Amber O’Hearn

Many have referred to a ketogenic diet as “extreme,” “restrictive” and “potentially dangerous.” Now, those same concerns have focused on an all-meat carnivore diet. Although it is new in popularity, people have been practicing a carnivore diet for decades, and possibly centuries. Does that mean it is safe and without concern? Not necessarily. There is much we still don’t know about eating only meat, and Amber admits that. With her balanced and intellectual approach, she helps us understand the complexity of defining if this diet is “safe,” and helps us understand who might benefit most.

Is LCHF Keto the right diet for you in the new year?

With New Year’s resolutions looming, many people are thinking about reinvigorating their health. In fact, 45% of people want to lose weight or get in shape as their New Year’s resolution.

The LCHF Keto diet has been quickly gaining momentum, and it is piquing a great deal of curiosity.

So, is this particular diet right for you? It may just be.

 

What are your diet goals?

Before selecting a diet, it’s important for you to define why you want to diet in the first place. Are your goals weight loss, general health, or a combination?

If you want to lose weight, reduce your hunger, enjoy your meals, and improve your metabolic health, then LCHF may be right for you.

 

Do you want to lose weight?

The primary reason most people go on a diet is to lose weight. As far as weight loss, low carb has you covered. Out of 60 studies comparing low carb to low fat diets, low carb had better weight loss in 30 and they were equal in 30. Low carb was inferior in exactly zero of these studies. That’s an impressive record, and definitely something to consider if weight loss is your primary goal.

But there is so much more to life and health than weight loss.

 

Do you want to reduce your hunger?

One main struggle in health and weight loss is how hungry we are and how much we need to think about food during the day. Studies show that following a LCHF diet reduces our hunger in the long-term. That means less worry about constant snacks, and less concern with needing to eat every few hours. In fact, LCHF works so well at curbing appetite that more people can practice time-restricted eating by compressing eating into a 6-8 hour window, which has indicated potential beneficial effects for longevity.

 

Do you want to improve your focus?

Food, especially the wrong food, can make us feel lethargic and unfocused. Many people report thinking more clearly and having better mental performance when on a low carb diet. The brain loves ketones, whereas carbs can cloud your thinking. Why not switch to low carb and see if your brain fog lifts?

 

Do you want to improve metabolic health?

A recent study showed that only 12% of Americans are metabolically healthy. Low carb diets are one of the fastest and best ways to improve metabolic health. Studies show it puts type 2 diabetes in remission, improves insulin resistance, reduces visceral fat, and improves overall metabolic health.

 

Do you want to decrease your cardiovascular risk?

Fat phobia is gone. Limiting carbs to real food veggies and eating plenty of healthy fats improves our cardiovascular risk profile. It reduces BP, reduces TG, increases HDL and improves the size and density of LDL, which all add up to a net improvement in cardiovascular health.

 

The main reason you should consider LCHF/Keto in the new year

You will love it!

No counting calories, no feeling hungry, no wild glucose swings and post meal crashes, no afternoon slump. With all of this research backing this diet, it’s definitely worth a try.

 

One last consideration

A note of caution, most people will do great. But not everyone reacts to this diet the same way, so you may want to consult a doctor experienced in low carb nutrition.

If you don’t already have a doctor to consult with or want to speak with one who specializes in Keto, I’m a professional who has extensive experience with LCHF diets and how they affect your health. If you’re just getting started, I recommend downloading my free LCHF/Keto starter tips e-book to get you on the right track:

 

 

 

If we can be of any additional service, please let us know!

Thanks for reading,

Bret Scher, MD FACC

New Major Study: A Calorie Is Not A Calorie

Despite what the sugary beverage and processed snack food companies want us to believe, all calories are not created equal.

new study from Harvard shows that individuals following a low-carbohydrate (20% of total calories) diet burn between 209 and 278 more calories per day than those on a high-carbohydrate (60% of total calories) diet. So the type of calories we eat really does matter.

The New York Times: How a low-carb diet might help you maintain a healthy weight

This isn’t the first study to investigate this topic, but it is likely the best.

The current study was a meticulously controlled, randomized trial, lasting 20 weeks. Even more impressive, the study group provided all the food for participants, over 100,000 meals and snacks costing $12 million for the entire study! This eliminated an important variable in nutrition studies — did the subjects actually comply with the diet — and shows the power of philanthropy and partnerships in supporting high-quality science.

After a run-in period where all subjects lost the same amount of weight, participants were randomized to one of three diets: 20% carbs, 40% carb, or 60% carbs, with the protein remaining fixed at 20%. Importantly, calories were adjusted to stabilize weight and halt further weight loss, thus making it much more likely that any observed difference in calorie expenditure was not from weight loss, but rather from the types of food consumed.

After five months, those on the low-carb diet increased their resting energy expenditure by over 200 calories per day, whereas the high-carb group initially decreased their resting energy expenditure, exposing a clear difference between the groups. In addition, those who had the highest baseline insulin levels saw an even more impressive 308-calorie increase on the low-carb diet, suggesting a subset that may benefit even more from carbohydrate restriction.

Why is this important? It shows why the conventional wisdom to eat less, move more and count your calories is not the best path to weight loss. Numerous studies show better weight loss with low-carb diets compared to low-fat diets, and now studies like this one help us understand why.

Our bodies are not simple calorimeters keeping track of how much we eat and how much we burn. Instead, we have intricate hormonal responses to the types of food we eat. It’s time to accept this and get rid of the outdated calories in-calories, calories-out model, thus allowing for more effective and sustainable long-term weight loss.

Originally Posted on the Diet Doctor Blog 

Dr. Michael Arata & Stephanie Kennedy

Dr. Michael Arata, founder and lead physician at Arata Medical, is the most unique radiologist I have ever met. He specializes in limb-salvage interventional procedures, and as such, is the last resort to prevent a patient from having an amputation. Luckily, he realized that he could potentially have an even bigger impact by taking a functional medicine approach to prevention, rather than last minute heroics. That’s when he teamed up with his star health coach Stephanie Kennedy to teach people how to use plant-based ketogenic diets and a wholistic approach to their health to prevent the chronic disease that plague our society. Their upcoming book, Keto with Plants, is an accumulation of their experience and their attempt to help thousands of patients with their message. I love their patient care philosophy, and it was quickly evident that they are experts in helping their clients practically implement lifestyle changes that will help them today and for the long haul. You are sure to learn some valuable tips in this interview!

Low Carb LDL- A Call for Reason

Can we be certain that elevated LDL (Low-density lipoprotein) particles have no meaning and can be completely ignored?

 

Certainly not.

 

Can we be certain that all LDL particles are deadly and need to be treated to microscopically low levels?

 

Certainly not.

 

So, what do we do?

 

I have seen countless second opinion consults and enrolled numerous clients in my Boundless Health Program who have this exact question.  What’s the deal with LDL? Do we worry or don’t we?

 

Life is much easier when it is black and white, good and bad. I, however, believe in looking for the nuance and trying to understand things a little deeper.

 

But first, let’s back up a little.

 

What is LDL and LDL-P?

 

Cholesterol can be a complex topic that we frequently oversimplify, which I am about to do. In brief, LDL is known as the “bad” cholesterol, the cholesterol that is found in plaque buildup in our hearts. But the truth is that LDL is not inherently bad. In fact, LDL has a purpose in our bodies as part of our immune response and as a fuel and vitamin delivery mechanism to name a few.  If vascular injury and inflammation are present, then modified LDL may invade vessel walls and participate in a cascade of events leading to plaque buildup and an eventual heart attack.

 

LDL-C is a measure of the total amount of cholesterol in our LDL lipoproteins. LDL-P is the total number of the LDL lipoproteins. Studies show that LDL-P is a much better marker for CVD risk than LDL-C. As an analogy, the number of cars on the road matter more than the number of people in the cars.

 

What are the risks of LDL-P?

 

On the one hand, trials in the general population show that elevated LDL-P is a risk factor for cardiovascular disease (CVD).  This includes a combination of observational trials, genetic mutation trials (mendelian randomization), and drug treatment trials.

 

All things being equal, based on these trials alone, we should want our LDL-P to be low.

 

But does LDL alone cause heart attacks and death? Or are there other factors involved?

 

Of course there are other factors involved in CVD. Vascular injury and inflammation being the two most prominent factors.

 

Can lowering our LDL-P have risks greater than the potential benefits for certain populations?

 

Absolutely.  Since primary prevention statin trials show we have to treat over 200 people for five years to prevent one heart attack with no difference in mortality, it seems reasonable that certain populations will experience more potential risk than reward.

 

The Low Carb High Fat Reality

 

How many LDL or statin trials have specifically looked at individuals on a healthy, real foods, LCHF diet?

 

None. Not a single one.

 

How many LDL or statin studies have looked specifically at red headed, left handed boys born the second week of March? 

 

None, at least to the best of my knowledge.

 

This seems glib but bear with me.

 

Is there any reason to think a red headed, left handed boy born the second week of March would behave any differently than everyone else in these LDL studies? Not really. Especially if they are eating a standard American diet or a low -fat diet as was almost exclusively studied in every cholesterol or statin trial.

 

Here’s the more important question. Is there reason to believe individuals on a healthy, real foods, LCHF diet would behave any differently than everyone else in the decades of lipid and statin studies?

 

There absolutely is reason to believe they may behave differently. There is not clear proof, but there is plenty of reason to suspect it.

 

Think about the benefits of a LCHF lifestyle.

  • Lowers inflammation
  • Reverses insulin resistance
  • Naturally raises HDL and lowers TG
  • Converts majority of LDL particles to larger, more buoyant particles
  • Lowers blood pressure
  • Reduces visceral adiposity

Could these create an environment where an elevated LDL is less of a concern?

 

It sure could.

 

To be clear, I openly acknowledge that we do not have definitive proof that we should have no concern with LDL in this situation. In my opinion, this is a specific scenario that the existing trials simply do not address one way or the other.

 

So, it seems we have two choices.

 

  1. Since we don’t have any proof we can ignore LDL in this setting, we plug the numbers into the 10-year ASCVD calculator and start a statin if the risk is above 7.5%, or we ask the individual to change their lifestyle in hopes the LDL will come down.
  2. If the individual is enjoying multiple health benefits from their lifestyle, and they are rightly concerned about the potential risks of statin therapy, then we can follow them for any sign of vascular injury or plaque formation, or any worsening of their inflammatory markers or insulin sensitivity. In the absence of any potentially deleterious changes, we can reason that the risk is low, and the benefits of living the healthy lifestyle may outweigh the risks.

 

The “problem” is that the second option requires a detailed discussion of the risks and benefits. It requires close monitoring and follow up. It requires us to think outside general guidelines and consider everyone as an individual with their own unique circumstance. These are qualities that our current healthcare system sorely lacks.  Yet that is the exact care that each individual deserves.

 

What do we do in the meantime?

 

I hope someday soon we will have definitive long-term evidence that a high number of large buoyant LDL particles along with elevated HDL, low TG and low inflammatory markers is perfectly safe.

 

Until that day, we will have to continue to talk to our patients. To see them as individuals. To weigh the lifestyle benefits with the possible risks. That includes seeing the risks in real numbers- not quoting a 30% benefit with statin therapy. Instead, having a real discussion that statins may reduce your risk a heart attack by 0.6% with an increased risk of muscle aches, an increased risk of diabetes, and a potential increased risk for cognitive and neurological dysfunction.

 

And we will have to understand that the answer won’t be the same for each person. And we can be OK with that.

 

So, do you have to worry about your LDL? I don’t know. But I welcome the opportunity to explore the question and reach the best answer for you.

 

Do you have questions about what your lipids may mean for you? What they mean when taken in the context of your lifestyle and overall health picture? If so, you may want to learn more about my Health Coaching Consult.

Thanks for reading,

Bret Scher, MD FACC

A Guide to Keto-Friendly Meal Prep

 

Let's be honest. Changing our eating habits is hard. No matter how inspired and gung-ho we may feel when we first decide to go keto, inevitably, we will face temptations and frustrations. Whether you're brand new to the low carb or ketogenic diet or you've been following it for ages, adopting a meal prep habit can help traslate that initial enthusiasm into success. It can even save time and money along the way!

What is Meal Prep?

Meal prep is the practice of preparing a number of meals in advance, typically all at once on one day per week. I enjoy doing this on Sunday and trying to involve my kids as well! You can be flexible with this to fit your schedule. For instance, you can prepare and freeze an entire week of food, or make only certain meals or plan for only a few days at a time. 

Why Meal Prep?

It saves you time.

The more you prepare in advance, the less time you spend running to the grocery store, and my personal favorite, less day to day clean up! While yes, you prepare about the same amount of food, efficient meal prep typically relies on multitasking to significantly speed up the process.

It cuts your food bill, sometimes drastically.

Meal prep can save you a lot of money on food. How? Consider that the average U.S. consumer will dish out $5,400 on impulse purchases each year. Having a grocery list and sticking to it can dramatically decrease the likelihood that you will give into these types of impulse purchases. (anyone can make a list, but can you stick to the list? Seinfield reference anyone???) Also, preparing a week's worth of food at once makes it easier to buy in bulk, which is often more cost-effective. You'll also find it a lot easier to form your shopping list around sales when you're forced to plan in advance.

It helps you avoid impulse decisions about food.

When you're busy, it's very easy to give into carb-laden fast food temptations. When you're drained after a long day of work, you may think, Whi has time of energy to make dinner? That can lead to less healthy take out choices. Meal prepping helps you avoid this kind of impulsive decision because you'll always have a healthy meal ready for you at home. Just walk in the door, heat it up and viola, dinner is served.

It can facilitate your keto diet.

Since staying in ketosis depends on a certain percentage of macros each day, a meal plan can be invaluable. By planning your meals in advance, you can be certain that you won't get to the end of the day and realize you've gone way over your carb allotment. Meal prep makes it even easier to stick to your meal plan because you can reuse the same base components in multiple meals, making the macro calculations much easier. You're also less likely to deviate from a meal plan when the food is already in your fridge, ready to eat.

 

How to Start Meal Prepping

Getting Started

As with any lifestyle change, when you first start out with meal prep, it's important that you start slowly so that you don't overwhelm yourself. You don't need to prepare an elaborate menu with a different entreé each night. Instead, try the following steps to get acclimated to the habit.

  1. Start by picking two keto-friendly protein options that use different cooking methods. For instance, if one requires the oven, pick something that you can prepare stovetop for the other recipe. You may also pick a side dish or two if you'd like.
  2. Buy enough ingredients to make at least 3 servings of each recipe. You might also consider buying some extra meat and vegetables that you can prepare early and use throughout the week for lunches (think salads and lettuce wraps).
  3. Set aside enough containers to hold your meals for the week. You'll likely want to pre-portion the meals to keep your macros consistent, so you'll need one container per individual meal (Tip: glass is much better than plastic).
  4. On your chosen meal prep day, Sunday in my house, prepare your recipes. Be sure to prep your ingredients all at once and find ways to complete multiple tasks simultaneously. While your chicken is in the oven, for instance, you can be steaming or stir-frying some veggies.
  5. Cook any extra meat and vegetables as well, if you chose to purchase some. A slow cooker can be extremely useful here to free up your other kitchen appliances for your main recipes.
  6. Once you've finished cooking, portion out the meals into their containers. Consider freezing half of the meals to prevent any issues with spoilage. Put the extras into larger containers to portion out as snacks or side dishes.

Refining Your Routine

Throughout the first week, pay attention to the following questions:

  • Did I prepare the right amount of food? If you don't eat all the meals, consider cutting back. If you run out early or don't feel like you've saved yourself any time, consider preparing extra next time.
  • Am I bored with these meal options? If so, next time try preparing slightly different variations on the same recipe or add another entreé entirely.
  • Did meal prepping benefit me this week? Think in any terms you want: time, money, healthy decisions, etc.

It will take some trial and error to determine how often to meal prep and how much to prepare each time. Experiment with different schedules and menus until you are completely satisfied with the answers to these questions.

Keto-Specific Meal Prep Tips

Making meal prep work for any diet is all about planning, and keto is no different. The key is to prepare foods that will help you comply with the diet.

Add variety.

One of the main objections to meal prepping is that people don't want to eat the same meal over and over throughout the week. People who aren't following keto will often use a different carb with each meal to change things up. This isn't possible when following keto, unless you use alternatives such as spiralized or riced vegetables. If variety is important to you, consider one of the following ideas that take less time than adding a whole extra recipe to your prep day.

  • Prepare the same marinade, sauce, or seasoning, but use it on different proteins.
  • Stir-fry different combinations of vegetables with the same sauce or spices.
  • Portion your protein, vegetables, or both into sections and season each differently before baking or frying.

Don't skimp on snacks.

Pre-portioning keto-friendly snacks during your meal prep time can help ensure that you always have healthy options to keep you from dipping into the office candy jar, or in my case, snacking on the muffins and doughnuts in the doctor's lounge (I know that's absurd, but that is what they serve in the hospital!).

Label your food containers.

You should always label your food containers with the dish and date it was prepared. It's also helpful if you're following keto to mark the net carbs and other relevant macros in case you end up mixing and matching your recipes you can still stay on point.

With these tips, you should be well on your way to an efficient and effective meal prep routine. Once you see how much easier it is to follow the ketogenic diet with meal prep, you'll never go back.

 

Low Carb USA San Diego 2018 Recap

      

 

This year, I was lucky enough to attend (and speak at!) the Low Carb USA 2018 conference held in San Diego.

 

What conference! From the moment it started until the very last Q&A panel, this conference was packed with knowledge, energy and an amazing community. There is no way I can capture all the highlights, but here are my experiences from the conference.

 

Opening Comments

 

The conference began with Low Carb USA organizer Doug Reynolds welcoming everyone. He asked how many physicians or medical providers were in attendance, and approximately 60% of the hands in the room went up. That’s incredible! It shows how strongly LCHF lifestyle is making its way into mainstream medical practice. It may not be used by every doctor right now, but the tide is certainly moving that way, which I'm very excited about.

 

The Diet Doctor and Dr. Nasha Winters Blew Everyone Away

 

After Doug finished his welcome, the Diet Doctor himself, Dr. Andreas Eenfeldt kicked things off with The Food Revolution. He clearly outlined the obesity and diabetes epidemic we face as a society, and showed how LCHF is an easy and effective solution. As their motto says, they are "Making Low Carb Easy." His talk did just that. It was very motivating and educational, and I know people walked away ready to jump in.

 

 

Later that same day, Dr. Nasha Winters dropped some serious knowledge bombs about mistletoe, moonbathing, marijuana and more. If you haven’t heard Dr. Nasha speak, you have to seek her out. She is a powerhouse of information, of energy and of clear caring and compassion. I was fortunate enough to have recorded a podcast with her and it is definitely one of my favorites.

 

 

Concluding the First Day with Interviews

 

I spent the rest of the day running around doing my initial podcast interviews for my new upcoming project, The Diet Doctor Podcast. I am beyond excited to be part of this team! My initial interviews with Garry Taubes, Dr. Peter Attia, and a joint interview with Dr. Jeffry Gerber and Ivor Cummins really set the tone for how incredible this podcast is going to be. I will keep you updated when they are released.

 

Day Two of the Conference

 

Day #2 Was a powerhouse day! Starting with Peter Ballerstedt dispelling the environmental myths that ruminants are bad news for the environment. His talk shows how limited and short sighted that argument is, and it boggles my mind how pervasive it has become. Thanks Peter for setting the record straight!

 

 

Later that day Gary Taubes and Adele Hite led a discussion to help develop a defined standard of care for using a low carb diet in clinical practice. This is exciting. This is what our medical profession needs to safely and effectively initiate low carb lifestyles for our patients.  The goal is to educate all providers on the benefits and practical implications of low carb nutrition and help them help their patients. It doesn’t get much more powerful than that!

 

My Turn on Stage

 

Then it was my turn to speak, which was fun! I really enjoyed giving my talk on what the evidence says about LCHF diets and impact on our heart health. The question in the contemporary medical community is, “Is the LCHF diet harmful to our cardiovascular risk?” I think the evidence clearly answers that – NO!

 

 

Instead, we need to reframe the question and ask, “Is the LCHF diet beneficial for our cardiovascular risk?” There the answer is most likely yes. Reducing glucose and insulin, improving visceral adiposity, raising HDL, lowering TGs, improving LDL size and oxidation, reducing inflammation, lowering BP, reducing the need for medications, and more! LCHF does all these, and all these positively contribute to reducing our cardiovascular risk. It’s hard to imagine there is still debate about this.

 

The Interviewer Becomes the Interviewee

 

I then had the privilege of being interviewed by Vinnie Tortorich for his upcoming documentary Fat, and by Brian Sanders for his documentary Food Lies.  Seeing the overwhelming interest and the clear production quality encourages me that we will continue to see high-level documentaries exploring the benefits of LCHF.  The public needs a counterbalance to the overly dramatized and misleading documentaries that have populated this space to date, and Vinnie and Brian are both motivated to provide the answer.

 

The Low Carb Community

I could keep going raving about the speakers, but it's one of those conferences you need to attend to see the speakers for yourself. Instead, I want to finish by raving about the community. The energy and buzz from everyone attending was palpable.

 

Whether it was from individuals with a tremendous success story, newcomers eager to understand how their future may be different, or healthcare providers excited to start using these techniques with their patients, it was clear that lives were changing for the better. It is rare to see this level of excitement and energy at a medical conference. I knew right away this conference was unique, and this was going to impact everyone there.

 

In fact, a nutritionist I know came away so charged up that she immediately contacted me saying she "was ready to be part of something bigger!” She was ready to reach more people and help more people. That is exactly what a conference like this should do. Educate us. Inspire us. And help us take action. Bravo Doug Reynolds and the whole Low Carb USA staff. You hit this one out of the park.

 

Thanks for reading.

 

Bret Scher, MD FACC

www.LowCarbCardiologist.com

How To Talk to Your Doctor About The LCHF and Keto Lifestyle

Are you interested in trying a Low Carb-High Fat/Ketogenic lifestyle? If so, great.

 

Are you looking to your doctor for support in this diet? If so, tread gently.

 

The medical community has engrained false beliefs that LCHF lifestyle is dangerous to your health. We can blame it on Ancel Keys. We can blame it on an over emphasis on LDL-C. We can blame it on Big Pharma. We can even blame it on the rain!  Whatever the reason, you may not get a warm and receptive response from your physician.

 

But there is hope. Here are my top 6 Tips on How to Talk to Your Doctor About The LCHF/Keto Lifestyle.

 

 

1.    First, ask for your doctor's opinion about LCHF

Doctors are people too. How would your spouse react if you said, “I’m no longer taking out the trash/doing the dishes/making dinner. It doesn’t work with my personal philosophy of house chores and we are going to change this. Now.” I hope you have a comfortable couch, cause that’s where you will be sleeping.

 

Picture instead, “Hi Honey. I was thinking that we may want to reassign some of our house chores to help things get done better and more efficiently without putting too much strain on either of us. What do you think about that? Do you have any thoughts how you would like to change things?” That sounds better, right?

 

The same approach applies to your doctor. Just don’t start by calling your doctor honey. That’s just awkward. Don’t say, “Hey Doc, I’m going LCHF and need you to order x, y and z blood tests on me now and again in 6 months, and help me get off my meds.” Instead, try a kinder, gentler approach. “Hi Doc. I was thinking of ways to be more proactive about my health. What I have done thus far has not worked as well as I have liked. I have heard a lot about LCHF as a way to lose weight, reduce insulin levels, improve blood glucose control, and feel better. I was thinking of trying it. What do you think about that?” You may not immediately get the answer you want (for instance, I am still taking out the trash every week), but you have opened the lines of communication in a much less confrontational way, which can set you up for success as we discuss other tips below.

 

 

2.    Measure the effects of Keto on your body with a medical trial

If your doctor is hesitant about you trying LCHF/Keto, suggest a 3- or 6- month trial. Establish what you want to monitor (here's an eBook I created to help you get started: 10+Medical Tests to Follow on the LCHF Diet). Check what you would like to monitor at baseline and then at the 3-6-month mark. Emphasize you want to experiment to see how your body responds, and that you want his/her expertise in helping analyze the labs to help you progress safely.

 

Also, if you are on medications for blood pressure, blood sugar or lipids, you will want their guidance with these. Emphasize how you want him or her on your team to help you on your journey and temporary experiment. It is hard to resist when someone genuinely wants your help and thinks you can play a role in their improvement!

 

 

3.    Show them your results!

Don’t gloat, don’t brag, but make sure you follow up with your doctor and tell them everything you feel and have measured. Do you have more energy? Less stiffness or inflammation? Are your pants fitting looser? And of course, follow up on all the labs to look at the whole picture. You will be surprised how often your doctor will then turn to you and ask you what you have been doing. If they have the time, they will likely say “Tell me more about that.” Yes! This is your opportunity to teach them the power of LCHF/Keto. Then, when the next patient comes around, they won’t be as resistant, and may even start to suggest it themselves. The patient becomes the teacher!

 

 

4.    Find a doctor who will listen

Our healthcare system is messy. No question. We don’t always have freedom to choose our own doctors. But that doesn’t mean it is impossible to change. Here is a hint: If your doctor isn’t open minded enough to try a self-directed experiment with you, what else are they close minded about? Maybe it is time for a change anyway.

 

It may not be easy to find a doctor with an open mind who takes your insurance, is geographically desirable, and who is accepting patients, but there are some tricks you can use. Look for a doctor who has been in practice more than seven years, but less than 20 years. In my experience, this is the critical “open minded” window. They have been in practice long enough to be confident in their own skills and are willing to stray from “what everyone else does.” On the other hand, they have not been in practice so long that “That’s the way I have always done it” becomes the reason for their care.

 

Look for doctors with interests in prevention, sports medicine, or integrative medicine. These suggest more interest in health and less interest in the standard “pill for every ill” medical practice. Lastly, people are developing lists of Keto-friendly doctors online. While these may be small at present, they are growing quickly and hopefully can help you find the right doctor for you. 

 

 

5.    Seek online Keto support

Numerous online sites exist to help you with you transition to a LCHF lifestyle. I have built my blog and Low Carb Cardiologist Podcast to provide information and support on those who are embarking on their healthy lifestyle journeys, with a lot of information about Keto and LCHF.

 

Some other sites I recommend are DietDoctor.com, 2KetoDudes podcast, and Ketovangelist podcast, to name a few.

 

 

6.    Take control of your own healthcare journey

As nice as it is to have your physician on board with your health decisions, it is not always needed. As Brian Williamson from Ketovangelist said to me on his podcast, “If your doctor is more interested in your health than you are, then you are in trouble!” I agree with that sentiment, and I encourage everyone to be the driver in their own healthcare. You can still choose to try the LCHF lifestyle even without your doctor. Look for a reputable second opinion doc who is willing to help open lines of communication between you and your doc. That is one of the services I enjoy providing the most. Since I speak the same language, I can usually help someone start the conversation with their doctor.

 

In addition, online sites such as WellnessFx.com allow you to get your blood drawn and seek consultations with health care providers (Disclaimer: I am one of those providers and get paid for my services. Another disclaimer: I love doing it). If you go this route, I encourage you to then bring your results back to your doctor (See number 3 above). You can now become the teacher, young Jedi.

 

There you go. With these six simple tips and resources, you will be well on your way to safely adopting a Keto lifestyle. Doctors are people too. Just like everyone else, we like to be needed, we like to be helpful, and we don’t like being told what to do. I just need to remember that the next time my wife “needs” me to clean the toilet….

 

Thanks for reading.

 

Bret Scher, MD FACC

Founder, Boundless Health

www.LowCarbCardiologist.com

 

 

Is the Keto Diet Heart Healthy? 7 Reasons Why This Cardiologist Agrees

Is the Keto Diet Heart Healthy? 7 Reasons Why This Cardiologist Agrees

 

I am a board certified, card-carrying cardiologist, and I want my clients to eat more fat, more meat, more cheese, more eggs, more avocado, more, more, more.

 

For decades medical establishments have convinced us to eat low fat, higher carb diets. How has that worked for our health? Here’s a hint, we have record numbers of obesity, diabetes and dementia. Yet, as a cardiologist, that’s the party line I am supposed to support.

 

But I can’t. It’s just wrong, and I can’t support that line of thinking, not for a second.

 

Instead, I am a Low Carb Cardiologist. Here are the top Seven reasons why

 

 

              1-  Reducing Insulin is Essential to Health and Weight Loss.

 

Insulin is a hormone naturally secreted by the pancreas to help regulate blood sugar levels. Everything we eat (except possibly for 100% fat meals) causes insulin to rise. That is normal physiology. The problem occurs when our bodies become resistant to the effects of insulin, thus requiring our pancreas to make more and more and more insulin.

 

The problem? Insulin promotes fat storage, increase inflammation and oxidation, and can even help fuel the growth of cancer cells. Therefore, the healthiest approach is one which reduced the level of insulin to the lowest possible levels. As it happens, a Low-carb High-fat or ketogenic lifestyle (LCHF/Keto lifestyle) dramatically improves your body’s sensitivity to insulin, reduces the amount of insulin secreted, and it allows your body to naturally use your fat stores for what they are designed for: Break them down into energy! Once we see that we need to fight chronic elevations of insulin, it becomes obvious why a low-fat diet is harmful, and why a low carb diet is the true path to health.

 

2-    Eating Fat Improves Your Cholesterol!

 

Wait, what? Eating fat can improve my cholesterol? Sounds crazy, right? That goes against everything we have heard from the medical establishment. Notice I said “cholesterol.” I didn’t say the "bad" low density lipoprotein (LDL), I didn’t say the "good" high density lipoprotein (HDL), or any one specific type of cholesterol. We have over emphasized the solitary variable of LDL for too long. Total cholesterol to HDL ratio, Triglyceride to HDL ratio, lipoprotein size and density, insulin sensitivity, and other metabolic measures are more powerful predictors of cardiovascular health than just LDL.

 

Once again, we see that all these markers improve with a Low Carb High Fat (LCHF) lifestyle. The medical establishment needs to realize that we are more complicated than one lab value. The key is to look at the whole picture, and this picture dramatically improves with a LCHF lifestyle.

 

3-    Higher HDL is Associated with a Lower Risk of Heart Disease.

 

HDL is your friend, but drugs are not. Observational evidence has consistently shown that higher HDL is associated with a lower risk of cardiovascular disease. However, our healthcare establishment does not prioritize HDL for one simple reason- Drugs that raise HDL don’t make you healthier. Trial after trial has failed to show any benefit from drugs that significantly increase HDL. 

 

Instead, it’s the HDL-raising lifestyle that provides the benefit, not artificially increasing it with drugs. What’s the best lifestyle to naturally raise HDL? You guessed it. LCHF/Keto lifestyle. Add in some resistance training and you have your friendly HDL climbing the way it was meant to…Naturally.

 

4-    LCHF Leaves You Feeling Great, Leading to Healthier Decisions

 

What kind of health decisions do you make when you are fatigued, achy, and find it difficult to concentrate? That’s a rhetorical question, I already know the answer. When things look glum and we don’t feel well, it's far too easy to sit on the couch or reach for the chips and cookies. Compare those decisions to those you make when you are well rested, energetic, and seeing the world more clearly. For most people, the better you feel, the better decisions you make.

 

Guess what? The majority of people who change to a LCHF lifestyle feel better! It may take a few days or weeks, but in general, they feel more in control of their health, more energetic, and they are able to make better health decisions. I admit this is difficult to prove in a scientific trial. That is why we all should become our own n=1 scientific trial. How do you feel and how are your health decisions after going to a LCHF lifestyle? What matters most is what works for you, not what works for hundreds of people who are kinda-sorta like you.

 

      5-    Keto helps you with fasting.

 

Eating better helps you not eat. People who eat a high carb diet eat a lot, don’t they? They are always grazing and snacking. Our bodies go through the roller coaster of blood sugar and insulin spikes, making it a challenge to go 24, 18, or even 6 hours without eating. This creates a constant, unwavering supply of insulin in our blood stream.

 

Why is this harmful? For one, it promotes fat storage and keeps us from using our fat as fuel. Secondly, chronically elevated insulin can predispose to heart disease, strokes, cancer, dementia and other devastating health conditions. When people change to Keto, however, they realize they do not need to eat nearly as much or as frequently. Avoiding the carbs and increasing the fats keeps us full longer, and our bodies quickly adapt to longer periods without eating. The result? We can use our fat stores for what they were designed- a source of fuel! It also allows our body to maintain lower insulin levels, and also allows our cells to take care of their health chores, referred to as…..

 

6-    LCHF Promotes Health Through Increased Autophagy.

 

Autopha-What? In medicine we like using fancy words to make us look smart. Autophagy is a big word to describe cellular housekeeping. When we have low enough intake of carbs and protein, or when we do intermittent fasts, our bodies can take care of their “to do” lists.  That list includes breaking down weak or damaged cells, recycling the good parts and discarding the rest, and slowing down the processes that can lead to abnormal cell growth (i.e. excess proteins in Alzheimer’s disease, abnormal cancer cells etc.).

 

Admittedly, long term outcome studies evaluating fasting or LCHF and cancer or dementia risk have not been done. But, on the flip side, drug trials to prevent the same are showing no benefit despite hundreds of millions of dollars invested. If you asked me (which you sort of did since you are reading my article), I’d vote for autophagy as a preventative strategy any day. It makes good physiologic sense, and it is so easy to achieve.

 

7-    With Keto You Will Enjoy Eating Again!

 

That’s right. A way of eating that helps you lose weight, helps you feel better, improves your health and is actually enjoyable! No fake processed soy products, no cardboard tasting rice cakes. True, it also means no more candy, processed snack foods, doughnuts and danishes. But once you swear them off for a few weeks, and you are eating all the eggs, avocados, nuts, fish, steak, cheese etc. that you want, you won’t miss those old crutches any more. Let the enjoyment begin!

I could go on, but since it seems people like “7 Reason” articles, I will leave it at that. 

 

Now you know the secret: Look at the whole picture. Look for a lifestyle, (not a diet) that helps you feel better, increases your enjoyment, and still benefits your overall health.

 

Is LCHF/Keto the right lifestyle for you? It just may be. It is for me, The Low Carb Cardiologist, and it is for most of my patients and clients. Want to learn more about how LCHF lifestyle impacts your health? Visit us at www.LowCarbCardiologist.com

 

Thanks for reading

 

Bret Scher, MD FACC

Founder, Boundless Health

www.LowCarbCardiologist.com

 

ADDENDUM!! Since I have published this article, there has been a windfall of media buzz around low carb diets increasing our risk of heart disease or diabetes. Let's look at where that information came from.

1- A study force feeding mice excessive amounts of industrial omega 6 oils. You can guess what I have to say about that. The article was incredibly helpful, and I immediately stopped force feeding my pet mice industrial seed oils. Thanks goodness for that article. As for how it applies to humans eating real food that contain fat, there is zero correlation. 

2- Epidemiological study suggesting those who ate low carb (40% calories from carbs, which by the way is NOT low carb) as measured by two food journals over 25 years had a higher risk of dying. Oh and by the way, at baseline they were heavier, more sedentary, smoked more, and ate fewer veggies. Yet somehow they concluded it must be the low carb diet that "caused" the harm. Once again, it may not be bad science, but it sure was awful interpretation of the science. 

In light of those two studies and the hoopla surrounding them, has anything happened to change my mind about a LCHF/keto diet being beneficial for our overall health and our heart health?

Absolutely not.

We still need to individualize our care and our lifestyle for who we are and how our bodies respond. That is always the case regardless of our nutrition, our medications, our exercise etc. As long as we do that, then this cardiologist still believes that LCHF IS HEART HEALTHY!

If you liked this post, you'll love my free E-Book on Low Carb/Keto Starter tips to help you get started on your LCHF path!

Thanks for reading. 

Zero LDL vs Ketogenic Diet- Which Prevents Heart Disease?

Virta Health continues to revolutionize the treatment of diabetes. And they are doing it while taking drugs away!

 

They recently released their study of cardiovascular risk data which, no surprise to me, shows significant improvement in patients’ risk profile. This impressive lifestyle study contrasts sharply with the other side of the coin- promoting drugs to drive LDL to a near zero level in the hopes of helping patients. That’s the other study I read last week, and I was much less excited about it.

 

Two wildly different approaches with wildly different magnitude of benefit. Let’s dig deeper to learn more….

 

The Virta Health Study:

 

The Virta Health trial enrolled subjects with diabetes, mean age was 54 years old, and they were obese on average with a BMI 40.  After 1 year, they had the following results:

  • LDL particle number decreased by almost 5%,
  • Small LDL decreased by 20%,
  • Apo A1 increased by almost 10%,
  • TG decreased by 24%,
  • HDL increased by 18%,
  • TG/HDL radio decreased by almost 30%,  
  • Large VLDL particles decreased by 38%,
  • CRP decreased by almost 40%,
  • The 10-year calculated risk went down by 11% ,
  • No change in CIMT, and
  • LDL-C went up by 10%.

 

EVERYTHING IMPROVED! Except for a small increase in LDL-C.

 

The first question this study forces us to ask, therefore, is should we care about the LDL-C? That is the only marker that went “the wrong” way, increasing 10%. But that is in the face of the LDL-P decreasing, the size of the LDL improving, and dramatic improvements in HDL and TG. All things that are likely protective against CAD.

 

Going all the way back to Dr. Castulli and the Framingham data, we know that LDL-C is a very poor predictor of CVD in the setting on high HDL. We also know that markers such as LDL-P and non-HDL cholesterol are better predictors of CVD than LDL-C.

 

So, in short, the answer is no. We should not be concerned with a 10% increase in LDL-C in this setting.

 

The second question is this. Does this data show that one year on a ketogenic diet is BENEFICIAL for heart health?

 

The original assumption within the medical community was that a ketogenic diet would be harmful and lead us to our grave (as many docs still believe).

 

The times they are a changin.’

 

Based on this data, the question has changed significantly. We should no longer concern ourselves with wondering if a very low carbohydrate, ketogenic diet could be harmful. The data is overwhelming that it is not. Instead, we need to ask if this diet protects us from heart disease.

 

Of course, we would need long term outcome data to show us that for certain. But in the absence of that, the most recent Virta Health data provides a strong vote of confidence that a very low carbohydrate ketogenic diet is likely cardioprotective.

 

That is my kind of medical science. Showing that lifestyle changes promote health.  Clean and simple.

 

The Drug Trials- PCSK9i

 

The Virta Health study contrasts sharply with another paper I read recently, one that claims it is safe and beneficial to lower LDL as low as possible, the so called “Zero LDL hypothesis.”

 

I have to admit, I started reading with a heavy contrary bias. I wanted to rip it apart and find all the shortcomings in the paper.  There were plenty, but I also have to admit that there are some very well thought out and well-argued points.

 

The general argument is that statins and PCSK9i are able to lower LDL to extremely low levels without documented significant adverse effects thus far. Therefore, there is no “floor” for how low we should drive down LDL.

 

Both statins and PCSK9i work by increasing the efficacy of LDL receptors, but they allow other compensatory mechanisms to remain functioning. For instance, the authors describe “back up” mechanisms for maintaining neuronal health, hormone synthesis, and even vitamin E transport (all of which are theoretical concerns with lowering LDL). They argue, since the back-up systems prevent adverse outcomes, and PCSK9i studies have gotten LDL down to 30, we can therefore safely drive LDL down to zero.

 

That’s a stretch that remains to be proven. However, the main question they fail to answer is this: Is worth the effort?

 

Once again, we see studies generating a tremendous amount of publicity and praise for underwhelming and conflicting results. Here’s what I mean:

 

The first big trial with PCSK9i was called the FOURIER trial. They enrolled patients with known cardiovascular disease and added PCSK9i or placebo to their current care. After 2 years, the PCSK9i drug reduced LDL by 60% to a median level of 30mg/dl (lower than any other major trial). The results? There was a small decrease in non-fatal heart attacks (1.2%), with absolutely no improvement in mortality. It did not save a single life.

 

The second trial that got even more attention was the Odessey trial. They enrolled individuals with a recent cardiac event and added PCSK9i or placebo to their standard care. After 2.8 years they lowered LDL by 61% to an average level of 53mg/dl.  Again, there was a very small 1.5% reduction in a combined primary endpoint. In reality, this is negligible clinically even though it is statistically significant.

 

Where the trials differed, however, was that Odessey showed a very small reduction in all-cause mortality of 0.6%., whereas Fourier did not.

 

But here is where it gets complicated. What the press and mainstream cardiology societies don’t tell us is that because of the way the trial was structured, this is not a truly significant finding. It had a weakly positive p value, but since cardiac mortality was not decreased, it invalidated the all-cause mortality. Don’t worry. I don’t completely understand this part either. But I’m told that’s how statistics work in this case.

 

In summary, despite lowering LDL cholesterol to levels lower than we have even seen before with drug therapy, the benefits were underwhelming. If LDL was the true cause of heart disease, there should have been breath takingly dramatic benefits. Yet, one trial showed no improvement in all-cause mortality. One may have shown an improvement, but the trial can’t really claim that.

 

Yet somehow the conclusion is that now we should drive LDL down to zero.  Where did that come from????

 

First Do No Harm

 

The belief that we should drive ldl to zero with drugs comes from the inherent bias in modern medicine: When it comes to drug therapy, “more is better,” and drugs are the best choice for treatment.

 

After all, the trials “proved” that the drugs were safe with no significant increase in adverse effects, right?  Not so fast. Lack of side effects at 2 years is not very reassuring for a drug people will be on for decades. There is plenty of concern about long term effects of near zero LDL levels, even if the authors postulate ways the body will compensate.  To counteract that concern, the benefits better be monumental.

 

After all, the medical oath is “First do no harm”.  Not “First assume there will be no harm”.

 

And more importantly, just because we can treat LDL to near zero, doesn’t mean we should. If we aren’t helping people live longer or live better, then what are we accomplishing?

 

Instead of talking about zero LDLs, we should be talking more about Virta Health. They showed the ability to reverse one of the most common chronic diseases we face with simple lifestyle interventions. And they did it while improving cardiovascular risk factors and getting people off of their medications. In my eyes, that deserves a ticker tape parade.

 

My take home message: Lifestyle beats drugs. Commit to lifestyle change and the argument about reducing your LDL to zero is a non-factor.  

 

What’s your take home message? Let us know your thoughts or if you have questions at www.LowCarbCardiologist.com

 

Thanks for reading

 

Bret Scher, MD FACC

Founder, Boundless Health

www.LowCarbCardiolgist.com

Bret Scher, MD FACC

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