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So Much Bullshit!!


Posted on May 3rd, 2013 by Jeff Thiboutot M.S.

There will be a three brief book reviews below. But first. Seriously, is there no end to the amount of bullshit that is found in books and articles on the subject of weight management? For those of you that have read many of our posts, you will know that Matt and I have spent a fair amount of energy pointing out, often with great detail, that certain authors of books and articles have served up big piles of horse dung. They state very specific and spectacular claims for an array of things that are often a “secret”, or “little known fact”,  usually with NO quality evidence in support it (see Slow Burn, Skinny Bitches, and the Tone It Up girls for examples). We feel compelled to point this shit out because it is so blatantly wrong and it distracts people from the stuff that actually works. Not to mention it often confuses people which can lead to the “nobody knows what they are talking about” or the “anybody can find support for anything” type of statements. To be clear, I am not saying that people can’t make mistakes. There is no doubt I have and will likely do it again. However, there is a big difference between the occasional mistake or oversight while being transparent with how and what you used to support such a position  and the deluge of extravagant statements  that are stated in a way that clearly portrays some type of authority and gives little or no evidence to support such a claim, aka Bullshit.  My reason for this little rant is my recent review of a few books. I reviewed these books because people asked me my opinion of them. As I told these people and anybody else who asks me about a book or article; before I can give an honest, and hopefully intelligent answer to their question, I would need to actually read the material. I was curious about these books for a number of reasons so I decided to look them over. Before I get to a few words about them there are just a couple more things I need to say.

First, it is time consuming to read and review books and other related weight management items. I am not saying this to get sympathy. I willfully do this because I like to read and I currently have a deep passion to continually learn about and share my thoughts about shit that works. However, it has become increasingly clear to me that the stream of manure, which is wide and flowing at a steady pace, that pervades the weight management industry is not likely to be slowing down any time soon and my efforts at pointing out the bullshit is not likely to make a difference. Additionally, my time spent on this, although cathartic and sometimes educational, could really be spent on other more important things, such as finishing the second edition of SPEED. Therefore, until Matt and I get our own Bullshit show, although one more focused on nutrition, exercise, and health-related matters,  I plan on significantly curtailing my time on these types of  projects.

Second, Matt and I have had many conversations about the “weight management industry”, which we have been apart of for many years, and how we realize that it is an “industry”. The goal of the industry, which entails books, supplements, magazines, weight loss clinics, personal training, TV shows (The Biggest Loser, Dr. Oz, etc) and so on is to make money and, ya, help people. Nothing wrong with making money and wanting to help people. But where are the ethics? Where is the rational thinking? The industry is made up of a lot of health, fitness, and wellness PROFESSIONALS. Is it not the obligation of said PROFESSIONALS to follow professional evidence-based practices? Just saying.

Third, there is also the real potential, when trying to debunk something, you can actually increase the pervasiveness of a false belief.  Please see The Debunking Handbook for more information about that topic.

Fourth, as much as I am bitching about the industry, there are many outstanding professionals in it who find ways to make a living and follow evidence-based practices. There are also some authors who write some great stuff. In fact, I have written some positive reviews of a number of books, such as The Cure for Everything, Snake Oil Science, and others. It just seems that the ones who usually get to “educate” the public through their book deals and televisions appearances are the ones saying or doing some “insanity”, super awesome secret program that must work because they are attractive or used to be overweight and are not now. Although sometimes it is because the person has some good credentials (MD, PHD, etc) and the appeal to authority kicks in to overdrive which can blind any of us to the silliness.

Finally, the reviews about these three books will be relatively short. I could go into great detail, which I have done before (see above links), but it will likely land on deaf ears. Therefore, I will point out a few glaring examples of Bullshit and move on.

Book 1 – The Virgin Diet by JJ Virgin (I Don’t recommend it)

The premise of her book and cure for the millions of people who struggle with their weight is to eliminate the intake of foods that the body has become allergic/sensitive too. She states in no uncertain terms that food sensitivities are the MAJOR reason for the current weight challenge of most Americans. JJ states;

“Food sensitivity is incredibly common. It affects at least 75 percent of us and is a major factor in weight gain and weight retention” (p.12).

WOW, I said to myself. The significance of the problem is way more than I was aware of. Matt and I actually looked into this topic when we were writing SPEED but was unable to find any quality evidence at the time to warrant the inclusion of it in our book. But hey, we are only two guys, so we could have certainly missed something. The first thing I noticed is that JJ did NOT have a reference after that statement, even though she did have about 30 or so references throughout later parts of her book, but none of them about this aspect. I thought I would e-mail her and see if she could point me to the evidence. Here is our brief e-mail exchange;

Hi JJ,

A friend of mine recently bought your book and asked me what I thought, seeing I know a lot about the subject. The first thing I said was, JJ Virgin, I think I know who that is. I thought for a few seconds and realized that I had heard her (you) speak 4 or 5 years ago at a Designs for Health talk in Phoenix, AZ. Anyway, I hadn’t read the book yet, so I gave a couple of general comments based on a quick glance. To give a quality response I asked this person if I could borrow the book so I could go through it in more detail. I did and gave this person a more detailed response. There were a few things that stuck out to me. Here is the first one, from page 12;

“Food sensitivity is incredibly common. It affects at least 75 percent of us and is a major factor in weight gain and weight retention”

I did notice you had a few references in your book, but no references for this pretty significant statement. I am curious what research you used to come to this conclusion?

Jeff Thiboutot MS,CN,CPT

JJ’s reply via one of her staff members

Hi Jeff,

Here is JJ’s response:

That is a bold statement of opinion based on the following:
After reviewing hundreds of IGG tests from Metametrix I found that at least 70% of the tests showed 1 or more reactions. fellow health care practitioners confirmed they found the same
I found when looking at gluten intolerance, whether through a celiac panel or through the metametrix GI Fx DNA stool analysis roughly 30-40% showed some level of intolerance – my fellow hcp’s found the same
you know the stats for celiac – which are incorrect anyway since the majority go undiagnosed
and the stats for lactose intolerance 70% worldwide, 30% in US depending on ethnicity
and then everyone will become intolerant to sugar if they consume enough for long enough, esp higher fructose loads (unless maybe if they are a WORLD CLASS athlete, and there are so many of those)
and i look at intolerance 3 different ways – genetics – ie celiac, lactose, and gluten intol beyond celiac, Immune: IGG (and of course IgE would be in there but that is such a small percentage) and impact from GMO and hormonal – ie issues with cortisol, leptin, insulin…
so when you put this together actually i think it is probably more like 90%
and honestly I have yet to hear of someone going on this program and not having some significant shift – weight, skin, pain/inflam, GI, energy, etc.

the biggest challenge here is there isn’t a study that looks at this specifically
it is on my to do list but have TWO book deadlines!
but I have been running the program in doctors’ offices and we are about to do that on a much grander scale and the data we are getting back is astonishing!

Hope this helps.

Patsy

Patsy Wallace, MS, NC
Wellness Coach
JJ Virgin and Associates

What I get from this is there is no QUALITY evidence supporting the belief that food sensitivities are a major cause of the weight problem. Second, she readily admits that its her opinion. I have no problem with a educated opinion, but she does not state that in her book. Why not? She could have stated exactly what she stated to me, which would have been a much better representation of the truth. But No! Instead she states it in a way that it is sounds like a solid fact, when it is clearly NOT. She even ups the ante to 90%, wow again. In her book she states that there are 7 foods/food groups that you need to avoid completely, because these are the ones that virtually everyone who struggles with their weight is sensitive to. I not going to dive into all the details, but rather just say that she is saying a lot of definitive things with little or no quality evidence.  However, there is plenty of evidence (RCTs, metabolic ward studies) that have used many of the foods she says make it virtually impossible to lose weight that have lead to significant weight loss in ALL of the participants (I am not given a bunch of references at this time, but if someone wants to read the many studies please let me know and I will send you them). Seeing she likes to use anecdotal evidence, I could easily say that the Biggest Loser show disproves her premise. Many of her forbidden foods, such as wheat, dairy, and soy are eaten regularly and all of the contestants loss a shit load of weight.  She said a few things in the book that made sense and supplied evidence for. But, overall, because the premise of the book is food sensitivities, and there is little evidence that food sensitivities in general, and the 7 foods that she says are the worst offenders, are a major, actually not even a minor cause of weight problems, I cannot recommend this book.

Book 2 – The Fast Metabolism Diet by Haylie Pomroy (I absolutely do NOT recommend it)

I looked through this book over the weekend. Again, this was at the request of someone who I felt the need to respond to. The number of silly statements is amazing, which I will highlight in a minute. Keep in mind that there is NOT a SINGLE reference in this book. Booo. The author makes all kinds of definitive statements on how the body “really” works when it comes to weight loss, here is a sampling;

“Because eating less actually makes the situation worse. When your metabolism is too slow, you, you’ll store lettuce as fat, and you certainly won’t burn any fat”

“It has been proven that a body in starvation mode will first access muscle for fuel, and not fat”

“Metabolic Myth #3: Losing weight is simply calories in, calories out”

“Calories are a lie”

“Rule #1: you must eat five times per day, 35 times a week”

“You may not skip any meals or snacks”

“Rule #2: You must eat every 3 to four hours, except when you’re sleeping”

“Rule#3; You must eat within 30 minutes of waking everyday”

“But you must eat something within the first 30 minutes so your body doesn’t have to run on fumes. Also, please don’t exercise before you put something in your stomach. I tell my clients, ‘Don’t fast and then go fast” You might think you’re burning more fat this way, but in reality it is one of the worst things you can do to your metabolism”

“Rule#9: Meats must be nitrate free…Because nitrates do this by slowing down the breakdown of fat in the meat, they also slow down the breakdown of fat in the body”

“Rule#2 No Corn”

“Rule#3 NoDairy… Fat free dairy aggressively slows down fat metabolism”

“Rule#4 No Soy”

“Most of my clients lose anywhere from half a pound to a pound a day, and sometimes a little more”

“Never get up and exercise in the morning before you’ve eaten breakfast or at least a snack”

I don’t have page numbers for these because I read through it at the library and took a few pictures of the statements that really stood out, but the pics did not have the page numbers in them and I wasn’t going to waste my time and go back and get them. If you don’t believe these are direct quotes from the book you can go check for yourself.

My head hurts from all of this nonsense. Most of these statements are completely false and a couple of them are not totally false but very misleading. I am not going to dismantle all of the nonsense now, but will just review one of her silly statements. Let’s take a look at

“Rule#9: Meats must be nitrate free…Because nitrates do this by slowing down the breakdown of fat in the meat, they also slow down the breakdown of fat in the body”. 

There is plenty of research on the effects of nitrates on human physiology, such as;

1-Food sources of nitrates and nitrites: the physiologic context for potential health benefits.

2-Nitrate in foods: harmful or healthy?

3-Acute blood pressure lowering, vasoprotective, and antiplatelet properties of dietary nitrate via bioconversion to nitrite.

4-Sodium nitrite: the “cure” for nitric oxide insufficiency.

Here is the funny thing from reading the research, not a word about the ability of ingested nitrate to inhibit the ability of the body to breakdown fats in the digestive track. On a side note, if it did do this, which it likely does not, it would mean that LESS fat would be absorbed, similar to Alli (orlistat), which would mean LESS calories would be available from the food. Hence, it could help with weight loss as Alli has been shown to do, but with some possible side effects which are related to the information that Haylie has been giving us (hint; it is expelled from the rectum). Additionally, when nitrates are eaten;

“In the proximal small intestines, nitrate is rapidly absorbed with high bioavailability (100%)” (1).

So nitrate is absorbed relatively early in the digestive process and there is NO evidence that it inhibits fat breakdown once it is absorbed (1-4).  What may be the funniest thing about avoiding nitrates from meats is the fact that vegetables contain much higher amounts of nitrates. For example, the following are the average nitrate contents of

  • hot dog 9 mg/100 gr
  • bacon 5.5 mg/100 gr
  • spinach 741 mg/100 gr (nearly 82 times more than hot dogs and 134 times more than bacon)
  • mustard greens 116 mg/100 gr
  • broccoli 39.5 mg/100 gr
  • tomato 39.2 mg/100 gr (1).

The authors of the paper state;

“Approximately 80% of dietary nitrates are derived from vegetable consumption” (1)

From this information, if Haylie where right about her nitrates from meat inhibit fat breakdown, then she should be screaming from the rooftops to avoid vegetables.  While working on this I decided to reach out to Haylie on her Facebook page. Here is our brief exchange;

Hi Haylie,
regarding my nitrate question. You stated;

Haylie Pomroy: Author of The Fast Metabolism Diet On the diet, we’re trying to avoid taxing your liver — chemical nitrates force your liver to spend time processing them, instead of fat. It’s the same reason we avoid all chemical ingredients on the diet”
Like · Reply · 1 · 13 hours ago

I then asked;

Would you then suggest avoiding many vegetables, such as spinach, bok choy, lettuce and carrots, because they contain many times MORE nitrates than nitrate treated meats?

Haylie Pomroy: Author of The Fast Metabolism Diet Those are natural nitrates -we’re talking about chemical nitrates

Like · Reply · Yesterday at 11:46am

Her “liver” response is nothing like her reason she stated in her book which was about the direct inhibition of fat breakdown on the treated meat. Nevertheless, the “liver” thing is without merit. Her “natural” vs “chemical” nitrates is just ridiculous. There is no evidence that the nitrates found in meats are different than the nitrates found in vegetables.

This information is not top secret stuff. I did not need special clearance to be able to access this information. That is what is so frustrating about silly shit like this. A few clicks on Google and PubMed and voila, you can have access to some useful information on any topic (there are a bunch of things to keep in mind when reading information and research but that is for another day).

Seriously, this women is spewing enough bullshit that the amount of methane it omits could contribute to climate change. What is even worse is she was a recent guest on the Dr Oz show, which Dr Oz, both explicitly and implicitly, supported this type of nonsense. All of these “Have to” and “Must” statements without a shred of evidence. Unexceptable!

The now the 3rd and final book.

Book 3 – The 12 Second Sequence by Jorge Cruise (I absolutely do NOT recommend this book)

Here are a few good example of the nonsense that Mr Cruise is sharing;

“Resistance is the key to getting you fit because it creates lean muscle tissue that burns fat, particularly belly fat” (p.4)

“Muscle is the most metabolically active tissue in your body” (p.5)

This last point is elaborated on by Mr Cruise in a Q an A on Amazon;

Lean muscle tissue is the most metabolically active tissue on your body. Because it needs energy just to operate, it burns calories constantly–even when you’re doing nothing at all. This means that the more lean muscle tissue you have on your body, the more fat you burn every day. Plus, lean muscle is much more compact than fat so it actually makes you appear slimmer, and it’s what gives you great tone and definition. ” (emphasis added)

Back to the book;

“On the days you use the 12-second Sequence TM (twice per week), you’ll burn 200 calories during each workout (Cruise basis this off of 5-4″ women who weighs 160lbs)…But now the real bonuses start kicking in, and all with no more [emphasis in the book] working out. First is the “after-burn,” which will burn 200 extra calories after each workout…”(p.7).

“And then, finally, the best part of all, the 12-Second Sequence helps you restore up to five pounds of fat burning lean muscle tissue. On average, one pound of muscle burns 50 calories per day, so now add an extra 250 calories burned each day or 1,750 more calories more calories burned in a week.” (p.7)

Only on page 7 and already four major examples of shenanigans

First, the one that is likely the worst, (hard to be really confident about that due to the level of crapolla they each one has reached), is about the “50 calories per pound of muscle, per day”. Wrong, wrong, wrong! Just wanted to make it clear. This is one of those urban myths that just wont die. This has been covered before HERE. Basically it is about 5 to 10 calories per pound of skeletal muscle per day, which is much less than what Mr Cruise is telling us. A well done illustration about this point was recently done by James Krieger, he stated;

50 calories per pound????   Really????

Let’s take a look at this.  I’m about 180 pounds.  When I first started weight lifting, I weighed about 135 pounds.  I’ve added a little bit of body fat since then, so let’s be conservative and say I’ve gained 30 pounds of muscle since I started weight training.

If I’ve gained 30 pounds of muscle, that means that my metabolism should have increased by 50 x 30 = 1,500 calories.

I’ve had my resting metabolic rate (RMR) officially tested.  The last time it was measured, it was 1,671 calories per day.

Now, if my RMR increased by 1,500 calories since I first started weight training, then that would mean my RMR started out at only 171 calories per day.

That is completely impossible.  Nobody has a resting metabolic rate that low, unless you’re dead.

Building muscle does not increase your metabolism by 50 calories per day.  The real number is only 6 calories per pound on average.

Here are three papers that clearly elucidate the points about muscle tissue;

Heymsfield, S. et al (2002). Body-size dependence of resting energy expenditure can be attributed to nonenergetic homogeneity of fat-free mass. Am J Physiol Endocrinol Metab; 282: E132-E138.

Ravussin, E. et al (1986). Determinants of 24-hour energy expenditure in man. J Clinical Investigations; 78: 1568-1578.

Wolfe, R. (2006). The Underappreciated Role Of Muscle In Health And Disease. Am J Clin Nutr; 84: 475-482

Related to this point is the statement “Lean muscle tissue is the most metabolically active tissue on your body”. This is false. The fact is ORGANS are the most metabolically active tissues in the body. Lets take a peek at the research.

Anja Bosy-Westphal et al (2009). Contribution of individual organ mass loss to weight loss–associated decline in resting energy expenditure. Am J Clin Nutr; 90: 993-1001

“FFM consists of water, protein, and minerals and is the major determinant of REE that explains 60–80% of the interindividual variance in REE.” (p.993)

Important to realize that FFM (fat free mass) is made up of many tissues not just skeletal muscle.

“Brain, heart, liver, and kidneys comprise only 5–6% of body weight, but contribute to >80% of REE (28), whereas other components such as muscle, adipose tissue, or bone mass have low specific resting metabolic rates.” (p.993)

An interesting summation of the different metabolic rates of different tissues

“REEc (kJ/d) = (1008 x brain mass) + (840 x liver mass)

+ (1848 x heart mass)

+ (1848 x kidney mass)

+ (55 x skeletal muscle mass)

+ (9.63 x bone mass)

+ (19 x adipose tissue)

+ (30 x residual mass)” (p.995)

Based on these numbers, the heart and kidneys are 33 times, the brain is 18 times and the liver is 15 times MORE metabolically active than skeletal muscle tissue.

Therefore, not only are organs many times more metabolically active as skeletal muscle tissue on a per pound basis, but the overall metabolic effect of the organs is much higher than the total amount of skeletal muscle tissue.

Second, gaining 5 pounds of muscle while losing weight is very unlikely. In fact, gaining just a pound or two is not likely, but it is possible. There is plenty of research and review papers that have looked at this topic. There are many variables, but the gist of it is; very little if any muscle will be gained while someone is losing weight. In fact, many people will lose muscle while they are losing weight, even if they do the right things; weight training (may help the most?) or cardio (has the potential to help from losing muscle) and eating enough protein. Again, it is very unlikely that a person would gain 5lbs of muscle while they are losing weight. Here are some of the papers that have been hiding these secrets;

Hansen, D. et al (2007). The Effects Of Exercise Training On Fat-Mass Loss In Obese Patients During Energy Intake Restriction. Sports Med; 37(1): 31-46.

Stiegler, P. & Cunliffe, A. (2006). The role of diet and exercise for the maintenance of fat-free mass and resting metabolic rate during weight loss. Sports Med; 36(3):239-262.

Volek, J et al (2005). Diet And Exercise For Weight Loss: A Review Of Current Issues. Sports Med; 35(1): 1-9.

Weinheimer, E. et al (2010). A Systematic Review Of The Separate And Combined Effects Of Energy Restriction And Exercise On Fat-Free Mass In Middle-Aged And Older Adults: Implications For Sarcopenic Obesity. Nutrition Reviews; 68(7):375–388

Third one deals with the “it creates lean muscle tissue that burns fat, particularly belly fat” statement. Yes, muscle burns fat, but as stated above you are not likely to be gaining any muscle and if you did you would only be burning a few (10-50 calories from 1-5 lbs of muscle gain, respectively) more calories a day. So, not really. Additionally, the more muscle that you are not likely to gain, does not, AT REST, target belly (visceral) fat as an energy source. However, there is some evidence that doing EXERCISE during a weight loss phase will tend to make the WHOLE body, including the skeletal muscles, use MORE belly fat for energy and can lead to a greater loss of belly fat compared to someone not exercising.

The Fourth and final point is about the “after-burn” or EPOC (excess post-exercise oxygen consumption). Jorge states; “the “after-burn,” which will burn 200 extra calories after each workout” which is equal to the amount of calories he says the example person would burn during the workout. This is very unlikely! Again, this topic has been studied in a number of different ways and has been reviewed a number of times. Like the muscle gaining thing, this effect is NOT likely to happen. There are a number of variables that will modify the response. However, the current data on the subject  strongly suggests the “after-burn” (EPOC) will be a relatively small percentage of the actual amount of calories that where burned during exercise.

LaForgia J, Withers RT, Gore CJ. (2006). Effects of exercise intensity and duration on the excess post-exercise oxygen consumption. J Sports Sci;24(12):1247-64.

“Although the more recent studies do not support the extended EPOC durations reported by some of the pioneering investigators, it is now apparent that a prolonged EPOC (3-24 h) may result from an appropriate exercise stimulus (submaximal: >or=50 min at >or=70% VO2max; supramaximal: >or=6 min at >or=105% VO2max). However, even those studies incorporating exercise stimuli resulting in prolonged EPOC durations have identified that the EPOC comprises only 6-15% of the net total oxygen cost of the exercise.”

“…the earlier research optimism regarding an important role for the EPOC in weight loss is generally unfounded”

Therefore, the contention by Jorge that a person will likely have an after-burn that equals the amount of calories burned during the exercise session is highly unlikely.

These four things really encompass the core of “why” Mr Cruise thinks his 12 Second Sequence is “a revolutionary method of resistance training” (p.4). However, as briefly shown above and much more elaborately in the MANY studies and papers on these topics, his “true breakthrough” (p.4) is a House of Cards. It is really a combination of completely false statements and other statements that take a significant amount of liberty with what is likely to really happen for most people.

In conclusion, this will likely be my final rant for awhile. I will miss it, mostly because it makes me review topics that interest me and because I think people, including myself, should speak up when they think people are saying things that are untrue or very misleading. Again, it is not about making mistakes, but there should be some threshold of effort, evidence, and transparency that should be behind the recommendations that tell people how to live.  As I mentioned earlier, my time needs to be focused on more important things, at least for now, such as the Second Edition to SPEED and my new academic goal of getting my PhD in Health Psychology, which starts this June. I hope this information helps someone. If anyone should have some intelligent comments please submit it below or e-mail me.

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3 Responses to “So Much Bullshit!!”

  1. Armi Legge says:

    Wow, it’s amazing how creative people can get to think up non-existant problems to avoid the things that actually matter.

    The food intolerances bit was especially far fetched. Thanks for keeping up with this stuff, though I’m glad you’re planning on taking a break too. I’m sure you guys get tired of this stuff.

    Best,

    - Armi

  2. Terry says:

    Great read. Glad your back! You gave me a few laughs. The bullshit is amazing.

    Looking forward to the second edition, and looking forward to the Dr. Jeff show!!

    Terry

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