Can Extremely Fat-Restricted or High Fat Diet be Effective and Safe?


A well rounded high fat diet
A high fat diet should be well rounded.

Ever since humanity started paying more attention to finding efficient ways to lose weight, dietary fats have been a subject of controversy. Whether it is a high fat diet program or an extremely fat-restricted diet, there is always a question of health and safety these programs can provide. As with everything else in life, extremism can sometimes be efficient – but not necessarily healthy!

According to specialists, a healthy diet should include around 30 percent of total calories from fats per day. While a high fat diet suggests the nutritional pyramid be based mainly on dietary fats, an extremely fat restricted diet barely allows any fat intake at all.

No Fat versus High Fat Diet

To understand these two diets better, we need to go back to their origins. The extremely fat-restricted diet excludes even well-known healthy fats, such as olive oil, fish oil or flaxseed oil, which are very beneficial for heart health as many studies have shown. This diet was originally created to reverse or prevent cardiovascular problems. Not eating any fats, including the good fats, is the most controversial thing about it.

On the other hand, the high fat diet, sometimes called Low-Carb High-Fat (LCHF) or ketogenic diet suggests eating very few carbohydrates, moderate proteins and a very high intake of fats. A high fat diet minimizes intake of sugar and starch. Many recent scientific studies show that this kind of diet helps with weight loss as well as to control blood sugar. However, this program is also extreme and can cause stress due to specific food restrictions.

Both of these diets promise great results in weight loss and regaining health, but how much do we know about the real safety of these two diets?

Forgetting All the Oils

The general idea of this diet runs around the theory that any fat intake can lead to heart problems. First popularized by Dr. Dean Ornish, this diet became well-known in 1985 when cardiologist, Caldwell B. Esselstyn Jr., convinced some of his patients to go on a diet which gave them less than 10 percent of calories from fat. They were advised to avoid all kinds of oils, meat, fish and dairy products, with the exception of skimmed milk and non-fat yogurt. Dr. Esselstyn also allowed small amounts of walnuts because of Omega-3 fatty acids. High fat diet advocates are often stressing that Low fat intake is problematic, because fat helps facilitate many key functions in the human body. Also, fat helps hormones and cellular membrane building, as well as absorption of fat-soluble vitamins, such as vitamins A, D, E, and K.

A high fat diet can inlcude the oils added to a salad.
Adding oils to a salad as part of a high fat diet

However, studies have shown that a fat-restricted diet can reduce risk factors for heart disease such as high blood pressure and high blood cholesterol. An example is when The National Institute of Health presented a study of 198 patients with well-developed heart disease who did show extreme effects of this diet.

Basing Everything on Fats

The high fat diet became very popular in recent years, especially after the official publication of a two-year study by the Independent Swedish Council on Health Technology Assessment. This study basically promotes High Fat – Low Carb diet as being beneficial to health and weight loss. The diet is based on meat, fish, butter, olive oil, coconut oil, heavy cream, and bacon as not being harmful foods and banning all kinds of starchy and high carb foods.

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The High Fat Diet was developed at John Hopkins Hospital in the 1920s. Back then it was aiming to help children with epilepsy who did not respond to drugs. Today, this diet promotes the fact that it causes the liver to generate ketone bodies for energy instead of glucose. There are different versions of this diet, but all of them are strict in low carb intake. Protein intake is moderate, so the diet has its bodybuilding versions, such as the cyclical ketogenic diet which includes a significant amount of supplementation.

Main risks of the high fat diet include elevated lipids, kidney stones, and bone conditions caused by low calcium, vitamin D, iron and folic acid. Some of the risks of switching to a high fat diet include emotional problems related to many tasty food restrictions. Other than grains and starchy vegetables, many fruits are forbidden.

Macronutrient Balance – a Way to Go

Both of these diets could be harmful and should be approached with a caution. Some medical cases report previously healthy people who developed different conditions as a result of following one of these two extreme diets for a long period of time. Physical and psychological health is dependent on macronutrient balance and should always be observed together as the Mind-Body approach suggests. A balanced amount of all macronutrients is crucial for a healthy body and mind. If the diet is not well balanced for a longer period of time, some side effects like mental health deficits, depression, and vitamin deficiencies can occur. Living in today’s world exposes us to enormous amounts of daily stress. This only worsens with imbalanced nutrition. Our body has a stress response control center – the adrenal glands. They are producing over 50 kinds of hormones which help us deal with stress. Without proper nutrition, these glands functionality can be reduced, and this often leads to adrenal fatigue. This condition can be helped with a change of lifestyle, primarily through nutrition.

Harmony of Approaches

Organic foods should be part of a high fat diet
High fat diet should include organic foods

If a person is experiencing any of the symptoms of adrenal fatigue, then none of these diets are recommended for them. A well-balanced diet based on organic and whole foods, daily outdoor exercise followed by a dietary supplementation of 500 mg to 3,000 mg of vitamin C with bioflavonoid and synergistic co-factors can really help. Also, a great approach is to start with the Adrenal Breathing Exercise. There have been reports of good results in helping this condition and dealing with NeuroEndoMetabolic Stress by including phytotherapy. Some herbs have shown to be true friends to the adrenal cortex. To mention a few: Licorice, Ginkgo, Eleuthero, and Rehmannia. From ancient philosophies we can learn that harmony is the answer. A proper balance of good nutrition, exercise, and natural healing methods can significantly improve the quality of life.

© Copyright 2016 Michael Lam, M.D. All Rights Reserved.


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Author: Dr. Michael Lam, MD
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