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Lots of Fat Allowed continued...

"Cholesterol leaves our body through bile, and high-fat foods cause bile secretion," he says. "Although I would caution that this is genetically determined, I think that most people are able to excrete huge amounts of cholesterol they're consuming with this bile secretion." Still, he advises that anyone starting any type of high-fat diet keep close tabs on their cholesterol and triglyceride levels.

Under Hay's low-carb, high-fat diet, milk and starches such as pasta and baked goods are forbidden and only certain fruits and vegetables can be eaten. And unlike Atkins, which allows for increased but still low amounts of carbohydrates the longer participants remain on the plan, Hays' plan remains constant.

A typical dinner on the Hays plan: "A half-pound of red meat or chicken dark meat (after cooking), with 1/2 cup of vegetables, 1/2 cup of salad, and a half piece of fruit. There's lots of oil but no vinegar or other condiments," he says. Acceptable vegetables include broccoli, cauliflower, and others that grow above ground; allowed fruits (which must be eaten last at every meal to keep glucose levels low) include apples, oranges, peaches, and pears, as long as they are not processed.

"It's very vigorous to eliminate starches completely, but those who do seem to do very well," Hays says. "We followed two other groups of patients who weren't taking statin medications for six months and a year, and they lost 15% and 20% of their body weight respectively and had no adverse effects on their [blood fats]. I've had some patients lose up to 40% of their weight on this plan."

But Is It Healthy?

Not all are convinced a high-fat diet is the best strategy for the long term.

"The main reason people lost weight on this diet is because they're consuming fewer calories than they're used to," says Jen Keller, RD, staff nutritionist for the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine, a nonprofit organization that promotes preventive medicine and a vegetarian diet.

"It doesn't matter how you lose weight -- you can starve yourself, you can eat eggs all day, however you do it, if you're eating fewer calories that you're used to, your blood fats will improve in the short-term," she tells WebMD. "But a lot of times, when the weight loss plateaus, the benefits in cholesterol are erased and you're no better off than when you started, and sometimes worse."

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