The Low Carb High Fat Diet

Americans, and in fact billions of people around the world, have experienced an explosion of obesity and disease over the past several decades.  Diseases such as type 2 diabetes, Alzheimers (sometimes referred to as type 3 diabetes),  cardiovascular/heart disease, cancer, and ADHD / ADD are just a few of the diseases that have moved from being relatively rare as recently as the 1950s and 1960s to being very common.  

What has changed?  In a word, diet.  The modern western diet, not to put too fine a point on it.  In the mid 1950s there were was a flawed study called the Seven Countries Study by Dr. Ancel Keys which proposed a hypothesis that saturated fat leads to cardiovascular disease.  Now, in retrospect and with additional study, we know that this is simply not true, but the damage was done.  The US government got on board and acted in multiple ways: 1. subsidizing sugar production 2. subsidizing corn production and utilization (high fructose corn syrup) 3. created the FDA food pyramid recommending the bulk of our diet should consist of carbohydrates like breads, grains, pasta, cereals (sugars are also carbs).  The combination of this perfect storm resulted in a boom in the industrialized production of high carbohydrate and high sugar foods, which were incorrectly touted as 'heart healthy' while fats, particularly saturated fats were demonized by government and medical "experts."  

There are only 3 types of macro-nutrients: 1. protein 2. carbohydrates or 3. fats.  You must eat proteins- the body cannot produce the essential amino acids from other sources.  However, your energy needs to come from either carbs or fats.  Fats are the most energy dense, and are essential for our bodies to operate, particularly our brains.  Carbs, on the other hand, are simply not necessary for our bodies to function.  Carbs break down into glucose (sugar) which your body can use for energy, but your body can produce it's own energy in the form of ketones which are created by your liver from fat, on an as-needed basis.  Humans until recent history operated in a relatively healthy state of low carb consumption where much of their energy came from fats (and ketones).  In the last 50 years we have flipped that completely backwards, and shifted to carbs/sugars as our primary fuel source rather than fats.  This has resulted in an explosion of obesity and disease.

If you're like me, and tens of millions of other Americans, eating the typical high-carb high-sugar American diet, you started putting on weight over time, slowly, and particularly in your abdominal area.  Eventually you slid into the overweight BMI category, then the obese BMI category.  You may have noticed your triglycerides increasing to higher and higher levels.  At some point, you may have experienced hypertension (high blood pressure), low HDL cholesterol, or even sleep apnea.  At this stage of the game you probably have what is called metabolic syndrome, which is defined as having 3 of the following symptoms: abdominal obesity, high triglycerides, low HDL cholesterol, hypertension, and elevated fasting blood glucose levels.  Generally after your triglycerides have been elevated for years, if you don't make changes, you will notice your fasting glucose level climb.  That is your body becoming insulin resistant, which is the early stages of diabetes.  This is when the alarm bells went off for me, personally.  My fasting glucose hit 110 and I decided to dig in and do the research, because diabetes is where things start to go downhill quickly for your body and your overall health.  I discovered after much online research and reading several excellent books, that the process is quite simple, really, as is the solution.

When your body is inundated with carbs and sugars (which break down in your body to become glucose), your pancreas produces insulin - a hormone, which signals your muscle and fat cells to open up and store some of the glucose as fat.  This process goes on and on every time you take in more carbs than your body can burn as fuel, and you will start to notice this as abdominal fat and you begin the process outlined above.  Eventually, after years and sometimes decades of abuse, your cells fight back- saying they have stored too much glucose, and they don't need any more, so they start to ignore the "open up and store more glucose" signal from the insulin hormone.  Your pancreas then, which is desperate to avoid a situation where your blood glucose level climbs so high that you end up in a diabetic coma, cranks out higher and higher levels of insulin to force your cells to take in more glucose, like it or not.  Eventually, your pancreas is unable to produce such extremely high levels of insulin.  It's at this stage of the game that you observe elevated glucose levels in your blood - you are insulin resistant.  If you don't act to reverse this process immediately, your glucose level will rise to the point where you become a type 2 diabetic.  Rather than explain this situation to their patients, and warn them to reverse course immediately, most classically trained doctors do what doctors do- and attempt to treat the symptoms with medication, rather than addressing the root cause.  A doctor will typically prescribe medication to increase your insulin levels even more eventually getting to the point where you literally have to inject additional insulin in your body.  This is insane!  Your body is screaming that it can't take it any more- it's overwhelmed with carbs and sugars, swimming in glucose it can't get rid of, and you are forcing the cells to accept more and more glucose no matter what.  The good news is that even most diabetics can reverse their diabetes simply by changing their diet, but if you're a diabetic you need to do so gradually and under appropriate care.

So what is the solution?  The solution is the low-carb, high-fat (LCHF) diet that our hunter-gatherer ancestors thrived on throughout human history, and by diet, I mean lifestyle- it's not simply something you do for a few months, but it's a change in how and what we eat to avoid the smorgasbord of modern chronic diseases, of which 80% are diet induced.  This is not a complicated diet, it simply involves cutting out the bulk of sugars and high carbohydrate foods (junk foods) like soft drinks, ice cream, gluten grains like wheat, barley, bread, rye, pasta, trans-fats like hydrogenated and partially hydrogenated oils, high omega-6 and vegetable oils, "low-fat" foods, and highly processed foods.  Keep eating good foods like meat [beef, steak, ribs, hamburgers w/o bun, chicken, pork, hot dogs], fish [salmon, trout], eggs [boiled eggs make a great snack], vegetables [spinach, broccoli, carrots], fruits [apples, oranges, pears, strawberries], nuts and seeds [almonds, walnuts], high fat dairy [butter, cheese, cream, yogurt], and fats [lard] and oils [coconut oil, olive oil, fish oil].  Start reading labels- look at the carbohydrates.  You can subtract dietary fiber from the carbohydrates (since dietary fiber generally passes through your body).  Most people take in hundreds of carbs a day which is way too many.  A good place to start would be to reduce your daily intake to 60 grams or less, that's what I did.  Eventually lower this number to 50 and then 40, and if you can, try to reduce the intake to 20 grams or less per day.  If you can reach that level, your body will start burning fat and creating ketones as your body's primary energy source, rather than glucose.  It may take you a week or two to get to that level, and you will realize just how carb-addicted your body has become as you fight off carb and sugar cravings, but rest assured they will go away.  You will notice several changes as your body adapts and becomes more efficient.  Your hunger drive will dramatically decrease, as that was driven by the carb-glucose roller coaster, and your thinking will become more clear.  Many people who were experiencing medical issues and mental disorders (such as dementia or ADD) will show dramatic improvement with the dramatic reduction of carbs and gluten.  Cancer cells starve in an environment without glucose, unlike normal cells.  

But what about cholesterol?  If I eat a high fat diet, won't I increase my cholesterol levels?  Well, no actually.  First of all, despite what you might have been told, there is zero evidence that saturated fat or cholesterol cause heart disease.  80% of the cholesterol in your body is produced by your liver.  Your body produces what it needs.  In fact, it turns out that cholesterol is simply not a villain, at all.  Cholesterol is essential for your health, and is especially necessary for your brain to thrive.  Modern studies have determined that for most people, statins, perhaps the most over-prescribed medicine in existence, do more harm than good by reducing LDL cholesterol levels.  It turns out that it's not the amount of cholesterol that does damage to your arterial walls and causes cardiovascular disease.  In fact, what causes cardiovascular disease is inflammation in the lining of your arteries.  And what causes this inflammation?  You guessed it- carbs.  This makes perfect sense given the explosion of heart disease in the last 50 years or so.  What led doctors to presume that cholesterol was at fault was that cholesterol (and their lipid LDL carriers) were found at the scene of the crime- the plaque / build up on damaged arterial walls is actually your body attempting to repair, with cholesterol, the arterial walls.  Cholesterol is the fire fighter, not the lighter.  This would be like blaming fire fighters because we always find them at the scene of fires- so they must be the cause of the fire!  Your lipid particles are actually different sizes- some people have mostly small dense LDL, while others have large 'fluffy' or 'boyant' LDL particles.  It's only the small dense LDL particles that cause the issue where there is inflammation in your arteries from eating too many carbs.  The good news is that you can change your small dense LDL particles into large fluffy particles.  How?  You guessed it- eat a low carb high fat diet!  Typically speaking, those on a LCHF diet experience the following changes: HDL 'good' cholesterol goes up, LDL cholesterol doesn't change a lot, small dense LDL particles convert into the large fluffy LDL particles, triglycerides drop dramatically.  One of the most important risk factors for heart disease is actually your HDL to triglyceride ratio- which improves dramatically on an LCHF diet.

Personally, I have had great experience with the LCHF diet that I've been on for 6 months so far, losing around 30 pounds and moving from an obese BMI to overweight thus far.  A friend of mine has lost 60 pounds so far, and another friend has lost over a hundred.  I have completely reversed my insulin resistance, and according to my doctor my numbers are now 'excellent.'

I am not a doctor, and I don't play one on TV.  Do your own research, and consult your doctor before making dietary changes, particularly if you suffer from any of the ailments discussed such as diabetes, as dietary changes will need to be made carefully.  I strongly recommend the following books:  Grain Brain by Dr. David Perlmutter; Why We Get Fat: And What to Do About It by Gary Taubes; and The Great Cholesterol Myth by Johnny Bowden, PhD and Stephen Sinatra, MD.  There are also many great resources on the Internet including Youtube channels and websites by Butter Bob Briggs, Sarah Hallberg, Carb Loaded, Dr. Eric Berg, Dr. Andreas Eenfeldt, Dr. Ken Berry, and many others, all of which I recommend.  Do your research- don't rely on others to do it for you!

Comments

Unknown said…
Very informative article! I started on this diet about a week ago....looking forward to better health!

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