Think a low-carb diet will destroy your brain? Think again!
It was a head-to-head match-up that ended in a tie.
Just wait until you see the stunning results of a new study comparing the traditional high-carb, low-fat diet with the increasingly popular low-carb, high-fat diet as it relates not just to weight loss, but also brain function. Now this oughta be interesting!
I recently interviewed one of the premier neurologists in the world named Dr. Larry McCleary who promotes carbohydrate-restriction as a means for improving brain health in his recently released book entitled The Brain Trust Program. He said something in that interview that should make anyone who advocates a high-carb diet for brain health to stop and think.
"If you want to age your brain just eat the typical [high-carb] diet most Americans consume. That will lead to memory, attention and mood difficulties and will hasten the path to Alzheimer's."
Yikes! That's pretty scary if you ask me and it goes against everything we've always been led to believe about diet and the way our brain reacts. Of course, the popular stereotype of someone who is livin' la vida low-carb is that you just walk around in a perpetual sense of depression and rage all the time like you're some kind of zombie or something!
In fact, there's even a YouTube video that attempts to illustrate and perpetuate this myth about low-carb diets claiming people who eat this way are "damaging their brains." Yeah, whatever!
But according to the study conducted by lead researcher Angela K. Halyburton, from the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization (CSIRO) in the Department of Human Nutrition in Adelaide, Australia, that myth is just that--an unproven and unreasonable conclusion that is not based on the evidence. That's because what she and her colleagues found was a surprising answer to the questions about diet and mood.
Halyburton and her fellow researchers observed 93 overweight or obese study participants who were placed on one of two specific diets with an appropriate fat/protein/carbohydrate ratio:
LCHF--an Atkins-like low-carb, high-fat diet--61/35/4
(NOTE: 20 percent of the fat intake was saturated)
HCLF--a traditional high-carb, low-fat diet--30/24/46
Both groups were given the same number of calories and consumed their respective diets for a total of eight weeks on this randomized, clinical trial. Study participants were weighed every two weeks and given a psychological well-being test based on the Profile of Mood States, Beck Depression Inventory, and Spielberger State Anxiety Inventory instruments. The researchers measured cognitive function, memory, and speed of brain processing at the beginning and end of the study.
Not surprisingly, the LCHF group participants were already in ketosis by the end of the first two weeks of carbohydrate-restriction and remained there for the duration of the study. As a result, they lost "significantly" more weight than their HCLF diet counterparts. Gee, imagine that!
But the real surprise was the fact that improvements in the mood of the participants in BOTH groups improved. That's right! Despite all the stereotypes about low-carb, the psychological improvements in attitude and memory function were IDENTICAL with both the high-carb, low-fat diet group and the low-carb, high-fat diet group. It didn't matter. WOW!!! This is HUGE!
The only area where there was a difference regarding brain function was with the speed of processing information. According to the study, the LCHF group responded slower than the HCLF diet group. But the overall conclusion of the researchers was that these two diets which have often been compared for weight loss alone also show no difference as it relates to cognitive and psychological function.
You can find the results of this study published in the September 2007 issue of the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.
I have a few comments about this study to make. Isn't it interesting the researchers forced the low-carb dieters to keep their calories at the same level as their high-carb counterparts? You know what that means, don't you? They probably had to artificially lower their fat intake to keep the calories reduced to similar levels.
Can you imagine how much BETTER brain function would have been if the LCHF group was able to eat even MORE fat using their natural metabolic response rather than being forced to cut their calories? I would predict an even GREATER weight loss and a MUCH better impact on mood and cognitive ability. Wanna study that one researchers?
Now it sounds counterproductive to eat more fat when you are attempting to measure brain function, cognitive ability, and mood. But this study shows eating fat improves your mental health and I can personally attest to this in my own life. The more fat I eat, the better and happier I feel because I know I am consuming a healthy diet that will not only keep me slim but also very healthy for many years to come. And it just feels amazing to ENJOY your diet rather than dreading it.
When I was eating a high-carb, low-fat diet in 1999, I was ALWAYS grouchy! Just ask Christine and she'll tell you I was one miserable chap to be around. Sure, I lost 170 pounds in about 10 months, but I was in agony. Why? Besides being hungry ALL THE TIME, I just didn't feel good eating this way. I later realized it was all the sugar that had me bouncing off the walls. I subsequently gained back ALL the weight I lost in about four months!
Starting on the Atkins diet in 2004 was the best thing I could have ever done to improve my attitude and mood. Sure, those first few days and weeks were rough as I went through a typical case of the "Induction flu," but it has been smooth sailing ever since in my low-carb lifestyle. So many people like this college student get caught up into thinking those first few days are typical of a low-carb diet ALL THE TIME, but it's just not true. Get past that temporary discomfort and you'll gladly be livin' la vida low-carb forever.
I was pleased that this research from CSIRO, where researcher Dr. Manny Noakes is doing some fabulous work into ketogenic diets and she was a part of this study, put forth the conclusions that it did because it very well could be the beginning of the end for yet another false stereotype of livin' la vida low-carb.
"Short-term consumption of a moderately energy-reduced LCHF diet has an effect on the psychological well-being of overweight and obese persons similar to that of consumption of an isocaloric conventional HCLF diet," the researchers proclaimed.
And that my friends is a beautiful thing! Spread the word!