Welcome to the Freshwell Low Carb Project website!
What is the Freshwell Low Carb Project?
The Freshwell Low Carb Project is an initiative set up by Dr David Oliver & Dr Kim Andrews at the Freshwell Health Centre, Essex, UK, to encourage the members of its community to live a Real Food Low Carb lifestyle, so they may be as healthy as possible. See our blog here. All views our own.
Why was the Freshwell Low Carb Project been launched?
This project grew out of our concern about the rise in incidence of Type 2 diabetes over the last few years, alongside the widely reported rapid increase in obesity in the UK population.
There is now strong evidence that these increases are linked to the large amounts of ultra-processed food, sugar, starchy carbohydrates and processed food we, as a society, consume. The problem with starchy carbohydrates is that, when eaten in excess, they tend to be quickly converted into sugar then into fat.
The biggest problem by far is our ultra-processed food environment. We believe that the current UK National “Eatwell” guidelines are unhelpful and have only made the problem worse and that other chronic health conditions can also be exacerbated by the wrong diet.
The good news is that following a low carb lifestyle can significantly help overcome these problems. It can bring about significant weight loss and can lead to Type 2 Diabetes going into remission. It can reduce your long term medication requirements for a variety of conditions and give a much greater sense of well being.
This website has been set up to steer our patients in the right direction towards trusted information to help them start them on their low carb lifestyle. It is not intended as a detailed in depth guide, when there is already so much quality information available. There is no point in re-inventing the wheel. For example, have a look at the excellent Diet Doctor website: low-carb diet for beginners section.
The Story So Far
At Freshwell Health Centre, we have been recommending a Low Carb Lifestyle since late 2018. Many of our patients who have adopted this lifestyle have already seen early dramatic results in health improvements, especially weight loss and increased energy levels.
We challenged our patients to lose a metric tonne of weight between them (the weight of a small car) and much to our delight, they acheived it in just over a year! We wrote a research paper about it. Please click here to have a look at our research paper.
Have a look at some of our early results and testimonies. If you have already benefited from a low carb lifestyle and would like to add your testimonials to encourage others, then please get in touch.
As the project has progressed, it has been embraced by our neighbouring practices. Together, we have developed the Colne Valley Primary Care Network (PCN) Low Carb Programme, which is a structure educational programme delivered by our Health and Wellbeing Coaching Team. We are delighted that a flourishing low carb community of over 500 local members has developed as a result. Our mutually supportive low carb community are constantly leanring from each other e.g. by exchanging recipes.
This website has been set up as a resource for patients registered at Freshwell Health Centre. We are not in a position to advise patients registered at other GP surgeries. Patients registered elsewhere should seek the advice from their own doctors.
Benefits of the Low Carb Lifestyle
WEIGHT LOSS & DIABETIC CONTROL:
The most significant benefit of a low carb lifestyle is sustained weight loss, when numerous previous diets may have failed. There is good evidence to support this. If you have ever wondered why calorie restricted diets often don’t work, read more here.
There is also mounting evidence to indicate that a low carb lifestyle can be highly effective in helping people control their Diabetes, in some cases, remission of Diabetes Type 2 and reducing medication (including insulin) . Check out the pioneering work of the low carb GP, Dr David Unwin. The American Diabetic Association has recently endorsed the low carb lifestyle as an effective strategy to help manage Type 2 Diabetes.
HEART DISEASE PREVENTION:
It is well known that losing weight can reduce your risk of heart disease and stroke. It can also improve your blood pressure control and cholesterol levels. You may be able to reduce the amount of medication you take.
Whilst there may be a lack of large trial data, people living a low carb lifestyle commonly report experiencing increased mental alertness, no longer feeling tired all the time and having much more energy and improved mood. People have also reported improved depression and anxiety symptoms.
Many people are also reported as experiencing improved long term (chronic) pain (e.g. arthritis, fibromyalgia). Again, the large trial data is currently lacking, but there have been a large number of anecdotal cases.
Improved symptoms of Irritable Bowel Syndrome have been reported. It is well established that Non Alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease can also be reversed with weight loss.
There have been many reports of improved migraine symptoms with a low carb diet.
It is well known that obesity is linked with cancer, catching up with smoking as a major risk factor.
OTHER INFLAMMATORY DISORDERS:
Many people adopting a low carb lifestyle have noted significant improvement with symptoms of inflammatory diseases such as asthma and eczema. Again, large trial data is lacking.
What is a Low Carb Lifestyle?
The following basic principles underpin the low carb approach:
1: Reduce Sugar intake to an absolute minimum.
Sugar is spectacularly bad for your health, not just table sugar that you add to your food but hidden sugar in cakes, biscuits and processed foods.
Sugary fizzy drinks should not be consumed. Drinking one fizzy drink a day is estimated to add 6.75kg (over a stone) in weight per year to the average person. Have a look at this article from Rethink Sugary Drink in Australia.
You may be surprised to hear that “healthy” fruit juice is just as bad and should be kept to an absolute minimum. Fruit juice really is fruit with much of the good bits taken out and all the sugar left in.
Excess Sugar is turned straight into triglyceride (fat) in the liver.
2: Eat Real Food
What is real food? Real food is food as nature intended. It is best to cook with ingredients that have not been processed in a factory. Vegetables (especially the ones grown above ground but not potatoes), fruit (preferably grown in this country – but no grapes), meat, fish, cheese, eggs, nuts and full fat dairy are all good naturally healthy ingredients.
3: Avoid Processed Food:
Have a look at this very informative article to dive straight into further detail about processed food.
What is processed food? Unfortunately, processed food appears to occupy at least 80% of supermarket shelves. As a rule of thumb, if it comes in a packet and there is a long list of ingredients, then it is worth considering buying something else instead.
Processed food is designed by large food companies to make maximum profit, have a long shelf life, usually packed with cheaply produced ultra-processed carbohydrates and unhealthy vegetable oils. Have a look at this article on processed / ultra-processed food for more information.
4: Reduce your starchy carbohydrate intake a lot.
Remember starchy carbohydrates mainly consist of concentrated sugar. They are quickly broken down into sugar in your gut and can also cause inflammation.
Minimise your intake of starchy carbohydrates, in particular – minimise your intake of ALL bread (sorry that includes, “healthy” whole-grains), ALL cereals, potatoes, pasta and rice (brown or white).
Low Carb GP, Dr David Unwin, has produced some powerful “infographics” to illustrate how typical portions of common foods can contain a surprising number of teaspoons of sugar. These have been approved by the National Institute for Clinical Excellence (NICE).
Click here to see Dr Unwin’s other infographic charts about the amount of hidden sugar in bread, cereals, some fruit fruit & veg. If you would like to download and them, then your best bet will be to do so via the Public Health Collaboration Website. Why not print out a few and pass them amongst your friends and family?
We dig a little deeper into the science of carbohydrates in the science section on our website.
Check out our Carbs – Top Tips section for some practical suggestions.
5: Eat Healthy Fats:
The good news is that meat, oily fish, cheese, eggs, full fat yoghurt, nuts, olive oil, coconut oil are full of natural healthy fats and they are good for you. You will need to eat more healthy fat to compensate for the reduced carbohydrate intake. This is the hardest message for people to understand, as it completely contradicts years of well-meaning but incorrect government misinformation, but it’s true!
6: Avoid Vegetable Oils:
Olive oil is good for you, but avoid seed oils such as rapeseed oil, sunflower oil, safflower oil, soya oil, corn oil and margarine should be avoided. Eat butter instead.
Contrary to what we have been told over the last 40 years or so, seed oils are thought to cause inflammation and considered to be a major factor in a number of diseases by many scientists. Most fast food outlets tend to deep fry food in vegetable oils, or worse still, trans fats. Cooking with olive oil, butter or coconut oil is best. Here’s why seed oils should be avoided.
7: Avoid Snacking:
Our bodies are either on energy / fat burning or energy / fat storage mode. Every time we eat, our bodies switch to energy storage mode. If we eat three meals a day and snack between meals, our bodies are continually in storage mode throughout the waking hours, which is not good. See our time restricted eating section for further details.
STEP 1: Download Dr Unwin’s A4 summary sheet
Dr David Unwin has written an A4 summary sheet, which he has kindly agreed to share with us. You can download it here. This is a brief one side of A4 of the basic principles to get you started. These are also available at the Freshwell Health Centre reception in case your printer is misbehaving.
STEP 2: Get some recipe ideas
The Diet Doctor website is a great place to start. Ditchthecarbs.com is also a good place to look. Type “Low Carb Recipe” into Google and you won’t be short of options. Aim for a daily intake of less than 130g of carbohydrates a day for a low carb diet, or lower if you are really keen to make a flying start. A “ketogenic” or “keto” diet further restricts carbs to less than 30g of carbs a day. Individuals vary in their response to carbohydrate restriction. Many people do very well by keeping their carb intake below 130g / day whereas some people find that reducing their intake further makes all the difference.
STEP 3: Plan your Meals
Download a meal planner or draw one up yourself. Then you can plan your low carb shopping for the week. If you want to download one, then you could try this one for starters, then go shopping for food.
STEP 4: Clear unhealthy foods out your cupboards
Now you have a better idea of what is good to eat and what is not so good to eat, you will have a better idea of what needs to be in your cupboard. Get rid of the bad stuff, as it may be way too tempting if you are experiencing a dip in your will power.
STEP 5: Have a look at our resources section
We have been recommending Dr Michael Mosley’s “8 Week Blood Sugar Diet” book as a good source of information and we have had some very good feedback. The accompanying “8 Week Blood Sugar Diet Recipe Book” is very good too. You don’t have to strictly follow the 8 week diet (but it may give your new lifestyle a tremendous kick-start if you do). It is a great book to help you appreciate some of the principles and take them forward to become lifelong habits.
If you suffer with any significant health conditions, particularly affecting the kidneys or liver or suffer with diabetes or high blood pressure – then please speak to a doctor or nurse before embarking on a low carb lifestyle, especially if you are considering embarking on a very low calorie diet as advocated in Dr Mosley’s book. This is especially important if you are on any medication because you may find very quickly that you no longer need this medication and should stop taking it so that your blood pressure or blood sugar does not drop too low. Please also discuss with a doctor first if you are pregnant, breastfeeding, under 18, if you have a past history of any significant mental health problem or any type of eating disorder. We will be only too pleased to hear of your plans and assist you through this stage.
Exercise is great and has many health benefits.
People who exercise regularly have a lower risk of developing many long-term (chronic) conditions, such as heart disease, type 2 diabetes, stroke, and some cancers. Research shows that physical activity can also boost self-esteem, mood, sleep quality and energy, as well as reducing your risk of stress, depression and dementia.
Have a look at the NHS live-well exercise web pages for more information.
Exercise is a great thing to do and can make your feel really great but it is unusual to be able to achieve significant weight loss with exercise alone – it is essential to exercise in conjunction with having a healthy diet.
Check out some of the other pages on the website via our main menu for more details about starting up on a low carb lifestyle.