For years, dieters were told to count calories. Now, however, we're reading more about research showing that restricting carbohydrates rather than calories is the key. In an exclusive interview on Dec. 24, Franziska Spritzler explained to me why she believes calorie-counting doesn't work - and why restricting carbohydrates and boosting protein does.
A registered dietitian and Certified Diabetes Educator, Franziska says that low-calorie diets are hard to sustain. In addition, research shows that "the body responds to long-term calorie restriction with a reduction in metabolic rate, making it difficult to continue losing weight or maintain weight loss."
As a result of that discovery, more health experts ranging from cardiologist Dr. Mehmet Oz to neurologist Dr. David Perlmutter have been promoting low carbohydrate, grain-restricted diets as the key to shedding pounds. And they're not the only ones.
"The number of studies supporting low carbohydrate diets for weight loss has greatly increased over the last ten years. Researchers such as Dr. Jeff Volek, Dr. Steve Phinney, and Dr. Eric Westman have devoted their time and energy to investigating the body’s response to carbohydrate restriction," noted Franziska.
Dr. Volek and Dr. Phinney are known for authoring the milestone book on carbs versus calories: "The Art and Science of Low Carbohydrate Living: An Expert Guide to Making the Life-Saving Benefits of Carbohydrate Restriction Sustainable and Enjoyable" (click for details).
"When they compare the results of people consuming a low-calorie diet vs. an ad libitum (unrestricted) very- low-carbohydrate, high-fat diet, they see better weight loss and increased satiety among the low-carb subjects. Eating foods that are high in sugar or starch -- such as fat-free cookies, frozen yogurt, or pretzels -- results in elevated blood sugar," Franziska told me.
"The pancreas responds to this by secreting a large amount of insulin to shuttle the sugar out of the blood and into the body’s cells. Eating these types of foods can make losing weight very difficult because the body’s ability to break down fat is impaired in the presence of high insulin levels."
Unless you're an athlete and young and healthy: "The body simply doesn't handle a high-carbohydrate, low-fat diet well," she adds.
The other buzzword in diet land these days: Ketogenic diets. Franziska mentioned that Dr. Eric Westman is one of the contributors to the existing research on low carb diets as well as how ketones function in the body to promote weight loss. Among his books with the other low-carb experts mentioned above: "New Atkins for a New You: The Ultimate Diet for Shedding Weight and Feeling Great" (click for details).
"Ketones often depress appetite, which makes eating at a calorie level that supports weight loss much easier, particularly when combined with the satiating effect of fat and protein," explained Franziska.
Although she does recommend ketogenic diets for weight loss, she notes that "it’s important to follow guidelines for doing so in a healthy way."
To do so, Franziska recommends following these steps:
- Consult with your doctor prior to making dietary changes.
- Meet with a health professional well-versed in carbohydrate restriction and/or read "a comprehensive low-carbohydrate book from Dr. Steve Phinney and Dr. Jeff Volek like "The Art and Science of Low Carbohydrate Living” or “New Atkins for a New You” (same authors and Dr. Eric Westman), which provide guidance on dietary fat, protein, carbohydrates, fluid, and mineral requirements, along with other facets of a well-formulated ketogenic diet."