Low-Carbohydrate DietCategory Archives

A day on my modified NutriSystem plan

I have been telling you that I have modified my NutriSystem diet to make it lower in carbohydrates and higher in fat in order to prevent falling cholesterol levels. My modified plan would be considered a low-carb diet by Dr. Stephen Phinney and Dr. Jeff Volek as defined in their book, The Art and Science of Low Carbohydrate Living: An Expert Guide to Making the Life-Saving Benefits of Carbohydrate Restriction Sustainable and Enjoyable. I thought I would share with you what a typical day on my modified NutriSystem diet looks like. It could possibly be improved a bit by adding some additional low-carb vegetables at lunch, but it is performing well as is.

NUTRISYSTEM Chewy Chocolate Chip Granola Bar 2012 (1 bar)
Egg (1 ea)
Butter (2 tsp)

NUTRISYSTEM Wedding Soup 2012 (1 x 1 container)
FAGE Total 0% All Natural Nonfat Greek Strained Yogurt (1 x 1 container)

Afternoon Snack
Nuts, mixed nuts, without peanuts, raw (1 oz)

NUTRISYSTEM Lasagna with Meat Sauce 2012 (1 package)
Mixed greens (2 oz)
Red bell peppers (1/2 ea)
Salad dressing, GOOD SEASONS ITALIAN, prepared (1 Tbs)

Evening Snack
NUTRISYSTEM Pretzels 2012 (1 package)

Calories 1216.24
Calories From Fat (41%) 500.71
Calories From Protein (23%) 284.35
Calories From Carbs (35%) 431.18
Total Fat 55.87g 86%
Carbohydrates 110.77g 37%
Dietary Fiber 16.55g 66%
Sugar 28.75g
Net Carbohydrates 94.22g
Protein 71.82g 144%

What is a high-fat diet

More from The Art and Science of Low Carbohydrate Living: An Expert Guide to Making the Life-Saving Benefits of Carbohydrate Restriction Sustainable and Enjoyable by Dr. Stephen Phinney and Dr. Jeff Volek: When looking at studies about high-fat diets, it is important to know what is meant by a high-fat diet. Most consensus experts define a high-fat diet to be one with 45% – 60% of calories from fat. The authors of the book define high-fat to be 65% – 85% of calories from fat. The distinction is very important. Consensus experts will tell you that insulin resistance gets worse as fat in the diet increases, and this is true of the diets in the lower range. However, after fat intake goes above 60% of calories from fat, insulin resistance turns around and starts to improve. The benefits of a low-carb diet are found in the higher range of fat intake.

Low-carb dieters need more salt

I bought The Art and Science of Low Carbohydrate Living: An Expert Guide to Making the Life-Saving Benefits of Carbohydrate Restriction Sustainable and Enjoyable by Dr. Stephen Phinney and Dr. Jeff Volek for my Kindle. These two have done a lot of primary research into low-carb dieting. They were also coauthors on the most recent Atkins book, The New Atkins for a New You.

So far, I’ve learned that they would consider the way I’m doing NutriSystem to be a low-carb diet because I’m eating less than 125g of carbohydrate a day. I average about 100g, according to my tracking. I would like to be eating less carbohydrate than that, but that’s about as low as I can get it on the NutriSystem foods.

Another thing I learned is that those on low-carb diets need more salt. Low-carbers retain less fluids, and thus they pass more of their sodium through their kidneys. A lot of the problems low-carb dieters run into have to do with lack of salt. This morning’s egg tasted better with some salt on it.

According to the authors, none of my ancestors (mostly northern Europeans and some Native Americans) would have been eating dense carbohydrates earlier than about 2,000 years ago when the Romans introduced grains to northern Europe, so I would have little genetic accommodation for it. That would explain why I thrive so much better with little or no grains.

Dr. Eades on lard

Who would think that we’d actually see a medical doctor post an entry on his blog called “Add lard to your larder”? Dr. Michael Eades, the author of Protein Power, did just that. Among interesting points that he made, he said that the Mediterraneans are actually eating lard more than olive oil. The olive oil they produce in the region is for export. That certainly changes the face of what many believe is one of the healthiest diets!

In another of his posts about “The best low-carb book in print,” he quotes study summaries from the book. One study was particularly interesting. They looked at an ADA low-fat/high-carb diet against a low-carb/high-fat diet. I like studies like this because it pits one intervention diet against another, thus eliminating the conscientiousness factor when comparing the diets. Even though the high-fat dieters were eating considerably more saturated fat, the blood levels of saturated fat decreased from their pre-diet numbers, both in terms of percentage of fat in the blood and in terms of the absolute serum content. By the latter measure, saturated fat in the blood dropped 30% in the high-fat group, even though they were eating more saturated fat. Triglycerides fell by 51% in this group. The latter figure did not surprise me much because I already knew that triglycerides increase with carb intake. It would have been nice to know how they did weight-wise, but Dr. Eades did not quote those results. I guess I’ll have to get the book to find out.

Low-carbohydrate diets for cancer

I have been looking into research on low-carbohydrate diets and cancer. They are just beginning to do studies for the purpose of looking into this issue. I suspect that this is because it has been so literally politically incorrect to look at low-carb diets that it just wasn’t done for a long time. After all, the government and other major medical agencies have been promoting low-fat/high-carb diets for some time now, and these are what have been tested most. Anyway, test tube and animal studies of low-carb diets are showing good results. A few human studies are underway, but they are only allowed to enroll cancer patients who have exhausted other options.

Compliance is a big problem with low-carb diets. People love their carbs. They’re so addictive. One cancer study looking at low-carb diets is having problems with that issue. Participants just don’t want to give up cakes, cookies, chocolate, soda, or whatever. And these are people who have had PET scans to determine that their tumors are consuming glucose preferentially. You’d think they’d be motivated.

Diet and Cancer: Ongoing Research. Nutrition and Metabolism Society.
Low Carb, High Protein Diet May Help Fight Cancer By David Liu, Ph.D. and editing by Elizabeth Hutchinson.
Carbohydrate restriction in patients with advanced cancer: a protocol to assess safety and feasibility with an accompanying hypothesis. Eugene J. Fine, MD, MS, C. J. Segal-Isaacson, EdD, Richard Feinman, PhD, Joseph Sparano, MD. COMMUNITY ONCOLOGY. January 2008.
Carbohydrate restriction may slow prostate tumor growth. Health News Track, 2009.
A Holistic Approach to Cancer. Weston Price Foundation.

Dr. Jan Kwasniewski’s Optimal Diet

I’m currently reading about the Optimal Diet devised and implemented by Dr. Jan Kwasniewski. The Optimal Diet is a low-carb/high-fat diet that would meet fat intake criteria for epileptics. Testimonials on the Optimal Diet website claim that the diet reversed atherosclerosis, diabetes, ankylosing spondylitis, asthma, and multiple sclerosis, among others. I would caution, though, that the cured meats suggested in some of the menus should be avoided. Cured meats have been linked with some cancers. It is not surprising to me that some long-time adherents of the Optimal Diet have been coming down with digestive cancers, considering that cured meats are suggested to them. Natural meats are supposedly safe, from what I have heard.

Theory behind the Rosedale Diet

I’ve read the main part of the theory behind Dr. Rosedale’s diet in his book and some of the practical application. What follows is my summary of that information.

Dr. Rosedale says that the body can burn fat or sugar, but it won’t burn both at the same time. He claims that a diet high in carbohydrates causes the body to get stuck in sugar burning mode. When there is too much sugar in the blood, the excess gets stored as saturated fat. That would be fine if we could then switch to fat burning mode and burn the fat when the sugar is used up. But that, Dr. Rosedale claims, is not what happens. As we get older, our ability to switch between sugar burning mode and fat burning mode diminishes. So when someone in sugar burning mode runs out of sugar to burn, his body cannibalizes the protein from its muscle and bone to make sugar to burn. The fat remains in the fat cells. This is why someone who loses weight on a typical low-fat/high-carb diet loses muscle and ends up being a smaller version of a fat person.

A low-carb/high-protein diet does not correct this problem since excess protein in the diet is converted into sugar, and that raises blood sugar, too, and the body ends up remaining in sugar burning mode. The body does not store protein, so the body still ends up cannibalizing muscle and bone when the supply of sugar and dietary protein runs out. When protein is converted to sugar, the nitrogen atoms are stripped from the protein in the form of urea and ammonia, and this becomes a toxic waste product that the body must deal with. So really, a diet that includes excess protein is toxic. Dr. Rosedale recommends getting 50 – 75 grams of protein from the diet, which is consistent with RDA recommendations.

So that leaves fat as a preferred source of fuel. But not all fats are healthy. Dr. Rosedale recommends getting fat from fish and fish oil, nuts and nut oils, avocados and avocado oil, olives and olive oil, and coconut oil. He recommends eating lean poultry, limited amounts of lean meat, and low-fat dairy from properly raised animals to avoid the saturated fat content. Properly raised animals means grass-fed or pasture-raised and animals raised without added hormones and antibiotics, not the CAFO animals typically sold in supermarkets. The diet also includes generous amounts of non-starchy vegetables and some berries.

As an aside, Dr. Rosedale did mention the link between depression and low-fat diets, which has been my primary contention against them and why I have increased the fat in my NutriSystem plan, having myself suffered from depression that I now believe was a result of low-fat dieting.

Dr. Rosedale also claims that his diet is de-aging. The low-carb content of his diet gives the life-extension benefits of a calorie-restricted diet without having to go hungry. In other words, he is claiming that his diet can reverse age-related degeneration. This is due to the low insulin and leptin levels maintained while on such a diet and the proper functioning of these hormones. Dr. Rosedale’s diet is a lifestyle diet. His list of benefits from his diet is quite long, and there isn’t space to list them all here.

The general theory behind Dr. Rosedale’s diet makes sense to me and agrees with my experience of dieting. I have lost weight on a high-fat diet before. I also believe that I have suffered harm from low-fat diets as Dr. Rosedale says we will, namely my worst depressions have coincided with stints of low-fat dieting. Dr. Rosedale’s theories also explain a lot about why we yo-yo and how fat can end up in the arteries, among other effects that can result from the derangement of insulin and leptin functioning. I’m not sure about Dr. Rosedale’s recommendation to minimize animal fat. I do agree that ideally the animals should be pasture-raised if one can afford to buy such since grain feeding alters the balance of the polyunsaturated oils from healthy omega-3 to harmful omega-6. But I also have been led to believe that animal fat contains important fat-soluble nutrients that are difficult to get from other sources. Therefore, meats and dairy should include their fats. My previous foray into veganism and subsequent detriment would support this conclusion.

The Rosedale Diet for improving leptin function

I was surfing the web yesterday looking for information about Rabbit Starvation, the result of exclusively eating lean meat, when I came across information about the Rosedale Diet on the Ketogenic Diet Resource site. The Rosedale information talks about how the hormone leptin figures into aging and overweight. Science hasn’t known about leptin for very long. It wasn’t discovered until 1995. Leptin helps to control hunger and fat burning, among other things. Usually, when leptin is low, that signals hunger. When it goes up, that tells the body to burn fat. At least that’s how it’s supposed to work. Scientists thought when they first discovered leptin that the answer to obesity could be as simple as giving leptin supplements to obese people. But they found out that obese people tend to have very high levels of leptin already. They figured out that people can become leptin insensitive just as they can become insulin insensitive. Dr. Rosedale believes that overweight and obesity are the result of a derangement in the functioning of insulin and leptin. Overeating of carbohydrates can cause this derangement. Other materials I have read focused on the insulin alone, so this is a bit different. Dr. Rosedale determined that his low-carb/high-fat/controlled-protein diet can restore proper leptin functioning in the body. As he says, fat doesn’t make you fat; the inability to burn fat makes you fat. Restoring leptin function corrects the body’s ability to burn fat and thus allows the body to burn its stored fat. The result of weight lost this way is a trim, lean, muscular body and not just a thin version of a fat person. I decided to buy Dr. Rosedale’s book and learn more about how leptin functions since I haven’t seen much about it up until now.

All-you-can-eat buffets

I like all-you-can-eat buffets when I’m watching my weight.  They make it easy to go low-carb, and I can maintain or even lose weight that way.  When I do buffets, I load up on meat and have a little bit of non-starchy vegetables with it.  I did this when I went to Las Vegas last time and actually lost weight.  The trick is to stick to your plan and choose accordingly.

Challenging the current diet advice paradigm

I am currently rereading “Why We Get Fat and What To Do About It” by Gary Taubes. I saw Gary Taube’s lecture online in Dr. Mercola’s article, “These Vilified Foods Help Build Hormones and Tame Your Appetite,” and wanted to review his book. Gary reported on how the low-fat advice for heart health became a government recommendation. Back in 1984, the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute launched a massive health campaign. “At the time, the NHLBI experts lacked confidence in the fat/heart-disease connection, for good reason: the institute had spent $115 million on a huge, decade-long clinical trial to test the idea that eating less saturated fat would curb heart disease, but not a single heart attack had been prevented. This could have been taken as reason to abandon the idea entirely, but the institute had also spent $150 million testing the benefits of a cholesterol-lowering drug, and this second trial had succeeded. So the institute’s administrators took a leap of faith, as one of them, Basil Rifkind, later described it: They had spent twenty years and an inordinate amount of money trying to demonstrate that cholesterol-lowering, low-fat diets would prevent heart disease, Rifkind explained, and they had, up until then, failed. Trying again would be too expensive and would take at least another decade, even if the institute could afford it. But once they had compelling evidence that lowering cholesterol with a drug would save lives, it seemed like a good bet that a low-fat, cholesterol-lowering diet would as well. ‘It’s an imperfect world,’ Rifkind had said. ‘The data that would be definitive are ungettable, so you do your best with what is available.’” They declared the diet study to be flawed and went ahead with their health campaign.

But here’s the thing: the effect of a drug is not limited to the purpose it was developed for. When the cholesterol lowering drug trial succeeded, it was assumed that the cause of the success was the lowering of the cholesterol, but that may not actually be the case. In 2003, the American Heart Association reported this: “Statins Promote Potent Systemic Antioxidant Effects Through Specific Inflammatory Pathways.” In the conclusion, they state, “Statins promote potent systemic antioxidant effects through suppression of distinct oxidation pathways. The major pathways inhibited include formation of myeloperoxidase-derived and nitric oxide–derived oxidants, species implicated in atherogenesis. The present results suggest potential mechanisms that may contribute to the beneficial actions of statins.” So now we have a major health organization reporting a cause of benefit for statins other than its cholesterol lowering effects. Given that multiple studies have not shown a heart health benefit for following a cholesterol-lowering low-fat diet, perhaps the original NHLBI study on low-fat diets was not flawed after all. In other words, following a low-fat diet may not actually be heart-healthy as we’ve been led to believe for the past nearly 30 years.

A closer look at the effects of a low-fat diet reveal that the opposite may be the case. A low-fat high-carbohydrate diet will:

  • decrease HDL cholesterol
  • increase triglycerides
  • increase the harmful small dense LDL cholesterol while decreasing the large fluffy healthy LDL cholesterol
  • increase insulin in the blood, thereby increasing the risk of insulin insensitivity and metabolic syndrome

The A TO Z Weight Loss Study published in The Journal of the American Medical Association in 2007, gives an indication of what may actually be the best diet for losing weight and improving heart health. The winner in the study surprised even the researchers. This study compared four diets: the Atkins diet, a traditional low-fat diet, the Ornish diet, and the Zone diet. Those on the Atkins diet lost the most weight, and they had the best results for heart disease risk factors. Keep in mind that the Atkins dieters did this while eating as much food as they wanted while those on the other diets were restricting their calories. “The point man on this trial was Christopher Gardner, director of Nutrition Studies at the Stanford Prevention Research Center. Gardner presented the results of the trial in a lecture that’s now viewable on YouTube—“The Battle of Weight Loss Diets: Is Anyone Winning (at Losing)?” He begins the lecture by acknowledging that he’s been a vegetarian for twenty-five years. He did the study, he explains, because he was concerned that a diet like the Atkins diet, rich in meat and saturated fat, could be dangerous. When he described the triumph of the very low-carbohydrate, meat-rich Atkins diet, he called it ‘a bitter pill to swallow.’”

Video: Gary Taubes—Why We Get Fat and What To Do About It

Video: Christopher Gardner—The Battle of Weight Loss Diets: Is Anyone Winning (at Losing)?