ketogenic and Paleo diets aid weight loss

Dietary fat has long been blamed for causing obesity, but experts now say high-fat, low carb diets such as the Paleo, Atkins and ketogenic plans beat low-fat diets for weight loss because eating fat can make you skinny.

“The medical establishment got it wrong,” cardiologist Dr. Dennis Goodman told Men’s Journal. “The belief system didn’t pan out.” According to a recent study from the National Institutes of Health, low carb, high-fat diets (LCHF) are significantly more effective for weight loss and preventing heart disease than low-fat diets.

Researchers at Tulane University tracked 148 obese men and women for one year. The subjects ranged in age from 22 to 75 and did not have heart disease or diabetes. The participants were divided into two groups: One group followed a low-carb, high-fat diet that limited their daily carbohydrate consumption to about 40 grams, or 28 percent of their daily calories.

The low-carb dieters consumed about 40 to 43 percent of their daily calories from fat. Their daily menu was similar to the Paleo, ketogenic and Atkins diets, and included eggs, butter, fish, chicken and some red meat and generous portions of healthy fats such as olive oil.

In contrast, the low-fat group consumed 40 to 55 percent of their daily calories from carbohydrates, and their fat intake was limited to less than 30 percent.

Low-Carb Dieters Lost Three Times More Weight Than Low-Fat Group

The results were stunning: The low carb dieters lost about 12 pounds, while the low-fat dieters lost only four pounds even though both groups consumed the same calories. What’s more, the low carbohydrate dieters lost more body fat and scored better than on a test that measured their chances of suffering a heart attack or stroke within the next 10 years.

Physician Dr. Lydia Bazzano, the lead study author, was stunned that a low-carb, high-fat diet could prevent heart disease better than a low fat diet, which has long been prescribed for heart patients.

These results aren’t surprising to Jeff Volek, a leading low-carb researcher and professor at Ohio State University. Volek said high-carb diets cause blood sugar spikes, which fuel inflammation. Inflammation is what causes weight gain, as well as diabetes and cancer.

In contrast, dietary fat has a negligible effect on blood sugar and insulin, which is why eating fat aids weight loss. More importantly, we don’t fuel inflammation, which leads to heart disease, diabetes, Alzheimer’s and cancer, say experts.

While the idea of consuming more fat may sound shocking given the low-fat diet mantra that has dominated the standard American diet (SAD), Volek said we actually evolved to thrive on a low carb, high-fat diet. “For about 98 percent of human history, we’ve been eating low-carb,” Volek told me in an exclusive interview. “We evolved in a state of nutritional ketosis.”

Low carb diets accelerate weight loss by forcing the body to burn fat for fuel in a metabolic state called ketosis, explained obesity expert Dr. Eric Westman, co-author of Keto Clarity. Westman, who has helped hundreds of morbidly obese people lose thousands of pounds on the high-fat Atkins, Paleo and ketogenic diets, said there’s no evidence saturated fat causes heart disease.

“The evidence for that has really disintegrated,” said Dr. Westman, a bariatric surgeon and director of the Duke Lifestyle Medicine Clinic.

The American Heart Association now concedes that refined carbs such as sugar and flour are what cause weight gain and has backed off its longtime stance of recommending low-fat diets to prevent heart attacks. “We no longer think low-fat diets are the answer,” said Dr. Linda Van Horn of the AHA Nutrition Committee.

Many celebrities have hopped on the low-carb bandwagon. Kim Kardashian famously lost 56 pounds on a low-carb ketogenic Atkins diet that limited her daily carb intake to less than 60 grams. Similarly, Tim McGraw lost 40 pounds after adopting the Paleo diet, and is fitter than ever at age 47.

In addition to aiding weight loss, experts say the ketogenic and Paleo diets can prevent Alzheimer’s. Groundbreaking research also suggests the ketogenic diet prevents cancer and starves cancer cells. “The ketogenic diet is a single metabolic approach to a multitude of different diseases,” cancer scientist Dr. Thomas Seyfried of Boston College told me.

Samantha Chang

Are Coconut Products Healthy?

Faith has been put into coconut products that we don’t know a lot about. Some people may have ditched things we know are good for us. Remember, no single food or nutrient will ever be our saviour.

If media reports and blogs are anything to go by, it seems many people disguise their opinion on coconut as knowledge. I’m going to tackle coconut oil and debunk some myths linking it to curing health problems including obesity, diabetes, skin abnormalities, dementia… the list goes on.

Understanding the basics

Coconut oil is 92 per cent saturated fat
Considerable debate surrounds the harmful – or benign – effects of saturated fat on heart health. Its evil tag has faded, but it’s not totally gone and I doubt it ever will. Our focus should be on including in our diet more unsaturated fats that we know are healthy like olive oil, fatty fish and nuts.

The excitement over coconut oil partially stems from the hype over medium chain fatty acids. These acids are saturated fats, however they behave differently to other saturated fats and are believed have a benign or even beneficial effect on our health.

Coconut oil is similar but unlike MCTs
Medium chain triglycerides, or MCTs, are made up of medium chain fatty acids. MCTs are manufactured and not created by nature. Coconut oil, on the other hand, consists mostly of natural lauric acid, a ‘classified’ medium chain fat, that is low or absent from artificial MCT products. The two are not the same. MCTs are liquid at room temperature and coconut oil is solid.

Lauric acid behaves differently to other medium chain fatty acids
Medium chain fatty acids range in length from 8 to 12 carbon molecules – this is where the debate begins. Although lauric acid, a 12 carbon fat, may be classified as a medium chain fatty acid, it actually behaves more like a longer chain fat once inside the body.

Therefore, the research on MCTs can’t be passed onto coconut oil
Most of the research on MCTs has looked at the 8 to 10 carbon fatty acids, not lauric acid, so it’s unwise to spread the knowledge. Plus, coconut oil includes saturated fatty acids of longer length and some of these are thought to be harmful.

So what about our health?

The fats in coconut oil do affect our cholesterol levels
Coconut oil consists mainly of lauric acid (47 per cent), myristic acid (16.5 per cent) and palmitic acid (7.5 per cent). Myrisitic and palmitic are long chain fatty acids and have consistently been shown to increase our cholesterol levels. There is overwhelming evidence that suggests replacing these with unsaturated fats, like olive oil, results in more favourable lipid profiles. It seems lauric acid does not have such a potent effect on increasing cholesterol levels as the previous two fatty acids and may in fact increase the healthful HDL cholesterol proportionately more than total cholesterol, however this doesn’t rule out any possible harm.

Coconut oil is unlikely to help shed weight
There is some scant evidence that coconut oil, or MCTs, can help us drop kgs. But a closer look at studies suggests this doesn’t account for the diet as a whole and, as we should all know by now, it’s what you eat from day to day that makes the difference.

Coconut oil is not a nutritional panacea
There is no evidence to suggest coconut oil is a cure for everything wrong with our health. That’s not to say that it won’t help, but I am yet to find any solid evidence convincing me it should be used over other fats I know are healthy.

What about when eaten in the context of a diet?

Traditional diets don’t include coconut oil
A lot of debate on the goodness of coconut oil stems from the belief that traditional diets of healthy people – free from high rates of chronic disease – included high amounts of coconut products. However, these diets, seen in places including the Pacific, are actually high in coconut flesh and squeezed coconut cream – not oil. These populations have also traditionally eaten fish and vegetables. Coconut oil is a relatively new commodity among Western countries.

The combination of coconut oil and the Western diet may be disastrous
Traditional diets don’t tend to include processed and packaged food high in salt, sugar and fat, whereas the Western diet is defined by these. It’s probable that eating sensible amounts coconut oil while making healthy food choices will have no harmful effect. However if we continue our disastrous dietary habits, adding heaped scoops of coconut oil is essentially playing with fire.

5 tips to take away

• Like butter, coconut oil can be used in sensible amounts, just don’t over do it.
• It is expensive, so your money may be better spent on stocking up on fruit, vegetables, meat, fish and nuts.
• Foods high in monounsaturated fats, like olive oil, and omega-3 fats, like salmon, should be picked over coconut oil.
• The quantity of calories matters. Adding coconut oil to your food without substituting it for something else may promote weight gain.
• It’s your total diet that decides your health, not a single food or product.

This information was presented to Dave Shaw by Dr Laurence Eyres who has conducted an independent review of the published evidence on coconut and health for the NZ Heart Foundation.

Dave is holding nutrition clinics as part of MajorFit Ltd at Next Generation Health Club in Parnell. Book an appointment here. Contact him via Facebook here.

Beware Coconut Oil

Coconut oil is high in saturated fat and should not be used as regular cooking oil despite being the “trendy thing”, the New Zealand Heart Foundation says.

The foundation commissioned food industry consultant Dr Laurence Eyres to review existing research on coconut oil and its effect on heart health after what it deemed was “widespread misinformation” about the benefits.

Coconut oil had been heavily marketed over recent years as a “super-food” but Eyres said the health claims did not stack up.

“Traditionally, coconut oil hasn’t been recommended because it is extremely high in saturated fat. This advice remains, despite the large number of marketing claims to the contrary,” he said.

Switching to coconut oil was likely to lead to an increase in cholesterol levels and could potentially increase the risk of coronary heart disease, Eyres said.

Research often quoted to support the use of coconut oil was largely based on animal studies or interpreted from research on medium-chain triglyceride (MCT) oils.

But the triglycerides in coconut oil could not be classed as MCTs, meaning the research quoted was not relevant, he said.

Heart Foundation national nutrition adviser Delvina Gorton said coconut oil was a better choice than butter and occasional use was not a problem, but regular use was not advised, based on the available evidence.

“It’s the trendy thing. It’s also very expensive, so people are spending a lot of money when they don’t need to.

“There are healthier oils for people to be using for their hearts.”

Those wanting to keep their heart healthy should follow a diet based on minimally-processed foods and include plenty of vegetables, fruit, some nuts, legumes, whole grains, seafood and lean meats, reduced-fat dairy and healthy oils, such as cold-pressed olive, avocado or canola oils, she said.

Blue Coconut chief executive John Drew said he had seen a huge increase in demand for coconut oil since starting his Little River business four years ago.

“The popularity is down to the fact it works,” he said.

Consumers were doing their own research on the benefits of coconut oil by reading studies and sharing their own experiences online, Drew said.

“[Eyres is] using old science and refuses to even recognise newer studies that have turned the whole saturated fat debate on its head.

“We need saturated fat in our body for cell function.”

Drew’s partner, Canterbury GP Victoria Flight, said she researched coconut oil as part of a nutrition fellowship with the Australasian College of Nutritional and Environmental Medicine and would not promote something that did not stack up scientifically.

“I think the evidence is increasingly strong that coconut is offering benefits that we can’t get from other oils.

“It’s very good for our brains.”

Flight disagreed with Eyres’ definition of MCT oils and said the Heart Foundation was “very conservative” in its views on coconut oil and saturated fats.

Nicole Mathewson