People have always eaten them, we’re only recently obese and ill. How can it possibly be carbs??
It’s only very recently that I have come to understand this and it’s such a fundamental question.
Those that dismiss low carb as a fad are quick to point out that bread and rice have been staples of civilisations for at least three thousand years. Diabesity (the term for metabolic diseases Obesity and Diabetes) became a pandemic only in the last fifty years. So what’s changed?
1) Grains have changed
99% of today’s wheat is a variety of semi-dwarf wheat that was developed in the 1970’s. It’s much higher in gluten than traditional wheats – notice a growth in gluten intolerance lately?
The new breeds are built for yield and to work well with nitrogen based fertilisers, not nutrition. According to Wheat Belly author Dr. William Davis, “this thing being sold to us called wheat—it ain’t wheat. It’s this stocky little high-yield plant, a distant relative of the wheat our mothers used to bake muffins, genetically and biochemically light-years removed from the wheat of just 40 years ago.”.
Modern grains and mass farming methods may well be a key contributor to current inflammatory and autoimmune diseases.
2) We’ve changed WHICH carbs we eat and WHEN we eat them.
Highly refined fibre-less carbs like sugar and white flour elevate your insulin levels dramatically, leading directly to weight gain (deposit of glucose in fat cells) but also indirectly through increasing hunger at a hormonal level, leading to over-eating. Often Hangry? Hungry as soon as you wake? That’s refined carbs.
When eaten as a snack or consumed as a sugary drink between meals (as constant hunger means we can’t make it from meal to meal as we used to) our bodies are now exposed to constantly high insulin levels throughout the day, both from ‘healthy’ carbs at mealtimes and carb-based snacking, drinks and treats. The drops in insulin are important for recovery (google Autophagy if unfamiliar, there will be a blog shortly!) contrary to the ‘eat 6 times a day’ advice we were all told.
Constant carb eating is a fundamental change for us, we used to eat two/three meals a day with distinct periods not eating between. The lack of time to allow our insulin levels to drop is part of what makes us sick.
3) We were told to eat more carbs.
Ah the magical Food Pyramid. We’ve been massively misled by health committees with little to no evidence in what they were saying. The new USDA guidelines in 1977, taken on by most countries, suggested 6-11 portions of carbohydrates a day and we were advised to avoid animal fats.
Saturated fats were given a very hard time due to research following a worrying rise in Cardiovascular disease that has since been shown to have been more closely associated to smoking, the rise in seed oils and sugar consumption.
Low fat would save us all and what should we replace the fats with? Lots of carbs. Of course. Brilliant.
4) Our bodies have become insulin resistant
With any over-exposure comes resistance and that can be seen with alcohol, coffee and antibiotics – the more you’re regularly exposed to them, the less an impact they have. Constantly raised levels of insulin drives an ever-reduced effectiveness, our cells become less responsive to insulin as the key to passing glucose into (for instance) fat cells. In order to deliver the same amount of glucose we produce ever more insulin to do the same job. This makes us even more exposed to insulin and more resistant.
That’s just the Glucose. Fructose is more dangerous as it’s only processed and stored in the liver which is already under strain from excess Glucose. It’s not just sugar and fruit juices that are danger points for consuming Fructose, many manufactured items contain fruit sugars too, as they help stabilise and sweeten the products whilst sounding a little healthier to the consumer. Too much Fructose leads to NAFLD (Fatty Liver) and further insulin resistance which means you’re now in all sorts of trouble from further carbohydrates.
Eventually our ability to cope with high levels of carbohydrates (‘heart-healthy’ grains or otherwise) breaks down.
5) China’s sudden rise in Diabetes
China has long been perceived as a good example of a slim and healthy population with a high carb diet base, but things have changed in the last 20 years. The traditional carb consumption is still evident with 143 million tons of rice in 2019 being consumed (as rice and rice flour noodles etc), as high as its ever been. Now add into this the surge in sugary drinks, carb-based snacking and western food and what’s happened?
An estimated 125 million people are diabetic (a five-fold growth over the last two decades), a quarter of adults in Beijing are now obese and China is understood to be taking over from the States as the most metabolically sick nation by the end of 2020.
Once the body has reached this stage of insulin out of control, high blood sugar, fatty liver and obesity, simply cutting out sugar or joining a Gym isn’t going to cut it. Your body has lost it’s ability to effectively process carbs and will not discriminate between a bowl of rice, pasta or a Mcdonalds Milkshake from a glycaemic load perspective – it all ends up as glucose in the blood with underperforming insulin desperately trying to allocate the excess glucose to a task.
So carbs are bad?
Is it possible to live a healthy life with a high carb, lower fat diet? Yes, absolutely.
The truth is that if you are one of the very few lucky ones that have avoided processed ‘junk’ foods (made with refined carbohydrates and chemically extracted toxic seed oils), you may well be highly tolerant of some carbohydrates in your diet, as our ancestors have been.
You will eat a portion of bread, pasta or rice with your meal, your body will produce insulin to utilise the glucose from the broken down starches and your insulin levels will drop back down straight after. You and your family may well be slim, be active, rarely snack, cook from scratch and you’ll be confused how anybody can’t be like you by eating sensibly with a bit of willpower.
Unfortunately you’d be very much in the minority. The rest of us have already broken the metabolic engine and introducing this will last as long as we could fight constant hunger for. 3 months? 6 even?
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