Category Archives: Weight Loss

Was William Banting’s Diet LCHF? (Low-Carb, High-Fat)

"Those numbers are so small!"

“Those numbers are so small!”

I’ve been reading about Banting’s diet for at least six years. Thanks to Tim Noakes in South Africa, it’s seeing a mini-surge in popularity. William Banting published his Letter on Corpulence in 1863. Eating like him to lose weight is sometimes referred to as “Banting.” It’s one form of a low-carb diet and considered a precursor to the Atkins diet.

Form your own opinion of what William Banting may have eaten by reading these:

In terms of macronutrient calories, here’s my rough back-of-the-envelope synthesis of Banting’s diet:

  • 20–25% carbohydrate
  • 25% protein
  • 20–25% fat
  • 25% alcohol
  • 1800–2000 total calories

For the 200 lb (91 kg) man that Banting was, 2000 calories would almost certainly have been a calorie-restricted diet. Leigh estimated he was eating at least 2800 cals/day at baseline before losing weight. I don’t doubt that.

In summary, Banting drank a lot of alcohol (even more than on the Ketogenic Mediterranean Diet), and ate fairly low-fat, moderately carb-restricted, and relatively high protein. In other words: low cal, low carb, low fat, high protein, high alcohol.

His weight loss, assuming it wasn’t a hoax, came from calorie restriction. Something about that combination of macronutrients apparently allowed him to stick with the program and maintain a 50-lb (23 kg) weight loss. Protein is particularly satiating. Your mileage may vary.

I’m concerned that 25% of calories from alcohol would displace more healthful micronutrients.

Steve Parker, M.D.

PS: Fun Fact: William Banting was a distant relative of Frederick Banting, the co-discoverer of insulin in 1921.

PPS: My diets are healthier than Banting’s, thanks to 150 years of nutrition science since then.

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How to Overcome a Weight-Loss Stall

 

Strength Training Helps Get Excess Blood Sugar Out of Circulation, But Exercise Is Often Disappointing As A Weight-Loss Method

Strength training helps get excess blood sugar out of circulation, but exercise is often disappointing as a weight-loss method

It’s common on any weight-loss program to be cruising along losing weight as promised, then suddenly the weight loss stops although you’re still far from goal weight. This is the mysterious and infamous stall.

Once you know the cause for the stall, the way to break it becomes obvious. The most common reasons are:

  • you’re not really following the full program any more; you’ve drifted off the path, often unconsciously
  • instead of eating just until you’re full or satisfied, you’re stuffing yourself
  • you need to start or intensify an exercise program
  • you’ve developed an interfering medical problem such as adrenal insufficiency (rare) or an underactive thyroid; see your doctor
  • you’re taking interfering medication such as a steroid; see your doctor
  • your strength training program is building new muscle that masks ongoing loss of fat (not a problem!).

If you still can’t figure out what’s causing your stall, do a nutritional analysis of one weeks’ worth of eating, with a focus on daily digestible carb (net carbs) and calorie totals. You can do this analysis online at places like FitDay or Calorie Count.

What you do with your data depends on whether you’re losing weight through portion control (usually reflecting calorie restriction) or carb counting. Most people lose weight with one of these two methods.

Are you eating too many of these?

Are you eating too many of these?

If you’re a carb counter, you may find you’ve been sabotaged by “carb creep”: excessive dietary carbs have insidiously invaded you. You need to cut back. Even if you’re eating very-low-carb, it’s still possible to have excess body fat, even gain new fat, if you eat too many calories from protein and fat. It’s not easy, but it’s possible.

Those who have followed a calorie-restriction weight loss model for awhile may have become lax in their record-keeping. The stall is a result of simply eating too much. Call it “portion creep.” You need to re-commit to observing portion sizes.

A final possible cause for a weight loss stall is that you just don’t need as many calories as you once did. Think about this. Someone who weighs 300 lb (136 kg) is eating perhaps 3300 calories a day just to maintain a steady weight. He goes on a calorie-restricted diet (2800/day) and loses a pound (0.4 kg) a week. Eventually he’s down to 210 lb (95.5 kg) but stalled, aiming for 180 lb (82 kg). The 210-lb body (95.5 kg) doesn’t need 3300 calories a day to keep it alive and steady-state; it only needs 2800 and that’s what it’s getting. To restart the weight loss process, he has to reduce calories further, say down to 2300/day. This is not the “slowed down metabolism” we see with starvation or very-low-calorie diets. It’s simply the result of getting rid of 90 pounds of fat (41 kg) that he no longer needs to feed

Steve Parker, M.D.

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19 Weight-Loss Tips

My son Paul made this GIF

My son Paul made this GIF

These don’t work for everybody, but they work for a lot. Take what works for you and discard the rest. You won’t know until you try.

1.  Record-keeping is often the key to success.

2.  Accountability is another key to success. Consider documenting your program and progress on a free website such as FitDay, SparkPeople, 3FatChicks, Calorie Count (http://caloriecount.about.com), or others. Consider blogging about your weight-loss adventure on a free platform such as WordPress or Blogger. Such a public commitment may be just what you need to keep you motivated.

3.  Do you have a friend or spouse who wants to lose weight? Start the same program at the same time and support each other. That’s built-in accountability.

4.  If you tend to over-eat, floss and brush your teeth after you’re full. You’ll be less likely to go back for more anytime soon.

5.  Eat at least two or three meals daily. Skipping meals may lead to uncontrollable overeating later on. On the other hand, ignore the diet gurus who say you must eat every two or three hours. That’s codswallop.

6.  Eat meals at a leisurely pace, chewing and enjoying each bite thoroughly before swallowing.

7.  Plan to give yourself a specific reward for every 10 pounds (4.5 kg) of weight lost. You know what you like. Consider a weekend get-away, a trip to the beauty salon, jewelry, an evening at the theater, a professional massage, home entertainment equip-ment, new clothes, etc.

8.  Carefully consider when would be a good time to start your new lifestyle. It should be a period of low or usual stress. Bad times would be Thanksgiving day, Christmas/New Years’ holiday, the first day of a Caribbean cruise, and during a divorce.

Credit: Zvonimir Atletic / Shutterstock.com

Christmas holiday isn’t the best time to start a diet. New Years’ Day is better. 

9.  If you know you’ve eaten enough at a meal to satisfy your nutritional requirements yet you still feel hungry, drink a large glass of water and wait a while.

10.  Limit television to a maximum of a few hours a day.

11.  Maintain a consistent eating pattern throughout the week and year.

12.  Eat breakfast routinely.

13.  Control emotional eating.

14.  Weigh frequently: daily during active weight-loss efforts and during the first two months of your maintenance-of-weight-loss phase. After that, cut back to weekly weights if you want. Daily weights will remind you how hard you worked to achieve your goal.

15.  Be aware that you might regain five or 10 pounds (2-4 kg) of fat now and then. You probably will. Don’t freak out. It’s human nature. You’re not a failure; you’re human. But draw the line and get back on the old weight-loss program for one or two months. Analyze and learn from the episode. Why did it happen? Slipping back into your old ways? Slacking off on exercise? Too many special occasion feasts or cheat days? Allowing junk food back into the house?

16.  Learn which food item is your nemesis—the food that consistently torpedoes your resolve to eat right. For example, mine is anything sweet. Remember an old ad campaign for a potato chip: “Betcha can’t eat just one!”? Well, I can’t eat just one cookie. So I don’t get started. I might eat one if it’s the last one available. Or I satisfy my sweet craving with a diet soda, small piece of dark chocolate, or sugar-free gelatin. Just as a recovering alcoholic can’t drink any alcohol, perhaps you should totally abstain from…? You know your own personal gastronomic Achilles heel. Or heels. Experiment with various strategies for vanquishing your nemesis.

My nemesis

My nemesis

17.  If you’re not losing excess weight as expected (about a pound or half a kilogram per week), you may benefit from eating just two meals a day. This will often turn on your cellular weight-loss machinery even when total calorie consumption doesn’t seem much less than usual. The two meals to eat would be breakfast and a mid-afternoon meal (call it what you wish). The key is to not eat within six hours of bedtime. Of course, this trick could cause dangerous hypoglycemia if you’re taking drugs with potential to cause low blood sugars, like insulin and sulfonylureas. Talk to your dietitian or physician before instituting a semi-radical diet change like this.

18.  One of the bloggers I followed when I had time is James Fell. He says, “If you want to lose weight you need to cook. Period.” James blogs at http://www.sixpackabs.com, with a focus on exercise and fitness.

19.  Regular exercise is much more important for prevention of weight regain rather than for actually losing weight.

 

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Lose Weight With Contrave, But Don’t Kill Yourself

Open wide!

Open wide!

The FDA recently approved a new weight-loss drug for the U.S. market. It’s marketed as Contrave, a combination of naltrexone and bupropion.

Neither of the components is new. Naltrexone’s been used to treat alcohol and narcotic addiction. Bupropion, e.g., Wellbutrin, is for depression and smoking cessation.

Contrave joins two other recent drugs for weight loss. Belviq and Qsymia were approved in 2012. I still haven’t run across anyone using those.

To qualify for the new formulation, you need a body mass index over 30, or over 27 plus one or more weight-related medical condition such as type 2 diabetes or high blood pressure.

If you haven’t lost over 5% of your initial body weight in the first 12 weeks of use, the FDA recommends stopping the drug.

Potential adverse effects include suicidal thoughts and seizures. More commonly, users may experience headache, nausea, constipation, diarrhea, dizziness, insomnia, and dry mouth. Constipation and diarrhea?!

Even with the drug, you still have to be on a reduced-calorie diet and exercise program.

Why not try the Low-Carb Mediterranean Diet or Paleobetic Diet first?

Steve Parker, M.D.

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Low-Carb Beats Low-Fat Diet for Weight Loss Once Again

…according to an article at MedPageToday.

Many physicians have been reluctant to recommend low-carb diets out of fear that they increase cardiovascular risk. A recent study compared low-carb to low-fat dieting over 12 months and actually found better improvements in cardiovascular disease risk factors on the low-carb diet (max of 40 grams a day).

This Avocado Chicken soup is low-carb. Use the search box to find the recipe.

This Avocado Chicken soup is low-carb. Use the search box to find the recipe.

After 12 months, folks on a low-carbohydrate diet had lost 5.3 kg (11.7 lb), while those on a low-fat diet with similar caloric value had lost 1.8 kg (3.9 lb). Both groups showed lowering of LDL cholesterol, while the low-carbers had better improvements in HDL cholesterol and triglycerides.

DietDoctor Andreas Eenfeldt can add this study to his list of others that show better weight loss with low-carb diets compared to low-fat.

Regular readers here know of my Low-Carb Mediterranean Diet for diabetes and prediabetes. My Advanced Mediterranean Diet for non-diabetics also offers a low-carb option in addition to traditional reduced-calorie portion-control eating.

Steve Parker, M.D.

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New Study Suggests Low-Carb Diet Healthier Than Low-Fat in T2 Diabetes

This is an important report because most diet studies last much less than one year. Details are in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.

Study participants were 115 obese (BMI 35) type 2 diabetics with hemoglobin A1c averaging 7.3%. Average age was 58. So pretty typical patients, although perhaps better controlled than average.

They were randomized to follow for 52 weeks either a very low-carbohydrate or a high-carbohydrate “low-fat” diet. Both diets were designed to by hypocaloric, meaning that they provided fewer calories than the patients were eating at baseline, presumably with a goal of weight loss. The article abstract implies the diets overall each provided the same number of calories. They probably adjusted the calories for each patient individually. (I haven’t seen the full text of the article.) Participants were also enrolled in a serious exercise program: 60 minutes of aerobic and resistance training thrice weekly.

Kayaking is an aerobic exercise if done seriously

Kayaking is an aerobic exercise if done seriously

The very low-carb diet (LC diet) provided 14% of total calories as carbohydrate (under 50 grams/day). The high-carb diet (HC diet) provided 53% of total calories as carbohydrate and 30% of calories as fat. The typical Western diet has about 35% of calories from fat.

Both groups lost weight, about 10 kg (22 lb) on average. Hemoglobin A1c, a reflection of glucose control over the previous three months, dropped about 1% (absolute reduction) in both groups.

Compared to the HC diet group, the LC dieters were able to reduce more diabetes medications, lower their triglycerides more, and increase their HDL cholesterol (“good cholesterol”). These triglyceride and HDL changes would tend to protect against heart disease.

SO WHAT?

You can lose weight and improve blood sugar control with reduced-calorie diets—whether very low-carb or high-carb—combined with an exercise program. No surprise there.

I’m surprised that the low-carb group didn’t lose more weight. I suspect after two months of dieting, the low-carbers started drifting back to their usual diet which likely was similar to the high-carb diet. Numerous studies show superior weight loss with low-carb eating, but those studies are usually 12 weeks or less in duration.

The low-carb diet improved improved lipid levels that might reduce risk of future heart disease, and allowed reduction of diabetes drug use. Given that we don’t know the long-term side effects of many of our drugs, that’s good.

If I have a chance to review the full text of the paper, I’ll report back here.

Steve Parker, M.D.

Reference: Jeannie Tay, et al. Comparison of low- and high-carbohydrate diets for type 2 diabetes management: a randomized trial. First published July 29, 2015, doi: 10.3945/​ajcn.115.112581    Am J Clin Nutr

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Book Review: The South Asian Health Solution

Indian woman cooking chapati

Indian woman cooking chapati

Here’s my review of The South Asian Health Solution: A culturally tailored guide to lose fat, increase energy, avoid disease by Ronesh Sinha, published in 2014.

♦   ♦   ♦

Dr. Sinha practices internal medicine in northern California (Silicon Valley) and has a large dose of South Asians in his clinic. “South Asia” usually encompasses India, Pakistan, Nepal, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Sri Lanka and Maldives. It is home to one fifth of the world’s population. This book pertains mostly to Indians, which is Dr. Sinha’s ethnicity. I live in the Pheonix, AZ, area and we have a fair number of Indian engineers and physicians.

WHY DO SOUTH ASIANS NEED THEIR OWN SPECIAL HEALTH GUIDE?

Because Dr. Sinha says they have unique genetic and cultural issues that predispose them to type 2 diabetes, abdominal obesity, coronary artery disease, high blood pressure, and adverse cholesterol numbers. For example, compared to natives who stay in their home countries, South Asian immigrants to the West have 3–4 times higher prevalence of diabetes, he says. Dr Sinha has a program that he’s convinced will prevent or forestall these medical problems in South Asians.

Dr. Sinha says South Asians eat too many carbohydrates and are too sedentary. Especially those who have moved to the West (e.g., US, UK, Europe, Canada). He notes that the core of the typical South Asian diet is flat breads, lentils, rice, fried crispy snacks (with heart-poisoning trans fats), culminating in 150–200 daily grams of carbohydrate more than he sees in other ethnics in California. Western fast foods, sodas, and sweets compound the problem.

He says “most South Asians are skinny-fat,” meaning skinny legs and arms but with a fat belly from visceral fat. This is also called sarcopenic obesity. The usual “healthy” body mass index (BMI) numbers don’t apply to Asians. The World Health Organisation classifies Asians as underweight if BMI is 18.4 or less, healthy at BMI of 18.5 to 13, overweight at BMI 23.1 to 25, and obese if BMi is over 25. These numbers are lower than those used for non-Asian populations.

Another issue in his South Asian patient population is vitamin D deficiency related to their dark skin (hence, less vitamin D production) and too much time indoors. He says vitamin D deficiency promotes inflammation and insulin resistance. More on this below.

Some South Asians have a K121Q gene mutation that causes insulin resistance, which in turn can cause disease. And whether it’s genetic or not (but I think it is), he says South Asians tend to have higher Lp(a) [aka lipoprotein(a)], which causes early and aggressive coronary artery disease. They also tend to have small dense LDL, leading to a lower-than-expected total cholesterol level which may be deceptively low.

Sinha notes a strong vegetarian preference in Indians but spends almost no time discussing it. From the book, I can’t tell if Indian vegetarians are lacto-ovo-vegetarians, pescetarians, or vegans. The author is not a vegetarian.

Gadi Sagar temple on Gadisar Lake, Jaisalmer, Rajasthan, India

Gadi Sagar temple on Gadisar Lake, Jaisalmer, Rajasthan, India

 

SINHA’S GRAND UNIFICATION THEORY OF DISEASE CAUSATION

So, South Asians, at least in the West, have a high-carb diet, are too sedentary, and have genetic tendencies to heart disease and diabetes. How do these factors cause disease? It’s all tied together with insulin resistance. Insulin is the main hormone that keeps our blood sugar from rising too high after we digest a meal. Insulin drives blood sugar into our body cells to be used as energy or stored as fat or glycogen. If our tissues have insulin resistance, blood sugar levels rise. As a compensatory effort, our pancreas excretes more insulin in to the blood stream than would normally be the case. Whether or not that eventually lowers blood sugar levels, the higher insulin levels themselves can cause toxicity. For example, higher insulin levels raise blood pressure, which damages the cells lining the insides of our arteries, leading to chronic inflammation and atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries). Some of the arterial damage is mediated through small dense LDL cholesterols (aka type B LDL), which is promoted by high insulin levels (hyperinsulinemia). Insulin resistance also results in a defective and overactive immune system, which further promotes chronic inflammation. This inflammation is “…the root cause of almost every imaginable chronic disease…from heart attacks and strokes to Alzheimers Disease.”

Anyway, this is Dr. Sinha’s hypothesis, and there is some scientific evidence to support it. Sinha says that the concept of insulin resistance “weaves together virtually every chronic ailment currently afflicting South Asians.” That may be a bit hyperbolic: He carves out no exceptions for arthritis, asthma, eczema, migraines, glaucoma, macular degeneration, hearing loss, erectile dysfunction, hepatitis C, prostate enlargement, toenail fungus, or male-pattern baldness.

Dr. Sinha’s Grand Unification Theory of Disease Causation has some support among physicians and scientists, but is by no means universally accepted among them. As for myself, I think he’s over-simplifying (for his readership’s sake?) and getting a bit ahead of the science.

Most clinicians aren’t testing directly for insulin resistance. What are the indirect clues? Belly fat, low HDL cholesterol, high trigylcerides, high blood pressure, prediabetes, and type 2 diabetes. These are components of the metabolic syndrome. Not everybody with one or more of these factors has insulin resistance but many do.

WHAT’S HIS PROGRAM?

If Sinha is correct, the South Asian Health Solution is a “low-insulin lifestyle” achieved through carbohydrate-reduced eating, exercise, and avoidance or resolution of belly fat. These help improve all components of the aforementioned metabolic syndrome. The backbone of the plan is carbohydrate restriction. For low-carb eating, avoid wheat bread and Indian flat breads (e.g., chapatis, naans, parathas, puris, phulkas), aloo (primarily potatoes and starchy vegetables), rice and other grains, beans, and sugar. Keep track of your net carbohydrates (he likes FitnessPal.com, which includes South Asian foods).

If you need to burn off body fat, limit carbs to 50–100 grams/day (digestible or net carbs, I assume). Aim for 100–150 grams/day to maintain health and weight loss.

You might be able to add “safe starches” later: white rice, potatoes. To replace your Indian flat breads, learn how to make them with substitutes for wheat flour: coconut flour or almond flour (no skins) or almond meal (skin included). Recipe on page 347. Rice alternatives are cauliflower “rice,” shredded cabbage, broccoli slaw, chopped broccoli, and chopped carrots.

He likes ghee, extra virgin olive oil, coconut oil, and butter. Avoid high omega-6 fatty acid consumption, as in vegetable oils. Of course, avoid trans fats. Good fats are saturated, monousaturated, and omega-3s.

He provides a few low-carb recipes, surprisingly without specific carb counts: chapatis, microwave bread, cauliflower pizza, coconut cauliflower rice, shredded cabbage sabji, gajar halwa (carrot pudding), and coconut ladoo.

Dr. Sinha doesn’t provide a comprehensive meal plan. He trusts his California South Asians to figure out how and what to eat. They’re smarter than average (he never says that, but that’s been my experience with South Asians in my world).

Dr. Sinha is also a huge proponent of exercise. He’ll tell you about squats, lunges, planks, burpees, yoga, and Tabata intervals. He agrees with me and Franziska Spritzler that “physical activity is the most effective fountain of youth available.”

Steve Parker, M.D., Conquer Diabetes and Prediabetes

Taking a rest from the fountain of youth

 

I skipped some of the chapters due to lack of time and interest: women’s issues (e.g., pregnancy, polycystic ovary syndrome, post-partum depression, osteoporosis), childhood, fatigue and stress management, and anti-aging.

MISCELLANEOUS TIDBITS

  • He likes high-sensitivity CRP testing.
  • His metabolic goals for South Asians are: 1) keep waist circumference under 35 inches (90 cm) in men, under 31 inches (80 cm) in women, 2) keep triglycerides under 100 mg/dl (1.13 mmol/l), 3) keep HDL cholesterol over 40 mg/dl (1.03 mmol/l) for men, and above 50 mg/dl (1.29 mmol/l) for women, 4) keep systolic blood pressure 120 or less, and diastolic pressure 80 or less, 5) keep fasting blood sugar under 100 mg/dl (5.6 mmol/l) and hemoglobin A1c under 5.7%, and 6) keep hs-CRP under 1.0 mg/dl.
  • He says HDL cholesterol helps reduce insulin resistance via apoprotein A-1 (apo A-1), which increases glucose uptake by cells.
  • He likes to follow the triglyceride/HDL ratio. If under 3, it means low risk of insulin resistance being present.
  • He likes to follow total cholesterol/HDL cholesterol ratio: ideal is under 3.5.
  • Statins are way over-used.
  • Ignore total cholesterol level by itself.
  • Stress control and sleep are important.
  • The author had some metabolic syndrome components: high triglycerides, low HDL cholesterol, and type B LDL (small, dense particles).
  • He dislikes the usual-recommended low-fat, low-cholesterol diet.
  • 4 tbsp (60 ml) of extra virgin olive oil daily seems to lower blood pressure.
  • Magnesium supplementation may lower blood pressure.
  • The liver stores about 100 grams of glycogen and muscles store 300–500 grams.
  • Vanaspati is a “cheap ghee substitute” made from vegetable oil and widely used in Indian restaurants and many Indian processed foods. Avoid it since it’s a source of trans fats.
  • Aloo sabji is a potato dish.
  • Traditional Indian herbs/spices include turmeric, cardamon, ginger, and cilantro.
  • Find an Indian medication guide at http://www.medguideindia.com/show_brand.php.
  • Coconut milk is a traditional fat in India.
  • Curry, curry, curry.
  • http://www.pamforg/southasian.
  • http://southasiahealthsolutions.org.
  • Non-alcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH) is quite common in South Asians, seemingly linked to visceral (abdominal) obesity and insulin resistance related to carbohydrates.
  • The book has no specific focus on diabetes.

THUMBS UP OR DOWN?

Overall, I like many of Dr. Sinha’s ideas. They seem to be supported by his experience with his own patients. I trust him. I bet many South Asians and non-Asians eating the Standard American Diet would see improved health by following his low-carb, physically active program.

Steve Parker, M.D.

 

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Filed under Book Reviews, coronary heart disease, Heart Disease, India, Overweight and Obesity, Weight Loss