August 14, 2018

Does Protein Harm the Kidneys?

Hey kids! My previous blog post laid waste to the myth that a high protein intake is harmful for bone health. This time, it’s my great pleasure to decimate another “high protein is bad for you” thing. Today, it’s kidney function. Many of you have been eagerly awaiting this post. Here’s hoping I don’t disappoint.

Even if you’ve accepted that everything we thought we knew about saturated fat and cholesterol in our diets was almost completely wrong, and you’ve been following a low-carb or ketogenic diet confidently for fat loss, migraines, GERD/acid reflux,  reversing type 2 diabetes, reducing insulin needs and evening out blood sugar for type 1 diabetes, or for some other health issue, maybe there’s still some lingering fear in the back of your mind that the protein you’re eating—especially animal protein—is bad for your kidneys.

We’ve heard this over and over from just about everyone with an agenda to discredit the efficacy of low carb diets. Now, mind you, low carb diets are not, by definition, high in protein, but in walking away from sugars, grains, beans, and starchy vegetables, many of us find that, compared to our former high-carb life, our protein consumption does increase, whether in absolute grams, as a percentage of total calories, or both. Not to mention the growing carnivore movement, where people are eating only animal foods. For these folks, protein consumption almost certainly increases compared to a standard Western diet, and likely even compared to if/when they were following a ketogenic diet.

So with all this in mind, it’s important that we set the record straight about the influence of dietary protein on kidney function.

July 17, 2018

Is a High Protein Intake Bad for Bones?

Tl;dr Read the very short version of this here.  For the juicy details, stay here!

Let’s start with an enticing tidbit from a paper in no less than the Journal of the American College of Nutrition, with the wonderful title, “Dietary protein: an essential nutrient for bone health.”

“In agreement with both experimental and clinical intervention studies, large prospective epidemiologic observations indicate that relatively high protein intakes, including those from animal sources are associated with increased bone mineral mass and reduced incidence of osteoporotic fractures.”

Let’s not be guilty of the same sloppy epidemiological science we accuse other nutrition camps of, though. Epidemiology can generate hypotheses, and give us ideas to think about that then need to actually be tested.  Epidemiology can’t prove cause and effect, but it can generally disprove it.  For example, in the case of dietary protein, if epidemiological findings suggest that higher protein intakes—including animal protein—are “associated with” better bone health, we can’t conclude that the protein itself is directly responsible for the stronger bones, but we can safely assume that protein isn’t harmful for bones.  And in the case of protein and bone mass, we do have pretty good clinical and experimental evidence showing that indeed, higher protein intakes do induce positive changes in bone tissue.  Not in cultured bone cells. Not in mice. In actual living, breathing humans.

It’s hard to believe that in certain circles, protein has gotten a reputation as being harmful for bone health.  After all, Paleolithic hunter-gatherer diets typically contained a large amount of meat, yet anthropologists can sometimes distinguish the remains of hunter-gatherers from those of agriculturalists solely by examining the bones: the high-protein eating hunter-gatherers typically had bones that were larger, stronger and denser, and showed fewer signs of chronic disease. 

Scientists believe the differences in physical activity between the two civilizations played a bigger role than any dietary changes, and sure, hunting and gathering no doubt required a lot of time on one’s feet, but ask any farmer: farming isn’t exactly sedentary work!  Even if a heavy physical workload was responsible for Paleolithic peoples’ stronger bones, we can still conclude that a high intake of animal protein didn’t work against building bone mass.    

So how did some people come to think that protein—animal protein, in particular—is harmful for bones?

June 13, 2018

Has Your Cholesterol Skyrocketed on a Ketogenic Diet? Read This!

Has your cholesterol skyrocketed on a low carb or ketogenic diet?

Or did it start out already high, and hasn’t come down like you thought it would after cutting carbs for a while?

Is your doctor on your case to “do something” about it?  Are they pushing you to take cholesterol-lowering medication and stop that crazy high-fat diet you’ve been following?  

Or maybe your doctor’s actually pretty easygoing about it, but you are alarmed by the big jump in your cholesterol since you started low carb.  Maybe you’re wondering if all that butter, cheese, bacon, and red meat isn’t quite such a good idea after all...

People who adopt carbohydrate-restricted diets have widely varying effects on their lipid profile.  Generally speaking, triglycerides go down and HDL goes up.  This is practically a given.  Happens like clockwork.  Totally predictable.  If you were the betting kind, you could put money on it and have a virtually guaranteed return.  And this is a good thing.  More and more evidence is emerging that regardless of your total cholesterol or LDL, the triglyceride-to-HDL ratio is a strong predictor of cardiovascular risk.  

According to Drs. Phinney and Volek in their book, The Art and Science of Low Carbohydrate Living:

“The triglyceride/HDL ratio provides a broader assessment of risk, and its relationship with insulin resistance makes it far superior to LDL-C.  And how best to improve your triglyceride/HDL ratio?  The striking reductions in plasma triglycerides and consistent increases in HDL-C in response to low carbohydrate diets are unparalleled by any other lifestyle intervention, or even drug treatment, and therefore represents the most powerful method to improve this ratio.”

LDL is a different story.  In some people, LDL goes down, but in others, it goes up.  Something that happens on a low carb diet often, but not always, is a shift from LDL particles that are “small and dense” to LDL particles that are “large and fluffy.”  Even when the total LDL goes up, the pattern of the particle makeup shifts.  It’s believed—but has not been proven conclusively—that the latter pattern, called “pattern A,” is less atherogenic.  That is, when your LDL particles are predominantly the large, fluffy type, they’re less likely to “clog your arteries” (*groan*) and cause a heart attack, stroke, or other cardio/cerebrovascular disease than when your particles are predominantly small & dense, called “pattern B.”  So, on balance, even if LDL goes up on a low carb diet, it’s believed that the shift from pattern B to pattern A is a beneficial change and represents an improvement in your cardiovascular health.

But what if your total cholesterol or LDL absolutely skyrockets?  Does your particle pattern even matter then?  If your total cholesterol is 300, 400, 500, or higher, and your LDL is 200 or higher, surely—surely—all that cholesterol has to be clogging your arteries, right?  Surely your very next slice of bacon could have you staring down the barrel of cardiac arrest, right?  I mean, even if your triglycerides are low and your HDL is high, and your glucose and insulin are low, all your inflammatory markers are low, you’ve lost 60 pounds, your energy levels are through the roof, and your doctor has stopped your GERD medication, your beta-blocker, and your insulin injections, there’s no way your cholesterol could be that high and not cause trouble.


Not so fast.

May 31, 2018

Ketogenic Diets for Migraines

Do you or someone you know suffer from migraines?

If so, then you know these debilitating attacks are far more than mere headaches. In addition to severe, throbbing pain, migraines often also involve visual disturbances, nausea, vomiting, dizziness, extreme sensitivity to sound, light, touch and smell, and tingling or numbness in the extremities or face.

As many as 25% of migraine sufferers experience a visual phenomenon called an aura. Attacks typically last between 4 and 72 hours and in 15-20% of cases, the head pain is preceded by the other neurological symptoms.

Because migraines are increasingly recognized as neurological in origin, it’s possible ketogenic diets may have a therapeutic effect for people afflicted with these attacks. Ketogenic diets exert their effects via several mechanisms that induce multiple biochemical changes in the body and brain that improve neurological function. Some of the mechanisms that are beneficial for various neurological disorders may also make them effective for migraines.

Clinical trial data studying the efficacy of keto for migraines is limited, but anecdotes and personal accounts abound on the low carb and keto interwebs. Some people who start LCHF or ketogenic diets for fat loss or other reasons are pleasantly surprised to find an unexpected “side effect” of keto is reduction in severity and frequency of migraines, or in some cases, total remission. Nice!

As I mentioned in a post not long ago, I’ve joined the writing team at Martina Slajerova’s KetoDiet site. I wrote a post there on keto for migraines, so if you’d like to get the details on why and how keto might be beneficial for migraine sufferers, head on over and check it out: Can the Ketogenic Diet Help with Migraines? It’s fully referenced in case you’d like to look at any of the relevant studies and dig into the mechanisms at work.

Please feel free to send the link to friends and family who suffer from migraines and have not experienced relief with conventional medications, or who have not been able to identify dietary or environmental triggers for their migraines. They might consider giving keto a try. If it doesn’t work, it doesn’t work, but it’s definitely worth trialing for a few months. They have nothing to lose except their morning bagel or muffin—and possibly their migraines.

Disclaimer: Amy Berger, MS, CNS, NTP, is not a physician and Tuit Nutrition, LLC, is not a medical practice. The information contained on this site is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any medical condition and is not to be used as a substitute for the care and guidance of a physician. Links in this post and all others may direct you to, where I will receive a small amount of the purchase price of any items you buy through my affiliate links.

May 8, 2018

Keto Retreat in CANADA - Sept 2018!

Calling all Canadian readers!

Are you tired of all the low carb and keto events happening south of the border?  Have you been wishing someone would start a keto-oriented social event in your country?  Would you like to listen to some low carb lectures and connect with like-minded people?

If so, come see me at the Keto Retreat in beautiful Perth, Ontario.  Loyal blog reader Wendy Moore (no relation to Jimmy) has put together a fabulous event September 14-16, 2018.

I’ll be speaking about ketogenic diets for Alzheimer’s disease, as well as on keeping keto simple.  And guess who else will be there?  Megan Ramos!! That’s right—Program Director and Co-Founder of the Intensive Dietary Management Program (with Dr. Jason Fung).  She’ll be talking about…yes, fasting!  Also presenting will be Dr. Doug Bishop, a keto-friendly MD in Canada, and his daughter Tiia Bishop, who’ll be talking about gut health, keto and exercise, and common barriers/challenges to adhering to a ketogenic diet.

The registration fee is extremely reasonable for this kind of event.  It does not include meals and lodging, but there are several wonderful places to stay in the area, and of course, you can always do Air B&B for convenience.  There’ll be complimentary keto snacks and a cash wine bar during a casual “meet & greet” the evening of Friday, Sept 14, as well as after the speaker presentations on Saturday and Sunday.  Saturday evening, Sept 15, a 3-course keto dinner will be available at the Perth Manor Boutique Hotel.  (See here for details on food and lodging.)

I think this is going to be a great mix of keto science and casual fun – a great way to learn a lot in a relaxed atmosphere, where everyone is welcome.  Not obsessed with biohacking every second of your life away?  Come to the retreat!  Feel jumpy at the mere thought of weighing and measuring your food, and tracking every last molecule and “macro?”  Come to the retreat!  Just want to share a meal with other humans who won’t look at you funny when you ask for your burger without a bun?  Come!  Not at your goal weight?  Heavier than you’d like to be?  Still working on some health issues?  COME AS YOU ARE!  You are absolutely, totally, 100% welcome with us!  (News flash: I ain’t at my goal weight either!  It’s all good!  Don’t you dare let any of that stop you!) 

Even if you’re just kinda sorta “into” low carb, but don’t devote your entire existence to it, you’re also welcome!  Just come, learn, meet people, take a breather, and have some fun.    

Check out the retreat website for all the details on the speakers, pricing, reserving a spot, getting to Perth, and more.  Wendy’s contact information is on the site.  If you have any questions, please contact her directly, as she will be able to help you far better than I will!

Really looking forward to this, folks.  I’m a huge fan of both hockey and maple syrup … I’m practically Canadian already!  Now that my severe depression has finally (mostly) lifted and I want to rejoin the world of the living, I’m attending several low carb and keto events this year.  It’s going to be so nice to come out from behind the screen and meet some of you in person.  Come join us in Perth in September!

Disclaimer: Amy Berger, MS, CNS, NTP, is not a physician and Tuit Nutrition, LLC, is not a medical practice. The information contained on this site is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any medical condition and is not to be used as a substitute for the care and guidance of a physician. Links in this post and all others may direct you to, where I will receive a small amount of the purchase price of any items you buy through my affiliate links.

April 25, 2018

I HATE "BONE BROTH!" a.k.a. Collagen/Gelatin for People Who Hate Broth (a.k.a. Awesome Cuts of Meat You're [Probably] Not Eating: Pork Feet and Hocks)!

Get a load of that gelatin! NICE!

Nutritionist confession: I HATE BONE BROTH!

There, I said it.

I hate broth, I hate stock, and I dislike soup. Kick me out of the nutrient-dense real food club, excommunicate me if you must, but I’m a coffee girl through and through. I gag at the thought of starting my day with a “steaming hot mug of broth,” the way other people happily brag about on social media. Yuck. I know others find broth to be a great way to start their day, but frankly, for me, it’s coffee or bust, and if I have to turn in my membership card, so be it.

I’ve made a few batches of chicken and beef stock in the past, but being that I have zero interest in drinking a mug of this stuff straight-up, and I’m not a big soup fan, what typically happens is, I freeze several quarts of it, and about 18 months later (sometimes longer!), I defrost them and dump ‘em down the drain. It’s not that I don’t understand the benefits of bone broth; it’s that I just plain don’t like it. I’ve used collagen protein powders in post-workout shakes in the past, and I eat a fair amount of meat on the bone, with some other connective tissue bits along for the ride. So it’s not like I’m deficient in the particular amino acids bones and joints are especially rich in (if there is such a thing as being deficient in these). I just prefer to get my collagen and gelatin from sources other than long-simmered bones and joints.

That being said, I haven’t used collagen powder in a long time, and I know I should probably be getting more of that good collagen and other connective “stuff.” (There are no specific ailments I’m looking to improve by way of this, but I ain't gettin’ any younger, and it would be nice to keep my bones, joints, skin, nails, and tendons in good working order. Plus, maybe, just maybe, increasing my intake of this will help reduce the crow’s feet and wrinkles that have taken up residence on my face the last couple years. Eek!)

So, with that in mind, I’ve been looking for some other ways to get this into my diet, and I’m thrilled to report my recent discovery of the wonders of pig’s feet! Yes! Pigs feet, pork hocks, trotters…they’re all good! I’m Jewish, but I don’t keep kosher, and thank goodness, because frankly, life without bacon and prosciutto is no life at all. (And if you're thinking turkey bacon is a good substitute, please just close the window you're reading my blog in, back away slowly, and never come back. You are dead to me.*)

Those of you who’ve been eating these cuts and making broth for ages may have been using feet and hocks all along, but all I know is, I’m very glad to have found a way to get lots of collagen/gelatin into my diet in a way that is actually really palatable, enjoyable, and delicious.

How does it work?