Jimmy Moore Interview: Is saturated fat the villain we thought?
Posted Aug 26 2008 4:16pm
Enter "weight loss" or "low carb" in your web search and you can't help but stumble across the prolific and widely-connected Jimmy Moore.
On his Blog, Livin' la Vida Lo Carb , Jimmy conducts a wide-ranging and informative discussion of the benefits of a low carbohydrate diet, a la Atkins. Though his initial claim to fame was the 180 lbs he lost in his first year of dieting on this approach, Jimmy has extended the conversation and built a considerable community of like-minded individuals, all of whom are participating in this grand "experiment."
Anybody who looks at lipoproteins and associated factors in health will quickly come to the conclusion that processed carbohydrates are the culprits in much of heart disease, diabetes, and heart disease. But I have had a hard time dismissing the ill-effects of saturated fat. After all, we've all been taught--drilled--with the idea that saturated fats cause LDL cholesterol to go higher, cause arterial constriction, growth of atherosclerotic plaque, inflammation, even cancer.
But there does indeed seem to be a growing sentinment that this long-held dogma may not be true. So I went to the ever-entertaining and informative Jimmy Moore, an able spokesman for these concepts.
TYP: It's certainly impossible to argue with the success you had in weight loss and the health you've regained on your program.
I think that the approach we use in diet in the Track Your Plaque program and the nutrition approach you advocate overlap to a great extent. We both emphasize plenty of vegetables, fruits, healthy oils, nuts, etc. The major point of difference seems to lie in saturated fat: We say restrict it, you say don't restrict it. Could you elaborate?
JM: Thank you for inviting me to your blog today, Dr. Davis. I have nothing but deep respect and admiration for the work you are doing to help educate others about how to keep their heart health in tip-top shape. Keep fighting the good fight, my friend.
While we do agree on probably 99% of the basic tenets of what I describe as
"livin' la vida low-carb," the issue of saturated fat to me is one where we
indeed do not. It's not a deal breaker regarding my support for what you do
just as I'm sure you would say the same regarding your backing of what I do. If
we all agreed on everything, then what a boring world this would be!
My thinking on saturated fat has evolved since I started eating this way nearly
four years ago. Like most people, I was terrified to eat ANY fat at all because
of the abject fear that people like Dr. Dean Ornish and other so-called health
"experts" instilled in me about how dangerously unhealthy it is to consume it.
This fat phobia is arguably the single biggest contributor to the ongoing
obesity crisis our world faces today.
With that said, you and I both know fat consumption is a part of a healthy
lifestyle. There are just too many benefits to the body that come from the
consumption of fats and even saturated fats such as coconut oil, butter, lard,
nuts, seeds, and animal fat when it is combined with a restricted carbohydrate
An intriguing study was presented at a scientific conference in November 2006 by two highly-respected researchers--Dr. Stephen Phinney from the University of California at Davis and Dr. Jeff Volek from the University of Connecticut--who conducted a side-by-side comparison of the amount of saturated fat in the blood of people on a low-carb diet with those following those highly-touted low-fat diets. What they found was the low-carb study participants had "significantly less" saturated fat in their blood than the low-fatties did.
Here are the actual numbers from the study:
- LOW-FAT/HIGH-CARB DIETERS: lowered saturated fat by 24%
- LOW-CARB/HIGH-FAT DIETERS: lowered saturated fat by 57%
- Eating 3X the saturated fat cut the amount in the blood in half
In an interview I conducted at my blog with Dr. Volek last year (here's the
he said the conventional wisdom regarding fat, especially saturate fat, is dead
wrong while the significance of carbs is all but ignored by those who claim to
understand the metabolic response mechanism.
Here's what Dr. Volek said in my interview:
"Eating fat does not make you fat, storing fat makes you fat. And carbohydrates play a major role in storing fat. So the level of dietary carbohydrate is really the most important factor to control because it dictates what happens to fat. Carbs are dominant and fat is passive. When carbohydrates are low, fat tends to be burned, and when carbohydrates are high dietary fat tends to be stored. The same holds true for the atherogenic effects of saturated fat. The body handles saturated fat better when carbohydrates are low."
Long-time low-carb practitioner and current President of the American Society of Bariatric Physicians (ASBP) Dr. Mary C. Vernon from Lawrence, Kansas confirms the findings of Dr. Volek and Dr. Phinney in a succinct recap of what their research showed.
Here's what she said:
"Eating fat (whatever kind) does not make you fat. It does not increase blood
stream saturated fat. Eating carbs does make you fat. Eating carbs does put
saturated fat in your blood stream."
To me, as a simple layperson with no medical background, it's all a matter of who you believe. Do we continue to buy into the low-fat propaganda machine and assume that what they are telling us about saturated fat is true? Or do we instead start paying closer attention to the latest research that is coming out about saturated fat that doesn't exactly line up with the edicts of the last three decades? The choice for me is a simple one.
And if you haven't read the brand new Gary Taubes book entitled GOOD CALORIES, BAD CALORIES yet, then it is REQUIRED reading to arm yourself with the research studies about fat. After you read that book, it will be almost impossible for ANYONE to believe fat, including saturated fat, is unhealthy.
TYP: In our program, we advocate a wheat-free approach for many people, because of the addictive potential of wheat products, as well as the flagrant creation of the small LDL pattern that wheat products create, thereby adding to atherosclerotic plaque growth. However, many people express a concern over a lack of fiber in their diets if they eliminate whole wheat bread, pasta, Fiber One, Raisin Bran cereal, etc.
Have you encountered any phenomena of low-fiber on your approach?
Fiber consumption is another one of those issues that not everyone who advocates
a controlled-carb approach agrees is necessary. I'm on the side that it IS a healthy part of your diet and should be consumed in high enough quantities to keep you regular...something many people think is impossible on a low-carb diet.
As for consuming the highly-touted "healthy whole grain" cereals that you
mentioned, what a travesty that would be for people trying to manage their
weight and health. While the cereal manufacturers have had a heyday in their
marketing efforts promoting their whole grain content, it's all just a big fat
ruse on the public trying to convince them that these cereals are somehow healthy for their bodies. Sure, they're better than the sugary cereals, but all those grains are metabolized as sugar inside the body, so you might as well be eating Lucky Charms and Fruit Loops!
Many of these "healthy" cereals contain as many carbohydrates in a single bowl
without the milk as I would eat in an entire day. Raisin Bran, for example, which used to be my favorite cereal before my low-carb lifestye, has a whopping 47 grams of carbohydrates. Needless to say, I don't touch that with a ten-foot pole nowadays because I would surely gain weight and get back on the blood sugar rollercoaster ride that I was on prior to beginning the Atkins diet on January 1, 2004. Plus, all those carbs just make you hungrier sooner, so it's better just to eat some delicious eggs cooked in butter, a couple of slices of sausage, and tomato slices to start your day off right. You'll get enough fiber in your body the rest of your day.
TYP: 180 lbs of weight loss in your first year is absolutely astounding.
I take it that you've continued this trend and have lost more weight since your early success. What role did exercise play during your first year and subsequently?
How are your food choices today different from that first year?
JM: Yes, that weight loss was indeed one of the greatest accomplishments I have ever experienced in my life. It was a hard-fought battle that even included a 10-week period where I was stalled with no weight loss. But I knew my chosen diet was the right one for me because I felt better than I ever had on a diet, was never hungry because I ate every 2-3 hours, and could see myself doing this for the rest of my life. So far, so good!
It has been close to four years since I began this journey and I am indeed continuing this pathway to better health. My low weight in 2004 was 230 pounds and I currently weigh 225 pounds. As long as I keep my carbs reduced, I am able to maintain my weight right where it is. I've had minor fluctuations in both directions where I got down to as low as 215 pounds at one point (but didn't feel good at that weight) and as high as 252 pounds (when I was allowing myself one too many high-carb foods here and there).
There's a balance that people need to find for themselves and it's different for
all of us. I am one of the unlucky people who has to keep his carbohydrate
intake below 50g daily or I gain. It's just a fact of life that I've come to
grips with and realize is a necessity in order to manage my weight for the rest
of my life. But I wouldn't have it any other way!
Exercise was indeed a part of my low-carb weight loss success in 2004 as I
forced myself to do cardio every single day as a commitment to this journey. In
hindsight, that was probably not the best thing for me to do since the body has
a rather peculiar way of telling you it needs to wiggle and move spontaneously
on its own rather than forcing the issue. But I consider the exercise I did to
be such an integral part of my success that I dedicated an entire chapter of my
book to the subject.
Today, my daily cardio routine is out the window and I choose instead to engage
in activities outside the gym that let me burn calories and have some fun in the
process. I regularly play volleyball, basketball, and referee flag football at
my church which all give me quite a workout. I'm very physically active and fit
on my 6'3" body and just enjoy burning off all this excess energy that I have
been given since losing nearly have my weight! I do want to get into a little
more organized resistance training routine soon to try to shape and tone some
areas of my body that still show signs of that 410-pound man I used to be
(although the loose, hanging skin in my abdomen and inner thighs isn't going to
get any better with exercise since the elasticity has been ruined from being
stretched out so far). Here is a link to some posts and pictures I have written
As for my food choices today compared to my weight loss year in 2004, they
haven't really changed a whole lot. This was a lifestyle change in every sense
of the phrase and I've learned to implement this way of eating into a permanent
and healthy diet that I can and will gladly live with forever and ever amen. I
probably eat more berries, melons, and nuts today than I did then, but otherwise
it's the identical diet.
TYP: I'm sure that you are as impressed as I am that much of the wisdom in healthy eating doesn't always come from doctors or clinical studies, but from the collective wisdom that emerges from this national experiment (inadvertent, for the most part) in eating. Your Livin' La Vida Low-Carb is, in my view, a perfect example of the sort of wisdom that is helping all of us understand what happened to our health over the last 20 years.
Does the approach you advocate today differ in any substantial way from the diet as originally articulated by Dr. Atkins?
JM: Actually, my personal diet is precisely based on the teaching of the late great Dr. Robert C. Atkins in his classic bestseller DR. ATKINS' NEW DIET REVOLUTION (DANDR) book. But most people are surprised when they learn I do not necessarily advocate the Atkins diet as the nutritional approach for everyone.
Nope, I sure don't!
Instead, my philosophy is simple: Find the diet plan that will work for YOU, read and research everything you can about that chosen plan, follow that plan exactly as prescribed by the author of that book, and then KEEP doing that plan for the rest of your life. If you do that, then there's no reason why you can't succeed just like I did.
Anyone interested in doing the low-carb lifestyle and needs help finding which