Low Carb Diets

Eric Bakker N.D.July 11, 2022

I always used to hear this question in my clinic: "Should I be on a high or low protein diet to lose and maintain weight?" For most people, the word "diet" usually implies some type of short-term weight loss-program, but in reality should be considered a lifelong approach to using the correct foods to improve and maintain a healthy life. Is it healthy to consume a low carb diet? Lets first look at weights  gain, diet and lifestyle.

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Eric Bakker Naturopath » Recipes » Low Carb Diets

Are Low Carb Diets Healthy?

I always used to hear this question in my clinic: “Should I be on a high or low protein diet to lose and maintain weight?” For most people, the word “diet” usually implies some type of short-term weight loss-program, but in reality should be considered a lifelong approach to using the correct foods to improve and maintain a healthy life. Is it healthy to consume a low carb diet? Lets first look at weights  gain, diet and lifestyle.

What’s Making You Overweight – Fats, Carbs- or Lifestyle?

One hundred years ago they were talking about weight loss and they were open and honest about “fat people”. Today we are politically correct and need to be more respectful of people’s feelings. People are still fat, and in most (but not all) cases the weight issues are a result of faulty dietary and lifestyle habits.
It’s time we put this ridiculous myth to bed: that eating fat makes you fat. In general, most people are consuming a lot less fat than they were 10 years ago. People have become very dietary fat conscious, we all cut the fat from our meat, don’t we now? But why then…are we getting fatter?
We are consuming almost the same amount of fat now than before. But, in addition, we are consuming additional calories from more refined flours, processed foods as well as a lot more sugar. The reason for the rise in obesity is no mystery: many are still eating a high-calorie, refined carb and high-fat diet. More people today than ever before rely on take-away or convenience foods. Additionally, we all love our labour saving devices, we now do less activity than we did even 5 years ago. So we don’t even burn up all those additional calories anymore. Remember the old days, when your car had windows which you wound down manually ?
Do you lose weight according to Barry Sears by “eliminating most fat and eating mainly plant-based carbs” in your diet, Or do you listen to Dr. Atkins and shed those pounds by “eliminating the carbs and filling up on protein” along with the saturated fat that comes with it? Let’s look at them both. There is no rocket science behind these diets, I tell my patients: The answer is that if you want to lose weight and stay lean & healthy all your life long, you will simply need to eat fewer calories and exercise more, not just by cutting out either the carbs or proteins from your diet.

Atkins Diet: High-Protein & Fat Diet

Low-carb diets, like the Atkins diet, are often suggested for weight reduction. Adherents to the Atkin’s Diet claim that if you stay away from meals high in carbohydrates, you’ll lose weight while consuming as much protein (generally meat) and fat as you like.

There is no doubt, numerous studies conducted since the early 2000s have shown that low-carb diets may help people lose weight and improve their health without the need for calorie tracking. Dr. Robert C. Atkins first popularised the Atkins diet by writing a best-selling book about it in 1972. Since then, the Atkins diet has been practised by individuals all over the globe, and several books have been produced from it, including many books about the Keto Diet, the current high protein/high fat diet craze.

Initially, the Atkins Diet was seen as harmful, mostly because of how much saturated fat it included. Researchers are now debating the impact of saturated fat on health, particularly the risk of heart disease. I’m no fan of this approach especially due to the high levels of saturated animal fats.

  • 15-35% Carbs: non-starchy vegetables and fruits
  • 30-45% Protein: fish, seafood, poultry, dairy foods and red meats
  • 30-50% Fat: meat, healthy oils, nuts and seeds, and dairy foods.

The Good

  • Helpful for preventing cravings and binge-eating for people who have overindulged in sugar and refined carbohydrates.
  • The two-week induction phase works well, the initial weight loss works for most, use the Keto (urine) sticks for best results.
  • Great for people who have low blood sugar (hypoglycemia) or carbohydrate sensitivity, grain allergies or insulin-related health problems.
  • Contains generally a higher-quality fat and carbohydrate than typical fare.

The Not-So Good

  • Unhealthy for people who have trouble digesting protein and fat or for those with kidney disorders.
  • The Atkins Diet spells constipation for many: A diet too low in fiber for proper elimination in many people.
  • This diet over emphasises common food allergens such as eggs & dairy products, and recommends processed meats and condiments containing potentially unhealthy additives.

Eric’s Instant Atkins Solutions

  • Get your bowel working first before embarking on the Atkins’ Diet, try a liver-cleansing approach for a week or two before embarking on the Atkins’ induction phase. It can make a HUGE difference. Try LSA (ground linseed-sunflower & almond mix), Slippery elm Aloe vera or psyllium, they are all are good options here.
    A good herbal liver herbal formula taken two to three times per day in the initial two to three weeks at the outset will ensure better eliminations during the earliest and most important phase of this diet. Enquire with your practitioner or health-food shop.
  • Got food allergies? Avoid the key allergenic foods: wheat, milk, eggs, bananas and corn. You’l lose more weight because your immune system won’t have to “shadow box” any potential antibodies to foods you may be allergic to. If in doubt, get an IgE/IgG food allergy test.
  • Weight loss is probably short-term water loss. One of the most important reasons for the popularity of the Atkins’ approach is it works–people lose lots of weight fast, but it’s generally water initially – and not fat. Stored carbs holds on to large amounts of water, they are called “carbo-hydrates” for a reason). Switching to a low-carb & high protein diet results in the loss of these stores and the associated water, with an impressive initial weight loss. And then you hit the plateau!
  • Kidney cleanse. Start on a good kidney formula, and drink lots of water during and after your induction phase, this will allow the kidneys to properly eliminate the metabolised proteins, fluids and ketones more efficiently.
  • Why such high-protein diets so popular?  Simple, this diet works fast. The induction phase is good for short term results, weight will come away fast initially. It is not good to stay on this high protein approach for too long, you will age faster. With so many people desperate to lose weight, the high protein and fat diets have become increasingly popular. The foods recommended in high-protein diets are the rich foods we were all raised with and learned to love. They are the traditional roasts, bacon and eggs, lamb chops, cheeses, and various other high protein offerings. There is no doubt that this diet works, but there is also no doubt that too much protein in one’s diet can lead long term to all sorts of complications as well.
  • High dietary protein can lead to kidney damage, osteoporosis, and digestive issues. The protein you consume is metabolised by your liver and excreted by the kidneys into the urine. A high protein load causes damage to these organs. By the time most people reach 80yrs of age, it is estimated that they lose over 30 percent of their kidney function This loss of kidney function is caused by the amount of protein typically consumed in the diet, about 12% to 15% The Zone diet recommends 30% protein, and even more protein (30 – 45%) is found in the Atkins approach. Doctors recommend low protein diets (4% to 8%) to treat patients with any liver and kidney failure.
    High protein diets can cause serious metabolic changes leading to bone loss (osteoporosis) and kidney stones.
  • Red meat, chicken, fish, and eggs are all acid forming foods, vegetable foods are more alkaline by nature. The body guards its acid-base balance (pH) carefully, the dietary-derived acid load from high-protein animal foods must be buffered. The primary buffering system of the body is the bones which dissolve for that purpose into phosphates and calcium. Studies have shown that high protein diets increase urinary calcium and cause a significant negative calcium balance. This is the first step in bone loss that leads to osteoporosis. The presence of bone material in the urinary system lays the foundation for calcium-based kidney stones. The Nurse’s Health Study recently found women in America who consumed 95 grams of protein a day compared with those who consumed less than 68 grams a day had a 22% greater risk of forearm fractures

Zone Diet: High Plant Based Carbs

Barry Sears of the “Enter the Zone” claims the problem with our weight and health, specifically heart disease, is that high carbohydrate diets promote excessive production of specific hormones such as insulin. The secret to weight loss and preventing heart disease is controlling hormones into a narrow range referred to as “the Zone,” this can be achieved by adding more protein to the diet than is commonly consumed or recommended.

The Zone diet can give people the false sense of security thinking that it is their hormones at fault, they are happy to hear that it’s not their fault they’re fat, “It’s my hormones that are the real culprit, I don’t have to feel guilty about eating too much and not exercising.”

 

  • 40% Carbohydrates: non-starchy vegetables and fruits, portion-controlled grains and legumes
  • 30% Protein: low-fat animal protein (fish, seafood, poultry, lean meats and soy)
  • 30% Fat: low-fat animal foods and small amounts of nuts, olive oil, avocados and cheese

The Good

Finally a diet which emphasises lower-carb fruits and vegetables over grains, which many people don’t tolerate well. Serves as a bridge between the very high-carb diets and the low-carb diets.
A good maintenance diet because it contains a wide variety of essential vitamins and minerals, with a macronutrient balance to help stabilise blood sugar. The Zone provides more insulin control than most other diets. This translates into greater fat loss and longevity since excess insulin is what helps make you fat and keeps you that way.

The Not-So Good

The Zone Diet is difficult to consistently follow for each meal and snack. Another diet that contains plenty of common food allergens such as dairy products, eggs and soy products. Like most American diets, the Zone Diet over emphasises common food allergens such as eggs & dairy products, and recommends processed meats, refined grain products and condiments containing potentially unhealthy additives.

Eric’s Instant Zone Solutions

  • B Vitamins work well here. I have found that people who take a good B Complex vitamin supplement two times daily fare better on the Zone Diet than others who don’t. You will metabolise the carbs better.
  • Got existing blood sugar problems? For those with established blood sugar problems, try 200mcg of Chromium picolinate once or twice per day with meals during the first few weeks of the Zone Diet. Better still, take a dietary supplement that is for blood sugar balancing, weight loss and hypoglycemia (low-blood sugar).
  • Your stomach and small intestine may need a boost. Try a digestive enzyme for the stomach and small intestine if you burp or bloat.
    Careful not to load up on dairy protein such as cheese, I’ve seen it happen on this diet.
  • A better dietary approach long term. Results can be less forthcoming than Atkins, expect results especially after several months, be patient.

Eric’s Conclusion

When it comes to maintaining healthy bodyweight, the correct dietary recommendations include eating fewer animal products and more plants foods have been made by every major health organisation, many select committees on nutrition, including the heart, cancer and diabetes associations.

What do they all have in common?

They all believe that chronic illnesses, including obesity, plaguing modern Western society, are generally caused by an unhealthy diet and lifestyle, and that improved health comes from regular exercise and by eating less food generally, consuming fewer animal protein products and having a diet rich in plant foods. What are you going to do?  It’s all common sense really.

Please leave a comment about your experiences with diet and weight.

Eric


References

  • Chowdhury R, Warnakula S, Kunutsor S, et al. Association of dietary, circulating, and supplement fatty acids with coronary risk: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Ann Intern Med. 2014;160(6):398-406. PMID: 24723079 pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/24723079/.
  • Eckel RH, Jakicic JM, Ard JD, et al. 2013 AHA/ACC guideline on lifestyle management to reduce cardiovascular risk: a report of the American College of Cardiology American/Heart Association Task Force on Practice Guidelines. J Am Coll Cardiol. 2014;63(25 Pt B):2960-2984. PMID: 24239922 pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/24239922/.
  • US Department of Agriculture; Agricultural Research Service website. FoodData Central, 2019. fdc.nal.usda.gov. Accessed July 1, 2020.
  • US Department of Agriculture and US Department of Health and Human Services. Dietary Guidelines for Americans, 2020-2025. 9th ed. www.dietaryguidelines.gov/sites/default/files/2020-12/Dietary_Guidelines_for_Americans_2020-2025.pdf
  • Journal of Gerontology 31:155, 1976.
  • The Zone (HarperCollins) by Barry Sears, Ph.D., with Bill Lawren;
  • Mastering the Zone (HarperCollins) by Barry Sears, Ph.D.
  • Protein Power (Bantam) by Michael R. Eades, M.D., and Mary Dan Eades, M.D.;
  • Dr. Atkins’ New Diet Revolution (Avon) by Robert C. Atkins, M.D.
  • New  England Journal of Medicine 307:652, 1982.
  • American Journal of Epidemiology 143:472, 1996).

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