Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Jimmy Moore Did What?

Some may remember my first week back in the saddle of low-carb - I ate about 20g net (deducting only fiber) carbohydrate a day, didn't count calories, and even though it came with the peril of the dreaded "one golden shot," I lost ten pounds in one week. Week two I continued along, adding just a few more carbohydrates each day and lost another five pounds.

In those two weeks, I lost more weight than I did when I originally started the Atkins Diet back in 2001 and was considerably heavier with much more weight to lose.

What I didn't reveal in my weight loss chronicle was the changes I made to the diet rules. After seeing how the change potentially impacted weight loss potential, I invited a select few to try my tweaks to see if I was an anomaly or if there was something to the change I made.

Enter Jimmy Moore. He stepped up quickly to give it a try. He also graciously agreed not to publically reveal the modifications in his diet until he tried them and we could see if they made a difference. He also agreed not to alter his exercise pattern - and I confirmed that his exercise routine was indeed the same as always with only one minor change - he did his routine seven days instead of six. As you'll see, that one additional day is not enough to have made the difference in weight loss that Jimmy experienced.

Last week was his first week where he made the adjustments, and his results speak volumes - he lost 6.5-pounds in the week after already following the "rules" normally adhered to for the Atkins diet. Basically, he'd already established ketosis and experienced the expected loss of water weight before making the minor tweaks in his menus. After reviewing his menus, his weight loss also didn't conform to the "calorie theory" of weight loss. To lose 6.5-pounds, Jimmy would need to be in a calorie deficit of 3250-calories a day less than his active metabolic rate. His menu confirms he was consuming an average of 2300-2400-calories each day, a calorie deficit of, at most, 750-calories a day less than his active metabolic rate. According to the calorie theory, Jimmy should have lost just 1.5-pounds last week with his calorie deficit - instead he lost 6.5-pounds.

My own menus confirm I've been consuming between 1800-2200-calories a day. With an estimated active metabolic rate of 2800-calories per day, my weight loss also does not conform to the calorie theory. Over the last month, based on a calorie deficit of, at most, 1000-calories each day, my weight loss should be 8.5-pounds for the month...if I was consistently eating just 1800-calories a day. Instead, I've lost 17-pounds - twice as much as predicted by the calorie theory and my calorie intake has fluctuated between 1800 and 2200 calories a day.

So, what did I do differently and share with Jimmy to experiment with? Since I have no grand plans to write a diet book, I'll share with you the changes to make that just may be one of the keys to enhancing the effect of a low-carb diet.

First, you radically implement a limitation/elimination of two things - vegetable oils and sources of high omega-6 fatty acids (conventionally produced beef and dairy products).

Second, you also specifically increase omega-3 fatty acids from foods rich with omega-3 fatty acids (eggs, pastured meats, dairy from pastured animals, fatty fish, some nuts/seeds) and specifically include fish oils.

Third, you include supplements specifically shown to enhance fatty acid and glucose metabolism - Acetyl L-Carnitine and GFT Chromium Picolinate - and use the already recommended multi-vitamin without iron as a safety net along with other supplements you feel you want to include (while, of course being aware of potentially exceeding upper tolerable limits).

Fourth, your fat/oil sources are limited to nut/seed/fruit oils that are cold-pressed - like walnut, avocado, sesame, extra-virgin olive, etc. - and natural sources like butter, coconut oil and tallow.

Lastly, you stick with the basic rules with the above modifications - include non-starchy vegetables, low GI/GL fruits, nuts, seeds, meats, poultry, fish, game as you would normally (depending on what level of carbohydrate you're consuming) and let your metabolism do the rest as you eat to satiety and go about your normal routine.

Besides Jimmy and me, there are a few others behind the scenes who are making the same changes in their diet - they wish to remain anonymous. What I can tell you is that these folks are seeing similar results. Their calorie deficits are not explaining the ease of their weight loss.I cannot fully explain why these minor changes make a major difference.

I started with the changes myself as an experiment based on conversations I had with Dr. Barry Sears in January that I wrote about in this article Deadly Inflammation from Diet.

As I noted, [i]f Dr. Sears is correct, the solution lies in understanding what is triggering the inflammation and resolving that issue, not masking it with medications that alleviate symptoms of the problem without actually resolving the underlying problem. If the above research starts to open the door to our understanding, the main assault upon our body today is our diet - too many glucose producing sugars/carbohydrates that increase insulin coupled with too many omega-6 fatty acids, leading to an unbalanced state in the body.

So, with that insight, I looked at the foods listed as "allowed" along the way, and decided to eliminate or strictly limit those highest in omega-6 fatty acids while remaining cognizant of the fact that omega-6 is still an essential fatty acid for health. What happened with that modification, based on my menus, is that my ratio of omega-3:omega-6 has fallen to about 1:4; Jimmy's appears to be hovering in the neighborhood of 1:6. Both of our ratios are less than they were previously, and significantly less than the average American, whose diet runs as high as 1:20.

So the question you may be thinking is - what to eliminate, what to include if you'd like to give this a try?

Both Jimmy and I included an Atkins ready-to-drink shake each day. I planned this inclusion for the 2-teaspoons of soybean oil it contains along with a rich nutrient profile. So, a whey-based protein shake with 9g or less total fat with soybean oil as the fat ingredient used is one item to consider.

Liquid vegetable oils are eliminated from your cooking and salad dressing making recipes. Replace with oils based on fruits/seeds/nuts like olive oil, avocado oil, macadamia nut oil, sunflower seed oil, sesame seed oil, walnut oil, etc. And don't be afraid of natural fats like butter, coconut oil or meat drippings - these are often very stable for cooking with less damage to their structural integrity in the cooking process.

With this in mind, you also need to be aware of other potentially high sources of vegetable oil - commercial salad dressing and mayonnaise. While sometimes difficult to eliminate completely, you can keep your eye on your intake and limit how much you consume. One quick way to reduce how much vegetable oil you eat from salad dressing is to take a salad dressing like ranch - if you normally use 4-tablespoons on a big salad, reduce that to 2-tablespoons mixed with 2-tablespoons of walnut oil. You'll maintain the flavor of the ranch dressing and reduce the amount of soybean oil you're eating at the same time.

In the US, our animal feeding practices have an effect on fatty acid profiles of the animal foods that are allowed in a low-carb diet. Grain-fed cattle is known to have a higher omega-6 content than grass-fed cattle, so meats need to be carefully selected - sources include organic meats that are grass-fed and imported meats from countries that do not feedlot their animals, like New Zealand and Australia.

Since grain feeding also affects the quality of the fatty acid profile in milk and milk products, it's prudent to choose dairy products from organic and grass-fed animals also. In addition, where possible, raw cheeses retain enzymes lost in pasteurization, and therefore when available, include if you can.Lastly, eggs are an important and allowed source of protein.

The best nutrient profiles are found in organic eggs from pastured chickens, not just "cage-free" but specifically free range, where omega-3 is found in significantly higher levels than conventional eggs.

Now while making all of the above modifications is difficult and, let's be honest, expensive - making enough changes seems to make a difference.

Jimmy, for example, changed his diet to include grass-fed beef and organic eggs and limited his vegetable oil intake....he didn't really change his dairy products and by mid-week found it difficult to abstain from his favorite soybean-oil based ranch dressing. Yet, by making the changes he did and including flaxseed oil and fish oil, it was enough of a change to modify his omega-3:omega-6 ratio and lose 6.5-pounds.

Are making changes in the omega-3:omega-6 ratios the key to enhancing the potential of a low-carb diet?

I can't make any guarantees, but it certainly seems to be an effective modification you may want to try. I'd love to hear back from those who do make the changes to see if it made a difference in their weight loss or not!

With the 30-in-30 Challenge in progress, and so many participating, this may be a great time to experiment as a group to see what happens. While it may not conform to the ideal of a scientific approach for a group, it just might work!

Who's going to join us to expand the results from a handful of individuals to a group of people all striving for the same goal - weight loss and improved health?


  1. Anonymous4:15 PM

    I stumbled on the blog and wanted to thank you for all the helpful info.

    Jack Hartmann


  2. Anonymous4:28 PM

    Regina -

    Hi! I love your blog. I've been low carbing since May 2005 and am humbled about how much there is to learn about nutrition.

    I'm going to speculate about the problem with the calorie theory and the tweaking of the fat ratios.

    I think part of the issue is in the way calories are measured. In order to get a calorie content, all foods are burned in a lab flame using the same procedures. (a good thing!) The few calorie formulas I've seen assume that all foods are metabolized completely in the body the same way, and makes allowances for overall body "efficiency" by gender and age.

    The first law of theromdyanmics does apply to humans, that energy cannot be created or destroyed. However, any transformation of energy always results in energy lost as heat or disordered energy. This directly idea directly relates to the fuel efficiency of your car or furnance, for instance.

    The body metabolises fat using a different pathways than carbohydrates. In The Paleo Diet for Athletes, where Dr. Cordian makes a case for the idea that fat is a far less efficient fuel than carboydrates.

    If that is true, it might not be surprising that tweaking the types of fat might encourage further reduction in efficiency of fat as fuel for the body. Fat high in Omega-3 might have lower "effective" calories than Omega-6.

    Yet another possiblity is that the body prefers using Omega-3 for some type of hormone or other body activity that does not involve energy. The calories would then be totally unavailable for energy.

    Anyway, food for thought...keep up the great work and thanks!

  3. Hi Regina
    Fascinating results you seem to be having with the "tweaks". I must admit I am confused after reading the blog post. You mention including the Atkins shakes because they have soybean oil, but also mention replacing some of the ranch dressing with walnut oil because the ranch dressing has soybean oil. So what am I missing? Do I need more soybean oil or less?

  4. Anonymous6:22 PM

    The only caution I'd advise for Jimmy is the association between prostate cancer and flaxseed oil. No one knows whether it generates new cancer cells or accelerates growth of existing ones.

    He could always replace flaxseed oil with 2 tsp fresh ground flaxseed per day in various dishes and still retain most of the benefits. Uncooked flaxseed contains a small amount of cyanide, hence the 2 tsp limitation above. If cooked however, the cyanide threat disappears.

    The Flax Council of Canada at www.flaxcouncil.ca has more details about the safety of flax.

  5. Well, you have now discovered the fallacy in just using calories to measure how much food we need to eat. That is because the food we eat is not used ONLY for energy, which is what the unit calorie is used to measure. Rather the food we eat has three destinations (for lack of a better term) in our bodies. Energy is obviously one. But our food is also used to replace the hair, nails, skin, and lining of the gut as well as to produce the saliva and other secretions of the body. And our food is used in the making of all the proteins, etc. that are used as chemical signals in the body. Finally (sort of a pun) the food that does not get absorbed passes out the other end of the tube that it entered. That feces have unused "calories" is easy if you remember your history and how buffalo chips (droppings/feces) were used by the pioneers as fuel for campfires.

    As an engineer, I prefer to think of the human body as a "black box" where the sum of the inputs must equal the sum of the outputs plus any "changes" to the "stored" amount. This is true whether you are talking energy or matter. BUT to be accurate you MUST account for ALL the inputs, outputs and storage. Food is the primary input but oxygen is also an input. As I have already said the loss of protein in skin, hair, etc. is an output that has to be included to be correct. Storage is not only the build up of fat, but also would include increased muscle mass. And you should include in the stored amount things like skin (as well as other things that have cycles) until it is shed as it often is shed cyclically.

    So the "unexplained" (if I may call it that) added weight loss not accounted for by the difference between the calories in the food you have eaten and the calories you have used up in energy, is the "energy" value of the food not used for energy. That food energy had to be made up from some place. The stored fat you have then is the source and using it has caused the "added" weight loss.

    This issue has been the topic of postings on forums such as lowcarber and eatprotein (Eades old site) over the last several years that I have been reading those forums. So it is a topic I have run into before. Thus I have had time to come to an understanding of it which I hope I have adequately conveyed to you and your readers.

  6. Anonymous9:43 PM

    I have been at a plateau in my weight loss for almosty a year. Last week I dropped off the plateau for a day and then right back up on it, despite eating by all the typical low carb rules. Regina, I am willing to try this to see if it finally drops me off of the plateau for good. I'm tired of losing the same three pounds over and over. I'll start day after tomorrow. If you want to contact me, leave amessage at my blog or Jimmy should have my email address.

  7. Anonymous4:53 AM

    Regina, I was under the impression that Barry Sears was against saturated fat, or has he changed his mind on this. Also isn't he the one who throws away egg yolks and only eats the white.
    Just wondering?
    Kwintet from Bernstein's forum

  8. Anyway, food for thought...keep up the great work and thanks!

    Fascinating...and thank you!

  9. Fascinating results you seem to be having with the "tweaks". I must admit I am confused after reading the blog post. You mention including the Atkins shakes because they have soybean oil, but also mention replacing some of the ranch dressing with walnut oil because the ranch dressing has soybean oil. So what am I missing? Do I need more soybean oil or less?

    Less vegetable oils overall - canola, soybean, cottonseed, corn, etc.

    I use the RTD shakes so I know how much omega-6 I am getting and the shake packs in some decent nutrients with it and the additional protein I need in one easy package for me.

  10. Regina, I was under the impression that Barry Sears was against saturated fat, or has he changed his mind on this. Also isn't he the one who throws away egg yolks and only eats the white.
    Just wondering?

    It's been a while since I read his books...in our conversations in January the saturated fat issue didn't come up since we were talking about inflammation, O-3:0:6 and AA in the diet - not really macronutrient ratios or types of fats stuff - just how inflammation sets a train wreck in motion in your body.

  11. Anonymous5:54 PM

    Wow, this article makes sense to me! I recently read The Omnivore's Dilemma by Michael Pollan and was horrified to read of the treatment and feed given the beef cattle in the lots. I had been wondering about how the corn-fed meat acted in our bodies and I would have to think it acts more like a carb - or perhaps not like a carb but definitely a problem with all the Omega 6. It certainly doesn't react as meat is supposed to.

    Pollan reports that DNA samples of Americans now show that we are made predominantly of corn - a frightening result. Our diet has changed the very make up of our cells. Contrast that to the farm he visits - the cattle there thrive on pasture and are rich in nutrients we need.

    Bev C

  12. Regina I just wanted to say great post :)

    I really enjoyed it and I will try your experiment once I finish breastfeeding. I am already avoiding bad fats and proccessed foods but eating more carbs then I would if I was trying to lose weight.

  13. Anonymous12:12 PM

    Dear Regina,
    You are a genius. I am at maintenance. Although I count fat, protein, carbs, and calories, I never know how my body will react. Since I am going on a cruise and want to pre-lose some weight, I tried some of your interventions. With just the dropping of mayo, and an increase in Omega 3's, I dropped 2 1/2 pounds in 3 days. It's unbelievable.

  14. Anonymous7:29 PM

    Could you post your menus and nutrient breakdown? I'm curious how you got to such a low 4:1 omega6/omega3 ratio.

  15. I've posted my menus from the first two weeks....each day included fish oil (although I sometimes forgot to include in the menu)....all eggs were organic, all dairy organic, VAT pasturized, non-homogenized....all cheese was raw cheese.....all beef and other meats pastured (grass-fed)....all produce local and organic.

  16. Anonymous10:26 PM

    Where did you get the nutritional analysis for pastured meats?

  17. Anonymous6:28 PM

    Hmm, it looks like you approved my comment, but I don't see an answer. Where did you get a nutritional analysis for pastured meats? I'd like to use that info to figure out my own omega consumption.

  18. Anonymous4:11 PM

    "First, you radically implement a limitation/elimination of two things - vegetable oils and sources of high omega-6 fatty acids (conventionally produced beef and dairy products)."

    This makes no sense. Beef fat has like 2.3% PUFAs. Dairy fat has 4%. Chicken fat has 23% PUFAs, so the skinless chicken has MORE omega-6 than 73/27 ground beef! It's not true that conventional dairy and beef are causes of excess omega-6 and even Sally Fallon says this. The real cause is all the rancid vegetable oil, soybean oil, nuts, seeds, and other junk.

    I elimianted all nuts and seeds in my diet except coconut oil (1-2% PUFAs), macadamia oil (2%), and hazelnut (9-10% PUFA). Those are relatively low in PUFAs. I think sesame oil and soybean oil should be totally avoided, along with the other high-PUFA oils like walnut, canola, etc. Primitive people did not eat a high-PUFA diet and they didn't eat high-PUFA oils. Walnut oil has about 67% PUFAs. Which is going to overload people more with omega-6 fats, Walnut oil with 67% PUFAs or grain-fed beef with 2%? I pointed this out on Mark Sisson's blog and nobody responded.

    Demonizing grain-fed meat is wrong and nobody hsa ever proven that it is a deficient, or unhealthy food. On the other hand, nuts and seeds, and the oils derived from them are not healthy for anybody.