The Dark Side of Low-Carb and Low-Fat Diets

Shadow on a Brick Wall: Dark Side of LC and Low-Fat Diets
Low-fat diets have not cured the obesity epidemic,
so why is the U.S. Government still pushing them?

Most low-carb versus low-fat diet studies use stats that have been averaged over all participants. This averaging method results in study conclusions clearly stating that low-carb diets and low-fat diets are of equal value when it comes to helping individuals trim down short term.

However, study results are far more dark and troublesome than their conclusions appear.

With the 2015 Dietary Guidelines for Americans due out later this year, some researchers have been scrambling to gather together scientific evidence to support earlier recommendations that a high-carb, low-fat diet reigns supreme over all others.

In light of the evidence that firmly supports low-carb diets being of equal value in weight-loss strategies, low-carb advocates have been pressuring the committee to revamp their position on recommending low-fat diets to all Americans.

Low-fat diets have not corrected or even slowed down the obesity epidemic in this country.

In fact, obesity has gotten worse over the years, not better, so it's not surprising that low-carb physicians and supporters would pull together and state their case.

The conflict between the two opposing perspectives has become a literal war between the different dietary philosophies, which has been going on for decades now. Over the years, researchers really haven't been able to demonize or destroy low-carb diets.

At best, the scientific literature, most of which has been funded by Atkins Nutritionals, Inc. and other interested parties, has only been able to show an equal footing with low fat.

In hopes of being able to squash the competition, researchers sympathetic to low-fat diets took it upon themselves to quiet the low-carb folks once and for all, delving into the abundance of scientific literature themselves.

However, the various studies and meta-analysis they conducted and published recently, some of which were quite large and included several different approaches to weight loss, do not support what the researchers thought was true.

In fact, some of the data was so shocking that the researchers didn't know what to do with it. Their intent was to find the optimal diet program backed by scientific evidence, rather than theories.

What they found, instead, was a whole lot more disturbing and dark.

Stack of Journals
Neither side of the controversy has been able to prove
their diet is best for everyone.

Meta-Analysis Isn't a Scientific Study

Even the media gets confused. A meta-analysis is not scientific. An analysis looks at already published or unpublished studies that fit within a certain criteria and then after analyzing the data, publish their own opinion.

It's just an analytic review.

A new pair of eyeballs takes a look at the original objective, data, and conclusions of a set of studies, and then offers up a new perspective in keeping with their own biased agenda.

The Dark Side of Scientific Research

The criteria used to cherry-pick studies analyzed is supposed to weed out data that might flaw or warp objective results, but in reality, the weeding out process is often tainted and biased.

Instead of starting with a hypothesis that the scientist attempts to disprove (how scientific research used to be conducted), today, studies simply eliminate participants that might not support the desired outcome.

For example, in the landmark study used to defend the current gluten-free labeling law, researchers only used a majority of participants that were not very sensitive to gluten.

At that time, a gluten-free diet was anything less than 100 ppm of gluten, which is five times higher than what is thought to be safe today. Since participants had to be on that diet for at least 10 years and had to test completely healed to be involved in the study, these few participants were not very sensitive to gluten.

Man Weeding the Garden
Study participants that won't give the desired results
are eliminated or rejected.

Of those with a lower tolerance to gluten, none of them completed the study, so they were not used in the final data analysis that claimed "no one" was harmed at 10 mg of gluten.

That declaration was a complete lie.

One participant had a total relapse at 10 mg of gluten and left the study before it was completed, due to the degree of symptoms he was suffering with. He also refused to undergo a second biopsy because of how sick he was.

Yet, the press and everyone else who discusses the study continues to hold up this study as proof that 20 ppm of gluten is safe for everyone.

Those who fund research studies want to get results that will support their cause, which is why I rarely use studies to defend my perspective anymore. No one is going to fund a study they can't use, so research is rarely objective.

If you want someone to put up the cash, you have to mold your research to benefit them in some way. This is sometimes done in the Discussion and Conclusion sections of research studies.

If you look at the data yourself and compare it to the discussion and conclusion offered to the reader, the report often don't fit the data.

The media reports simply parrot a researcher's opinion, as reporters rarely look at the original data for themselves either. It's easier to just follow what others tell them to believe instead. 

Tricks that Researchers and the Media Play with Your Health

Public is being deceived by research conclusions.
Weight loss is "average" weight loss,
rather than reporting which people had success.

The typical information about low-carb and low-fat diets clearly state that these two extremes are equal in nature when it comes to sustainability.

They're not.

That's just how they are usually presented, due to the researchers' agenda. Even the flock of latest meta-analyses that have been published recently have been reported in a similar way.

We've been told that there is no difference between a low-carb diet and a low-fat diet at the end of a year because weight loss -- on the average -- was insignificant. And because most of us automatically believe what experts tell us, we don't stop to question what the scientists mean by "average" weight loss. 

Did you catch that?

The scientists didn't report the various results in weight loss that people had or didn't have following each type of diet -- and why.

Instead, they added all losses in pounds together and then divided that number by the number of participants to find an average weight loss in pounds for the entire group.

Average weight loss at the end of a year for each study looked at was less than 10 pounds, so that's what the media reports each time the study surfaces. They don't tell readers about those who lost 30 or 40 pounds following a low-carb or low-fat diet and were still losing weight.

Even the Atkins folks -- who funded most of these studies by the way -- reported the average weight loss of the entire group, as if that average 10-pound number was the greatest thing since sliced bread.

At first, this really confused me.

The low-carb average was higher than the low-fat one, but we're only talking about a measly 2-1/2 pounds. The Atkins folks thought this 2-1/2 pound difference was terrific and presented it to the low-carb community in a blaze of glory.

I grew even more confused when I discovered that many people on low-carb diets during that study lost a lot of weight. And yet, Atkins Nutritionals, Inc. never talked about them. They only boasted how low-carb diets were comparable to low-fat ones.

I'm guessing that the Atkins agenda is a slow-moving agenda where low-carb diets are first legitimatized by the government, and hence the public, and then they will move to be accepted as more than just another viable alternative.

But that's only a guess.

The researchers were right about the 2-1/2 pound advantage not being significant, but the insignificance wasn't because a low-carb diet and a low-fat one are equal, as the Atkins folks claimed.

The true insignificance of what happened during those studies wasn't even disclosed to the public.

And the same thing is happening again.

Bold Truth About Low-Carb and Low-Fat Diets

Recent meta-analyses haven't turned up anything different than what your average low-carb dieter already knows.

In one study, 53 meta-analysis reports were looked at, such as the diets proclaimed to be the holy grail of health by Dr. Dean Ornish and Atkins Nutritionals, Inc., as well as high-fat Mediterranean-type diets.

They even looked at diets that used different methods or tricks to keep a dieter interested, but those who used counseling, provided the food, or educated dieters by way of pamphlets didn't achieve better compliance than any other diet.

Of all the diets they looked at, none emerged as being any better than the others. By the end of the year, people's weights were pretty much the same.

At first glance, and the way these meta-analyses have been presented by the researchers, it looks like one diet isn't any better than another. Researchers claim that their intent here isn't to make a low-fat diet look bad, even though the low-fat, high-carb diet was so abysmal that only no diet at all gave worse results.

What they saw in the research was that people usually fall off the wagon within 6 to 8 months, and then, it's all downhill from there.

While low-carb diets might be easier to follow short term, they aren't more effective at the end of the year because people just don't stick with them.

That's what a meta-analysis published in Diabetic Medicine recently concluded.

The criteria they used for their analysis required the studies they looked at to have a dietary assessment done at the end of the study to determine whether the participants were still following the diet they had been assigned to correctly.

And the results were shocking.

At one year, those assigned to a very low-carb diet, defined as less than 50 grams of carbohydrates per day, were consuming 132 grams to 162 grams of carbohydrates daily.

That's three times the amount of carbohydrate they were supposed to be eating during the study. It's no wonder that the results were closely aligned with those they were being compared to. They were not even following the diet.

And this wasn't specific to carbs.

People encouraged to up their intake of protein and saturated fats simply didn't do it. Most people ate less saturated fat than they did before they started the study. This means that those assigned to a low-fat, high-carb diet were no better at compliance.

People often didn't eat the amount of carbohydrate they were supposed to eat either. Instead, they kept to a more moderate carb intake, with most of them not following the diet correctly from day one.

This particular analysis was specific to diabetics, but dietary habits tend to be universal.

I wouldn't be surprised to find out that all of the low-carb versus low-fat diets used in these studies were flawed in similar ways. The hard truth is that people can't stick to Atkins long term any easier than they can stick to a low-fat diet.

Diets Don't Work, Not Even Healthy Ones

Girl Eating an Apple
Most diets ask you to eat food
you're not used to eating.

Diets keep you thinking about food all the time.

I learned this lesson when I went on the original Weight Watcher's exchange diet as a young mother and managed to get myself down to 160 pounds. I was always thinking about what I could or couldn't eat for the rest of the day.

If I made a mistake and ate something that wasn't satisfying enough to get me to the next meal, instead of chowing down on a bowl of warm vegetable soup as the plan advised, I sat there in front of the television, watching soap operas and obsessing on how slow the minutes were ticking by until I could eat something good again.

When I couldn't withstand the hunger any longer, I'd inhale six Weight Watcher's Ice Cream Sandwiches in about half an hour.
I didn't understand that the body was defending its fat stores by driving me to eat. I thought I was weak and lacked self-discipline.

On low carb, I experienced something similar and became obsessed with:
  • carbohydrate grams
  • fat grams
  • and protein grams
I plugged what I planned to eat into every single morning, and then played around with the numbers until they hit the targets I wanted to see. I weighed myself every day, and if I didn't like the number, I would play with the percentages of macronutrients again.

I ignored everyone in my life.

All of my free time, outside of my cooking job, was spent reading through post after post after post at one of the low-carb forums called Low-Carb Friends. That's literally all I did.

Eventually, I found my sweet spot for fat loss, after becoming acquainted with the Kimkins Diet and rereading the Atkins books from an open-minded perspective, but I still didn't realize the degree our instinct for survival plays in our ability to lose and maintain the weight.

I listened to those I should have ignored.

After self-diagnosing myself with celiac disease and not seeing the healing I expected, I tried the Paleo Diet. I thought it might correct some of the neurological problems and severe vertigo I was still experiencing, but all I could think about was what I couldn't have.

My diet was severely limited. In addition to gluten, I'd given up all:
  • grains
  • dairy
  • soy
  • and sugar
But none of those dietary restrictions did anything for my health. I rarely ate pork, due to the corn-avoidance protocol. 

And yet:
  • the vertigo was still there
  • the neuropathy was worse than ever
  • my hair started to fall out again
  • my skin turned so dry it was flaky
  • I had difficulty concentrating
  • sensory issues got a lot worse
  • I started having problems with insomnia
  • the dermatitus herpetiformis got a lot worse too
Even chucking diet soda for several years did not make a difference.

Emotionally, looking at reclaiming my health as a journey and chasing one diet after another took a huge toll on me. Everyone around me was eating whatever they wanted to, and even with all of my dietary restrictions, I was still bedridden.

While hubby was gluten free, he was eating grains, dairy, soy, and sugar, which made it very difficult to keep my head in the game. I felt left out, alone, and victimized.

BBQ Beef, Salad, Sweet Potatoes
Going Paleo did not improve my health condition.
In fact, I had a violent allergic reaction to organic beef!

When we got our hands on some pastured beef, I was so excited. I thought those steaks and stewing meat and hamburger were going to be the answer to my woes.

Little did I know what the universe had in store for me next. Within 24 hours, I was itching from head to toe, and even after that organic meat was gone, I didn't stop itching for over a year!

At that point, I called it quits.

I was done with restricting myself. If I was going to continue to be sick and in ill health, I might as well enjoy what I eat.

Dietary peculiarities can easily take precedence above all other things. If you let it, weight loss or some type of dietary compliance for health purposes can take over and become your ultimate priority in life.

While gluten isn't something I can just ignore, most of the health information that's thrown our way was originally fed to us by marketers.

We didn't question the information. We just swallowed it whole.

That's insanity.


  1. Hi... I agree with you.. Low Fat diets don't work... I enclosing a You Tube video that supports your blog..

    1. Thanks for the link on monosaturated fats. I'm at the point where I'm ready to just eat for health and let the scale take care of itself.


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