Updated: Jul 29, 2019
7. Low Fat
A macronutrient is a food required in fairly large amounts in our human diet. There are only 3 macronutrients that are commonly considered:
Carbs (includes sugars)
Low Fat Recommendations - success or failure?
Low fat diets make you hungry and keep you hungry for a couple of reasons, the main one being that if your diet is “low fat” then it is most likely high in carbs. The exception is the “Atkins” type diet which is a high protein diet, I will be discussing the benefits and downfalls of a high protein diet next week. The other main issue with a low-fat diet is that many people on this diet eat loads of processed carbs that are high in short-term calories but low in nutrients.
Harvard - Prof. David Ludwig
David Ludwig is a Harvard professor of nutrition and Pediatrician. At a high level, he explains the carbohydrate conundrum quite well:
“The low fat/high carbohydrate diet we’ve been told to eat for 40 years has raised insulin levels, triggering fats cells to hoard too many calories. As a result, there are too few calories in the blood stream and available to fuel the needs of the rest of the body. Our brain recognizes this problem and takes measures to save energy – so we get hungry, metabolism slows down, and we gain weight. Cutting back on calories only makes this situation worse, creating a battle between mind and metabolism we’re destined to lose.”
Dr. Ludwig’s “Always Hungry” program aims to address the cause, not the symptoms, of weight gain at the source – fat cells stuck in calorie storage overdrive. Using a diet and lifestyle support to lower insulin levels and calm chronic inflammation, fat cells can be reprogrammed to release their excess calorie reserves. When this happens, calories flood back into the blood stream, hunger decreases, metabolism speeds up, and you lose weight without the struggle.
Reducing fast acting carbohydrates, such as high glycemic index carbs, is the quickest and easiest way to lower insulin levels, which directs calories from fat storage, to muscle to be used for energy. To demonstrate this effect, consider what happens with laboratory animals given insulin injections. Their fat cells begin to take up extra calories, they get hungry, they overeat, and they gain weight. But if you restrict the food intake of these animals to prevent weight gain but continue to feed them with high glycemic carbs, they still accumulate excessive fat or, if they are allowed to move, increase their insulin - thus their diabetic condition.
When Dr. Ludwig was asked what foods he promoted, he answered: The diet is the opposite of low calorie/low fat. You’ll have nuts and nut butters, full fat dairy, rich sauces and spreads, savory proteins and natural carbohydrates.
1. D is a healthcare insurance broker and athlete. He is currently in his mid fifties, exercises daily and does both endurance and performance cycling along with weight lifting. Over the past 20 years he has had a dozen surgeries for injuries and admits to recovering very slowly. More importantly to him, he has hit a performance plateau.
2. J is a beautiful young lady who, at the age of 33, could NOT fast long enough to get a “fasting” blood draw at 8am. She would show classic symptoms of hypoglycemia - with “hangry” being the most impactful symptom - at least for her family. Interestingly, J was not overweight, was running 5 miles each day and up to 12 miles on each weekend day. She was suffering from knee and shoulder pain that she was “working through” with lots of ibuprofen. Breakfast was always a heap of oatmeal with skim milk and lots of raisins. Despite all her activity, she was most likely a type-2 diabetic but, since she couldn’t get her blood drawn, she didn’t know for sure - except that her symptoms were classic for this condition.
So, what went wrong with the active and seemingly healthy individuals in these case studies?
Exercise is important for everyone. It boosts circulation, immunity, repair, and helps burn some extra calories. However, exercise is also an inflammatory process. When you exercise a muscle, you actually break down that muscle, creating inflammation, and as your body responds to the inflammation, it rebuilds the tissue stronger than it was before. The high carb / low fat diet of these people also created inflammation by causing spikes in their insulin, thus glucose levels. Glucose is a very important molecule to our bodies, just like gasoline is to our car engines. However, too much of a good thing actually creates inflammation. The high calorie demands of exercise causes each of these people to eat more carbs and proteins that resulted in many spikes in insulin and glucose - creating insulin resistance. Diabetes is essentially severe insulin resistance.
Insulin resistance increases inflammation and slows repair and recovery. Since exercise and insulin resistance are both inflammatory, these athletes were constantly suffering an excess of inflammation - as if they were ultra athletes. Their bodies, although healthy in some aspects, were slowly losing the battle of repair and recovery - thus the slow recovery, sub-par performance, chronic pain, and even tissue and joint deterioration leading to surgeries.
J, in case study 2. has made significant dietary changes. She is now on a high fat, modest protein, low carb, and high nutrient density diet - with intermittent fasting and dessert thrown in without guilt. She recently went on a 12-mile hike in the Smokies to the top of Mt. Leconte without breakfast or lunch. She only carried plenty of mineralized water. Her first food was at 3pm after the hike - an Indian buffet.
J is now what our ancestors were in the past - able to "hunt and gather." They didn't get up and have a big meal - they searched for it. How long would J have survived back in that era if she couldn't make it until 8am without a meal?
Thirty years ago, I belonged to both a cycling and trail running club. The majority of these people, 30 years later, have had knee, hip and other joint surgeries to repair degeneration. The common denominator in these cases was a high carb and carb-loading diet coupled with long term rigorous and often excessive exercise.
The point made here is the low-fat, high carb is not only wrong for individuals who are morbidly obese and type 2 diabetics; but It is wrong for anyone who is concerned about chronic diseases. The majority of these diseases are triggered by inflammation and your body’s ability to repair and recover. The high carb / low fat diet drives inflammation and reduces repair and recovery no matter who you are.
Point to Ponder: Like people, not all fats are bad. Trans fats are bad and ANYTHING in excess is often harmful - "the dose makes the poison." Consume lots of healthy fats and you will seek significant health improvements in 6 months reflected in both your blood lab values and the way you feel.
Finally: Consider watching the following video for clarification and confirmation: https://youtu.be/KHaCKudtVi0
Use results - not advice - as the basis of your decisions. The low-fat advice has failed!