by Bob McCauley, ND
“To repeat what others have said, requires education;
to challenge it, requires brains.”
~ Mary Poole
William Banting, an overweight undertaker, discovered that removing carbohydrates from his diet caused him to dramatically lose weight in a short period of time. In 1863, he published a short pamphlet called Letter on Corpulence, Addressed to the Public, and the fad diet immediately became popular as the public fell in love with it. Those who followed the new diet became known as Banting’s Knights. The medical establishment of the time denounced the diet as dangerous and they were right to do so. The low-carbohydrate diet has died and come back to life every 25 years with uncanny regularity since its inception. In the 1970’s, it surfaced again under the Atkins banner where it has been pushed relentlessly ever since.
Starchy carbohydrates quickly put fat on us if we remain on a cooked-food diet because we loose the enzymes necessary to process carbohydrates into sugar to be burned by the body. This will, in turn, affect our ability to produce certain hormones, such as the hormone that helps regulate carbohydrates being turned into sugar instead of fat. Once our body loses its ability to produce these enzymes and hormones, fat quickly displaces on the hips. This is particularly common in young women and it usually happens in less than two years. It also helps give carbohydrates a bad reputation.
If you remove carbohydrates from your diet and live almost exclusively on fat and protein, your body will have no other choice than to burn its fat. However, the resulting imbalances of the body are catastrophic. The low-carbohydrate diet has been labeled the uremic diet by the medical community because it causes an excess of nitrogen waste products in the urine. High protein diets produce ammonia and urea in the body, which are both toxic. These require large amounts of water intake to be flushed from the body. Unfortunately, a high protein diet acts like a diuretic that drains the body of water. The intercellular fluid is then drained from the body’s cells leading to chronic cellular dehydration, a precursor to most disease. It can also increase the risk of kidney stones and bone loss.[i]
The resulting symptoms of being on a high protein/fat diet are strikingly similar to those of starvation. First is a loss of sodium and water followed by a loss in potassium, which is followed then by a breakdown in body protein. The results of this are fatigue, weakness and muscle wasting. This can lead to a drop in metabolism, which accounts for the sudden weight gain that people experience when they go off such a diet because it can take months for the body’s metabolism to regain its previously higher level.
Sometimes the high protein/fat diet is called the ketogenic diet. Fat cannot be properly oxidized without the presence of carbohydrates, which leads to an accumulation of ketone bodies, a condition known as ketosis. The body also produces considerable more lactic acid on a high protein/fat diet. Both lead to acidosis or the acidification of the body, which makes us vulnerable to all disease including viruses, bacteria, infection and tumor growth.
A high acid, low fiber diet strains the liver and kidneys. The high level of phenylalanine in meat can interfere with serotonin production in the brain, which can lead to depression. The high level of methionine in chicken contributes to elevated homocysteine levels, which is a major factor in heart disease. Excessive protein can also lead to Leaky Gut Syndrome (LGS) as the undigested protein enters the bloodstream, which causes an immune response because the protein is identified by the body as a foreign invader. Chronic rashes and other skin conditions are also symptoms of LGS.
Diet plans that promote high protein/fat, low carbohydrate consumption are dangerous because they can easily become a nutritional nightmare if the diet is taken too literally. It is not only the kind of diet that is promoted, but the kind of foods they encourage people to eat that makes them so unhealthy. Nutritional content in most diet plans is all but ignored, although they make themselves sound quite nutritious. These diets promote foods that are low in sugar and white flour, but high in protein and fat, especially animal fat that is nutritionally inferior and dangerous because it is a major cause of cardiovascular disease. Most diet plans don’t want you to miss any of the foods you love so they invent sophistic schemes to allow you to include the unhealthiest foods imaginable in your diet. A typical meal might be steak, bacon and eggs or processed, prepackaged foods that are nutritionally void and for the most part are mere stomach fillers. Diets such as these trick the physiology of the body into shedding pounds, but often at a great cost to your health. They have made many people sick, but for one person, Rachel Huskey, the high protein/fat, low carbohydrate diet became fatal.[ii] Quite prophetic given that the diet’s original founder was an undertaker.
[i] Effect of low-carbohydrate high-protein diets on acid-base balance, stone-forming propensity, and calcium metabolism, Reddy ST, Wang CY, Sakhaee K, Brinkley L, Pak CY Am J Kidney Dis., Aug 2002; 40(2):265-74.
[ii] Her battle of bulge is fatal for teenager doing Atkins, by Philip Recchia. New York Post, August 24, 2003.