I have been chronically ill my whole life and have been on every kind of drug imaginable. I have had a complicated family medical history and have been a victim of rare genetic diseases throughout my life. I also have worked in healthcare since 2007. I no longer feel healthy and am eating a ketogenic diet. I have a degree in Psychology and a masters in Business from Randolph College.
It is well-known that when our blood pressure rises, the calcium level in our arteries can rise as well. This is called an “arterial calcium score”. A high score can lead to a heart attack, and it is no coincidence that a high score is a risk factor for cardiovascular disease.
After suffering a heart attack in 2016, Greg, 59, from Australia, wanted to understand the cause and get healthy again.
His doctor and cardiologist told him that the best he could hope for was to stop the progression of his heart disease, but in 15 months on the animal keto diet, his coronary arterial calcium score (CACS), an indicator of heart disease, dropped by 40%.
He also lost about 33 pounds (15 kilograms) and his metabolism improved significantly.
In this interview, slightly edited for clarity, Greg shares his experience with keto cooking.
How did you discover keto?
In February 2016, I had a heart attack, followed by angioplasty and stenting (medical procedures to restore blood flow in blood vessels). I was somewhat overweight and my doctor recommended that I go on a low-fat, low-calorie diet to lose weight.
After several failed attempts to lose weight, my daughter suggested I try the ketogenic diet. I didn’t know much about keto, but I found some interesting information on YouTube about the Low Carb Down Under conference recently held in Australia. I have listened to speakers such as Dr Tim Noakes, Ivor Cummins, Gary and Belinda Fettke and Dr Paul Mason. And finally all my health problems became clear!
My assumptions about metabolic syndrome, type 2 diabetes, obesity, etc. were turned on their head.
My assumptions about metabolic syndrome, type 2 diabetes, obesity, etc. were turned on their head. And with a much clearer and more satisfying explanation, I began the keto diet in 2018.
Did you have any health problems before you started doing keto?
In addition to my heart condition, I was 35-45 pounds overweight (15-20 pounds). I was put on medication for high blood pressure and high cholesterol.
What did you eat before you switched to keto?
Before I started a low-carb lifestyle, I ate what I thought was reasonably healthy food. My diet was high in carbohydrates like bread, rice, pasta and whole grains. I also ate pretty much fruit and some vegetables, meat and dairy products.
How has your health improved since you started keto?
Since starting the keto diet in 2018, my CACS score has dropped 40% from 132 to 77!
I think the most important part of my story is that I significantly improved my coronary artery calcium score (CACS), an indicator of heart disease. Since starting the keto diet in 2018, my CACS score has dropped 40% from 132 to 77!
I have also lost about 33 pounds (15 kilos) and my metabolism has greatly improved.
My HDL increased by 73%, my triglycerides decreased by 50%, my LDL/HDL ratio decreased by 24%, and my inflammation decreased significantly (hs-CRP is 0.3 mg/l).
I feel so much better, I have more energy and my sleep has improved!
What does your typical meal day look like at this time?
Throughout most of 2018, my keto diet evolved as I found low-carb foods that I liked. By the end of 2018, my diet had become what I call a very low-carb carnivore keto diet.
These days I usually fast 16-18 hours a day, with 6-8 hours between meals.
I start the day with about 1 quart (1 liter) of water and coffee and milk with 1/2 cup (or 150 ml) of milk, plus some liver tablets.
About two hours after coffee I eat a large meal of bacon, eggs, steak, chops, sausage, pork, chicken, fish and cheese. I cook them in olive oil, butter or ghee and eat them until they are full.
A few hours later I eat a small portion of a combination of cheese, avocado, dark chocolate, frozen berries, milk, nuts and leftovers from the main meal.
I do not eat vegetable oils, bread, cereals, rice, pasta, fruits and vegetables.
Have you learned from the mistakes you made during your trip?
I can’t say I made any mistakes, but I did learn some things along the way:
- The switch to a low-carb diet takes a few weeks, and the keto flu is real. Be prepared and don’t give up.
- When I started a low-carb diet, I tried to find alternatives to the foods I used to eat. For example, I tried to make low-carb bread and find low-carb alternatives to rice and pasta. In retrospect, I think it would have been better to find new low-carb foods that I liked. And over time, I realized that I liked meat, so I started eating more of it and switched to a keto carnivore diet.
- It’s important to listen to your body and learn how it changes as you begin your low-carb journey. My appetite, taste and metabolism changed as I continued on the low-carb diet, and I had to adapt. For example, I added more salt to my food and adjusted my intake of animal fats over time.
- Intermittent fasting is easier when you eat until you are satiated. I’d rather eat one big meal than two or three small ones.
Do you think exercise is essential to the success of a low-carb diet?
I do sport regularly, I play tennis two or three times a week. However, the amount of exercise I do is about the same as before I started the low-carb diet. So no, I don’t think exercise is necessary for success with a low-carb diet, but I do think regular, at least moderate, exercise is good for overall health.
What are your top three tips for new keto dieters?
- Understand how a low-carb diet works for weight loss and metabolic health. This will help you stay motivated and on track.
- Be prepared and do your research. There are many good resources online and on YouTube. Find an expert you like and follow him.
- Find low-carb foods that you like and eat until you are full.
Congratulations on your success, Greg. History shows that the term low-carb means not just one thing, but can take on many variations. I’m glad you found an option that fits well with your lifestyle. It sounds like you’ve also found mentors to help you along the way, which is very important. Keep up the good work!
/ Dr. Bret Sher
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Frequently Asked Questions
What does a calcium score of 40 mean?
A calcium score of 40 means that the person has a high risk of developing osteoporosis.
Can a high calcium score be reversed?
Yes, a high calcium score can be reversed.
Can CAC score be reversed?
Yes, a CAC score can be reversed.
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