Rediscovering the Benefits of Animal Proteins and Fats

The beat goes on. I can say it no better than Anahad O’Connor of the New York Times Science edition on September 1st: “People who avoid carbohydrates and eat more fat, even saturated fat, lose more body fat and have fewer cardiovascular risks than people who follow the low fat diet that health authorities have favored for decades, a major new study shows.”

Thank goodness that we have medical scientists that are willing to question the long-held beliefs about fat and protein. For decades now our own government has insisted that we follow a diet which is demonstrably bad for us. Dr. Atkins, who did no more than report, anecdotally, significant improvements in his patients that switched to low carb, high protein and fat diets, was pilloried for his suggestions. Yet every controlled study in the last 10 years has demonstrated that he was right, and now it is the high carb, low fat crowd that has egg on its face (pun intended) as we watch our girth and risk of disease grow exponentially. The latest study that says we must re-emphasize proteins and fats, sponsored by the National Institute of Health, adds fuel to the fire in several respects.

The most significant finding from my perspective is the stunning reversal in the understanding of saturated fats’ role in heart health. This point deserves a verbatim quote as well: “It’s been thought that your saturated fat is, of course, going to increase [when eating beef, as an example], and then your cholesterol is going to go up,” she said. “And then bad things will happen in general. The new study showed that was not the case.”

A couple of reasons apparently explain why the high protein group did so well metabolically on protein and fats derived from Real Food.

  1. The saturated fat found in meats form into a large cell, slippery LDL which have no tendency to attach to arterial walls. Those markers formed by processed carbs make a small cell, sticky substance that does cling to our walls, leading to atherosclerosis. So while the LDL levels in both groups remained the same, the carb eaters had the dangerous type while the meat eaters had the innocuous version.
  2. The carb eaters lost muscle but not fat while the meat eaters lost fat and built muscle. The doctors noted that our ratio of muscle to fat was important for heart health, even more so than simply losing weight.

I had just read the report when I saw the founder and CEO of Whole Foods grocery chain on television, himself an icon for the vegetarian movement. He is a picture of un-muscled emaciation and now I know why. Just doesn’t look healthy, does he? I must add that I have also seen vegetarians that did have a healthy glow to them, but I always ask and the answer is the same. They take large doses of supplements, a much more expensive and less efficient way to try to get the proteins and fats into your body. Not to mention the stress it puts on your colon, liver and kidneys. Why not enjoy Real Food instead?

Another significant point about this study is that there was no caloric restriction imposed on the participants in either group. They ate as much as they pleased. Yet the average weight loss was much higher among the low carb group, and that is another reason to endorse the low carb diet. To lose weight, it is easier and more sustainable to change the choice of foods consumed than it is to reduce caloric intake.

This all may seem counter-intuitive, but my own experience supports their conclusion. Protein, and fat especially, is self-regulating. When your body has met its needs, it will tell you and you will moderate your intake until it is time to re-load. Carbs are different. The sugars found therein, especially among the simple, refined or processed carbs, have a rebound effect that prompts you to eat more and more. And that’s the problem with too many carbs! Limit or eliminate them, eating only complex carbs in moderation and accompanied by your favorite meat.*

*In this column, “meat” refers to the edible muscle of any creature, be it 4-legged, fish or fowl.