Dr. Barry Groves personally grew to appreciate the role of dietary fat
There are so many truly remarkable and fascinating people who work behind-the-scenes to share what they have personally learned and studied about livin' la vida low-carb. I've been privileged enough to interview quite a few of these people over the past couple of years and I have another incredible interview to share with you today.
Several of you e-mailed me to request I e-mail Dr. Barry Groves from Great Britain about the work he is doing on behalf of the low-carb lifestyle. The more I started reading http://www.second-opinions.co.uk, I couldn't believe I hadn't heard of him before! Well, let's just say I know who he is now and I'm honored to have had the opportunity to ask him a few questions about livin' la vida low-carb.
This man has truly unique insights about how low-carb can become more mainstream, but it's not for the faint of heart and will take some drastic actions in the coming years to happen. I'm ready to see it become a reality in my lifetime.
Prepare for a low-carb adventure today with the amazing Dr. Barry Groves!
1. I am so thrilled to be able to share with the readers of the "Livin' La Vida Low-Carb" blog one of the true nutritional giants of our day. His name is Dr. Barry Groves and he hails from a small village in the Oxfordshire Cotswolds in the UK with a doctorate in nutritional science. After personally struggling with obesity and attempting to lose weight on a low-calorie diet and exercise routine with no meaningful success, Dr. Groves discovered the low-carb diet in 1962 even before the late great Dr. Robert C. Atkins would later bring it to the forefront.
Tell us about how that journey in your life came about. Did you read up on William Banting's old writings or was it something else that drew you to the low-carb lifestyle?
It all started when Monica and I were married in April 1957. I weighed 160 pounds and Monica weighed 140 pounds. These were quite normal weights as we were five feet nine inches and five feet six inches tall respectively.
Monica was a good cook and was used to cooking for her parents and sister as well as herself. We didn't have much money at the time so Monica made her own bread; she also made cakes and biscuits. It wasn't long before we started to put on the weight.
Over the next five years our weights yo-yoed as we tried low-calorie dieting, sweaty clothes, inert fillers and played tennis, badminton, started swimming, and walked everywhere we went. We lost weight, put it on again; lost weight, put it on again, and so on. I'm sure you know what I mean.
Nothing worked in the long-term for. Monica weighed nearly 170 pounds at her peak and my weight went up to 190 pounds.
In 1960 we started to cut down on the carbs. In those days it was the thing to do. But it only worked up to a point. Just cutting calories through cutting carbs didn't work--we got hungry! Replacing the carbs with protein was not only expensive, we didn’t feel right eating that way. It was as though something was missing, and we still struggled with our weight.
In 1962, I was sent by the Royal Air Force to Singapore. We hadn't been there long when I discovered a doctor who guided me to the other half of the equation: When you cut down on carbs, you must replace them with fat, he said!
He had to be joking, right? We knew that fat contained far more calories than carbs or protein. It seemed ridiculous to suggest we eat fat. But, having tried everything else, we decided to give it a go.
Guess what, it worked!
By 1963, Monica’s weight was down to 122 pounds--a loss of over 40 pounds--and mine was 160 pounds--the same level it had been when we were married. That started me thinking, "If what looked like a high-calorie diet was good for weight loss, then why were we told to eat a low-calorie diet?" I wanted to know.
At the time, being in the RAF, I couldn't do much research. Monica and I ate our fried eggs and bacon breakfasts, fat meat followed by fruit and cream dinners--and our weights stayed down. In fact, the fatter cuts of meat were also cheaper because they weren’t so popular and that suited us just fine. But the best part was that we had no difficulty living this way at all, and our weights continued to stay down.
Today, after 45 years of eating fried breakfasts, fat meat, extra-large eggs, full-fat cheese, and fruit and cream and so on, as well as salads and green vegetables, Monica and I are still around the weight we were in the mid-1960s. When we weighed ourselves today, Monica was 126 pounds and I was 157 pounds.
In 1971, I started to give a talk about our experience entitled "The Fat of The Land" to clubs like the Women’s Institute, Young Farmers, and anyone else who would listen. By the late 1970s, however, we started to hear that the sort of diet we ate, which was high in animal fats, was bad for us. It caused heart disease, they said.
With my previous experience, I wondered how much truth there was in this. So I determined to leave the RAF as soon as I could and research diet to find out.
In 1982, I did just that and have been doing full-time research into nutrition and health in general ever since. It was during that time that I discovered William Banting’s booklet in Oxford University’s Bodleian Library.
As I'm sure many of your readers have discovered, the difficult part of weight control isn't actually losing weight, but it’s keeping it off--for life.
2. You are so right about that! So you implemented your low-carb weight loss strategy and it worked remarkably well for you in the process. CONGRATULATIONS! Because of your own personal success with this way of eating, you began what would become a lifelong journey examining the role of various foods as it relates to the obesity epidemic.
Since this issue has exploded astronomically since the days you first lost your weight on low-carb, it is certainly all the more prescient in our modern-day culture for us to bring about real answers and solutions to this ever-growing problem. Why does there seem to be a real disconnect between the evidence that people like yourself are finding in your research studying the relationship between diet and health and the health agencies and authorities governing over policy and public dietary recommendations?
That’s right: the diet we live on works and it’s easy to maintain because we can eat as much as we like and pretty much what we like. And it doesn’t seem to matter now if we "stray" as any weight gained is easily lost again.
3. This sounds like a trick question, but I'm curious to know what you think based on your studies and experiences. What's wrong with a low-calorie diet? Why do you believe the low-fat, low-calorie, portion-controlled diets have literally monopolized dietary recommendations for what is considered "healthy" for so many decades?
No, it’s a good question. Low-calorie, low-fat diets have monopolized weight loss diets for the simple reason that the hypothesis that cutting down on energy intake or burning up more by exercising is plausible. But as Mark Twain once said, "For every problem there is a solution, neat plausible and wrong!" What is wrong with it is that it doesn't take into account how our bodies work. Starvation, which is what low-calorie dieting is, is unsustainable. It is bound to fail.
4. As a highly-respected and reliable source for information related to diet and nutrition, you've written many extensive columns and traveled all over the world talking about what you have discovered in your own empirical study of the scientific data about this subject. Do you see any meaningful progress happening anywhere that gives you hope that a major paradigm shift is about to happen? What's it going to take to wake up government and health leaders around the world to the low-carb answer to obesity and disease?
When Robert Atkins’ second book was published in 1999, it took the dieting world by storm. Studies, some funded by Atkins, showed that low-carb dieting worked, and conventional nutritionists were looking at litigation from people whose health had been compromised by their "healthy" advice. Unfortunately, this sparked a massive backlash by the diet dictocrats and, backed by governments and the all-powerful "health industry," they seem to be winning the debate. At this point, I think it will take a strong population-led revolt to make a meaningful difference.
5. I think it's great that you personally give lectures in hospitals where the sick people are being treated because you get to speak with those who are on the frontlines of treating patients on a daily basis. Do you have any memorable stories to share about how the information you provided these doctors and medical workers helped to reshape their thinking?
Not really. I find that older nurses and other medical staff who trained before "healthy eating" was introduced in the 1980s remember how diabetics were advised to eat then and can see the harm that the present dietary advice is doing. While many say that they have to go along with what the doctors say or lose their jobs, even though they can see that it is wrong, there are some who tell me that they can have an influence over their doctor bosses.
6. I am so impressed with the wealth of information you provide at your Second Opinions web site. You cover such a wide and diverse range of topics on there from diabetes to various kinds of cancers to PCOS. Obesity is indeed a major issue that is exacerbating the health of billions worldwide. What are in your opinion the top five preventable health calamities which could be improved simply by making changes in the diet?
Practically all the chronic degenerative disease we suffer can be helped by a change of diet. I suppose the top five are cancer, diabetes (which is a precursor to many others), cardiovascular diseases, multiple sclerosis, and Alzheimer’s disease.
7. You have a rather strong opinion about vegetarians and vegans. I'm gonna play devil's advocate for a moment and ask you what's so wrong with eating fruits and vegetables as the primary source of calories in my diet? After all, isn't it cruel to eat dead animals with rotting flesh? (this is the terminology used by radical anti-meat activist groups like PETA and PCRM)
The main reason is that we are a carnivorous species, not designed to use such materials as a primary source of calories. Also, of course, the sugars in such a diet increase the risk of the diseases I mentioned above.
As cancers are wholly reliant on high levels of blood glucose to grow and survive, I think it would be impossible, for example, to get cancer by eating an all-meat diet.
Vegan terminology is not scientific, it is emotive. It might be cruel to eat live animals, but how can it be cruel to eat dead animals? And, of course, many other animals eat "rotting flesh."
8. You have an incredible resource of information for people to learn more about livin' la vida low-carb and show it can improve their weight and health. But you are a part of a larger community of like-minded individuals who share the same philosophy as you regarding nutritional science. Who are some of the people you look up to and admire for their courage and strength in spreading the truth about healthy low-carb living and why?
There are so many, so it is difficult to pick out a few without mentioning the rest. But I think I should mention two personal friends--doctors who proved and stuck to their principles.
These are Wolfgang Lutz MD, PhD, now 94 years old, who has treated his patients with a low-carb diet in Austria for half a century, and Jan Kwasniewski, MD, PhD, who has been doing similar work in Poland for 30 years.
My idols who are no longer with us are, Dr. John Yudkin, who was the professor of nutrition and dietetics at London University, and Professor Alan Kekwick of the Middlesex Hospital, London. It was work by Kekwick and his partner, Dr. Gaston Pawan, by the way, which inspired Robert Atkins to study low-carb diets.
9. Speaking of Dr. Atkins, as someone who has lost nearly 200 pounds on the Atkins diet and kept it off for nearly three years, I was a little surprised to see you describe this most famous of all the low-carb programs as "extreme and controversial" on your web site for "The Perfect Weight Plan." What's so "severe" about the Induction phase of the Atkins diet which limits carbohydrate to 20 grams for two weeks and how does "The Perfect Weight Plan" differ initially and with ongoing weight loss?
We have a lot to thank Robert Atkins for. I don’t deny that. However, his methods did provide the diet dictocrats with a chance to criticize his diet.
Basically, the Atkins diet is sound in most areas. All such diets, mine included, are based on the writings of William Banting in 1863 and the many studies conducted in the century following it. But Robert Atkins, I think, exploited it to some extent.
Atkins was a businessman. He realized that women wanted to lose weight quickly and tailored his diet to that end. A drastic cut in carbs works. But it takes some time for the body to ditch its usual source of energy (glucose) and adapt to a new fuel (fat). Needing a complete change of enzymes, this all takes time. Cutting down on the carbs to 20g and below at the start was the cause of the nausea, headaches, fatigue, etc., that many people complained of. It was this aspect that allowed for the criticism.
The second aspect is that such rapid weight loss almost always results in a stall at about three weeks in where weight stops going down and stabilizes. Many who have dieted all their lives then think "Oh no, another diet that doesn't work," and become disillusioned and depressed.
Weight loss might not be quite so quick with a protocol like mine that allows 60g of carbs, but it is more sustainable and healthier. It is also easier as it allows the dieter to tailor what her or she eats now to the new regime.
Atkins also sold meal replacements and supplements (this was where he made the most money) and so his books were really vehicles to advertise these products. These are not healthy. Health to a large extent relies on eating real food.
Lastly, Atkins advocated soy, which is an extremely unhealthy food unless it is first fermented--which it rarely is in the form he and other food manufacturers use it.
10. THANK YOU for taking time to share your comments about the low-carb lifestyle with us today, Dr. Groves. I hope to have the opportunity to meet you someday in person to personally show my gratitude for the incredible work you are doing on behalf of this cause.
One final comment and question for you before we go--you have done a remarkable job of communicating the fact that all carbohydrates turn to sugar in the body which leads to insulin production and, thus, weight gain. What needs to be done to make this very elementary nutritional concept as universally accepted as the "eating fat makes you fat" lie has been for so long?
I wish I knew so I could get back to gardening! The evidence is right there in spades. But, as the saying goes, there are none so blind as those who won't see. I think the diet police are so entrenched in their dogma that the only way to shake them out of it would be for a class action lawsuit in the courts. That could really make a difference. But it would need something that big to do it.
For more from Dr. Barry Groves, check out his NEW BOOK Natural Health & Weight Loss today.
8-7-07 UPDATE: You had to know the pro-low-fat/low-calorie crowd was going to have a reaction to this interview with Dr. Barry Groves and our friends at Disease Proof didn't disappoint. My favorite quote in this rebuttal from Gerald Pugliese was this: "Honestly, at this point I hope no health-conscious person even remotely entertains the low-carb lies." Hmmm, I think I'll keep staying healthy with the "low-carb lies," thank you very much, Gerald!