Despite all the coverage that obesity receives, and all the ongoing discussions about soda tax and soda-size ban, and trans fat ban, and artificial sweeteners, and gastric bypass, we are still growing larger – adults and kids. And no discussion has been more front and center than the dialogue about which diet is more effective, low fat or low carb. I always say the best diet is the one that helps you, personally, to lose weight safely and then to keep it off for years and years. Thanks to some recent research, we can now call some diets, less optimal, in terms of some ill effects they may have on our cholesterol levels. Science Daily recently reported that results from a recent 25 year Swedish study published in the journal Nutrition suggest that a low fat diet does appear to lower cholesterol levels. Unfortunately, the popular low carb diet, despite helping dieters to lose weight somewhat quickly, appears to increase cholesterol levels. What was especially interesting about these results is that the population of men that was studied, initially received education through an intervention program called the VIP. It was set up in 1985 to help men in Sweden reduce their high incidence of cardiovascular disease. The results were excellent, with men shifting from butter to low fat spreads, learning to read food labels, learning to cook with healthier recipes and cooking methods, and generally receiving support from health professionals. Cholesterol levels were dramatically reduced. with a 3% reduction of fat intake in men and 4% fat intake reduction in women who followed the same program.
Around 2005, the cholesterol profile of these men began to move in the opposite direction, with an upswing back to near levels of 1986. What happened? High protein, low carb diets, that’s what. And along with increased consumption of protein, came increased consumption of saturated fat. One expert who looked at these findings said that despite the weight loss often associated with low carb diets, long term weight loss may not be achieved, and blood cholesterol levels may actually rise significantly. The conclusion that a low carb diet is associated with an increased risk of cardiovascular disease, based on this study is strongly inferred.
There is certainly nothing wrong with deciding to drop a few servings of grain carbohydrates from your diet, if you are trying to lose weight. Consider keeping at least 2 to 3 small servings of quality whole grains in you daily food consumption, and make sure you measure them accurately. If you want to eat more protein, consider using plant-based protein, as well as fish, eggs, nuts and seeds, and reducing consumption of meat, choosing the leanest cuts. Include fruits, vegetables, small amounts of healthy oils and fats and low fat or fat free dairy products to round out a day’s worth of eating. That way you are eating a reduced carb diet balanced with healthy proteins and other food groups.