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6 Reasons To Stop Calling Low-Carb A “Fad” Diet

6 Reasons To Stop Calling Low-Carb A “Fad” Diet

Crash weight loss diets that enjoy short-term popularity are often referred to as fad diets.

However… this term seems to have lost its meaning.

It has basically just become a term of abuse for any diet that someone disagrees with.

Surprisingly, the low-carb diet is often called a “fad,” usually by people who don’t approve of the diet for some reason.

But I personally think it is unfair to put low-carb in the same category as the Cabbage Soup Diet or the Morning Banana Diet.

This diet (or “way of eating”) has been around for a very long time and has strong scientific evidence to back it up (123).

Here are 6 reasons to stop calling low-carb a “fad” diet.

1. It Has Been Around For at Least One and a Half Century

Meat

“Fads” come and go… but low-carb diets have been popular for a long time.

Since way before saturated fat was demonized, low-carb diets were commonly used for the purpose of weight loss.

The world’s first popular diet book was called Letter on Corpulence, published in the year 1863 by an obese English man named William Banting.

In this book, he outlines a low-carb diet that had been prescribed to him by his physician, but many doctors were using low-carb diets to treat obesity at this time.

Only when people started blaming saturated fat and dietary cholesterol for heart disease (which was misguided) did low-carb diets fall out of mainstream favour.

Bottom Line: The first popular low-carb book was published in 1863 and low-carb diets were used by many physicians as early as the 19th century.

2. Atkins’s First Book Was Published in 1972, Way Before The Low-Fat Guidelines Came Out

Fish

For decades, we’ve been told to eat a “balanced” low-fat diet.

This diet is low in saturated fat, but high in carbohydrates.

Although it was originally based on weak evidence, it became public policy in the year 1977 with the release of the first set of dietary guidelines for Americans (4).

A similar diet is now recommended all over the world and the recommendations have barely changed since then.

Even though promoters of the low-fat diet like to dismiss low-carb as a “fad,” the first Atkins book was actually published in the year 1972… 5 years before the low-fat guidelines first came out.

Dr. Robert Atkins, arguably the most famous diet book author in history, had lost weight himself using the diet and had been using it on his patients for many years before writing the book.

He originally learned about the diet in a scientific paper written by a physician named Alfred Pennington, published in the Journal of The American Medical Association back in 1963… 14 years before the low-fat guidelines (5).

If “fad” implies something temporary, then we might just as well call the standard low-fat diet a fad. It is rapidly falling out of favour, based on high quality, long-term studies showing that it clearly does not work (67891011).

Bottom Line: The first Atkins book was published in 1972, based on a scientific study that Dr. Atkins read about low-carb diets back in 1963. This happened way before the first official low-fat guidelines were published.

3. Entire Populations Have Thrived on Such a Diet, in Excellent Health

Modern Eskimo Man

There are several examples of populations that have eaten very little carbs, but remained in good health.

Two of the most notable ones are the Inuit and the Masai.

The Inuit lived in the arctic regions of North America and Greenland, where very little plant food was available year-round.

They ate almost nothing but animal foods, but were in excellent health (1213).

The Masai in Africa also ate a low-carb, high-fat diet, mostly from meat, milk and cow’s blood. When they were studied, researchers noted that they were in excellent health as long as they ate their traditional diet (14).

Bottom Line: There are several examples of entire populations living on a low-carb, high-fat diet in excellent health for many generations. Two notable examples are the Inuit and the Masai. (Note: those examples are animal-based, but many low-carb diets are plant-based and healthy).

4. More Than 20 Randomized Controlled Trials Have Been Published

A lot of people claim that low-carb diets haven’t been shown to be safe and effective.

Hungry Woman With Knife and Fork

13 years ago, this may have been true.

But since the year 2002, over 20 randomized controlled trials have been published in respected, peer-reviewed journal.

Not a single serious adverse effect has ever been attributed to the diet.

Not only that… but these studies also show that low-carb diets lead to better results than the low-fat diet still recommended by the mainstream.

Low-carb leads to more weight loss, especially from the abdominal cavity (the dangerous visceral fat). It also significantly improves HDL cholesterol, triglycerides, blood sugar, insulin levels and blood pressure (1516171819).

This diet also changes the size of LDL particles from small, dense to Large… and tends to reduce LDL particle number (all good things). LDL and Total cholesterol levels do not increase, on average, although some individuals may see increases (20,21).

The truth is, few things in nutrition have been demonstrated as thoroughly as the superiority of low-carb diets.

Bottom Line: Over 20 randomized controlled trials have demonstrated that low-carb diets are both safe and effective. They lead to more weight loss and greater improvements in health markers than the low-fat diet.

5. People Are Able to Stick to it Better Than The Low-Fat Diet

Woman Standing on The Scale, Frustrated

Some people claim that low-carb diets are unsustainable.

The reason, they say, is that cutting out food groups will lead to feelings of deprivation.

However… it’s important to keep in mind that all diets restrict something, either food groups or calories.

Restricting calories is just as likely to lead to feelings of deprivation as restricting food groups.

That being said, most of the controlled trials comparing low-carb and low-fat diets did report the number of people who made it all the way to the end of the study.

These studies clearly showed that there is no huge difference between groups. If anything, more people in the low-carb groups manage to finish.

One plausible explanation for this is that low-carb diets significantly reduce appetite and lead to automatic calorie restriction (22).

This is the reason the low-carb groups are usually allowed to eat until fullness in these studies, while the low-fat groups are calorie restricted and hungry.

Bottom Line: Low-carb diets tend to reduce the appetite, so people can often eat until fullness and still lose weight. This may be the reason that they appear to be even easier to stick to than low-fat diets.

6. Many Health Professionals Use Them in Their Practice

Older Male Doctor

Many health professionals use low-carb diets on their patients.

This is not surprising, given the immense amount of evidence that has accumulated in recent years.

I’ve previously written about 17 doctors and 11 registered dietitians that not only use low-carb and/or paleo diets in their practice, but are actively blogging about it.

Since writing these articles, I have found numerous others… and for each one that starts a blog, you can assume that many more are using the diet in their practice.

Although low-carb diets are clearly not necessary for everyone, studies have shown them to be very effective against certain diseases.

This includes obesity, type 2 diabetes and metabolic syndrome… which happen to be the biggest health problems in the world.

It is simply inexcusable to dismiss this potential cure as a “fad” – then continue to promote a low-fat diet that science has shown to be completely ineffective.

Written by Kris Gunnars, Authority Nutrition.

Read more: Diet & Nutrition, Eating for Health, Food, , , , , ,

Photo Credit: Thinkstock

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Kris Gunnars represents AuthorityNutrition.com – a site that helps people make informed decisions about their health based on the best scientific evidence available.

97 comments

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3:07AM PDT on Sep 22, 2014

Thank you :)

3:48AM PDT on Sep 20, 2014

Thank you :)

2:56AM PDT on Jul 30, 2014

Thank you!

2:02AM PDT on Jul 30, 2014

ty

10:42AM PDT on Jul 29, 2014

Evolution, Anatomy, and Proper Nutrition

Article by Dr. John McDougall

Evolution in the animal kingdom dates back hundreds of millions of years, with the development of upright-standing humanoids beginning over four million years ago. The ancestors of modern humans were believed to live almost exclusively on plant foods—wild fruits, leaves, roots, and other high-quality plant parts—with very few animal foods in their daily diet. These prehumans ate like our nearest primate relatives, the apes of today.

A recent publication in the journal Nature reported that of the three billion genes that make up humans and chimpanzees, 96 percent are identical — demonstrating our genetic similarity. Our common genetic ancestor of six million years ago undoubtedly lived primarily on a vegetarian diet, as we should.

Given this connection between humans and our closest relatives, the apes, let’s look at the dietary makeup of these primates. Most apes living today eat essentially as vegetarians. They consume a diet of fruits, leaves, flowers, and bark, with sporadic consumption of very small amounts of insect material (like termites) and, less commonly, small animals. Our anatomical and physiological features, so closely resembling those of the chimpanzee, are clear indicators of the types of foods that should comprise our diet today.

10:41AM PDT on Jul 29, 2014

Dr. John McDougall

What Anatomy Says about Nutrition

Our teeth are designed for processing starches, fruits, and vegetables — not for tearing and chewing flesh. What many refer to as our “canine teeth” are nothing at all like the sharp blades of true carnivores designed for processing meat. The lower jaw of a meat-eating animal has very little capacity for side-to-side motion. It is fixed only to open and close, which adds strength and stability to its powerful bite. Like those of other plant-eating animals, the human jaw can open and close as well as move forward and backward and side-to-side. This is an ideal range of motion for biting off pieces of plant matter and then grinding them into smaller pieces with our flat molars.

On the tips of our tongues are sensors that are designed to seek out sweet-tasting foods — carbohydrates (sugars). While plant foods are loaded with carbohydrates, there are essentially none of these sweet-tasting substances in red meat, poultry, fish, shellfish, eggs, or cheese. By contrast, the tongue of a carnivore does not have sensors for carbohydrates; instead, carnivores have taste buds that are pleasantly stimulated by animal proteins (aminos). Omnivores, like dogs, have retained taste buds for both proteins and sugars.

10:40AM PDT on Jul 29, 2014

Dr. John McDougall

What Our Digestive System Says about Nutrition

From top to bottom, our digestive system has evolved to efficiently process plant foods. Digestion begins in the mouth with a salivary enzyme called alpha-amylase (ptyalin), whose sole purpose is to help break down complex carbohydrates from plant foods into simple sugars. There are no carbohydrates in meats of any kind (except for a smidgen of glycogen), so a true carnivore has no need for this enzyme — their salivary glands do not synthesize alpha-amylase. The stomach juices of a meat-eating animal are very concentrated in acid in order to efficiently break down the large quantities of muscle and bone materials ingested by these carnivores. In people and other plant-eaters, digestion of starches, vegetables, and fruits is accomplished efficiently with much lower concentrations of stomach acid.

The human intestine is long and coiled, much like that of apes, cows, and horses. This configuration makes digestion slow, allowing time to break down and absorb the nutrients from plant foods. The intestine of a carnivore, like a cat, is short, straight, and tubular. This allows for very rapid digestion of flesh and excretion of the remnants quickly, before they putrefy (rot). There are also marked sacculations (many sac-like enlargements that bulge out along our large intestine), like those found in all apes, which strongly support the view that we are primarily plant-eating animals. Overall, the intesti

10:39AM PDT on Jul 29, 2014

Dr. John McDougall

Cholesterol Overwhelms a Plant-Eater’s Liver

It is no secret that cholesterol is harmful to the human body. What is not widely known is that cholesterol is found only in animal foods—not a bit in plant foods. The liver and biliary system of a meat-eating animal has an unlimited capacity to process and excrete cholesterol from its body. For example, you can feed a dog or cat pure egg yolks all day long, and they will excrete all of it, never suffering from a buildup of cholesterol. On the other hand, humans (like other plant-eating animals) have livers with very limited capacities for cholesterol removal. As a result, most people have great difficulty eliminating the amounts of cholesterol they take in from eating animal products. What appears to be an “inefficiency” of our livers is actually a result of our evolutionary design.

We were made to consume plant foods (containing no cholesterol); therefore, we have never required a highly efficient cholesterol-eliminating biliary system. The resulting cholesterol buildup from eating red meat, poultry, fish, shellfish, eggs, and dairy foods causes deposits to form in the arteries (atherosclerosis) as well as in the skin under the eyes (xanthelasma) and in the tendons. Bile supersaturated with cholesterol forms gallstones (over 95 percent of gallstones are made of cholesterol), a condition that affects about half of all middle-aged women who consume a typical Western diet.

10:38AM PDT on Jul 29, 2014

Dr. John McDougall

Our Bodies Need Plant Nutrients

Vitamins are essential micronutrients that cannot be synthesized by the body and must be obtained in the food we consume. Since plants, plentiful in vitamin C (ascorbic acid), have always been a reliable part of our diet, we have lost the ability to synthesize (make our own) ascorbic acid. Thus this substance is a necessary nutrient—vitamin—for humans. Because ascorbic acid has not been reliably available to primarily meat-eating animals, they have retained the ability to manufacture their own ascorbic acid from the basic raw materials found in their meat diet. This is just one of many examples of the metabolic processes and nutritional needs that clearly say our bodies are designed to thrive on a diet of plant foods.

10:37AM PDT on Jul 29, 2014

Dr. John McDougall

Our Instincts Are for Plants

While many individuals react adversely to the thought of consuming fresh meat (especially something unfamiliar, such as kangaroo, rat, or cat), most do not have a negative reaction to any fruits and vegetables, even when unfamiliar. Imagine if I were to ask you to try an unknown “star fruit” from the tropics for the first time. You would try it and enjoy it without hesitation. Why? Because your natural instincts cause you to be drawn to fruits and vegetables. These foods are your body’s natural fuel source, and your brain is hardwired to know that.

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