The Rosedale Diet: Turn Off Your Hunger Switch!
By Ron Rosedale, M.D. and Carol Colman
Harper Collins, 2004
Ron Rosedale enjoys a popular reputation as a leading authority in metabolic and nutritional medicine, with a keen interest in longevity research. He has founded Rosedale Metabolic Medicine and co-founded the Colorado Center for Metabolic Medicine, both in Denver, Colorado.
Rosedale has treated thousands of patients for obesity, as well as diabetes, cardiovascular disease and other so-called “diseases of aging” primarily via his dietary and nutritional approach that seeks to control the hormones insulin and leptin. He was one of the first to herald the dangers of insulin—particularly insulin resistance— and its role in causing or exacerbating many degenerative diseases, along with its ability to prompt the body to store fat as well as resist burning it.
Leptin (from the Greek, leptos, meaning thin) is a newly discovered hormone that is produced by our fat cells and is now understood to be a powerful determinant of metabolism and hunger signaling. Leptin directly affects the hypothalamus, and controls such vital functions as reproduction, body temperature, blood circulation, and bone and tissue repair. Blood levels of leptin and insulin have much to say about the state of our general health as well as our prospects for long life.
Critical to those who wish to lose excess body fat, leptin is the hormone that signals the body when hunger has been satisfied, when enough fat has been stored for fuel, and when that fat is to be burned. For the body to properly “hear” these messages from leptin, communication must be clear between the hormones and the cells in our brains and other tissues. Unfortunately, the same modern dietary conditions that have caused insulin resistance to become epidemic have also caused a concomitant “leptin resistance” or “deafness” in the body’s response to leptin’s messages. Rafts of starchy carbohydrates and a flood of damaged and dangerous oils and fats in the modern Western diet have altered human metabolism for the worse.
Humans are best suited for burning fat as fuel for all normal metabolic functions except in occasional short-lived emergencies when sugar metabolism allows for lightning-fast reactions— when we can run or lift enormous weight with almost superhuman powers. However, as a result of the sea of sugar and starchy carbohydrates in the standard modern diet, most of us have “learned” to become solely sugar burners. When sugar is burned almost exclusively as fuel, the body simply stores dietary fat. Excess weight on the body is a sign of the body’s insensitivity to leptin and its inability to burn fat as fuel. Other, more ominous health problems are engendered by excessive leptin (and insulin) levels as well.
High carbohydrate diets have become a major stressor in our lives, since sugar burning is associated with stressful situations in which we need to react quickly to avoid danger. Such diets constantly provoke the sympathetic nervous system, “revving” up metabolism, including blood pressure and the adrenal glands, and steadily wearing out the body. Further, being a constant sugar burner means that even when asleep the body will seek to burn sugar. When glycogen stores in the liver have been exhausted, the body will turn to protein from muscle and even bone to break down and burn as sugar for fuel—one reason that high leptin levels are associated with osteoporosis.
According to Rosedale, when our bodies are accustomed to burning sugar, even a meal composed of healthy protein and fat will largely be converted to stored fat (and not burned as fuel) if we also consume non-fibrous carbohydrates in the same meal. The body will preferentially start burning the sugar in the carbohydrates as fuel, storing a finite amount of it as glycogen in the liver, and the rest as fat on the body. Some of the protein in the meal will be used for repair and maintenance, but the excess will also be metabolized as sugar, and stored as fat. And since the body’s cells are replete from the sugar metabolism of carbohydrate, the fat in the meal is also stored as fat on the body. Even with plenty of good fat available for combustion, Rosedale contends, a body in the habit of sugar burning will “ignore” the fat and look to burn sugar—either by making us hungry for more carbohydrates or by breaking down muscle once the liver’s limited glycogen stores have been emptied. This is why someone who is a sugar burner and tries to lose weight—that is, lose fat—with an exercise program will either fail, or only lose muscle fiber while remaining flabby. A very sorry situation any way you look at it.
Enter the Rosedale diet. Rosedale promotes his meal plan as a “leptin sensitizing” regime that will train the body’s metabolism to become proficient at burning fat. The aim is not only to lose weight, but to reverse the unhealthy and harmful cascade of metabolic disorders influenced by leptin resistance that cause not only obesity, but cardiovascular disease, arthritis, diabetes and other modern diseases of aging.
Rosedale’s regime is a cold-turkey, full-abstinence diet from all sources of starchy carbohydrates. All grains in all forms—the obvious offenders— are excluded forever. For the introductory first three weeks, while the body is in a sort of “boot camp,” only modest amounts of protein from approved sources are allowed—largely fish and seafood, game such as buffalo, venison and ostrich, and skinless chicken and turkey. Rosedale requires his dieters to keep close tabs on protein consumption. “Adequate” protein levels must not be exceeded lest the sugar-burning body convert that excess protein into sugars and sabotage fat burning. For most people, protein is restricted to 50-75 grams per day, spread out over all meals and snacks. By comparison, an egg has about eight grams of protein; a piece of meat two by three inches has about fifteen. These amounts seem abstemious, to say the least, but Rosedale insists that too much protein is counterproductive both to his diet and to any ambitions we might have for longevity. You will be eating a lot of salads with this diet, and a fair amount of nuts, olives, and avocados. Rosedale also recommends a lot of water—eight to ten glasses a day. That will certainly fill you up!
Vegetables and fruits are restricted to a list even more severe than, say, the GAPS diet allows: along with predictably proscribed potatoes, parsnips and yams are also beets, carrots, pumpkin, tomato and most legumes such as green peas, lima beans and peanuts. Fruits such as bananas, oranges, apples, pineapple, grapes, and all melons are permanently verboten, as are virtually all dried fruit. In fact, the approved fruits for the three-week trial literally number only two: avocados and olives. After this trial period berries and lemons and limes are allowed. No sweeteners of any kind are allowed, but stevia powder is acceptable; the artificial sweetener sucralose (Splenda) is allowed “if you must.” Raw or plain, home-roasted nuts appear often as snacks to assuage hunger and sugar urges—seven to ten are allowed at a time. “High omega-3” eggs are allowed, and only goat cheese and non-fat or lowfat soft and hard cheeses. The only fats allowed in the introductory period are actually oils: avocado, olive and almond. Cod liver oil is highly recommended as a daily supplement.
Low-carb “veggie” burgers are allowed, as are various whey protein products, and rare portions of “high fiber” breads, typically made with oat bran and soy flour.
Rosedale insists that followers of his diet will never be hungry, and boasts that the percentage of calories from fat on his regime ranges from fifty to even higher. While scoffing at other health “experts” who foolishly promote “fat phobia” among their patients, and coming down squarely against damaged vegetable oils and trans fats, Rosedale seems nevertheless ambivalent about the role of saturated fats in the diet and for human health—much of the time he mirrors the mainstream condemnation of “bad” saturated fat, but then will follow with qualifying comments, as though he is not quite sure what he really thinks. “Saturated fat is much harder to burn off than good fat (until you become a good fat burner),” he writes, “so if you eat high amounts of saturated fat, you will interfere with your body’s ability to burn fat. A diet high in saturated fat promotes insulin resistance, and may increase the risk of heart disease . . . If you are trying to become a proficient fat burner, I recommend that you eliminate all beef, lamb, and pork from your diet, at least for the first three weeks you are on the meal plan (unless it is not grain-fed). . . It doesn’t make much sense to eat what you’re trying to get rid of.”
Later, however, in his discussion of recommended meats, Rosedale praises grass-fed livestock (and game) for their much healthier nutrient and fat profile compared to feedlot animals, and suggests readers work at finding such grass-fed meats. It seems that he does distinguish between fats from these differently raised livestock, (“Not all beef is the same”) but the good news must be teased out of his recommendations. I suspect the average reader might not even notice the import of his murmured parenthetical remarks and subordinate clauses.
Rosedale doesn’t help to clarify matters by constantly contrasting saturated fat (such as chicken skin) with “good” fat (such as avocado), especially since chicken skin contains more monounsaturated than saturated fat! Just once I would like to open a diet book and read, “Yes, on our diet you’ll be able to enjoy olives and avocados! They actually contain the same heart-healthy monounsaturated fat found in chicken skin and lard.”
The Rosedale Diet was first published in 2004, and since six years have passed it only seemed fair to discover whether he has updated anything about saturated fats on his website devoted to his meal plan. A visit to www.drrosedale.com pulled up this current take: “Yes, the major portion of your diet should be composed of healthy fats. The important distinction between good and bad fats lies not in whether they’re saturated or unsaturated, but whether they are omega-3 or omega-6. Omega 3 fatty acids, such as those found in fish and flax oils are tremendously healthy and will provide you a great deal of benefit. Omega-6’s such as are found in peanut, soybean and sunflower oils (among others) are almost the opposite. You do need a small amount, but you will get them naturally. The more you willfully eliminate, the better you will be. Saturated fats are generally (but not always) slightly harder to burn (a big exception being coconut oil, which is very healthy for you) but as your body becomes better and better at it by practicing on easy unsaturated fats, you are welcome to consume more advanced fats with the confidence that your body will know what to do with it. People do not become fat because they eat fat. They become fat because they cannot burn it. Through this eating plan, you can.”
Now it appears that saturated fat is sometimes only “slightly” harder to burn than unsaturated fats (and these days Rosedale embraces coconut oil) so the reader and/or diet adherent is still left to his own powers of discrimination regarding the reputation of saturated fat. It is amusing that Rosedale considers saturated fats more “advanced” than unsaturated fats, and that the latter are merely training wheels for wobbly novice fat burners. Saturated fat burning, on the other hand, is apparently like reaching the metabolic Olympics level. Why would the 18-carbon saturated fats be any harder to digest than the 18-carbon monounsaturated fats that he recommends? Seems like he is just making this up. And doesn’t he know that it is the monounsaturated fatty acids that tend to build up in the fatty tissue of those who gain weight?
Rosedale includes ghee on his list of approved fats and oils. Sweet (uncultured) milk and almost all commercial yogurt and cottage cheeses contain a fair amount of sugar in the form of lactose and added ingredients (and even sweet butter is only about 80-84 percent butterfat)—and should obviously be avoided during the “training” phase of Rosedale’s diet. Ghee (or clarified butter), on the other hand, is pure butterfat. Also, if you absolutely can’t live without that single cup of morning coffee, only add heavy cream, not milk, he advises. (Can’t argue with that.)
The short list of allowed dairy products contains only lowfat versions of cottage cheese, cream cheese and a few hard cheeses. Tiny portions of full-fat cheeses are allowed after the three-week training period, but clearly dairy products are given short shrift overall. Rosedale professes to be “no fan” of dairy, and argues that for us to drink the milk of other mammals is wholly unnatural—the great pastoralist cultures of the world, full of tall slender people, notwithstanding. It goes without saying that home-cultured raw dairy products from direct farm-to-consumer relationships is far outside the context of Rosedale’s diet and his perception of his audience’s ingenuity. Rosedale reminds us that cheese and other dairy products are loaded with saturated fat, and most readers will be numbed by the incessant repetition—both from Rosedale and the medicalized media—to accept the blanket condemnation.
It came as a surprise to find that fistfuls of supplements are strongly recommended as part of the Rosedale diet. (“No matter how healthy you eat, there are important vitamins that you simply cannot get out of your diet.”) Rosedale sells his own line of supplements.
Suggested recipes and menus are largely appetizing, mostly featuring honest cuts of seafood, eggs and meat. Olive oil and occasionally ghee and butter are the main additional fats used in simple cooking preparations. In a truly bizarre spasm of karmic fat comeuppance, however, the last recipe in the section, for French Silk Pie (mille pardons to the French!) calls for four cups butter (an error; one pound butter is the weight), one and one-third cups Splenda, two cups egg whites, chocolate, and one cup whipping cream!
The Rosedale Diet gives a valuable introduction to the role diet plays in our general health and especially to the diet’s effects on the key metabolic hormones insulin and leptin. These hormones in turn powerfully influence our risk for numerous degenerative diseases that bring misery and shorten life. However, the actual diet can in fact be very dangerous—much like the South Beach diet, it is devoid of carbohydrates, and unless the reader can thread through the subtleties of his discussion on fats, it is likely to be low if not completely lacking in saturated fats. When we avoid saturated fats, the body goes to Plan B and makes them from carbohydrates. Where are his dieters going to get the saturated fats the body needs so much?
The book provides many testimonials, but nothing in the way of long-term assessment. How did his clients do over the years, assuming they could actually stay on the diet and didn’t give in to the temptation of French Silk Pie?
This article appeared in Wise Traditions in Food, Farming and the Healing Arts, the quarterly magazine of the Weston A. Price Foundation, Summer 2010.🖨️ Print post
Ms. Czapp did not read the Rosedale diet carefully
I am a strong believer in Sally Fallon’s traditional way of thinking about food. However, I do not agree with Ms. Czapp that the Rosedale diet is equivocal about saturated fat. He does nuance his ideas toward it by stating that it is the ratio between the different fats that is important. He recommends lots of fish, and almost as a concession he allows beef, but recommends the lower saturated fat grass fed type. I would like to know if this book is trustworthy, but a book review like this one is of no help.
John CUTTS says
Yes and he also says fats like olive oil are are preferable to, say, butter, for what it isn’t!
There is no doubt that he considers the correction of the omea 6 and the omega 3 imbalance as the most important and saturated fats are omega 6>
That doesn’t mean you can’t eat them but eat little of them until you are a proficient fat burner.
Most of the suggestions in this book are good. The low-carb is good for weight loss. I would suggest a few changes though to make it much healthier:
– limit nuts, as these also contain high amounts of omega-6 fats.
– use full fat dairy. Cream, cheese, butter, ghee are all high fat and low in sugars. Avoid low fat dairy. Limit or avoid milk depending on the amount of weight you need to lose. Raw dairy is always better than pasteurised.
– use lard, tallow, butter, ghee, coconut oil for cooking. Coconut oil is very good for losing weight.
– avoid veggie burgers and soy. See the WAPF (this site) for why soy is bad. Soaked and/or fermented beans are a better vegetarian source of protein. Eating meat is miles better though.
Melanie Aven says
that the reviewer did not read the book carefully. She states several things that are just not true. I was pleased when a review of the Rosedale diet popped up on Weston Price page when I googled but am very disappointed in the review.
Joshua Session says
This is the diet of the twenty-first century
The science is finally showing that restricting carbohydrates, moderating protein, and eating tons of fat is the way to optimal health. I restricted my carbohydrates and my sex drive went through the roof. Granted, I worked out two hours a day, did interval and strength training, and stood on my feet the whole day; however, it was the carbohydrate restriction that did it. When you restrict carbohydrates you increase insulin sensitivity. When you do strength training you increase insulin sensitivity. When you do interval training you increase insulin sensitivity. When you stay on your feet the whole day you increase insulin sensitivity. The author also tells you why too much protein is bad because your body can turn protein into sugar if you eat excess carbohydrates. Once you are in ketosis for three weeks you burn saturated fat efficiently. You want to eat .75 grams of protein per kilo of lean body mass. The reviewer is biased because she bakes bread I mean it is obvious, check out her website. If you want a mean sex drive and muscle skip the carbohydrates eat a lot of fat and just enough protein and go interval training and strength training. Stay on your feet as much as you can and within a month you will know what I am talking about. This is the diet to follow. Another word of wisdom. Fiber raises blood sugar so count your fiber as carbohydrates. Keep educating yourself. I just found out fiber can raise blood sugar a couple nights ago. Start now!
Four years later and your words are still gold Joshua.
How are you doing these days?
Graham Halston says
W.W.W.S.say about such an obviously biased article being published in a magazine bearing his name? Mrs. Czapp should read the book by Gary Taubes, “Why We Get Fat”, there’s a lot of REAL research in it, supporting Dr. Rosedale’s approach to health and weight loss. Dr. Rosedale’s advice could help a huge number of people, who’ve been misled by the medical establishment and our government, and are suffering the consequences with their poor health.
C Cooper says
Dr Rosedale Shares Similar Principles
I got a copy of The Rosedale Diet out of the library. I didn’t really warm up to the book, though I found his ideas about not overeating protein, complying. I think Dr Rosedale is a excellent public speaker. Here is one video from the Ancestral Health Symposium that I particularly liked:
His recommendations towards a high fat, adequate protein diet, that is low in carbohydrates makes sense for the mature, older adult trying to up regulate maintenance and repair, while avoiding diabetes and other diseases of civilization. His thinking on leptin, insulin, and mTOR is very complying for extending function lifespan.
In my opinion, Dr Rosedale shares similar principles with the Weston A Price Foundation. The voice may be different but the message rings true.
Chrostopher John says
Very opinionated and non scientific review. Please keep in mind that just because you believe the diet is unsustainable is scientifically irrelevant. Dr Rosedale may not have all the answere…yet, he’s definitely on the moving the ball forward.
Clearly the reviewer did not read the book. Also dr rosedale does not have at the time of her review any supplement line for sale though people ask for them all the time. She also keeps referring to just the lower fats during the first 3 weeks.. This is only for people who have been on a low fat diet for years to get their systems ready for fat. The programme is a high fat moderate protein diet. It works fantastic for anyone who wants to be healthy! High protein is linked with mTOR.. rosedale is just always a little ahead of the curve .. The world was also once flat but nice to see now that others are seeing the light as well. I expected a little more from Weston price though.
Do you follow Rosedale’s “restricted protein” recommendation?
If so, how do you implement it? DO you weigh your protein?
Max Johnson says
I use the app Cronometer to record my foods which you let you know how much carb/protein/fat you are eating. But once you know the right food to eat you will naturally get the right ratio without the need for an app.
I am interested in this only to lower blood pressure, so I do not have to take prescription drugs.
His (Dr. Rosedale) website says that this “diet helps with that”, but I would like to know if there is any research on this lower blood pressure besides his site.
Dr Rosedale warns, in his book, that anyone on blood pressure lowering medication should check their BP as it can quickly get TOO low if you don’t discuss lowering (or stopping) your meds.
I know this from experience as mine quickly dropped from 120/80 to 90/60, which gave me dizzy spells! Once I had cut down my bisoprolol by three qurters, it went up to around 100/60.
I would be very confident this diet would reduce your blood pressure. I have been on and off it 3 times and never failed to lose at least 30 lbs in 6 weeks. ALlso I always get a before and after blood test prescribed by my doctor. This has always showed great progress in blood sugar etc.
Jerry Miley says
People who have never tried this diet, shut up. My blood pressure became normal, my wife’s blood sugar is now normal, both of our blood work up is fantastic and I lost 87 pounds and my wife lost 35.