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A Call for a Low-Carb Diet (nytimes.com)
236 points by leephillips on Sept 2, 2014 | hide | past | web | favorite | 240 comments

I know this is just anecdotal coincidence (and not really that interesting to most people other than myself) but today when I weighed myself I had my ideal body weight for the first time in my life. This is after following a low carb diet for six months and losing 50 pounds... so throw another vote in the "yes, low carb seems to be effective" bucket. The findings in this article are certainly music to my ears.

(Here is the version I followed http://fourhourworkweek.com/2007/04/06/how-to-lose-20-lbs-of...)

Same here, except I'm not at my ideal weight yet. Since starting a low-carb and fairly lean meat diet, I've lost 20 lbs in three months (200 -> 180, and hoping to get back to my pre-grad school weight of 160). I feel awesome, and I intend to keep up with this in the long-term.

The diet is basically to eat lean protein sources (scallops, salmon, round or loin steaks, chicken without skin, whey protein shakes (brand dependent), etc.) with broccoli, spinach, or another high fiber low carb green vegetable with every meal (4-6 meals per day). Assuming I haven't had any "cheat meals," the last meal of every 3rd day on this diet is a sweet potato/yam as a kind of carb refeed. I've really enjoyed the diet and I feel much better. I based it off of this source (but I used a somewhat lower calorie calculation than they suggest, since the diet is for bodybuilders): http://www.bodybuilding.com/fun/docs/2007/gameover_vol2.pdf

At work I have a Quest Nutrition protein bar as a snack, which satisfies the fiber and protein requirements.

Before this, I followed a "healthy" Mediterranean diet for 2 years and failed to lose any weight even with exercise, but at least I didn't gain any either.

Why are you going for lean meats? Most low carbers encourage consumption of fattier meats, to encourage production of ketones. Unless you're trying to limit your omega 6 intake, I don't see how it would be beneficial to eat lean meats on a low carb diet as a lower fat diet would limit your body fat mobilization and encourage muscle wasting through gluconeogenesis. But if it's going well for you, power on. I however, have lost body fat and maintained lean body mass by eating lots of fatty meats, pork rinds, cheeses, butter and avocado. I was never obese however, maybe a bit skinny fat with a bit of a beer belly. People need to change their thinking about saturated fats and fats in general (except trans-fats from seed oils, those are always bad).

It is quite dangerous to go both low carb and low fat[1].


You talking about a keto diet which is high protein, high fat, limiting the carbs to under 50g or less, depending on your size. High protein, Low carb, does not reduce the carbs to such a level that it puts you in a keto state. Half a cup of mixed veg has around 12g carbs, so eating a cup at every meal with your protein will not put you in a keto state but will keep you at a low carb level. This is where most bodybuilders stay or go for 40/40/20 ration with 20 being fats.

I'm on an extreme version of keto (come stop by /r/keto on reddit!), where I consume under 20g/sugar a day (the rest is fat and vegetable protein). I'm losing ~2-2.5lbs/week, and have never felt better.

Hats off, i have tried keto, just couldn't handle it.

Half real food, half DIY Keto-specific Soylent.

I'm 31, and spent the majority of my early 20s at startups wolfing down Mountain dew. Was up to almost 200 lbs for being 5' 6", and now I'm down to 165, and headed towards 150.

Exercise is critical as well. I run 3-5 miles every other day, with a 10 mile on Saturday or Sunday.

Ditto on the lean meats. I switched to a low-carb, high protein/non-lean meat diet and lost 13 lbs in the first month, with no additional exercise. My diet was largely carbs - cereal, toast, breads in the a.m., sandwiches, crackers, bread and ice cream, so eliminating all of that was a fundamental change to my diet. I've never looked back.

I've lost about 130 since last September and I took a 2 month period off from a low carb diet to see whether I could maintain my weight. Am now 30 pounds from my goal weight and I weigh less than I did after my freshman year of college (which was over a decade ago). I don't see carbs as necessarily the enemy, but it's a bit disheartening when you start paying attention to nutrition labels and see all the foods with added sugar. I tend to avoid the middle aisles of grocery stores, but even the outer aisles have products full of hidden sugars.

For me, a very-low-carb diet clears up my acne within four weeks of starting the diet. It comes back again within a week of ending the diet. (I also find low-carb very hard to stick to.)

I noticed the same sort of thing (many years ago when I was a student), going from processed foods to cooking fresh. I mainly did it to save money (a bag of potatoes was cheap), but noticed less colds and acne as a side effect.

I've lost about 65 lbs in about the same timeframe once, but by going with a mostly carb diet (& a lot of exercise). The trick for me was just eating less overall and doing a lot of exercise...that seems to be the most consistent solution for weight loss I've found from personal experience.

Interesting. I barely eat any breads -- eggs for breakfast, meat and greens for lunch, and generally a meat/vegetable combo for dinner -- while working out 2-3 times a week, and I have a tough time not gaining weight.

Anecdotes are basically pointless. What we need is cheap individualized nutrition.

This is very interesting to me! I had quite an argument / discussion about this only 2 days ago with my father. He calls it the "Slow Carb" diet and tried to get me to go on it. I had a look around and found that this is the invention of just 1 man with seemingly not much backing evidence out there. My argument was how can I follow the diet of 1 man, even if it is effective (anecdotally)? I think I used an argument that if I came out with a "water and beans diet" it would probably be effective but without supporting evidence how safe would it be long term?

I still stand by this, in the sense that I would love to see if there is more "proof" out there, even anecdotal is good if in sufficient quantity.

Oh, I don't think Tim Ferris' diet is anything special, it's just one of many ketogenic/paleo diets that probably all work about the same. I just liked his version because his grocery list & preparation steps are practical for my own routine. Additionally, I have a hunch the focus on eating similar meals over and over again is a valuable psychological trick to help you keep your portions modest (because it forces your brain to focus more on the sustenance aspect of food, not the enjoyment element)

More anecdotal evidence:

  consist of eggs for breakfast, tuna salad for lunch, and some kind of protein for dinner — like red meat, chicken, fish, pork or tofu — along with vegetables
I've been eating this way for almost two years now. Though correlation may not be causation, I attribute the ease of weight maintenance and the lower levels of fatigue I experience since then to the diet.

Careful with too much tuna. Lots of mercury. Maybe cut back to 2-3 days/week. Also buy chunk light which has less mercury.

I try to eat low carb too, and feel better when I do. I've also lost a lot of weight.

One thing I dislike about eating low carb, or paleo for that matter, is that it is not possible to measure it (other than weight, of course). It is based on randomly eating food (as long as it is low carb), and hoping you'll lose weight.

There is something you can do, though. It's measurable and it works. Bodybuilders use it, powerlifters use it, athletic fitness competitors use it, etc.

It's called counting calories. I've done it, and it worked great. It's a hassle, though! You basically have to weigh everything you eat, and it's a big disadvantage. However, by using this, you can keep track, count and graph everything you get into your body, and map it up to your weight and fat percentage.

For more information, see the /r/fitness FAQ: http://www.reddit.com/r/Fitness/wiki/faq#wiki_diet_details

I had a bit of a freak metabolism growing up, and never worried about anything I ate, I simply couldn't gain weight. I lived on nothing but carbs. Until about 25, and my metabolism slowed, I gained 20 pounds; then again around 30, another 20 pounds. So I ended up at 197 pounds (I'm 6'2"), and the 200 number starring at me convinced me once and for all that my carb heavy days were permanently over.

So I slashed the carbs and sugar out of my diet, lost about 30 pounds in four months, with some minimal weight lifting thrown in every other day to boost muscle and amplify my body's resting burn rate some. Used a 1500 calorie diet roughly. I give about 90% of the credit to eliminating specifically pizza, pasta, and most sugar (particularly anything sugar heavy, soda, snacks, etc) from my diet. So long as I stayed away from those things, I found I could eat a lot of what I wanted.

197lbs for a 6'2" person doesn't sound that terrible, honestly. I would think you look better than without the 70 pounds you gained. That height at ~130lbs just sounds deadly thin.

I may give it a go. Is there anything that I can add to this list?

So you didn't do "high fat", just "low carb?

The slow carb thing is fine (better than atkins, keto, high fat, etc) but still probably overly restrictive. I think what remains easier and possibly better for almost everyone is 1) eat in moderation, 2) avoid processed foods and 3) be minimally active (ie, 10 miles of walking per week).

It'd be nice to have this squared with research in vegetarianism (high-carb, low-fat) which long term studies indicate has a number of health benefits [1]

My own take, which I've mentioned before, is that the the starting point is so bad (refined carbohydrates) that you can pretty much walk in any direction and get positive results. That is, what people are eating doesn't matter nearly as much as what people aren't. Or, more specifically, any diet will make people pay attention to what they're eating, and that's the real win.

[1] http://ajcn.nutrition.org/content/70/3/516s.full

Vegetarianism isn't necessary high-carb low-fat.

Plenty of vegetarians stay away from pastas, grains, and other refined carbohydrates.

Yes fruits and dairy are also sources of sugars, but linking vegetarianism to high-carb, is like linking low-carb to risk for heart disease.

Vegetarians who do gain wait, are likely substituting high fat animal products for refined carbs like pasta, grains, starches, etc.

This is just my own personal observation, but all the vegetarians I know try to stay away from high carb diets, and specifically do not eat a lot of pasta or grains. Some do consume far too much fruit (often in the form of guzzling fruit juice), thinking that fructose is fine in any quantity so long as it's "natural sugar."

I just always assumed a carb heavy vegetarian diet is entirely contradictory to the health benefits a vegetarian is often seeking from their diet.

Maybe this is a west vs east thing (I'm in the east), but all the vegetarians I know eat a high-carb diet: vegetables, legumes, fruits and grains. What do you see as contradictory to "health benefits" from a diet with those staples? And, genuinely, what are the vegetarians you know eating?

My observation is the complete opposite. Vegetarians I know eat tons of starchy foods. And the pursuit of vegetarianism is mostly avoidance of meat, mainly red.

Yeah. Pasta, bread, tortillas and so on are staples of the diets of vegetarians I know. Who are all athletic and healthy...

Many (most?) vegetarians do so primarily for ethical or economic reasons: environmental, animal rights, food cost. Or religious reasons. Adding more dietary restrictions, like low-carb or low-sugar, would make the diet more expensive and onerous.

I believe the health benefits of vegetarianism are largely attributable to lifestyle choices that vegetarians are more likely to make than omnivores. They're less likely to drink, smoke, more likely to exercise, the list goes on.


Pretty much. You could probably come up with a diet that says you're not allowed to eat anything starting with a letter in the first half of the alphabet, and anyone who stuck to it would lose weight, because all of a sudden they'd be thinking carefully about what they ate rather than eating whatever took their fancy at any given moment.

Sticking to these diets is the hardest thing. I spent a few months on a paleo diet and got a bunch healthier, but it was really hard to find things to eat, and pretty expensive as well. I don't think dietary changes are worth it unless you can reasonably stick to them for the rest of your life, and anything that says "no X ever again" is likely to fall into that category.

The study they are discussing set up test subject with two different diets. One low in fat, one low in carbs. Low in carbs had far better outcomes. I agree that cutting anything will implicitly cut calories, it seems low carb really is superior.

They didn't test low fat. It was just carb restricted versus 30% fat (not low fat). Feeding was ad libitum, so it just confirms what we already knew: fewer food choices leads to spontaneous calorie restriction.

If it just told us that "fewer food choices lead to spontaneous calorie restriction", then both groups should have roughly equal results. They didn't. Any putative explanation of the results really needs to, well, explain the results. Not explain results other than the ones obtained.

Well, they did have roughly equal results if you look at the study. Both groups went from obese to slightly less obese. That said I don't follow your reasoning about equivalence. One diet was low carb. The other allowed for quite a bit of both fat and carbohydrate. Can't you see the difference?

The one group had to watch their fat intake and the other group had to watch their carb intake. It isn't exact equivalence but you are incorrect to say that only one group was restricted.

And you are also incorrect that both groups had equal results. There was an 8 pound weight loss difference on average. Did you even read the article?

The degree of squinting you're applying to call the results "equal" is not scientifically useful.

In fact I'd suggest you consider this a clue... you're clearly explaining away, rather than explaining. "Explaining away" is in a way the most fundamentally unscientific operation there is... the fact that you're joined by a number of people who call themselves "scientists" even so doesn't change that.

(No joke. The fundamental breakthrough of science philosophy is that instead of asking the cognitively-natural "How can I prove I am correct?", science teaches us to ask "How can I prove I am wrong?" Everything else is just elaborations on that theme. "Explaining away" is one of the easiest ways to do the first, and is thus one of the easiest unscientific things to do. The fact that we've managed to train a great number of people who fancy themselves scientists but think their job is more about the first than the second is an indictment of our society, not an excuse to follow those people.)

12 lb lost vs 4 lb lost is extremely significant especially given neither diet was calorie restrictive.

This is different that what we have been told which is to reduce fat and eat more whole grains and vegetables. You are saying that we just need to restrict our food choices.

> I don't think dietary changes are worth it unless you can reasonably stick to them for the rest of your life

Curious if you could name one food that was particularly difficult to cut out.

Alcohol was a real pain to cut out, although it's been some years now.

I've tried many times to cut out chocolate, and managed for up to 6 months at a time before coming crashing down. A few months ago I switched to "mindful eating", which says I can eat chocolate whenever I want, and life has been better.

As long as you're eating dark chocolate when you do, you'll be fine.

And becoming a bit snobby about chocolate helps as well. Single plantation chocolate is delicious (and for obvious reasons dark) and their prices make you want to eat less of it anyway ;)

Can't speak for your parent, but cheese seems to be a major stumbling point for a lot of people.

Sure. Bread. It's so convenient and easy, and it shows up in 90% of the things that you might be able to get for breakfast and lunch at the average food joint.

Visiting Buenos Aires, I noticed the patrons at a vegetarian restaurant were fatter than usual in that famously meat-centric city. (I went there three times.) This is just an anecdote, I know.

I agree that a good vegetarian diet's probably much healthier than a standard American one.

The heavier vegetarians I know tend to be chocolate monsters.

The benefits of vegetarianism are probably a lot more modest than you think, if at all.

Your study shows 1) no difference for everything except ischemic heart disease, 2) that fish eaters fare best and 3) fails to account for the lousier other food likely eaten by meat eaters.

I think (outside of the other effects mentioned related to being health conscious) that protein restriction has something to do with it.

Autophagy may be an important cellular cleanup process that never happens with three square meals a day.


The idea is plausible and there is some early research on this, but there's definitely not a consensus. I personally try to fill this void with intermittent protein fasting on a diet that is otherwise composed of meats, fruits, and vegetables.

Case study of one, but I've been a (lacto-ovo) vegetarian for roughly eight years now. I do eat a lot of pasta and cheese (because I find it delicious). I've always had a high metabolism, and I actually have trouble gaining weight. I've always been under the impression that there is not one universal diet for everybody. Instead, people should choose something that works for them. This is what works for me, and I'm pretty dang happy with it, so I've stuck with it.

>any diet will make people pay attention to what they're eating, and that's the real win

Except for a fruitarian diet, which is usually very high in fructose. Look at what that diet did to Steve Jobs. While he was still alive, way before it was revealed he had pancreatic cancer, I heard a story where he turned orange, which can only be jaundice, a sign of a failing pancreas. The pancreas metabolizes fructose and it can't be good to abuse it by overloading your body with high fructose.

You also turn orange if you eat too many carrots: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Carotenosis

You turn yellow from jaundice.

I hope you're right. Low-carb (meat-based as practiced by most) is amplifying climate change and world food shortages. Not to mention the needless gigascale animal suffering.

Refined carbohydrates are not a problem. Sugar, potatoes, properly prepared white flour, and white rice are excellent food choices. In fact they are superior choices to foods like whole grains and beans, which tend to have allergens and antinutrients like phytic acid and trypsin inhibitors.

Anyway, any apparent epidemiological advantages to avoiding animal products in the industrialized world come down to two things. 1) The meat is mostly garbage; you have to consider only grass fed. 2) People are eating large amounts of muscle meat to the exclusion of the organ meats and connective tissue. This results in a chronic excess of tryptophan and a major deficiency of glycine. Iron overload is also a problem with eating too much muscle meat. A diet of steaks and chicken breasts without eating the rest of the animals is totally unnatural.

Dairy doesn't have these problems of low quality meat and too much muscle meat. Vegetarian with high dairy intake is an excellent nutritional choice.

Sugar, potatoes, properly prepared white flour, and white rice are excellent food choices.

All mentioned, except probably potatoes, have very low nutrient density (also called "empty calories"). That alone makes them horrible food choices, even not considering the effects on metabolism.

Potatoes are ok though, I was surprised to find out that they contain complete protein. There were also some studies that recorded benefits from "potato diet".

Sugar and white rice are on that list and you single out potatoes?

Nutritiondata.self.com has a "completeness score" of 57/100 for potatoes, but only 27/100 for white rice (long grain), and a 0/100 for sugar (which is nothing but empty calories). FWIW, wheat flour is listed as 33/100 so potatoes are the top of the whole list.

Edit: for comparison, Kale (raw) has a "completeness score" of 85/100 and Spinach (cooked) has a 93/100.

Sugar and white rice are on that list and you single out potatoes?

Yes, sorry - I singled out potatoes as a decent food, while the others are truly horrible.

Gotcha, Sorry for jumping to a conclusion then.

You're giving out excellent advice and I have no idea why you're being down-voted. It seems to me that some folks can't stand to lose their scapegoat, which currently happens to be sugar/fructose, as saturated fat was in the 80s.

As for the empty calories counter argument, sometimes you just need energy/heat and simple sugars are a wonderful source. The average healthy person is eating between 2500 and 3000 calories a day. So even if you're eating half of them as junk you're still leaving enough room for nutrient dense foods.

Great points. You're being down-voted because you're asking people to think for themselves.

I have a question: if I cook chicken, meat etc. with "bone-in", do I get the benefits of bone-broth, glycine, etc.?

"Diet" is a subject that I've studied for most of my life, and I'm no youngster.

The same arguments about dietary composition have been going on for at least 150 years. There may be many opinions but for my part, I'd rather listen to the scientific evidence.

I was medical director of an obesity treatment clinic for many years. The low carbohydrate (CHO), optimal protein intake diet was often effective for weight loss and was not associated with bad effects. We felt compelled to closely track indicators of potential adverse effects but none were apparent.

There were good effects, e.g., type 2 diabetics had reduced insulin requirements, in some it was decreased to none. Other metabolic conditions, hypertension, dyslipidemias, etc., improved as well.

The science surrounding diet, metabolic disease, obesity and related things is indeed very complex. However as I see it, research into human evolution sheds light on what the optimum diet would be.

There's evidence that human hunter-gatherers were taller, stronger, healthier than their agricultural descendants. The idea is consuming a diet closer to that of pre-agricultural humans would better meet our physiological requirements.

Pre-agriculture diet had more high-quality protein (animal sources), less fat, with an omega-3 to omega-6 fatty acids ratio approximating 1:1, and low in saturated fat. Importantly, the intake of simple sugars was much lower that it is today.

On average, in the ancient human diet it's estimated that protein intake accounted for about 35% of calories, fat ~20%, and the rest ~45% from CHO. Of course, diets varied widely. These averages suggest a direction to take to improve health rather than absolute prescriptions to be followed rigidly.

So I guess everyone is partly right. Ideally, get more protein, less saturated fat, more omega-3, less omega-6 (seed oils), and moderate the CHO intake, especially sugar in all forms.

Sorry to say this, but our remote ancestors were conspicuous meat eaters, never natural vegetarians, though vegetables (leaves, stems, roots) were an important part of the human diet.

And BTW exercise was a constant component of primordial human lifestyle; we might do well to emulate that as well.

And yet some of the healthiest people on earth eat vegetable heavy diets...

The archaeological record shows that hunter-gatherers had an abysmally short lifespan, and were far from healthy... Pretty much every positive development in human health history happened after the advent of agriculture. Hunter gatherers were lucky to live past 30...

I'd guess your 'low carb' diet still had more vegetables and grains than most hunter gatherers had access to...

> Hunter gatherers were lucky to live past 30

Most of the statistics about our ancestors having a 35ish life expectancy are skewed by high infant mortality, and high risk of death due to injury or other external ailments (a broken leg on the savannah can easily be a death sentence). A hunter-gatherer who surived those things would tend to live into their sixties or beyond.

Ask any archaeologist. Most adult hunter gatherers did not make it to 40. We're not talking averages, we're talking maximum life expectancy...

The modal age of death for hunter gatherers that survived to adulthood ranges from 65 to 72 among the reasearched cultures.

Sure, a large proportion of them die at early childhood - "life expectancy" measures takes that into account by definition, as it measures the total average life expectancy; and if you get a 100 kids who live to 70 and 100 kids who die as infants, then the average life expectancy is 35.

Maybe you could present a paper? Because amongst most hunter gatherers researched the modal age is much lower...

M.Gurven & H.Kaplan Longevity Among Hunter-Gatherers: A Cross-Cultural Examination has a conclusion of "The average modal age of adult death for hunter-gatherers is 72 with a range of 68–78 years."

It's not about the ancient societies but is relevant because for this discussion the point is not history, but the effects of a hunter-gatherer diet.


Sure. They also had neither vaccinations nor antibiotics, had no understanding of bacteria, etc. Take any modern teenager and stick him back in the stone age and I doubt he makes it to 40 even WITH modern knowledge.

True enough, life span was often short until fairly recent times. In the distant past there were many factors affecting life span, e.g., diseases, accidents, predation (by large feline species in particular), childbirth to name a few.

However there is evidence of populations in pre-agricultural times which had favorable environments and consequently better health.

In fact there was just published by the Smithsonian an interesting article describing findings in the 9000 year old Kennewick Man specimen. Of particular interest was a comment about the condition of the teeth: all intact, no cavities attributed to low CHO diet. Age at time of death was estimated to be 40 years old. Not bad for 9000 years ago.

BTW I'd appreciate references you have to the differences in pre- and early post-agricultural health in human populations. Isolating dietary effects on health is difficult to be sure and a subject I'm always eager to learn more about.

As far as my diet is concerned, vegetables are emphasized, especially the green, leafy kind. (Foods that are relatively high in protein, low in CHO.) I recommend, and practice myself, reducing grains to a minimum.

As you no doubt know, protein, certain fats, a bunch of minerals and vitamins are essential to humans because we can't synthesize certain molecules--we must get them in our diet. Curiously, there is no essential carbohydrate. Our bodies can produce all the CHO it needs from non-CHO sources.

That's not to say CHO intake is not useful, and it is useful as a source of calories. In the past when calories were expensive, less costly CHO sources of calories were valuable, in essence to prevent starvation. In the current era when calories are extremely cheap, high CHO intake is positively dangerous--it's easy to consume a surplus of calories.

Interestingly, the data shows over the last 30 years there has been very little change in dietary fat intake in the USA, but sugars have increased dramatically. The rise in obesity has been attributed to inclusion of sugars in manufactured foods. The idea of decreasing dietary CHO intake, especially sugars, is logical.

Gluten and corn intolerance is common according to reports. Wheat, corn and many other grain products are grass seeds. Grass and its seeds are frequently allergenic to humans, which supports the idea humans are not native grass eaters, hence the advice to minimize it.

No, not true - life span has always been long (ish), but life EXPECTANCY has been low due to infant mortality.

Depends what do you mean by long-ish. It's possible that life span in 10 000 B.C. was 50 and in 1500 A.C. was 70.*

*Aristocrats and other people that had high protein intake, security etc.

I find your three comments here to be uncommonly rational and informative. I really hope you stick around.

Are you sure your number excludes early years deaths? I've seen this number bandied around and every time it include stillbirths and early years deaths.

It's not an average...

So, what you're saying is... every hunter-gatherer died before they were 30? Sounds like an average to me.

Abysmal live spans? Do you forget how savage human history is? Humans are more likely to be killed by each other than by their food source.

Do you know as fact that humans when they died did so from malnourishment? It's very possibly more likely due to some kind of famine which tended to happen from natural causes.

Yes, humans could endure longer with vegetation because it's easier to maintain it for longer periods of time in raw form, but were they in better physical health from eating the same thing over and over again? I'd imagine they had horrible vitamin deficiencies during famines.

Even if "some of the healthiest people on earth eat vegetable heavy diets" is both true and the health is a consequence of the vegetable heavy diet, that's not countering a point the parent made. Parent was advocating an optimal protein, low carbohydrate diet. Parent didn't say how many vegetables are in said diet.

(I am on a low carb diet with plenty of veg.)

The whole vegetarian vs meat-eater thing is something of a canard anyway. We're biologically omnivores. If you want to be a vegetarian, that's cool, but you need to ensure your diet covers the things you'd usually get from meats. But at this point, you're making a moral decision, not a nutritional decision - whether you get your protein from fish or from beans matters little to your body, as long as you get it.

Hunter gatherers were lucky to live past 30...

Not true. If you made it past 5-10 years, you were likely to live a fairly full adult life. Infant mortality was very high, but it wasn't like most people dropped dead before 30 if they survived early childhood.

Wikipedia has some numbers [1] on life expectancy at various time in history.

In the Upper Paleolithic, life expectancy at birth was 33 years, and by 15 years of age the total expectancy went up to 54 years.

In Classical Rome, life expectancy at birth was 20-30 years, and by 10 years of age the total expectancy went up to 45-47 years.

In Medieval Britain, life expectancy at birth was 30 years, and by 15 years of age the total expectancy went up to 64 years.

This looks kind of mixed to me. Certainly, as you point out, people weren't "dropping dead at 30". But dying around 45 or 55 is not what people nowadays would call a "fairly full adult life" either.

[1] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Life_expectancy#Life_expectancy...

Those numbers work fine with what I said, they're fairly full adult lives. Life expectency has been rising over the past few decades with improvements to medical care, but only 50 years ago in the US, it was 70 years. If that's 'full', then the numbers above are 'fairly full', I think. Rome might be a touch short, but it's still much longer than the idea most people drop dead by 30.

Certainly in a sociological sense, most people consider the years 60+ to be twilight years where you're not living life to the fullest - whether it's true or not, that's the perception.

Lots of assumptions there mate.

"some of the healthiest people on earth eat vegetable heavy diets..."

That doesn't mean anything. That barely even makes any sense.

Have you ever read Eat Fat And Grow Slim by Richard Hackarness, M.B.,B.S. (1958)?


It's a fascinating read, all the more impressive when you consider when it was written.

>However as I see it, research into human evolution sheds light on what the optimum diet would be.

The idea of knowing the optimum diet for humans is exciting. I used to spend a lot of time reading these studies, then I realized that like many other people I know, we read and pontificate these points to everyone else we know without actually putting them into practice to a level that makes spending so much time reading about them worthwhile. This is why I rarely look at diet and nutrition articles.

I'm sure some of you do follow them, but is being obsessive over everything you put into your mouth going to make your life significantly healthier and longer than just following the general principles we've established? I mean, I go shopping and buy fruit, vegetables, meat and some grains. I get my macronutrients and exercise frequently. Will I gain a decade of good health if I start doing paleo? I doubt it. Do I reduce my risk of preventable death if I follow religiously the latest diets (there's at least one every six months that everyone at works will tell me about)? Not likely.

Sorry if it sounds like I'm dismissing nutrition research, I know it's important, but if you're spending hours talking about whether a 30:30:40 ratio is better than a 20:20:60 ratio, then you eat dessert after every meal and get drunk every weekend, I think you'll find better things to spend your time on.

There's currently a group of anti-carbs lobbyists. The pro-carbs is not as vocal, but they have equally strong evidence that eliminating carbs isn't as important as you may think.

Of course no responsible observer (not me anyway) is recommending obsessive dietary adherence to some arbitrary nutrient ratio. Obviously optimal nutrition is not a single static point but a range and a rather broad one at that.

There can't be, and there are not, absolute rules. The research I'm talking about has nothing to do with arm wresting over dogmatic rules shouted out by people insisting they're right and the other guy wrong.

Nonetheless, when nutrition drifts far enough out of range of optimum to the point it is clearly associated with harmful health effects, and it's alarming when an ever greater segment of the population is affected.

That is exactly what's arousing so much concern. The rates of obesity, metabolic disease and diabetes have risen sharply in recent decades. Diabetes alone burdens the US economy (total costs) to the tune of $170 billion a year. The ever-growing burden of disability has been linked (in part) to dietary factors.

The problem is not going to be solved by medical science primarily, but rather the commitment of individuals to save themselves by altering dietary patterns, increasing exercise, and being an active participant, a real-time partner in their own health care.

Where science can help is teasing out the factors that contribute to the problems. The medical community must get behind the educational and political challenges that have a chance to reduce the unfavorable food industry practices that contribute to the problem, and increase individual change.

It would help to substantially reduce excessive sugars and trans-fatty acid content in manufactured and fast foods. Efforts at education of the public aimed at choosing one thing that's better than another must be attempted. These can work, but not quickly. Think of tobacco--it's taken 5 decades, but headway is finally being made reducing tobacco use.

Obsession over arbitrary dietary rules is not the idea. In severe form, it's tantamount to an eating disorder. That's not at all what we mean in any way. Fanaticism has no place in my world.

This study adds nothing new to the debate:

> “To my knowledge, this is one of the first long-term trials that’s given these diets without calorie restrictions,” said Dariush Mozaffarian, the dean of the Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy at Tufts University, who was not involved in the new study. “It shows that in a free-living setting, cutting your carbs helps you lose weight without focusing on calories. And that’s really important because someone can change what they eat more easily than trying to cut down on their calories.”

It doesn't actually control for calories so basically the study shows us that a diet that's low in carbs can help people eat fewer calories while still feeling full. That's important, but nothing we don't already know.

The health benefits are completely confounded by the lack of caloric control and control for weight loss: losing weight simply makes people less disease prone no matter the contents of the diet.

The lack of caloric control is key to this study - any diet which restricts caloric intake, long term, will be self-defeating. Allowing people to eat as much as they want, but simply choosing from a particular food group, is one key to long term success.

Another big part of this - an apparently non-biased researcher (presumably they don't run a food supplement business) - has suggested that eating fats of all things does not necessarily lead towards heart disease.

I think that's going to be a wake up call.

It also, in my mind, emphasizes that the bulk of "Nutritionists" for the last 50 years have been a bunch of cargo-cult practicing members of the mob - and it makes you wonder what other so-called-scientific disciplines are behaving in a like manner.

> The lack of caloric control is key to this study - any diet which restricts caloric intake, long term, will be self-defeating. Allowing people to eat as much as they want, but simply choosing from a particular food group, is one key to long term success.

Sure, I guess to me whether or not high fat diets have higher satiety is just not interesting - it's a settled issue and it's obvious to me.

> Another big part of this - an apparently non-biased researcher (presumably they don't run a food supplement business) - has suggested that eating fats of all things does not necessarily lead towards heart disease.

Right, but with similar weight it suggested eating less calories helps prevent heart disease. This study doesn't answer the question of whether or not diet composition affected heart disease.

> It also, in my mind, emphasizes that the bulk of "Nutritionists" for the last 50 years have been a bunch of cargo-cult practicing members of the mob - and it makes you wonder what other so-called-scientific disciplines are behaving in a like manner.

Let's not get dramatic. Don't forget that people are significantly less active than they were 50 years ago, and that just because low carb diets happen to be in fashion right now doesn't mean they are right for everyone. That being said, I agree, the diet/nutrition industry is a joke, and most people could do a lot worse than cut carbs out of their diet.

What annoys me, is how certain the vast majority of nutritionists were, despite the lack of clear scientific trials, that dietary fat would lead to heart disease.

Seriously - how difficult would it have been to do a couple-hundred person trial for a year or so to get some confirmation? And yet, billions of dollars (10s of billions?) of policy and dietary guidance were based on this poorly supported theory.

Yeah but think about the data they had. They didn't have massive fast food and snack food industries that were primarily carb based, and so people who overate overate fats much more frequently than they do now.

The certainty you dislike is the same certainty I react against with the low carb movement.

We are only certain of two things:

1) Having less fat on your body is healthier (to an extent) and will help prevent things like heart disease, diabetes etc.

2) If you have too much fat lowering caloric consumption will make you burn it.

Anything else is speculation.

> Seriously - how difficult would it have been to do a couple-hundred person trial for a year or so to get some confirmation? And yet, billions of dollars (10s of billions?) of policy and dietary guidance were based on this poorly supported theory.

Really difficult, actually. And doing it without pissing off a major industry is impossible.

It also, in my mind, emphasizes that the bulk of "Nutritionists" for the last 50 years have been a bunch of cargo-cult practicing members of the mob - and it makes you wonder what other so-called-scientific disciplines are behaving in a like manner.

Global warming, climate change, or whatever name is being used this week to try and match reality.

> That's important, but nothing we don't already know.

There is a lot of people who debate this point, having a study back it up is useful.

You are assuming that the low carb group consumed less calories but I believe that is not something that was tracked, so you shouldn't assume that.

I'm not assuming that. I'm pointing out that the major weakness in the study is that we can't know the impact calories had here either way, leaving dietary composition to be potentially a major confounder. It's a massive, gaping flaw in the study.

How would you structure a study on human test subjects that would reproducably limit calories without it being illegal? ( locking them in a cell, etc.)

How would you structure a study on human test subjects that would keep their weight constant over long periods without it being illegal?

I'm not sure where the ethical or legal issues are, I think the issues are more expense/practicality.

I didn't know it.

From now on, Science is only allowed to study stuff wdewind didn't know already. A committee will run daily checks.

Sorry if I came off as a jerk, it wasn't my intent. This topic is well discussed on HN so I figured it was appropriate to expect something more cutting edge. When it comes to nutrition there are a few "key questions" people are debating right now. Whether or not a high fat diet provides high satiety is a well studied, uncontroversial subject.

For anyone who has access to the paper (http://annals.org/article.aspx?articleid=1900694) and is skilled in reading medical research papers, I would love to know if they account for snacking. When I briefly tried a low-carb diet (just out of curiosity, not to lose weight as I'm already quite healthy) I found that I was unable to snack because almost all snack foods are loaded with carbs. I can only eat so much beef jerky before I get sick of it, and couldn't find any snack food that fit the diet that was also appealing.

On my normal omnivorous diet I snack when I feel hungry, usually opting for trail mix, toast (from bread I bake), or a piece of fruit (sometimes chips, but not often). Since none of my available snacks were acceptable on the diet I just opted for drinking coffee and a big glass of water when I felt a little hungry between meals. As a result, I ended up losing a few pounds over a few weeks.

I'm curious if the same thing happened with the participants on the low carb diet. Did they lose weight and become healthier because none of their snacks fit the diet, so they ended up not snacking?

I've did low carb a few years ago to lose some weight and I'm on it again now to burn off the effects of free startup food over the summer. Here's what I've found as far as snacking is concerned:

Jerky: a standby but actually it often has more carbs than you'd think -- one 3oz package usually has 12-15g of carbs, which is around 3/4ths of my ideal consumption for a day.

Nuts: almonds are the best, but others work too.

Cheese: cheese sticks make a great on-the-go snack, you can find them in a lot of gas stations. I also will do cured meats + cheese when I want an easy dinner, though it's a tad expensive.

Pork Rinds: good for when you're craving something like chips. I sometimes dip them in salsa.

Veggies: some low-carb folks have success snacking on celery and carrots, but I have difficulty at times.

But, to be honest, a lot of my problems with eating in the past involved snacking. I eat when I feel like eating, rather than when I'm actually hungry, and so my eating habits become tied to emotions rather than biological needs. And once I start eating sweets, I don't stop until I feel sick. Having fewer options makes it easier to abstain, as you said. However, did you actually feel hungry/need to snack often when you were eating low carb? I rarely feel hunger between meals like I did when I was eating carbs regularly.

My goal with low carb is to get my habits back to the point where I no longer eat because I'm bored or because it's in front of me. I'm also cutting out artificial sweeteners this time around to try and reduce my sweet tooth (last time I drank tons and tons of diet soda, but I'm finding that seltzer/club soda is an acceptable substitute) (I also heard that sweet tastes produce an insulin response regardless of actual sugar content).

Its weird that this pops up on HN because I have been trying a low carb diet for the last 2.5 weeks (with quite a bit of success). I have run into the same issue as you in regards to snacking. The best snack I found was flavored almonds. They are about 4 carbs an ounce and come in a bunch of flavors (coconut is my favorite).

I have had a huge sweet tooth my whole life but I find the thing that I crave the most is fruit (I know fruit is sweet but not like ice-cream and candy). I've always ate a ton of apples and now that I can't I am craving them like crazy. Also, no bread is really hard, especially since good whole wheat bread seems so healthy and is so satisfying, and it limits your options for most meals like pizza and sandwiches.

I hear a lot of knee-jerk reactions about the diet saying how it must be awesome to just eat steak, chicken, etc. all the time, but it gets real old real fast. Without bread/buns, bbq source, and common high carb toppings, it become really repetitive. Cheeseburgers are amazing but they are a hell of a lot less appealing with no bun, onions, tomato, or ketchup.

All this being said I do not see keto or whatever you want to call it as a long term diet/lifestyle for me. I have been convinced that I used to eat way too many carbs, but I think I just need to balance my meals more and do some portion control. Eating no more than like 20 carbs a day is really hard and for me it affects the quality of my life too much. But, I totally understand that there are people out there where this diet is basically the only thing that works for them, so I think it's awesome that more people are at least trying it.

"I hear a lot of knee-jerk reactions about the diet saying how it must be awesome to just eat steak, chicken, etc. all the time, but it gets real old real fast."

One thing to consider is that while your old diet is obviously bad when you look at it through the low-carb lens, it is also subtly bad as well, because your entire cuisine was bent around carbs replacing fats, and baking, sugars, bread, dough, sugars, potatos, sugars, etc etc etc. If you're going to successfully do low-carb over the long term it's important to also make sure that one does not simply try to eat "old diet - carbs" every day, but that one explores the culinary options that are available to you when you no longer fear fat. Go down your oils aisle and start trying them out. If you haven't been using your spice rack, start trying them out. (Well, first throw away your several-years-old spices and buy new ones, then start trying them out.) Start cooking ethnic foods from ethnicities that didn't go low-fat. Start making your own salad dressings.

(Basic recipe: Spoon a dollop of mayonnaise into a bowl. Pour in some vinegar and mix thoroughly. Pour in an oil and mix thoroughly. Insert ingredients to taste. There's ways around that first step, but this makes experimentation fast (my grandparent's generation call mayo "salad dressing" for a reason), and you can use this to bootstrap up to your own opinions. Your first couple may suck, and I'm leaving the recipe underspecified sort of on purpose, but you'll dial in fast.)

When eating out you may often end up eating "old diet - carbs", such as a bun-free hamburger, but for what you cook yourself it's important to go discover the really quite wide world of cooking options that America just sort of silently turned away from in the past 50 years. There's a lot of flavor and variety in the fats, but it takes some time to explore them, because you're darned near starting from scratch.

And to be honest, there are simply some things in the carb world for which there is no replacement. For instance, I'm well aware of the pains of missing gluten since I've got (proper) Celiac, and there's really no substitute for such a metaphorically and literally flexible protein, for instance. But fats have their own thing to offer that carbs don't.

> Cheeseburgers are amazing but they are a hell of a lot less appealing with no bun, onions, tomato, or ketchup

This is true, but honestly the only one of those you really need to cut out is the bun. The onions and tomato add up to 2-3g of carbs, and the ketchup is another 4g, so the whole burger in a lettuce wrap would be 6-7g of carbs, not at all bad for a meal! For reference, I use myfitnesspal to keep track of my food consumption and to research carb/calorie counts.

> Eating no more than like 20 carbs a day is really hard and for me it affects the quality of my life too much

Would 50g be more sustainable? Or 100g? From what I've seen, the 20g limit is mostly an introductory phase. 50g is still a huge reduction from what most people consume on a daily basis.

Agreed. The 20g limit is not sustainable long-term. Even 50g can be hard or impossible (from a health perspective) for some people to sustain. Diets are not really all-or-nothing -- check out marksdailyapple.com for a more flexible approach to low-ish carb eating.

Playing with carb intake can be very educational: while low-carb diets benefit a lot of people, different folks have different needs. Your athletic pursuits, sex, pregnancy status, thyroid health, etc, are all really important to consider.

In-n-Out : Double Meat Animal and Protein style...

Protein means they wrap it in lettuce instead of a bun.

You can also go the double double but I'm not a big fan of the cheese...

When you go low carb, you cut out the onions, tomatos, and other vegetables too?

That seems excessive, and somewhat unbalanced.

"Keto" and "paleo / low carb" are different. Keto goes to the extreme, allowing almost zero carbs, to induce ketosis in your body. Paleo is more "no grain, no dairy, no legume", but fruits are still allowed and encouraged for providing natural, sweet-tooth-satisfying carbs.

For another random data point:

There's an old book called "Life without bread" that was a pre-Atkins low carb diet written by a German Doctor named Wolfgang Lutz. He claimed that, after much trial and error, 72 grams (about 6 slices of bread) was the cutoff, and further restriction didn't particularly help patients in any measurable way.

Leben Ohne Brot (Life Without Bread) http://www.amazon.com/Life-Without-Bread-Low-Carbohydrate-Di...

I have been on a low carb diet for over a year now, and I have a handful of nuts. Almonds, cashews, whatever.

They have an acceptable amount of carbs in them and make you feel full enough to make it to the next meal.

The biggest issue is the expense, I spend about $20-30 a fortnight on nuts alone.

True, nuts were a good choice. Unfortunately the cashews and almonds supplied at my office were all unsalted and I couldn't be bothered to buy my own for the brief trial.

Man, unsalted cashews are delicious! Try getting used to the lack of salt.

I only ever choose unsalted. It's actually really frustrating - my supermarket sells unsalted bags of cashews for $2 more than the salted bags.

When I temporarily went off keto, one of the first things I did was to buy one of those huge containers of salted mixed nuts from Costco. I gorged on the entire thing for three days and my mouth hated me for the next week. I thought I had suddenly come down with bad toothaches. Nope, I just burned all the skin off my upper mouth and gums from excess salt consumption.

You might like sunflower seeds. Salted and husked - $3 a bag and they last a long time. THey have fibre and good fat, taste good but not so good that you over eat.

Also fat bombs are pretty good.

I'm not sure why you got downvoted, other than people might not understand what fat bombs are and think you're making an unconstructive joke.

Fat bombs are just a general term for hight-fat snacks, which are completely acceptable on a keto diet. The high fat content also increases satiety.


I'm currently on a keto diet and have lost like 60 pounds.

For my snacks I eat pepperoni, beef sticks, almonds(so many different flavored versions. smokehouse jalapeno is my favorite), cheeses, pork rinds, sugar free jello(cut with HWC), and this chocolate pudding/mousse I make.

Got a recipe for the chocolate mousse?

This is about what I do: 1/4-1/2 cup heavy whipping cream, 2 tbsp cocoa, half a scoop of chocolate whey.

Then just whip it until it gets the texture you want. Barely whip for pudding, whip alot for a more mousse like texture. Sometime I'll freeze it in cubes and they taste like fudge pops.

I've made two concerted attempts at diet adjustment via low-carb diets. The first time, I made it about 3 months and was done in by my inability to fight the snacking urge. I couldn't sleep at night because I was so consumed by wanting to munch on something crunchy.

I'm about 2 months into round 2 now, a few years later, and snacking hasn't been much of an issue at all. The difference: The first time, I was also working out for about 90 minutes a day while this time I'm doing no exercise beyond a good bit of walking around town each day.

When I do need a snack, my go-tos are cold cuts (turkey or ham) and dill pickles, which I find I can eat by the jarful without much impact on my diet.

Pork rinds.

People often recommend nuts and jerky, but I don't find them to be satisfying and I'm hungry again fairly soon. For my daily snack at work, I really like Chocolate Brownie Quest Nutrition Bars. They are high in fiber, and if you eat one with some water it keeps me going for 3-4 more hours. I've tried a lot of alternatives, and these are the best I've found: http://www.amazon.com/Quest-Nutrition-Protein-Chocolate-Brow...

One of my favorite snacks these days is guacamole spread on rice cakes. It's not zero-carb, obviously, but the carb level doesn't seem excessive to me.

Guacamole is better on chips, but if I have chips around I'll eat too many of them. On the other hand if I try to eat the guacamole by itself, without any sort of crispy substrate, it's just unappetizing.

I'm sure that's part of it, but I've had great success with no-carb diets (ketogenic) and I guarantee I eat more calories than most people do, even with snacks.

When you take the carbs out, your body starts using body fat for energy. It's great, really.

Snack suggestion: peeled carrots.

Kale chips and nuts!


Those have carbs...

To bad it's environmentally unsustainable. There's no way our ecosystem can survive all of us eating eggs, tuna, and chicken all day. We need to consume less animal products not more. Low carb is fine for a few wealthy people who want to lose weight but it's not a responsible solution to the public health problem.

What about a low-junk food diet? No cqlorie restrictions but no refined carbs? I don't think we need ti discourage people from eating whole grains and beans.

Eggs are probably "mostly fine" to be honest. Most homes could easily raise their own chickens and have a nearly unlimited supply.

As a prepper and a homesteader (amateur/beginner), I realize that low carb and high fat/meat isn't really feasible when SHTF, and I mostly stock lentils, pintos, rice, wheat, quinoa, and a few other standard staples. They stay good, when properly sealed for like 25 years (quinoa only 8 years or so though...). No meat known to man (or at least myself) does that. Also, even doing basic homesteading, you tend to eat more veggies and much less meat.

In the meantime, I admit that I eat plenty of meat, and could probably raise a cow or some pigs, or at the very least do the rabbit thing, but it's a lot of work and planning, and it's just easier to get your meat from a can in an emergency situation.

Edit: I prep for emergencies, FWIW, not health. Calories and nutrition are the major requirements.

> Eggs are probably "mostly fine" to be honest. Most homes could easily raise their own chickens and have a nearly unlimited supply.

But they don't, and the industry is massive.

Legumes like beans and lentils and chickpeas don't satisfy the Atkins fanatics but they're low-carb compared to common wheat and potato based foods.

Low carb doesn't necessarily mean more animal products. It can mean that you replace the carbs with nuts and veggies, so that you are getting more of your calories from protein and healthy fats.

100 calories of nuts or broccoli costs a whole lot more than 100 calories of bread or rice, and this is reflective of the greater agricultural demands of pretty much everything else versus bread and rice.

Even rice is a substantial improvement in glycemic index over refined wheat and sugars. If it does turn out that empty carbs are a major public health problem, there are incremental improvements that can be made all over the world regardless of poverty.

Nuts are hardly our saviors. Most nuts are expensive & environmentally unfriendly. Which is not to say you shouldn't eat some nuts, but they can hardly step in as a global staple.

Your definition of environmental sustainability implicitly assumes a fixed, or arbitrarily bounded, population size in steady state. Whatever set of foods we choose to feed the population with, it is always possible (and historically has been inevitable) for the population to outgrow the available supply.

Sustainability only makes sense relative to a particular population size, and so something is only unsustainable in the absolute sense if the population needed to produce it exceeds the population which can survive upon it. This is not the case with the food types you refer to, and the producer/consumer ratio is precisely the thing that we develop new technologies to reduce.

If anything, I see it is better for us to engage in inefficient land use, because it provides spare capacity which can be used to mitigate prolonged disasters; a view strongly influenced by the book "The Collapse of Complex Societies", by Joseph Tainter.

You can do a keto diet and still be vegetarian. Don't know about vegans. But anyway, cheese, nuts, avacados, cooking with olive oil and butter. More here: http://www.reddit.com/r/vegetarianketo

One important note is that they probably mean "low NET carb", in other words, the grams of carbs left after you subtract them from the grams of fiber (since fiber isn't absorbed).

Fiber is actually 'absorbed' and if you count it for calories, it is around 2.7Kcal per gram. Quick article http://www.bodybuilding.com/fun/ask-the-macro-manager-does-f...

i had no idea that acres of monoculture crops that erode the topsoil and destroy the land and don't let anything else live on them was sustainable, thanks for clarifying.

start eating animal organs - liver, kidney, tongue, brain, throat, face meat, bone marrow - see how much food is actually in an animal.

Yep, and there will never be a world where we all eat the same thing. Let the poor eat wheat.

Paleo is pretty affordable at the lower-middle class, if you're willing to put the effort in and cook. My biggest hurdle is how easy unhealthy stuff is.

i've been on a ketogenic diet for about 3 months now. i've lost around 20 pounds (5'10, 220 starting -> 200 current -> 180 goal) and will probably lose another 20 before reaching my 'ideal' weight. it works. whether it works because i naturally eat less, or because there's something magical going on w/ my hormones, it doesn't matter because i can simply remove carbs and eat until i'm full every single time. eating well is a huge, huge motivating factor for me to succeed in life.

for other people it's not an issue at all. they can simply just eat 1500 calories a day with a bunch of carbs and also lose weight. I CAN'T. i need to ingest 2500-3000 calories a day or else i will just be constantly hungry and unable to function without thinking about food. i'm in my 30s now - i know this about myself. i've counted the calories for months on end, using MFP.

the hardest part is not talking about it, because if you tell people you 'eat more fat' when they ask you what your new diet is, they'll think you're being sarcastic and rude.

i've only told my closest friends, people who i respect intellectually and who can handle an actual discussion about how things like the endocrine system works and

and i've told a bunch of strangers on the internet of course.

Yup, and apparently everyone has a degree in nutrition and go on to tell you that what you're doing is wrong and what they think you should do is right.

- fellow Keto guy

Admittedly with little research I tried out a low-carb (more like no-carb) diet (of my own invention). I ate pretty much only meat and green leafy vegetables. I was ravenous all throughout. I remember eating large amounts of meat and still feeling like I was starving.

It was hard to concentrate on pre-exam days because I was so hungry.

Weight loss is psychological, so if you feel like shit the diet is not good at all and not working for you. If you can’t keep your motivation up all the rest is completely worthless.

What I did and still successfully do is calorie restriction (that made me feel crappy for about a month or so, but now I don’t feel crappy most of the time) combined with lots of experimenting around and cooking of different foods to see what makes me feel happy and full.

(Non deep-fried) potatoes, salad, white meat (turkey, chicken) and (garlic) butter do it for me personally. Meals with those ingredients will make me feel full. Sometimes I still go for pasta and pizza (my favourite foods), but my desire to feel full automatically seems to override that by now. Maybe pasta and pizza is something I will go for once a week or, but no more.

Maybe it’s different for you. Just try different things. Also, it takes some time to get used to a new diet, especially if you eat less calories. It took a month or so for me. Maybe also try being active? I found that being active – going on a long walk, driving the bike – gets completely rid of my hunger for some weird reason.

In the end I’m just guessing – but dieting is all about how you feel. That’s the most important thing. You have to stay motivated, otherwise it just doesn’t work. So keep that in mind.

To be honest, it wasn't a weight loss thing. I was just curious. But you know, grad school doesn't really let you survive on 1.5 kg of meat a day (plus other food).

Thanks for the advice, though. I've gone and gained a lot of weight post-university and it'll help. All that activity disappeared and I kept eating the same. That's got to change.

That's an interesting result. I seem to see one or the other result in people that try it. Either they feel extremely full from high protein diets, or the exact opposite.

I would cook two chicken breasts for dinner (400x calories, 80x g protein) and it felt like I didn't want to eat for a week afterward.

>Admittedly with little research I tried out a low-carb (more like no-carb) diet (of my own invention)

Not trying to be snarky, but I suspect this is where your problem was.

One of the most commonly reported side effects of typical low-carb diets is appetite suppression. Better focus after the first couple of weeks is pretty common as well.

I will note that while I think low carb diets work, I'm also firmly of the belief that, in terms of weight loss, they're still caloric deficit diets at the core. It's just there are a few other things going on metabolically -- including the appetite suppression -- that tend to make them easier for a lot of people.

Can you quantify how much meat you were eating? I did a similar diet and found that, depending on exercise level, I needed between 1 and 3 lbs of red meat per day. I suspect most people who are hungry on a meat and greens diet are accustomed to eating much, much, smaller portions of meat, hence why they are so hungry, but it would be interesting to find counter examples.

Too much meat not enough fat. Rabbit starvation they call it.

Also double.. triple your vegetables.

No, I know what rabbit starvation is. 2 lbs of meat is only 1600 - 2400 calories. Vegetables have very few calories in general. Eating 3 lbs of meat per day is not crazy if you are lifting weights or heavily exercising.

It's because you weren't eating any fats. On a low-carb diet, your body uses fat as its energy source. If you don't eat any fat, your body will not willingly consume your body fat.

Excess protein you eat is effectively broken down into carbohydrates as well—so everything was working against you.

> With little research

Try it again—/r/keto have an excellent FAQ.

> They had significantly greater reductions in body fat than the low-fat group, and improvements in lean muscle mass

I'm a bodybuilder and spend a good deal of time reading about the subject every week. It is common knowledge among bodybuilders that an increase in muscle and loss of fat at the same time is possible only with steroids. So what does "improvements in lean muscle mass" mean here?

> what foods are best to eat for weight loss and overall health.

Bodybuilders avoid weight loss like fire, and instead only focus on fat loss. What's the sense in losing muscle? This article needs to be read very carefully.

> "It shows that in a free-living setting, cutting your carbs helps you lose weight without focusing on calories. And that's really important because someone can change what they eat more easily than trying to cut down on their calories."

Again "weight loss". Every piece of bodybuilding knowledge states that you cannot lose fat without a calorie deficit. Here we read that the people in the experiment did not limit their calories, but "lost weight". This couldn't have been fat. If you want to lose fat, then just eat less - it works for all bodybuilders, why would it not work for the rest of the population. I don't see how there can be some more "easy" method than just eating less.

Furthermore the article does not state how the amount of fat in the body was measured - most methods are said to be highly inaccurate. I believe this article is a misleading piece of bullshit.

Bodybuilders are people trying to perfect a good physique. Normal Americans are, generally, a little fat.

> It is common knowledge among bodybuilders that an increase in muscle and loss of fat at the same time is possible only with steroids.

For bodybuilders. If you're a 166-pound 5'1" 45-year-old woman who can't manage a 45-lb deadlift because of a combination of inflexibility and weakness, an increase in muscle mass and loss of fat at the same time is totally possible :)

> Here we read that the people in the experiment did not limit their calories, but "lost weight". This couldn't have been fat.

Why in the world not?

You sound like you think all people are bodybuilders, paying attention to their nutrition, hitting the gym regularly, deciding between chicken breasts and oatmeal for breakfast, focusing on fat loss instead of weight loss. Wrong audience.

I recommend Lyle MacDonald, http://www.bodyrecomposition.com he's quite scientific to his approach, plenty of material can be found on youtube and on those 'sites' you know of ;)

Pdf such has http://www.bodyrecomposition.com/the-rapid-fat-loss-handbook have helped me structure great nutrition programs.

I lost 80 pounds doing low carb in a year and a half after 3-4 years of trying various diets after graduating high school at 320 pounds (being 6'4). Calorie counting "works" but you're constantly having to make willpower checks every day. Low fat left me ravenously hungry /all/ the time. Whenever I need to lose weight I just go on a ketogenic diet for a few months and it reliably drops the pounds very quickly, and I am also far less hungry throughout the day making it MUCH easier to stay on track.

The MOST difficult part of the diet is just how much every "healthy" food is set up for low-fat rather than low-carb - if you want to stay under 40g carbs per day about 90% of the grocery store is off limits, they fill EVERYTHING with sugar or corn, especially the "healthy low-fat" foods which usually trade fat for more carbs. I'm very glad that this study came out, hopefully we will start to see more foods with low carbs in stores and restaurants.

I'm wondering how you would fare eating whole foods without additives? The grocery store is actually pretty chock full of such foods. Stay away from boxes and trays.

I like low carb diet, but I think when people jump to primal arguments, they also forget that primal times you didn't have a constant, easy, cheap food source at your disposal 24/7.

At some point, things like fasting and reduced calorie intake combined with something low carb is probably closest to "primal" diets. Making pancakes with almond flour isn't.

If more people went without food somewhat regularly, they would probably be better off than they are eating 2000+ calories a day like people do now.

Macronutrients do matter, but volume matters as well. In my experience, higher fat diets keep you from eating as much, so you naturally get fewer calories and thus you lose weight.

If you could eat a high fat diet with 8000 calories a day, you'd still get fat, but my guess is that when people consciously eat a high fat diet, they are going to end up eating say 300-500 calories a day less over time, and that gives a significant advantage over a period of months or years.

Reddit has been drowning in anecdotal evidence for years.

Low-fat, high-carb flat-out kills people.


One thing I find the pro keto movement frequently forgets is, regardless of the efficacy of the diet, there are a lot of people who simply don't tolerate that much fat very well.

I believe you would be downvoted less harshly if you provided a few reputable sources to back your statement.

This subject freaks people out, vegetarians especially.

A huge part of identity for some people is based on the knowledge that they're living on a healthy plant-based diet. It turns out that said diet is less healthy than subsisting on bacon grease.

This causes cognitive dissonance. Cognitive dissonance causes knee-jerk downvotes.

Citations? How about the study spelled out in the article?

You can have saturated fats on a plant diet: coconut and palm oil, for example. (These are even used in infant formula, incidentally).

There are animals that eat plants rather than other animals: they are called herbivores. Herbivores somehow develop muscles.

We can't eat exactly like herbivores. Herbivores eat grass and leaves in huge quantities and have the digestive system for it: they can get enough protein and overall calories that way.

Still, we can achieve a given number of calories and a desired fraction of them from protein and fat, using vegetable sources.

The reddit thread, you mean? Are we calling those articles now?

The vegetarian thing does not folow. Just because keto/atkins/paleo works, doesn't mean anything else works. Nothing is better than the low calorie diet.

No, not Reddit. The NYT article that we are commenting on.

I offer up the reddit link for anyone interested in the mechanics of HFLC.

It might be a good idea to link to the FAQ instead of the subreddit. It has an overview of the chemistry behind the diet -- for example, the use of urinalysis test strips.


Where in the referenced article did it mention that the low fat diet was a plant based diet?

Here's a citation against your assertion.


I found that losing weight using a low-carb diet was pretty easy. After the adjustement period of about two weeks you suddenly start feeling much less hungry and the portions you eat become smaller. You are essentially losing weight without feeling hungry at all which is terrific. The only problem is that a very strict low-carb diet can be a bit monotonous with the type of foods you are "allowed" to eat and can be hard to follow if you don't have the time or patience to actually cook food for yourself.

After we got acquired in June I hired a nutritionist to help me get onto a low-carb diet. I'm down about 42 lbs so far and it hasn't been hard at all. The trickiest part is the questions, comments and eye-rolling when I take the bun off my burger or whatnot.

The other thing I've noticed is how different my moods are when I'm "sugar-free". Routine tasks that typically bore me to tears become much more manageable and I'm able to just sit and think for longer. YMMV

That is the main reason I restrict carbs. I have tried a variety of low carb diets, starting with Tim Ferris' slow carb, (because I was starting to get a little puffy around the middle) then an atkins style, then a strict paleo a la Robb Wolf, then, intermittent fasting with mostly only meat-and-greens.

Regardless of the specific diet, my energy levels and moods are so much more consistent with reduced carbs, I continue to restrict carbs regardless of other hypothetical benefits.

Yeah, I certainly don't miss that "hey a sugar donut would be awesome right now" feeling I used to get when trying to get work done, now that I'm off carbs.

Carbs = sugar. Sugar, if not burned off, gets stored as fat.

Carb intake needs to match activity level. And of course, a varied diet is key (including fats).

Eat carbs in the morning, protein later in the day, eat a varied diet with a good amount of vegetables, eat high quality fats (olive and other seed oils, nut oils, and even moderate amounts of butter), and exercise a decent amount (even just being active, not going to the gym, though that's good too), and you'll be fine.

>Carbs = sugar. Sugar, if not burned off, gets stored as fat.

Although this is true, can't you say the same for fats/proteins? 'If it's not burned off, it gets stored as fat'. Sugar that is not burned off first is used (or together) to replenish glycogen stores iirc.

>Eat carbs in the morning, protein later in the day

Some people eat carbs in the morning (cereal, bread, fruits). If you're looking to try something new you could look into Intermittent Fasting. This basically is eating only in a 4-8~ hour window every day.

Why I love this approach is because it makes my diet really flexible. I just fast until I get back home (usually around 5 pm) and make diner. This gives me a caloric buffer during daytime which helps me a lot when there is unexpected cake/muffins/lunch which I would otherwise have to decline.

Simple/refined carbs = sugar. Too much sugar in too short a time = insulin is generated to convert the sugar to fat. This time frame is about 30 min, so, unless you are exercising while eating, almost all simple carbs and sugars will end up as fat. Perhaps then you can burn off the fact but that is not entirely dependent on exercise but about how your body will react to that exercise in the light of other issues (what else you're eating, if you're fasting, what your sleep levels are like, etc.).

Add to the fact that carbs cause a lot of what I like to call depressive-crashes, compared to caffeine-crashes for example.

Since off carbs I'm on a high and yes a I do a lot of caffeine, the latter doesn't lead to depressive moods and also no weight gain!

Carbs are still useful for high intensity athletes and before a high endurance workout (I'm talking fruits here and not the junk food).

I've been doing low carb on and off for a few years now, and have actually found it fine for athletics. The most striking example is that I ran a tough mudder (20km run through mountainous obstacle course; takes 4-5 hours) on nothing but a big portion of bacon I'd eaten that morning. I still felt full of energy at the end. I'd brought a bunch of snacks with me to be safe, but never ended up needing them. By comparison, I've done some other endurance stuff while not on low carb and there's no way I could have gone that long without refueling.

FYI, I highly recommend becoming a connoisseur of cold brew coffee- It's pretty tasty even without cream/sugar. It was the first zero-calorie coffee drink I could find that could replace my addiction to caramel lattes...

Noted Thanks for the tip ;)

In addition to the heart benefits listed in the report, I've read reports which conclude that a low-carb diet is also very beneficial for regulating blood sugar levels (and reducing diabetes risk).

However, I think it might have been interesting to read more about the risks of a low-carb diet. For instance, some studies have shown that low-carb diets can reduce testosterone levels in men and I've also read that it could hurt short-term cognitive skills.

It is also unclear if the study involved (mostly) refined carbohydrates or complex carbohydrates. Obviously, the effect of complex carbohydrates is very different.

There are a number of studies regarding low-carb diets but most of them tend to focus on a subset of the results that one might see from a low-carb diet. So a smart strategy would be to read many of these reports and then decide what makes sense (though it isn't going to be easy for a layperson to read a wide range of different reports and draw the best conclusion on what is good for them)

For an in-depth discussion about low-carb diets and the history of the misconception that fats consumed = body fat and cholesterol levels I recommend the book (although I haven't finished it yet): Good Calories, Bad Calories: Fats, Carbs, and the Controversial Science of Diet and Health

And also make sure to read some decent reviews. I also was impressed by the GCBC, but I've been reading some reviews recently and turns out there's quite a lot Taubes took out of context, misrepresented or otherwise distorted.

This one seems a good place to start:


I've read Taubes book, word of warning, it is huge and it is a book about diet, not a diet book. Don't buy it unless you're committed :)

I can second that, great book, with really interesting analysis of not just carbohydrates, but cholesterol too. Also his second book 'Why We Get Fat' is great too. He realised the former book was too lengthy for most, and wrote it to condense and abbreviate the info.

I've started Tim Ferriss diet on May/2013 and went strictly on it (no supplements, aka, PAGG) up to September/13 when I reached my goal (97->82kg). I did a body check-up (mostly on blood and urine tests) on November/13 and everything was fine. I never came back on milk+bread on breakfast and I got used to go low-fat 6 days a week. I'm not so strict on Tim's diet anymore but I'm still low-fat-oriented. I'm turning 40 this month. So far, this diet worked greatly for me. BTW: I got to know about Tim's book here in HN.

I must recall that the low-carb diet from Tim is focused on food with low glycemic index. The idea is to avoid the conversion of the carbs you eat into fat stored in your body.

I absolutely cannot keep up with what we're supposed to eat? Some say low fat, some say high fat, some say high carb, low carb... no sugar, some sugar, some fats... It comes to a point where cutting one thing or another is surely futile. And that we just need to accept that there's no miracle other than eating a varied balanced diet, exercise and cut the fads. I know coming form a vegan that might be calling the kettle black (or whatever the phrase is) but I've given up on faddy diets, I just try to eat unprocessed shit and be done with it.

First, congrats to all the commenters who have lost weight. I know it's not as simple as "make better food choices" so it's awesome to read so many people who have found success in weight loss.

I follow a diet similar to low-carb, moderate fat and protein, and I'm still concerned about not getting enough plants, and fiber. While the low-carb diet encourages consumption of veggies, I find it tough to make sure I get enough veggies (not fruit), in a day.

> I find it tough to make sure I get enough veggies (not fruit), in a day.

When most people think veggies they think "lettuce", which makes it hard to eat a lot. Try these recipes:

Broccoli (steam cooked, with olive oil and fried garlic), avocado (salad or with honey + lemon), eggplant (roasted in slices) and Chinese cabbage (it's crunchy and great to eat raw as salad).

I don't understand why there is this constant search for a diet that isn't just calorie restriction - learning about caloric content and restricting yourself in calories is much easier than following a diet. You basically eat the same foods you enjoy, but skip the occasional item that will take you overboard.

Learning a few facts about caloric content of different types of food is much easier than changing your lifestyle.

Because it sucks being hungry and angry and moody and uncoordinated all the time. On my healthy 1800-calorie-a-day diet I once crashed my bike into a friends' bike in a roundabout because of a blood sugar crash that was leaving me shaking and with blurred vision. I was ravenous every morning at 10 am after my oatmeal at 8 (steel-cut, not instant!). Blood sugar fluctuations would lead me to divorce-inducing rage. And I still wasn't skinny. I was pushing "overweight" on the BMI scale despite biking 50 miles a week and weight training (Starting Strength).

Switch to a lower-carb diet -- eggs & veggies for breakfast -- and now I'm serene and start feeling gradually hungry at some point, without the rage. Better digestion, too. And lost 10 lbs so fast I checked with a doctor to make sure I don't have cancer, as I have not changed my routine other than diet.

> restricting yourself in calories is much easier than following a diet

Apart from the usual caveats about each person being different, do you really think that weighing/measuring your food is easier than remembering not to eat a certain class of foods?

It's not just about weight, but also about composition. From the article:

While the low-fat group did lose weight, they appeared to lose more muscle than fat.

“They actually lost lean muscle mass, which is a bad thing,” Dr. Mozaffarian said. “Your balance of lean mass versus fat mass is much more important than weight. And that’s a very important finding that shows why the low-carb, high-fat group did so metabolically well.”

> learning about caloric content and restricting yourself in calories is much easier than following a diet

Apart from cutting out certain foods, the low carb high fat group was allowed to eat how much they pleased. Sounds way easier than counting calories all the time.

It's worth noting that whilst low calorie diets (of any macronutrient ratio), will usually aid weight loss, they won't all improve your health in other areas.

This study also looked at other health markers (including triglycerides and cholesterol) and measured improvements.

Calorie reduction doesn't improve health? Says who?

So to clarify on what I wrote:

"they won't all improve your health in other areas"

Meaning that there are different ways in which to reduce calories. If you were to lower your calorie intake below your expenditure, but do it through a high sugar diet, that may still result in weight loss, but it wouldn't necessarily improve other health markers.

I don´t have access to the paper referenced in the article, but a general rule applies: You have to be very cautious with the conclusions of a interventional nutritional study. There are lots of challenges[1] in the design, execution and evaluation of such studies.

[1] http://www.trialsjournal.com/content/13/1/111

This is no secret. There will be endless mostly uninformed debate but the idea that less carbs - less stored fat - its not counter-intuitive.

I wouldn't doubt keeping the blood sugar levels from spiking (especially processed carbs) plays a big part. Weight watchers giving you credit for fiber always wondered about that.

I just finished reading The Big Fat Surprise by Nina Teicholz, an extensively-referenced account of the history of nutrition research over the past century. It was really interesting to see the weakness of the evidence against fat, and how our general fear of fat came about anyway.

The Zone diet works pretty well which call for a balanced diet with smaller portions, lots of veggies, way less meat. It advocates grazing, as oppose to 3 meals a day. After all we're not farmers of days past anymore, so we should adapt to modern life eating patterns.

I'm wondering how much of the difference is due to what you're drinking, rather than eating. Cmd-f in the journal article found no "drink", "juice", "soda", or "beer", so it seems likely they didn't consider it.

I remain amazed at how much contradictory information we receive about diet.

My sense is the following would benefit pretty much everyone: eat in moderation, mostly unprocessed food, and be modestly active (ie, walk at least 10 miles per week).

Here is the actual paper (paywalled) : http://annals.org/article.aspx?articleid=1900694

Anyone have access that can upload it to Scribd or similar?


Some noteworthy excerpts:

- Participants assigned to the low-carbohydrate diet were instructed to maintain an intake of digestible carbohydrate (total carbohydrate minus total fiber) of less than 40 g/d.

- The reduction in body weight was significantly greater in the low-carbohydrate group (mean difference in change at 12 months, 3.5 kg; P=0.002)

- those on the low-carbohydrate diet had significantly greater proportional reductions in fat mass (mean difference in change at 12 months, 1.5% P=0.011)

- those on the low-carbohydrate diet had significantly greater proportional increases in lean mass (mean difference in change at 12 months, 1.7%; P=0.003)

- Compared with a low-fat diet, a low-carbohydrate diet resulted in greater improvements in body composition, HDL cholesterol level, ratio of total– HDL cholesterol, triglyceride level, CRP level, and estimated 10-year CHD risk

- Dietitians were not blinded to the study hypothesis(!!). To avoid potential differences in dietary counseling due to this, we used specific and detailed scripts for all counseling sessions and trained staff to deliver the scripts without deviation.

- The proportion of participants with detectable urinary ketone levels was significantly higher in the low-carbohydrate group than in the low-fat group at 3, 6, and 12 months (data not shown)

Carbs(aka glucose) is a poisonous substance and as soon as your body detects the glucose it releases insulin. The Insulin lowers blood glucose levels by forcing the glucose to move into your fat cells as fat(through a long chain reaction).

So carbs essentially become fat.

If you don't eat carbs your body doesn't release insulin so you can't store anything as fat. In fact once you truly go very low carb your body releases whatever hormone is the opposite of Insulin which allows fat to be released from your fat cells and used as energy.

The low carb diet makes sense to me because of the basic biology that I know. (I am not an expert and these are just my thoughts).

Carbs(aka glucose)

No, these are not equal. Carbs covers all carbohydrates, including starches, cellulose etc. Glucose is a simple carbohydrate - what all carbs are broken down to by the digestive system, if they can be broken (cellulose, i.e., can not be digested by humans). So glucose indeed may raise insulin significantly, while more complex carbs by a lesser and slower degree.

If you don't eat carbs your body doesn't release insulin so you can't store anything as fat.

This is completely wrong at least on two counts. First, proteins also raise insulin significantly, just as much as carbohydrates. Second, you certainly can store fat as fat on a low carb diet, and you will, if you keep overeating.

You're thinking of ketones, which are what trigger your body to burn fat for energy. (Another perk of ketosis is being able to go long stretches between meals without getting hungry.)

It should be noted that the first time moving to a low-carb, high fat diet, it's mildly traumatic and unpleasant. It takes 1-2 weeks of low energy and constant hunger before the body switches to ketosis mode. (This is sometimes called the "carb flu".)

never experienced it. I just ate more vegetables, nuts and fats.

Uhh enough with the "[macronutrient] is poisonous" stuff.

I would like a book called Totally Boring Health Advice. It would only include things that have been proven over and over and have totally ceased to be controversial.

Sigh. So this is another "diet" methodology focusing on fat people losing fat, but these same people are too lazy to calculate their energy requirements, energy input and energy output by counting calories and macronutrients?

I eat at 20% fat, 50% carb, 30% protein and I can gain weight, maintain or lose fat simply by adjusting my calories. It really is not rocket science. Self-discipline required, but if you lack that you have bigger problems.

TL;DR Overweight lazy people should eat less carbs and more meat if they can't be bothered to count calories

I lost 10kg last year on a low-carb diet. The diet was "eat no more than two slices of bread's worth of carbs per day", and knowing what carbs are (including rice and sugar). There's very little management or tracking required, and certainly no need for a mental 'calorie dictionary'.

Counting calories is not as trivial as you make it sound, and I don't think it's warranted that you mock people as lazy for not doing so - especially when the other half of the equation is figuring out how much energy you actually use, which varies wildly with body type and lifestyle.

My main gripe is that low-carb dieting is being sold as a "one stop shop" for dieting. You'll notice how the undertone of the article is that it's more "healthy" and "lower risk" to eat low carb. This complete myth if you count your calories. It's the programming world equivalent of someone going "A call for Functional Programming" and then telling you how shit imperative languages are. If everyone just coded in Haskell the type system would take care of 90% of the bugs.

And no it's completely trivial to track your intake. You need at most a kitchen scale and an app on your phone. It probably takes me in total 5 minutes of my day to track everything. You greatly overestimate the difficulty.

Down 15kg since April, Keto.

I highly doubt that anyone doing Keto with a good amount of success is doing so without tracking macros.

It is ironic that you'd decry ignorance and oversimplification when in point of fact you are guilty of the same in doing so.

From the article itself:

"It included a racially diverse group of 150 men and women — a rarity in clinical nutrition studies — who were assigned to follow diets for one year that limited either the amount of carbs or fat that they could eat, _but not overall calories_." emphasis mine.

This particular study is touting the virtues of not tracking calories. It's basically what the entire article is about. Eating low carb without counting calories.

Do you work from home?

No I don't, but the only meal I eat at work is lunch and a few snacks, which I prepare the night before. I usually make lunch for the next 2 days to save time.

The article is speaking of low carb, high fat but people are discussing low carb diets in general here. Isn't there a big difference?

Is drinking milk good or bad for someone looking to lose fat and gain more lean muscle mass?

This is why I would never eat Soylent. It's mostly carbs: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Soylent_(drink)

Lost and kept off 48# over 9 months on low carb paleo.

When I first started programming for a living, I put on an enormous amount of weight. I ended up topping out at just above 400lbs. Then I got sick.

I couldn't eat anything with fat in it. Nothing. So I flipped to a zero fat diet that consisted of very little protein. It was almost 100% bowls of Grape Nuts and sugar with skim milk. I lost 180lbs in 18 months. I took up exercise along the way and sliced off another 20lbs.

At this point, things improved and I could eat "normally" again. I took up running and worked myself up to 7 miles a day.

Life had other plans though. Work intruded. Family requirements, etc. The running stopped. These are things anyone over 40 would understand.

As a result, I slid around on the scale for a decade or so and decided to experiment with other forms of nutrient deprivation. I tried an all protein diet (result: rapid weight loss but hungry all the time). I tried a heavy fat diet (result: rapid weight loss but sick all the time). I've also tried fasting and extreme calorie restriction (result: rapid weight loss and general rending of the fabric of reality). I was a strict vegetarian for three years (result: never felt more clear-headed in my life, but I also lost significant muscle mass even though I took pains to get the right amino acids through various sources).

So, after a decade of experimentation, I've learned quite a few things.

1. Modern life is full of distractions, in fact it seems designed specifically to introduce new distractions as a way of propagating itself.

2. Any restrictive diet (and you have to be religious about it) will result in temporary weight loss that may in fact be quite dramatic. But it won't last. Eventually your body will get used to the new diet or you will develop some rather unpleasant side effects.

3. Vegetarian diets are superior in many ways, but depending on your body type, can be rather hard on the muscles (I have a large frame and look emaciated when I get to 200lb). This certainly doesn't happen to everyone, but it's what happened to me. Pity. I liked the way my brain worked on that diet.

4. A carb-restricted diet left me hungry, as in "I need to go out and hunt something now" hungry. Even after months of focused effort.

5. A balanced diet coupled with significant exercise is pretty much the only thing that consistently works with this body. Your mileage may vary.

6. Modern life is full of expectations that are unnecessary and unhealthy. This couples with point #1. Distractions and expectations tend to go hand in hand. They keep you from doing what is right for your mind and body.

7. Don't look for a fast solution. Rather focus on a resolution, a shift in perspective about what you expect from life. Then, live with awareness of this goal each and every day.

> zero fat diet

A zero fat diet is very dangerous. You need fat for organs to function properly, and vitamins to dissolve in.


Absolutely. I certainly wouldn't recommend it.

What's interesting is that doctors I spoke with at the time could neither explain my violent reactions to fat nor the obvious results of cutting out fat entirely from my diet (maybe 3-5g total across an entire day, but usually less than 1). They also couldn't explain why I could suddenly eat fat again after about a year and a half.

Thanks for the details!

> 4. A carb-restricted diet left me hungry, as in "I need to go out and hunt something now" hungry. Even after months of focused effort.

Did you try to get your body into a ketogenic state? Because as I understood it, there is a 2 week adaption period you have to go through. Did you experience that? Is it possible that you were still eating too much carb to get into ketogenesis?

Yep. I had the little pH tests and everything. For me, this diet is a path to the dark side of the Force.

I will also say that body odors change dramatically on this diet. Sweat, breath, etc. Ugh. Do not want.

They didn't test a low fat diet in the study. 30% of calories from fat is not low fat. Also, it appears they used low saturated fat (<7%) and high PUFA. That's pretty much backwards as it's well known that PUFAs have antimetabolic effects.

All these experiments ever confirm (over and over) is that plenty of protein is helpful in the context of a reduced calorie diet, and that restricting food choices results in spontaneous calorie reduction. Protein has very high satiety and thermic effect. As for low fat or low carb it doesn't matter much. It's just that carbs and fat go great together and it's very difficult to overeat without the combination. A plain stick of butter and a large bowl of plain white rice are equally difficult to overeat on, whereas ice cream with its combined hit of sugar and fat is easy to gorge on.

This article (and the Tim Ferriss article in the Top comment here) both cite Atkin's High Protein, Low Carb diet. I am not sure I can believe that though. It is well known that most of the people in the west consume way more proteins that is required by their body, even those that don't exercise.

Excessive protein ingestion causes kidney failure, hypertension and heart attacks.

Some believe (and allege) that Dr Atkins himself died of his own Atkins Diet. Here are some quotes from news articles and mybuster sites from when he was alive / had just died.

"It is known Robert Atkins did indeed weather a heart attack during his lifetime. In April 2002, the diet guru issued a statement saying he was recovering from cardiac arrest related to a heart infection he had suffered from "for a few years." He said it was "in no way related to diet."

However, revelations in February 2004 from the city medical examiner's report let slip the information that Atkins had suffered a heart attack, congestive heart failure, and hypertension, before his death. "


1) Dr. Robert Atkins, proponent of the low-carbohydrate diet, died of a heart attack. http://www.snopes.com/medical/doctor/atkins.asp

2) Atkins diet author home after cardiac arrest: http://edition.cnn.com/2002/HEALTH/diet.fitness/04/25/atkins...

One more note: What about Vegetarians and Lacto-vegetarians? Our diet typically tends to be little high in carbs mainly white rice. What kind of protein sources can we substitute lean meat like chicken, for? Tofu and lentils don't cut it, you have to consume vast amounts to get sufficient protein equivalent. Anyone with useful advice, experience, please share!

Excessive protein ingestion causes kidney failure, hypertension and heart attacks.

Too bad for you that there is absolutely nothing in the current medical literature that supports these ridiculous claims.

> It is well known that most of the people in the west consume way more proteins that is required by their body

If prehistoric humans didn't get their calories from protein, how do you suggest they got them? Certainly not from sugars (found mainly in modern cultivated fruits) or starches (found mainly in modern cultivated grains).

I'm not saying your "too much protein" thesis is wrong (I don't have enough of an understanding of nutritional history and anthropology) but can you give some better supporting documentation?

>If prehistoric humans didn't get their calories from protein, how do you suggest they got them?

Probably mostly from plants.


this is an example of an unverified statement with no citations, backed up by the "everybody knows" form of argument.

> It is well known that most of the people in the west consume way more proteins that is required by their body, even those that don't exercise.

Haha, shut up.

Atkins isn't high protein. We already know high protein diets kill people.

Just actually read the snopes article you linked to before repeating the same bullshit that people actually believe. Atkins, the guy who saved thousands of lives of his patients, reversing their diabetes and obesity, died of ________ and was a _______ weight when he was admitted to the hospital.

(1) slipping on ice and going into a coma from a head injury (2) healthy

hypertension? what do you think 60 pounds of bloating is going to do to your body, dumbass?

Forgive my flip dismissal, bad use of caps, and general un-hacker newslike tone just this once, but:


It's just like we have known since the Ancient Greeks and probably earlier -- eat fewer rich foods, more light foods, a big variety of foods, and get lots of moderate activity.

Want to lose weight? Eat fewer calories than you burn. Want to gain muscle mass and tone? Work out regularly. Etc.

Jesus christ, the next time I hear the words "Gluten Free" I am going to scream, jumping up and down, Remember The South Beach Diet!?? Remember the no-fat diet????!!! Don't you people ever learn!?!?!?!

Sorry. I promise to write more grown up posts in the future.

You could probably pick a better target than "Gluten Free". A coeliac can experience debilitating stomach pain (almost wanting to scream or not being able to jump up and down) from a tiny piece of everyday bread, as one example.

Being able to eat out with such information readily available is liberating for a coeliac and I think it's a really positive thing that restaurants and manufacturers have become more forward-thinking with their labelling.

> Want to lose weight? Eat fewer calories than you burn. Want to gain muscle mass and tone? Work out regularly. Etc.

This is why research about diet is important. Animals are complex systems, and rarely are "simple" explanations correct (or correct enough). What we know about about food and how we process it is remarkably incomplete considering how important it is to supporting life.

So with that in mind, I'm excited that the prevailing view of diet, nutrition and health in our society for the last century or so is getting challenged, just as science should be challenged and overturned ("disrupted" in SV parlance) in the face of new, better, more sound evidence.

What's coming out of this new research is that, perhaps, the mechanisms concerned with storage of energy (fat) are unconcerned with the rest of what's going on in the body. That perhaps the reservoir of energy available to your muscles and brain to burn, intentionally and with conscious control, are in competition with a sometimes overly-aggressive energy storage system.

It reminds me of how the U.S. does income tax - it comes directly out of your paycheck, before you can even think of spending it. Even if you wanted to go negative, the Govt still gets theirs.

And let's say that the regulator of storage vs. use is controlled by the kinds of food that you eat... that, stretching this metaphor, your income tax bracket was affected by where you worked, or where you got the money from.

Anyway, a more complete picture of how our bodies actually function is a good thing, and the more people try these "fad diets" is actually a boon for the people studying them. ;)

(As an aside - the gluten free craze has helped a lot of people who actually have celiac disease to have more options in eating things that don't taste like crap, or, you know, eat out once in a while.)

The study doesn't condone any of the diets you mentioned. Instead it compares a lower fat diet (<30%) with a higher one (>40%). No measuring of calories.

It's just a study with interesting data, no fad diets.

Although when you consider how prevalent carbohydrates are in western diets, you could be forgiven for jumping to the conclusion that lower carb diets are a fad.

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