinating people who don’t need them (only men under 65 with a previous coronary event or at super high risk benefit)?
The whole thing had seemed to have died out and Colpo was nowhere to be seen until recently, when his book got picked up by a German publisher and some conventional wisdom doc in Germany gave it the typical review, based partly on the fact that Colpo is uncredentialled as a medical practitioner or researcher and partly on mistakes he claims are in the book (that contradict conventional “wisdom”). Colpo did a good job of defending his position, but I just wonder: if he really wants to be a researcher and publish, is that the right approach? I know that my tone — if I were to do that — would be a lot different than this blog.
But then it wasn’t long until he had to spout nonsense about low-carb dieting: Can Low-Carb Diets Make You Crazy? When I read drivel like this I just can’t take hardly any of it seriously.
There is little controversy that food can affect one’s mental functioning. The mere act of eating itself can cause changes in mood and cognition, regardless of dietary composition. It is well established, for example, that skipping breakfast results in a prolonged hypoglycaemic state that results in poorer cognitive performance. [emphasis added]
That’s certainly not my experience nor the experience of many others who are so naive about human physiology, metabolism, and their own well-being that they have the audacity to eat only when they’re actually hungry. Stuff like this simply doesn’t pass the evolutionary smell test. In fact, it makes far more sense that genus Homo performed with heightened alertness when hungry, even starving. And it’s not like the people who survived an ice age to eventually give rise to our ancestors were existing on three squares.
I wonder what Colpo would say about those of us so crazy as to not only skip breakfast, but to also go get in a hard workout in a completely fasted state. I wonder if he’s aware that doing that actually raises one’s fasting glucose substantially, often 20 points or more. For instance, I can take my fasting BG of 80 and bring it to 100 with a heavy workout even 24 hours and more into a fast. Others who’ve performed the same self experiment report similar results. How can this be? More importantly, what would or should 10,000 studies mean to me even if they all ‘well establish’ that you’ll go hypo if you don’t eat your breakfast?
At any rate, since Colpo came back on the scene Dr. Eades was motivated to finally do a review of a portion of one of Colpo’s other books. And now, Colpo comes back with a vengeance and it’s silly, I think.
I’m not going to get into the arguments either way because you know what? I just don’t care that much. I know that for myself eating low-carb paleoish, I steadily lost weight. Even when I would eat enormous steaks dripping in butter or other fatty sauces, handfuls of nuts at night and for a long while, a 2-3 egg omelet almost every night, usually with bacon or cheese. Then there were the evenings — several hours after dinner — where I’d cook up a dozen slices of bacon, as a snack. And there were the fat bombs. What I noted was that for me, so long as I kept the fat high and the carbs low I could eat as much as I wanted and I would not gain substantial weight. For my entire 60 pounds of loss over 2 1/2 years it was a constant fluctuation of about 4 pounds either way, but in a downward trend.
Metabolic advantage, caloric deficit, or what? Does it matter? All I really know for sure is that when I’m hungry I can eat a lot, a little or a ginormous amount and while keeping it high in fat and low in carb I have continued steadily to lose fat.
I recently came across a comment by Dr. Eades on an old 2007 post of his that I think offers an idea that at least makes sense from my own experience. In essence: the real “metabolic advantage” of low-carb is not so much in weight loss as in preventing weight gain when consuming excess calories as fat.
Your comment raises an interesting question. Where does all the excess energy go?
I’ve had a number of patients and countless letters from readers who have had the same experience. They consume a ton of fat, but don’t gain weight…or even, as with the guy you described, lose a little. Mostly the letters we get are from people who complain that they are following our diet to the letter, yet not losing weight. When we investigate, we find that in virtually every case these people are consuming huge numbers of calories as primarily fat. We always ask them if it doesn’t strike them as strange that they’re eating as much as they are, yet not gaining.
In order to lose weight, one must create a caloric deficit. This can be done in a number of ways. People can burn more calories by increasing exercise; they can eat fewer calories; or they can increase their metabolic rate. Or they can do any combination of the above.
Most people going on a low-carb diet decrease their caloric intake. A low-carb diet is satiating, so most people eat much less than they think they are eating even though the foods they’re consuming are pretty high in fat. Some people, however, can eat a whole lot on a low-carb diet, and, can in fact, eat so much that they don’t create the caloric deficit and don’t lose weight. But the interesting thing is that they don’t gain weight either. They pretty much stay the same. They are eating huge numbers of calories and not gaining, so where do the calories go?
First, I don’t think they go out in the bowel. If they did, people would have cosmic pizza grease stools whenever they ate a lot of fat over a period of time, and they don’t. And a number of studies have shown that increasing fat in the diet doesn’t increase fat in the stool.
Eating a very-low-carbohydrate diet ensures that insulin levels stay low. Unless insulin levels are up, it’s almost impossible to store fat in the fat cells. With high insulin levels fat travels into the fat cell; with low insulin levels fat travels out. So, it’s pretty safe to say that the fat isn’t stored. So what happens to it?
The body requires about 200 grams of glucose per day to function properly. About 70 grams of this glucose can be replaced by ketone bodies, leaving around 130 grams that the body has to come up with, which it does by converting protein to glucose and by using some of the glycerol backbone of the triglyceride molecule (the form in which fat is stored) for glucose. If one eats carbs, the carbs are absorbed as glucose and it doesn’t take much energy for the body to come up with its 200 gram requirement; if, however, one isn’t eating any carbohydrates, the body has to spend energy to convert the protein and trigylceride to glucose. That’s one reason that the caloric requirements go up on a low-carb diet.
The other reason is that the body increases futile cycling. What are futile cycles? Futile cycles are what give us our body temperature of 98.6 degrees. Futile cycles are just what the name implies: a cycle that requires energy yet accomplishes nothing. It operates much like you would if you took rocks from one pile and piled them in another, then took them from that pile and piled them back where they were to start with. A lot of work would have been expended with no net end result.
The body has many systems that can cycle this way, and all of them require energy. Look up the malate-aspartate shuttle; that’s one that often cycles futilely.
Another way the body dumps calories is through the inner mitochondrial membrane. This gets a little complicated, but I’ll try to simplify it as much as possible. The body doesn’t use fat or glucose directly as fuel. These substances can be thought of as crude oil. You can’t burn crude oil in your car, but you can burn gasoline. The crude oil is converted via the refining process into the gasoline you can burn. It’s the same with fat, protein and glucose–they must be converted into the ‘gasoline’ for the body, which is a substance called adenosine triphosphate (ATP). How does this conversion take place? That’s the complicated part.
ATP is made from adenosine diphosphate (ADP) in an enzymatic structure called ATP synthase, which is a sort of turbine-like structure that is driven by the electromotive force created by the osmotic and electrical difference between the two sides of the inner mitochondrial membrane. One one side of the membrane are many more protons than on the other side. The turbine-like ATP synthase spans the membrane, and as the protons rush through from the high proton side to the low proton side (much like water rushing through a turbine in a dam from the high-water side to the low-water side) the turbine converts ADP to ATP.
The energy required to get the protons heavily concentrated on one side so that they will rush through the turbine comes from the food we eat. Food is ultimately broken down to high-energy electrons. These electrons are released into a series of complex molecules along the inner mitochondrial membrane. Each complex passes the electrons to the next in line (much like a bucket brigade), and at each pass along the way, the electrons give off energy. This energy is used to pump protons across the membrane to create the membrane electromotive force that drives the turbines. The electrons are handed off from one complex to the other until at the end of the chain they are attached to oxygen to form water. (If one of these electrons being passed along the chain of complexes somehow escapes before it reaches the end, it becomes a free radical. This is where most free radicals come from.)
There are two parts to the whole process. The process of converting ADP to ATP is called phosphorylation and the process of the electrons ultimately attaching to oxygen is called oxidation. The combined process is called oxidative phosphorylation. It is referred to as ‘uncoupling’ when, for whatever reason, the oxidation process doesn’t lead to the phosphorylation process. Anything that causes this uncoupling is called an ‘uncoupling agent.’
You can see that the whole process requires some means of regulation. If not, then the electromotive force (called the protonmotive force, since it’s an unequal concentration of protons causing the force) can build up to too great a level. If one overconsumes food and doesn’t need the ATP, then the protonmotive force would build up and not be discharged through the turbines because the body doesn’t need the ATP. The body has accounted for this problem with pores through the inner mitochondrial membrane where protons can drift through as the concentration builds too high and by proteins called uncoupling proteins that actually pump the protons back across. So we expend food energy to pump protons one way, then more energy to pump them back.
One of the things that happens on a high fat diet is that the body makes more uncoupling proteins. So, with carbs low and fat high, the body compensates, not by ditching fat in the stool, but by increasing futile cycling and by increasing the numbers of uncoupling proteins and even increasing the porosity of the inner mitochondrial membrane so that the protons that required energy to be moved across the membrane are then moved back. So, ultimately, just like the rocks in my example above, the protons are taken from one pile and moved to another then moved back to the original pile, requiring a lot of energy expenditure with nothing really accomplished.
This is probably all as clear as mud, but it is what happens to the excess calories on a low-carb, high-fat diet.
So if this is actually the mechanism then it would explain to me how I continued to lose even though I was often eating huge amounts of fat-laden food, often at night. Very simply, overeating fat didn’t make me gain appreciable weight even doing that several nights in a row. And then I’d do a fast, lose 1/2 – 1 pounds in a day, and the cycle repeats. Refeading puts on less or no weight than had come off.
So, the advantage of low carb might be that you get to take advantage of the caloric deficit days and you get somewhat of a pass on the pig-out days against washing away all of your loss.
But will there be any essential difference long term? Will it all eventually wash out somewhere and every pound of weight loss equals a total of 3,500 kcals in deficit somewhere along the way? Does the 60 pounds I lost over 2 1/2 years mean necessarily that I consumed exactly 210,000 less calories than my metabolism required?
I don’t know. That would mean that assuming a base metabolism of 2,000 kcal (5’10, 175, 49yoa gives BMR = 1,864) I’d have gone the equivalent of 105 days of not eating in the space of 912 days or once every 8.7 days. Interestingly, I began fasting a bit less than a year after beginning this and stayed with the intense 2 fasts per week for about a year and since then it has been much more random, not following any schedule, really, and is usually more eating window style where I get a 12-16 hour fast in just about every day, cause I almost always “skip breakfast.”
Lot’s of questions and really, in spite of the studies on either side I’m not really inclined to put much stock in either one. What I do know is that a low-carb approach is a sound approach to decent and sustainable weight loss as demonstrated by millions of people (including traditional hunter-gatherers).
And Anthony Colpo should go get a life. That’s another thing I know.
Later: Maybe research that’s always focussed on weight loss is the wrong approach. How about overfeed subjects on either high-carb or high-fat by 1,000 kcal per day: as fat, as starch, or as sugar. See which group gains the most over a period of time.
3/11/2010: Dr. Eades has posted Part II of his critique of Colpo’s work.
3/3/2012: Things have changed substantially. All explained in this post by Anthony Colpo.