Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Do Carbs Cause More Bad Than Good?

Lately I've been experimenting with a low-carb diet. It's close to ketogenic (65% fat, 30% protein, 5% carbs), but I don't stress if I go over a bit with carbs from vegetables and I do carb-ups (refeeds) whenever I fancy (usually two or three meals each week). A month into it and things are working out well for me so far. I've lost 10 lbs and am averaging 1,000 more calories a day than when I followed a low-fat diet. The best part is that my sugar cravings (especially for chocolate candy) are way down, and that right there is enough to keep me low-carbing for life.

I'm not an expert on low carb dieting, so I won't get all giddy and say that everyone in the world needs to follow this way of eating, but I just wanted to share the good news. If anyone's interested in what inspired me to go this route, read Gary Taubes' Good Calories, Bad Calories book.

Below are the 10 most important findings from Taubes' research (taken from page 454 of his book). Dave Draper's site also has some more interesting information about the Good Calories, Bad Calories book.

1. Dietary fat, whether saturated or not, is not a cause of obesity, heart disease or any other chronic disease of civilization.

2. The problem is the carbohydrates in the diet, their effect on insulin secretion, and thus the
hormonal regulation of homeostasis—the entire harmonic ensemble of the human body. The
more easily digestible and refined the carbohydrates, the greater the effect on your health,
weight and well-being.

3. Sugars—sucrose and high-fructose corn syrup specifically—are particularly harmful, probably because the combination of fructose and glucose simultaneously elevates insulin levels while overloading the liver with carbohydrates.

4. Through their direct effect on insulin and blood sugar, refined carbohydrates, starches and sugars are the dietary cause of coronary heart disease and diabetes. They are most likely dietary causes of cancer, Alzheimer's disease, and the other chronic diseases of civilization.

5. Obesity is a disorder of excess fat accumulation, not overeating, and not sedentary behavior.

6. Consuming excess calories does not cause us to grow fatter, any more than it causes a child to grow taller. Expending more energy than we consume does not lead to long-term weight loss; it leads to hunger.

7. Fattening and obesity are caused by an imbalance—a disequilibrium—in the hormonal
regulation of adipose tissue and fat metabolism. Fat synthesis and storage exceed the
mobilization of fat from the adipose tissue and its subsequent oxidation. We become leaner when the hormonal regulation of fat tissue reverses this balance.

8. Insulin is the primary regulator of fat storage. When insulin levels are elevated—either chronically or after a meal—we accumulate fat in our fat tissue. When insulin levels fall, we release fat from our fat tissue and use it for fuel.

9. By stimulating insulin secretion, carbohydrates make us fat and ultimately cause obesity. The fewer carbohydrates we consume, the leaner we will be.

10. By driving fat accumulation, carbohydrates also increase hunger and decrease the amount of energy we expend in metabolism and physical activity.