BMI vs. Body Fat

A few nice best weight loss diet images I found:

BMI vs. Body Fat
best weight loss diet
Image by syvwlch
This is a plot of the Body Mass Index vs. the Body Fat percentage. It includes the actual measurements over the 11 weeks of my diet so far (the little red crosses), as well as some guesses about where this is going next.

Obviously, I started in the upper right-hand corner (with a BMI around 32.5 and a Body Fat percentage of over 32%!) and as the diet progresses, I’m moving down and left. You can see the measurements just hit the transition between Obese and Over-Weight as per BMI.

The most important parameter impacting the shape of the curve is the Fat Loss Ratio (FLR), i.e. the percentage of weight loss that is actual fat loss (as opposed to muscle loss).

The thick brown line is the model’s best guess as to where BMI and Body Fat are going next, based on my historical average FLR value (i.e. 63.06% as of today), while the dashed lines show where the curve would lie for other values of FLR.

For the record, I expect FLR to change as I continue to lose weight and/or make an impact on my muscle loss, but it’s interesting to see how wide a range of possible Body Fat ratios could potentially correspond to the various BMI threshold values.

Lastly, these BMI and Body Fat values are valid for me, right now. I doubt they have any predictive value for anyone else, especially if they are not a 35-year old male.

Good Calories, Bad Calories
best weight loss diet
Image by Earthworm
In this 460 page, brain taxing book, Gary Taubes, a journalist specializing in public health, nutrition and diet and a correspondent for Science magazine, offers a crash course in the history of nutrition science especially as it relates to disease. Since the 1940s such study turns out to be a misguided mish mash of pet theories and arrogant assumptions by a few crusader doctors refusing to look at the inconvenient truths revealed by lesser egos.

By page 50 I was convinced that fat in one’s diet, has no effect whatsoever on cholesterol. In fact if it does, you have a rare disorder. But because of an influential doctor named Ancel Keys, several decades of expensive study was devoted to proving that fat did raise cholesterol which in turn would contribute to heart disease. No conclusive evidence could be found, yet Keys had so convinced his colleagues that fat was the culprit that when other contrary evidence was revealed, researchers still continued to try to believe Keys was right and misinterpreted the results. Thus a group of doctor buddies were able to influence government dietary recommendations, (a project put forth by George McGovern in his run-up to becoming a presidential candidate) and that pretty much fixed it.

Outsider, outlier doctors, who worked in the Navy for instance or with missionaries, and had seen the effects of colonization on the health of populations overseas i.e. Africa, observed that the diseases of civilization—heart disease, hypertension, stroke, cancer, diabetes, peptic ulcers, cavities, periodontal disease, diverticulitis, gallstones, hemorrhoids, varicose veins, constipation, dementia, asthma, appendicitis and even aging—were non-existent until these populations started to eat the diet of the new settlers. And that the introduced diets included large amounts of carbohydrates. As for the carbohydrates in rice eating nations of Asia, it was a starvation level diet that kept the carbohydrates from causing the usual havoc. All blood sugar is consumed if you don’t eat much to begin with. However, per this book, precious few studies, on the subject, have been devoted to Asian populations. (Comments on Amazon regarding this book suggests that the traditional Chinese diet is much higher in fat than has been realized and all parts of the animal were eaten so was not a rice based diet per se.)

Carbohydrates are the preferred diets of colonizers because of the ease with which they are transported; think shipments of grain. It is also the food of agriculture, especially industrialized agriculture derived from excessive use of petroleum, as we know, thus the term peak carbohydrates comes to mind. And perhaps why the increasing popularity of the Paleo diet as an alternative narrative, now that we’re here on the downward slope, but I digress.

The study of nutrition was actually heading in the right direction between 1910 and 1940 and obesity was being successfully treated with low carb, high fat diets. But World War II derailed this trend for a number of reasons. One of which was that the best studies were being done by Germans and Austrians, but once the English and Americans defeated Germany, and English became the world language no one could be bothered with the Germans for any intellectual contribution. Another reason was that those, such as Ancel Keys, who observed changes in the diet of wartime populations, became convinced that the removal of farmed meat from the diet led to lower mortality (although not by much it turns out). Nor did he consider that the population replaced the meat with fish or ate horse meat as my mother did. The authors of "The China Study" also used this historical anecdote to back up claims that a vegetarian diet kept everyone healthier, but neither story accounts for the shortage of diesel fuel which made everyone walk more and the sugar rationing of the time and rationing of tea and biscuits.

Keys then went on to insist that heart disease was on the rise and with the heart attack suffered by President Eisenhower, the public, too, were convinced that this was so. And nobody could let the fat culprit go after that. Especially when nutrition scientists insisted that the body followed the laws of physics i.e. thermodynamics rather than biochemistry. This was particularly hard on fat people because doctors insisted that a calorie eaten was a calorie that had to be expended in activity or obesity would result. This was no more true than to insist that eating would make you taller. Earlier studies had already proven that neither diet nor exercise would make people lose weight because basically you cannot maintain a starvation diet. It only needed the biochemistry studies to prove it.

As it turned out body fat is not released for use as energy by exercising (because locked down by body chemistry—you gain quickly, but lose only a little) so any attempt to exercise for weight loss has very little result especially because increased hunger results so you eat to compensate. (Adrenaline will mobilize fat storage release and so does smoking.) It was also discovered that fat was not created in the body until certain biochemical reactions involving insulin took place, so over-eating did not necessarily make people fat. Even when this was revealed, doctor’s still stubbornly clung to the original flawed thinking. Which makes me wonder if obesity serves the same purpose for doctors as homosexuality did for the psychiatric community. Namely as an example of gluttony as a moral deficit. (Homosexuality as an example of depravity and general immorality.)

Nothing was helpful in revealing the true culprit until diabetes research could really take hold. It was then that insulin was revealed to be the regulator of energy within the body and the relationship discovered between carbohydrates and the production of insulin within the body. The author also provides the relevant science (which I’ll cover in my next report). Since it was known that diabetics were more prone to heart disease, cancer, obesity and suffered dementia twice as much, it occurred to some to ask if diabetics were the canary in the coal mine. And all the diseases of civilization were related to insulin activity. In fact one researcher did determine that the artherogenic profile for heart disease was seen in diabetics—high triglycerides and low HDL.

It wasn’t until a 2007 study that enough information about lipoprotein metabolism existed to lay the whole cholesterol/fat relationship to rest, but such news didn’t make the cover of Time so the public is none the wiser and doctors already in the field don’t appear to want to know. I’m glad that the research is finally getting a grip on this whole issue of metabolic syndrome and is now being taught in medical schools, but I agree with the author that it’s a sorry state of affairs when doctors don’t even care to prove some of their basic assumptions of biochemistry and diet, but just assume they know all they need to know.

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