Richard has a great post up today, 'Synthesis: Low-Carb and Food Reward/Palatability, and Why Calories Count'
I've long since moved to a carb-friendly/friendlier place over the past few years (not for health but to fuel exercise), but whilst I find much of his post hits the target (Occam's Razor), I still have a few concerns that palatibility is far from the whole picture. I was wondering if others had similar thoughts...
One example from personal experience - I used to get hunger shakes in the afternoon, despite following a 'healthy vegetarian diet'. Following a paleo model has definitely helped me in this respect. I had to snack in the afternoon not because I the snack was palatable, but becuase I was hungry - and it is not as if I scrimped on lunch nor lacked bodily fat stores to rely on. Now I can fast for over a day without much of a problem.
Other thoughts that spring to mind - 'Isocaloric is not isometabolic'. Consider the differing fates awaiting protein and carbohydrate. Then there are hormonal factors (affected by such things as sleep, light quality and frequency, stress), levels of BAT, periodicity of consumption (ADF and IF can have a differernt impact on obesity than the consumption of the same number of calories on a regular basis). Then we have epigenetics, chronic inflammation, mitochondria and gut flora....
I don't want to confound causes of a disease like obesity with the consequence of eating foods with high palatibility, and I applaud the clarity of the FTA post, but it is one thing eating a bowl of ice-cream when you are 'stuffed' after a meal, and another being compelled to continually 'reach for the crapinabox'.
Is 'palatibility' too simplistic?
asked byAsclepius (1837)
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on March 01, 2012
at 01:20 PM
No question that food reward is not the whole picture. And to be fair, Stephan never made that claim.
It's interesting to me that NPY (neuropeptide Y) is one of many causes of hyperphagia (overeating). NPY production is stimulated by carbohydrate consumption and in turn it stimulates carbohydrate consumption:
"Neuropeptide Y (NPY), acting through various medial hypothalamic nuclei, is found to have potent effects on a variety of endocrine, physiological and behavioral systems that modulate energy balance. This peptide affects the release of various hormones, such as corticosterone, insulin, aldosterone and vasopressin, which modulate energy metabolism, as well as food intake. It also has direct impact on energy metabolism through an effect on substrate utilization and lipogenesis. Finally, NPY has a remarkably potent stimulatory effect on feeding behavior, which is characterized by a selective increase in carbohydrate ingestion that is strongest at the beginning of the active feeding cycle and is dependent upon circulating levels of corticosterone. This evidence has led to the proposal that NPY exerts anabolic effects to restore energy balance at specific times of energy depletion. Increased NPY activity may occur at the beginning of the active cycle or after a period of food deprivation. Further evidence, that chronic NPY stimulation produces profound hyperphagia and obesity and that endogenous NPY concentration is increased in genetically obese animals, strongly suggests that hypothalamic NPY may contribute to the development of eating disorders and obesity."
In other words, carbohydrate addiction is real, irrespective of palatability - but food that is engineered to be hyperpalatable is even more addictive IMHO. Also, wheat has specific addictive components beyond simple palatability.
on March 01, 2012
at 01:32 PM
I, for one, don't think 'palatibility' is simplistic at all ;). But do you mean is it really "the" factor at work? Good question! As someone with clear food reward issues (compulsive eater/binge eater/food addict of many decades), I absolutely am on board with the idea that palatability and reward -- as processes in the brain -- can have a major affect on appetite and more.
But do I think it's the whole picture? No. (Nor does Stephan for that matter.) It's interesting to me that both Kurt Harris and now Richard have embraced the concept as they have. But me personally, I think that it's a major piece ... one that food manufacturers are definitely exploiting.
That said, I believe that there are other major contributors, inflammation for one. Eating a "low-reward" diet clearly reduces inflammation. Another is nutrient density. Palatability/reward is largely upstream (brain), but there's a LOT going on downstream, especially in the gut. See Chris Masterjohn on lack of choline in the diet and cholesterol for example. A "low-reward" diet tends to be more nutrient-dense, so that may be at work too.
I'm a fan of the six blind men and the elephants metaphor (man feeling the leg thinks it's a pillar, man feeling the tail thinks it's a rope, etc):
I think this fits our current discussions pretty well. Everyone is looking at their piece of the elephant. Eventually we'll get to the point where we're able to step back and see how all the pieces fit.
on March 01, 2012
at 09:44 PM
I think palatability is too simplistic. I think nutrient load plays a big role here. When a person consumes industrially processed crap food, s/he is not meeting her/his nutritional needs and end up pounding down a ton of this food in a vain attempt to satisfy real hunger, which is based in part by the body's ability to sense nutrient load coming in. Sure, these crap foods have been engineered to taste good, but I don't think that in and of itself is why they are over consumed. By the same token, when a plate of liver and onions (or steak and salad or other nutritionally dense food) is consumed, the body is nourished by this and so blind munching is not as easy to continue.
on March 01, 2012
at 04:11 PM
I'm not sure why these terms, reward and palatability, are so confusing as Stephan and others have provided definitions quite distinct from the first-glance everyday-use definitions of the words. Many comments I've read seem based on the everyday definitions and that's a little bizarre to me. I'm pretty comfortable with how Stephan, Kurt and Richard are using the terms based on the definitions they gave us.
I'm with Melissa in that I don't seem to have the "starch tastes good" gene. Steak and potatoes might work if every bite of potato was seasoned by a morsel of steak or garlic or sweet pepper. Sweet potato is okay if it's one part butter to 2 parts potato.
I browsed the "20 potatoes a day" site and I find it credible given the mass-scale experiment history observed in Ireland. However, I would get fat on it because every 2 or 3 spuds would require a stick of butter. :-))
The conversation at Richard's blog, Free the Animal, has been terrific and I recommend that all who read this thread go there and read his last 2 posts and all the comments.
I have no more aptitude for VLC than I do for high-starch, but I do strongly believe that moderate carbs in the form of low-density greens and low-starch vegetables plus a little fruit is by far the best approach for ME. You need to find your own best way and, like Richard, you need to be flexible enough to try different things every now and then.
on March 01, 2012
at 02:25 PM
Food reward/palatability is the worst idea in Paleo. This is a bad meme that needs to go away.
I can't believe I'm reading this stuff.
The very idea that I'm so incredibly stupid that I (or others) just wreck themselves is insulting and absurd.
I was one of those 300+lb hormone wrecks and spent 15 years in hell, going from one dr or blowhard to another until I found one that knew what to do. Insulin was well over 18. Now its as low as I want it to be. Weight fell off. I heard endless crap from fit people telling me what to do. None of them knew. My endocrine system had been nuked from drugs used to treat colitis, and it fell apart. Food reward my azz!
And would fit people kindly keep their carb theories about us to themselves? Some of us are smart enough to experiment too. Cutting carbs is the best strategy for a lot of folks. We also don't need fit people's bad theories on whats going on when the last 10-20 lb won't move.
I've experienced this myself and I'm going to go out on a limb and say that the ex-obese have calorie requirements as a fit person that are probably 20-30% less than a never-obese person would have, everything else being equal. (I posted a question on itthe other day).
Additionally, many have issues with past insulin resistance. The always-fit persons carb input is- 1) Too high because insulin resistant people can't do that many carbs. If you haven't been insulin resistant, good for you, but you haven't been there, done that. 2) Too much because calorie requirements are just different. 100 to you is 130 to me, even though my weight is decent now (198).
The fuss over Taubes and insulin theory is a non issue. Taubes is close enough for the people who are insulin resistant right now. Forget how they got there, what do they do? Insulin must come down.
Sorry for the rant. If I could reach through my screen and punch people in the nose that think big people are as stupid as Guyenet does, I would have a sore hand!
on March 05, 2012
at 09:48 PM
Bottom line is always going to be that any given overweight individual needs to take the approach that most easily results in a persistent energy deficit. For some that's zero carb, for others that's high carb. Because so many encounter side effects from low carb, it would probably be best to only utilize that as a last resort where you're staring down the barrel of a truly unhealthy weight and the prospect of impaired T3 production isn't quite as important (though the priorities will switch as one leans out).
The great thing about a truly elemental paleo diet is that it takes care of most everything for you. If you eat foods that are minimally prepared, the palatability issue is accounted for, whether it's a baked sweet potato or a steak. Once you start adding things like salt/butter/chocolate/whatever though, things get unhinged and it makes it far more difficult to control food intake. I believe that this is the major mistake that many people make.
Additionally, our appetite regulation mechanisms can't really account for carbs without fiber or fat without protein. We probably all used to drink caloric beverages and eat foods with fat added to them and this was extra energy that just padded our diets. If the fat is attached to meat and the carbs come with some bulk, then the overall diet is far more satiating per unit energy. Odds are that the macronutrient ratios will take care of themselves. You'll crave some fruit or sweet potato some of the time and some meat other times. If you're eating mixed meals, that's taken care of already.
I've run a lot of experiments on myself over the last year or two and I've found that actively restricting anything is simply too psychologically taxing. If you decide to eat whole food in a largely unprepared state when your body tells you you're hungry and that leads you naturally to low carb with no ill-effects, then you should probably do that. Most people will probably want to incorporate some fruit and tubers, and though you don't get nearly as much satiety (per pound) as if you were to eat a steak, from a per-calorie point of view, it's probably largely the same.
Overall, I'd say that though food reward may not start the obesity fire, it's definitely an accelerant.
on March 01, 2012
at 01:31 PM
I have experimented with eating simply meats and unflavored white potatoes. I can attest to it being extremely satiating. I wouldn't feel full per se but I would reach the point of being uninterested in food. The bonus here is that white potatoes are cheap. Best price per calorie diet ever?
on March 01, 2012
at 06:45 PM
I keep asking people to show me some real scientific proof that your blood lipids (VLDL/HDL) / Triglycerides actually improve while increasing any carbohydrate intake. I know I've seen tons that show the opposite (more fat/less carb)
on March 05, 2012
at 08:30 PM
This unfortunately is a signal of the success of Taubes' strategy for deflecting criticism for his flawed hypothesis: Set it up as FR vs. CIH (or as I call it TWICHOO) as competing hypotheses. This is a false construct but he achieved his purpose, few people are interested in hearing where TWICHOO is indeed wrong, they are too busy tearing down Stephan.
I can't for the life of me get why so many react so viscerally to the mere suggestion of FR. It's as "passive" a mechanism -- eating rewarding foods causes overconsumption -- as the whole carbs lock fat away so your cells are starving meme of TWICHOO. It seems, at least, that most have come to the grudging acceptance/admission of the obvious that the obese, on average, do indeed eat more than the lean. Or
at least you don't get obese without overeating for your metabolism. TWICHOO says you're insulin caused the fat to accumulate and then you overate because you were just undergoing a normal spontaneous insulin-evoked horizontal growth spurt. FR offers up an alternative explanation for why we as a nation started increasing our caloric intake to the tune of some 3-400 cal/day in the 80's.
The thing is, FR could be flat out wrong and that doesn't matter as regards the validity of TWICHOO ... and vice versa.
I can't explain the transformation (not physical, mental) that occurred with me in 2007. I just decided enough is enough and I was going to do something about my weight. I knew LC worked and fast, though I'd never gotten down to "skinny" before doing it ... I figured I'd cross that bridge if and when I came to it. I didn't get obese the last time binging. I just ate too much all the time which is ridiculously easy to do when you are eating a lot of take out and junk food. It adds up easily, and although it seemingly padded on over night, it took me around a year and a half to gain about 100 lbs. That sounds like a lot, but let's say 70 weeks at 750 cal/day surplus will do it. When most appetizers at a family style restaurant weigh in over that, it's not rocket science to see how one gains weight and gets fat.
My LC success plateaued out. It took me like two years to really embrace changing my diet up, and although it did change my body composition a tad (or seemed to), I've yet to gather the mental energy to devote to this when there are other things of greater importance on my plate. I don't know Richard, but it sort of seems he reached the same place.
I know that I used to binge like the best of them. Folks in a pinch I would mix packets of instant oatmeal with maple syrup and shovel it down (long, LONG ago), brown rice with a ton of butter and soy sauce would do too. Never in a million years would I think that a bowl of oatmeal would last me several hours ... and yet these days I make steel cut oats with almond milk -- a whopping 200 cals worth -- and I'm good for several hours. Or I can eat two hard boiled eggs. Or like today, a chunk of cheese and liverwurst. It's a very unique switch that happened -- I eat for fueling and fortifying my body.
And yet, I live in a world where I find food enjoyable. Somehow this has become the new taboo. Sort of like all those folks who only have a glass of wine for the antioxident benefit ;) When I go on vacation in a couple of days it will be to an all-inclusive with an amazing array of restaurant options. But I will come back weighing no more than I do now. Food doesn't have some ridiculous control over me. FOOD IS NOT SUPPOSED TO HAVE ANY CONTROL OVER YOU. THAT'S NOT PALEO PEEPS!
I have been amazed how my body reacts with carbs. Favorably. The LC'ers are griping that paleo attracts young undamaged metabolisms with maybe 20 lbs to lose. By the time folks find LC they are hopelessly damaged and worse off than even the poor saps on the treadmills at the gym. BULLTWINKIES. Lots of these people are veritable drug addicts popping supplements like they formerly ate candy. As well, LC'ers are feeling abandoned by those like Richard for whom LC helped immensely.
And there's the rub folks. Extreme LC can be a very effective means to an end. But when you reach that end, most will likely do far better rediscovering the beleaguered carb.
on March 05, 2012
at 06:37 PM
Okay, sorry to pose questions as an answer, but I gotta get some answers since my own searching seems to yield none:
- Can someone explain to me how food reward has any relevance to me as someone who has never been obese, has never had disordered eating, and has very few cravings?
- Can someone explain how food reward theory is applicable to someone eating Paleoly? It seems that by eliminating processed and engineered foods, we've eliminated most of the culprits.
- Can someone explain why Taubes's and Guyenet's ideas are incompatible? They seem to go hand-in-hand to me, with Stephan's being a bit more focused and specific.
I don't have any stakes here. I'm not trying to lose weight or wrest control over my metabolism. I'm just trying to understand the vitriol in the Paleosphere over these ideas. It is really starting to look quite silly.
on March 01, 2012
at 07:57 PM
I guess I don't understand a diet that is driven by a fundamental difference between what you eat and what you want to eat. It doesn't seem natural to me, it is highly reminiscent of many many other diets that simply required you to restrict what you ate to exclude food you actually wanted to eat.
Does it work without potatoes?
on March 01, 2012
at 02:21 PM
i do like discussing theories of bodyfat regulation as much as anyone. The main lesson from Nikoley, however, is to actually try different ways of eating and do so for a period of time sufficient for observing some effect on appetite. He ate 400% of his prior carb intake long enough to see himself not really wanting to eat that much. How many here can say the same?