Lately there seem to be several voices crying in the "healthy eating" wilderness that we need to turn our attention away from simply stating low carb eating is the panacea for all of our health and obesity woes. They are urging us to look beyond what many of us have come to take as gospel: carbohydrates make us fat and sick, and if you reduce your carb intake to a bare minimum you will lose weight and improve many of the diseases of modern civilization you may be afflicted with.
It has been hypothesized that it is simply a matter of too much sugar in our diets that is causing the increase in obesity and diseases of modern civilization, and perhaps the highly processed grains, and maybe the vegetable oils, too. But really, they question, is it the whole of the carbohydrate macronutrient group that we need to be wary of? After all, other groups of natives that have been virtually untouched by Westernized ways of eating do quite well with eating diets very high in carbohydrates, with no ill effects whatsoever (1, 2).
And is it anything to do with insulin resistance, or leptin resistance? Is the jury still out on the whole insulin resistance issue? Many in the upper stratosphere of the Paleo movement would like to argue (and do) that the Carbohydrate Hypothesis is erroneous, and lacking in scientific backing.
It is statements like these which make me scratch my head and say, "Oh really?!"
I absolutely agree that sugar is bad, especially in the abundant quantities in the American diet. I don't eat grains, and I try to avoid vegetable oils at all costs, but are these people serious when they say they think we obese Americans can lose weight just by avoiding sugar alone?
Obviously, any change toward cutting sugar is going to reflect a positive change on the scale and in the tape measure. I have had friends in the past who swore off their favorite sugar laden food and lost weight. But what about those of us who for many years, even decades, bought into the notion that we were supposed to eat low fat, with lots and lots of "healthy" grains and carbohydrates, became obese, then cut our calories and portions, thus starving ourselves to lose pounds, damaging our metabolisms and probably frying our adrenal glands and thyroids in the process? Yeah, and many of us are women. Has it not always been obvious, and a scientific fact, that men typically lose weight faster than women? And, honestly, with the exception of less than a handful of these Paleo scientific experts in the blogosphere, not many of these gentlemen have ever been obese, or even a little overweight.
I have been on so many different weight loss diets in my lifetime. I have lost a significant amount of weight on low calorie, low fat diets, only to gain all the weight back and more because I was starving. The only eating plan that allowed me to lose weight, improve my health, and never feel hungry has been a low carbohydrate eating plan. I lost 60 pounds from my 5' 2" frame, and maintained that for quite some time. It wasn't until I decided to do my own N=1 experiment after reading many Paleo bloggers who believed that we humans were designed to be able to handle carbohydrates like potatoes and rice, that I gained some of that weight back. I am now eating "clean" again, avoiding those Paleo-approved starches, and losing weight.
My take on this is obviously based on my own personal, anecdotal experiences, but my experiences and applications of low carb eating have been backed up by science, so I am counting them as valid. While I believe that people who have never damaged their metabolisms may indeed be able to eat these starchy vegetables and ancient grains without any detrimental effects, I, and so many others in my same boat, may never be able to incorporate these foods into our daily eating plans.
Do I think low carb is a panacea for all the maladies that present themselves in modern civilization? Pretty much, but my definition of low carb may not be everyone's ideal definition, either. We all need to find out for ourselves what our bodies are capable of handling with regard to the damage we've already done.
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