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At 78, Ironman competitor credits high fat low carb diet of eggs and butter

More cheese, please.
More cheese, please.
Photo by Tim Boyle/Getty Images

A 78-year-old man says he feels he's found the diet version of the Fountain of Youth. It's a high fat low carb diet featuring foods like eggs, butter and lard. And Jay Lehr believes that his ketogenic diet deserves the credit for his participation in Ironman competitions, reported the High Plains Journal on July 14.

"I've never been inside a regular doctor's office," boasted Lehr. "I have lived my entire life on high fat—dairy, eggs, butter and lard—which as you all know has not been the recommended diet for the last 50 years, and I’m going to convince all of you to help make it the recommended at least through the next generation will take us some time."

A professional agriculturist with a Ph.D. in ground water hydrology, Lehr attacked the USDA food pyramid and government nutrition policies. "We know for sure, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that the government has foisted upon us a diet that is unhealthy in every way," said the fit food pyramid fighter.

Lehr urged others in the agricultural world to join him in publicizing the importance of establishing national high fat low carb diet guidelines for everyone. "All of you are shy about presenting it to your friends and neighbors not in agriculture," Lehr said. "What will they say to you if you’ll approach them and say, you people will have to start eating red meat, saturated fat, dairy, eggs, butter, lard?"

He said he recognized many consumers fear fats based on "half of a century of a terrible diet based on government advice." Lehr also highlighted the research done showing that using butter is healthier than using vegetable oils when cooking.

In championing high fat low carb diets, Lehr highlights the message from many health professionals recently about low-fat diets that are designed to control calories. They don't work for weight loss

And his message is echoed by a scientist attracting increasing attention: Professor Tim Noakes. Limiting carbohydrates is the key to health, he said in an exclusive interview.

"In turn, this controls hunger which both boosts how much weight is lost and helps dieters to maintain. Calorie counting and doing huge amounts of exercise to control weight does not work and is in any case completely unnecessary,” he said.

"Mediterranean or low-carbohydrate diets outperform a low-fat diet every time, and that wouldn't be true if calories were the only measure that mattered," said Dr. David Ludwig, a professor of nutrition at the Harvard School of Public Health, in a July 16 interview with Time magazine. Moreover, calorie-counting weight loss methods ignore the fact that our bodies respond differently to different sources of nutrition.

"Your weight is regulated by a complex system of genetic factors, hormonal factors, and neurological input, and not all calories affect this system the same way," he clarified. And although foods such as the butter and eggs that Lehr praised have gotten a bad rap, "some naturally high-fat foods are among the most healthful we can eat in terms of promoting weight loss and reducing risk for diabetes and heart disease."

A recent study beefs up his view that the right combination of foods rather than calorie-counting is the best approach to weight loss. Nutritional ecologist David Raubenheimer discovered that baboons in the wild ate diets that were 20 percent protein, reported Living Green magazine on July 15.

He feels his discovery indicates that if humans can learn to balance their diets with more protein, they will succeed more easily at weight loss. "We can use this information to help manage and prevent obesity through ensuring that the diets we eat have a sufficient level of protein to satisfy our appetite,” said Raubenheimer.

A new book has been attracting attention for highlighting the benefits of high fat low carb diets. Entitled "Big Fat Surprise: Why Butter, Meat and Cheese Belong in a Healthy Diet," it tracks the history of the current food pyramid.

In it, author Nina Teicholz documents the evidence that low carb diets are better choices for weight loss and health. And like Lehr, she highlights the unhealthy advice provided in the food pyramid.

One of the most frequently asked questions about high fat low carb ketogenic diets: Can vegans and vegetarians follow them? The answer is "yes," according to Atkins nutrition director Colette Heimowitz.

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