Sunday, January 01, 2012

The Bread Diet And The Starch Challenge

Dr. McDougall linked this study in his recent newsletter:

Effects Of A High Fiber Bread Diet On Weight Loss In College-Age Males, American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 1979

It was a small study: 16 overweight college-age men went on a weight-loss diet for 8 weeks. They were divided into 2 groups:
  • Group 1: Ate 12 slices of white bread daily, 4 per meal.
  • Group 2: Ate 12 slices of reduced-calorie, fiber-enriched bread daily, 4 per meal.
Both groups lost weight; the fiber group lost more.

The men were fed all meals in a cafeteria. They ate the same food (type, not quantity) at each meal. "No drastic changes were made in types of food" prior to and during the study. (I guess conducting the study at a University with a cafeteria makes that easy.) Food was weighed before consumption and after, if needed.

Caloric reduction was voluntary. The men were merely encouraged to eat "food low in calories."
  • Group 1: Reduced calories from 3200 at start of study to 2350.
  • Group 2: Reduced calories from 3200 at start of study to 1975.
After 8 weeks:
  • Group 1: Weight loss average of 6.26 kg (13.8 lb)
  • Group 2: Weight loss average of 8.77 kg (19.3 lb)
  • Group 1: Cholesterol dropped from 231 to 155 mg/dl
  • Group 2: Cholesterol dropped from 224 to 172 mg/dl
  • Group 1: Fasting glucose, no change (87.1 before, 86.6 after)
  • Group 2: Fasting glucose, no change (85.7 before, 85.3 after)
There was no group that didn't eat the bread, so it's hard to determine what effect the bread had on weight loss. Could a group of men similarly counseled and fed, but without bread, also lose weight? Or did "the feeling of fullness created by eating bread and intensified with bread containing cellulose help the dieter control food intake?"

What you can tell from this study is that swapping regular white bread for a reduced-calorie high-fiber version may lead to more weight loss. You can also say that eating bread does not prevent weight loss.

There are a number of physicians and diet-book authors who claim that eating a lot of carbohydrates, especially grains, and of grains, especially wheat, and of wheat, especially processed wheat (flour), will cause weight gain - ipso facto.  Here we have 8 men who lost 20 pounds in 8 weeks - by cutting back on calories and by adding 12 slices of bread a day!

Dr. McDougall, whose belief in the benefits of a starch diet is steadfast, offered this challenge:

Add an extra 600 to 900 calories of starchy foods each day, such as:

3 to 4 cups of steamed rice
3 to 4 cups of boiled corn
3 to 4 mashed potatoes
3 to 4 baked sweet potatoes
2 to 4 cups of cooked beans, peas, or lentils
3 to 4 cups of boiled spaghetti noodles
6 to 12 slices of fresh bread
"Buy a loaf of whole wheat bread (with no added fat, milk, or eggs in the ingredients) every day and eat it all."

"Tired of bread, then buy rice."

"With undeniable proof from a couple of months of additional rice and potatoes, you should eventually make starches 75 to 85 percent of your diet, with the remainder coming from fruits and vegetables—and one day soon, forgo all the meat, dairy, and vegetable oils. Your adjustment will be quicker and easier than you ever imagined, you will enjoy your foods, and you will be thrilled with the results."
I'll say this ... his diet is a lot like the diets of traditional Okinawans who consumed 85% of their calories from carbohydrates, 70% from sweet potatoes alone, and who are known for their long life and good health into old age.
Photo: Mine from back when I made bread.


Bix said...

For what it's worth, I did a rough calculation of their macronutrient proportions:

Group 1 (white bread):
15% protein, 35% fat, 49.5% carbohydrate

Group 2 (fiber bread):
18% protein, 39% fat, 43% carbohydrate

caulfieldkid said...


I understand the legitimate problem inherent with gluten for those with Celiac disease, but there seems to be a growing fad of people demonizing gluten. Have you read anything suggesting that gluten is a bigger problem than once thought?

I've been hearing less about no carb diets and more about gluten free diets of late. . .


Bix said...

You're right, no one would run this study today.

It's a bigger problem than it was in 1979, either because more people really are gluten intolerant, more people think they are, or testing and reporting has gotten better. Because I'm boring I'll say it's a combination of these. I'm no expert. My hunch is that there's something in today's environment that is setting people up to develop it, or at least wrecking havoc with the intestines. Maybe some allergen (GMOs) or a particular pesticide or plastic.

fjernstyret fly said...

Sounds good of bread diet. I have read couple of magazines which consider that eating carbohydrates, especially grains cause of weight gain. That's why avoid those foods which consists carbohydrates.

Perovskia said...

Buy a whole loaf and eat it daily? Ack!

I'm one of the ones guilty of 'demonizing' gluten; I'm gluten-intolerant, not allergic (Celiac). It's been suggested that I'm reacting to the additives in flour, not the flour itself and that I should try organic instead. To be fair, we really have industrialized flour (and everything else) the last 30 years). Perhaps that's a whole other discussion.

Bix said...

I have to say, I said, "Ack" too.

I see what he's getting at, that a low-calorie, high-fiber (and I should add, inexpensive) food product could assist weight loss by filling you up, and by displacing other less healthy options. I'd probably go for potatoes, sweet potatoes, beans, rice, and other less-processed goods.

Bix said...

One thing I like about Dr. McDougall is that he seems sensitive to food cost and access. Low-carb, Paleo, high-protein, Atkins-type diets are expensive and non-factory-farmed items are hard to find for many people.

Bix said...

And ... Animal foods are some of the best sources of fat-soluble pesticides, pollutants, and other toxins in the human diet.

These chemicals are implicated in diseases of inflammation... such as diabetes, atherosclerosis, heart disease and arthritis.

So a starch diet is beneficial in numerous ways.

Bix said...

But I still think that a diet that includes some animal food is better than a diet that includes no animal food.

Stephanius said...

may I bring your attention to a recent study published in Cardiology Research and Practice (an open source Journal) Volume 2011,Article ID 679187 "Sociodemographic and Lifestyle Statistics of Oldest Old People (>80 Years) Living in Ikaria Island: The Ikaria Study.
It is worth downloading and commenting on the very important findings.
The majority of the oldest old participants reported daily physical activities, healthy eating habits, avoidance of smoking,
frequent socializing, mid-day naps and extremely low rates of depression. Conclusion. Modifiable risk factors, such as physical
activity, diet, smoking cessation and mid-day naps, might depict the “secrets” of the long-livers.
Ikaria, a small Aegean island has recently joined the Blue Zone along with Sardinia in Italy, Okinawa in Japan, Loma Linda in California and Nicoya
Peninsula in Costa Rica.
And a small correction on the previous post about the name of the world renown lipidologist Artemis Simopoulos not Simopoulis.

Bix said...

Thanks for the correction!

Bix said...

Modifiable risk factors, yes. The spate of them ... all so important!

I think of health, at any given time, as the figure on the right side of the equal sign in an equation. On the left side are all the factors ... raised to a power, multiplied by constants, etc. ... acting at once to produce that figure.

Dr. Mel said...

I love bread. Not the "wonder bread" sort, but really hearty breads of any sort--whole wheat, white sourdough, rye grain (the flattened sort that's all grain), cornbread, you name it. I don't think it's necessarily bad for you as long as you aren't allergic. And you don't load it up w/ a lot of fatty spreads. My life would be the poorer w/o bread and cheese. I think they eat that a lot in Sardinia too!