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9 Years of eating Very Low Carb High Fat – Impact on Cholesterol Levels

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It is over 9 years since I started eating Very Low Carb High Fat and to a very large degree – damnably close to a full on Ketogenic Diet. Some Myths that are constantly thrown at us:

Myth: You can not sustain this type of eating for any length of time.

False: 9 years and 3 months with out any real problem.

Myth: Eating High Fat including an abundance of Saturated Fats will lead to out of control Cholesterol levels.

False: Had my latest blood test – this time in the Doc’s office – forgot to fast. Ah well.

Total Cholesterol
Below 200 mg/dL Desirable…………………………………………. 196
LDL Cholesterol
Below 100 mg/dL Optimal for people at risk of heart disease
100-129 mg/dL Near optimal………………………………………… 81
HDL Cholesterol
60 mg/dL and above Best ……………………………………………..92  (has been as high as 119)
Triglycerides
Below 150 mg/dL Desirable………………………………………….. 114 (usually <50 but I did not fast)
Triglycerides/HDL – Best if <=3 …………………………………….1.24

Myth: Only eat a limited number of eggs a week – Maybe one a day and increase the volume with egg whites.

False: I average >2 eggs per day every day for the past 9 years

Myth: Eating too much protein will negatively effect your kidneys.

False: I average 140 grams of protein a day. This is not high for someone my size and activity level – but double the RDA. The Doc looked at the various lab tests and pronounced my kidneys to be in great condition.

Myth: You can’t get all of your necessary vitamins, nourishment and fiber without eating fruit and carbs.

False: The person who said that – doesn’t come close to eating the amount of vegetables I eat.

The Doc looked at the results – including my blood pressure 118/66 – and said: “I have patients who would kill for these numbers.”

Enough Said!

Dietary Myths: Salt – Saturated Fat – Protein

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I came across this article on Men’s Health: The 3 Things the Government Got Wrong in the New Dietary Guidelines

  • Sodium isn’t Evil
  • Neither is Saturated Fat
  • You’re not eating too much protein

Their comments are interesting – if not things we already know.  Here’s the bottom line on Salt.

That said, it’s been known for the past 20+ years that people with high blood pressure who don’t want to lower their salt intake can simply consume more potassium-containing foods.

Why? Because it’s really the balance of the two minerals that matters.

In fact, Dutch researchers determined that a low potassium intake has the same impact on your blood pressure as high salt consumption does.

And it turns out, the average guy consumes 3,100 mg of potassium a day—1,600 mg less than recommended.

If you are eating a Very Low Carb, High Fat diet, you already know that Dietary Fats are not the enemy. But – What about Saturated Fats?

A 2010 review of 21 studies published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found no conclusive evidence that dietary saturated fat is associated with an increased risk of coronary heart disease, stroke, or cardiovascular disease.

According to a review in the European Journal of Nutrition, a diet high in fat from dairy products such as butter may even raise levels of HDL (good) cholesterol while having no effect on levels of potentially harmful LDL (bad) cholesterol.

For me, the more interesting report was about Protein. The issue of just how much is enough or too much has been battered around this Blog for ages. There seems to be no one right answer, but – note the following:

Protein Chart

And no, that extra protein won’t wreck your kidneys: “Taking in more than the recommended dose won’t confer more benefit. It won’t hurt you, but you’ll just burn it off as extra energy,” Dr. Tarnopolsky says.

We already know that a significant portion of amino acids in that steak will be converted to glucose and stored as glycogen. If you are not a “Highly Trained Athlete” – then keeping your Protein consumption closer to 100 grams is probably the better way to go – particularly if you want to be in Ketosis.

This chart gives us a different view point on those “expensive” Protein Shakes sold at most Gyms.

 

Reflections on Living a Low Carb Life.

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There is a difference between an eating plan for weight loss and one for just living. Not everyone gets that.  I didn’t.  I have lost a great deal of weight (30% of my body weight) two – three times; and a lot of weight (5-10% ) enumerable times. I was super successful each time.  Man – I could lose weight with the best of them.

How? First – while in high school and then college – was just portion control and eliminating sweets. In my mid 20’s, I did Weight Watchers – the original – back in the early 70’s and got down to super thin – a 32 inch waist.  Each time I gained back the weight and more.  The original WW diet formed the model for my ensuing weight losses – but that was modified by the Low Fat movement that was foisted upon us. I hated eating Low Fat.  Never was able to tolerate eating food that tasted like cardboard and plastic. Calorie Counting became a way of life. Some exercise was in the mix, but as my will power to eat right waned, so did my desire to go to the gym.

As time went on and life got in the way, I cared less and less about my weight.  By the time I was in my early 60’s, I had hit 260 pounds and climbing. A visit to the Doctor for a cough that would not abate resulted in a hard smack up side the head. High Blood pressure meds were prescribed along with blood tests and a warning “don’t exercise or start a diet until we do all the testing.”

Sadly – I ignored the advise and headed to the Book Store – for some guidance on weight loss. I found a small book by Dana Carpender, which had a couple of pages explaining a Low Carb diet and the rest was a compendium of food carb content.  The updated book is on Amazon, Dana Carpender’s NEW Carb and Calorie Counter-Expanded, Revised, and Updated 4th Edition: Your Complete Guide. I followed the advice to the letter, aiming for no more than 25-35 grams of carbs per day.  That book went with me everywhere as I learned the carb count of various foods.  I already knew the Calorie count.  I started eating low carb on the day I joined a gym – March 12, 2007

I discovered the TNT (Targeted Nutrition Tactics) Diet in November of 2007.  The Diet was outlined in the November issue of Men’s Health magazine.  That issue changed my life.  It opened my eyes to the fact that dietary fats were not the devil’s spawn. I bought the full Men’s Health TNT Diet book once it was published.

The TNT diet had several “Plans.”  Each plan was tailored to your needs based upon the amount of weight you wanted to lose and how long you were already eating low carb.  It does not quantify calories, grams of carbs, protein or fats.  It gives you lists of foods you can eat and suggested meals and recipes. In many ways – similar to Weight Watchers. There is a full top-of-the-line exercise plan that goes with it – although any good structured plan would work.  Along with it, there is a TNT Forum on the Men’s Health site which answers any question you may have.

As I read more and more, I came to understand that Plan A is what I now know to be a Ketogenic Diet – one designed to eliminate your body’s dependence upon glucose (the product of eating carbs) and switch to Ketones (the product of eating fats) for energy.

An analysis of Plan A – was straight forward – the basic formula for a Ketogenic Diet. Here it is in a Nut Shell:

Carbohydrates: 25-35 grams is the sweet spot – but no greater than 50 grams in any day.  All mainly from non-starchy vegetables.

Protein:  1 gram of protein per pound of your Lean Body Mass – your body without the fat.  Another way of looking at that – .8 grams per pound of your Target or Proper Weight.

Dietary Fats:  All the rest of your energy needs.

When I started – I was 260 pounds, exercising 3 times a week.  My goal was 180 pounds. To maintain the 260 pounds, I had to eat close to 3,600 calories a day.  To maintain 180 pounds, I would have to eat approximately 2,500 calories a day. Assuming a goal of eating 2,500 calories – here is the macro-nutrient break down.

 

Carbs: 150 +/- calories a day.  (6%)

Protein: 550 +/- calories a day.  (22%)

Dietary Fats: 1,800 calories a day.  (72%)

The actual breakdown varies on a day-to-day basis.  This is NOT a NO CARB diet.  You must eat your non-starchy veggies which have carbs.  There are carbs in almost everything we eat.

This is NOT a HIGH PROTEIN diet.  This is more than the bare minimum protein that the FDA requires for you to live healthy – but in no way is it HIGH.  There are those who feel that to be fully on a Ketogenic diet, the protein should be reduced to closer to 100 grams – BUT – I do not believe they are taking into account exercising.  A “balanced” diet of 30% protein would have you eat closer to 190 grams a day.  Now that is a high protein diet.

This is a HIGH FAT diet.  No question – Fat is the source of your energy. Period.  You can not eat low-carb and low fat – your body would have no energy to survive. One of the biggest mistakes that folks make when they first dip their toe into Low Carb eating – is to significantly reduce their Carbs while maintaining a Low Fat diet. They crash and burn quickly.

Dietary Fats are your only variable for controlling your weight loss.  Reduce them and lose more – increase them and slow the weight loss process or gain weight.

“That is insane – your Cholesterol numbers are going to be off the charts.  You are killing yourself!” the world shouts at me. Here is a chart of my blood work. You decide.

Simply put – if you are not eating carbs then your body burns dietary fats for energy and those fats don’t cause a problem. Strange but true.

It takes 2-3 weeks for your body to switch from a Carb burning machine to a Ketone burning machine.  When you read the articles concerning various studies – look behind the hype and see how long the study had the individuals eating Low Carb. Most of the time it was for maybe 2 weeks. That is not enough time to prove anything.

I get a bit crazy reading the strange things on-line. Some of the Myths and down right false ideas:  Low Carb is High Protein – Not.  Paleo is Low Carb – Not.  Your brain only burns Carbs – Not. Your brain is a switch hitter and the aging brain loses its ability to use glucose and thrives on Ketones. Your body cannot exist without eating carbs – Not. Your body can make glucose – in part from amino acids. You can not exercise or grow muscles without carbs – Not.  Check out my two year anniversary pics. You only lose water – Not. That comes from the fact that as you burn up the stored glycogen in your muscles, your body loses stored water.  One gram of glycogen holds onto 4-5 grams of water.

Eating a ketogenic diet – is eating Very Low Carb – Normal Protein – High Fat.  It is the true Low Carb diet. Eating more than 50 or so grams of carbs is probably eating a reduced or low Carb diet but not a Ketogenic diet. Everyone is different.  At what point does your body stop being in a Ketosis and revert to burning carbs – a moving target – different from person to person and from year to year.  No question that eating above 100 grams (400 calories) of carbs will shut down ketone production.  

But – is that reduction of carbs without transitioning to Ketosis – bad for you?  If you are eliminating highly processed foods – it can only be good.  The question that you must answer is what works for you.  Knowing that you want to keep protein close to 1 gram per pound of lean body mass – the question remains – how do you balance fats and carbs. Eliminating fats has proven to be a false idol. Eating a high carb diet is just plain fool hardy.  Your own body must be your guide.

There are so many books out there – some good – some not so good – some worthless. If you are interested in pursing reading – check out Drs. Volek and Phinney’s The Art and Science of Low Carbohydrate Living. It is pretty close to the definitive statement and guide.

If you like to just watch a video, here’s one to watch with Dr. Mary Vernon.

USDA Dietary Guidelines are Broken.

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Newsweek Opinion Article by  6/11/15 AT 11:36 AM, entitled: 

Food Guidelines Are Broken. Why Aren’t They Being Fixed?

This is an opinion piece – no question.  He eviscerates the Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee’s (DGAC) scientific report on which the guidelines are based.

Furthermore, the DGAC asserts that its recommendations are unbiased and only based on science, but consistently the guidelines have focused on the hypothesis that limiting fat intake will decrease obesity and promote health. This focus on decreasing fat consumption has continued in successive DGAC reports even though the science behind this conclusion has been proven to be based on an outdated understanding of nutrition and health.

Perhaps the most telling criticism:

So why don’t the guidelines, which are supposedly governed by a scientific, fact-based process, do this?

Because advocating for lower-carbohydrate, higher-fat diets would fly in the face of everything the DGAC has recommended over the past three decades. Such an about-face would be an acknowledgement that the process to date has been misguided. But if we’re serious about saving lives and money, rather than maintaining bureaucratic credibility, then that is exactly what must be done.

He calls for the public and political leaders to “start asking the DGAC why we’re sticking with an approach that is clearly broken.”

It does not take but a moment before his opinion is challenged – as well it should be by another Opinion piece also in Newsweek by 6/19/15 AT 10:01 AM, entitled: 

Is a Low-Carb Diet a Genuine Remedy for Obesity?

The difference between these two articles is stunning.  Campbell starts off by telling us that he is an expert that should be listened to: because he is “a longtime researcher, contributor to food and health policy, and Cornell University professor emeritus.”

He then goes on to say that yes – the Dietary Guidelines are broken – but because they don’t follow his beliefs:

The biggest issue is that low-carb diets severely limit the consumption of plant-based whole foods, which are the main foods reversing disease and creating health benefits. A diet of these foods contains about 10 percent fat, 10 percent protein and 80 percent complex carbohydrates. This diet has all the protein we need, the right amount of fat and a rich supply of antioxidants, vitamins, minerals and complex carbohydrates.

Rather than supporting his own position – he takes shots at the Low Carb world including the myth that:

It should be noted that a low-carb diet often means, by definition, a diet very high in protein and fat (from meat, dairy and eggs). A low-carb, high-protein diet may cause weight reduction initially, but in the long run it is overwhelmingly dangerous and not in our society’s best interest.

Low-carb advocates are in denial that a WFPB diet could be a more viable way for Americans to lose weight and live without preventable diseases in the long and short-term. However, like the meat, poultry and dairy industries, low-carb supporters want you to ignore this possibility and just eat more meat.

How much protein we should eat has been a continuing discussion on this Blog.  Why – because we factor in Exercise.  Instead he states that “For decades, 10 percent dietary calories as protein (RDA, the recommended allowance) has been considered sufficient (if not ideal) for human health. This level of protein is easily provided by a WFPB diet.”

10% of a 2,500 calorie diet is 250 calories or 60 +/- grams of protein.  He posits that dietary fats should be limited to a similar 10% or 30 grams.  The balance – 80% should come from complex carbs.

Seriously – the RDA number is an amount below which you might not be able to survive without illness or bodily deterioration.

When a guy has to start an article by trumpeting his credentials and then have ad hominem criticism of the opposition – I get turned off.  It undermines his entire position.  How else would you interpret this statement:

But it is clear to me that when they promote a low-carb diet, they are cleverly choosing words mixed with a little truth to push yet another diet that continues to reinforce unhealthy habits.

You be the judge.

The Life Extending Power of Protein

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The June 2015, issue of Men’s Health magazine, focused the value of Protein.  The article by Lou Schuler, entitled “The Life-Extending Power of Protein” was particularly interesting.  It focused on the Baby Boomer generation – who are now Seniors.  The picture of guys flexing muscles was of 4 gents, ages 62, 67, 78 and 97.  Sure it caught this guy’s eye – after all – I’m 70.  I’m also I guy who is at the gym 6 days a week – 7 if I can.  What follows are some highlights of that Article.

  • “After age 30, an untrained body tends to lose about 1 percent of its muscle mass each year.”
  • “T]he weakest men on two moves – the bench press and leg press – had the highest risk of premature death.”
  • “A study of adults in the U.K. found that those who had the worst composite scores on three fitness tests – grip strength, balance, with their eyes closed, and functional ability (time needed to sit down and stand up from a chair) at age 53 were almost four times as likely as top performers to die over the next 13 years.”

Comment – I’ve always noticed how so man people need to boost themselves up from a chair by using the arms of the chair or the dinner table.

And this report from a study done at the Cooper Clinic in Dallas, Texas is of particular interest to me – I had to stop exercising and even – active movement for 90 days while recovering from surgery.

  • “In one recent study, Phillips had older people reduce the number of steps they took each day  by 76 percent.  In just two weeks, they lost almost 4 percent of their leg muscle while gaining fat.  Even worse, they saw a rise in insulin resistance – a precursor of diabetes – and a decline in muscle-protein synthesis after eating.” 

During the 3 month period of severely limited activity, I lost weight, muscle and gained fat.  The amount of strength lost, shocked me.  I never expected that the loss of strength would be that significant.  It is now 60+ days after getting back to the gym and my strength gains are slow in happening.- but they are happening.  I’ve also gained some weight – but lost girth around my waist.  Strange world.

One part of the story bothers me.

  • “[O]ur bodies crave an optimal amount of protein, and once we’ve consumed it, out appetite shuts down.  It usually takes a protein intake of 25 to 35 percent of total calories for the mechanism to kick in.”

 25% – 35% of my calories would put my protein intake at 160 –  220 grams per day.  That is over the top.  I try to keep my protein level below 140 grams – otherwise I undermine my Low Carb eating.  Where does this concept come from?  Probably because the author discounts a high fat diet in shutting down our appetite.  If you are eating High Carbs and relatively Low Fat – then this makes sense.

The article then goes on to stress the value of exercise in slowing cognitive decline – no surprise there.  Exercise is one of the first things a neurologist prescribes for someone showing memory loss.  

This was a pretty good article.  If you don’t subscribe to Men’s Health magazine – maybe you should.

One way or another – get off your sorry arse and start moving.  Check out the 52 Day Challenge as place to help motivate you.

Keto Food Pyramid

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There are times that a Picture is worth a thousand words.  Sometimes the picture can over simplify and actually misstate reality.  Can you spot the error?  The Answer is below the picture.

Keto Food Pyrmid

This Pyramid places Protein as the largest portion and the foundation of the diet. In reality – a true Ketogenic Diet would have FATS as the foundation and largest component.  Meats (protein) should be somewhere in the top half.

The Protein Question – Another Study – For the Over 50 Guys and Gals.

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Spotted this story on Yahoo:  “Older Adults: Double Your Protein Intake for Better Health

Whether you’re running an Ironman or walking laps at the mall, current guidelines on protein intake just aren’t enough to — especially if you’re over 50.

That’s the word from a new study published in the American Journal of Physiology — Endocrinology and Metabolism. Researchers from the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences examined how four different eating plans affected the muscular health of 20 healthy adults ages 52 to 75.

Bottom Line:  RDA for a 180 pound person is 65 grams of protein.  The study participants who doubled that amount “increased their rates of muscle protein synthesis (the process by which cells use protein to build muscle” after just 4 days.

I am about 180 and have followed the general rule of 1 gram of protein per pound of lean body mass. Assuming 20% body fat, I top out my protein at 140 grams. Recently, I have become stricter with that rule since excess protein ends up as glycogen – no thanks.  I don’t go for the second helping of protein nor do I snack on protein.  Still – I end up at the 130-140 gram range.  I always wonder about individuals who claim they have a hard time eating enough protein.

BTW: There was no significant difference given the timing of when you ingest the protein.  That is always a question and I don’t think this limited study answers it – especially if the participants were not exercising – aggressively.

Given some of the recent press acknowledging that Low Fat and Limited Saturated Fat recommendations were not supported by science – surprise – enjoy that steak.

One final Post Script – I don’t think 50 is old.

 

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