Another Twist in the Low Fat Low Carb Debate

Written by Joe Suppes

For those of you invested in this long-standing debate there seems to be no end to the twists and turns. For those who have not been following the low fat/low carb debate it would be impossible to bring you up to speed, but let me give you a little history.

Low Fat
Over 50 years ago Dr. Pritikin suggests that a diet low in fat can help with weight management and also likely help with heart disease risk reduction. This fit nicely into the message that was being promoted during the time that fat was bad, especially saturated fat, and we should decrease levels at all cost. The food companies said, “why not” and began creating foods that were low in fat. To this day the grocery aisles are loaded with low-fat anything you can think of.

Low Carb
Not so long after came Dr. Atkins with the idea that a low carb diet will help people lose weight. People really missed their steak and eggs, so this diet had no problem coming to the forefront of diet trends. It wasn’t long until restaurants offered low carb menu items. So now we have access to low carb or low fat anything, but still today the CDC comes out with a report that says we are still gaining weight and there seems to be no end in sight.

A High Fat Diet Helps the Heart?
The one interesting twist in today’s research showed that the low carb, and therefore high fat, diet may actually have some benefits for heart health. The low carb diet shows significant benefits for increasing HDL cholesterol, which is the cholesterol that helps protect the heart. The effects seen on HDL cholesterol during a low carb diet are similar to that of a drug.

By this time you are completely confused, but let me try to bring some clarity to this picture. I will start with heart disease.

We reported in a recent blog about how red meat was not shown to increase risk of heart disease, whereas processed meat was shown to increase heart disease. We saw similar news launched this year about how saturated fat intake was not necessarily associated with increased risk for heart disease, whereas trans fats found in margarine were.

This shoots some big holes in the arguement that fat, especially saturated fat, increases heart disease risk. At the same time we find out that certain processed foods that are high in fat are likely to increased heart disease. So what we find is a high fat diet, sans the processed food, may actually benefit heart disease.

But Which Diet is Better for Weight Loss
As far as weight management, there does not seem to be a significant difference between the low fat or the low carb diet. The interesting point of both of these diets, and their founders, is that both highly advocate the eating of whole foods. If you read the initial works of both doctors you will find both diet plans are packed full with unprocessed, healthy whole foods. So is the fact that the diet is low fat or low carb have anything to do with it, I don’t think so. Does it have everything to do with eating whole foods… I’ll let you decide for yourself.


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