• Your life and health are your own responsibility.
• Your decisions to act (or not act) based on information or advice anyone provides you—including me—are your own responsibility.


Fat And Glycemic Index: The Myth Of “Complex Carbohydrates”

(This article is Part III of a series on carbohydrate addiction. Each part stands alone, but I recommend starting with Part I, “Why You’re Addicted To Bread“, as it explains the fundamentals. Part II is here.)

The Mystery of the Flour Tortilla

This article started when I asked a simple question: “Why do flour tortillas have such a low glycemic index?”

The humble flour tortilla tops any list of low glycemic index grain products, with a GI of only 30. Yet whole-wheat bread has a GI of 71! (Source.)

Why is that?

“Complex Carbohydrates”…Not So Complex After All

Most low-fat diet pushers (from Pritikin, to Ornish, to the ADA and US government, to vegan fronts like the PCRM) make a big noise about “complex carbohydrates”. The theory goes like this: Table sugar is made of just two simple sugars, glucose and fructose. That’s bad, because it digests too quickly for our body to use all of it—whereupon the excess is turned into fat, stored as fat, and we’re hungry again. In contrast, the ‘complex carbohydrates’ in whole-grain products are good because they digest more slowly, allowing our body to use all of them. Right?


As described in Part I, whole wheat bread (71) has the same glycemic index as white bread (72), and both of them have a higher GI than white table sugar (62)! This fact alone proves that the theory of “complex carbs” is flawed: our bodies absorb the sugar from that ‘healthy’ whole wheat bread more quickly than…pure table sugar.

Low Glycemic Index: What’s Responsible?

So what’s the real story behind glycemic index? Why do we digest some ‘carbohydrates’ (sugars) so much more slowly than others? And how does a flour tortilla top the list?

Answer: it’s the fat.

  • Mexican flour tortillas have a GI of 30, whereas American whole wheat bread has a GI of 72. Remember, you need plenty of lard (or, at least, grain oil) to make a nice, flat, chewy tortilla.
  • A plain French baguette has a sky-high glycemic index of 95: spread some butter and jam on it, and the GI declines to 65.
  • Cooked white rice has 0.2% fat and a GI of 64; a meal of white boiled rice, grilled hamburger, cheese, and butter has a GI of 24.
  • A Pizza Hut Super Supreme pizza (13.2% fat) has a GI of 30, whereas a Vegetarian Supreme (7.8% fat) has a GI of 49.

This is common sense once we think about it for a minute. As anyone who’s taken a freshman nutrition class can tell you, fat inhibits gastric emptying and slows digestion. For example:

Pierre Thouvenot, C Latge, M-H Laurens, and J-M Antoine. Fat and starch gastric emptying rate in humans: a reproducibility study of a double-isotopic technique. Am J Clin Nutr 1994;59(suppl):781S.

Executive Summary: A high-fat mixture of egg yolks, olive oil, and butter left the stomach over 50% slower than spaghetti…and that doesn’t even count the time taken to digest it in the intestine. (Also note that spaghetti has a glycemic index of 38-61, depending on cooking time—much lower than bread or cereal at 70-80.)

In conclusion, the theory of “complex carbs” is a red herring. The primary driver of glycemic index is fat content. The more fat, the slower the sugars (‘carbohydrates’) are digested, and the lower the glycemic index.

(Yes, it is possible to make lower-GI pure carbohydrates: a wheat ‘bread’ containing 80% intact kernels gets down to a GI of 52…just under a Snickers bar at 55. But wait…80% intact kernels? That’s not bread…that’s a cake of birdseed! I’ve never even seen that sold in a store, let alone watched someone actually try to eat it.)

Conclusion: A Low-Fat Diet Means A High Glycemic Index Diet

When we take fat out of our diet and replace it with ‘carbohydrates’ (sugars), the glycemic index of the food we eat goes up dramatically.

This has obvious negative consequences for our health and weight, and I’m going to highlight it, because it’s the key to this article:

High-GI ‘carbohydrates’ (sugars), simple or complex, are digested far more quickly than we can burn them for energy, whereupon our bodies convert them into fat and store them as fat—leaving us hungry, even though we are gaining weight!

Then, we get a transient dopamine rush and subsequent serotonin high before our blood sugar crashes, but that decreases over time as we get fatter—meaning that we are chemically as well as metabolically addicted to sugar (‘carbohydrates’).

Does this situation sound familiar? You’re told to take those ‘unhealthy’ fatty foods out of your diet—and suddenly you’re either hungry and miserable, or you’re gaining weight uncontrollably. Ever wonder why you don’t feel full no matter how many plain bagels, glasses of skim milk, cups of low-fat yogurt, and boxes of fat-free Fig Newtons you eat…yet you still have the compulsion to keep eating?

Even worse, if this vicious cycle of goes on long enough, you become insulin-resistant, and then diabetic. Isn’t this what’s happening to all of America? Our ‘obesity epidemic’ started once we told people to avoid fat at all costs…

…and now you know why. It’s because by removing fat from your diet, you’re turning everything you eat into candy.

Incredible but true fact: a medium Jamba Juice fruit smoothie (‘Berry Lime Sublime’) has substantially more calories (487) than a Quarter Pounder (417)—and a large has almost as many calories (610) as a Double Quarter Pounder (647)!

Which one will leave you feeling like you ate a meal, and which one will leave you still hungry?

...than the Quarter Pounder!

This has more calories...

But Isn’t Fat Bad For You? Science Says “No.”

We’ve been told for decades that fat and cholesterol are bad, and saturated fat will kill you. That is, stated baldly, a lie.

There is no association between saturated fat intake and heart disease, and there is no association between egg intake (the largest source of dietary cholesterol) and heart disease.

Patty W Siri-Tarino, Qi Sun, Frank B Hu, and Ronald M Krauss. Meta-analysis of prospective cohort studies evaluating the association of saturated fat with cardiovascular disease. Am J Clin Nutr Jan 2010

“A meta-analysis of prospective epidemiologic studies showed that there is no significant evidence for concluding that dietary saturated fat is associated with an increased risk of CHD or CVD.
“The pooled relative risk estimates that compared extreme quantiles of saturated fat intake were 1.07 (95% CI: 0.96, 1.19; P = 0.22) for CHD, 0.81 (95% CI: 0.62, 1.05; P = 0.11) for stroke, and 1.00 (95% CI: 0.89, 1.11; P = 0.95) for CVD. Consideration of age, sex, and study quality did not change the results. “

Here’s the layman’s version, from Scientific American:

Carbs Against Cardio: More Evidence that Refined Carbohydrates, not Fats, Threaten the Heart“, Scientific American, May 2010

“…The quintile of women who ate the most easily digestible and readily absorbed carbohydrates—that is, those with the highest glycemic index—were 47 percent more likely to acquire type 2 diabetes than those in the quintile with the lowest average glycemic-index score.” … “women who were overweight and in the quartile that consumed meals with the highest average glycemic load, a metric that incorporates portion size, were 79 percent more likely to develop coronary vascular disease than overweight women in the lowest quartile.”

“The next time you eat a piece of buttered toast, [Ludwig] says, consider that ‘butter is actually the more healthful component.'”

Moving on to eggs:

Public Health Nutr. 2010 Jul 16:1-10. Egg consumption and CHD and stroke mortality: a prospective study of US adults. Scrafford CG, Tran NL, Barraj LM, Mink PJ.

“We did not find a significant positive association between egg consumption and increased risk of mortality from CHD or stroke in the US population. These results corroborate the findings of previous studies.”

So: eat fatty meats, eat eggs, eat avocados. Cook with butter, tallow, and coconut oil, and perhaps some extra-virgin olive oil for taste. And if you absolutely must eat candy in the form of bread, cereal, or potatoes, eat them with plenty of butter, olive oil, cream, and whole milk.

Sounds a lot better than rice cakes and dry toast, doesn’t it?

Live in freedom, live in beauty.


Postscript: if you want to know how we got bamboozled into believing that foods we’ve eaten for millions of years (meat) were bad for us, but industrial products that didn’t even exist until this century (‘vegetable oil‘) were good for us, you can watch Tom Naughton’s entertaining presentation “Big Fat Fiasco”, available here and on DVD here.

(This is Part III. Go back to Part I, Part II.)

“So what do YOU eat?” you ask. Click here for my classic article “Eat Like A Predator”.

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Permalink: Fat And Glycemic Index: The Myth Of “Complex Carbohydrates”
  • David H. Freedman

    Yes, adding fat to flour lowers the glycemic index of whatever it is you’re eating. Here’s what else it does: It sends the calorie count through the roof. The ultra-low-carb crowd says, Oh, that’s OK, don’t worry about all those extra calories, they’re GOOD calories, they’ll give you energy and muscle instead of fat! Yeah, sure. I don’t want to get bogged down in the argument that has played out over and over again based on conflicting studies, data and theories that support low-carb vs. low-fat vs. high- or low-whatever. But if you find yourself falling for the ultra-low-carb argument, here are three things to think about:

    1) In spite of all this apparent “evidence” that going ultra-low-carb is the best and really only way to lose weight and that calories don’t matter, the vast majority of scientists involved in any aspect in weight loss continue to recommend focusing on calorie reduction over carb reduction. What might they see and understand that ultra-low-carb fanatics don’t?

    2) Websites and books are full of arguments and evidence that back up other points of view. Don’t make your decision based only on what seems like convincing arguments from one crowd.

    3) The next time you’re in a pizza place, look at the people who are ordering veggie pizzas, and look at the people who are ordering supremos. Still think adding a bunch of fat to your food is a great way to be fit and trim? In general, use your own two eyes to see if people who eat certain types of food over others really end up thinner in the long run. Tens of millions of people have tried very-low-carb diets, and the vast, vast majority of them eventually gained the lost weight back, usually within two years, and in many cases in just a few months. Yes, it has worked for some people, but every diet out there has people who have done well on it. They just don’t work for most people.

    I’m not a low-fat or low-anything proponent, none of these cut-out-a-major-food-group diets work well for most people over the long term. What we need are ways of getting us to eat more reasonable amounts of less-calorie-dense foods and to be more active, over the courses of our entire lives. That means establishing relatively healthy habits that are easy to live with forever. For most people, cutting out fat or carbs doesn’t come close to filling that prescription.

  • David:

    “The vast majority of scientists involved in any aspect in weight loss continue to recommend focusing on calorie reduction over carb reduction.”

    Really? If so, they’re in error. The peer-reviewed science says otherwise:

    JAMA. 2007 Mar 7;297(9):969-77. Comparison of the Atkins, Zone, Ornish, and LEARN diets for change in weight and related risk factors among overweight premenopausal women: the A TO Z Weight Loss Study: a randomized trial. Gardner CD, Kiazand A, Alhassan S, Kim S, Stafford RS, Balise RR, Kraemer HC, King AC.

    CONCLUSIONS: In this study, premenopausal overweight and obese women assigned to follow the Atkins diet, which had the lowest carbohydrate intake [and highest fat intake], lost more weight at 12 months than women assigned to follow the Zone diet, and had experienced comparable or more favorable metabolic effects than those assigned to the Zone, Ornish [= low-fat, high-carb], or LEARN diets.

    [I must mention once again that paleo is not Atkins! I do not recommend Atkins because of its endorsement of processed meats, grain oils, sugar alcohols, and other unhealthy industrial food simulations.]

    “Tens of millions of people have tried very-low-carb diets, and the vast, vast majority of them eventually gained the lost weight back, usually within two years, and in many cases in just a few months…They just don’t work for most people.”

    False, and already addressed by the study. They work more consistently, and for longer, than any other diet:

    “Participants were randomly assigned to follow the Atkins (n = 77), Zone (n = 79), LEARN (n = 79), or Ornish (n = 76) diets and received weekly instruction for 2 months, then an additional 10-month follow-up.

    MAIN OUTCOME MEASURES: Weight loss at 12 months was the primary outcome.” [Note: This is 10 months after instruction ceased.]

    “What we need are ways of getting us to eat more reasonable amounts of less-calorie-dense foods and to be more active, over the courses of our entire lives.”

    Calorie density is a red herring. Yes, fat is denser in calories than sugar (‘carbohydrates’): it also satiates, and sugar does not. If calorie density were significant, all anyone would need to lose weight is a huge jar of sugar-free Metamucil.

    The easiest way to eat less is by eating more fat and less ‘carbohydrates’ (sugars). This is consistent with basic human metabolism (fat satiates, slows digestion, and slows absorption), peer-reviewed science (see above JAMA study), and common sense (Jamba Juice vs. Quarter Pounder).

    “That means establishing relatively healthy habits that are easy to live with forever.”

    It’s a lot easier to live with meat, eggs, butter, fresh greens, fresh fruits, olive oil, and avocado slices than tofu, lentils, and brown rice. We are humans, not birds or rodents.

    “For most people, cutting out fat or carbs doesn’t come close to filling that prescription.”

    This article is Part 3 of a series. Part 1 clearly states that paleo is not zero-carb: you should read it, because it lays the theoretical foundation for this one.

    “Don’t make your decision based only on what seems like convincing arguments from one crowd.”

    Please don’t patronize a fellow author. I came to my views because of the evidence I found while researching diet and glycemic index, and because I’ve been happier, healthier, and more productive since I’ve put these principles into practice. I wrote these articles to explain my learning process.

    Maybe you should try it! I have a few delicious recipes to share: contact me through the “Contact” page if you’re interested.

    Live in freedom, live in beauty.


  • Links, Quick Hits &a

    […] ~ Pretty telling chart that J. Stanton of GNOLLS.ORG put together right here: The Lipid Hypothesis Has Officially Failed. Lot's of other great insight on that blog so have a look around. Here's a suggestion: Fat And Glycemic Index: The Myth Of “Complex Carbohydrates” […]

  • Elenor Snow

    I recommended recently to Tom Naughton of Fat Head fame that instead of calling them simple and complex carbs (since everyone gets those all mixed up) we should start calling them: sugar carbs, fruit carbs, and veg carbs — as in: “avoid sugar carbs and fruit carbs, go easy on the veg carbs.” Much clearer, and more people might understand… if they want to! {sigh}

  • Andy Newport

    Hi J,

    First off I love the site and agree wholeheartedly. However the arguments you’re presenting are incomplete. While somewhat useful, the GI rating on foods doesn’t tell the whole story regarding carbohydrate.

    Table sugar is 50% Fructose. The metabolism of fructose hardly budges blood sugar at all but causes untold issues in the liver both directly (implicated in non-alcoholic fatty liver disease when high PUFA in diet) and indirectly (damaging liver insulin sensitivity, again when PUFA is high). To say the effect on blood sugar of oatmeal and skittles is the same is accurate (hence the similar GI scores). To say the effects on long term metabolism are equal is true for the wrong reasons. Grains are deadly not primarily because of their carb load but because of the damage they do to our gi tract and metabolism via lectins, gluten and wga etc.

    Recently Robb Wolf commented on the difference between the Kativans and the Tarahumara indians, both eat relatively high carb diets, one (90% calories) in the form of tubers and the other in corn (80% ). The ones eating tubers don’t display metabolic or cardiovascular disease in old age while the grain based ones do, with bone and tooth issues to boot. There’s something more than carbs and GI in play as people groups with undamaged metabolisms (the key factor) seem to deal with carbohydrate just fine for their long, healthy lives.

    Total carb level is part of the puzzle, but it’s not the be all and end all. Stopping metabolic damage (eliminating Fructose, grains and Omega-6 fats) does more for longevity than eating lower GI, there’s plenty of low GI “food” out there.

  • Andy:

    Thank you for your perceptive feedback: I hope you'll subscribe and keep contributing!

    You are absolutely correct that sugar intake and glycemic index is only one piece of the health puzzle, and that all the other issues you mentioned are very important.  (I may write about them someday, but only if I can provide a unique synthesis of the knowledge.  I don't pretend to be Dr. Guyenet or Dr. Harris, or even Dr. B.G.)

    However, I can't address them all in three short articles.  I wrote this series to address the specific question: “Why is it so hard to stop eating bread?”  (And cereal, and other starchy foods.)  In other words, “Why am I addicted to carbohydrates, and what can I do about it?”

    I agree with you: kicking your addiction to 'carbs' (sugars) is only one part of a long journey towards better health.  But it's the biggest obstacle I see between most people and a healthy diet: they just can't give up their bread, crackers, and cereal.  Treating bread as a chemical addiction helps some people get through their transition to a fat-burning metabolism…once they've done that, the rest is much, much easier.

    And yes, WGA, lectins, and gliaden/glutenin have terrible long-term consequences…but I've found that when you start talking about them to someone who hasn't been exposed to anything but the food pyramid and Weight Watchers, their minds snap shut immediately because they think you're a nutcase.  “Wait.  You're saying wheat, the STAFF OF LIFE, is a slow poison?”  And the conversation is over.

    Anyone in the paleo community already knows all this stuff.  My intention with this series is to create something you can forward to your Aunt Blanche or Uncle Ted who's never heard of 'paleo', and who's been struggling with her weight for decades because she can't stick to the standard low-fat diet.  Once they understand why they've been yo-yo dieting for so long, then you can start introducing the deeper paleo concepts.



    That's an interesting take on it…here's mine.  Let me know what you think:

    There are no special nutrition terms for simple vs. complex proteins.  Until nutrition people start referring to 'peptides', 'prolamins', and other technical terms for the myriad dietary proteins and their breakdown products, I'm going to call all carbohydrates “sugar”, because that's what they are.


  • Paula

    “Yes, adding fat to flour lowers the glycemic index of whatever it is you’re eating. Here’s what else it does: It sends the calorie count through the roof. “

    Yes, it does if you eat the same mass of food. I could eat 2 cups of spaghetti, but there’s no way I’d eat anywhere near that volume of cooked meat.

    “The next time you’re in a pizza place, look at the people who are ordering veggie pizzas, and look at the people who are ordering supremos.”

    Two words: confounding factors. People who choose vegetarian tend to be more health-conscious than people who eat a lot of everything, especially if we are talking about people eating out in a fast-food restaurant. A supremo pizza slice still has about 36 grams of carb in the crust, so a low carber wouldn’t eat it unless they wanted an indulgence. At my workplace the women who eat Lean Cuisine, Weight Watchers, and other diet frozen entrees are all substantially overweight or obese.

    In my informal observation, low carbers who remain overweight include cheese and supposedly low carb versions of high carb foods like bread, tortillas, and cookies. Diabetics who test their blood sugars have reported that some foods labeled low carb caused their blood sugars to rise more than expected for the amount of net cards. Offhand, I cannot think of any paleo low carber who remains overweight after months of eating that way. There may be a black swan yet undiscovered.

  • Bodhi

    Just writing to say I enjoyed this article and your website. Keep up the good work.

  • js290

    How do calories affect hormones?

  • Check the links̷

    […] The lipid hypothesis has failed and the myth of complex carbs. […]

  • Paula: “Two words: confounding factors.”

    I don't like to even respond to anecdotal evidence, because it's irrefutable.  But I think your main argument is most important: no one in a pizza place is on a low-carb diet, so it's not a relevant data point.

    Bodhi: “Keep up the good work.”

    Thank you!

    js290 said: “How do calories affect hormones?”

    That question would require an entire book to answer it, and I'm not qualified to write that book.  But there is some fascinating data on how different dietary proteins affect serotonin, as well as some interesting data on macronutrients vs. anabolic hormones.  I may try to write an article about what I know someday.


    Thanks to all of you for contributing!  There's much more good stuff to come, and I'm on a regular update schedule now (Tuesdays), so please continue to share your thoughts.



  • Cornelius

    I will agree with some of the earlier posts here that there is a difference between low calorie and low carb diets.

    As I have done both, please allow me to recount some of my own experiences. First, many years ago, I believed in the low fat, low-cal diet. This was back in the days when Susan Powter was starting the insanity with her oversimplified take on “you are what you eat.” For those of you who don’t remember, her whole thing was basically “Don’t eat fat, don’t get fat.” It sounded plausible, back in those days, but from an actual scientific standpoint, it is complete and utter hogwash. Your body does not turn ingested fat into stored fat. Ever. Just can’t happen.

    Anyway, I ate low fat, and limited my caloric intake. And, yes, I lost weight, but, much of the weight I lost was muscle mass. I went from wearing an extra-large shirt to a medium, and not just because of my gut. There is no way now that my shoulders would fit into a medium, or even a large shirt, for that matter. And, there was no way that diet was sustainable. I was hungry all the time, I was quite noticeably weaker, and I was cold. Always. Sorry, ladies, but I felt like I had turned into a little girl. Not a bad thing if you really are a little girl, but a horrible thing if you are used to being a fairly big guy. 🙂

    So, of course, eventually I gave up, and gained the weight back. Along with the muscle, the strength, the lack of hunger, and the warmth. I was once again comfortable, even if my gut was a bit larger than I would have liked. And I said to myself “Screw it, this is where my body wants to be.” So I gave my medium shirts to a little guy I knew, and decided to be happy.

    Then, eventually, I did some reading, and I discovered the low-carb thing. And then I did some more reading, and learned how and why the body really makes fat. This was the key for me. I then started eating low carb, and discovered that calories and dietary fat were really not the issue. I ate as much as I wanted, lost the fat, but retained the muscle and the strength. And the warmth. And, of course, I never felt like I was starving, because if I was hungry, I ate. The low carb diet is not really a “diet” as in “I am on a diet.” It is a satisfying and sustainable way of life.

    I discovered I could pork out on fats and protein, and still lose weight. And, by the way, for those of you who say “Yeah, but…” I am much healthier than I was in the old days. No pills or prescriptions for this old man. I can’t actually remember the last time I even had a cold, much less anything more serious. The last time I was physically ill was about ten years ago, but that was from too much alcohol. 🙂

    These days, as I said, I am older, and I can’t eat as much as I used to, but if I could, I could, know what I mean? And I have kept the weight off. Easily. Don’t eat carbs, and you will not crave them. Feel hungry? Go grab a chicken leg out of the fridge. Heck, go grab half a chicken. Or a big, juicy steak. And a big glass of whole milk. Don’t worry if it is almost bedtime, even if you pork out on protein and fat and go right to bed, you will not gain weight. (What causes you to gain weight in such cases is the serum glucose you don’t burn. Protein and fat don’t cause an excess.)

    I know a lot of people out there really want to hang onto the idea that calories and dietary fat are the true culprits for overweight. Heck, I was one of them. I really didn’t want to be wrong in what I had believed for years, either. But I was, and now I am glad I learned this. If I had not, I would still be fat, and I would probably be experiencing a lot of other troubles that go with this, like joint pain. Forget the cardiovascular stuff; even if you never have that problem, just the sheer weight will wear out your other parts.

    Many people say “If you burn less calories than you consume, you get fat.” While this sounds logical, and can indeed be true, it is as big an oversimplification as Susan Powter’s schtick. It depends on where you get the calories. Most people will agree there are nutritious calories and empty calories. Think of it this way: what I am saying is just one tiny step beyond this concept.

    If you are not convinced, read the studies, and keep an open mind. JS provides links in many of his articles. Or, just try it. What do you have to lose, but the weight? If you are obese, you are already unhealthy. Give it a shot.

  • Mark

    Heres a GI bomb for ya:
    The potato is commonly identified as complex carbs however…

    White potato, backed without skin = scores a whopping 96!
    (according to the HQ of glycemic index: glycemicindex.com; The University of Sydney)

    Here’s another interesting slap in the face to the “sugar is bad” brigade:

    Fructose scores a surprisingly GI of 15 (ave); which implies that the amount consumed will not trigger an insulin spike and thus will not cause you to pack on fat unlike scoffing down on triple fudgy chocolate donuts with sugar on top.

    All other carbs are converted to glucose after digestion and then enter the blood stream – but fructose needs to go to the liver FIRST – hence it takes longer to get to the blood stream, hence the low GI score.

    The surprise here is that a very small amount of fructose is converted to glucose – the remainder is stored as fat.

    The reason why it goes to the liver is because fructose is 4x more efficient in replenishing liver glycogen stores compared to glucose. If the liver is low on glycogen, it replenishes itself and the rest finds a home on your ass/thighs/back/gut!

  • Mark:

    The GI of a potato depends on how it's cooked, with baking producing the highest GI…just like pasta, which goes up the longer you boil it. But who eats a dry baked potato? Generally it's filled with butter and sour cream, dropping its GI dramatically.  

    You're correct about the fructose pathway, which is different: eating lots of fructose is most certainly not a healthy substitute for glucose, and is probably far worse due to glycation as well as the issues you mentioned.  I have to simplify the issue somewhat to chop it down to article size: otherwise I'd just end up rewriting Good Calories, Bad Calories.

    Thanks for the helpful dialogue!


    I'm glad you shared your experience.  It helps people to know that there is light at the end of the tunnel.



  • Sean

    When we were visiting my folks in Albuquerque last summer I couldn’t actually find any tortillas made with lard at the huge local grocery store. 50 brands of tortillas, none made with lard. And they didn’t have any lard itself for sale, just the hydrogenated stuff. I suppose I could’ve gone down to the valley and have hunted some up (or gone to a butcher and rendered my own) but it was still surprising.

  • David H. Freedman

    Ultra-low-carb supporters love to cite the study you mention, and other mostly out-of-date, one-year-long-or-shorter studies. I do agree that if you want to have the best chance of losing the most weight possible over a period of several months, and don’t care about long-term results, the Atkins diet seems like a pretty good choice. I tried it, and lost a bunch of weight in just three weeks. Sadly, I, like the vast majority of people who try Atkins, fell off it and gained the weight back. In fact, in the study you cite, the weight-loss gap between the Atkins diet and the other diets was quickly closing in the latter months of the study. There haven’t been many long-term studies of the Atkins diet vs. other diets. One of the very few very-long-term studies done seems to suggest that meat-eating Atkinites have an alarming habit of dying early, as written up, for example, here:


    The next-longest-term study suggests that when we extend the time period to two years, Atkins loses all its advantages, with other diets fully catching up, as for example written up here:

    Since Atkins seems to start out strong and then peter out, one might infer that Atkins is actually weaker than other diets over the very long term. But as scientists like to point out (or should), further study is needed.

    What really interests me, though, about the way you folks cite these weak studies, is that you ignore the fact that even these studies that you yourselves cite clearly indicate that there are serious problems with the theory on which you base all your claims. Your basic claim is that if you eat carbs, you turn into a walking insulin-spurting, fat-accumulating machine of uncontrollable appetite, whereas if you cut out carbs, your body very neatly and comfortably turns your calories into energy and muscle, burning away fat. But when we look at this study that you cite and other studies, do we see people on higher-carb diets piling on flab, while the Atkins folks become all sleek and fit? Hardly. What we see, over the relatively short-term, is that the Atkins folks lose a modest amount of weight, and the non-Atkins, carb-eating folks lose a modest amount of weight, too, if somewhat less, and as time goes on the gap narrows. I know how you folks try to explain away this massive, sharp contradiction with what your theory predicts: You claim that people on other diets are actually reducing their carbs, too. Please. The fact is, the theory just doesn’t even come close to holding up in these studies, even if it offers a short-term advantage in rate of weight loss.

    But where Atkins really fails is in the real world. If you step outside the world of Atkinites and start randomly asking overweight people what their experiences have been with the Atkins diet, you pretty much always hear the same thing: Tried it, lost weight, fell off it, gained the weight back. Of course, if most of your information comes from sites like this one, you’ll hear nothing but good things about ultra-low-carb approaches, and will be oblivious to the serious shortcomings of the diet’s claims.

    Too bad it doesn’t work for most people. It’s a very seductive idea. And it seems to work long-term for some tiny minority of people–as do many other kinds of extreme diets backed by wonderful-sounding theories. I’m happy for everyone who achieves a healthy weight over the long term, however they do it. I really wish, though, that the Atkinites and other proponents of extreme diets weren’t distracting the public from what really works in weight loss for most people.

  • David:

    The AIM study you cite (original http://www.annals.org/content/153/5/289.abstract



    'Paleo' is the endpoint of about five years of dietary research for me, during which I purchased no diet books, 'paleo' or otherwise.  My research comes entirely from PubMed, Google Scholar, and other peer-reviewed papers.  So I believe your confident dismissals to be somewhat misplaced, and I would appreciate a modicum of professional courtesy when discussing the subject.


  • Angelo Coppola

    Excellent discussion here. On episode 7 of Latest in Paleo, I played the following clip by Dr. Marc Bessler. He is an obesity expert at New York Presbytarian hospital: http://bigthink.com/ideas/16494. For many people, fat is more satiating — especially vs. carbs — this is key.

    The tide is swinging on the low-fat fad diet, with nutritionists, doctors, and researchers finding that natural saturated fats are an important part of a good diet.

    One of the reasons I have been a fan of David Freedman’s work is that it shines a light on some of the reasons why the research on both sides can be, and often is: WRONG. Much of the research from Ansel Keys on forward has been dishonest, corporate- and agenda-driven, and dubious.

    That being the case, what’s left? How about the evolutionary clues? What did our ancestors eat? Heck, even our great grandmothers wouldn’t recognize half the packaged crap in a grocery store as food…

    “Whenever you find yourself on the side of the majority, it is time to pause and reflect.” – Mark Twain

  • TruthandJustice

    Of course you’re going to gain weight if you go back to eating a high sugar/starch diet. Duh. That’s not Atkins’ fault. addictions can be tough, but the key is to take is slow. It took me a year or so to get to the point where I only drank water and milk. I used to cringe at the thought of drinking plain water, but eventually I got over it and now I like drinking water.

    The reason people give up is they don’t want to put in the required effort, AKA they’re lazy. Fat loss is not magic, it takes time. It has taken me two years to go from 30% bodyfat, to 15% bodyfat. Along the way I made small changes. No soda, then no sugar, then no grains, then exercising. I fell of the wagon a few times, but I got back up and put in the effort and I got the results.

    In the past three months I’ve really been hitting the weights and putting on muscle. As a result the fat has really started dropping off. I lost 12 lbs in the past 5 weeks, while at the same time repeatedly setting personal records for all my lifts. I recently reached a 300lb bench press, and 400lb deadlift.

    I’ve had no problem sticking to my diet of steak (fatty cuts), fish, whole milk, eggs, and broccoli. Steak topped with butter and spices is way better than any donut, ice-cream, bread, or soda. It’s also not that expensive. My daily food costs are only ~$8, which is less than a single meal at a sit-down restaurant, and only a little bit more than a single meal from a fast food restaurant.

    I don’t know if my diet would be considered Atkins or not, but saying a diet is bad because people are unwilling to stick to it is horrible logic. As others have previously mentioned, the science proves that high-fat diets are much healthier than high-carb diets. If people are too lazy to change their diet, that’s their own fault, not nutrition’s fault.

  • Elenor

    You answered me (wow, thanks!)
    “That’s an interesting take on it…here’s mine. Let me know what you think:

    “There are no special nutrition terms for simple vs. complex proteins. Until nutrition people start referring to ‘peptides’, ‘prolamins’, and other technical terms for the myriad dietary proteins and their breakdown products, I’m going to call all carbohydrates “sugar”, because that’s what they are.”

    Legit point, however, I’m going for a different audience. I know I won’t make any inroads into “nutrition people.” I’m trying to save the health of regular folks (you know {sigh}, the ones I can’t get to read “Why We Get Fat and What to Do About It” by Gary Taubes; or “The Paleo Solution” by Robb Wolf, or “The Primal Blueprint” by Mark Sisson. OR any number of good blogs including yours!)

    I’m hoping by talking about veg carbs, sugar carbs, and fruit carbs, it will give them some idea what foods I’m talking about (what to avoid, what to prefer). I hope to give them a mental skeleton of sorts to hang the tiny bits of what I’ve told them (about what they might do to change their diets) that actually make it into their ill-fed brains!

    I enjoyed The Gnoll Credo!

  • Elenor:

    Nice to see you back!

    As far as trying to convince the brainwashed, I think the separation is probably “vegetable carbs” vs. everything else.  Veggies have very few carbs anyway, and they're not really significant relative to starch or sugar, which are the ones that get you.

    The other thing to keep in mind is that most people aren't willing to change their diet until they have major health problems.  Just like you can't fix an alcoholic who doesn't think he's got a drinking problem, you can't convince people who aren't open to being convinced.  It's sad to watch people get fat and sick while trying to do the right thing, but we can't fix everyone.  Keep being healthy and vibrant, and hope that your example inspires them to wonder how you do it.


  • Matt Evans

    Hi, having read this and several other articles referring to carbohydrate “addiction”, in each case I was wishing the author would attend to my question about French baguettes and the thin people all over Asia who eat vast amounts of rice. If carbs are addictive, why do so many carb eaters the world over remain so thin despite starting the carb-insulin cycle?

    The global distribution of carb consumption and the regional distribution of the obesity epidemic would suggest that the obesity spike is not due to carbs, or to their being addictive in any meaningful sense.

  • Matt:

    There are several reasons AFAIK.

    First, the problem with the carb-insulin cycle isn't that it magically makes you fat — it's that it makes you hungry.

    Recall that “poor” in America is “rich” by most of the world's standards, particularly that of the subsistence farmers who comprise most of the world's population.  In contrast, over 20 million people died of famine in China just during the “Great Leap Forward”.  If there is no food to eat, it doesn't matter how much the carb-insulin cycle has stimulated your appetite.  

    Another example: Japan after WWII, while not a famine area, was very short on food.  The average height of Japanese people has risen steadily since then.  If you're so short of food that your growth has been stunted, fatness is an unlikely outcome.

    Second, the French do many other things right with their diet — primarily eating rich, fatty, satiating foods.  A few slices of bread along with steak, pate, foie gras, and other delicious specialties (don't forget the glass of red wine) isn't the same as half a loaf of table bread and a vat of pasta at Olive Garden.

    Finally, gluten grains are uniquely addictive and fattening, due to gluten exorphins and the effects of lectins such as WGA on the endocrine and digestive system.  White rice is basically empty starch, but it's far less pernicious than bread…particularly whole wheat bread.  And the actual data from the China Study (not the fraudulent misrepresentation of it pushed by T. Colin Campbell) shows that meat is negatively correlated with heart disease — and the strongest positive correlation is wheat consumption. (Link here.)

    Can you fast for 24 hours without hunger disrupting your day?  (“Juice fasts” don't count…drinking calories means it's not a fast.  I'm talking “nothing but water passes your lips.”)  If not, your metabolism is still carb-dependent to some degree, and you could perhaps benefit from the metabolic flexibility made possible by a higher-fat diet.  I regularly fast 16 hours a day, and when I was recently traveling, I ate one meal a day for five days straight.

    I think the evidence is clear that the carb-insulin cycle is not the entire story when it comes to obesity.  However, it's an important piece of the puzzle, and the ability of carb consumption to alter metabolic set point is robust and well understood.


  • Matt Evans

    Hi JS,

    Thanks for responding to my question, I find this interesting.

    I note that in your response to my question about the French Paradox, you switched from saying that carbs are bad (by acknowledging that the French eat baguettes without apparent effect) to an argument that satiating fats are beneficial. This is substantially different from the argument in your series of articles about the harms of carbs. If the French can eat baguettes, which happen to be made from highly processed wheat flour with gluten, and not get addicted to it in any meaningful sense, then that’s a huge strike against the argument that carbs, or wheat or gluten, are addictive or problematic. It changes the argument from “Carbs Kill” to “Carb-Rich Baguettes, Potatoes and Crepes are Fine, but Eat Them Like the French.” (Same could be said about eating carbs like the Asians do.)

    Furthermore, it seems very unlikely that the French Paradox is due to their eating more fat than we do. Taking your example of Olive Garden as symptomatic of the American diet, I just looked at the OG site and see that their Spaghetti & Meatballs has 50 grams of fat, Lasagna has 47, and Fettuccine Alfredo 75! Those kind of numbers — at a pasta restaurant! — make me skeptical of the claim that the French eat lots of carbs without getting sucked into the carb vortex because they’re eating their carbs with more fat than we are.

    Finally, if the carb-insulin cycle causes hunger, and therefore leads to overeating and too many calories, we’d expect American vegetarians, who eat even more carbs than the US average, to be overeating, no? However, despite eating more carbs than the rest of us, US vegetarians are thinner, healthier, and living longer than we are! The longest-lived religious group in the US are the vegetarian Seventh Day Adventists. That the group with the greatest longevity eats above-average carbs seems to contradict claims that carbs are killing us.

    It appears to me that vegetarian longevity crushes the carbs-are-killing-us argument and, knowing the number, breadth and length of the studies proving vegetarian longevity, to me it seems conclusive, but I suspect the paleo/Atkins community has a response and I’d like to read it.

    BTW, I’m a proud omnivore and try to eat well according to the conventional wisdom: don’t overeat; limit fats, sugars and processed flour; eat nuts, fruits, veggies and whole grains; etc.).

  • Matt:

    To address your first point, no, I'm not saying that the French eat baguettes with no apparent ill effect.  They would probably be even healthier if they replaced the baguettes with a safe starch, or with animal products…and as you've pointed out, many of the healthiest modern cultures are based on rice, taro, sweet potato, or other safe starches.  But the French are still healthier than Americans despite eating far more saturated animal fats.

    Here's a list of dietary paradoxes to think about…none of which are paradoxes once you realize that saturated fat is delicious, healthy, and your body's best energy source.

    To continue: eating more of one thing at a sitting means that, to some extent, we're eating less of something else.  When one eats a high-animal-fat diet, that animal fat is replacing calories that would otherwise be consumed in some other form…such as bread.  So I'm not switching arguments at all: I'm simply addressing the issue from the other direction.

    (An aside: one of my “rules of thumb” is to eat meat and eggs first, and to only eat starch once I've satiated myself with fatty animal products.  I eat far less sugar/carbs this way, vs. the usual situation of getting into the basket of table bread before my entree arrives.)

    As far as Olive Garden “nutrients”, that spaghetti with meatballs has 50g of fat — and 103g of carbohydrate, for a total of 1110 calories.  It's also very low in protein, and protein targeting is another major contributor to obesity, which I explore in this article.  And let's not forget the carb calories from the table bread consumed beforehand…I admit it's been a long time since I've been to France, but I recall a high proportion of meat, veggies, and rich sauces on our plates, with starch being a small side dish at most.


    As far as American vegetarians, dietary surveys show that most “vegetarians” in the USA actually eat meat, a topic I explore in this article.  In Western culture, “vegetarian” usually means “I am trying to clean up my life and eat healthy foods”..so we're studying people who are still getting the nutritional benefits of meat consumption while also reaping the benefits of health-consciousness.  Disentangling these effects is nearly impossible.

    And if you're arguing that the lifestyle of Seventh-Day Adventists is comparable to the lifestyle of the average American to a degree that makes dietary comparisons meaningful, I'm not sure what to tell you.

    Fortunately, there is better data available.  Studies on vegetarians in the Fat East are more useful because the vegetarianism there is primarily cultural/religious in nature.  Indian vegetarians suffer heart disease at a far greater rate than Indian meat-eaters (reference, which blames it entirely on vitamin B12 deficiency…but there are many, many other issues).  And here's a dissection of a study on Taiwanese vegetarians vs. meat-eaters, with similar conclusions: the meat-eaters are better off.  This data negates any argument that vegetarianism is inherently healthy.

    Finally, keep in mind that the SAD (Standard American Diet) is not a high-fat diet, nor a model anyone should aspire to.  It's a high-carb, high-omega-6, high-fructose diet, and extremely unhealthy.  Just about any diet is better than the SAD, because the first part of every diet is “Stop eating sodas and junk food”.  So anyone who goes on any diet, no matter how ill-conceived, will generally feel better — at least at first — because they've cut out so many frank toxins.

    Here's how I eat, if you're interested.


  • Christine

    Thanks for your posts/blog…

    I’m a zero-carber, due to necessity – there’s no way I’m going to use drugs and/or insulin to take care of my diabetes if zero-carb can do it for me. Oh so I can’t eat cake?? too bad…. I ate too much of it before! :-)) (btw, technically it’s not zero-carb, as meat has some of it as glycogen, of course, but by that I mean “no added carbs” in the form of vegetables or starch or whatever).

    I know the FRench diet pretty well, and believe me, it’s changing too. Some people still hang on to butter and duck fat/lard to cook but the low-fat stuff has caught up there too!!! Supermarket shelves are filled with “light” products, no-fat, low-fat, and the “five-a-day” fruit & veggie ads are alive and well (after each ad for a chocolate bar or potato chips, you have the message of “five-a-day”, too…)

    People are getting bigger and fatter in France too, and though not quite catching up with the USA, they’re on their way.

    Doctors recommend low-cal, low-fat diets to take care of your heart disease or whatever else ails you, too! Statins are very widely used, as well as BP meds, etc.

    Maybe the one difference that has slowed down the French on their catching up with the US obesity rate is the consumption of soft drinks and the dreaded HFCS, though they might “get there” soon enough.

    BTW, Atkins works for some, not for ohers, because some people have a very low tolerance for carbs, and “going up the ladder” to 60 or 70 grammes of carbs a day is more than they can take without getting intense cravings. Then they fall off the wagon and get their weight back (and more) and so everyone can say “Atkins doesn’t work”. ONe problem with Atkins (or any other low-carb diet) is when you start wanting to have your old treats the low-carb way – it seldom works and makes you crave the real thing, most of the time… Unfortunately, good health comes at a price, and not everyone is ready to pay it (abandoning their favourite desserts, etc.)

    I started my own diabetes treatment with Atkins and realised even salad was giving me “highs”, so after a lot more research I progressively went zero carb and have not look back since. A year later, I have now pretty normal BS numbers; have not lost all the weight I should but I’d rather have extra kgs and normal BS than the opposite, and it will all come in time! I’m also healthier than I’ve been for the last 20 years at least!

    Zero-carb is what works for me, with my own circumstances, and it would make my life easier if I could eat paleo or Atkins, etc. Whatever works for you is fine :-), as long as the carbs are strictly limited, you are on your way to better health, there’s not doubt about it! And yes, some people can eat “whatever they want” and (seemingly) remain healthy, but it often starts to change once they reach 35 or 40 and the “machine” slowly stops working properly. I wouldn’t have ended up “that” big and with diabetes if I hadn’t followed the good doctor’s advice on low fat, high carbs. Now I’m taking things into my own hands, and gosh does it feel good! I’m not giving away my health to some Big PHarma sponsored blind follower anymore, thank you 🙂

  • How Did Breakfast Be

    […] we make them with skim milk and fat-free cream cheese, just to make sure they spike our blood sugar even more quickly and leave us hungrier than […]

  • Christine:

    Thanks for sharing your experience!  

    Frank diabetes (as opposed to pre-diabetes, e.g. insulin resistance) is a whole another set of issues, which I've avoided addressing so far because others are better acquainted with the literature and the issues than I am.  Although I admit to being mystified that the mainstream advice for dealing with a disease of long-term glucose poisoning is to eat lots of glucose.


  • Matt Evans


    Thanks for the response. I agree that eating more fat and protein would generally reduce our consumption of carbs, provided that carbs aren’t addictive. But you’re not merely arguing that protein and fat calories are better than carbs, you’re specifically arguing that carbs are addictive. But if carbs are addictive then we would expect the French to keep eating baguettes despite their fat and protein consumption, because carbs are addictive.

    I propose calling this the Baguette Paradox: the French eat lots of white bread baguettes but don’t experience the vicious cycle of carb addiction, predicted by carbs-are-addictive theorists such as your self, with its attendant hunger pangs and diminishing release of serotonin leading to overeating and weight gain.

    As for vegetarians, there have been hundreds (thousands?) of studies about vegetarians, and while I haven’t read all of them, I’m very skeptical of your assertion that none of them have actually monitored what the participants ate. (Seventh Day Adventists are studied because their vegetarianism is also religiously based, and the controls are typically their fellow religionists who eat meat yet follow the rest of the SDA health code.) The studies find that SDAs who avoid meat live longer than those who don’t, after controlling for other factors.

    But even if we accept the assertion that the US studies of vegetarians weren’t actually studying people who didn’t eat meat, only people who SAY they don’t meat, it’s instructive to consider that people who say they don’t eat meat live longer than those who don’t claim to avoid meat. The most likely difference between those who do and do not self-identify as vegetarian is their view of meat in the human diet, and those who self-identify as vegetarian presumably eat less meat, on average, than those who don’t, notwithstanding the counter-example you provided.

  • Dave RN

    “At my workplace the women who eat Lean Cuisine, Weight Watchers, and other diet frozen entrees are all substantially overweight or obese”.

    Same thing at my workplace. Sometimes I want to say “so how’s those lean whatevers you eat work’n for ya’?
    ‘Course they a say low fat on the box…

  • Matt:

    That's a silly straw man.  If all addictive substances were infinitely addictive, anyone who ever smoked one cigarette would chain-smoke continually until they died of malnutrition.  

    My explanation remains the same.  The fat-phobia pushed by mainstream nutrition, mainstream medicine, and the government has caused us to consume less saturated animal fats, which leads to lower satiety and increased appetite, as I've described in this very article.  To replace them, we've eaten more starches and simple sugars: these are statistical facts.  And these sugars are physically addictive, for reasons I already covered in “Mechanisms Of Sugar Addiction”.  Result: increased incidence of overweight and obesity.

    I note that the French are slowly succumbing to the anti-fat propaganda: their diet is becoming lower in fat and higher in carbohydrate, with the same consequences this dietary shift has had in the USA.

    If you want to discuss the specifics of individual studies on vegetarians, please feel free to point me to them.  Also, please check first to see if they've already been debunked by Chris Masterjohn, Stephan Guyenet, Denise Minger, or Peter @ Hyperlipid.

    Dave RN:

    Of course, part of the reason is that you're not going to buy that junk if you're not trying to lose weight.  But weight seems to remain remarkably stable on that sort of diet: 260 calories of steamed rice and lean chicken doesn't satiate anyone for very long, and the snacking begins. 

    It's a great business model, though: make “We give you less food for your money” into a selling point!


  • Matt Evans


    It’s not a straw man, you’re arguing two conflicting theories: 1) carbs are physically addictive and carb consumption rises because of the carb-insulin and carb-serotonin cycles, and 2) carb consumption rises when people reduce their fat intake because they have to make up the calories somewhere.

    If the first is true, then carb intake would increase regardless of the person’s ideas about the value of fat, due to the serotonin and/or insulin cycles. But now you’re suggesting that the reason the French are eating more carbs is due to their having succumbed to the anti-fat folks, and trying to eat less fat, and not because of the insulin/serotonin cycles. If carbs were addictive we would expect carb consumption to increase regardless of the culture’s view of dietary fat. It’s implausible that carbs are physically addictive depending on the culture’s ideas about fat.

  • Chris

    Ray Peat’s research validates all this…

  • Jemima

    Oh dear. What about all the grain-dependent economies that will go bankrupt if people actually start eating properly? Whoopsie. Now that’s the elephant in the room.

  • They will fail. Simple. Global starvation and the strongest (and most organised) will survive.

  • Duff Watkins

    sign me up

  • The breakfast myth |

    […] we make them with skim milk and fat-free cream cheese, just to make sure they spike our blood sugar even more quickly and leave us hungrier than […]

  • JulieGeorgiana

    I know this article is old now, but I found both the article and the comments very interesting.

    I agree that it normally takes an illness to make you realise that for years you have been brainwashed into thinking low fat = less weight.

    I was diagnosed with Insulin Resistance (Pre-Diabetes) in February this year (I was only 29!) and had struggled for two years to loose weight after major surgery (not linked to my weight). Since then I have found out about Low Gi. I started doing a low GI diet I have lost so much weight it’s unbelievable, I am now 115lbs lighter then January 2009.

    My fight with the fat started with my mum putting me on my first diet at 12! AND BOY WAS I HUNGRY, so I ate as much chocolate, crisps and bread as I could lay my hands on, and because it was in secret, I ate more!

    Anyway, I had a son 9 years ago, and after due to health problems I gained a lot of weight. Since then I have lost 4 babies, I found out in February this year that sky high insulin levels in my blood all day every day was causing blood clots in the placenta while it was attaching, and therefore causing my miscarriages at 5 weeks 3 days each time.

    Add to all that, I have Polycystic ovaries (linked to insulin resistance, which meant I ovulated every third month) and was classed as a high risk of Diabetes and Heart disease too!!

    After 8 weeks on low Gi I ovulated from my right Ovary for the first time in 8 years. Whether the Low Gi helped the Insulin Resistance, which in turn helped the Polycystic ovaries, or if the weight loss was the cause, or a mix of both. I don’t know. I do know that Low Gi gave me my hope back.

    The first ovulation from my right ovary made the baby I am carrying today, I am now 20 weeks pregnant and been classed as normal risk, my blood sugar levels (and therefore insulin levels are normal). For me this is a miracle!

    I cannot believe that for years we have been brainwashed into thinking low fat will help you loose weight, all those people out there suffering like I did with weight issues, pregnancy issues and the rest, it makes me so sad as it’s such a waste when the solution is actually very simple.

    Yet like others who have commented I have tried to explain to others why what they eat is killing them, how it is affecting their future and how extreme dieting is making it worse… yet they won’t give up their carbs or most important their chocolate!

    I haven’t eaten chocolate in 6 months; I don’t have a taste for it anymore!

    Your article is an eye opener, I couldn’t work out why some foods which look high Gi (tortilla) were low Gi, I knew I was eating more fat based foods but hadn’t realised that there was a link between fat and carbs, that was such an eye opener and excellent information!

    For those who keep saying high calories is bad, I agree that high fat AND high calories can still be bad for you, but I charted my calorie intake while on Low Gi, and I was also eating less Calories, without even trying, or getting hungry!

    Yes a burger Pattie is high calories, but one of those with cheese and salad would fill me up better than a helping of pasta with garlic bread… and shock horror, I wouldn’t need to snack between meals on chocolate, crisps and sweets! My average calorie intake on Low Gi was 1800kcals, yet I lost 3lbs a week. A low calorie diet of 1500kcals in the past has left me loosing 1lb a week, then stopping by week 3!!!! There is no contest!

  • Julie:

    I'm glad to hear you've improved your health so dramatically!  115 pounds is impressive, and it has to feel good to not carry around so much extra weight. 

    Also, many women seem to have addressed PCOS with lower-carb diets, so you're not alone.

    It seems so simple once you understand it: fat slows digestion, which means anything you eat with it is absorbed more slowly, which lowers the GI of any carbohydrates you eat with it.  And the longer it takes to digest your food, the longer it'll take before you're hungry again.

    Feel free to forward these articles around: I do my best to write them to be understandable to everyone. 

    Thank you for sharing your experiences!


  • PrimalNut

    The debate going on about calories vs. fat is ridiculous.

    Here is what matters: The nutrient content of the FAT vs. amount of calories must be in balance.
    Fat adds extra calories but it’s dense in fat soluble vitamins. If you eat tons of feedlot fat you’re going to end up with a calorie/nutrient imbalance and will gain weight.
    Make sure the fat you eat isn’t from a seed eating animal (bird), or feedlot meat, but instead from a pastured or wild red meat animal.

    I’ve been on a primal diet for the last 1.5 years and I’m drinking 2 gallons of RAW milk a week on top of chunks of kidney fat, butter, lard and fatty meat especially lots of pork. I also consume a TON of fruit during summer months (farmers market) and my calorie intake is probably around 2500-3500 a day. The raw milk alone is about 1000 calories a day alone.

    Because of the source of food I select (high nutrient) I have not gained an ounce of weight, despite the fact that I combine fruits and pure fat.
    And I’m not one that moves a lot, all I do is walk my dog. I also lost 20 lbs of weight while literally binging on fat, protein and fruit for over a year and have gained some really nice muscle tone.

    It takes calories to process nutrients. Balance is what counts.

  • You're absolutely right PrimalNut! Balance is the key – first, is understanding. Once you understand you can balance.

    I've eaten nothing but real food my whole life, but I had no idea whatsoever that the excess carbohydrate was making me fat! Now I understand that, I can balance my carbohydrate intake against protein and fat.

    Functional paleo understands this very well – Primal, also (I capitalised Primal in respect to Sissons' excellent work). So-called “pure” paleo does not. Functional paleo draws us to take a “paleo” appreciation of all the food we eat – we might find eating lentils is perfectly good so long as they are well prepared. While meat and veg exist, there's little need to look eslewhere, but variety is the spice of life … and I do enjoy a good plate of daal.

    I think you're on very much the same lines as me – you eat well, you do all the right things, but you're looking for the next step … which is enjoyment. You can have that by taking what you have learned, what you know and apply that to real life.

    Live life to the full … and that includes eating “off trail” every now and again.

  • PrimalNut, Paul:

    As I discuss at length in the satiety article, nutrients are the primary driver of satiety, so losing weight is much more about the nutrient/calorie ratio than about simply eating less calories.  In fact, as we decrease calorie intake, we must be careful to eat more and more nutrient-dense foods…just because you're losing fat doesn't mean you need any less vitamins or minerals.

    And yes, I'll have a small helping of daal every now and again.



  • Paleo Diet Food List

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  • Perfect Health Diet

    […] that adding a little fat to a starch is very effective in lowering its GI. In a post titled “Fat and Glycemic Index: The Myth of Complex Carbohydrates,” JS states […]

  • ~pjgh » Blog A

    […] Fat and the Glycemic Index: The Myth of Carbohydrates, J Stanton blows the doors wide open and shows us that cooking, and cooking with fat significantly […]

  • the low fat obsessio

    […] Here is some more interesting reading, with supporting research links challenging carbs, GI and fat entitled, Fat And Glycemic Index: The Myth Of “Complex Carbohydrates […]

  • Food Porn (Hot delic

    […] put it down. White potato is right, and if you're worried about the GL, have a nose at this: Fat And Glycemic Index: The Myth Of “Complex Carbohydrates” - GNOLLS.ORG … don't eat dairy? Well, this probably isn't for you. Anyway, if we're okay with dairy – butter […]

  • ^ That's me … pimping out J's article on MDA forums: http://www.marksdailyapple.com/forum/thread13279-41.html#post651401

    Jansson's Temptation – the perfect demonstration of fat and carbohydrate: http://livingintheiceage.pjgh.co.uk/2011/12/janssons-temptation.html

  • Molly Ryan-Fisher

    Just discovered your site – delighted! I follow the Perfect Health Diet. Grass fed butter and coconut oil are my friends. I also run (slow paced) mid to long distances. I am curious what you think about ingesting honey (glucose/fructose) while running long. Would it be beneficial to add coconut oil for my muscles uptake the sugar slowly? Or do I want it to be used quickly?

  • Molly:

    Sports nutrition isn't my strongpoint — but my experience is that everything takes energy to digest, so if I eat anything at all (which I usually don't) it's simple carbohydrates.  The reason some foods take longer to absorb is because it takes more energy to digest them.

    AFAIK the limiting factor in fat metabolism isn't freeing it from your tissues, it's the oxidation process…so I'm not sure eating fat (even MCTs) during exercise will give you any more energy.

    It's certainly worth experimenting with: like I said, sports nutrition isn't my strong point, and I could be wrong!



  • Joseph Gitchuway

    You, Sir, Have just hit the nail on the head for me. i am a type one Diabetic and being part African -American, got the big 3: Diabetes, High-Blood pressure and High Cholesterol. It has been literally HELL trying to find the right balance, especially since trying to eat low fat would send my blood sugar into the 300s. This requires more insulin and that equals weight. Ironically eating low fat also sent my cholesterol up as well by 50 points. Once i went back to my normal diet of whole milk and olive oils and margarine and all the bad stuff, i no longer craved the Diabetics arch nemesis, Carbs.

    YOU have validated me and this article is now going straight to my friends and Doctor….I sense a rumble at the office coming on.

    Thank you very much.

  • Joseph:

    You might also be interested in this article from Paul Jaminet on minimizing hyperglycemia.

    May I suggest substituting real butter for the margarine?  It tastes better and it's better for you, being full of good stuff like CLA and butyrate.  Margarine is just seed oil in drag.

    I'm glad I can help you in some small way.  T1D is a rough ride.  Stop by anytime.


  • Matthew Green

    One thing worth mentioning. What most people consider ‘low-carb’ should really be considered ‘normal carb’ in the grand scheme of human history. What people now consider ‘normal carb’ should be considered ‘high carb’, or more accurately ‘suicide’.

  • Well put, Matthew. I often call my lower carb eating “low enough” … low enough to trigger fat burning. Maybe a more positive word should be put to the phrase? Sensible carb? Adequate carb?

  • Matthew:

    Agreed, especially in the form and with the timing we eat them now (i.e. continual infusions throughout the day).


  • Chuckie B.

    Thanks once again, J. Truer words were never spoken. I had the great pleasure to attend a talk by Gary Taubes last year with co presenter Dr. Peter Attia who (being a doctor and having access to all of the cutting edge medical machinery) chronicled his journey from the S.A.D. to a diet where he increased his caloric intake from 3,050 to 4,360 calories a day and his fat intake from 44% of daily calories to 88% of daily calories (interestingly, when he went full ketogenic his protein requirement halved, from 250g/day to 120g/day) and his bodyfat percentage went from 20% to 7.5% while actually increasing his lean body mass slightly and all of his blood panels (VAP testing, of course) and his insulin resistance numbers improved to near perfect levels. I actually kinda wish I had permission to reprint his slides (he was kind enough to email them to me as I had to duck out of the last bit of his lecture to get to work), as, well, the numbers don’t lie. I do have one question for you, however: maybe I am reading things wrong but it seems that people are saying that carbohydrate intake is beneficial for stamina in endurance exercise, please tell me that I am reading that wrong, as I use the same metric as you, and think it highly unlikely that our forebearers would have survived had their ability to chase down and kill that wooly mammoth been dependent on their recent ingestion of berries or root vegetables.

  • Chuckie:

    Actually it's the other way around: carb intake helps refill muscle glycogen, which is beneficial for sprints and intense efforts over ~50% of VO2max. 

    Since fat contains perhaps 3500 calories per pound, we've got an essentially infinite amount of calories to burn: but the speed at which we can oxidize fat is limited by our ability to transport it into our mitochondria (the carnitine shuttle).  For efforts above that threshold, we need to start burning muscle glycogen, which usually becomes depleted in a ketogenic state.

    Note that obligate carnivores don't have this problem: the liver of a lion or hyena cranks out sufficient glucose via gluconeogenesis (conversion from protein) to refill muscle glycogen as well as run its brain, red blood cells, etc.  But humans have a much bigger brain that requires more glucose, and our livers aren't as good at gluconeogenesis, so it's difficult for us to refill muscle glycogen purely via protein intake.

    I'm sure that there is genetic variation in the human liver's capacity for gluconeogenesis, too.  Ketosis goes along with some degree of insulin resistance so that muscles don't suck up all the glucose from the liver and leave the brain starving, which is probably why many native populations are so ravaged by obesity/diabetes/metabolic syndrome when they first encounter grain-based diets: having been foragers until comparatively recently, they're better adapted to the ketotic state and more insulin resistant by default.  (Note that fasting also puts you in ketosis, so the adaptation is to not eating at all as well as eating an animal-based diet.)  This isn't the whole picture, but it's likely to be part of it.


  • Candy

    Thank you for an informative read! After a fasting glucose test revealed very high glucose and triglycerides, I immediately changed my diet. Proteins, carbs and FAT with every meal (5 smaller ones per day). Most carbs are from vegetable sources, some from whole milk dairy, a very few from whole grains. This, along with regular excercise consisting of cardio and weights…. I dropped 15 pounds, stabilized glucose levels and blood pressure dropped, too…. in about 2 1/2 weeks.
    I feel great! Still losing weight and have more energy than I’ve had in years.

  • Candy:

    I'm glad it's working for you!  If you find your progress stalling, there are many more steps you can take: see my classic article “Eat Like A Predator.”  Keep us posted, and stop by anytime.


  • Snapper

    Thanks so much for the article, it is very illuminating. Thanks also for the rebuttal of David Freedman’s counterpoints. As an academic and researcher, I know how much dedication it takes to develop clear and cogent rebuttals. It is so terribly important that these debates occur.

    I would add something that I don’t believe you said above, in response to David. Even he concedes that people lose weight on low-carb diets and it is falling off the diets that is the major problem. This is scarcely any way to argue that low-carb isn’t desirable!

    Yes, in the ‘real world’ it is important that people continue with the dietary plan. The trouble is that in the real world, people are bombarded with low-fat messages and for that reason alone they will start to doubt. I’d like to see proper studies of the *reasons* that people ‘fall off the diet. Is it because they craved carbs after a long period, or due to other forces? There are literally carbs everwhere: I struggle to find good sources of fat.

    Again, thanks so much for the article. I have long known of the evidence that fat retards the digestion of carbs, but it tends to get lost.

  • Snapper:

    All diets work if you can stick to them: compliance is the problem.  And AFAIK, contrary to the implications you mentioned, compliance is better with low-carb diets than with low-fat diets!  In the long run, it’s easier to give up donuts than steak.

    That being said, yes, grain-based carbs are pushed on us continually…because they’re cheap due to being heavily subsidized.  See this article for some facts and figures.

    I'm glad you find my articles useful!  Do stick around.


  • Raven K.

    I have been reading a few comments here and decided to go ahead and post. I was brought up in a home, where my parents tried their hand at getting me to eat veggies. Well, they of course are not the best tasting when you are a kid. I rebelled with their effort. As a kid though, I was not overweight at all. And then I hit puberty. I started putting on weight left and right. I had tried diets later in my early twenties and I tried a lot of them. I had finally become insulin resistant which is a growing epidemic. It almost seems as though, this is the way they are trying to depopulate the world in a slow and painful death. Because of the high sugar I had also developed PCOS. Which has a whole host of it’s own issues. I have dieted and exercised in the past where I was mowing lawns about 40-50 hours a week and then working out in a gym, three times a week. So in one year, you would think I would be picture perfect. But, that was not the case. By the end of one year eating to what I thought was perfectly healthy, primarily vegetarian, doing all of that exercise and I lost a total of 50 lbs!!! I was also miserable. Well, imagine my surprise that I could not keep that up any longer. So until recently when someone shared with me a book written by a dietician that had undergone some of the same issues even though she ate perfectly healthy and maintained a perfect weight for most of her life, she all of a sudden started to develop something they have now called Metabolism B. Which all makes sense. I have been on the diet now for a month and a half and have lost 18 pounds of pure fat. It has changed my life and my vitals. My pule has dropped from the 90+ range to sometimes in the 60’s. The sugar has dropped also. It is amazing, what it has done for me. And it seems the more nuts and food allowed on the diet I eat the more I lose. So it actually encourages you to eat more. I have not been doing much in the way of exercise here lately as I injured my foot. But, even still?? For me in the past when i set out to lose a pound I would gain three. I have a ton of lean muscle tissue (thank goodness. I do not look as heavy as I actually am.) But, I look at people now in a whole new way. I so badly want to tell them about what I have been doing. It would change their lives! But, I am not mean. I am not judging them I just want to help them. I realize they have to want to help themselves, but, all of the industry is not helping those people that do have what I have and it is only getting worse. the population is much higher than previously thought. I will continue to work on my diet. It looks like I have lost 30 + pounds because it is all fat tissue. I am getting a flat stomach. Like holy crap!! I feel great and love to share it with the world. Changed my life!!

  • Raven:

    It's discouraging to do everything we're supposed to — do cardio, eat more whole grains, eat less meat — and still be fat, miserable, or both.  I'm glad you've finally found success!

    The problem with preaching is that you can't force others to change.  They have to want to change themselves.  I think you'll find that as your health and appearance continue to improve, people will naturally become curious.  Don't shove it in their face, like so many vegans do — but don't be shy, either.


  • Jeff

    David H. Freedman : Your argument is instantly invalid when you’re comparing people eating veggie pizzas vs “supreme” pizzas. At no point in this article does the author say “calories are irrelevant”. Of course if you eat 4000 calories a day and you’re sitting around on your computer you’re going to get fat.

    ANYONE eating any sort of take-away pizza is going to get fat unless they’re very very active. A large pizza has about 2000 calories then with your coke on top you’re nearing 2300-2500. Have another nice fatty desert and you’re up to 3000. You can’t do that then say “Oh, this proves that fat makes you fat”.

    I eat lots of fat and I’m 8% body fat. A typical meal for me would be 2-3 scrambled eggs with some goat’s cheese and a cup of goat’s milk, some chicken+rice+cheese sauce+some cream cheese on the side, peanut butter on bread etc. If I sat eating huge pizzas covered in enough cheese to feed an army of mice while telling myself it’s ok because it’s fat then I’d be obese.

    This is one of the primary problems with people, they eat FAR TOO MUCH FOOD. People are eating as much food as full time athletes and they try all sorts, low carb, low fat and find nothing works because they’re stuffing their faces full of stuff all day.

    The issue here is that it’s easier to stay lean, happy, satiated and full of energy with more fat in your diet, but you still have to eat small portions in accordance with your physical activity. I personally only eat about 2000 calories a day if I’m not training. For most men 2500 calories is too much if they’re siting at their computer all day yet most eat 3000+.

    People just eat food as a comfort and out of boredom. That’s the primary issue. The low fat thing just makes that existing problem that much worse, but this is the reason why simply adjusting the composition of your diet isn’t that useful unless you stop eating like a horse.

  • Jeff

    @Matt Evans: This has to be one of the most hilarious statements I’ve read in a while:-

    “I propose calling this the Baguette Paradox: the French eat lots of white bread baguettes but don’t experience the vicious cycle of carb addiction”

    Can you not see the error in your statement? Try this:

    “Joe smokes loads of cigarettes, but he isn’t addicted to cigarettes. I call this the Joe-Paradox.”.

    Still not getting it? Oh well. 🙂

  • Jeff:

    I agree that comparing one form of pizza-scarfing to another doesn't mean anything.  Besides, the fat on the toppings is rounding error to the fat in the cheese.

    I disagree, however, that “people just eat food as a comfort and out of boredom”.  Obesity skyrocketed beginning around 1980…did people suddenly become bored and in need of comforting in 1980?  (See the graph here.)  It's a complex problem: if it were simple, we'd have already solved it by now!

    I like the Joe Paradox, though.


  • Adam

    This short and sweet YouTube video shows numerous authors that support a low caraway of life and those that promote a vegan, starch based diet. Watch and learn:

    Link to YouTube video

  • Adam:

    The scary thing about television, and any form of video, is that you can completely misrepresent reality via selective reporting and outright fraud — and since the video keeps moving at its own pace, it doesn't give you, the watcher, any time to rationally evaluate its claims.

    Technique: Show a few low-carbers who are clearly carrying some excess pounds

    False implications: All low-carbers are fat; paleo is the same thing as low-carb

    Omitted by the video: All the skinny ones (not pictured); Gary Taubes very explicitly distances himself from paleo dietary precepts, in Why We Get Fat; many of the pictured people were morbidly obese beforehand, and have lost 50, 100, or more pounds just to make it to “overweight”

    I've noticed over time that the more malnourishing the diet, the more its proponents must resort to making videos instead of writing articles.  Even The China Study, the “scientific” bible of veganism, has been conclusively refuted in all aspects by everyone from Chris Masterjohn to Ned Kock to Anthony Colpo to Denise Minger.  


  • Adam

    I guess I’m some sort of phenomenon then. JS, your points have holes in them. Sure, you don’t have to eat a low-fat diet to get skinny. And low fat diets dont cause people to get fat, either. When people lower the fat in their food or diets, they also alter the flavor. Thus, many low fat options are loaded with simple carbohydrates, such as sugar. There are 3 key points that you have totally ignored or missed, and after taking them into consideration COMPLETELY changes the playing field:

    1) Fat, while good at slowing digestion, also ensures that more fat will be stored up. There are 3 possible outcomes for carbs -one is liver glycogen storage, another is muscle glycogen storage, and lastly, if too much is consumed and without a blend of other macronutrients – fat storage can happen. WITH FAT however, only ONE outcome is possible – fat storage. Lets not forget the metabolic pathway of fat. With the exception of MCT’s, all dietary fats are stored in the fat cells. I’d love to talk about the shortcomings and consequences of this fact when it comes to training but I’ll just let you research what happens to the body when you starve it of its most preferential fuel source (carbs) and replace it with fat. The key is controlling nutrient partitioning.

    2) You neglect the need to eat complex carbs like sweet potatoes and oatmeal with a protein source and fiber as well. This is common knowledge in the bodybuilding community. Obviously that isn’t where you came from. A BALANCED MEAL LOWERS THE GI, all while giving your body FAR MORE MICRONUTRIENTS than “table sugar”. Geeze, there is so much more benefit in starches than straight sugars.

    3) Low-fat, high carb and high protein diets were not meant for the general public but rather for professional bodybuilders who still live by those guidelines today. If you aren’t training like a beast on a regular basis and performing cardio, then you ought not consider this diet. It is likely that you arent disciplined enough to eat a 10% daily valule in fats while keeping your carb choices limited to healthy, slow releasing options – not to mention being able to have a good portion of protein and fiber at every meal. This just isn’t practical for 95% of the population, I know this for certain. I’m a dedicated bodybuilder and its hard enough for me but IT WORKS, with the right discipline.

  • JayJay

    When I was in College learning about digestion I recall two pictures one of a simple carbohydrate and one of a complex. (this was a long time ago so the details are sketchy). The simple carb was a line of simple sugars joined up in a line with two points of digestion(breakdown?, the beginning and the end. The complex carb was multi chained diagram of simple sugars joined together with MANY points of digestion(breakdown?). I couldn’t see how the carb with two points of digestion could be broken down quicker the the one with many points. What I was taught didn’t make sense from the diagrams I was given. I concluded that complex meant the shape was more complex, nothing else.

    I hope it makes sense I am NOT a writer.

  • Ara

    Did you notice the vegan authors’ wrinkly faces and dark circles under their eyes? they look pretty unhealthy to me. Eating disorders maybe?

  • JayJay:

    I know what you mean, but I'm not sure.


    I didn't want to be mean and point that out — but yes, the proponents of extreme low-fat diets all seem to age very quickly.  And while the video calls them “lean”, I'd call many of them “practically cadaverous.”

    Note that they have to cherry-pick from three entirely different nutritional approaches in order to find three people who don't look awesome: the WAPF (Sally Fallon), paleo (Cordain), and anti-bread (William Davis).

    Meanwhile, they avoid showing pictures of Mark Sisson, Robb Wolf, Art Devany (who, well into his 70s, is still stronger and looks better than any of the vegans in the video), Dallas and Melissa Hartwig, or any of the other paleo spokespeople. Robb Wolf is the smallest of the group, and he killed an elk with a friggin' atlatl.

    Like I said above, videos are what you make when you've got an argument that won't stand up to logical scrutiny.


    1. … “WITH FAT however, only ONE outcome is possible – fat storage.”

    Apparently your understanding of metabolism and digestion is poor.

    First, fat is burned directly for energy, just like glucose.  (It's called “beta-oxidation”…look it up.)  In fact, since you're sitting at a computer right now reading this, you're burning about 90% fatty acids for energy if you're healthy and haven't eaten carbs in the past several hours.

    Second, fat tissue is not static: it's constantly releasing fat into circulation and taking it back up.  And unlike glucose, fat in the bloodstream is not immediately toxic to your tissues and organs, so the fat you eat will often hang around for a while until it's burned for energy…

    …unless you eat it with a bunch of carbohydrate, at which point the insulin release will indeed cause some of it to be stored as fat more quickly than your body can burn it.

    These half-baked veg*an myths are surprisingly pervasive!

    2. You're moving the goalposts.  I'm not arguing for the consumption of sugar: I'm pointing out that the advice to “eat complex carbohydrates” doesn't actually change how quickly you absorb them.

    3. ” If you aren't training like a beast on a regular basis and performing cardio, then you ought not consider this diet.”

    I hope it's clear that this article isn't aimed at bodybuilders who are training like beasts!  If you're trying to drop under 10% bodyfat, yes, you'll need to do some extreme things with your macronutrient composition (either keto, extreme low fat, or CKD), not to mention your training.


  • […] Eating This Common Grain Cause Psychiatric Problems? Depression: A Deal with the Devil? Fat And Glycemic Index: The Myth Of “Complex Carbohydrates” Gluten: What You Don’t Know Might Kill You Grain Fungal Diseases & Mycotoxin Reference […]

  • Kevin

    The biggest reason people on low fat/low calorie diets go off of their diet and gain the weight back is because they are starving and their bodies know that they ultimately need some calories.

    I believe the biggest reason people on low carb/high fat diets is not because they are starving or even because they crave carbs. It’s because these days it’s next to impossible to shop for and prepare wholesome high fat/low carb meals. People become addicted to easy to make frozen, microwavable meals, most of which seem to be pasta. On top of that, when you go to restaurant, or to friends homes, they don’t serve high fat/low carb meals.

    The low carb/high fat diet works, and it works great. It would be very easy to stay on the diet if it was easier to get and prepare the proper foods. It was easy back when there was nothing else available, and both spouses did not work (allowing more time to shop and prepare).

    For those that don’t believe it, they really just need to try it and see how much better they feel in almost no time. It is an effort, but unlike the low calorie diets, you feel great all the time!

  • Christie

    I am confused. I like what you say. It sounds good. I live in NZ and like many Australasians I am fat, and I need help but there is soooo much information,I’m getting confused and I feel overwhelmed-its as if as soon as I hear one new helpful thing I forget some other helpful thing. My question is this: will reducing wheat in my diet reduce the amount of fat on my body (particularly around my belly) and/or give me more energy and a better grip on my moods? Also, what is the best flour out there for me to made bread with if I am not going to use wheat? I’m sorry if you have answered these questions already-I think wheat is making my thinking foggy and my concentration poor so I may have missed it!

    Keep going on your crusade-you have got my attention!

  • Kevin:

    Availability of compliant food is definitely an important stumbling block for both LC and Paleo.  The US government subsidizes grains and soy so heavily, which makes them so artificially cheap, that it's difficult to find food made without them!



    For the bigger dietary picture, read this guide: Eat Like A Predator. 

    One thing you'll have to accept if you want to make permanent positive changes to your diet and life is that you won't be eating the same food.  There is no gluten-free bread that tastes just like wheat bread — and most of the substitutes are only marginally better for you anyway.  You'll be eating less starch in general, and the starch you do eat will come from root vegetables (e.g. potatoes), and perhaps rice, instead of bread, crackers, cookies, pastries, etc.

    I wish you the best on your journey!  Feel free to ask questions once you've read and digested ELAP (pardon the pun).


  • Jay

    A good, clear read. Thank you.

    At only 20 years old, I’ve recently turned to scientific research to learn that dietary fat does not make people fat, does not cause heart disease, and does not play any role in the numerous problems that the general public assume it to cause.
    I had thought that the rising rates of diabetes was due to carbohydrate consumption. This has made me realise that it is not only carbohydrate consumption, but just as importantly, fat reduction.

    I’m currently unable to leave my house (I basically leave my bed only for meals) due to a severe chronic illness. Because I’m sedentary, most would think that I would pile on weight (and I have in the past). But recently, I changed my diet to eat as much fat (and protein) as I desire, and no grains (or potatoes), so now I’m able to maintain a very healthy weight. Note that the condition I have does not cause weight loss!
    I’m very excited to go on to study dietetics once I have recovered! But I’m sure this will be challenging with the current beliefs of the education systems…

  • Winston

    I have a quick question, which revolves around the militancy of sticking to paleolithic diet. How much is necessary to backslide? I find, personally, that I feel healthiest after a full day of climbing and hiking, or 10-15 miles of biking and a 10k run. Then following all of this with beer and pizza. The next day I will feel slim, light, and ready for more. If I don’t eat any simple carbs (like pasta, pizza, and beer) then I usually feel exhausted and heavy. Now the heaviness could be from being tired, but I also know that over-training and starving yourself can lead to actual weight (or just fat) gain. So am I starving my body for the few hours that it takes for my body to absorb the fats and proteins I eat afterwards? Am I still just partially “addicted” to these things and the feelings will go away after months of adherence to a paleolithic diet?

    On a broader note, you say that tortillas are great because of the lard contained within, slowing digestion and lowering GI. Does this mean that eating pasta or bread, as long as it is covered with a liberal amount of oil or butter, cheese, and meat and vegetables, that it will be okay? Is this why pizza is not so bad? because of the fat content from the meat and cheese? And if you don’t cut out high GI foods completely, how much does this affect the paleo diet? I live in Italy right now, and finding alternatives to pasta (which has mixed messages between high and mid GI) and pizza (a prime target on this page) are difficult (though not impossible) and expensive to find.


  • Jay:

    I'm sorry to hear about your illness, but I'm glad that VLC has helped you.  Persevere with your nutrition training…we need people within the system as well as outside it.



    I'll take your second question first.

    I strongly recommend staying gluten-free: the tortilla was merely an illustrative example.  (AFAIK Italy is relatively accepting of gluten-free eating, to the point of providing gluten-free foods to those diagnosed celiac.)  However, it's best to avoid processed foods, and you should be able to find vegetable and potato-based side dishes (e.g. gnocchi).  But yes, it will take an effort to maintain a healthy diet in a world saturated with cereal grain products, particularly wheat.  It's best to realize that you'll simply have to eat different foods now…

    …and eating bacon, eggs, and buttered prime rib without guilt makes up for a lot of missed pizzas!

    Now to your first question: as an active person, you'll need to consume more carbohydrates than a sedentary office worker.  The difference being, of course, that the easy sources like beer and pizza are out…and it takes a whole lot of potatoes and veggies to make up for that!  White rice often helps…it's technically a cheat, but a reasonably harmless one (it's basically just starch).  See my article on the “Low Carb Flu” for more information on the state you may be stuck in.


  • JC

    MODERATION in everything is the key… Untill you clean your liver of fat and toxins anything you eat will turn into fat…
    Worry about cleaning your liver more that what you eat…

  • JC:

    I hope you’re not recommending the “liver flush”, which is quackery.  You’re not excreting gallstones…you’re excreting little balls of soap made from the partially-digested oil you just drank.  (Note that the little balls that come out after a “liver flush” float: gallstones don’t float.)  More info here.

    A science digression: the gallbladder is where the bile created by the liver is stored, concentrated, and released into the small intestine, in order to emulsify fats so they can be digested and absorbed.  (It also helps neutralize the pH of the chyme coming from the stomach, which is strongly acidic due to the low pH of stomach acid.) 

    Thus, a “liver flush” does cause your gallbladder to empty…but so does eating any meal containing a respectable amount of fat.  Result: you can achieve the same effect by eating like a predator, whereupon you’ll be “flushing” your gallbladder at nearly every meal…

    …though without the dubious joys of pooping out soap.


  • Me

    I interpreted JC as referring to NAFLD (Non-Alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease): “Untill you clean your liver of fat and toxins “

    People with a fatty liver will continue to have problems until that issue is addressed.

  • Me:

    It's the reference to “…and toxins” that caused me to think “liver flush”. 

    Besides, you can't “clean” your liver of fat: you can only slow the accumulation of fat, whereby your liver can finally begin burning it for energy more quickly than it builds up.

    Fortunately, the way to address fatty liver is the same way to address other metabolic problems: eat like a predator


  • […] of carbohydrates and the opiate effects of sugar by dumping large amounts into empty stomachs. But fat has this nice property–it slows down the absorption of sugar. Eat your sweets after a nice big meal of good fat, protein and fiber and choose sweets that are […]

  • Lulu

    I have fatty liver and I am not fat. So having fatty liver is not a reason for been fat, I do recognize I was fat once, and thanks to atkins diet I lost 40 pounds, I don,t follow low carb diet anymore but I haven,t gained back the weight either. But I still have fatty liver, not inflamed thanks god. I don,t think you can clean the fat of the liver, so I agree with what J. Stanton saids, you can control the amount of fat in the liver, but you cannot reverse the liver of having fat. You just need to try to avoid the liver to become inflamed, liver with only fat and no inflamation is harmless, but if the liver does get inflamed problems will come.


  • Lulu:

    The best interpretation of the data we have is that saturated fat helps reverse fatty liver, while polyunsaturated fat causes it.  So whatever dietary plan you're following, it's best to make sure the fats in it are as saturated as possible!

    AFAIK excess fructose is also strongly implicated, as is a surplus of high-glycemic carbohydrates in general.


  • Ed

    I read a few lines and can THROW OUT THE REST. This is bogus and I don’t even need any scientific proof. I deal with low blood sugar from having a superfast metabolism. My doctor calls certain carbs “complex”. I use a blood glucose meter and can see the results myself. This site claims that “fat” makes the difference and therefore complex carbs are a myth. Well that a load of nonsense. Protein is also slow to digest even if it’s fat free.
    Potatoes makes my sugar go sky high and then I’mm starving in a short time. Pasta is MUCH better.

    I will challenge you and any QUACK that disagrees, and I never lose.

  • Ed:

    “This is bogus and I don't even need any scientific proof.”

    Apparently my peer-reviewed science is no match for your strong opinions!

    Meanwhile, you might find the difference in post-prandial BG levels between, for instance, a plain baked potato and one loaded with butter and sour cream, to be instructive.


  • […] Part III: The Myth of “Complex Carbohydrates” […]

  • […] Sources: The Paleo Diet, Robb Wolf, The Ugly Truth About Peanut Butter, The Myth of Complex Carbohydrates […]

  • Skgr

    I almost always feel full after eating whole-wheat bread/grains. Why don’t I feel full after eating rolls/pancakes/waffles with plenty of butter on top?

  • Skgr:

    Glycemic index is only one driver of “fullness”, which is only one part of what’s known in the scientific literature as “satiation”. This presentation, and this series of articles, explore the subjects in detail.

    Meanwhile, I find it difficult to believe that adding butter to a whole wheat pancake makes it less filling…so you’ll forgive me for assuming you might not be making apples-to-apples (or, in this case, pancakes-to-pancakes) comparisons. And since all grain products are strongly protein-deficient, you won’t achieve satiety no matter how many of them you eat…


  • Skgr

    J. Stanton said


    Glycemic index is only one driver of “fullness”, which is only one part of what’s known in the scientific literature as “satiation”. This presentation, and this series of articles, explore the subjects in detail.

    Meanwhile, I find it difficult to believe that adding butter to a whole wheat pancake makes it less filling…so you’ll forgive me for assuming you might not be making apples-to-apples (or, in this case, pancakes-to-pancakes) comparisons. And since all grain products are strongly protein-deficient, you won’t achieve satiety no matter how many of them you eat…


    I have no idea, that’s why I was asking you. Whenever I eat grains with butter, it makes me want to eat more, sometimes even whetting my appetite when I wasn’t hungry before. Also, doesn’t fiber play a role in satiety? (Sorry, if that is mentioned in the article, I read it a few weeks ago, so forgive me for not remembering :P)

  • Rayca

    I think you’re right. I grew up (my mom taught me) on LOW fat. Those were the only diet books out there. Everyone laughed at Atkins back then. Too radical. We didn’t eat lots of carbs because they were BAD too. This was ingrained (ooops. pun) in my head for years. I’ve read articles like yours for years and have been so brainwashed I’ve just never gotten it. My head has been hitting a wall lately and what you say makes so much sense. It’s FAT (as opposed to protein) that will keep you better aligned with BG levels. I’m still so used to low fat that I still find excuses not to eat it. BTW, my mom is full-blown Type II and I’m “pre” Type II. I don’t believe in “pre.” You either have it or you don’t. Eat more fat, peeps.

  • Rayca

    You’re also right about prior generations and how low fat brought on the diabetes/weight gain mess we’re in. Even if you don’t want to eat low fat, you almost have to. Back in the day, (there were no supermarkets) you asked your butcher to trim the meat for you. If not, you got tons of fat on that meat. It is FDA standard to trim meat to 1/4″ fat. Period. I can’t remember the last time I saw marbling in the flesh I’ve bought. There used to be tons of marbling in meat. Now it’s so clean, it looks more like liver than muscle. Mr. Kellogg also introduced breakfast cereals in the early 1900s. Ironically, he was a health foodie and ran a health food store. I am vowing to eat more meat. This just makes sense.

  • Toine

    I started a Low carb/low GI way of life on may 1st. My weight was 122 kilograms then (269 pounds). Four months later my weight is 100 kilograms (220,5 pounds). My bloodpressure- and diabetesmedication were reduced by 50% and I feel energetic, healthy and on top of the world. Not one moment did I feel hungry or faint and I don’t skip parties or diners because I’m ‘on a diet’. I still want to loose about 20 kilograms and I am very confident that this wil happen in the coming months or year. And, oh yeah, in the past 25 years I tried at least 25 forms of diets that were based on low calories!

  • Ana

    J. what about the claims we hear often about fat and sugar being a bad meal combination because of the fat coating the sugar and disabling the insulin to attach to it, causing insulin resistance? Also, the claims that fat coats the cell walls and disabling the sugar to enter those cells, sugar being the actual food they need?
    Ori Hofmekler says that the best thing to do is to have carb fuel days and fat fuel days, but not the two nutrients combined together in the same meal. But on the other hand, we hear often that fat lowers the glycemic index of let’s say potatoes…
    Are there any at-least-nearly conclusive studies and research on this?

  • Everyone:

    I’ve fallen behind in responding to comments due to my AHS 2014 presentation (and other issues). Pardon me while I do my best to catch up!


    Insoluble fiber tends to play more of a role in satiation, because it will (all other things being equal) increase stomach distention. However, no matter how “full” you feel, you’ll still become hungry later if you haven’t ingested any nutrients. (See this article, and my AHS 2012 presentation, for the difference between satiation and satiety.) Otherwise all anyone would need to lose weight is a giant jar of Metamucil!

    My guess as to why you eat more grains when you put butter on them? They taste a lot better — but, lacking complete nutrition (primarily protein), there’s little to shut off consumption. For example, one of my little “diet hacks” is to always start my meal with meat, fish, or other complete protein, and eat until I’m satiated. Then, I move onto the veggies. Only then do I go for the carbohydrates…

    …because if I start off with potato chips or the bread basket I can eat basically an infinite amount — whereas if I’ve already satiated myself with meat and veggies, I only want a few.


    The problem with “low-fat” is that we have to eat something. If it’s not fat, then our only other choices are protein and carbs. Our bodies can only use so much protein (as demonstrated by the fact that one can only choke down so many boneless/skinless chicken breasts), so that leaves…carbohydrate. Apparently everyone was so scared of fat that no one asked “What are the possible metabolic consequences of a diet high in carbohydrates — especially amongst those with a known disease (diabetes) of carbohydrate metabolism?”

    Did you read Part II of this series? There’s much more to the story of breakfast cereal…

    Anyway, please do keep in mind that the point isn’t just “eat more meat”. It’s ‘substitute meat, eggs, and fish for bread, cereal, and other nutritionally poor carbohydrate calories — and don’t worry about the fat content of the meat.” My general dietary advice can be found here.

    I hope you find what so many already have: the result is decreased hunger, better blood glucose control, and better health in general!


    Congratulations on your success! I’m glad to hear it.

    The next 20 kilos will be much more difficult than the first 20 kilos, they’ll take a lot longer to lose (likely involving plateaus as you go), and you may never make it to a “six-pack”. Don’t be discouraged! You’re already much healthier than before, and once you’re under about 200#, further loss will be more a matter of self-image than good health.


    “What about the claims we hear often about fat and sugar being a bad meal combination because of the fat coating the sugar and disabling the insulin to attach to it, causing insulin resistance?”

    The fat doesn’t “coat” the sugar. What happens is: each of your cells can only use so much energy at one time, and after any reasonably-sized meal, you ingest far more energy than you can burn off over the course of digestion.

    Insulin resistance isn’t magical: it’s how your cells say “Please don’t give me any more energy right now, I have plenty.”
    Insulin resistance isn’t a bad thing: it’s only bad when you’re inappropriately insulin-resistant, i.e. your blood sugar is high but your cells still refuse to respond to insulin.

    Thus, fat causes insulin resistance for the same reason glucose causes insulin resistance. (Though by a different mechanism.) If your cell has plenty of energy already, it won’t want to absorb any more — and that’s true whether the extra energy comes from fat or carbohydrate.

    The “problem” comes when you’re trying to force yourself down under your body’s natural weight — whether that’s a bodybuilder cutting to 4-5% for a show or a formerly-obese person trying to lose that last 30#. In that case, it’s instructive to remember that there’s no such thing as “fat insulin” and “carb insulin”: there’s only insulin, and anything that your muscles and organs can’t absorb will be shuffled into fat cells.

    Thus, if you’re trying to lose that last increment of weight, it can be helpful to keep your individual meals either low-fat (because while glucose is converted to fat, this conversion is less efficient than simply storing dietary fat) or low-carb (because fat produces negligible insulin compared to carbohydrate). However, this isn’t necessary for good health: it’s more of a hack for already healthy people to get themselves down past “healthy weight loss” and into “vanity weight loss.” (I won’t discourage any male from pursuing a six-pack…but no one needs it to be healthy.)

    Meanwhile, for someone struggling to control blood sugar, high-carb, low-fat meals will obviously cause all sorts of problems!

    “the claims that fat coats the cell walls and disabling the sugar to enter those cells, sugar being the actual food they need?”

    Hogwash. Look up “beta-oxidation.”

    There’s more than one sugar cult on the Internet…without naming names, suffice it to say that they’re well off in the weeds no matter how “sciency” they sound. Don’t feel bad: it took me years of research to understand that some of the more abstruse ones were, in fact, wrong — and why.


  • Bob Landry

    I enjoyed your article. There is a lot of good information to take home. We live in an open society where all the information one could want is available and that’s a good thing. The trouble with that, and it is not really a trouble at all for freedom’s sake, is personal responsibility. People want justification for bad life styles and the inevitable they search out affirmation to provide support. They’re not looking for answers they are looking for stamps of approval and the biggest purveyors of those stamps are the government nannies that feed people with packs of lies. Like the CDC head saying that if we close the border to West African nations that are infected with Ebola it would make the epidemic worse. Sorry to get political but government has no business telling anyone how to tie their shoes let alone food pyramids. Thanks to people like you and others I firmly believe that if people really want to know about good and bad food and and combinations thereof, they will find it. I cheat infrequently like any reward for good behavior (you have to be kind to yourself) but 95 % of the time the only wheat I eat are whole Wheat berries. i haven’t eaten bread or baglels in a couple of years with or without oil or butter and I don’t miss it at all. Then what’s the cheat food (once a week) you ask? Pizza…is there another kind?

  • Bob:

    If you search the Internet long enough you can find any number of justifications for what you’ve already decided to do. Thank you for the support!


  • oh mo

    I think you’re all full of that stuff that comes from eating calories, carbs, fibers, proteins and other products of the earth, whether flora, fauna, or “other”. If you consume a lot of moon beams and star dust you probably

    Seriously. Eat sensibly, (eat less, eat better) and move more. humans have two legs and one mouth for a reason, and it isn’t to get to the dinner table or donut counter faster.

  • Buford

    Post Awaiting Approval by Forum Administrator

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