The New York Times has been a tremendous ally for those of us who believe in low-carb diets. They were among the first whistleblowers exposing the hazards of mainstream dietary advice—and extolling the virtues of the original low-carb diet, pioneered by Dr. Robert Atkins, with their amazing article published back in 2002 titled “What if It’s All Been a Big Fat Lie”?
And now, the Times has taken up our cause once again. Last month, they ran an in-depth article on a brand new study on low-carb diets. It showed people who avoid carbohydrates and eat more fat—even saturated fat—lose more body fat and have fewer cardiovascular risks than people who follow the low-fat, carb-heavy diet health authorities have blindly favored for decades.
If you could see me now, you’d see me doing my happy dance.
Financed by the National Institutes of Health and published in the Annals of Internal Medicine, the new study included a racially diverse group of 150 men and women—a rarity in clinical nutrition studies. The participants were assigned to follow either a diet that limited carbs or one that limited fat for one year. But neither diet limited overall calories.
Honestly, that’s one of the main advantages of a low-carb diet…you’re not a slave to calorie counts. Which means you aren’t starving yourself—and setting your metabolism up for failure.
Many nutritionists and health authorities, says the study’s author, have “actively advised against” low-carbohydrate diets, and instead push high-carb approaches. I certainly hope this shuts these do-nothings up once and for all.
By the end of the yearlong trial, people in the low-carb group had lost an average of eight pounds more than those in the low-fat group. They had significantly greater reductions in body fat than the low-fat group, and more improvements in lean muscle mass. And they enjoyed these benefits despite the fact that neither group changed their physical activity levels. (Imagine how much better the low-carb group would have fared if they’d upped their exercise too—even just a little bit!)
While the low-fat group did lose weight, they appeared to lose more muscle than fat. And that’s what kills your metabolism.
It’s also worth noting that the people in the low-carb group took in a little more than 13 percent of their daily calories from saturated fat. Which is more than double the limit recommended by the American Heart Association (AHA). Imagine that…Ignoring the good ol’ AHA left these patients BETTER off. The majority of their fat intake, however, was unsaturated fats, like avocado and macadamia nut oils.
The low-fat group reduced their total fat intake to less than 30 percent of their daily calories, which is in line with the federal government’s wimpy dietary guidelines. (Again, why does our government get involved in things it knows nothing about?) They also included more grains, cereals and starches in their diet.
In the end, people in the low-carbohydrate group saw markers of inflammation and triglycerides plunge. Oh, and their HDL (so-called “good cholesterol”) rose more sharply than it did for people in the low-fat group. In fact, they ultimately did so well that they managed to lower their Framingham risk scores, which calculate the likelihood of a heart attack within the next 10 years.
Meanwhile, the low-fat group on average had no improvement in their scores.
These results make sense when you consider eating refined carbohydrates tends to raise the overall number of LDL (“bad”) cholesterol particles and shift them toward the small, dense variety, which contributes to atherosclerosis. In contrast, saturated fat tends to make LDL particles larger, more buoyant and less likely to clog arteries—at least when carbohydrate intake remains low.
Really, these results speak for themselves. So I just have one more thing to say about this study: Being vindicated sure is fun.
Sleep is key: Another reason to get your zzz’s
If you read my Reality Health Check e-letters even sporadically, you know how passionate I am about sleep. Getting adequate, quality rest is integral to your health. And now yet another study supports this fact.
According to the new study, sleep loss can increase the risk for cardiovascular disease, hypertension, weight gain, and type-2 diabetes, and even lead to an earlier death.
The researchers believe chronic insomnia triggers inflammation throughout the body. And, as you know, inflammation leads to all of the problems listed above—and then some.
The study postulates that treating insomnia may lessen the severity of this inflammation. They alsobelieve the best treatment is cognitive behavioral therapy. Yes, good ol’ psychotherapy. While I have nothing against that (as long as you’re going to a good therapist), I think there are better options for getting good sleep.
As I’ve discussed before, there are a number of safe, natural supplements that can help you get good, quality sleep. The short list once again:
- 5-HTP—100mg to 5,000mg at bedtime (start at 100mg and increase by 100mg a day until you see the effects. Most people don’t need more than 1,000mg)
- SAM-e—400mg every morning
- L-theanine—200mg in the morning and another 200 mg, 30 minutes before bed
- GABA—800mg, 30 minutes before bed
And lastly—though perhaps most importantly—melatonin. Your body generates melatonin not just to help you sleep, but also to aid the immune system. Unfortunately, production takes a nosedive as you age. I always recommend starting with 3 mg at bedtime. You can work your way up, if needed, to a max of 21 mg.
“A Call for a Low-Carb Diet That Embraces Fat,” The New York Times, 9/2/14 (http://www.nytimes.com/2014/09/02/health/low-carb-vs-low-fat-diet.html)
“Effects of Low-Carbohydrate and Low-Fat Diets: A Randomized Trial.” Ann Intern Med. 2014;161(5):309-318. (http://annals.org/article.aspx?articleid=1900694)
“What If It’s All Been a Big Fat Lie?” The New York Times, 7/7/02 (http://www.nytimes.com/2002/07/07/magazine/what-if-it-s-all-been-a-big-fat-lie.html)
“Treating insomnia in elderly reduces inflammation, lowers risk for chronic diseases,” Science Daily, 9/17/14 (http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/09/140917092742.htm)
“Cognitive Behavioral Therapy vs. Tai Chi for Late Life Insomnia and Inflammatory Risk: A Randomized Controlled Comparative Efficacy Trial.” SLEEP 2014; DOI:10.5665/sleep.4008