Cut Calories to Gain Fat

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If you’re looking for a way to gain body fat in proportion to lean body mass, let it be known that the most efficient means of achieving that lofty goal has been known since 1950.  Cut calories.

In 1950, an experiment was performed by Ancel Keys on a group of 32 young men in relatively healthy condition.  The idea behind the experiment was to study what happens under situations of famine.  These brave young men were thus put on a 1,500 calorie diet (more than some weight loss authors recommend) that was continued for a period of 24 weeks.  What happened to them was breathtaking – and the 1300-page monster of information that Keys and his colleagues managed to produce detailing the study makes it, quite possibly, the most well-controlled, superbly-documented, and irrefutable study that has ever been conducted on the human response to a low-calorie diet.

But they didn’t just track how they did during the 24 weeks of starvation.  As interesting as that is, in and of itself, what I find to be more pertinent in today’s day and age of caloric abundance is what happened to them after going down to 1,500 calories for 24 weeks.

Here are some snapshots of the data graph piece by piece.  What the first graph shows is changes in overall body weight (dark circles) and fat levels (hollow circles) during the 24-week starvation period.  As you can see, starving on a low-calorie diet made them lose overall body weight, and a substantial amount more body fat than overall weight.  In fact, you can see that they lost nearly 70% of their starting body fat by the 24th week.

Next you can see what happened to them in the first 33 weeks of refeeding.  This is almost 8 months of eating as much food as they desired.  Initially, caloric consumption reached a level of nearly 6,000 calories per day.  Even when men were physically incapable of ingesting more food they mentioned a persisting sensation of hunger – even right after eating.  Sound familiar dieters?  This phenomenon in response to caloric deprivation is a well-understood fact that obesity researchers refer to as “rebound hyperphagia.”  At week 33 of refeeding, body weight and body fat levels peaked.  You can see that even though weight didn’t go much higher than starting levels during this phase, body fat levels were substantially higher – peaking at 40% higher than they were at the start of the starvation experiment.  Unfortunately, it’s at this point that most dieters get disgusted with their “lack of willpower” and take the plunge into another restricted diet of some sort that triggers this same infinitely counterproductive phenomenon again.
After 33 weeks of refeeding the men start to achieve what I would call “metabolic healing.”  An ambiguous term perhaps, but what else would you call it?  You can see that fat stores drop much faster coming down the home stretch than body weight, suggesting that muscle, bone, organ, blood, and other tissue losses are being replaced between week 33 and week 58 of refeeding.  Even so, at the end of 58 weeks – more than an entire year of refeeding, the men still have more body fat and weigh more overall than they did at the beginning of the experiment, although you can clearly see that they are well on their way to once again becoming healthy young men in automatic, willpower-free energy balance.  Total weight gains were a few kilograms, 5-10 pounds overall.
There are two important lessons to be learned here.  The first, is that cutting calories is a doomed strategy for improving your ratio of body fat to lean body mass.  There is no suggestion that being overweight will make this work any differently as any overweight person with a history of yo-yo dieting can tell you.  Sadly, the person often blames his or herself for lack of will to keep weight off, when it is an almost physiological certainty that it will lead to increased body fat.  Using exercise or a calorie deficit seems to make little difference in how this scenario plays out.  Having access to such irrefutable and concise knowledge since 1950 makes what the Weight Watchers and Jenny Craig’s of the world peddle for weight loss a criminal act. Rest assured that if 180DegreeHealth becomes the powerful, pervasive entity that I envision it one day becoming, I vow to file huge lawsuits against these companies and stir up a full-blown media debacle over it.
The 2nd lesson to be learned is that it takes time and patience to eat as much food as your body demands before muscle, bone, organs, blood, and tissues are restored to optimal levels and accumulated body fat begins to disappear.  Although the starvation that these men endured was extreme, keep in mind it was for only 24 weeks.  Many dieters have gone decades before ever coming to their senses and finding an intelligent source of information like this.  But all we can do is nourish ourselves well, enjoy life, and be patient.  That is the only path to recovering our metabolic health from years of dieting suicide, but it can happen, and will happen, if you stick with it.
I also believe that insulin and blood sugar levels, if you are a type 2 diabetic, will also follow a similar trajectory.  We all know that cutting calories and overexercising provides temporary improvement to blood sugar and insulin levels – just as it provides temporary weight loss.  But the aftermath is a bitch.  To overcome insulin resistance and type 2 diabetes, assuming your pancreas still produces sufficient insulin, eating to appetite – and even beyond your appetite (which I believe jumpstarts the healing process), is the solution.  Gobbling starch and all.
Read more about this in my eBook on How To Raise Your Metabolism.


  1. Every time I get the urge to go on a diet and lose some weight I jut read your blog and get my head knocked on straight! Good post.
    A couple questions:
    Do you think exercise is a bad idea when you're trying to "metabolically heal"? Or just too much? And what is too much?
    Also, since it's not a surplus of calories, what do think does cause obesity?
    I know it's been debated on here if there even is an obesity problem, and I agree that as a society we're obsessed with unreal ideas about how thin people should be and that we consider healthy weights to be "fat", but I also see a LOT of seriously fat people, especially when I'm in the midwest.

  2. It's only been, what, two weeks that I've sworn off of eliminating huge food categories (like carbs) in a vain attempt to lose weight. Already, my appetite is down. Way down. I am finally understanding what you mean by force-feeding. And I've lost interest in dark chocolate. I NEVER thought that was possible. Looks like the dieting that began with me at age 5 has been the demise of my health for all these years. I hope at 45 I have enough time to heal and enjoy life!! I hope to be part of the great success that leads to the giant lawsuits of Jenny Crook et al.

  3. Nice work Lisa, keep it up, week by week, month by month it gets better! Still lots of time to heal and enjoy, you're as young as you think!

  4. Odd that this was posted today as well; there is always 180 to the 180, to give you the polar opposite, good ole cals in = cals out:

    Don't even really want to posts this, but its fair to say there are lots of opinions out there…

  5. Matt,why Ancel Keys?This is the man who ruined the western worlds health.Sorry I just had to post that.

  6. I agree with anonymous here, I'm not sure I ever want to use Ancel Keys data for anything :-)

  7. Matt, you are on FYAAHH!!!


  8. I think its awesome that Ancel Keys basically screws the whole dietary "cals in=cals out" dogma with this study when he basically started the lipid hypothesis

  9. Matt wrote on Dr. Eades blog:

    "They should call it the Fat Gain Bible. Crap, I can't seem to make any friends."


    Up to your usual antics?


  10. LOL. 180 indeed. Hey, Matt, forgot to put ol' Sanford Porter in your influences. Intentional? Common, he's the guy that will save my ass, hopefully.

  11. also no more than eggs 2 or 3 times per week :( :( eggs are a daily, cheap staple for me. These also have been a staple for many people for generations. I have restricted PUFAS majorly but have a hard time finding other proteins i like for breakfast:)

  12. By the way just got a fairly comprehensive blood check up and had some interesting stuff.

    TSH is fine Free T3 is in the middle of the range and would like that higher.

    I have lower than the range in triglycerides, white blood platelets and neutrophiles for the first time … some research suggests these are linked to autoimmune stuff?

    My fasting blood glucose was once again on the official test 100 which isn't good (when i measure its normally 85)

    My Vit 3 is down to 23 from 44 AND I have been supplementing VitD3 for the first time ever for the past 6 weeks (3000IU)!!

    everything else is normal.

  13. I'm not ready to cut back on eggs either, Jedi. Not eating any tortilla chips though!

    Last night at bedtime I was watching the White Truffle Fries video, and my 9 yo daughter drifted over to watch. She was smiling when they came out of the oven, but when Matt grated the Parmesan on top, she gasped. "I want those steaming straight from the oven the minute I get home from school tomorrow!" she said, laughing the laugh of the food-obsessed-but-in-a-good-way.

    I finished the Kharrazian book yesterday, "Why Do I STILL Have Thyroid Symptoms?" I'd say it's the best book out there for explaining the web of interconnectedness that is blood sugar/thyroid/adrenals/infections/sex hormones/etc. He says that most thyroid conditions, if caught early, can be fixed without dessicated thyroid. He says fixing the diet is crucial and seems pretty Schwarzbeinian in recommending whole foods with protein/fat/carbs. He's stuck on the glycemic index though and warns people away from starch. Treatment seems to focus on tons of supplements and botanicals.

    I do wonder, for those of us with really damaged guts, how much of our excellent food is getting absorbed, and whether there are other things we could be doing at the same time as HED to promote better absorption?

    Could the fact that my metabolism still sucks but I'm not gaining weight be due to malabsorption?

  14. Ancel Keys is fine when he has data. It's when he jumps to conclusions without data that he leads us astray. The U.S. didn't really get screwed by fat phobia until we substituted refined sugar and polyunsaturated fat for saturated fat.

    Don't worry about the egg thing. I'm really interested in this uber low-PUFA thing right now. Hopefully it's just a phase. Eggs are probably the last thing to worry about anyway.

    I love exercise and there's nothing wrong with it. But like anything, if you are creating a huge calorie deficit by doing it for several hours per day, it can do you wrong. I'm a big fan of resting deeply for a month and then reintroducing light exercise. Once you feel like you're maintaining or even losing weight eating to appetite, it's probably safe to "get back in shape." I'm slowly re-entering this phase myself – doing some walking and a few pushups here and there. It feels great. Doing it 7 hours a day, however, seems to be more than my body can take. It always revolts in a nasty aftermath after doing it for months on end.

    It is true that to get below a healthy level of body fat like Venuto or Martin, it requires starvation. It does not require willpower, sacrifice, fasting, and no pain no gain exercise to maintain a healthy weight. Humans have been doing it for centuries.

    But doing so has consequences.

    That's crazy about the vitamin D. Like most things, it's not a simple matter of ingesting more of the vitamin, but what your body does with that vitamin. Vitamin D depends on the action of receptor sites just like everything else. Hopefully this is not a sign of autoimmunity. Keep close tabs on all that.

    I'll try to get to that Kharrazian book later this year. Sounds interesting for sure.

  15. Okay El66k,

    I added the milk diet guys. Ya happy now?

  16. Yep

  17. Wow. What complete and total nonsense.

    Have a look at my blog. Exercise and calorie restriction work very well as evidenced by pictures of myself on my blog.

  18. Great blog as for me. I'd like to read more about this matter. Thank you for giving this info.

  19. @Barry

    Sense and nonsense depends on what premises you apply to your data to reach conclusions. Different premises, different conclusions.

    So what are your premises to conclude that Matt is nonsensical?


  20. Wow Barry. You lost weight! Neato! And you did it by cutting out tobacco, alcohol, and what else did you say?

    Most overweight people have lost literally hundreds of pounds in their lifetime. What a person does to "get ripped" temporarily is proof of nothing. I've had 3% body fat before. It made me fatter.

    I low-carbed and exercised until I had a six pack. It made me fatter.

    But if you'd like to continue to believe that the most thorough study on calorie restriction is "nonsense" then go right ahead.

    If you obey your own natural urges to eat and rest after prolonged calorie restriction, then you will become fatter, only losing fat after, it appears, the 33-week mark without using Venuto's iron discipline (aka metabolic suicide).

  21. Have been reading and not participating for far too long.

    Embarrassingly from late 07' Sacred Self. That's actually kind of creepy to think about.

    Anyway, Matt I honestly think your overarching focus on metabolism, and your goal of destroying the "diet", to heal are just so spot on. As our commenter buddy Barry is undoubtedly going to find out.

    Your last few month of work you have really stepped it up. I am sure many people (including myself) do, and will appreciate the work you are doing.


    In all honesty please come back in about a year, year and a half and tell us how your starvation experiment is going. You know when you gain weight if someone farts in your direction.

  22. Thanks Nathan. I think it's pretty clear we've come a long way. Thanks for sticking with me and having the patience to watch me become less stupid. I hope in another 3 years what I'm writing about makes this stuff look like it was written by a neanderthal.

    As for Barry, he's actually not too off base. Sounds like he's eating healthy foods, not restricting any macronutrient group, and is eating 3,600 calories per day trying to "bulk up."

    With that kind of approach, I don't think we'll see him around here in a couple years begging for forgiveness.

  23. If this post doesn't completely refute the idea of starvation dieting, then I don't know what would. Yes, starvation makes you lose weight, but it's not the answer to a sustainable lifestyle and maintaining a healthy weight.

    I agree with Kate. Any time you get the urge to diet, do a 180 and visit this blog (okay, what a corny pun). It's like AA for dieters.

    I know I'm never going to cut a calorie again. I would say I wouldn't count them, but right now I still have to make sure I'm eating enough so I can't totally swear off counting yet.

  24. Absolutely Elizabeth!!!

    When I started the HED approach last summer, mostly out of curiosity, I used Fitday. It was nice to get a rough estimate as to how much I was taking in for a week or two, which was 3500-4000 calories.

    Now of course I eat less on average because on most day I just don't have the appetite. Though if I am hungry there is no restriction.

    Take for instance last night it was one of those times, and I ate most of an extra large pizza. Yes not recommend for those starting the healing process, but damn was it good! The wife be prego and apparently the baby wanted pizza!

    No gas, bloating, constipation, restless sleep, indigestion, or fowl mood all of which would have been standard over a year ago.

  25. "Exercise and calorie restriction work very well."

    For who? Not for everyone, definitely not for me. I was going to the gym 4 days a week for 8 months and yes, sweating and burning like 700/800 calories every workout. I was also restricting calories to at least a thousand below maintenance level and what did I lose? Not much of anything. My husband lost a couple inches off his waist the first couple months but has not changed at all since then. He still goes to the gym 6 days a week and eats even less than I do.
    Now I am eating at least 1000-1500 calories more per day and exercising less and less hard and how much weight have I gained? None! In fact, I've lost a couple pounds.
    Calories in vs. calories out is BS.

  26. Great posts Matt. You're posting too many blogs and there are too many commentors for me to keep up! But dont let me discourage you, keep pumping them out!

    The responses to your guest post were hilarious. Its amazing how standoffish people can get (and amazing how I remember being that way when I was dogmatic about the Primal Diet) when you challenge their dogma. And how they will find any little thing to try and tear you down (like assuming that your beliefs are the same as the million blogs you subscribe to). What morons. Made me giggle.

    On this most recent post, I wanted to point out you make it sound like the people in the study were refeeding for a whole year when they were actually doing the refeeding only from weeks 24 to 58. Unless I misread something…

  27. Damn fine post.


  28. Matt, I can't wait for the day the

    "full-blown media debacle" comes. Bring. It. On. Diet Bitches. I'm ready.

    I just read through your 180 summary. That's great. It was helpful for me, even though I've been following along every day for the past 8 months or so.

    Ancel Keyes was a researcher at the University of Minnesota. I was a little depressed about this, since they are my employer and all. Then I saw this post and it made me feel better. He was great at taking data. Matt is right in the not so good at putting it through analysis and conclusion stage. Actually this trips up a lot of scientists. In physics, which is far more exacting than medical science, the data always gets poured over by multiple groups all looking to debunk the others findings. This actually really ups the accuracy I think because no one groups "findings" are taken as the whole truth. The data may or may not be called into question, but the analysis almost always is.

  29. Thanks Drew and gang.

    Actually Drew, they starved for 24 weeks, and then underwent refeeding for 58 weeks – a total of more than 1.5 years.

    So if anyone is looking for a timeline for their diet rehab, expect up to 33 weeks to reach peak body fat levels before the rate of lean mass gains increases and fat decreases wildly. For these men, it was between weeks 33 and 58 of refeeding that they really started to head back to normalcy.

    And Vida baby – yippee! Who knows where you'll be a year from now. Happy and dozens of pounds lighter? I'm a terrible gambler, but that would be my bet.

  30. Matt, in response to your latest podcast, I wanted to chime in that your hypothesis about O-6 in the presence of chronicly high insulin, rather than the insulin spikes following high-g starches, causing runaway AA production makes anthropological sense. It solves the riddle of the Sikhs! (And of the pre-Columbiab Peruvians studied by Price). 

    I'm sure you remember this, but for the benefit of our fellow adventurers I will recap. Both the Sikhs and Incas had a great deal of carbs in their diet (wheat and quinoa, respectively) and a rich source of O-6 (apricot oil and (again) quinoa) – but neither population showed the least sign of ill health. In fact I beleive the Peruvian record was the healthiest of all records studied by Price (or close to it, anyways). If Sears/Schwarbein were correct then this couldn't possibly be the case. 

  31. Jedi,

    Dr. William Harris at HeartScan Blog uses Vit D3 therapy and finds that (on average) women need 4,000 IU and men need 5,000 IU of supplementation to get their blood levels into the ideal range; but the range of necessary doses has been large – 1,000 IU to 25,000 IU. The only thing to do is up you dose in increments and check blood levels every couple months until you get it right. sells a 5,000 IU per pill bottle at a good price.

  32. The page at the Quaker site also links to the following paper, which is a summary/look back at Keys' starvation experiment:

    Lots of interesting quotes from participants.

    Interestingly, Ancel Keys (of all people) seems to have already invented HED as a remedy for wartime starvation already in 1945:

    "Enough food must be supplied to allow tissues destroyed during starvation to be rebuilt . . . our experiments have shown that in an adult man no appreciable rehabilitation can take place on a diet of 2000 calories [actually 2000 kcal (8368 kJ)] a day. The proper level is more like 4000 [4000 kcal (16,736 kJ)] daily for some months. The character of the rehabilitation diet is important also, but unless calories are abundant, then extra proteins, vitamins and minerals are of little value (20)."

  33. Sweet Samuel. Thanks. A rehab diet it is!

    And thanks Brock. Interesting for sure.

  34. Matt, Taubes get punched on the face by the "fructose is the culprit" theory of Lustig: Quite interesting.

    It's sad, though, that Lustig wasn't up to par to answer to this one guy:

    Certainly there is a lot of reasons to suspect about fructose, but given the mess that is SAD, and the ugly, but probably necessary interactions we are begining to see between the possible dietary evils, his blind crusade of isolating a culprit is shaky. He got his ass handed back there.

    Ok, ok, maybe not that bad, but showing a study of overweight people being punched by tons of free fructose get increased adiposity in the liver is not a definitive arugment. It's just interesting to see how almost everyone fails horribly at accepting they just don't have the whole truth. Even Lustig.

    Hooray for Taubes, though.

  35. Funny that his very own son is a carb lover. It sure can be an eye opener.

  36. EL66K Matt actually commented on the Alan Aragon thread. You know Mark Sisson's son and wife are vegetarians but heh i personally believe you can only be responsible for your own life and your family's choices won't add or detract from your views or the truth.

  37. Lustig's challenge in the Aragon thread was that he made several comments he probably should not have made in the video, and instead of coming clean he dug in and eventually started waiving his credentials and internet popularity. Probably not the best response but as many of us know, doctors don't normally take well to being questioned by the hoi polloi.

    In substance, I'm not sure they are really all that far apart, except in terms of emphasis, which I think was Aragon's original point anyway.

  38. Short off-topic question:

    "A little olive oil can be used, but is not ideal."

    Is your reasoning based on the linoleic acid content of olive oil?

  39. "Guy should stick to writing South Park." Epic comment.

    You're right, Michael. Anyway, the truth is it's not easy to get your points nickpicked all over the place and just stay cool. It IS possible, though.

  40. Markus-

    Yes. LA adds up quickly in the form of a concentrated oil, even low-PUFA olive oil.

    Aragon's post has been popular and widely disseminated, but it is oddly off-base. He says repeatedly that the fructose thing is a "quantity issue" when he challenges Lustig. Yet, Lustig repeats the phrase "quantity issue" several times in his video presentation. Yudkin believed it was a "quantity issue." Richard Johson, the king of the anti-fructose brigade, allows for up to 30 grams of fructose per day after a few weeks of complete abstinence to deactivate fructokinase enzymes. It doesn't make sense. It's as if Aragon heard that Lustig was anti-fructose and then wrote a scathing article about Lustig without actually watching the video.

    As for Sisson's vegetarian kids, and Taubes's carb-lover kid, I believe that it is the job of children to counterbalance the extremism of their parents. I call it the "preacher's daughter effect."

  41. "Preacher's daughter effect?" :)

    Right on the nose. I think most of us learned what *not* to do from our parents even more than what we should do. Diet can be just another way to rebel (or learn to do better).

  42. Aragon and Lyle McDonald are both just numbers guys. They believe that since cutting calories leads to weight loss, anyone who is overweight is that way precisely because they ate too many calories. They then go on to design programs that involve counting calories and getting certain exact amounts of each macronutrient. It seems to be of interest to people who want to be certain weights and have certain bodyfat percentages, which we here tend to feel is both detrimental to health and just not that important.

    Since they are both numbers guys, they also have a big problem with "alarmists." Anyone who attacks a certain food as being unhealthy is missing the bigger picture, that calories are what matters. Aragon probably has plenty of studies showing that "over a 2 month period subjects lost equal amount of weight whether they ate a 80% glucose or 80% fructose diet" and uses that as a basis for saying fructose is fine. Again, he seems ti be looking at numbers (weight, TGs, HDL, etc…) and not considering whether fructose itself might have some inherent dangerous propensity, like Lustig believes.

    But the comment about sticking to writing South Park was pretty damn funny!


  43. @Jedi: Nice! That video will probably be very interesting. But it's damn long as well. Guess I'm gonna watch it in bit-sized pieces.

  44. Matt, I dont have the book or data here, I can only go off of the pictures of the graph you posted. But by that graph, the first 24 weeks were starvation, followed by 34 weeks of feeding for a total of 58 weeks. Does the study extend beyond that graph you posted?

  45. Matt,

    not that much of an response over at Alan Aragon's site to your obvious question:
    "Besides, if we are eating too many calories as you allude to, why are we doing that?"

    Lots of discussion about obesity everywhere but most often this fundamental question seems to be ignored.

    Maybe these people don't know the feeling after eating which makes you want to do everything except eating.

  46. Matt

    Yet, Lustig repeats the phrase "quantity issue" several times in his video presentation.

    He does but also gives the impression that fructose is a poison per se, which nullifies any talk of quantity.

    It's as if Aragon heard that Lustig was anti-fructose and then wrote a scathing article about Lustig without actually watching the video.

    Clearly he watched it and therein lies the problem. Aragon was able to take some intemperate statements on Lustig's part and run with them showing that Lustig was actually saying two things. Frankly, from my vantage point, Lustig didn't handle it well.

    As for Sisson's vegetarian kids, and Taubes's carb-lover kid, I believe that it is the job of children to counterbalance the extremism of their parents. I call it the "preacher's daughter effect."

    LOL! Well in Sisson's case he also has his wife, so he is surrounded on all sides. Next thing you know we will find out Danny Roddy is his cousin. :-)


    …and not considering whether fructose itself might have some inherent dangerous propensity, like Lustig believes.

    Is that what Lustig believes? If you walked away with that perception it shows you the vulnerability where Aragon could attack him.

    Either Lustig is arguing some form of hormesis, in which case he and Aragon are essentially saying the same thing, or he is arguing that fructose is problematic per se, in which case it is not a quantity issue.

    Since Lustig does say fruit is okay, and does speak of quantity, I think it more likely the former rather than the latter.

    In my opinion, he just got a little sloppy in his presentation which left him vulnerable to a critique like Aragon's. It happens to the best of us.

  47. Droo-

    The graph may be hard to see, but there were 24 weeks of starvation and 58 weeks of refeeding for a total of 82 weeks of the experiment. They didn't monitor it after that I don't think, but with a 1,000 pages left to read, I guess I'll find out.

    Lustig does have some glitches in his presentation, but overall one comes away with the idea that:

    Fructose is a poison, but the antidote to that poison is found in whole foods containing it such as fruit – a reasonable conclusion, and that the main issue overall is that too much fructose is consumed in refined form as refined sugar and juice.

    All of those statements overall are probably true. Sure, there are other complications, and the message is oversimplified, but Aragon's assessment of Lustig's video is not that strong. Aragon, on the other hand, is probably very strong. Could give me a whoopin' I'm sure.

  48. Sugar is fine. :-)
    I'd just like to note again that my blood sugar readings improved on sugar. I've stopped gaining any weight and I still eat all the processed carbs I like: Chocolate and Coca Cola FTW!

    Matt, you are a smart guy with a great ability to cut through the crap in your sources. But the problem is that most these sources are mainly crap. That you managed to get to the conclusions you've reached so far regarding fat and starch is remarkable considering that your main sources of information are diet books.

    This is intended as a helpful hint: Pick better sources and don't waste your smarts on debunking already-debunked nonsense that quacky diet-peddlers cling to to sell their shit to a gullible population.

    "There is no indication that simple sugars differ from complex sugars in [body fat accumulation]. Epidemiologic data show a clear inverse relation between intake of sugar and fat….high intake of sugar is negatively associated with indexes of obesity…and [there's] no reason to associate high sugar diets with obesity."

    Best of luck with your research.

  49. From the linked article:

    "Sugars have been studied up, down and inside out for decades and repeatedly shown to be safe. In the 1970s, the FDA […]"

    The FDA? Now, Matt, THAT is a reliable source compared to yours.

    "[…] suggested a maximal intake level of 25% of energy from added sugars because of concerns [greater amounts could] reduce intakes of essential micronutrients” — something that can be said of any food in excess!"

    Any food in excess could reduce intakes of essential micronutrients? I don't get the logic here. So it makes no difference if I eat food without micronutrients like sugar or if I eat broccoli or meat that reduces my intake of micronutrients? It's just the quantity? Sorry, still don't get it.

    The article ends with:
    "The bottom line, is that there is no evidence — and there never has been — that we have anything to fear from enjoying the sweet things in life."

    Remember that some paragraphs above even the article says:
    “Other than the contribution to dental caries, there is no conclusive evidence on sugars that demonstrates a hazard to the general public […]”

    But who cares about dental caries anyways.

    Finally, I would like to know if I missed any supporting evidence in the article except epidemiological studies?

  50. Hey Marcus!

    I'm sorry to say that published peer-reviewed articles are a more credible resource than a traveling dentist and a vegan spokesman. ;-)

    Yes, for most foods eating them in excess will reduce the amount of other foods eaten and thus cause an imbalance in nutrient supply. (I myself would exclude milk and meat from this, but who wants to live exclusively on meat or milk when there is cake to eat).
    You get dental caries from sugar if you don't brush your teeth regularly – it sticks to your teeth and feeds bacteria. Brush your teeth and you can eat all the sugar you want.

    Anything but epidemiological studies? Sure:

    "…so the FDA commissioned a Sugar Task Force to conduct a comprehensive review of epidemiological, clinical and animal studies on sugars. It specifically examined and rejected hypotheses that sugars play a causal role in “glucose tolerance, diabetes mellitus, lipidemias, cardiovascular diseases (hypertension and atherosclerotic coronary artery disease), behavior, obesity, malabsorption syndromes, food allergies, calciuria-induced renal disease, gallstones, nutrient deficiencies, and carcinogenicity.“"

    But hey, if it has anything to do with the FDA, it must be wrong. Ad hominem FTW!

    I find it funny that you blame the FDA for not falling for the low-sugar fad, since it has lost a lot of credibility after falling for the low-fat fad on a similar basis: Fear created by unscientific but widely publicized demonization of a single nutrient.

    I worry that if we press on, it might work again. Now we forbid fast-food and sugary drinks in schools, even though it helps kids perform in tests. :-)

  51. @Felix: Are you honestly believing the stuff you write or do you just want to believe it.

    Just because loading up on sugar and other junk may make you perform better at school tests, does not mean it is better in the long run.
    If you own Nourishing Traditions, take a look at that book, as there are several examples for the exact opposite, where children performed better after the school cut out all the junk on their menus.

    And bacteria are not the cause, or at least not the main cause for dental caries.

  52. Felix,

    "cause an imbalance in nutrient supply"

    My quote was:
    "reduce intakes of essential micronutrients"

    Quite different things.

    "You get dental caries from sugar if you don't brush your teeth regularly […] you can eat all the sugar you want."

    Neither a "reduced intake of essential micronutrients" nor an "imbalance in nutrient supply" can cause dental caries when brushing?

    Can you point me to some non-epidemiological sugar study?

    I did not say that FDA means wrong. I questioned their reliability.

    I hope your smiley reads "I know this news story is totally irrelevant and exactly the kind of thing Szwarc warns against".

  53. Felix, I love how you wield the phrase "peer reviewed" like a club. It's just so persuasive! Just like Michael Bellesiles and the scientists at East Anglia University.


    I don't know if Felix believes what he writes, but I think we can peg him as one of three things:
    1. Troll
    2. Paid agent of the HFCS lobby.
    3. A HFCS lobby useful idiot.

    Either way he's just here to spread FUD among any of Matt's would-be 180 Members. I hope they don't fall for his transparent fear-mongering. It's just crazy talk to think that refined sugar could be good for you, or even not harmful. It flies in the face of all science and personal experience that his blood sugars would normalize on a high-sugar diet. In the parlance, his statements are "Not even wrong."

    Ignore his ramblings. There's no benefit to engaging with crazy or malignant minds.

  54. "1. Troll"

    Let's just go with that.

  55. I'd pick 3, – everyone is a useful idiot for some group or another. :-)

    I don't advocate a sugar-excess diet. I tried, but I feel sick after the first day and can't see sweets for the rest of the week.
    If you eat only broccoli or salad, or potatoes etc. you will also get a reduction of essential nutrients, namely those that are not in the broccoli etc. It's a bullshit term.

    For sugar to be detrimental, it would need to lower some essential nutrient below a minimum level. It doesn't in normal human doses. You have to feed a rat a 40% fructose diet to make it diabetic. Sugar has only 50% fructose. I guess if you eat 80% of your diet as pure sugar for quite some time, you could become diabetic, but who has the willpower for such an extreme diet?

    My point is that a diet containing sugar is fine. I don't claim that it is the ultimate road to perfect health. However, my blood sugar levels did decrease when I introduced sugar back into my diet, which I find very strange myself.

    Peer-reviewed is not a panacea, but I think we can agree that it certainly beats diet books, which can be (and are) written by anyone with half a brain an a typewriter.

    The latest review on sugar straight from Pubmed:

    Don't you guys wonder why sweet things taste good to humans if fructose is a poison? I mean, we have an extra taste for sweets not triggered by other forms of carbohydrates. It's right there on your tongue.

    But hey, don't listen to me. I'm just a troll. ;-)

    If you want to stop eating sugar, by all means do it.

  56. There's a very simple reason why sweet things taste good. Because before the day of industrial food processing or even agriculture, sweet foods where safe. Sweet foods (fruits) want to be eaten and so do not contain any poisonous substances. Well, you now might say "fructose is a poison" and indeed it is but not in form of fruit. Despite the frustose content fruits are still safe to eat, don't contain any (other) antinutrients and instead come with a variety of nutrients. Now there might even be very good reasons to avoid fruit on the HED but that does not have anything to do with the fact that fruits per se are bad.

    It wasn't until the creation of refined sugar that we ever got exposed to sugar "without" nutrients. Our body does not know how to handle this and I would argue than any amount of refined sugar is bad.

  57. @madMUHHH
    How goes the iodine addition?

    I tried 6.5mg/day for about 5 of the last 7days. I found the days I took it, I slept very lightly and did not get enough rest because of that. I think I will hold off for now.

  58. Thanks for posting that study…I will be adding that study to my list of overwhelming evidence that people need and intelligent plan to achieve a lean body composition.

  59. @undertow:
    ^^ I first read "How goes the iodine addiction?"

    Well whatever, I've been approaching it very carefully. At the beginning of last week I was taking 12,5mg at once in the morning. However I didn't feel that well on that, was a bit more tired, fogged had some slight headaches.
    So I took a break for a day, restartet with 6,75 for one day and since then I'm taking 1 drop(6,75mg) in the morning and one at lunch.

    I seem to do quite well on that, I even felt a little better than usual the last days, but I dunno if that's because of the iodine.

    @the sleep thing: I didn't notice that, but then again, my sleep isn't the best anyways. However I read that iodine might contribute to insomnia if taken later in the day. Took one drop today at 3 pm because I forgot to take it earlier, I hope that won't cause any problems.
    What I did notice however where more vivid/funky/weird dreams. This seems to be very common with iodine supplementation, might be related to bromine detox. Well, it's kinda cool though, because I couldn't remember much of my dreams before or they were completely boring. ^^

  60. 1) Just because something gives a pleasurable sensation (e.g. sweet) does not mean it is good for us. Aspartame might be a bad thing although it tastes good. Some drugs might give good sensations but could be considered bad things, too.

    2) According to 100 g potatoes contain 0.5 g glucose (and some fructose and sucrose). Could that be the amount of sweetness our sweet taste has been intended for?

    3) Please travel with your favorite time machine, say, 50,000 years to the past and eat an apple. Tell me if it tastes like the apple you bought today which contains more than 10 % sugar.

  61. i'm almost at a week of 50mg of iodoral and i don't feel any different whatsoever. what i'm looking for is to have warm extremities throughout the day (even though i have a good temp already) so i'll just have to be patient. -.-

  62. "Please travel with your favorite time machine, say, 50,000 years to the past and eat an apple. Tell me if it tastes like the apple you bought today which contains more than 10 % sugar."

    If I had a time machine, I would so NOT waste it on eating paleolithic apples, G. But good point, anyway.

  63. @MadMUHHH
    iodine addiction! ya that might be bad!

    I was taking mine first thing in the morning as well. I definitely think it affects the sleeping for me, since I added no different foods… might just take it once or twice during week, and see how the sleep goes. Didn't notice any other affects; morning basal is still 97.2, hands and feet still chilly during the day and before bed.

    Thanks for the update.

  64. Excellent commentary peeps. You too Felix. Don't let them scare you away. Troll or not, this site needs more trolls and skeptics. Having a couple Paleo people drop by and say that they cut out wheat and can now jump over buildings therefore Matt Stone is a fumbling retard doesn't contribute much.

    Having someone actually read the material here, bounce ideas, and get in my face about certain things I've been led to believe is wonderful. Can't get anywhere without it.

    I do believe that blood sugars can be lower with sugar – after all fructose does not make blood sugar rise. Also, most of the damnation against sugar is with long-term chronic high use, not short-term, so I can't say that your experience with it is incontrovertible proof of anything.

    But rest assured that once I find away to become truly hypermetabolic, with an armpit temp over 98, I may give some sugar a try to appease you. I'm certainly captivated by the Diet Fucked girls and Ray Peat.

    Speaking of skeptics and challengers, where the hell is Chloe? Am I out of timeout yet for bashing sugar? Chloe come back!!!

  65. Thanks, Matt. Glad to see you appreciate some skepticism. :-)


    1) Sugar is simply taken out of plants. It is the substance our taste has developed for.

    2) If a potatoe tasted sweeter than an apple, that would be right. It's not.

    3) Like Jenny, I would not waste a time machine on that. :-)

    There is one basic fairytale that all paleo-people and – I think – all health-conscious people have been led to believe. That we have only been eating "bad" food very recently and that we therefore are now all doomed to die.

    It's not like people only started eating refined carbs last century, like most health-gurus would like you to believe. Refined carbs have been a staple in both Roman and Egyptian high-times. Native tribes have milked maple syrup from trees for ages and during these times lived on high-sugar diets. That people only started eating a lot of refined foods recently is nonsense. Refining foods and cooking is what allowed us to match our brains' ginormous energy needs. Humans require processed foods. Unrefined grains have been for poor people who couldn't pay for refinement and needed the fiber to fill them up.

    My basic point is: You are not maladapted. If you eat according to appetite and hunger in today's western world there is no way you are deprived of nutrients, even if you eat sugar. That's one of the reasons why we have the highest longevity stats ever with an unbroken rising tendency. And no, we are not all sick and dieing and barely kept alive thanks to medicine. We are in the best health ever and even the diseases of civilization are getting less and less now. The reason we have so high levels of diseases of civilization now is because it's no longer that half of all people die of infections before they are 50. And most of the other diseases caused by poor nutrition or hygiene have been eradicated. Who dies of nutrient deficiency these days in the western world? Vegans and anorexics at best.

    Another thing:

    There are more than enough null-studies on most "risk-factors" to doubt their value severely, that is: studies that show no correlation between the alleged risk-factor and the disease. If you find a relationship between sugar and a disease in an epidemiological study, it means not much, but if you find none at all in several studies, it probably means that sugar is not a cause of the disease. That's the value of epidemiological studies. If there's not even a correlation, you better look for another risk factor.
    If a study finds that 1000 people get up in the morning and pee and they die of heart disease it means nothing (correlation is not causation). If another study finds that 1000 people get up in the morning and pee and they don't die of heart disease it means that peeing in the morning most probably is not a risk-factor for heart disease. So saying that I "only have epidemiological data" for showing that sugar is pretty much harmless regarding anything except tooth damage is a strange remark.

    You may want to take a look at the book "50 Diabetes Myths that can ruin your life". The very first myth addressed is "Eating sweets causes diabetes". :-)

    As far as I can see, the best thing the HED has done for people is to make them no longer afraid of food (except sugar and omega-6) and it made them (finally) eat a lot again.

    Lack of food and avoidance of foods you like is a lot more damaging to your health than some "toxins" – a notion which has no scientific basis and is used to sell overpriced "cleanses" and other esoteric . If you eat the peel of your potatoes, you don't have any reason to fear sprayed pesticides. The potato peel has more than you are allowed to spray on plants.

    Also, the RDA-values for vitamins are not minimums just to avoid malnutrition, but are high enough for people under stress, pregnant women, the elderly etc.

  66. Let me just reply to one point.

    "The reason we have so high levels of diseases of civilization now is because it's no longer that half of all people die of infections before they are 50."

    Just one example. I know very few people of my age (mid twenties) who would be able to eat anything but mash if there were no dentists (and braces). One might guess that this could not have been the case 50,000 years ago. What is the cause for this? What is the cause of children with allergies and all sorts of mental and physical issues?

  67. The answer is pretty simple: People were lucky to reach your age 50000 years ago. The notion that people used to be these pillars of health is dead wrong. People were haunted by plagues, infections, parasites, etc. Even as recently as 150 years ago, most never reached the glad age when diseases of civilization could become a problem in the first place.

    There are two very good reasons we have the highest life expectancy ever: Abundant food supply and western medicine.

  68. Let me tell you this. Roughly 70% of western medicine is nothing more than a very bad joke.
    I can tell from my very own experience how clueless most doctors are and it is incredible how many therapies/treatments are out there that are ineffective at best and flat out dangerous for the most part.

  69. Some of our ancestors were healthy and some were not. Making a blanket statement for all of them is only something a Mr. Sillypants like Felix of the NYTimes would do.

    The ones that were very physically robust and long-living like those that Weston A. Price found were in great health precisely because of food abundance and relative ease of acquiring it.

    Broda Barnes made this same argument, and it is valid, but he thought that some were just hypometabolic and weeded out of the gene pool prior to antibiotics.

    Perhaps that is true, but this only inspired me to find ways to turn the hypometabolic into the hypermetabolic. Same goes for Ray Peat, as this seems to be his primary thought on the subject and focus.

  70. Plus, I would've died at age 6 at the latest from appendicitis. Without Western Medicine or improved sanitation of modern man, life expectancy would be, in my best estimate, between 5-10 years of age. Infant mortality would be huge. Death rates from infections would be astronomical. Much higher than they were amongst "primitive" peoples because they were in much better physical condition assuming they had an abundant food supply.

  71. Thanks Kilton. I'll use that link as ammunition one day for sure.

  72. The Keys study results were published in 1950. The study itself took place during WWII and was designed to help the Allies figure out how to help starving people as Europe was liberated from the Nazis.

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  77. Hi Matt –

    You wrote:
    “After 33 weeks of refeeding the men start to achieve what I would call “metabolic healing.” An ambiguous term perhaps, but what else would you call it? You can see that fat stores drop much faster coming down the home stretch than body weight, suggesting that muscle, bone, organ, blood, and other tissue losses are being replaced between week 33 and week 58 of refeeding. Even so, at the end of 58 weeks – more than an entire year of refeeding, the men still have more body fat and weigh more overall than they did at the beginning of the experiment, although you can clearly see that they are well on their way to once again becoming healthy young men in automatic, willpower-free energy balance. Total weight gains were a few kilograms, 5-10 pounds overall.”

    The part that gets me is the very last sentence and the graphs shows it too.. 5-10 lbs of total weight gain… I’ve reached 25+lbs… and it doesn’t seem to be stopping. It makes me very afraid to continue to eat to appetite or rest. I’ve started back to exercising which has in just a couple days seriously improved my mood – which I needed. I’m on either week 13 or 14. I am not restricting my diet in anyway and I rarely go hungry. Obviously, if I start exercising I will need to increase my calories (I’ve already noticed this).

    How come I keep adding lb’s? If I work out only 30-45 min a day is that going to ruin any chance of the demonstrated recovery?

    It’s so hard for me just to sit around and do nothing and watch all my friends be active and fit!

    • I recommend people start exercising as soon as their temps come up. You don’t want to be fighting against your natural instincts too hard, or too long. These guys did go well above 5-10 pounds at the apex of their weight gain. Probably around 25 pounds or so on average. These were lean guys in their 20’s mostly. Those in less metabolically favorable demographics will probably gain easier and lose harder.


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