When in Stockholm: Sweden Goes Low-Carb High-Fat for Health and Weight-Loss

credit: Google CC

credit: Google CC

The independent Swedish Council on Health Technology Assessment (SBU) looked at 16,000 studies published through May 31 of this year, and the publication of their surprising findings led to a national change in dietary advice.

This marks the first time that a country has developed national dietary guidelines based around low-carb high-fat nutrition. It’s taken them a while to get there, but their success in changing the national discussion is the result of dedication, careful research, and self-experimentation.

In Sweden, the push to go low-carb high-fat (or lavkarbo høyfett, if you want to get Swedish about it), began in 2004 when general practitioner Dr. Annika Dahlqvist began a bout of self-experimentation. Suffering from obesity, IBS, and fibromyalgia, she cut out carbs in an attempt to lose weight. But her diet left her feeling hungry and weak. After doing more research, she discovered the benefits of adding high-quality, saturated fat and other good oils to her diet. Once she successfully cobbled together her low-carb high-fat solution, she not only lost 44 pounds in one winter without hunger and sugar cravings, but her fibromyalgia and IBS symptoms disappeared as well!

After seeing her own remarkable results, she started prescribing the diet to her patients, and saw similar improvements. She began spreading her message: “If you are overweight, and/or have type 2 diabetes, you should eat LCHF—real natural food.”

Unsurprisingly, she was attacked by traditionalist dietitians who attempted to discredit her and have her medical license revoked. But she persisted, stating that people following her dietary guidelines would never develop atherosclerosis—a condition caused by inflammation in the blood vessels, not a high-fat diet. And now it’s clear that her hard work has paid off.

There are ten physicians on the SBU review panel, many of whom were skeptical about low-carb high-fat diets when their investigation began. But their minds—and their recommendations—were changed after their intensive review. Professor Fredrik Nyström, a member of the SBU panel, is a researcher and low-carb high-fat proponent who also caught heat for his views. He’s proud of this major victory, stating:

“It feels great to have this scientific report, and that the skepticism towards low-carb diets among my colleagues has disappeared during the course of the work. When all recent scientific studies are lined up the result is indisputable: our deep-seated fear of fat is completely unfounded. You don’t get fat from fatty foods, just as you don’t get atherosclerosis from calcium or turn green from green vegetables.”

The Swedish researchers also propose other lifestyle changes that might shock conventional thinkers. They suggest skipping breakfast:

“This is a habitual behavior, the body has no need for nourishment the minute you get out of bed if you’ve eaten a high-fat dinner the day before…. If we were meant to nibble on low-fat foods all day we wouldn’t have been equipped with a gall bladder. If you eat two meals daily, with few carbohydrates and plenty of good fats, you’ll do just fine. Do like the Mediterranean people. Let a cup of coffee be your breakfast in the morning.”

They also propose that red wine improves the blood lipid profile, meaning that alcohol in moderation is not just okay, but that it’s actually beneficial.

This 180-degree turnaround in thought from Sweden has many wondering if the United States will follow suit. It’s difficult to say at this point, but the US has a long history with low-carb high fat diets, from keto, to Atkins, to paleo. It remains up to us educate ourselves and consult with forward-thinking dietitians to figure out the diet that’s right for us.

Read more about the dietary revolution in Sweden at DietDoctor, the most popular blog on health in Scandinavia. The site is run by Dr. Andreas Eenfeldt, who discusses highlights from these studies and other LCHF topics—and helpfully translates it into English for us.

The posts on this blog are for information only, and are not intended to substitute for a doctor-patient or other healthcare professional-patient relationship nor do they constitute medical or healthcare advice of any kind. Any information in these posts should not be acted upon without consideration of primary source material and professional input from one's own healthcare professionals.