Low carb (carbohydrate) diets, are a relatively new nutritional approach to weight loss and dietary health. Dr. Atkins was the first to popularise low carbohydrate diets with the Atkins Diet Revolution.
Scientific Backing For a Low Carb Approach
Studies have shown that a reduced carbohydrate intake can lead to weight loss and improved health in some cases. Since the popularity of Atkins diet revolution, other diet plans have been developed, such as the South Beach, the Sonoma Diet and The Zone, which are all based on the low carb philosophy. Many celebrities have been reported to be on one of these approaches at some point.
Low Carb Tackles Obesity, Diabetes, Stroke and Cancer
The reasoning behind low carbohydrate diets, is that many of western societies health problems, such as obesity, diabetes, stroke, cancer and heart disease, are all a result of an increased carbohydrate, or sugar, consumption, and not due to a diet high in fat, as is commonly believed.
Atkins argued that the poor state of health in America (namely obesity and diabetes) was caused by the fact that the government had created the “food pyramid” to inform people of what a healthy, balanced diet is, and place too much importance on carbohydrates. At the base of food the pyramid, forming the largest group, are the carbohydrates – rice, pasta, bread, cereal and other flour based products.
Low GI and Low Carbs
Second in importance are the high GI vegetables, such as potatoes, carrots, leeks, corn and pulses, and then the fruits, such as bananas, pears and apples. Milk, yoghurt and cheese come next, with meat, poultry and fish taking a small corner in the dietary pyramid. Eggs seem to have been missed off some versions of the pyramid altogether. At the top of the pyramid are the oils, sweets, chocolates and cakes – “use sparingly” it says.
The Failings for the Food Pyramid
So, what is so wrong with this pyramid, created incidentally by the United States Department of Agriculture? The main problem, as argued by the advocates of the low carbohydrate, high protein, way of life, is that all carbohydrates are ultimately turned into sugar (glycogen) once eaten, and this sugar is quickly absorbed into the blood supply.
This blood sugar then causes an insulin response. And what is wrong with insulin, a natural hormone in the human body? Insulin causes most of the body’s cells to take up glucose (blood sugar) from the blood (including liver, muscle, and fat tissue cells), storing it as glycogen in the liver and muscle, and stops the use of fat as an energy source.
This means simply, that the body no longer burns its fat supplies for energy, instead it burns sugar. Which in turn means, weight, in the form of body-fat, is slowly increased. Whenever a meal results in an insulin response, more sugar is used for energy, resulting in greater build up of fatty tissue.
Health Advice Still Low Fat
For many years government health advisers have been preaching the benefits of a low-fat diet. Surely this is a good thing? No. Low-fat diets invariably mean high-carbohydrate diets, and therefore increased sugar consumption (in the form of both simple and complex carbohydrates). Studies have shown that even relatively low carbohydrate intake can lead to negative metabolic changes.
Many people have tried low-fat diets, and calorie restrictive diets, with no long term success. Weight is lost in the short term, but replaced again once the diet slips. This is proof in itself that low calorie, low fat diets just do not work.