The Science of Paleo

We understand that this lifestyle, paleo/ low carbohydrate-high fat, or LCHF, may be considered quite radical in some circles but in the face of overwhelming scientific evidence, it has to be explained in the context of science.

Anatomy & Physiology:

The way the digestive system works is not of utmost importance here but it would be useful to remind ourselves of some high school biology lessons to understand basic digestion processes so we’re not completely lost going forward. Please take a look at this overview of the digestive system if you feel you need to before continuing.
Also, please take a look at this video if you have not already seen it, which explains what happens when we eat certain types of foods, (hint: carbohydrates!)

In simple terms, it’s not fat that is making you fat, it’s the carbohydrates.

See the full infographic on how Carbs Are Killing You here

Carbs Vs. Fats

Conventional wisdom and our food pyramids dictate that carbohydrates should make up the bulk of our diet. Unfortunately it is precisely this style of eating, that has led to metabolic conditions like diabetes and obesity becoming so prevalent in our societies.
Recently a number of doctors have eschewed conventional wisdom and promoted a more ‘natural’ way of eating, that rid our daily diets of refined sugars, refined carbohydrates, legumes and bad oils, such as vegetable and sunflower oils. These same doctors were taught by conventional wisdom to promote a high carbohydrate diet – the very diet that has caused conditions like diabetes and high cholesterol but have since realised the benefits of LCHF-style eating (low carb, high fat).

So how did we get here? How did we forget this natural way of eating?

One of the doctors who has abandoned conventional ‘carb-loaded’ wisdom is Professor Tim Noakes of the University of Cape Town who wrote in his book, The Real Meal Revolution about how we arrived at this juncture.
The link between heart disease and saturated fats was made by a gentleman called Ancel Keys. In 1953, he published a scientific paper in which he showed an apparent relationship between the amount of fat in the diet and the heart disease rate in 6 different countries. He concluded that this proved that by raising blood cholesterol concentrations, the fat in the diet clogs the arteries of the heart, otherwise known as ‘the plumbing theory’, and so must be the direct cause of heart disease, right? Wrong!
  1. Many people cite he was selective about his theory, choosing only 6 out of 22 countries that fit his theory but it turns out he wasn’t. However, this doesn’t mean his theory was correct.
  2. He failed to warn that the simple association of two observations does not prove that they are causally linked.
  3. Keys spent much of his life defending his theory and ignoring everything else, like the fact that after the First World War, cigarette consumption skyrocketed. Keys ignored this, instead choosing to believe the reason for the rising cases of heart disease was saturated fat.
  4. Keys was not a clinician. He never treated a single patient suffering from heart disease.
Professor John Yudkin, Professor of Nutrition and Dietetics at the University of London, famously countered Keys’ theory by stating that the rising cause of heart disease in the UK could be attributed to the increasing number of TV licenses being purchased in the UK!
More seriously, Yudkin showed a close relationship between dietary fats and sugar intakes in 41 countries as well as a tight relationship between sugar intake and heart disease for 15 countries that had data available.
His point being: If the countries with the highest saturated fat intakes also have the highest sugar intake, how is it possible to choose between the saturated fat or the sugar as the ’cause’ of their heart disease?
The knockout was delivered when he conducted a series of research studies in which he showed that patients with disease of the arteries, including those supplying the heart, ate nearly twice as much sugar as the patients without disease of the arteries.
In more recent times, a number of doctors have explained how carbohydrates cause high cholesterol and not saturated fats.
More and more doctors in the field are now proponents of the LCHF (Paleo/ Primal/ Raw food) lifestyle. The ones of particular note are:
Please do take a look at each of their sites to learn more about the latest advances in research of LCHF-lifestyles.
[Sources for this post: ‘The Real Meal Revolution’, Prof. Tim Noakes, University of Cape Town]
 As always, please don’t hesitate to let us know of your questions or comments below.

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