Scientist say a low-carb, high-fat ketogenic-style diet is better for weight loss, diabetes, and metabolic syndrome than diets focused obsessively on calorie restriction.
Obesity experts say the longstanding emphasis on calorie counting has failed, and we need to move beyond the "calories in, calories out" dogma if we're serious about defeating the global tsunami of obesity and diabetes.
“'Eat less, exercise more' doesn’t work," Dr. David Ludwig, director of the Obesity Prevention Center at Boston Children’s Hospital, wrote in JAMA.
LCHF Diets Prevent Insulin Spikes and Diabetes
According to Ludwig, the true cause of weight gain isn't eating too many calories, but eating a high-carb diet that's rich in refined carbs. This is because our body stores fat when we experience insulin spikes, which are caused by eating too much sugar and processed grains like white bread.
“We have to forget the low-fat paradigm,” said Dr. Ludwig, author of Always Hungry?: Conquer Cravings, Retrain Your Fat Cells, and Lose Weight Permanently. “Some high-fat foods like avocado, nuts and olive oil are among the healthiest foods we could possibly eat.”
Ludwig join a growing list of medical experts who are dispelling the myth that eating fat makes you fat, and that calorie restriction is best for weight loss. The way to lose weight is to prevent insulin spikes, which the LCHF Atkins and ketogenic diets do. "Insulin is the granddaddy of anabolic hormones," said Ludwig.
Eating refined carbs like a 100-calorie pack of jelly beans (which are fat-free) produces a huge insulin spike that signals your fat cells to store calories. In contrast, eating 100 calories of nuts won't produce the same insulin spike.
You'll also feel fuller, longer, after eating the nuts, while the jelly beans will make your blood sugar surge and promptly crash, causing you to quickly feel hungry again.
Sugar Raises Insulin, Which Causes Inflammation
Surges in blood sugar and insulin also leads to diabetes, inflammation and metabolic syndrome, so by curbing these with a low-carb, high-fat diet such as the Atkins and ketogenic diets, we simultaneously stem several diseases in one fell swoop.
Ludwig's JAMA commentary comes on the heels of new scientific research suggesting that unprocessed saturated fat is not the cause of weight gain, diabetes or heart disease. The true cause of obesity, cardiovascular disease, high cholesterol and diabetes is a high-carb diet, especially one high in sugar.
That's what investigative writer Nina Teicholz said in her book, The Big Fat Surprise. "Fat generally — and saturated fat specifically — came to be blamed for causing heart disease, obesity and cancer," said Teicholz. "Eventually this unfounded belief became ingrained as our national dogma.
"Saturated fat is really not bad for health. The most rigorous diet trials clearly show that a high-fat, low-carb diet is better for fighting obesity, diabetes and heart disease."
Obesity expert Dr. Eric Westman champions a low-carb, high-fat ketogenic-style diet for weight loss and reversing type 2 diabetes.
What fuels weight gain and disease is inflammation — which is caused by a high-carb diet — especially one high in sugar, said Dr. Westman, author of Keto Clarity.
The irony is that the foods we were taught are good for us — breads, cereals, pasta, rice, potatoes — are the very ones that are killing us, said Westman. Our bodies convert these foods to sugar almost instantly. Sugar raises insulin, which causes inflammation, which is the fundamental cause of heart disease.
Dr. Westman said eating a diet high in healthy fats such as olive oil, whole eggs, grass-fed beef, and pastured butter not only accelerates weight loss, but reduces inflammation.
Westman has been aware of the health benefits of dietary fat for years and is glad there's a growing vindication of this important macronutrient. For people who want to lose weight without deprivation and enjoy optimal health, Westman wholeheartedly champions a low carb, high-fat (LCHF) diet.
LCHF Diet Is Silver Bullet For Weight Loss
Registered dietitian Dr. Jeff Volek, a professor at Ohio State University, agrees. Restricting carbs allows the body to use stored fat for fuel rather than the limited fuel obtained from carb intake, he told me.
Dr. Volek has followed a ketogenic diet for the past 20 years, and credits it for his excellent health. Volek doesn't have a weight problem, but follows the ketogenic diet for its many health benefits, which include reduced inflammation, improved mood, and protection from diabetes and heart disease.
Studies show the ketogenic diet is better than drugs for managing epilepsy-induced seizures, can reverse type 2 diabetes, and manage cancer. Researcher Dr. Dominic D'Agostino told me the ketogenic diet can prevent and treat metastatic cancer because cancer is a metabolic disease, and cancer cells thrive on sugar.
"Most cancer scientists have historically thought cancer was a genetic disease, but only 5-10% of cancer is hereditary," said D'Agostino, who has a Ph.D. in physiology and neuroscience. "When we restrict carbs in our diet, we can prevent pro-inflammatory spikes in blood glucose and blood insulin. Suppression of blood glucose and insulin spikes can be very helpful when managing many chronic diseases."
Volek, author of The Art and Science of Low Carbohydrate Living, is encouraged by the increasing popularity of high-fat diets like the ketogenic diet, as more people are beginning to accept that eating fat does not make you fat.
Dr. Volek explained that by drastically reducing carbs in our diet and replacing them with healthy, unprocessed fats, we boost fat-burning, eliminate nagging carb cravings, experience more stable blood sugar levels, and enjoy better mood.
"Carbohydrate restriction is the proverbial ‘silver bullet’ for managing insulin resistance, metabolic syndrome, and type 2 diabetes," said Volek. “The medical profession continues to recommend a high-carb diet, which exacerbates the problem. It boggles the mind."