Many people come to me for weight loss advice. They have already tried all the strategies they can think of. Generally, they try to eat fewer calories and go hungry, which only works for a short while. After losing weight and promptly regaining it on popular diet plans, most people settle for trying to “eat healthy and exercise”: they are watching their fat intake, switching to “diet” soda, and getting out for a walk most days. There are two problems with this approach: the focus is largely on the wrong food group (fats), and the exercise is not nearly vigorous enough.
The most recent issue of Time Magazine (pictured above) caries the lead article on why scientists have been wrong in recommending low-fat diets for all these years. There are a whole host of recent reviews which confirm the conclusion that fat is not the culprit it has been made out to be. Instead, the problem with our modern diet is all the refined carbohydrates. A fantastic review of weight loss studies was recently published by the Swedish Council on Technology Assessment in Health Care. This report is likely to be the basis for future dietary guidelines for obesity treatment within the Swedish health care system. Their conclusion was that low-fat diets do not reduce weight or cardiovascular risk nearly as well as low-carbohydrate diets. People who’s daily carbohydrate intake was less than 30% of their total calories had sustained weight loss at 6 months, better blood sugar levels, lower triglycerides, and lower diastolic blood pressure. Their diet was higher in protein and saturated (animal) fat. Bottom line: Low-carbohydrate high-protein diets show greater weight loss and better health markers than the low-fat, low-calorie diets.
Here’s a summary of the best current advice for sustained weight loss, courtesy of Dr Al Sears, MD:
1. Eat meals based on protein … as many different kinds of protein as you can get. Protein helps you to feel full, so it signals your body to stop eating. Getting enough protein tells your body that times are good, and flips your metabolic switch from “store fat” to “burn fat.” Your body will use the calories as essential fuel to function at its best.
2. Eat low-glycemic-index carbohydrates. High-glycemic-index foods, which are usually the processed ones, are loaded with sugars, starches and grains and cause hormonal hunger. But low-glycemic-index foods – foods that don’t raise your blood sugar – are also the most nutrient-dense. These include seeds, nuts, berries, fruits and vegetables.
3. Eat the right fats. Don’t cut back on fat, either. It is OK to eat animal fat, including high-fat organic dairy products, balanced with plenty of omega-3s from cold-water wild fish. Contrary to popular belief, fats are a healthy source of calories.
4. Avoid high-fructose corn syrup. It’s been found to cause hormonal hunger because your pancreas will immediately pump out insulin in response, leading to a drop in blood sugar and more cravings. This is one more reason to stay away from processed foods or anything packed in a box, can or plastic container (even if it’s labeled organic).
5. Don’t skip meals. It’ll only put your body in starvation mode and make you want to binge on carbs that mess with your blood sugar and hunger hormones. Eat three balanced meals a day, especially breakfast, and snack on those nutrient-dense foods in between.
6. Practice short-duration, high-intensity, progressively challenging workouts. Exercise is one of the best ways to shed fat and reset your hormones. But the key to lasting fat loss is to teach your body to burn fat after you exercise – not while you exercise. Walking the dog is not nearly intense enough to accomplish this. In order to progressively ramp up the intensity, you may benefit from the help of a coach or personal trainer.
For a personalized consultation regarding weight management, please contact my office.
Your partner in Living Longer Better,
Dr. Grant Pagdin, MD
SBU. Food in obesity. A systematic review. Stockholm: Swedish Council on Technology Assessment in Health Care (SBU); , 2013. SBU Report No. 218. ISBN 978-91-85413-59-1Brehm BJ, et al. A Randomized Trial Comparing a Very Low Carbohydrate Diet and a Calorie-Restricted Low Fat Diet on Body Weight and Cardiovascular Risk Factors in Healthy Women. J Clin Endocrinol Metab 2003;88:1617–1623.
Samaha FF, et al. A Low-Carbohydrate as Compared with a Low-Fat Diet in Severe Obesity. N Engl J Med 2003;348:2074–81.
Sondike SB, et al. Effects of a low-carbohydrate diet on weight loss and cardiovascular risk factor in overweight adolescents. J Pediatr. 2003 Mar;142(3):253–8.
Aude YW, et al. The National Cholesterol Education Program Diet vs a Diet Lower in Carbohydrates and Higher in Protein and Monounsaturated Fat. A Randomized Trial. Arch Intern Med. 2004;164:2141–2146.
Volek JS, et al. Comparison of energy-restricted very low-carbohydrate and low-fat diets on weight loss and body composition in overweight men and women. Nutrition & Metabolism 2004, 1:13.
Yancy WS Jr, et al. A Low-Carbohydrate, Ketogenic Diet versus a Low-Fat Diet To Treat Obesity and Hyperlipidemia. A Randomized, Controlled Trial. Ann Intern Med. 2004;140:769–777.
Nichols-Richardsson SM, et al. Perceived Hunger Is Lower and Weight Loss Is Greater in Overweight Premenopausal Women Consuming a Low-Carbohydrate/High- Protein vs High-Carbohydrate/Low-Fat Diet. J Am Diet Assoc. 2005;105:1433–1437.
Gardner CD, et al. Comparison of the Atkins, Zone, Ornish, and learn Diets for Change in Weight and Related Risk Factors Among Overweight Premenopausal Women. The a to z Weight Loss Study: A Randomized Trial. JAMA. 2007;297:969–977.
Shai I, et al. Weight loss with a low-carbohydrate, mediterranean, or low-fat diet. N Engl J Med 2008;359(3);229–41.
Krebs NF, et al. Efficacy and Safety of a High Protein, Low Carbohydrate Diet for Weight Loss in Severely Obese Adolescents. J Pediatr 2010;157:252-8.
Summer SS, et al. Adiponectin Changes in Relation to the Macronutrient Composition of a Weight-Loss Diet. Obesity (Silver Spring). 2011 Mar 31. [Epub ahead of print]
Daly ME, et al. Short-term effects of severe dietary carbohydrate-restriction advice in Type 2 diabetes–a randomized controlled trial. Diabet Med. 2006 Jan;23(1):15–20.
Westman EC, et al. The effect of a low-carbohydrate, ketogenic diet versus a low- glycemic index diet on glycemic control in type 2 diabetes mellitus. Nutr. Metab (Lond.)2008 Dec 19;5:36.
Live as young as possible, staying energetic and youthful without pain or disease.
Let us partner with you in wellness and prevention.