Marks Daily Apple
Serving up health and fitness insights (daily, of course) with a side of irreverence.
16 Jul

Unrestricted Low-Carb Diet Wins Hands Down

Steak SaladThe New England Journal of Medicine has just come out with perhaps the most definitive comparison of low-fat, Mediterranean and low-carb diets ever, and the findings dovetail very nicely with what we’ve been discussing here recently about the merits of the Primal Blueprint. I think it also addresses some of the concerns shared about the so-called “restrictiveness” of my PB plan.

This study looked at over 300 people who followed their assigned diets strictly for two years, making this one of the longest diet studies in recent history. The bottom line was that the low-carb diet was hands-down the most impressive at improving health in all areas. Those on the low-carb plan lost more weight, experienced a greater reduction in the dangerous C-reactive protein, lowered their triglycerides, raised their HDL cholesterol and dropped their A1C more than those on either the Mediterranean or the low-fat diets, although the Mediterranean was a close second most of the time. Of course, for those who read MDA religiously, you’ll be interested to hear that the low-fat diet was “restricted” to only 1500 calories per day for women and 1800 for men, as was the Mediterranean diet, but the low-carb diet was “unrestricted”, meaning those participants could eat all they wanted of non-carb foods (fat and protein, people). They started out at only 20 grams carbs a day for two months, then eased up to 120 grams a day maintenance at the end. Compliance was fairly high, too: of the 109 people assigned to the low-carb plan, 85 finished the entire two years.

For those of you asking for more “evidence” that the way Grok ate was healthful, I can now add this study to the ever-increasing body of work. Of course, we here at MDA can speculate (and do we ever) on why carbs are not-so-great from purely a gene-expression POV, on why fats are our “healthy friends” from an evolutionary biology perspective and why proteins should form the basis of a fat-burning, muscle-building Primal eating program. But it sure helps that a study like this – with zero attachment to any evolutionary rationale – comes up with a parallel conclusion. This quote is taken from the paper:

The similar caloric deficit achieved in all diet groups suggests that a low-carbohydrate, non–restricted-calorie diet may be optimal for those who will not follow a restricted-calorie dietary regimen.

When will guys like Dean Ornish and John MacDougal realize they have gone way too far down the wrong low-fat path?

joshbousel Flickr Photo (CC)

Further Reading:

Definitive Guide: The Primal Blueprint

Mark Sisson is Not Afraid of Fat

The Context of Calories

Definitive Guide to Fat

The Best Low-Carb Fruits (and Worst)

You want comments? We got comments:

Imagine you’re George Clooney. Take a moment to admire your grooming and wit. Okay, now imagine someone walks up to you and asks, “What’s your name?” You say, “I’m George Clooney.” Or maybe you say, “I’m the Clooninator!” You don’t say “I’m George of George Clooney Sells Movies Blog” and you certainly don’t say, “I’m Clooney Weight Loss Plan”. So while spam is technically meat, it ain’t anywhere near Primal. Please nickname yourself something your friends would call you.

  1. How about we think about how humanity grew up on proteins/fat/saturated fat/cholesterol 35,000 years ago? Agriculture is the bad guy here. I understand why humans created it roughly 10,000 years ago to provide food when food wasn’t available in ample supply. There were no McDonalds providing bad food, no deep fried french fries, no super sweet Wendy’s milkshakes that are a high blood pressure event for a week for me. Humans were a LOT healthier then based on my experience with PB. I am pretty much on a fat/protein deal with the Primal Blueprint and all of my blood work (cholesterol, LDL, HDL, etc including blood pressure were in amazing ranges) for the first time in about 8 years for me. That is how long I was taking blood pressure meds, and then for the last two years I was taking testosterone injections (I currently do not take either medicine now and haven’t for about 8 months now) Thank you Mark for providing what you do for your site and I hope you know you’ve changed more lives than you’ll probably ever know about. I have had 2 friends who have switched to PB in the last two-three months and one of them has lost a belt loop hole in size within the first 30 days. I guess it helps that I have my super slim figure with very little gut remaining and I am now exercising almost daily with resistance and strength training (no cardio as that ages us faster). People have seen changes over the last year and they like what they see. I’ve probably done more exercise in the last 45 days than I have done in the past 10 years.

    Thanks again Mark, for your contribution to humanity in providing the information and your website. As far as I’m concerned, you are my “hero”.

    Jay wrote on June 1st, 2012
  2. Hi Mark,
    I am doing this low Carb thing (2weeks) after the past 6 months on the low fat restricted cals plan. Worked really well and lost 13kg (28 lb) and decided to start the low carb plan to get the last few kg off as I am very close to my goal weight of 125lb. We are now looking at it as a ‘long healthy life’ way of eating not for weight loss any more (we are a doctor and nurse so love the science). I do restrict my cals per day from 1300-1500 on this plan (habit) and work on a ration of 55% fats/ 30% protein and <20% carb. I do permit grain in the form of a low carb bread (4 net carb per slice- 3 slices max per day) but that is it for grains. Cut out all bad oils etc and got back to basics re food.
    -Have I got it right re the low carb % ratios?? its about <60 gms per day.
    -I have not had a great deal of weight loss yet but will it happen??? We are also getting into more weight excersisis and ultamate frisbe is being planned.
    – Want to ensure the low carb bread I am eating is not defeating the goal! and I like that it gives me lots of fibre too….
    We are very passionate about this way of eating- we are from NZ and are fast catching up to the USA as the fattest country!!
    Thanks Di

    Dianje Strang wrote on August 6th, 2013

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