I have spent a few days watching lectures from various low-carb-healthy-fat meetings. There is an impressive amount of solid clinical data to support Very Low Carb (with healthy fat) diets to treat obesity, insulin resistance, diabetes, pre-diabetes, metabolic syndrome, and seizure disorders. Eric Westman MD, author, Associate Professor of Medicine, Past Chairman of the Obesity Medicine Association, and director of Duke University Lifestyle Medical Clinic gave an impassioned and authoritative talk on the success of LCHF in treating all of these disorders here.
Dr. Steven Phinney, Professor Emeritus UC Davis and presently Chief Medical Officer for VIRTA has given numerous talks on the beneficial effects of a ketogenic diet. He and Jeff Volek Ph.D. have done research for decades on the physiology of low carbohydrate diets. They elucidated the changes that occur in high level athletes as they adapt to burning fat as their major fuel source during and after a period of “fat adaptation”. It turns out that endurance athletes, after a period of 1 to 3 months of adaptation to a low carb-high fat diet (variable from person to person) perform at equal or higher levels as compared to their performance when previously on a high carbohydrate diet. In fact, because lean athletes have much greater energy stored in fat as compared to glycogen (carbohydrate) they can go for many hours longer than an athlete who is dependent on carbohydrate metabolism (not fat adapted). Glycogen is the starch source of energy that humans store in the liver (100 grams) and in muscle (400 grams). Compared to glycogen, fat stores in lean individuals, including buff athletes, can provide more than 10 times the amount of energy. Endurance athletes who are keto-adapted (fat burners) can ride a bike all day or run an ultra-marathon (100 miles) without taking in any energy source. (They must of course replace fluid and electrolytes). Whereas athletes who have followed a traditional high carb diet must start consuming calories after about 3 hours of moderate-high intensity exercise. Doctors Phinney and Volek have done clinical research on humans with obesity, pre-diabetes and diabetes and they have demonstrated superior results when compared to any other dietary approach.
You can learn about their work here:
So what is this all about? If carbohydrates are restricted to very low levels and instead we consume (healthy) fat as our major source of energy with moderate amounts of protein, then the human body starts to burn fat. This process results in the production of ketones (in the liver) which serve not only as a source of energy but also act as “signaling” molecules that turn on beneficial genes that fight inflammation and turn off genes that produce inflammation. When a well formulated ketogenic diet is followed under medical supervision, diabetics can often get off most or all of their diabetes medications within weeks to months as they lose weight. Improvements are seen quickly in blood pressure, fasting blood sugar, liver function tests, insulin sensitivity, inflammatory markers, subjective energy levels, mental clarity and mood. Triglycerides are reduced, HDL increases, and improvements are seen in the “atherogenic profile” with reductions in small dense LDL particles with a shift to large buoyant LDL particles. On a ketogenic diet humans spontaneously consume lower caloric intake because fat and protein are more satiating compared to carbohydrate. Circulating saturated fat in the blood DECREASES on a keto-genic diet. Refined carbohydrates and sugar (so prevalent in processed foods) produce increased circulating fat in the blood and increased fat storage throughout the body, often leading to fatty liver disease and the long list of chronic diseases caused by and associated with insulin resistance.
A ketogenic diet is also part of Dr. Dale Bredesen’s effective treatment program for early dementia (ReCoDe-Reversal of Cognitive Decline). I have discussed Dr. Bredesen’s approach before. Here is one of his discussions.
You can read Dr. Bredesen’s report of 100 patients who have reversed cognitive decline using a ketogenic diet as PART of the ReCoDe program here.
So what are the healthy fats in a low carb high fat diet?
They include fats found in whole foods such as nuts and avocados, pasture raised animals free of hormones and antibiotics, free range poultry and eggs, wild fish and seafood (avoiding large fish that have high mercury levels), extra virgin olive oil, avocado oil, butter from pastured grass-fed animals, and coconut oil. (yes butter is included despite that fact that strict paleo excludes dairy)
You should avoid all of the processed/refined oils that come from seeds, grains and legumes including soy oil, corn oil, cottonseed oil, canola oil, safflower oil, sunflower oil, sesame oil. You can learn why these (misnamed) “vegetable oils” are dangerous and how they were marketed to an unwitting public with the help and support of faulty science by listening to Nina Teicholz here:
There are many great lectures about the low-carb-high-fat ketogenic diet in addressing obesity, insulin resistance, pre-diabetes, metabolic syndrome, diabetes, seizures and more. Go to youtube and search “keto diet”, “low carb high fat”.
Before I sign off I will provide one more link:
Remember, this website offers educational information only. Consult your health care provider for medical advice.
Sleep well, exercise outdoors, laugh, love, engage in meaningful work, drink filtered water, eat clean, eat whole foods, get plenty of sunshine, spend time with those you love.