Skip to content
My WebMD Sign In, Sign Up

Weight Loss & Diet Plans

Font Size

Low-Carb, High-Fat Diet Drops Weight

Atkins-Like Plan Won't Hurt Cholesterol Levels, but Critics Aren't Impressed
By
WebMD Health News

Nov. 11, 2003 -- Is it really possible to lose weight on a no-starch, high-fat diet, similar to Atkins, without hurting cholesterol levels? Apparently so, even for people with heart disease, according to the latest study on the topic.

The new study details the effects of a no-starch, high-fat diet on 23 patients at risk for diabetes. All were overweight, were taking cholesterol-lowering statin drugs, and had been diagnosed with heart disease. The high-saturated fat and no-starch diet was developed eight years ago by endocrinologist James Hays, MD, in an effort to help his diabetic patients.

On average, those following his low-carb, high-fat diet lost 5% of their body weight after only six weeks. For example, a 200-pound person would have lost 10 pounds.

Importantly, the high-fat diet did not have harmful effects on cholesterol levels. In fact, the participants saw a lowering of the blood fat called triglycerides. "Bad" LDL and "good" HDL cholesterol levels didn't change, but the size of the HDL and LDL molecules increased.

Larger LDL molecules are less likely to form artery-clogging plaques. Larger HDL molecules stay around in the body longer to clean up more plaque.

"We also saw a significant drop in glucose and insulin levels," Hays tells WebMD. Higher blood sugar (glucose) and insulin levels indicate the early signs of diabetes.

Lots of Fat Allowed

Under Hays' plan, half of the daily 1,800 calories come from saturated fats -- mostly red meats and cheese. "We're not talking about protein, egg whites, and turkey and white-meat chicken," he says. "We're talking about fat."

Just days ago, another study at the American Heart Association's annual meeting compared the low-carb, high-fat Atkins diet to three other popular diets -- the very low-fat Ornish plan, the high-protein, moderate-carb Zone diet, and the low-fat, moderate-carb Weight Watchers plan. When devotedly followed, all produced similar weight loss and reductions in heart disease risk.

Hays tells WebMD that he believes the heart-healthy benefits of his Atkins-like eating plan are because of its high intake of saturated fats -- considered by most experts to cause heart disease.

"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.

Today on WebMD

vegetables
Video
Woman trying clothes / dress
Assessment
 
Woman looking at reflection in mirror
Article
Hot cup of coffee
Quiz
 
woman shopping fresh produce
Video
butter curl on knife
Quiz
 
eating out healthy
Article
Smiling woman, red hair
Article
 
6-Week Challenges
Want to know more?
Chill Out and Charge Up Challenge – How to help your tribe de-stress and energize.
Spark Change Challenge - Ready for a healthy change? Get some major motivation.
I have read and agreed to WebMD's Privacy Policy.
Enter cell phone number
- -
Entering your cell phone number and pressing submit indicates you agree to receive text messages from WebMD related to this challenge. WebMD is utilizing a 3rd party vendor, CellTrust, to provide the messages. You can opt out at any time.
Standard text rates apply
thumbnail_woman_tossing_spinach
Video
lunchbox
Article
 
What Girls Need To Know About Eating Disorders
Article
teen squeezing into jeans
fitfor Teens
 

Special Sections