Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Answering this research question

Reading this summary, I felt an urge to blurt out: "No blank, Sherlock!"

A recent study published in JAMA, a leading pillar of medical research dissemination, compared low GI diets with low-fat diets on insulin secretion in high insulin secreters.

On the surface, this appears to be a legitimate research question. Insulin is related to glucose metabolism and given the current state of obesity and type II diabetes in America, this might be something we should know.

However, most people in the medical fields should intuitively know this. The glycemic index of any food indicates the level it raises blood sugar when consumed. The higher the glycemic index, the higher the blood sugar response. For example, twinkies rate rather high on the glycemic index. Consume two or three of them and your blood sugar will spike.

At least for a while. In response, your body will release (secrete) insulin to bring it back down to normal.

If you are a high insulin secreter, you're either type II diabetic, pre-diabetic or have a non-lifestyle related condition effecting your ability to metabolize blood sugar. You have to secrete more because the insulin you do release is becoming more and more insensitive to blood sugar. When this starts happening, the amount you secrete increases just to get your blood sugar back to normal. Over time your ability to regulate blood sugar becomes difficult and you become type II diabetic. For more info, go here.

But back to the study...

All markers of cardiovascular health were improved following low GI diet when compared to a low-fat diet. Again, this makes perfect sense. You're not obese or diabetic because you eat a low-fat diet of whole, natural foods. You're obese or diabetic (even if you eat a low-fat diet) because you are consuming overly-processed foods - cardboard boxes and plastics bags. The fat they contain is not healthy (trans fat) and to increase palatability (here) and shelf-life, sugars and preservatives are added.

The end result is a low-fat food that has a high GI, which increases insulin secretion when consumed. And the cycle continues...

I'll conclude by saying that as a former academic, I'm well aware the importance peer-reviewed publications play in the tenure process. So in some ways, I understand why this paper was published. Without knowing all the details, I can only hope this paper was part of a larger study with these data points already collected, making the question easy to answer.

Until next time...

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