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Tim Noakes: How high fat low carb diets compare to high protein and Paleo plans

Dairy is part of a high fat low carb diet.
Dairy is part of a high fat low carb diet.
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When it comes to leaders in the weight loss world, Professor Tim Noakes has earned international acclaim. He's become renowned for championing the low carb high fat (LCHF) ketogenic diet and explaining how to use its benefits for everything from weight loss to diabetes to athletic success, reported the Financial Mail on Thursday. In particular, he's an expert in interpreting the stodgy science to clarify how high protein, Paleo and high fat diets differ.

After advocating the LCHF plan for three years, Noakes has succeeded in raising awareness that full-fat dairy and cauliflower are better choices than starchy foods such as bread and pasta. He's been so successful in Cape Town that supermarkets have problems keeping their shelves full of fat-rich foods.

Yet for years, Noakes preached carbohydrates for athletes. Then, in 2010, he had a revelation. Noakes was overweight and felt sluggish - and he decided to investigate his options.

That's when he came across "New Atkins for a New You: The Ultimate Diet for Shedding Weight and Feeling Great." Authored by three medical nutrition experts whose names he recognized, Noakes dug into the science of the high fat low carb diet prescribed in the book.

"Within an hour I was exposed to 150 research studies of low-carbohydrate diets that I had no idea existed," he declared. "The work was published in reputable journals."

And so Noakes used himself as a guinea pig. Within days after cutting carbs, he noticed the difference.

"Within eight weeks I had lost 11kg and improved my running times to those I had last run 20 years earlier," he said. One of the co-authors of that diet book, Dr. Eric Westman, has conducted additional studies that support those results.

"A low-fat, low-calorie diet doesn't work," stated Dr. Eric Westman, director of Duke Lifestyle Medicine Clinic, reported the Methow Valley News on Thursday.

And his fellow co-author, physiologist Jeff Volek of the University of Connecticut, also emphasized that cutting fat and counting calories has failed to reverse the obesity epidemic. "It’s undeniable that we've gone down the wrong path,” affirmed Volek.

These two experts, along with Noakes, are attempting to turn the toast-for-breakfast tide. But is there enough evidence to encourage eggs rather than Eggos?

Yes, said Noakes in an exclusive interview on Thursday. Author of "Challenging Beliefs: Memoirs of a Career," he told me that he became a butter-and-beef believer after "discovering that my increasing infirmity that I thought was due to increasing age was in fact caused by the high carbohydrate diet that I was eating."

In addition, Noakes clarified the confusion caused by different types of low carb diets. High protein, high fat, ketogenic: Are all of these versions helpful for everyone?

"These diets work for those like me who are insulin resistant. But the key if you are insulin resistant is to eat a carbohydrate-restricted diet," Noakes explained.

"When you take carbohydrate out of your diet you have to replace the calories with either fat or protein. Thus one has high protein variants (Dukan diet)," while another one, the high fat version that he advocates, promotes nutritional ketosis.

"The more fat you eat, and the less protein and carbohydrate, the more ketogenic the diet becomes. I focus on limiting carbs for everyone with insulin resistance. If you have diabetes, then it makes sense to focus on eating more fat and less protein since protein acts as a partial carbohydrate," he explained.

As to the distinction between Paleo low carb diets, Atkins diets and Noakes' own recommendations? All are low carb diets, which is "the key."

"If you include fruit and avoid dairy, it is called Paleo. Probably we are closer to Atkins but we promote a reasonable intake of leafy vegetables which Atkins may not have," Noakes explained.

The key to weight loss: Limit carbohydrates. In turn, this controls hunger which both boosts how much weight is lost and helps dieters to maintain. Calorie counting and doing huge amounts of exercise to control weight does not work and is in any case completely unnecessary," he said.

For those seeking additional reading, Noakes recommends "any book by Westman, Phinney and Volek. Their work was suppressed by the mainstream but it contains all the answers for those who want to know why they need to go low carbs and how to do it effectively."

Phinney and Volek's books include "The Art and Science of Low Carbohydrate Living: An Expert Guide to Making the Life-Saving Benefits of Carbohydrate Restriction Sustainable and Enjoyable." In it, the duo explain their research indicating how and why low carb diets are so effective for health and weight loss, as well as how to create your own low carb diet lifestyle.

In addition, Dr. Westman co-authored a book on the facts and fiction about high cholesterol: "Cholesterol Clarity: What The HDL Is Wrong With My Numbers." He also has an upcoming book on high fat low carb diets: "Keto Clarity: Your Definitive Guide to the Benefits of a Low-Carb, High-Fat Diet."

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