A low-carb, high-fat vegan diet, also known as the Eco-Atkins diet, beat a high-carb, low-fat diet for producing weight loss and preventing heart disease, according to a recent study.
The research, which was conducted by scientists at the University of Toronto and published in BMJ Open, suggests the low-carb, high-fat (LCHF) Eco-Atkins diet can reduce the risk of heart disease by 10% over 10 years.
The findings are surprising because medical experts have historically insisted that eating dietary fat causes high cholesterol and raises the risk of heart disease. But the latest report indicated that vegans who ate more fat and reduced their carb intake actually improved both their cholesterol profile and heart-disease risk.
“We killed two birds with one stone – or, rather, with one diet,” said study author, Dr. David Jenkins, a nutritional sciences professor at the University of Toronto. “We designed a diet that combined both vegan and low-carb elements to get the weight loss and cholesterol-lowering benefits of both.”
LCHF Dieters Lost More Weight and Lowered Bad Cholesterol
The study tracked 23 obese men and women over six months. Eco-Atkins dieters ate a low-carb diet with the following macronutrient breakdown: 43% of calories from fat, 31% from proteins, and 26% from carbs.
The fat sources for the Eco-Atkins diet came from nuts, vegetable oils, soy products, and avocado, while carbs came from oats, barley, and low-starch vegetables such as okra and eggplant. Proteins came from gluten, soy, vegetables, nuts and cereals.
After six months, the Eco-Atkins dieters lost 4 more pounds than those who followed a high-carb, low-fat diet. Eco-Atkins dieters also decreased their bad cholesterol.
"We conclude that a weight-loss diet which reduced carbs in exchange for increased intakes of vegetable sources of protein offers an opportunity to improve both LDL cholesterol and body weight, with both being risk factors for heart disease," said Dr. Jenkins, who is a vegan.
Carbs Fuel Pro-Inflammatory Blood Sugar Spikes
The latest study bolsters recent scientific findings indicating that dietary fat has been wrongly blamed for causing obesity and other diseases. Science journalist Nina Teicholz recently made this argument in her book, The Big Fat Surprise.
According to obesity experts, a high-carb diet promotes disease and weight gain by causing pro-inflammatory spikes in blood glucose and blood insulin. By limiting those surges in blood sugar, we dramatically reduce inflammation, which is what fuels weight gain and disease, they say.
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), dietitian and nutrition professor Dr. Jeff Volek told me humans evolved to thrive on a LCHF 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. "Carbohydrate restriction is the proverbial ‘silver bullet’ for managing insulin resistance, metabolic syndrome, and type 2 diabetes. The medical profession continues to recommend a high-carb diet, which exacerbates the problem. It boggles the mind."
Volek has followed a LCHF ketogenic diet for the past 20 years, crediting it for his excellent health. Kim Kardashian lost 56 pounds in six months on a ketogenic-style Atkins diet that limited her daily carb intake to less than 60 grams. Similarly, TV star Sharon Osbourne lost 28 pounds in six weeks on a LCHF Atkins diet that reduced her carb intake to 25 grams a day.
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 even Alzheimer's disease.
Weight-loss expert Dr. Eric Westman, director of the Duke University Obesity Clinic, has helped hundreds of morbidly obese people lose thousands of pounds by following the low-carb, high-fat Atkins and ketogenic diets.
"I tell my patients not to fear the fat," said Dr. Westman, author of A New Atkins for a New You. "Eat lots of fat. Fat makes you feel full. There's no problem with fat. In fact, saturated fat, the fat that we've been taught not to eat, raises your good cholesterol best of all the foods you can eat."
Vegan Diet Touted For Weight Loss and Health
Meanwhile, the popularity of the vegan diet continues unabated, as celebrities like Samuel L. Jackson, Bill Clinton, Al Sharpton, Michelle Pfeiffer, and Jared Leto all credit the plant-based diet for giving them more energy, helping them lose weight, and staying youthful-looking,
Leto, who won the Academy Award this year for "Dallas Buyers Club," has credited the vegan diet for his age-defying good looks. Jared, who at 42 could pass for a decade younger, has been a vegan for more 20 years.
Bill Clinton said his mostly vegan diet is responsible for his 30-pound weight loss and for reversing his heart disease. “His doctor told him that his heart today is much younger than it was even 10 years ago,” said Bill's daughter, Chelsea Clinton.
Experiencing easy weight loss and improved health on a vegan diet isn't surprising to obesity experts like Dr. Joel Fuhrman. “The more greens you eat, the more weight you will lose,” said Fuhrman, author of The End of Dieting.
Dr. David Katz, author of Disease-Proof, agrees. “If you shift to a diet more about plant-based foods, you are likelier to live healthier and experience less chronic disease," said Katz, director of Yale University’s Prevention Research Center.