By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
By Anna Merlan
By Lee Escobedo
We get fat, says Little Rock's Eades, because of the way our body is genetically programmed to react to eating anything other than what it was originally designed to eat. Eades says the body reacts to high carbohydrate foods such as pasta and potatoes by over-producing glucose, which in turn causes an overproduction of insulin, a hormone responsible for many metabolic functions including fat storage.
But you don't have to be a complete Neanderthal to reap benefits from a hunter-gather-inspired diet, says Eades, whose patients lose weight and achieve other benefits just by restricting milk, cheese, and grains. "People wouldn't stay on the diet if I cut everything out," he says.
Eades stresses that the enemy in the weight-loss battle isn't small amounts of dairy and grains, but the low-fat diets themselves, which push people into filling up on carbohydrates. Although fat intake in this country has declined by 10 percent, Eades says, obesity has shot up 33 percent. "The low-fat diet has been a failure," he comments. The more dieters fill up on pasta, rice and baked potatoes, the higher their blood insulin levels go. The higher your blood insulin levels, he says, the more likely your body will turn food, even low-fat food, into fat.
Other immune system diseases can also be abated, some doctors now believe, with a meat-intensive diet low in carbohydrates and rich in leafy vegetables and fresh fruit.
In June, Dr. Artemis Simopoulos co-chaired a panel on insulin resistance and chronic disease at the National Institutes of Health. Among the issues discussed: obesity, hypertension, insulin-dependent diabetes and how diet plays a role in creating the insulin resistance that may cause the disorders. "We now think that in many cases insulin resistance precedes obesity," she told the Observer. "We also think it may precede other immune system diseases as well."
"The whole idea that insulin causes obesity and other disorders has been kicked around for a while," says Eades, but while most doctors and researchers focused their attention on low-fat diets, Eades began researching the connection between insulin and obesity eight years ago.
"We've been treating people from an insulin perspective longer than anybody," he says. It took 1015 years for the studies to show low-fat diets weren't working, he says. "They are obviously not working--researchers need to change their hypothesis. Some people look at [a high-protein, low-carbohydrate diet] like a fad because they can't bring themselves to believe the low-fat way is not the way," he says.
Eades says he tests every patient who comes to his clinic for insulin levels. After eight years of testing, he estimates that 5070 percent of patients tested are insulin resistant. At least 25 percent of the general population is thought to be insulin resistant, he says.
Doctors used to think the root cause of many medical problems, such as high blood pressure and diabetes, was obesity. Now, many researchers believe it may be the other way around: in many cases "insulin resistance," the overproduction of insulin after eating sugar and starches, causes obesity and other diseases, he says.
"For years doctors have been chipping off the tip," he says, treating diabetes, high blood pressure and cholesterol with medications, instead of treating the insulin problem at the base.
Two million years ago, the body overproduced insulin during plentiful times in order to stimulate the liver to convert glucose into fat that could be stored for lean times, says Eades. Trouble is, modern humans have more than enough to eat.
"The same thing that caused our ancestors to survive is killing us now," says Eades.
Most people on low-fat diets are low on protein, he says. Protein is usually the first thing to go in a diet. Too, they usually consume low-fat foods such as pasta, rice, and baked potatoes. "They're eating low fat, but their insulin levels are shooting through the roof," he says. "That's why low-fat diets have been so unsuccessful in bringing weight down." Eades encourages eating more protein and says the high meat content of diets like Audette's is okay. "Don't worry about the fat as long as you restrict the carbohydrates."
Perhaps the most controversial aspect of these Paleolithic diets is one that completely counters conventional medical wisdom regarding cholesterol. Some researchers say cholesterol, too, can be helped by eating more, not less meat, even meats previously considered too fatty to be healthful.
Eades says sometimes a patient's cholesterol level goes up a few points on the diet, but the ratio of good cholesterol--the one that counts, says Eades--always goes up. "I've never had anyone with a ratio that got worse," he says. The reason, he says, is that only 20 percent of cholesterol comes from diet. The rest the body makes. "When you try to restrict it, if you cut it back, then the body ends up making more."
Based on his own clinical research, Eades believes "if you can reduce insulin, you can reduce cholesterol in a matter of weeks."
Putting patients on a diet high in red meat and eggs made Eades very nervous at first, and he initially put only low-risk young people on it. "When I first started to put patients on the diet I thought I was going to get burned at the stake," he says. The results of such a diet were so conclusive as to be hard to ignore. "I'll put anyone on it now," he says. "It has never failed."