The Biggest Weight Loss Myth: Low Carb Diets are The Best Diets
There are many variations of the low-carb diet. While some gurus advocate higher healthy fat, others push for high protein in place of carbohydrates (carbs). In general, the higher healthy fat approach to the low-carb diet can be ideal for people who suffer from a metabolic illness such as obesity, insulin resistance, and Type II diabetes. (High protein diets lack healthy fats and can potentially yield higher blood sugar levels leading to weight gain and inflammation, comparatively.) But either way, low-carb diets are not the best diets because healthy individuals and especially athletes would face more risk than benefit when lowering carbohydrate intake to less than 50% – assuming they choose the right carbs.
The low-carb diet began in 1797 courtesy of Dr. John Rollo who treated his diabetic patients by removing carbohydrates from their meals. The medical community followed his lead and today, most people know the diet via the late Dr. Atkins, who advocated replacing carbohydrate intake with fats and a bit of protein for his obese, Type II diabetic patients.
More recently, the low carb craze is purported to lend a “metabolic advantage” to those who overeat while pursuing low-carb and high protein. But it’s baloney because overeating will always cause an energy imbalance leading to fat storage – overeating is overeating, whether its seeds, nuts or cotton candy, though the hormonal effects will be different, weight gain still ensues either way.
A carbohydrate comes from foods like grains, dairy products, fruits, vegetables and legumes (beans and peas). Biochemically, they’re known as saccharides or more commonly, a molecular chain of sugar. Once consumed, the body chops them into individual sugar units, and your blood sugar rises to various degrees depending on the type of carbohydrate it is. To shuttle the sugary molecules out of the blood, your pancreas produces insulin, which triggers muscle cells to vacuum them up and use it as energy.
Among those who suffer from a metabolic illness, the fat promoting insulin lingers and floats around for too long. In other words, an “insulin recovery,” marked by quick removal of it from the blood, is not obtained as it would be for athletes or healthy individuals – and weight gain follows. Biochemists show this is due to the fact that excess insulin (due to poor recovery or elimination) stifles testosterone, glucagon and other fat burning compounds.
Removing the promoter of insulin, carbohydrates, helps the obese or Type II diabetic reverse the illness. By lowering (not eliminating) carbohydrate intake and replacing it with healthy fats (not just any fats), the patients are better able to parlay their metabolism to fat burning, which, at the cellular levels, gives rise to “ketones.”
Ketones are nothing more than the fodder or byproducts of burning belly fat through the cellular furnace known as the mitochondria. The more fat that gets charred through the cellular engine to produce ketones, the better. Eventually, the low carb diet became the ketogenic diet and was also shown to be extremely effective for treating epilepsy.
If you’re not obese, insulin resistant, Type II diabetic, or epileptic, the low carb diet can potentially cause problems. Once carbs are lowered or removed, a weighty compound known as glycogen is quickly depleted as well as micronutrients derived from carbohydrates. Glycogen compromises about 8% of the human body and provides long term energy to muscle and brain cells. It’s the first to be lost in a low-carb diet and is erroneously mistaken as a good thing when weight drops among evangelic followers.
For fit people, loss of glycogen and micronutrients leads to muscle weakness, fatigue, poor thyroid function, and most immediately, mental funk. Brain cells use twice as much energy as all other cells in the body. The energy required comes strictly from glycogen, they cannot use fats and proteins for fuel. Just as muscle cells can’t function without water, brain cells are unable to produce enzymes and neurotransmitters that aid in memory and problem solving when glycogen and micronutrients plummet – mental ability spirals and we begin to feel a mental funk, or worse, become extremely aggravated and short tempered, what I call psychoglycemia.
Therefore, while the low carb diet is therapeutic for the obese, Type II diabetics and epileptics, it in no way should be applied to fit, healthy individuals – just as antibiotics shouldn’t be used among those who don’t have an infection. Among this group, the insulin rebound is fast, and therefore they will not be metabolically shackled by healthy carb intake – even at 50%.
The best source of carbohydrates are non-sweet, naturally occurring complex carbohydrates such as broccolli, cauliflower, cabbage, onions, tomato’s, brussels sprouts, oatmeal, asparagus, white grapefruit, black beans and green beans. Thus, low carb diets are not the best diets because they’re not applicable to the masses. Instead, it’s only a therapeutic tool.
About the Author
My name is Shane “The People’s Chemist” Ellison. I hold a master’s degree in organic chemistry and am the author of Over-The-Counter Natural Cures Expanded Edition (SourceBooks). I’ve been quoted by USA Today, Shape, Woman’s World, US News and World Report, as well as Women’s Health and appeared on Fox and NBC as a medicine and health expert. Start protecting yourself and loved ones with my FREE report, 3 Worst Meds.