There’s a question mark in the title only because we have no significant proof yet from a majority of our experts in the medical community.
However, I have been on the ketogenic diet — eating plan — for well over a year now and am enjoying it. Even with an extremely stressful month-long episode six weeks into it, I still woke up feeling as if I could tackle what lay ahead of me on those days. Not perfectly, admittedly, but with much less emotional upset than expected.
The physician and author, Dr Michael R Eades, might be on some of your online reading lists. In a post from 2006, he explores reasons for the Western rise in obesity.
We are told we are fat because we don’t eat the right kind of foods and don’t exercise enough. Around the time Eades wrote this in the US, we in the UK were receiving constant announcements from the Labour government’s Health ministers saying we should be breaking out into a sweat every day. Gentle housework and 15-minute walks wouldn’t cut it, they told us.
With that in mind, it was interesting to read what Eades had to say nearly ten years ago:
What if cutting calories and running yourself ragged exercising don’t work because, well, you’re not overweight because you eat too much and don’t exercise enough?
He then cites a paper saying that any beneficial link between diet and exercise is ‘largely “circumstantial”‘ and cannot be applied to every person. Factors which also need to be studied include lack of sleep, smoking cessation, pesticides on fresh food which can harm our endocrine systems, demographics and so forth.
The one that caught my eye, and the only one Eades did not debunk, was the following one (emphases mine). It concerns the benefits of a high-fat diet on the brain whilst reducing carbohydrate consumption and prescription medicines. MD — mentioned below — is his wife, Mary Dan Eades, also a physician:
Factor # 5: Pharmaceutical iatrogenesis
Iatrogenesis, the causation of a state of ill health brought on by medical treatment, is indeed a cause of weight gain. Multiple drugs commonly given for a host of medical disorders have weight gain as a side effect. Antihistamines, antidepressants, anticonvulsants, blood pressure medicines, diabetic medicines, steroid hormones, mood elevators, birth control pills–all have been shown to cause weight gain to varying degrees. The authors make the case that there has been a huge increase in the number of people taking these drugs–especially the antidepressants and mood elevators–over the same time period as the obesity epidemic has been developing. Once again, I think there may be other factors afoot that cause both.
MD and I have always noticed that at the same time the bookstore shelves were laden with books on low-fat dieting they were also filled with books on depression. I don’t think this is a coincidence. The brain is a fat dependent organ composed primarily of fat. An enormous number of scientific studies have shown that people who don’t get enough fat nor enough cholesterol tend to develop depression and/or anxiety. MD and I have seen this first hand. Ten or so years ago we participated in a clinical study for an anti-obesity drug that worked by inhibiting fat uptake in the gut, thereby putting patients on a low-fat diet irrespective of how much fat they actually ate. One of the big problems we had was that the patients on the drug became depressed, anxious, or both, went to their regular doctors and were given prescriptions for antidepressants or anxiolytic medications. One of the guidelines of the study was than anyone who took one of these medicines was disqualified from continuing. We fought this problem continuously, so we know that low-fat diets cause mental problems. During the past 20 years the average fat consumption has fallen about 25%-30% as the obesity epidemic has surged, leading, I’m afraid, to a whole lot of antidepressant prescriptions. I would have to say that the increased drug use doesn’t cause obesity, but is, like the obesity epidemic, a consequence of a sea change in the American diet.
What about antihistamines, blood pressure medicines, anti-diabetic medicines? Same thing. When people get fat, they have more allergies, asthma, high blood pressure and diabetes. The dietary changes cause both the obesity and the attendant problems requiring drug treatment.
So, we have the real probability that high carb, low fat diets can affect our moods. We also know that our brains need fat in order to function properly. Lack of fat can produce moodiness and depression, which leads to prescription drugs that can also cause weight gain.
I agree with mechanical engineer Lori Miller who has also been on the low carb, high fat diet for a year when she wrote a post about it in 2011, ‘Lousy Mood? It Could Be the Food’, excerpted below. Details about the book cited can be found here:
Since I started my low-carb, saturated fat fest almost a year ago, the old problems evaporated. I can’t remember the last time I needed to stop and regroup. I believe the high-fat diet has had everything to do with that.
Psychotherapist Julia Ross says in her book The Mood Cure, “… much of our increasing emotional distress stems from easily correctable malfunctions in our brain and body chemistry–malfunctions that are primarily the result of critical, unmet nutritional needs.”(2) She recommends, among other things, eating plenty of good fats and protein. “Our clients generally love the way they can come alive on their omega-3 foods and supplements.” (3) Saturated fat, Ross explains, is needed for vitamin and mineral absorption, skin health, blood sugar control, brain health, and cancer prevention, to name a few things. It’s an important part of her cure for patients with eating disorders(4), something Dr. Robert Atkins had been doing for years.(5) Ross also recommends eating enough food and including vegetables.(6) (I noticed years ago that eating a salad improved my mood.)
Sweets and white flour starches tie for bad mood foods #1 and #2 in Ross’s book.(7) (Remember my Coke & bagel diet?) Dishonorable mentions go to skipping meals, low-calorie dieting, low-fat diets (“firmly associated with depression”), low-protein diets (“low energy and low-mood”), and pre-packaged food.(8)
So far, everyone offline — bar SpouseMouse — thinks a high fat, low carb eating plan goes against common sense and, more importantly, received wisdom. ‘I need my breakfast cereal,’ ‘Bread is very important for a nutritional profile,’ ‘We need to eat pulses’, ‘I always feel better after cake’ and so on. All of this is rubbish. A small amount of carbohydrate from green and cruciferous vegetables will suffice.
In February 2015, Time magazine came out with another article — they published two in 2014 — saying that low-fat guidelines should never have been issued or encouraged in the 1970s.
Alice Park’s article explores a study done in Scotland which states:
Reporting in the journal OpenHeart, Zoe Harcombe, a researcher and Ph.D. candidate at University of the West of Scotland, and her colleagues say that the data decisionmakers had in 1977, when the first U.S. guidelines on dietary fat were made, did not provide any support for the idea that eating less fat would translate to fewer cases of heart disease, or that it would save lives …
The problem, as Harcombe notes in her study, is that advice was “arbitrary. The 30% wasn’t tested, let alone proven,” she says. In fact, some data even contradicted the idea that the fat we took in from food had anything at all to do with the artery-clogging plaques that caused heart disease. In one study, men who were fed copious amounts of high-fat foods (butter, eggs, portions of cream and the like) did not show higher levels of blood cholesterol, suggesting that the fat from food had little to do with the cholesterol circulating in the body and produced by the liver …
The American Heart Association, fortunately, is taking this on board for their own revised recommendations.
The most important thing is to eat whole foods, not necessarily organic, but helpings of fatty meats and oily fish that you need to prepare at home. Cook a selection of vegetables or prepare a salad to accompany them. Leave out the potato, pasta, rice, couscous. Add plenty of butter or cheese and cream to sauces. Sauté in duck or goose fat, lard or beef dripping.
Also: Drink lots of water during the day — three or four large glasses. Salt your food, and supplement potassium with Lo Salt or Lite Salt. Otherwise, you might well end up feeling weak and faint.
Not only will your hunger pangs disappear for hours on end, but your mood and outlook will improve immensely.
As for exercise? Only the gentlest will do, as a hard workout may cause the body to retain water. In any event, when there is no weight loss, one will lose inches.
Disclaimer: This is not intended as blanket medical advice. When in doubt, check with your doctor.
More of my posts on the ketogenic diet can be found on my Recipes / Health / History page:
Low-fat, high-carb diets increase depression
Does low animal fat intake increase hostility or depression? (a hypothesis)
Fat and a balanced mind (low-fat diets can imbalance serotonin and nerves)
High carbohydrate intake and depression (also epilepsy related [Dr Richard A Kunin’s paper])
High-carb, low-fat diets might cause Western diseases (cancer related)
Dietary advice: the old ways are the best (my own story on the ketogenic diet)