Five low-carb myths debunked

Are you ready for the destruction of a few choice low-carb myths? A week ago I participated in a discussion, invited by a very popular Brazilian health site. Here’s the video – the English part starts at 2:28, after an introduction in Portuguese.

Some of the myths we discuss are:

  • Myth: Carbohydrates are an essential part of a healthy diet.
  • Myth: Fats are fattening and cause heart problems.
  • Myth: Cholesterol in food is bad for your heart.
  • Myth: To lose weight you need to count calories.
  • Myth: Exercise is effective for weight loss.

Did you ever believe in any of these myths? I did.

Earlier posts on myth-busting


  1. Lilje_DK
    Hi Doctor,
    Thanks for all your interesting posts about LCHF. I have been eating LCHF since april and now lost almost 11kg. It's great but since I am very overweight I still have 20-25 kg's to lose.

    I have pcos so the big problem for me is my abdominal fat (stomach fat). I have a big belly :( Even though I have lost these 11kg I have only lost few centimeters around my stomach.

    What can I do to lose more fat around my stomach? I can see I have lost more around arms, thighs, back etc. But my belly is not really trying to go away.
    Do I have to eat less/more of anything particular? Or do you have any other ideas?
    Thanks a lot.
    Kind regards,

    Replies: #11, #12, #16
  2. Tomas
    I've never believed that you have to COUNT calories, but I'm still not convinced that you can ignore them (I mean ignoring energy of the food).
  3. Kindke
    imo exercise *IS* effective for fat loss, especially anaerobic exercise. If your diet is shit then exercise wont help too much but it can certainly aid weight loss on lowcarb.

    The reason exercise works though is not because it *burns* calories, but because it improves nutrient partitioning towards muscle.

    Reply: #6
  4. Mickey
    I lost 80 lbs (though I have gained 20 back) by ignoring the popular diet wisdom re carbs BUT now as I struggle to maintain -- I feel an enormous pull to count calories (mythology endures for a reason). I have a voracious appetite and simply am easily able to eat LCHF and HIGH CALORIE -- it makes for weight gain. I suppose I could exercise (wink).
  5. Liam

    Unfortunately spot reduction (the idea that you can burn fat from particular areas of your body at a faster rate) just isn't possible, or at least it is to such a small effect it really isn't worth discussing. Belly fat is the last part to go, I don't know why, someone else might be able to point to research to why but it is just something we have to accept.

    You have lost a lot of weight already and if you are still losing weight then you should just keep on doing what you're doing and stick it out. You will lose the belly fat and it will (unfortunately) be the last thing to go. Remember LCHF is for life not just for a while so the change you're looking for IS going to happen. Try not be be discouraged at the half way point.

    I would advice exercising, you don't have to spend hours running at the gym but make sure you move as much as you can during your day to day life. All the stereotypical things like parking the car further away and taking the stairs. Perhaps take up a sport that gets you moving or join a yoga or gentle fitness class. Remember you want to be making changes that have the long term in mind. Good luck, you will get there.

  6. JAUS
    Exercise improves tolerance against carbs, yes, but it's still what you eat that really counts.

    Watch this clip from a BBC documentary: "Is Three Minutes of Exercise Enough?"

  7. Mike H
    Exercise, on its own with no other changes, has never led to weight loss for me. People probably think exercise leads to weight loss because when they start making lifestyle changes, exercise is one of the changes they make. And it is definitely good for you, it's just not what's causing the weight loss. The weight loss is more because you're saying no to donuts, cookies, cakes, and french fries. I have been doing LCHF for 5 years. I lost 110 lbs and have been maintaining it effortlessly. When I do start an exercise program, I usually gain weight. It doesn't bother me, though, as the weight is mostly all muscle. It doesn't matter what the exercise is, powerlifting, cycling, right now it is mountaineering. The result is always healthy lean muscle weight gain.
  8. murray
    I have observed that the order in which a person loses fat seems to be the inverse of the order they put on fat.

    I tend to first gain fat subcutaneously on the back and then in the butt. Only after that do I start losing definition in the stomach muscles, but that appears to be subcutaneous as well. I will gain a fair amount of subcutaneous fat before adding belly fat. My cousin, on the other hand, who is a triathlete who trains a couple of hours or more per day, did not lose any weight until going progressively more LCHF, after which he lost 40 pounds. However, even still training 2 hours per day and going LCHF he has been unable to get rid of his belly fat to reveal his abdominal muscles. I got him to get a blood glucose/ketones monitor and he has managed to lower his blood sugar by refining his LCHF diet and reduced his belly fat some, but he still has some belly.

  9. Pamela Toombs
    I received this from a friend and I thought it was a very good read.
    Reply: #10
  10. FrankG
    It is indeed well worth reading and watching Pamela, thanks! But before the naysayers start pointing out the vindictive words about Dr Lundell at Quackwatch, I suggest they read all the comments on this subject over at Paleohacks...
  11. Zepp
    I dont have any advice then to go on with LCHF!

    But Dr Fox seems to have a lot to say on the subject!

  12. Paul
    It is also my experience that if some people, when they plateau, reduce intake of dairy (excluding butter) than they continue to lose weight.
    with best wishes
  13. Fredrik Sjölund
    The 8-hour diet is super try it!!
  14. Martin
    Thanks Andreas for all your excellent work.

    What is your opinion on ketogenic diets causing mucin deficiency? Paul Jaminet raises it in this article:

    Is a cyclic ketogenic diet a good solution? For example, if mucin deficiency is a problem even after several months in nutritional ketosis (e.g. dry eyes or mouth), what about one meal per week of white rice and starchy tubers so the body can maintain a healthy mucosal barrier?

  15. Fredrik
    Please learn to define carbs..... i mean sure coke , chips etc etc but all this are processed foods i mean you need to be a Moran not to see the difference between carbs and processed crap.. Another thing i like to point out is that humans havent always access to meat what do they eat than? It is only Westerners that have the money to eat meat every single day. The biggest problem i have with this diet is that they clime that you will get all the essential nutrients that you need right? If you cook your food in some why, most of the nutrients get destroyed.
    And they clime that dairy products are good for humans and that it is healthy(we are the only specie that consumes milk from another animal). The main reason why everyone tells you to drink milk is because u need the vitamin-K and calcium am I right? Dairy products should contain a certain amount of this of this and that is why it is so healthy , then why in the name of god do they add this minerals and vitamins to the milk? I mean come on. And if we need just as much fat as they claim in this video why do most of the milk types have a fat content of 3% or less? why do we have low fat products at all? I and my last question is for how long have they been tested this type of diet? Yes yes i know about the nomads in northen Asia and Alaska BUT not all people are build in the same why it has alot to do with environment and gens as well. ONLY REASON LCHF IS WORKING IS BECAUSE PEOPLE STOP EATING PROCESSED FOODS!!!

    Though different diets suits different people better, and i believe that people should eat what makes them feel good an healthy.

    I´m not too kin on this Anders guy he seems very unprofessional and have less knowledge about nutrients then a dirtiest. He seems more like a fraud riding the money car. He gives other doctors a bad name. When he specialise in genetics, immunology, physiology , biochemistry, cardiovascular specialist and dietary than i might start thinking about listening to him . A good doctor should start with telling people to avoid processed foods!

  16. GP
    To Lilje and all of you.

    Most of your fat is located around the stomach because all the organs that breakdown nutrients are also located there. Thus if your body needs the extra energy from the fat it will have to travel as short as possible and the needed energy for the transport itself will also be minimal as possible.

    So you can't just take the shortcut and start losing that belly fat first. You have to keep your motivation and be patient. Slow and steady wins the race. If you are trying to eat the proper food then the results will come for sure. It may take some more time than expected but you have to take into account all the years in which you have been abusing different foods and overburdening your body. It will take quite some time to reverse all of that.

    You can try to speed things a bit by some training. The body is very efficient in keeping energy so you won't be able to burn a lot of it throughout exercises but they work pretty good for some people. If you are lucky enough they might speed up your metabolism and improve your sugar tolerance. And even if they don't help you that much they can at least build up some discipline in you. I tend to abuse food when I'm lazy and I'm not training. Just don't go balls deep with them. You can train 2-3 times in a week for about 20-30 minutes. Just aim for something intensive. Sprints and jumps seem pretty effective to me. Also hard bike riding can do the trick. You just need to avoid doing it leisurely. For example sprint as hard as you can. take the needed rest and repeat. Jumps as much times and as faster as you can, take a rest, repeat. Same for the bike. You should find your comfort zone and push a little outside it. No need for grueling overkill exercises. If these seems hard for you can choose whatever gets you tired in a short period of time. Heck, for example you can dance as hard as you can on your favorite song if you will. In the end of the day it may or it may not make you lose a ton of fat but training can help you in many other aspects and make you feel great.

    You just have to remember it might be a tough task to lose the last pounds of extra fat. At some point when you have lost a lot of fat it gets harder and harder to lose the next pound of it. I've never been overweight or abused too much of something, I'm pretty active physically, I consider myself with a decent fat percentage since my abs are visible but I'm stuck and I struggle to slim down some places that are a bit fattened.

    Also a lot of factors can contribute to the amount of fat that your body considers to be healthy. In a lot of ways it can be genetically predetermined. Some people are extremely lucky and / or healthier because of what their parents did. For example I know a lot of guys who can eat a lot of shitty food and still maintain fairly low body fat percentage. They just seem to have better sugar tolerance than most people. Like when some people easily get sunburns and others barely get red. Some genes made you have blue eyes or brown eyes. Some genes made you have smaller tits or bigger tits. Some genes made you easily cope with sugar or struggle with it. Some genes made you keep low amounts of fat or easily store fat. You see, it can be predetermined in a lot of ways but he most important thing is that the body has evolved in a lot of ways and it is supposed to be healthy and in a good physical shape if you don't abuse food it is not supposed to receive. So my point is that if you don't have a serious genetic disease then your body already has all the needed mechanisms to be lean and in good health.

    You have lost an impressive amount of weight in a short period of time so I tend to think that everything will be OK for you in case you keep doing the proper things. Your body seems to react the way it is supposed to do. If I were you I would be very happy with the current results and that would motivate me to keep going. Just don't look at it as something that you are doing now and when you eventually lose a lot of fat you would go to your past way of life. I don't even like to call it LCHF. I like to call it a lifestyle. Aim to get good real food, aim to be healthier, aim to be more good-looking, aim to be happier and aim to be a better person overall :) We all can do it :)

  17. Murray
    Here is food for thought for those who ascribe to the brain-needs-glucose myth:

    "Dementia risk tied to blood sugar level, even with no diabetes." August 7th, 2013.

    "The most interesting finding was that every incrementally higher glucose level was associated with a higher risk of dementia in people who did not have diabetes," ... "There was no threshold value for lower glucose values where risk leveled off."

    This study is consistent with the recent Mayo clinic study that found that those who consumed the most carbs were 3.6 times more likely (than the average) to show signs of cognitive decline and those who consumed the most fat were 0.48 times as likely (than the average) to shows signs of cognitive decline.

    Reply: #18
  18. Paul
    Any insightful comments Richard Mjodstanka?, any constructive arguments Ondrej?, any relevant questions, any relevant answers Dave? - please enlighten us gentlemen (gentleman).
  19. Peter
    I have had half kidney function my whole life without further problems (23yo). Does that count as 'kidney failure'? Would one kidney be enough to process the higher protein?
    Replies: #20, #21
  20. Zepp
    Its not higher protein.. its about higher fat!

    And we do have the same advice for protein then FDA, WHO, SLV!

    Its normal protein.. becuse its not that much of an energy substrate.. protein is mostly a boulding stone!

  21. Paul
    As Zepp says, it is not high protein diet. You do not need to take more than 20% of total energy as protein - even with one kidney you will function with no problem. Kidneys run on fat as energy, so by giving kidneys fat in your diet you optimize their function.
  22. Digby
    People who don't have bad eating habits, like eating in front of the television, or other things that cause mindless eating, are very unlikely to need to count calories on lchf. Professor Brian Wansink's book Mindless Eating shows how people who normally don't over-eat will do so under conditions like watching a movie. I had to stop any eating away from the table to get rid of the excess calories.
  23. BillP
    Great video interview! Glad to see LCHF is getting some good publicity in Brazil. The host of the show was great, very well-spoken and concise, as were the guests.
  24. Kelly Peterson
    Thank you for this awesome video! What you have discussed are the most common questions to many. I'm a low carb cook and I would love to share this video on my low carb cooking page on Facebook. Thank you!
  25. Sophie
    I don't even bother responding to my friend who keeps telling me I need a balanced diet that includes grain and fruit. I think I can agree to disagree with her. It's just sad that people who profess those old truth will continue to harp on it while we just have to suck it because conventional wisdom goes against our beliefs.

    Still now, with my very rich in fat diet, I am not sure I am not harming my body. I do it because it has become a habit, but I still have doubts... I had better results on high protein low carb low fat... But then again it was the beginning of my weight loss so it was probably easier.

    Never been a calorie counter, and CICO always sounded so unnatural to me. Hunger will always win against the best intentions!

    I agree that exercise helps, but it has to be strenuous, regular and long enough to make an impact. Running at 50% on the treadmill for 30 minutes 3 times a week isn't worth the thought that you are doing something good for your body.

    I never start an exercise program unless I am willing to do it for one solid intense hour 5 times a week. Then I get results.

  26. someguy
    If you want to fix that echo on future calls, you must have all callers to use headphones. The guy with spiky hair in a hoodie didnt have them on and his speakers were feeding into his microphone.

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