Thursday, April 23, 2009

Ah, the Irony of Low-Fat Diets

Yes, it is quite ironic how nutritionists for years have been telling us to stay away from fat and eat more carbs. "That fat will clog your arteries, then your heart, and BAM, you'll drop dead in your tracks." The low-fat diet is the way to go........or is it? When we lose weight by eating a "low-fat" diet, is it really a "low-fat" diet? Where does the fat go that we lost when eating a "low-fat" diet? (Here's where the irony hits.) We use our body fat as fuel then to lose the weight, right? Hence, it really isn't a "low-fat" diet after all, is it? In fact, one could easily surmise that about half of the calories burned in the so-called "low-fat" diet come from fat - our own body fat at that, whose composition is similar to.......LARD!

What I've just done here is paraphrase a brilliant, funny, biting, yet insightful essay posted by Tom Naughton, producer of a very eyebrow-raising film titled "Fat Head-Can Your Own Bologna Kill You?"

Can Your Own Bologna Kill You?

It's definitely a great read and may get you thinking differently about eating fat. Enjoy!

Thanks to Richard at the blog "Free the Animal" (see my "Good Reading on the Blogosphere") for posting the link.


SteveQ said...

I still subscribe to low fat. Every society that's long-lived has a low fat diet. Every society that lives on fat, like the Inuit, die young. Ask the best ultrarunners what they eat and it's high carb every time.

Steve said...

Steve, I'm curious as to where you get your data regarding the positive correlation between long-lived societies and low-fat diets?

When making such a blanket statement, one must keep in mind the cultural and geographical factors that also affect mortality rates.

Case in point, the Inuits you mention. The Inuit high mortality rate is not due primarily to diet, but rather to their more difficult lifestyle, where almost 25% of deaths are caused by accidents. In addition, the "modernization" of Inuits by the introduction of modern foods, cigarettes, and exposure to contagious diseases has taken their toll.

On top of that, there is a significantly high suicide rate among Inuits,particularly among those under the age of 30, which has been attributed to "modernization", according to several studies. Essentially, the Inuit went from free-ranging hunter/gatherers to wards of the state.

Here is an interesting article from the NY Times regarding suicide among the Inuit Nation:

Regarding the diets of the "best" ultrarunners...considering the ultrarunning population is very small, and the population of those eating a high-carb diet very high amongst society as a whole, it's no surprise that's what they would say. I'd be curious to see what they'd say if they tried the alternative.

Anyway, enjoy your pasta, bread and potatoes. I've got a big tasty piece of meat and a pile of veggies calling me.

Good luck this weekend at Chippewa too!

Mitch R. said...

When you slam the low fat, high carb diet, you slam the teachings of top endurance coaches like Chris Carmicheal. I bet that Lance Armstrong is not following the paleo diet.

I realize that diets are like religions, but since the Paleo man never saw his 30th birthday, why would anyone follow his diet?

A long time ago, when I was enjoying a good steak, a friend of mine announced with an air of superiority, that he was a vegetarian because eating meat was not healthy.

When I asked him why he had incisor teeth in his mouth, he did not have a comeback.

Steve said...


Paleo man most likely did not see his 30th birthday because he died in an accident or was killed by another animal, not because of eating a low-carb diet. The same goes for those cultures that Mr. Quick was pointing out as well. Live a harsh life surviving off the land and no matter what you eat, you're going to have a shorter life span.

In regards to "slamming" the low-fat/high-carb diet, I have no intentions of doing so. Rather, I am trying to show examples of how the public has been misinformed about proper diet and nutrition and how many of the anti-fat arguments don't hold water.

The true and strict Paleo Diet is not ideal for endurance athletes. Personally, I follow the Paleo Diet for athletes, which does recognize that glycogen stores do need to be replaced moreso than that of a non-athlete. Hence, there is more leeway with carbs and actually carb replenishment is strongly encouraged after strenuous workouts and leading up to competitions. Again, endurance athletes have a lot more leeway than the average joe because of their significantly higher level of activity. My opinion is that a high-carb/low-fat diet is not ideal for an average person.

SteveQ said...

I'm starting to accept that the low carb, high protein plan works better for some people (mesomorphs, generally) and high carb for others (ectomorphs).

Currently, the longest-lived people are the Okinawans, a subset of Sicilians and the vegan Seventh Day Adventists of Loma Linda. Others I had in mind are from older studies of the Vilcabamba and Hunza.

The Inuits were a poor choice on my part, just the first I thought of.

One fact I'll share going against myself is that a lot of the runners I had in mind changed their diets to higher carb AFTER they ran their best times.

Steve said...

Steve, I wonder why those runners changed to the high-carb AFTER running their best times. Seems kinda strange. You know, "If it ain't broke, don't fix it"? Any idea what their diet was before switching to high-carb?

BTW, I hope you're feeling okay after all of these consecutive ultras. You might want to consider some R&R, and by that I don't mean running and racing. haha. Best of luck in the next race!

Zach said...

Wow, quite a discussion brewing here, how can I resist :)

One of my favorite ultra stars is Scott Jurek. He is sort of famous for his vegan diet. It's not so much his diet, but his comments about diet in general that come to mind. He says that what you eat doesn't make you any faster than the next guy on race day, but allows your body to heal more completely and allows us to continue doing this for years to come. There are high performing athletes that eat a lot of crap as well (he cited some examples in the interview I was listening to). At any rate, take it or leave it, but his point was, what you eat isn't going to make you faster than the next guy on race day.

I personally am about 95% vegetarian. My family is 100% vegetarian. I haven't given up seafood completely, but eat it pretty rarely since I don't prepare a separate meal for myself when with my family. Therefore, I'm a high carb / low fat guy almost by default. It works great for me, I recover pretty quickly, have plenty of energy, and about 6% body fat last time I had it measured. The only challenge is I have to be really conscious to get enough protein because my wife doesn't always think protein when cooking so on lighter days I grab a glass of whey powder drink to supplement.

As for diet, it's the same as training, different strokes for different folks. No one thing will work equally well for everyone.

As for the vegetarian bit, I did it originally for health benefits, and now I do it equally as much for the planet / environment. I never preach to people about diet (or really anything for that matter), but I would challenge heavy meat eaters to do some reading about the impact to the planet of commercial meat productin, that can be equally as startling as reading about the impact of fat in a diet, etc. :)

SteveQ said...

Jurek's a good example of runners changing their diets after their best times (though he's still darned fast); it seems to be a case of 20-year-olds not really needing to think about what they eat. Often, as we age, we slow and we start thinking "what else can I do? I'm training as hard as I can."

Dean Karnazes has been touting a low carb/high protein diet, but that too has been after his best races.