Red Meat and Chocolate

In case you hadn’t noticed, a couple of weeks ago Harvard issued a press release about a link between red meat and deaths due to cardiovascular problems or cancer. The low carb and paleo blogospheres have been abuzz ever since, discussing the problems with the study.

Then Tuesday someone on Facebook posted this article about a possible link between chocolate consumption and weight loss. I said, “Oh, yeah! Sugar = bad, but chocolate = good!” and I sent the link around on all my social media.

THEN, I logged onto the forums, and checked out the thread where the members are–guess what? Picking apart that study. And guess what? I found myself joining in!

The thing is, that chocolate study uses essentially the same method as the red meat study. And, as Gary Taubes pointed out recently, there are definitely limits to what such studies can tell us. While chocolate has been shown to have many health benefits, it’s too early to tell whether weight loss (or weight control) is one of them.

What’s more, we have anecdotal evidence that there are people who go into binges even on low-sugar chocolate.  So if chocolate does eventually prove to have some value in weight loss, it probably won’t work for everyone.

Obviously, I fell into a common trap: I blindly accepted a study that reinforced my prejudices. And that’s not what science is all about. So, my bad on that one. (Still, it is fun to know that they’re looking into the possibility, isn’t it?)

Update (2-3 hrs after first publish): Just found the blog Weighty Matters, by an obesity doctor in Ottawa. He tears apart the chocolate study. Informative–and highly entertaining–read!

More Geeky Science Stuff

While I’m on the topic of diet and science, I hope most of you already know about Stephan Guyenet’s Whole Health Source blog. Stephan’s an obesity researcher who understands that the low-fat myth is just that: a myth. He puts out articles explaining the metabolic mechanisms behind obesity, plus lots of related stuff. And since he understands that it can be an overwhelming amount of information, he’s always careful to include a clear list of “take-home points” in a Conclusions section at the end.

Check out Stephan’s Is Sugar Fattening? post. Then, if you’re feeling really brave, try The Carbohydrate Hypothesis of Obesity. (And if you’re not feeling brave, here’s the quick version: “Obviously, carbohydrate restriction [low carb eating] works. But the standard explanation of why it works is probably all wrong. We need more studies to figure it out.”)

Finally, I also hope you already know about the Nutrition and Metabolism Society. As their website states, “The Society believes specifically that the therapeutic potential of carbohydrate-restricted diets for the treatment of diabetes and obesity is under-investigated and under-utilized. The Society seeks to support research in this area…. Our overall mission is to improve the current and inadequate nutritional guidelines and to see that sound scientific information is provided for the public.”

And if you’re feeling extra bio-geeky, the society also maintains a fully-accessible peer-reviewed online journal. (I’ve got them in my RSS reader. What does that say about me?)


By the way: yes, I noticed that this is going out on Thursday.  But I couldn’t come up with a web-related alliteration for Thursday. Anyone want to try and create one for me?


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