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High Protein Low Carb Diet Information
Comparison of Atkins-Type Diet and Low-Fat Diet for Health and Weight Loss
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Which Diet is Better for Weight Loss: Low Carbohydrate Diet or Low Fat Diet?

High Protein Low Carb Diets

Low Carb Diet - Fats Versus Carbs - A Meaningless Debate

The debate cannot simply be reduced to high-fat/low-carb diets versus high-carb/low-fat diets.

  • The complex carbohydrates in vegetables fruits and grains have sustained the human race since there was a human race, what we have difficulty in dealing with is the onslaught of simple carbs found in white flour, sugar and fructose. Likewise we have been hunting and meat eating for eons.
  • It isn't useful to think solely of 'carbohydrates.' Instead we need to specify whether we are talking about natural, whole food, complex carbs or simple, processed and refined carbohydrates. The same thinking applies to fat. There are hydrogenated fats and trans fats which are generally agreed to be negative, saturated fats from meat and dairy about which there is much debate and polyunsaturated fats in some plants and fish which most researchers feel are beneficial to the human body/mind. So, to reduce any argument to fats versus carbs is meaningless.
  • See also: Insulin, Carbs & Weight Loss

High Protein Diet - American Dietary Habits

The number of calories consumed per person has increased significantly. Estimates range from an increase of 100 calories per day to 400 calories per day per person. Even if we take the lower of these two numbers this would mean an increase of about 10 lbs. per person per year. (N.B. The U.S.D.A.'s dietary intake survey showed an increase of 236 calories per day between 1987 and 1995.)

Following on from the above, although the percentage of fat calories might have decreased, the overall amount of fat consumed has stayed fairly constant because of the increase of the total number of calories consumed.

The consumption of unhealthy trans fats and hydrogenated fats has increased.

The consumption of low nutrient, high calorie carbs - simple carbs - has increased.

In short: we're eating more, we're eating worse and we're eating out.

High Protein Diet - Two Questions

Probably the most popular high protein diet is Dr. Atkins New Diet Revolution. Let us use this diet as a typical high protein plan and consider the follow questions:

Q. What is the success rate of the Atkins diet in promoting sustained weight loss in a large sample of people over a period of five years?

A clue to whether or not the Atkins Diet leads to long term weight loss might be found in the ongoing National Weight Control Registry Survey that is following over 3000 people who have lost an average of 65 lbs and kept if off for an average of 6 years. Their fat intake is a little over 20% of their total caloric intake on average and they consume lots of fruits and vegetables. Less than 1% of the 3000 used a high protein, high fat diet. This does not 'prove' that high protein/low carb diets are ineffective, but it certainly demonstrates the effectiveness of lower-fat diets rich in healthy carbs.

Q. Are there any measurable changes in risk factors associated with cardiovascular disease and diabetes for people who follow the Atkins diet for an extended period?

To answer this, we may consider the results of a recent US clinical weight loss diet trial (2002), conducted by Dr. Fleming, which tested two groups of dieters. One group followed a high fat / high protein diet; the other group followed a low fat / high carb diet.

Weight Loss Diet Trial - Results

  • The fewer calories consumed, the more weight is lost regardless of what sort of diet one consumes.
  • The type of High Fat diet followed by the subjects in this study led to negative changes in all cardiovascular risk factors measured. It is doubtful that a caring professional could, in good conscience, recommend a diet that would elevate total cholesterol, LDL's, triglycerides, homocysteine and fibrinogen.
  • The High Carb/Low Fat protocol led to an improvement in all cardiovascular risk factors.

Notes:

(1) The High Fat group did not follow an Atkins protocol per se, but it was "very similar" to an Atkins' diet.
(2) Exercise was self-recorded. The Low Fat group generally felt more energetic and tended to exercise more frequently although not significantly so.
(3) Insulin sensitivity was not measured.

Based on a previous study reported in Angiology, Dr. Fleming maintains that a Dr. Atkins type high fat diet increases coronary risk factors, whereas he was able to show that a diet high in complex carbohydrates led to a decrease of coronary risk factors.

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High Protein/ Low Carb vs. Low Fat/ High Carb Diets

Why Eat a Diet that is Low in Fat and High in Complex Carbohydrates?

  • Fat has 9 calories/gram, whereas protein and carbohydrates have 4 calories/gram. Therefore it is much easier to restrict your caloric intake by restricting your fat.
  • Your body easily converts dietary fat calories into body fat. One hundred fat calories can be stored as body fat by expending only 2.5 calories. Whereas your body must spend 23 calories - almost 10 times as much - to convert 100 calories of dietary protein or carbohydrates into body fat.
  • Complex carbohydrates are high in fiber, which slows down the absorption of foods, so that you feel comfortably full for extended periods on a modest caloric intake.
  • A typical high carb diet will contain both insoluble and soluble fibers. Insoluble fibers increase stool bulk, which decreases the amount of time it takes food to pass through your intestines. This decreases the likelihood of problems such as constipation, hemorrhoids, diverticular disease, irritable bowel syndrome and colon cancer. Soluble fibers help increase the removal of cholesterol in the bile and also slow the absorption of carbohydrates so blood sugar levels remain more constant and the spiking of insulin is avoided.
  • A quality vegetarian, or near vegetarian, diet is a major protection against cardio-vascular disease and cancer.

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High Protein/ Low Carb vs. Low Fat/ High Carb Diets - Heart Disease

Heart Disease Trials
Dean Ornish, M.D., a renowned cardiologist and author of the book Dr. Dean Ornish's Program For Reversing Heart Disease, showed an actual reversal of the heart disease process through a diet limited to only 10% of daily calories from fat. Prior to Ornish's findings, significant reversal of heart disease was only thought possible through surgery. Ornish's study participants followed a diet abundant in fruits, vegetables, and whole grains, with the overwhelming majority of calories coming from carbohydrates. Dr. Atkins has not published a single study showing the long term effects of his diet on heart health. Considering his diet has been around since the 70's he's certainly had ample time to do so.

American Heart Association
The American Heart Association urges most adults to limit fat intake to no more than 30 percent of total daily calories, less than 10 percent of which should be saturated fat. On some of the high-protein diets, meeting these goals is simply impossible. A diet high in complex carbohydrates that includes fruits, vegetables, non-fat dairy products and whole grains has been shown to reduce blood pressure. Limitation of these foods, which are rich in calcium, potassium and magnesium (nutrients associated with blood pressure reduction), may lessen the benefit of weight loss on blood pressure reduction. A diet rich in animal protein, saturated fat and cholesterol raises LDL cholesterol levels - an effect that is made worse when high-carbohydrate, high-fiber plant foods that help lower cholesterol are limited or eliminated.

Bottom Line - Heart disease is America's number one killer - if you have heart disease or a family history of heart disease, stay away from low carb, high saturated fat diets.

High Protein/ Low Carb vs. Low Fat/ High Carb Diets - Cancer Connection

According to the National Cancer Institute, five servings of fruits and vegetables each day is the minimum amount one should eat in order to help significantly reduce the risk of developing cancer. In addition, studies have shown that approximately 35% of all cancer deaths in the U.S. may be related to poor dietary habits. Can one consume the amount of produce necessary to significantly help prevent disease on the Atkins diet? Impossible. Plentiful amounts of fruits and vegetables are forbidden.

Bottom Line - Cancer is America's number two killer - be wary of low carb plans if you are interested in reducing cancer risk through diet.

High Protein/ Low Carb vs. Low Fat/ High Carb Diets - Kidney Disease

Although proteins are essential nutrients required to maintain the body's structure and proper function, most Americans already eat more protein than their bodies need, and excess dietary protein can, in itself, also increase health risks. In some individuals with kidney or liver disease, unneeded protein may put them at risk of worsening their disease.

Bottom Line - If you are concerned about your kidneys, don't use a high protein diet.

Sources include:
American Heart Association.
National Weight Control Registry (NWCR).
National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK).
UK Health Service.


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