Low Carb means High Fat, not High Protein

October 01, 2011

Why so many nutritionists and registered dietitians don't know this is a mystery. And the removal of most carbohydrates from our diets would come as close to a cure for virtually all symptoms of what's called the metabolic syndrome as you can get.

There is an idea floating around that a low carb diet is a high protein diet. I have clients say this to me all the time. But as far as I know, no low carb guru has ever said such a thing. As I see it, many newbie low-carbers think this because of their fear of fat. They cut the carbs but simultaneously cut out as much fat as possible assuming it's healthier to eat that way. They'll buy lean meats, fat free cottage cheese, yogurt, etc.

Big mistake.

I find it surprisingly easy to persuade people to cut down on their sugar and starch intake to lose fat and get healthier, but impossibly difficult if not virtually impossible to persuade people to replace the calories with fat - even the good fats.

Virtually every client I talk to is completely brainwashed about the subject. The "fat-is-evil" torch was lit by Dr. Ancel Keys and is being kept aflame by Dr. Oz, Ornish, McDougall, Esselstyn and a host of others who mistakenly lump fat in with processed carbs. They'll shun a fatty cheeseburger blaming the fat in the meat and cheese rather than the bun that encompasses it - or even the combination of all of it. Researchers make this blunder all the time (emphasis mine):

Study design
Subjects were asked to avoid alcohol, caffeine, and strenuous exercise for 24 h and antioxidants and vitamins for 1 wk before the studies. Subjects presented at 0800 h after a 12 h fast on two occasions, separated by at least 4 d. Subjects were provided with a high-fat meal or water control (50 ml/h of room temperature water) in random order. The meal consisted of a bacon and egg muffin, two hash browns, and caramel-flavored milk drink [4136 kJ: 57.5 g fat (19.8% saturated), 35 g protein, and 83 g carbohydrate].

See what I mean? Why call this a high fat meal? If the outcome of a study feeding people this fare is good or bad, you can't pin it on the fat now, can ya?

Here is what Dr. McDougall suggests you eat. These are his products. Yes doctor, we should all be eating your wonderful, processed food products:

Yummy real foods from nature!

But we should steer clear of these nasty foods made from actual living things:

Real food

OK that was a little snarky.

Anyway, too little fat in your diet is bad for many reasons. You need fats to help absorb vitamins and minerals. You need fats for proper hormone production. There is even some evidence that too little saturated fatty acid levels can lead to Alzheimer's.

And then there's nasty old protein poisoning. This condition, also known as Rabbit Starvation, occurs not from too much protein, but too much lean protein (and perhaps other conditions as well). You can read about this here.

From the Wiki page:

Vilhjalmur Stefansson wrote as follows:
The groups that depend on the blubber animals are the most fortunate in the hunting way of life, for they never suffer from fat-hunger. This trouble is worst, so far as North America is concerned, among those forest Indians who depend at times on rabbits, the leanest animal in the North, and who develop the extreme fat-hunger known as rabbit-starvation. Rabbit eaters, if they have no fat from another source—beaver, moose, fish—will develop diarrhoea in about a week, with headache, lassitude and vague discomfort. If there are enough rabbits, the people eat till their stomachs are distended; but no matter how much they eat they feel unsatisfied. Some think a man will die sooner if he eats continually of fat-free meat than if he eats nothing, but this is a belief on which sufficient evidence for a decision has not been gathered in the North. Deaths from rabbit-starvation, or from the eating of other skinny meat, are rare; for everyone understands the principle, and any possible preventive steps are naturally taken.

Fat in your protein is essential in other words. I think this is one reason why many who adopt a low carb diet find themselves feeling a little funky.

Before I move on, take a look at these low carb myths from the Nutrition and Metabolism Society (which everyone who reads this blog should join if you really want folks like the ADA and the AHA to either vanish or start getting with the scientific program).

Did you learn anything useful reading this page? I sure do hope so. I did in re-reading it, that's for sure.

So when adopting a low carb diet for health and fat loss, make sure to make your protein choices fatty and adequate. If you do, satiety will be high. Think about it - how many eggs can one really eat in one sitting? I'm 5'10" and 160 pounds and at best I can eat 4 eggs at one time.

Now sing a long with me: "A spoon full of butter helps the medicine go down, the medicine go dow-own, medicine go down. Just a spoonful of butter helps the medicine go down, in the most delightful way..."

Sounds better, right?