Wednesday, January 21, 2004

Done It Again

… wrote an entry slagging off the scientific community. I'm aware that I may seem to spend an inordinate amount of time slagging Big Science, but hey, they deserve it. Take the whole Atkins fiasco. Eight days a week the scienceistas are clogging up the air waves talking about the dangers of obesity, well, here's a diet which seems to work even on apparently hopeless case fatty bloaters. You'd think scientists would be carefully examining it to see how if there are any lessons to be learned but the problem is that the underlying doctrine of the Atkins diet is at 90' to the existing weight-loss paradigm. So - in an example of the disinterested pursuit of truth for which they are justifiably famous - instead of checking for lessons to learn, the scienceistas are desperately grasping for someway, anyway, to discredit it. Which is why they're redlining the smug meter over the latest shot in the Food Wars.

Yet what has sent the scienceistas into ecstasy ? Simply this: the research has shown that Atkins followers lose weight because their appetite is reduced - possibly, the researchers suggest, by a mysterious protein in their diet. True, the scientists haven't yet isolated the protein, or even explained why it doesn't get digested when taken orally (as protein normally is, otherwise diabetics would be able to swallow their insulin). But Dr Atkins has been nailed. The heretic has been zapped. Another victory for the Kool Aid drinkers.


The first person to predict the suppressive effect of the Atkins diet on the appetite was….. Dr Robert Atkins. And he didn't need no wacky Protein X, neither. While science's Inner Party never misses a chance to point out unnatural the Atkins diet is, the normal British diet is hardly what Ug and chums ate. On the contrary, our diet is loaded with highly refined simple carbohydrates. Atkins claimed that when somebody eats a typical modern meal these carbohydrates are digested ultra-fast causing blood sugar to zoom up. This in turn causes insulin levels to rocket as well. This hormone causes sugar to be cleared from the blood and stored as fat - meaning that, soon after a meal, blood sugar crashes, resulting in lethargy and a craving for more food (so the cycle starts again). With the Atkins diet this shouldn't happen since the foods are designed to release energy slowly - hence no cravings and no bingeing. This idea is central to Atkins - for example, he devotes one of the early chapters to talking about the role of insulin.

Who knows how - or even if - Atkins works, but one thing is certain: interpreting research showing Atkins users eat less as somehow being a rebuttal of the Atkin's doctrine is - ahem - counterintuitive to say the least. These results are entirely compatible with Atkins. Yet these reports are not without value: the spin put on them provides a perfect example of science's descent into a branch of politics.

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