Kris and I forked out the five bucks to watch Cereal Killers last night. This documentary follows Donal O’Neil as he begins a high-fat, low-carb diet (no sugar, no wheat) to see if he can beat the genetic time bombs of heart disease and diabetes.
Donal’s lean and athletic, just like his father, who’d been a professional Irish footballer (soccer player). And despite being lean and active, a non-drinker, etc., Donal’s father had a heart attack.
If you are already deep into a low-carb lifestyle, and have done the research on your way there, you aren’t likely to see too much surprising in this film. It does, however, provide a great real life practical example of someone switching to this diet, and the changes in his blood work, blood pressure, body fat percentage, are discussed with medical professionals as he goes along. An especially interesting tidbit, Donal’s LDL cholesterol, what people think if as bad cholesterol, goes up by the end of the diet. However, taking the test to the next step reveals that his LDL large particles have gone up, small particles down. The large LDL particles are good. Small ones dangerous. So what initially looks like the one negative piece of the result is in fact a positive.
For those interested in low-carb but leery of taking the plunge because it seems so counterintuitive to what we’ve been told for 30 years about healthy eating – grains are good and we need to avoid fat, not sugar, in our diets – this provides a good history of the radical changes in diet advice given in the 1970s. There was essentially a battle between two doctors, Keys and Yudkin. Keys incorrectly identified saturated fat as the culprit behind heart disease, and Yudkin correctly identified sugar as the problem. Keys won, the US put out the food pyramid and in the 30 years since, obesity rates have exploded.
It’s also interesting to see that, while weight loss is an effect of high-fat, low-carb, that’s not Donal’s goal. He starts this lean and fit and gets even leaner and fitter. I’m seeing folks around me making that same choice, not to lose weight but to improve other health markers, energy levels, and day-to-day performance.
Sports scientist and high-fat low-carb crusader Prof. Tim Noakes, who wrote the Lore of Running and has since recommended that folks tear the chapter on diet right out of the book, was a co-producer on this and his featured throughout the movie, as is Dr. John Briffa.
According to Noakes, the changes for people who are diabetic or pre-diabetic who adopt a high-fat, low-carb diet can be immense.
“If we could get all diabetics to eat a high-fat, high-protein, low-carbohydrate diet, we would cut the insulin requirements so dramatically that it’s been estimated that six pharmaceutical companies would go out of business tomorrow. So that’s the problem. The reality is that medicine is a business.”
I personally got re-engaged with high-fat, low-carb eating as a result of Prof. Noakes’ influence in the running community. I was running more than 50 miles per week, racing marathons, and was at a good weight, so that wasn’t a concern, but hearing him describe the symptoms of carb intolerance, I associated. I’d done Atkins in the past (before becoming a runner) and it had been effective for weight loss, and I had experimented with it before marathons (ran my PR, a 2:58:43 after eating low-carb for a few weeks prior, but then carbo loading pre race).
I returned to a full-time low-carb diet after my last race, a 50-miler, on Nov. 2. I needed to take some time to heal accumulated injuries. In the 50 or so days since then, I’ve not run, lifted weights, lost about 7 pounds and put on lean muscle mass. I feel fantastic. Can’t wait to heal up and see how this impacts my running.
I won’t go on and on. Suffice to say I recommend this film if you are trying to figure out this whole high-fat diet thing, or if you are a fan of Prof. Noakes, or just want an engaging, entertaining piece of reinforcement for a diet you are already on. You can watch it here.