Multiple studies have shown that high fat low carb ketogenic diets can boost weight loss, and the most well-known plan is the Atkins diet. Although it's existed for years, Sharon Osbourne recently chose it for her own weight loss, providing the company with a new opportunity to highlight the benefits.
Sharon has lost about 30 pounds thus far.
What's special about the Atkins diet and other high fat low carb ketogenic diets (LCHF): It causes the body to burn fat for energy, explained Vice President of Nutrition and Education at Atkins Nutritionals, Inc., Colette Heimowitz, in an exclusive interview.
"The key to losing weight is lowering carbohydrate intake and replacing high sugar carbs with healthy fats," she told me. "When carbs are low enough the body will burn fat for fuel so you lose the extra fat you have stored on your body and you burn the fat you are eating for energy."
When the Atkins diet book was first published by Dr. Robert Atkins, it drew criticism for emphasizing saturated fats. Now, however, new studies have shown that certain fats benefit health as well as weight loss.
In the category of healthy fats: "Monounsaturated fat like nuts, avocado, salmon, and olive oil. It also includes some saturated fat like eggs, cheese, butter, and coconut oil," said Colette.
The Atkins diet consists of phases, beginning with a jump-start ketogenic induction.
But do you need to follow the Atkins diet to use a ketogenic approach? No.
Two experts who examined the benefits of nutritional ketosis and how to achieve it are Stephen D. Phinney and Jeff S. Volek. They documented their significant body of work in “The Art and Science of Low Carbohydrate Living: An Expert Guide to Making the Life-Saving Benefits of Carbohydrate Restriction Sustainable and Enjoyable.”
For those who think that carbohydrates are essential for energy and health, Dr. Phinney said this in an exclusive interview: “The concept that humans ‘need a certain amount of dietary carbs for proper function of the body’ has no basis in science. It is a myth perpetuated by the USDA and the dietetic establishment.”
In one study challenging that “myth,” two individuals consumed no carbohydrates for a year with no negative consequences while closely observed in a hospital. In another study, researchers “infused insulin into obese humans in fasting ketosis and demonstrated that they had no symptoms of hypoglycemia despite blood sugar levels that should have caused them to be in a coma,” noted Dr. Phinney.
That latter study demonstrated that our bodies function just fine on ketones no matter what your blood glucose level. But what precisely is a ketogenic diet, and how does it work for weight loss while enhancing parameters of health such as cholesterol level and reduced risk of type 2 diabetes?
Dr. Phinney defines a ketogenic diet as one with total carbohydrates between 10 to 50 grams daily. The rest of the diet consists of fats (example: avocado, nuts and olive oil) and protein (example: chicken, cheese. beef, eggs, pork and turkey). Add to that copious amounts (5 servings per day) of non-starchy vegetables to provide important minerals such as potassium and magnesium.
“People on a well-formulated ketogenic diet maintain normal blood sugar levels because their bodies’ learn to use much, much less blood sugar,” Dr. Phinney explained. Morever, as their bodies become keto-adapted and burn fat for energy, “the liver can make enough glucose via gluconeogenesis to supply that small amount of blood sugar that is actually consumed.”
In the book that he authored with Volek, the ideal ketogenic diet is high in fat, low in carbohydrates and moderate in protein. They advise consuming .7 to .9 grams of protein per pound of body weight.
Franziska Spritzler, a registered dietitian specializing in low carb diets, offered this explanation of how nutritional ketosis works in an exclusive interview: “When carbohydrates are restricted, the liver produces ketones to provide an alternative energy source to glucose. Once serum ketones rise to about 0.5, one is said to be in nutritional ketosis, which can be beneficial for weight loss because insulin levels remain low and appetite tends to be depressed.”
A frequently asked question: What should be the percentage of fat to protein, particularly when weight loss stalls? “I would recommend decreasing fat and increasing protein in this case,” said Spritzler. “Unless the meat is extremely fatty, ketone levels will be lower after a steak than after a large hunk of cheese. However, the meat will have a more beneficial effect on weight loss and body composition.”
Fat Fasts also have become popular. However, very few experts currently recommend them. Jimmy Moore has authored a new book explaining how to achieve nutritional ketosis and sustain it: Learn more by clicking here.