A High fat diet?!

Today’s blog is about the low carbohydrate and high fat diet. It sounds strange doesn’t it? Why high fat? Won’t it make you fat? Isn’t fat bad for your heart? Well read on and find the benefits and truth to the myths around fat.

What is the LCHF diet?

Firstly a bit of background information on the low carbohydrate high fat (LCHF) diet…You eat more natural fats such as butter, nuts, meat, fish, eggs and above ground growing vegetables; but avoid sugar and starchy foods such as bread, pasta, rice, potatoes etc. Please note you do not cut out any energy source, for example the atkins diet cut out carbohydrates and increases protein which causes a lot of issues such as lack of energy headaches etc. You eat as much as you want until you are satisfied, but keeping carbs to less than 20g-50g a day (but not including sugar or starch!) So no calorie counting wahoo! For more details on the diet take a look at the link below in the reference section (1).

Testimonial

My husband, David, started the LCHF diet about 2 months ago. He so far reports to a weight loss of a stone (14lbs), feeling more energetic, better skin and scalp condition, feels more focused/concentrated, has better bowel movement, feels less hungry and more satisfied and finds he doesn’t think about food as much. Initially he had bad headaches but that didn’t last long (1-2 days). David explains, “the hardest part of the diet is the psychological part. Being told constantly that fat is bad for you and that it causes heart attack worries you. But once you know that’s not the case, it makes it easier.” If you type in LCHF diet in youtube you will see many people commenting on the benefits of this diet.

Scientific research behind the LCHF diet

Being a Personal Trainer and having done Sport Science at university; I am always very sceptical on any new diets, exercises or healthy regimes! Being brainwashed for years of how we need more starchy foods and low fat, I first thought this diet was another fad diet and was worried for my husband’s health. But looking at science journals, reviews and tests I still can not get my head around it! Here is my attempt to brief you of some of the scientific studies around the low carb high fat diet.

  • The NHS says that having a large amount of visceral fat (unhealthy fat around the abdomen/tummy), means you’re more likely to have health problems such as type 2 diabetes and heart problems (2). Aude et al (2004) found that the LCHF diet significantly decreased subject’s waist to hip ratio (less visceral fat) (3).
  • 21 out of 23 Journals which compare low CARB diets to low FAT diets, found those pn the low carb diet lost 2-3 times more weight than those on a low fat diet (4), see graph below.

Weight Loss on Low-Carb and Low-Fat Diets, Smaller

  • In most of the studies mentioned in the last point, the low carb diets were NOT restricted in the amount of calories they could eat but those on low fat were!
  • High density lipoproteins (HDL) carries cholesterol to and from cells. It repairs or cleans blood vessel walls (preventing heart attacks and strokes). Therefore having high levels of HDL reduces our risk of heart attacks and strokes but lower levels of HDL increases the risks. A low carb high fat diet has found to RAISE HDL levels, reducing the risks! Whereas low fat diets don’t affect HDL levels or in some cases can make the levels go down. Hudgens (2000) (5a)
  • We want to lower our triglycerides (type of fat found in our blood) to reduce the risk of metabolic syndrome. A low carb diet reduces our triglycerides better than a low fat diet. In fact a low fat diet actually increases our fatty acid production according to Hudgens et al (2000) (5b).
  • Westman (2008) (6a) and Yancy et al (2005) (6b) has found that a low carb high fat diet lead to subjects who had obesity and type 2 diabetes to improvements in glycemic control and diabetic medication was reduced or eliminated! It reversed type 2 diabetes! (If considering this diet and you are diabetic please speak to a dietician and your GP first to discuss help in adjusting your medication)
  • Nickols-Richardson et al (2005) (7) found that a low carb diet reduces hunger. And McClernon (2007) (8) also found hunger was lower in those following a low carb high fat diet compared to a low fat diet.
  • NONE of the studies have found ANY serious or adverse effects to health caused by the diet.

What does this mean for me now?

Neither saturated fat or cholesterol have been proven to cause harm. Harvard University (2014) (9), Siri-Tarino (2010) (10), Hoenselaar (2012) (11) are just a couple of studies that show fat does not have a link to increased risk of heart disease! Basically fat is not bad! The NHS are aware of the fact that fat doesn’t cause heart disease yet they still recommend a low fat diet (12)!? This LCHF diet isn’t for everyone due to the practicallity of it and further research is to be done. Maybe it’s not that fat is awesome and that carbs are bad, it could be to do with the mixture of fat and carbs/sugar? Again lots more research is required but one thing we know is too much sugar and processed foods are bad, too much fat isn’t bad and does NOT cause heart attacks. But we still need to be wary of the long term affects of following this diet as many studies were not carried out longer than 12 months.

High-fatVSHighc-carb

My suggestion to you is reduce your carbohydrate levels especially sugary and starchy foods. Don’t be as worried for buying ‘full fat’ versions of milk, cream etc. Increase your vegetables and find foods that are filling but nutritious. But the one main thing to you is this..STAY AWAY FROM LOW FAT DIETS(13)!

Healthy regards,

Leigh Scott x

References

1. http://www.dietdoctor.com/lchf

2. http://www.nhs.uk/Livewell/loseweight/Pages/Appleorpear.aspx

3. http://archinte.jamanetwork.com/article.aspx?articleid=217514

4. Gunnar (2013) http://authoritynutrition.com/23-studies-on-low-carb-and-low-fat-diets/

5a. Hudgens (2000) http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/11082210

5b. Hudgens et al (2000) Thus, eucaloric, solid food diets which are very low in fat and high in simple sugars markedly stimulate fatty acid synthesis from carbohydrate

6a. Westman (2008) http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19099589

6b. Yancy et al (2005) http://www.nutritionandmetabolism.com/content/2/1/34

7. Nickols-Richardson et al (2005) http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S000282230501151X

8. McClernon (2007) http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17228046

9. Harvard University (2014) http://www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/2014/03/19/dietary-fat-and-heart-disease-study-is-seriously-misleading/

10.  Siri-Tarino (2010) http://ajcn.nutrition.org/content/early/2010/01/13/ajcn.2009.27725.abstract

11. Hoenselaar (2012) http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0899900711003145#

12. http://www.nhs.uk/news/2014/03march/pages/saturated-fats-and-heart-disease-link-unproven.aspx

13. http://authoritynutrition.com/7-reasons-to-choose-low-carb-over-low-fat/

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