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High fat low carb diet trumps low calorie diets for obesity and diabetes

Sugary beverages add to obesity.
Sugary beverages add to obesity.
Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images

Low carb high fat (LCHF) diets that focus on restricting starch and sugar while boosting fats have become increasingly popular paths to weight loss success. And in contrast to the many dietitians and doctors who continue to preach counting calories and cutting fat, David Ludwig, director of the Obesity Prevention Center at Boston Children’s Hospital, is touting high fat low carb diets as the way to cure obesity, reported WTOP on Monday.

Telling dieters to count calories and exercise simply doesn't work, says Ludwig. "It’s such simple advice that if it worked, my colleagues and I would be out of a job. The uncomfortable fact is that an exceedingly small number of people can lose a substantial amount of weight and keep it off following that advice.”

And he advises ignoring the food pyramid and low-fat diet advice from organizations such as the American Heart Association. “We have to forget the low-fat paradigm,” Ludwig added. “Some high-fat foods like avocado, nuts, and olive oil are among the healthiest foods we could possibly eat.”

His insights correspond to those of investigative reporter Nina Teicholz, author of "The Big Fat Surprise: Why Butter, Meat and Cheese Belong in a Healthy Diet." She agrees that low carb high fat diets trump low fat high carb diets for health and for weight loss.

"When the dietary recommendations came out in 1961 saying that saturated fat causes heart disease, that was based on total cholesterol," Teicholz told CNN News recently. "But our understanding of heart disease has evolved enormously."

She links the decrease in fat in our diets and increase in sugar and starchy foods to obesity and related conditions such as diabetes. "We've decreased the amount of fat we eat and shifted over," Teicholz added. "In the last 30 years we've decreased our saturated fat consumption by 11%, increased carbohydrates by 25%."

By restricting carbohydrates and boosting fat, our national diet can become one that reverses obesity, diabetes and even heart disease, weight loss expert Jeff Volek, PhD, RD, said in a recent interview with True Health. Author of "The Art and Science of Low Carbohydrate Living: An Expert Guide to Making the Life-Saving Benefits of Carbohydrate Restriction Sustainable and Enjoyable," Volek feels that humans aren't meant to consume starches and sugar.

"In many ways, you can say we’re hardwired to respond well to restricting carbs, but we have had limited time to adapt to high amounts of sugars and starches," he says in support of a Paleo diet approach. "Even a type 2 diabetic who has a lot of metabolic impairments, adapts fully to a low carbohydrate diet."

In addition, Volek champions high fat low carb ketogenic diets because of the way that they shift the body into fat-burning mode. "When you’re on a low carb diet, your body is preferentially oxidizing fat for fuel, so you’re not storing it or accumulating it in cells, arteries, or fat stores," he explained.

One of the first to propose that low carb high fat diets are the answer to obesity and related conditions is Gary Taubes, author of "Why We Get Fat: And What to Do About It." Like David Ludwig, Taubes dismissed the idea that counting calories and exercising offer the best way to lose weight and keep it off.

"The simple answer as to why we get fat is that carbohydrates make us so; protein and fat do not," said Taubes. And like an increasing number of low-carb diet devotees, he pointed out that science does not show we need carbohydrates to survive. In other words, bread is not the staff of life.

But is obsessing about counting carbohydrates rather than counting calories really the answer? An increasing number of experts are advising dieters to keep it simple by focusing on eliminating two elements: Sugar and grains. Known as the NSNG (no sugar, no grains) diet, it's backed by personal trainer Vinnie Tortich, author of "Fitness Confidential."

The focus, say Vinnie and other NSNG diet gurus, should be on keeping blood sugar stable through avoiding foods made with flour, sugar and other grains. By eating more fats and protein, you can suppress cravings while boosting your body's fat-burning abilities.

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