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Ketogenic diets are one of the hottest trends in wellness right now. This past year, I even wrote a keto cookbook. In fact, they have become so popular, that many variations of low carb diets are currently spearheading their way into the mainstream. While any focus on a healthier way of eating should be viewed as a positive, rather than a negative – the question remains: are carbohydrates really so bad? There is, of course – a complex scientific answer to this question.

First, we must look at the research. What does it say, what does it not say, and were the methods used to extract these conclusions properly conducted? Secondly – is there conclusive scientific evidence that the type of carbohydrates ingested, makes a difference? Third – is it possible that there is significant sensationalism around keto diets, which may tend to cloud the actual scientific data. Which in turn may be used to support their popularity? Lastly, is a Paleo Diet® actually worse for weight loss than a keto diet – or are there significant benefits to both approaches

To answer these questions, we must do a deep dive into the research of low carbohydrate diets. The newest study to gain widespread attention, focused only on 164 adults – not exactly a large enough sample pool, to say the least. While the media is quick to write attention grabbing headlines (i.e. “new study shows that low carb diets are better for weight loss”) the data rarely – if ever – supports these dramatic conclusions (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10).

This study is no different. While the results did show good outcomes for people following a low carbohydrate diet – the study did not come close to proving that all carbohydrate intake is bad. It also did not show that a diet filled with healthy carbohydrates cannot be just as good (if not better) for sustained weight loss. As has been shown in numerous scientific studies, higher carbohydrate diets consistently have better long-term success in terms of compliance (11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20). In simpler terms, this means that those eating more carbohydrates have a much easier time adhering to a dietary protocol, over the course of years of eating.

This should not be shocking. While keto (and other low carb diets) do typically result in some short-term weight loss – this is sometimes just water weight. Secondly, almost without fail, people do eventually return to consuming carbohydrates (though sometimes it is in a diminished volume). Subsequently, they often do gain back the weight they may have lost (21, 22, 23, 24, 25, 26, 27, 28, 29, 30). Gary Taubes did an excellent job of analyzing and synthesizing nearly a century’s worth of research on this very topic, in his scientific tome Good Calories, Bad Calories.

A different study from earlier this year, showed that a low-carb diet and a low-fat diet both provided nearly identical results for dieters. This study followed 600 people over the course of a year and showed predictable results. The main takeaway from the sum of these studies is the conclusion that limiting sugar and eating high quality nutrient dense foods – a central tenant of The Paleo Diet – is the best strategy for long term weight loss (31, 32, 33, 34, 35, 36, 37, 38, 39, 40).

This means vegetables are the best foods to eat, along with high quality proteins, and anti-inflammatory fats. When it comes to a healthy diet (and especially fat loss) – the body’s delicate biochemistry and neurology must be prioritized. What foods provide the best hormonal response, along with limiting cravings and supporting brain health? Over and over again – the scientific research has pointed to the foods consumed when following a Paleo Diet (41, 42, 43, 44, 45, 46, 47, 48, 49, 50).

Another interesting aspect of these studies – they have highly variable results. For example, in the aforementioned study – one person lost a miraculous 60 pounds – while another gained 20. This shows the genetic variability inherent in all populations. It also illustrates that one specific diet is never going to be the solution for the entire population (51, 52, 53, 54, 55, 56, 57, 58, 59, 60).

Controlling leptin, ghrelin, blood sugar, and limiting consumption of empty calories – are all cornerstones of any healthy dietary approach. This is because scientific data has shown that these elements all quickly lead to rapid weight gain, if not properly controlled (61, 62, 63, 64, 65, 66, 67, 68, 69, 70). One fascinating study even showed that by modulating actual dopamine receptors (in this case, specifically the D2 receptors) – binge eating could be almost completely eliminated. This links in with other fascinating studies, which show that processed foods (like cookies) – may be as psychologically rewarding as hard drugs, like cocaine. It may appear shocking at first, but once the underlying neuronal circuitry is understood, there is truthfully very little difference between how the brain responds to these over-powering stimuli (71, 72, 73, 74, 75, 76, 77, 78, 79, 80).

So, is a high carb/low fat diet the holy grail to weight loss, or is the answer consuming no carbohydrates at all? As with most things, the truth lies somewhere in the middle. Moderate carbohydrate consumption (like the amount consumed in a healthy, properly implemented Paleo Diet) – seems to have the best long-term results (81, 82, 83, 84, 85, 86, 87, 88, 89, 90). This is not to say that low carbohydrate diets do not have their benefits – they do. But as Dr. Cordain has rightly pointed out, there can also be significant issues that may arise in long term implementations of ketogenic diets (91, 92, 93, 94, 95, 96, 97, 98, 99, 100).

In summary – neither approach is wrong, but carbohydrates (especially natural, low sugar forms) – are not bad. In fact, you will usually become very deficient in potassium, very quickly, if you do not consume at least some healthy carbohydrates. Of course, common sense wisdom like this (backed by strong science) – does not sell nearly as well as headlines like ‘lose 20 pounds quickly with the keto diet!’.

High quality protein, healthy fats, and low sugar carbohydrate consumption is really all you need to prioritize, to have a perfectly healthy diet. This is a simple, easy-to-remember paradigm, and it is applicable to anyone – no matter your age or gender. As always – don’t believe the hype. Carbohydrates won’t kill you, or absolutely cause you to gain weight. Sticking to whole, natural carbohydrates (which are low in sugar) is the best approach to a healthy diet. You can certainly experiment with a ketogenic diet, but it is not the only option for sustainable weight loss. For more reading on the fascinating topic of ketogenic diets, please read Dr. Cordain’s excellent piece.

References

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Media’s Botched Coverage of Long Term Weight Loss | The Paleo DietIt sounds like a gimmick, doesn’t it?

Well, it would be if the top five tips focused on pills, powders, and packaged shake mixes that often have some side effects and frequently don’t even offer lasting results.

But what if we take a more natural, soundproof approach to turning our bodies into better fat burners instead?

How do we do this?

By changing what we eat.

Some may be surprised to learn that one of the most effective strategies for getting more efficient at using fat rather than carbohydrate as our fuel is to eat more of the very thing we have been told for years to avoid:  fat.

To clarify, this is not to suggest that we should simply add fat to the diet; rather, to shift the focus away from a high carb method of eating to one garnering more of its calories from an array of natural fat sources.

A study published by the Harvard T.H. Chan’s School of Public Heath showed that “a low-carbohydrate diet may help people lose weight more quickly than a low-fat diet and may help them maintain that weight loss.”  In addition, a low-carb diet was most beneficial for lowering triglycerides – the main fat-carrying particle in the bloodstream – and also delivered the biggest boost in protective HDL cholesterol.” (1)

Trust me, not only will you begin to see the pounds come off slowly and surely, you’ll quite likely begin to enjoy your meals much more, due to how satiating fat is.

Below are my top five tips to help make the shift to eating more fat and begin the transition into being a better fat burner.


1. Up the Water

No, I’m not suggesting you take a mind-over-matter approach to your hunger by drinking water instead.  Rather, simply check in to see it the next time you’re feeling hungry, you’re actually just thirsty.  Thirst can sometimes masquerade as hunger since the same part of your brain is responsible for interpreting hunger and thirst signals (resulting in mixed signals) (2), Before reaching for a snack, it’s worth a quick check by simply having a glass or two of alkaline water to make sure that doesn’t do the trick. How much water should you be taking in? There’s no one-size fits all approach, as there are many factors that would skew one’s need for water, such as age, activity level, gender, supplements, and medications. A safer bet is to simply make sure that your urine is light straw-color.   If you actually are thirsty, that’s a clear sign you’re dehydrated. Thirst indicates you’re already about 2-3% under where you should be.   Bottoms up!


2. Reduce the Carbs- That Includes Fruit

Eating white sugar has no part in a sound approach to weight loss, or a sound approach to health, for that matter, but it’s not just white sugar we need to be concerned about.   Many people eat far more fruit than veggies, no thanks to the categorization of the two together when we get the recommendation to ‘eat fruits and veggies.’ The results is more more sugar and less fiber compared to eating abundant veggies.   Begin to reduce the number of fruits you’re consuming each day.   You may be surprised to see the need to eat as often decreases, due to how much more satisfied you are after eating!


3. Audit your Veggie intake

Let’s be honest; are you really eating enough leafy greens?    Did you know only 1 in 10 Americans eat enough? (3)   With spring in the air, this is the perfect time to head to your local farmer’s market and start to develop a relationship with the vendors of some of the most amazing bounty you’ve likley ever seen.   Tip:  Ask them for ‘how to’s’ in terms of ways to prepare veggies that you’re learning about, perhaps for the first time!


4. Up the Fat

While it does require some thinking outside, the box, adding a variety of healthy fats to the diet is really not all that radical.   Simply use a bit more coconut oil to sauté your veggies and prepare your over-easy whole eggs, or top off the meal with some sliced avocado. Little things like this can do the trick to take what might have been a low calorie and low fat meal from ‘lite’ to ‘luscious’.    Plus, it will be all the more enjoyable and you’re not going to need a snack in two hours.


5. Check your sleep

Not getting enough sleep can spoil even the most prefect eating and exercise regimes.  The Mayo Clinic reported in a study that women who slept less than six hours a night or more than nine hours were more likely to gain 11 pounds (5 kilograms) compared with women who slept seven hours per night. (4)

 

If you’re feeling skeptical about upping the fat and going against what we’ve been told for years, ask yourself one question:  how has the low fat approach been working for you so far?

If you find yourself trying to achieve a different result while following the same approach, why not try something new, rather than banging your head against the wall, trying to figure out why it’s just not working (again)?

References

1. “Low-Carbohydrate Diets.” The Nutrition Source. Harvard’s HT Chan School of Public Health, 12 Apr. 2016. Web. 07 May 2017.
2. Bruso, Jessica. “Difference Between Being Hungry and Thirsty.” LIVESTRONG.COM. Leaf Group, 13 May 2011. Web. 07 May 2017.
3. Thompson, Dennis. “Only 1 in 10 Americans Eats Enough Fruits and Veggies: CDC.” Consumer HealthDay. N.p., 09 July 2015. Web. 07 May 2017.
4. Hensrud, M.D. Donald. “Sleep and Weight Gain: What’s the Connection?” Mayo Clinic. Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research, 16 Apr. 2015. Web. 07 May 2017.

 

 

Calcium Leafy Vegetables | The Paleo Diet

More and more high-profile individuals are achieving measurable results on The Paleo Diet. These public triumphs threaten the antiquated low fat, high carbohydrate diets still officially endorsed by the government and prominent medical institutions. Accordingly, defenders of the low-fat doctrine are increasingly lashing out against the Paleo movement.

Just last month, The Wall Street Journal publicized NBA superstar Lebron James’ Paleo success, encapsulated by a viral photo posted to his Instagram account.1 This prompted NBC’s The Today Show to publish an article by Registered Dietitian Elisa Zied, in which Zied asserts, “There’s little science supporting the weight loss or health benefits of a Paleo diet.”2

According to Zied, the Paleo Diet “falls short on calcium and vitamin D,” and includes proportionally too much protein and fat and not enough carbohydrates. Paleo detractors say surprising things, but Zied’s comments are particularly fantastic. Let’s start with her vitamin D claim.

Vitamin D

Many are of the opinion the Paleo Diet is vitamin D deficient with the exclusion of milk, which is typically fortified with vitamin D. This would imply that non-Paleo Diets are vitamin D adequate only due to supplementation. After all, fortified milk is simply a food combined with a supplement. It would therefore be strange to call the Paleo diet vitamin D deficient when vitamin D supplements, if necessary, could always be added to the Paleo Diet.

According to the Institute of Medicine (IOM), we should be consuming 600 IU/day of vitamin D with an upper limit of 4,000 IU/day.3 Excluding fortified foods, the foods richest in vitamin D are fish and seafood, which, of course, are Paleo compliant. Just 100g of herring, for example has over 1,600 IU. Mackerel, sardines, salmon, trout, halibut, and shrimp are also particularly good sources.

Calcium

Others speculate the Paleo Diet also “fall short on calcium” because it excludes dairy. The IOM recommends 1,000 mg/day of calcium for adults with an upper limit of 2,500 mg. The foods highest in calcium are Paleo foods, including leafy green vegetables, herbs, and clams. A standard Paleo Diet, including plenty of leafy greens and seafood provides plenty of calcium.

Fat to Protein Ratio

In her article, Zied references a recent review of 19 studies published in PLoS, which concluded that overweight and obese people lose similar amounts of weight whether on low-carb or low-fat diets.4 But if you look at those 19 studies, one by one, the low-carb, Paleo Diets are clearly favorable. 9 of the 19 studies showed cardiovascular disease risk factors decreased on low-carb diets compared to low-fat diets. 8 of the studies suggest that low-carb and low-fat diets yield similar results, and only 2 studies, both published by the same author, suggest low-fat diets are better. Furthermore, the PLoS study did not include at least 10 additional randomized controlled trials (RCTs) comparing low-carb and low-fat diets, all of which show low-carb diets to be superior for weight loss and/or the prevention of metabolic syndrome and cardiovascular disease.5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14

The latest, recently published study, funded by the National Institutes of Health concluded, “The low-carbohydrate diet was more effective for weight loss and cardiovascular risk factor reduction than the low-fat diet. Restricting carbohydrate may be an option for persons seeking to lose weight and reduce cardiovascular risk factors.”15 Zied claims little scientific evidence supports the Paleo Diet, but in fact over 60 published studies support core aspects of the diet.

Criticisms to the Paleo Diet are consistently unscientific, which suggests these challenges are perhaps motivated by an interest in protecting the obsolete low-fat model of nutrition.

Christopher James Clark, B.B.A.
@nutrigrail
Nutritional Grail
www.ChristopherJamesClark.com

Christopher James Clark | The Paleo Diet TeamChristopher James Clark, B.B.A. is an award-winning writer, consultant, and chef with specialized knowledge in nutritional science and healing cuisine. He has a Business Administration degree from the University of Michigan and formerly worked as a revenue management analyst for a Fortune 100 company. For the past decade-plus, he has been designing menus, recipes, and food concepts for restaurants and spas, coaching private clients, teaching cooking workshops worldwide, and managing the kitchen for a renowned Greek yoga resort. Clark is the author of the critically acclaimed, award-winning book, Nutritional Grail.

References

1. Cohen, Ben. (August 18, 2014). Why LeBron James Is Suddenly Skinny. The Wall Street Journal. Retrieved September 11, 2014

2. Zied, Elisa. (August 21, 2014). Want to try LeBron James’ Paleo diet? 3 things we get wrong about carbs. Today.com. Retrieved September 11, 2014.

3. Committee to Review Dietary Reference Intakes for Vitamin D and Calcium. (November 2010). Dietary Reference Intakes for Calcium and Vitamin D. Institute of Medicine. Retrieved September 11, 2014.

4. Cameron, W. (July 2014). Low Carbohydrate versus Isoenergetic Balanced Diets for Reducing Weight and Cardiovascular Risk: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis. PloS One, 9(7). Retrieved September 11, 2014.

5. Guldbrand, H., et al. (August 2012). In type 2 diabetes, randomisation to advice to follow a low-carbohydrate diet transiently improves glycaemic control compared with advice to follow a low-fat diet producing a similar weight loss. Diabetologia, 55(8). Retrieved September 11, 2014.

6. Volek, J., et al. (April 2009). Carbohydrate Restriction has a More Favorable Impact on the Metabolic Syndrome than a Low Fat Diet. Lipids, 44(4). Retrieved September 11, 2014.

7. Shai, I., et al. (July 2008). Weight Loss with a Low-Carbohydrate, Mediterranean, or Low-Fat Diet. New England Journal of Medicine, 359(3). Retrieved September 11, 2014.

8. Gardener, C., et al. (March 2007). Comparison of the Atkins, Zone, Ornish, and LEARN Diets for Change in Weight and Related Risk Factors Among Overweight Premenopausal WomenThe A TO Z Weight Loss Study: A Randomized Trial. Journal of the American Medical Association, 297(9). Retrieved September 11, 2014.

9. Daly, ME., et al. (January 2006). Short-term effects of severe dietary carbohydrate-restriction advice in Type 2 diabetes—a randomized controlled trial. Diabetic Medicine, 23(1). Retrieved September 11, 2014.

10. Volek, J., et al. (2004). Comparison of energy-restricted very low-carbohydrate and low-fat diets on weight loss and body composition in overweight men and women. Nutrition Metabolism, 1(13). Retrieved September 11, 2014.

11. Yancy, W. et al. (May 2004). A Low-Carbohydrate, Ketogenic Diet versus a Low-Fat Diet To Treat Obesity and Hyperlipidemia: A Randomized, Controlled Trial. Annals of Internal Medicine, 140(10). Retrieved September 11, 2014.

12. Brehm, B., et al. (July 2013). A Randomized Trial Comparing a Very Low Carbohydrate Diet and a Calorie-Restricted Low Fat Diet on Body Weight and Cardiovascular Risk Factors in Healthy Women. Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism, 88(4). Retrieved September 11, 2014.

13. Sondike, S., et al. (March 2003). Effects of a low-carbohydrate diet on weight loss and cardiovascular risk factor in overweight adolescents. Journal of Pediatrics, 142(3). Retrieved September 11, 2014.

14. Bazzano, et al. (September 2, 2014). Effects of Low-Carbohydrate and Low-Fat Diets: A Randomized Trial. Annals of Internal Medicine, 161(5). Retrieved September 11, 2014.

15. Ibid, Bazzano.

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