If you want to lose weight you will need to reduce your daily calorie intake, and it probably does not matter whether this is achieved by eating less fat or less carbohydrate, just so long as you maintain some intake of fat because it is essential to some degree.
A large part of our brain is fat, and the proper function of our nervous system depends on fat. Fats are also required for production of hormones and utilisation of fat-soluble vitamins.
Another consideration is, which of these two types of food are you likely to be consuming in excess? Unless you are an Eskimo or eating nothing but greasy hamburgers, it is likely that it’s your carbohydrate consumption that is excessive.
This is because so much of the food we eat today is carbohydrate based, and so much carbohydrate is hidden in our foods. Unless you take the trouble to read food labels you may not be aware that products like sauces, cereals, canned beans, and ready-to-eat, pre-packaged meals contain quite large amounts of refined carbohydrates. These are the type of carbohydrate that is so readily absorbed and contribute so much to weight gain.
However, the lowering of fats was the first main type of diet that emerged in the West after the Second World War. As people returned to a normal life and became better off and better fed, it was noticed that there was an increasing obesity, plus also increasing incidence of heart disease. It was natural to assume that eating too much fat was the cause of people getting fat.
This view has gradually been replaced by the opinion that reducing saturated fat intake is good for health, and may also contribute towards weight loss where it results in a reduction of total calories consumed, but that fat is not the main problem.
Dr Atkins was one of those who challenged the popular views of the time as he saw evidence of people on a relatively high fat but low carbohydrate diet being able to lose weight. This diet was widely publicised and initially popular until critics maintained that it was unhealthy and could cause muscle loss.
This criticism was however flawed, based on a misunderstanding of metabolism, but, unfortunately, a lot of public enthusiasm for the Atkins diet was squashed by the criticism. Even now there is continuing debate over the Atkins diet and whether or not it is unhealthy.
Mainstream science says that the human body is quite capable of using fat as an energy source instead of carbohydrate without suffering any ill effects. When it does so it merely uses a different metabolic pathway.
This metabolism of fat causes a raised level of ketones in the blood which are excreted from the body in the breath and urine as acetone. There is no evidence that this type of metabolism leads to muscle loss.
An Atkins type diet is therefore quite acceptable but really most people don’t need to go as far as cutting back so drastically on carbohydrates as Atkins suggests.
It is relatively easy to reduce many people’s daily calorie consumption by simply getting them to reduce the amounts of sugar and other refined carbohydrates in their diet.
If you follow this kind of thinking you are going to cut out unnecessary carbohydrates first, and then substitute complex carbohydrates where possible, for the rest. You don’t need for instance to eat doughnuts, cakes, cookies, bags of crisps, confectionery, or have sugar in tea and coffee at all.
You should cut these out completely, or almost completely from your diet, allowing yourself only the occasional treat. You don’t have go cold turkey, but just gradually cut then out over a couple of weeks.
Then, when ever you buy bread, pasta or rice, you should buy the wholemeal kind. You buy brown bread and brown rice instead of white. The effect of these simple diet changes, which amount to a reduction of unnecessary and unhealthy carbohydrate, can be enough, as long as you take some exercise as well, to enable you to gradually lose weight in a simple but healthy way.