March 22, 2006

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Has Low Carb Suddenly Been Proven Dangerous?

Did you see the headlines? Since I have a Google News Alert set up for the keyword "low carb" I couldn't get away from them:

Low-carb diets can be unhealthy, doctors warn

Low carbohydrate Atkins diet may pose health problem

Atkins diet may not be safe for every dieter

Low-carb diets can be unhealthy

You'd think some major study had proven that low carbing was deadly, and indeed I heard from a few of you about this. But if you looked in a dictionary of cliches under "tempest in a teapot," you'd find this "story."

When it showed up in my local paper, of course I read it with concern. And then I saw the truth: What the Reuters news service article called a "study" was one case, involving one women, that was written up for The Lancet, a medical journal. It claimed the patient had developed severe ketoacidosis from "the Atkins diet." Now, I don't have access to the full text of The Lancet, so I couldn't read the whole thing. But I did find a few things about the newspaper report fishy - I mean, other than calling one case with no controls "a study."

Like the fact that the patient involved may have had " a mild pancreatitis or stomach infection" that "may have added to the problem." And the fact that the patient involved had been vomiting several times a day for several days. And the fact that ketoacidosis simply doesn't happen to anyone whose pancreas is working.

At this point, I was convinced that the whole thing was bogus, and the media was seizing on it because they just love a good "Low carb is bad" story. After all, "Low carb is good" stories aren't gee-whizzy and controversial anymore.

So I turned to a more medically informed soul than I, Regina Wilshire, who writes the excellent low carb blog Weight of the Evidence. Regina is married to an endocrinologist, and has access to the full text of articles from The Lancet. I highly recommend you read Regina's analysis of the story.

Regina points out that the doctor's own records show that the woman in question did not have a particularly high level of ketosis, and had a normal blood pH and normal blood glucose - none of which is the case with ketoacidosis, a condition that threatens Type I diabetics.

There's much more to Regina's analysis of the story, but suffice it to say this was a clear case of a doctor looking at a sick low carber and simply assuming the diet must be at fault.

I long ago stated in this ezine that if I were to fall off a roof and break my leg, I confidently expected that some doctor, somewhere, would see fit to blame it on my low carb diet. That appears to be exactly the sort of thing that happened here. Go read Regina's article, and see if you don't agree.

Posted by HoldTheToast at March 22, 2006 01:52 PM