Dietary fat has been demonized for the past 40 years as the cause of obesity, heart disease, diabetes, and other degenerative illnesses.
But a sea-change is underway, as more medical experts reject the low-fat diet dogma promoted by Conventional Wisdom and underscore the health benefits of a low-carb, high-fat ketogenic diet.
Dr. Jeff Volek, a professor at the University of Connecticut, is a pioneer in the low-carb, high-fat diet movement who says the ketogenic diet can produce optimal health, for both elite endurance athletes and the average sedentary individual.
"There are very few people that a ketogenic diet could not help," Dr. Volek said in an exclusive interview.
The low-carb ketogenic diet has already proven more effective than drugs at treating epilepsy, reversing type 2 diabetes, and has been shown to starve cancer cells.
By drastically reducing carbs in our diet and replacing them with healthy, unprocessed fats, we can boost our fat-burning capacity, eliminate nagging carb cravings, experience more stable blood sugar levels, enjoy better mood, and ward off degenerative conditions such as heart disease, obesity, dementia and diabetes.
Carbohydrate restriction is the proverbial ‘silver bullet’ for managing insulin resistance, metabolic syndrome, and type 2 diabetes."
When we restrict carbs, we force our bodies to burn fat as fuel, which is why a ketogenic diet has proven effective for rapid weight loss, said Dr. Volek, a registered dietician who has a Ph.D. in kinesiology.
Because dietary fat has a negligible impact on insulin, eating it doesn't produce surges in our blood glucose and blood insulin the way ingesting carbs does. More importantly, we don't fuel inflammation in our bodies, which causes aging and leads to obesity, heart disease, diabetes and Alzheimer's.
And because fat is more satiating than carbs — or even protein — you don't feel deprived on a high-fat ketogenic diet the way you do on a low-fat diet. With cravings and hunger quelled, it's easier to reduce calories (for those who seeking weight loss) or even skip a meal or two without feeling jittery or lethargic.
While the idea of consuming more dietary fat may sound shocking given the low-fat diet mantra that has dominated SAD (the Standard American Diet), Dr. Volek says we actually evolved to thrive on a low-carb, high-fat diet.
"For about 98% of human history, we've been eating low-carb," said Dr. Volek, author of The Art and Science of Low Carbohydrate Living. "We evolved in a state of nutritional ketosis."
That all changed with the advent of the agricultural revolution, after which the American diet became high-carb — an unfortunate development that has contributed to the tidal wave of obesity, diabetes and other diseases.
Dr. Volek has followed a ketogenic diet (consisting of about 70% fat, 5-10% carbohydrate, and 15-20% protein) for the past two decades, and credits it for his excellent health.
It was nothing short of an epiphany when I changed to a ketogenic diet. I felt better, more satiated, and had more consistent energy."
For newbies, it bears noting that consuming healthy fats such as olive oil, coconut oil, and high-quality animal protein is key. Junky trans-fats, like partially hydrogenated oils, should absolutely be avoided. In addition, it's important to consume enough sodium and limit protein intake, as too much protein is anti-ketogenic and can inhibit fat-burning.
Carb intake on the keto plan is limited to about 50-70 grams a day, which isn't much. For example, a banana has 27 grams of carbs. For those concerned about not getting enough fiber, that can be remedied by consuming non-starchy vegetables such as broccoli and brussel sprouts, which are high-fiber, low-carb, and also rich in antioxidants.
With new reports confirming that unprocessed saturated fat is good for you, Dr. Volek is confident more people will embrace the low-carb, high-fat eating plan and seize control of their health through diet.
"It's an exciting time," he said. "There's a lot of momentum. I think the pendulum is swinging in the right direction."