This afternoon, Jimmy Moore popped up in my Facebook feed. Since he follows a Nutritional Ketosis program rather than the Atkins Diet, I rarely read his blog any more, but I do read his Facebook posts when I'm there. In this particular Facebook post, Jimmy was quite upset. Apparently, a couple of twin doctors in Europe (Alexander and Chris Van Tolleken) decided to do a 30-day experiment to discover for themselves which was worse for a dieter: eating sugar or fat.
I could tell by Jimmy's Facebook comments that the low-carb diet the article's author had decided to follow didn't turn out very well. He took offense at the doctor's personal experience of being "thick headed" during those 30 days, and argued that the doctor wasn't following a Nutritional Ketosis diet, so he might not have really been in Ketosis. Plus, 30 days is not long enough to become keto-adapted.
In Jimmy's opinion, anything other than the Nutritional Ketosis parameters he follows, including lower protein and checking your blood ketone levels, is the only legitimate way to test a low-carb diet. But since I don't believe that, I decided to check out the article for myself. I'm very glad that I did because the doctor WAS following a low-carb diet. It just wasn't Jimmy's diet.
In fact it was extremely close to what Dr. Atkins used in 1972 with his own patients. The only thing the diet lacked was two 1-cup portions of loosely packed lettuce leaves, with a little oil-and-vinegar salad dressing. That would have added about 5 grams of carbohydrate to the doctor's meals, which wasn't enough to affect the outcome. So what Alexander was following was what Dr. Atkins used to put his stubborn, extremely insulin resistant patients on: a diet of meat, eggs, and cheese.
A Little Background
Alexander Van Tolleken became concerned about his weight when it reached 17-1/2 stone, which is about 245 pounds. His brother Chris was 12-1/2 stone, about 175 pounds. That's normal weight for their height of 6-feet, so Alexander was about 70 pounds overweight. However, he lost quite a bit of that excess weight before this little experiment, so we don't really know exactly how overweight he was before he started his zero-carb diet.
If he had already lost a great deal of that weight using traditional diet and exercise methods, odds are quite high that he wasn't very metabolic resistant. He was just eating too much and not moving enough.
The 30-Day Experiment: Low Carb Versus Low Fat
Alexander and his brother decided to test two of the most popular dieting methods today: a low-carb diet versus a low-fat diet. Alexander decided to go on a no-carb diet, and his brother Chris took the low-fat route. Neither brother limited their calorie intake. Nor did they change their exercise routine. They ate as much as they wanted. They just avoided carbohydrates or fat.
Neither brother enjoyed their diet. In fact, they were miserable. Chris was hungry all of the time, and Alexander found his no-carb diet extremely boring and unpleasant. Although Alexander was never hungry, he was slow, suffered from brain fog, and tired all of the time. In fact, his bike riding ability suffered greatly during this time. Chris didn't enjoy his meals either, as pasta without olive oil was extremely pathetic.
Everyone Does Not Have Insulin Resistance
Unfortunately, Alexander didn't understand the reasons behind the insulin hypothesis. He fell into the same trap that many low-carb dieters fall into today - believing that everyone has insulin resistance - therefore, a low-carb diet should work the same for everyone. But that is definitely not true. Low carb diets do not work very well for those who are sensitive to insulin. The more insulin sensitive you are, the more problems you have with brain fog and energy.
Now, it's true that initially a low-carb diet can make you fuzzy headed. But if you are insulin resistant, that usually clears up once your basal insulin levels return to normal and you become keto-adapted. However, not everyone loses the brain fog, gains an upsurge in energy, or becomes easily keto-adapted. It all depends on how insulin-resistant or insulin-sensitive you are, and if you have other forms of metabolic damage.
Outcome of the Experiment
The outcome of their experiment was what Jimmy Moore has been saying for a very long time. "You have to be able to keep it up for the rest of your life," Alexander advises. Which he couldn't do. After his first meal of carbs and feeling the rush of energy and alertness those carbs produced for him, he realized just how bad he'd been feeling all month and walked away from a low-carb diet forever.
At that point, the article takes a severe left turn by jumping to conclusions about what Alexander believes causes cravings (sugar and fat eaten together), even though his experiment didn't back up those conclusions. "Any diet that eliminates fat and sugar will be unpalatable, be hard to sustain and probably be bad for your health as well." That was his opinion, of course.
However, he's right about one thing. When it comes to dieting and sticking to a diet, TASTE really matters. Boring food will send you running for carbs. And that's what the food manufacturers have figured out. How to make food taste so good, you'll keep coming back for more.
While it true that processed foods react inside your brain differently than natural foods do, the issue of food cravings if far more complex than a simple combination of sugar and fat as this article suggests.
In my own experience, the bottom line is PLEASURE. Plain and simple. If a diet gives you pleasure, and helps you avoid the pain and consequences of excess body fat, you'll stick with it. If that diet makes you uncomfortable, bored, tired, anxious, and feeling deprived, you won't stay with it for very long. That is why it is absolutely essential to find a diet you can stick with for the rest of your life because if you don't find it pleasurable, you won't.
Main Online, "One twin gave up sugar, the other gave up fat. Their experiment could change YOUR life," by Alexander Van Tulleken, January 27, 2014.