Very Low Fat vs. Lowish Carb Study Inconclusive Due to Missing Data

Aug. 22, 2015

Kevin Hall’s study “Calorie for Calorie, Dietary Fat Restriction Results in More Body Fat Loss than Carbohydrate Restriction in People with Obesity” was picked up by almost all the popular news outlets. The BBC, The Guardian, Time Magazine, The Washington Post and LA Times all weighed in. Stephen Guyenet and Bill Lagakos both wrote very interesting articles worthy of your attention. The and NHS commentary were also good.

Dr. Tommy Wood described the study as “groundbreaking” and “the most well designed and best controlled ever”.

From the title, the conclusion was clear, the low-fat diet resulted in more fat-loss than the low-carb diet. Unfortunately, and as always, it’s a bit more complicated than that.

Professor Richard Feinman described the study as "a very distressing paper", not for its conclusion, but for the missing data. "Nobody loses an average amount of weight," said Feinman, "habeas corpus datorum" (show me the body of the data).

During the interview, Dr. Feinman mentions QED Statistics, and the two studies “Carbohydrate restriction improves the features of Metabolic Syndrome. Metabolic Syndrome may be defined by the response to carbohydrate restriction” and “Dietary carbohydrate restriction as the first approach in diabetes management: Critical review and evidence base”.

Richard David Feinman is Professor of Biochemistry at the State University of New York (SUNY) Downstate Medical Center in Brooklyn, New York. Dr. Feinman’s original area of research was in protein chemistry and enzyme mechanism, particularly in blood coagulation and related processes. Dr. Feinman has talked about flawed studies on my podcast once before.

Dr. Tommy Wood is a qualified medical doctor, graduating from Oxford University in 2011. He has a previous Bachelor's degree in Natural Sciences and Biochemistry from Cambridge University. After working as a junior doctor in the UK for two years, Dr. Wood is now working towards a Ph.D. in neonatal brain metabolism at the University of Oslo, Norway. Tommy is a regular contributor to my podcast, and for that I am ever grateful.

Addendum, 7 September, 2015

During the interview, Dr. Feinman said, "They've chased out everybody who has integrity". This statement was the result speaking of-the-cuff, and what he meant was "They’ve chased out everybody who can’t put up with the state of the field. The remaining ones may have great integrity but greater tolerance for the mess in nutrition".

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