high-fat low-carb diets for weight loss

The high level of obesity in western cultures is mostly related to bad dietary practices. These practices include the consumption of high fat and low complex carbohydrate diets.

The increased rate of eating out by most families also has a part to play. This is because the most consumed foods on such outings are popular foods such as burgers, fries, and pizzas. The fact is that foods from almost all fast foods and many restaurants contain a lot of unhealthy fats. The reasons for the high obesity figures are therefore glaring us in the face.

Fat is a very energy-dense food with about 9 calories per gram. It supplies about twice the calories per gram of protein or carbohydrate. The amount of calories that enters the body from eating too much fatty foods can add up very quickly. However, not all dietary fats are the same. They are different to certain degrees and also have varying effects on the body.

To most individuals, high-fat diets correlate to obesity, cancer, and heart related diseases. However, these facts remain true only to a certain extent. They stop being true if there is a significant reduction in carbohydrate consumption. This is with the intention of prompting a state of ketosis.

Initial Uses of High-Fat Low-Carbohydrate Diets

This is where the use of a high-fat low-carbohydrate diet comes into effect. This idea is not in any way new. A high-fat low-carbohydrate diet called the Ketogenic Diet had been in use as far back as the 1920s.

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The Epilepsy Center of the Johns Hopkins Hospital used it in treating children with hard to control seizures. In 1921, Dr. R.M. Wilder of the Mayo Clinic started using the same procedure. He used it in treating adults and children with epilepsy.

By the late 1930s, the use of the Ketogenic Diet reduced and most people forgot about the diet. This was due to the development of the first anticonvulsant drug – phenytoin (Dilantin) in 1938. The availability of other variants of anticonvulsant drug made things worse.

But there were cases of patients not responding to any drug or surgical procedure. Therefore a lot of doctors resorted to the use of ketogenic diets. Doctors in over 40 countries currently use ketogenic diets in treating childhood epilepsy.

Effects of High-Fat Low-Carbohydrate Diets

Losing weight through a high-fat low-carbohydrate diet has the following effects:

  • Reduction in triglycerides (another name for fat) levels
  • Decreased insulin resistance
  • Lowered blood pressure

While the use of a high-fat diet to lose weight may sound ironic, it is nonetheless true and very effective. But how and what exactly makes this possible in view of all the facts about high-fat consumption?

The main task of the simple sugars and starches in carbohydrate foods is to provide energy. The simple sugar, glucose, satisfies the energy needs of the brain as it mainly depends on glucose. However, the muscles only use glucose for short-term bouts of activity.

The liver converts one-third and the muscles two-third of produced glucose into glycogen. It is a storage form which serves as the body’s auxiliary energy source. The body releases glycogen only when there is a dire need of glucose.

However, the body stores any excess amount of glucose as fat. Stored fat also serves as a backup source of energy. The body however does not convert it back into glucose.

Insulin and Fat Storage

A hormone called insulin makes the storage of glucose as fat possible. When there is too much glucose in the bloodstream, the pancreas secretes insulin. This initiates the process of storing excess glucose as fat in adipose tissues.

The body can however stop converting and storing glucose as fat. This is possible when insulin level remains constant or reduced to a certain extent. This is one of the impacts of a high-fat low-carbohydrate diet on healthy weight loss. It causes a reduction in insulin production which in turn stops any further fat storage.

High-Fat Low-Carbohydrate Diets and Ketosis

However, the main effect of a high-fat low-carbohydrate diet comes from ketosis. Ketosis is a forced state where the body breaks down its fat stores for energy.

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The body does this to maintain its energy level due to the low level of glucose in the bloodstream. This process naturally occurs during periods of prolonged starvation. This also happens when there is a large consumption of fats in the absence of carbohydrate.

When carbohydrate is low in supply, the body has only two other choices available. These are proteins and fats. The body does not store proteins after their digestion. This is because the body metabolizes their resultant amino acids within a few hours.

Therefore, proteins are an inefficient alternative source of energy for the body. This is more so when the body is in the state of ketosis. As a result, the body turns almost solely to breaking down of its fat stores for its energy demands.

Under normal conditions, ketones result from the breakdown of fats to provide energy. The body quickly oxidizes them to water and carbon dioxide and excretes them in the urine. However, an overproduction of ketones occurs due to an increased fat burning (lipolysis). This makes the body to become more acidic.

The body thus uses more water reserves from cells to flush out the accumulated ketones. This water loss is the initial of evidence of weight loss of a high-fat low-carbohydrate diet.

Nonetheless, high-fat low-carbohydrate diets generally lead to rapid weight loss. The combination of the three factors below makes this possible:

  • Stable insulin levels occasioned by the reduced glucose in the bloodstream
  • Fat-burning state of ketosis
  • Loss of water from body cells

Principles of High-Fat Low-Carbohydrate Diets

The above points highlight the underlying principles of high-fat low-carbohydrate diets which are:

  • Fat or calories are not what lead to weight gain
  • Inefficient or unhealthy insulin cycles cause weight gain
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Nutritionists generally have certain healthy weight loss opinions. One such opinion is that weight loss results from reduction in calories. And that this reduction is by the elimination of an entire food group from the diet. This is irrespective of whether using a high-fat low-carbohydrate diet or any other diet.

They however argue that it is not because of a metabolic change induced by the diet itself.

Well, this is up to individuals to decide. Are the particular impacts it has on epilepsy and diabetes patients anything to go by?

Dieters need to drink a lot of water when on a high-fat low-carbohydrate diet. This helps to flush the accumulated ketones out of the body. Also, individuals with kidney problems should not use a high-fat low-carbohydrate diet.

This is because the excretion of ketone bodies places enormous strain on the kidneys. For such persons, it can lead to kidney failure. This is more so if ketosis runs for long periods of time without proper supervision.

Stages of Using a High-Fat Low-Carbohydrate Diet

High-fat low-carbohydrate diets vary in the amount of carbohydrates the dieter eats daily. These diets have about three or more phases/stages of implementation. Eating between 25 and 45 grams of carbohydrate per day is enough to induce weight loss.

The first phase of a high-fat low-carbohydrate diet lasts for about two weeks. It usually allows the least amount of grams of carbohydrate consumption per day.

The middle phase is where dieters experience the actual weight loss. This phase allows for a slight increase in the amount of grams of carbohydrate consumed. The dieter maintains this amount until they achieve their desired weight loss.

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There is a gradual increase in the amount of carbohydrate intake during the last phases. This continues until the weight loss stops or weight gain begins. To stabilize weight at the final stages, the dieter has to reduce carbohydrate intake as need arises.

Factors for consideration are the age, gender, and size of the individual. These will largely determine the daily amount of grams of carbohydrate for consumption. This is after the individual has reached his or her ideal healthy weight goal.