WASHINGTON, D.C. – A new group called the Low-Carb Action Network (LCAN), a coalition of doctors, academics, and average Americans with personal success stories using low-carb diets, has launched to urge U.S. nutrition leaders to include a true low-carb diet as part of the 2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans (DGA).
LCAN members point to a large and rapidly growing body of strong scientific research showing carbohydrate restriction to be a safe and effective strategy to prevent and even reverse chronic, diet-related conditions such as pre-diabetes/type 2 diabetes, overweight/obesity, and high blood pressure along with a broad array of other cardiovascular risk factors.
The American Diabetes Association (ADA) recently endorsed low-carb/keto diets as a standard of care for the prevention and management of type 2 diabetes, stating that the diet lowers blood pressure, controls blood sugar, lowers triglycerides (fatty acids in the blood), raises the “good” cholesterol (HDL-C), and reduces the need for medication use.
However, the DGA does not include a low-carb diet. For the 2015 DGA, USDA-HHS ignored some 70 clinical trials demonstrating the effectiveness of low-carb diets. LCAN does not want important scientific evidence to again be ignored.
LCAN members are also concerned that USDA, in its current scientific reviews, is using an inaccurate definition of the diet that is not up-to-date with current science and will lead to misleading, untrustworthy results. Specifically, USDA is defining “low-carb” as 45 percent of total calories or less, when leaders in the field agree this number should be 25 percent.
Dr. Eric Westman, Associate Professor of Medicine at Duke University emphasized that the current dietary guidelines do not apply to most Americans and that a variety of dietary options should be presented to the American people, including a low-carbohydrate diet.
“One size does not fit all. If there is anything we’ve learned over the last four years, it’s that the low-carb approach should be a viable option,” stated Westman.
Dr. Mark Cucuzzella, Professor of Family Medicine at West Virginia University said a majority of the patients he treats daily have obesity and “metabolic syndrome,” a combination of conditions driven by hyperinsulinemia that increase the risk of heart disease, stroke and diabetes.
“If the government has any responsibility to give advice on nutrition it should be focused on those who have a medical condition which is impacted by nutrition and provide evidence-based nutrition solutions, one being a low-carb diet. This diet is highly effective to prevent and treat diet-related illnesses and has decades of evidence to support it.
Dr. Nadir Ali, Chairman, Department of Cardiology, Clear Lake Regional Medical Center, and Research Professor, Dept. of Nutrition and Applied Science, University of Houston, has significant experience in the science and practice of low-carb diets.
“As a cardiologist, I regularly prescribe a low-carb diet to treat patients with type 2 diabetes and other heart-related diseases to better their health and improve their quality of life,” said Ali. “Given the significant amount of scientific research and evidence supporting this diet, it’s time for U.S. nutrition policy leaders to prescribe a low-carb option for those who are tipping into obesity, diabetes, high blood pressure and more.”
A study conducted last year by the University of North Carolina at Chapel concluded that only 12 percent of American adults are metabolically healthy, while 88 percent are en route to developing type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease or another chronic, diet-related condition.
Dr. Jeffry Gerber, M.D., FAAFP, board certified family physician and owner of South Suburban Family Medicine in Denver, CO, said it is unconscionable for nutrition leaders not to include a low-carb diet in the dietary guidelines.
“It is unacceptable for our nation’s nutrition leaders to exclude nearly nine out of ten adults from the guidelines, when low-carb diets provide a viable and proven solution for effectively combatting obesity and diabetes, among other conditions,” said Gerber. “Every day people across the globe are improving their health by following low-carb diets. Their stories are emotional and real – from fighting obesity and heart disease to beating depression and even cancer.”
Dr. Charles Cavo, Co-Founder and Chief Medical Officer of Pounds Transformation in West Hartford, CT, stated that USDA and HHS officials have defined “low-carb” inaccurately for their scientific reviews. They’ve defined the diet as having a carbohydrate intake of <45 percent or less of overall daily calories, while leading experts in the field define a low-carb diet as <25 percent or less.
“If USDA and HHS continue to wrongfully define low-carb diets, they will skew the results of their analyses,” said Cavo.
‘Defining “low-carb” as 45% of calories will wash out any positive results, which are largely achieved only when people significantly reduce carbohydrates, down to 25% of calories or less. It’s not clear why USDA chose their definition of low-carb, since the agency provided no documentation or footnotes. But it’s clearly not consistent with leading research in the field or what we see working for weight loss and disease reversal in clinical practice.”
Antonio C. Martinez II was one of the principal lobbyists who advocated for the Dietary and Supplement Health and Education Act of 1994 (DSHEA). Martinez, who has also used a low-carb approach to reverse his own type 2 diabetes, lose weight, and recover from heart disease, added specifics to Cavo’s point.
“This proposed definition clearly does not reflect the standards set by research leaders in the field and practitioners with actual clinical and technical experience,” said Martinez. “The lack of a formal regulatory standard for “low-carb” allows for this kind of abuse. It needs to stop because the public is not stupid, and the committee’s credibility is in question with such bad science.”
Dr. Georgia Ede, a Massachusetts-based psychiatrist and founder of diagnosisdiet.com, echoed Martinez and Cavo’s concerns that USDA-HHS have used incorrect definitions of a low-carb diet, which will lead to an inaccurate assessment of a real nutrition option that could make millions of Americans healthier.
“As a physician who prescribes low-carbohydrate diets in my psychiatric practice every day, who has personally followed a low-carbohydrate diet for many years, and has paid close attention to the scientific literature on this topic, I am concerned that the percentage of carbohydrates the government is using for its definition of ‘low-carb’ is far too high to be metabolically meaningful, and should be reconsidered,” stated Ede.
Doug Reynolds, the founder of Low Carb USA, a group that hosts scientific conferences on the subject and has worked with a team of doctors to publish “Clinical Guidelines for ‘The Prescription of Carbohydrate Restriction as a Therapeutic Intervention”, says the low-carb diet is a proven solution to help Americans improve their health.
“It’s time for nutrition leaders to embrace a low carb diet as a viable option. More than 70 clinical trials have been conducted, and the results are clear: Low-carb diets are effective in combating obesity and improving cardiovascular risk factors,” said Reynolds. “The success stories I have personally witnessed are truly incredible, and I never would have believed them if I did not see them myself.”
LCAN plans to launch a grassroots campaign in the coming months to urge leaders at USDA and HHS to ensure that a properly defined low-carb diet is included in the DGA to provide a dietary option for the majority of Americans who suffer from diet-related, chronic diseases. The next meeting of the Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee will be held next month in Houston.
For more information on the Low-Carb Action Network (LCAN), please visit lowcarbaction.org.