Why is low carb better than low fat for health and weight loss?

Anyone remember their first exposure to “nutritional education?” Chances are, if you’re like me, you first learned how to “eat healthy” from some version of the “food pyramid.”

This traditional pyramid presented the food groups as a hierarchy. It recommended that foods such as breads, grains, pasta and rice comprise the bulk of the diet (roughly 40 percent), equating to a whopping six to 11 servings a day! Americans have taken this advice to heart and currently individually consume the equivalent of 300 loaves of bread and 200 pounds of sugar a year!

Predictably, this “high carb, low fat, everything in moderation” philosophy has provided the framework for why we are the heaviest country on the planet (70 percent of us are overweight). It also “largely” explains why 80 percent of our country is dying from chronic illness directly related to our lifestyle choices, in the form of obesity, heart disease and diabetes.

This nutritional advice may have been good in theory, but it has been poor for health, and we have been paying for it ever since. The rationale has created not only widespread health problems, but has also caused significant nutritional confusion. People do not know what to believe.

One thing we should know, however, is that by looking around at people everywhere, we are not healthy and that this nutritional philosophy is clearly flawed. People don’t become diabetic by eating meat and vegetables. Plenty of people, however, develop diabetes because of too many muffins, bagels, breakfast cereals, pancakes, donuts and pies over the years. Foods such as these increase blood sugar the most, and are what contribute to diabetes.

In a healthy normal functioning body, after we eat, our blood sugar rises (the amount that it rises depends on the type of food that we eat). Carbohydrates cause a significant rise in blood sugar, whereas fat does not. This is significant because when blood sugar increases, insulin is released from the pancreas, which transports this sugar (in the form of glucose) to the cells of the body, where they are used for fuel.

When we repeatedly consume the “high carbs” listed above over and over throughout the day, the pancreas has to secrete more and more insulin to keep up with this overload of sugar. After years of eating this way, eventually the cells become “insulin resistant” to the bombardment of excess glucose. This then leads to further rises in blood sugar, inflammatory responses, and increases in visceral (abdominal) fat. Inevitably, the pancreas succumbs to the thrashing it has taken from glucotoxicity, lipotoxity and inflammation, and essentially burns out. This leaves a deficiency in insulin and an increase in glucose, and voilá, diabetes!

Unfortunately, the discovery of insulin resistance led to the idea that “healthy whole grains” would salvage the health of Americans that was believed to be caused by overconsumption of fats. The conventional dietary solution therefore was to consume sugar in “moderation,” increase whole grain consumption, and increase low fat foods.

This disastrous advice inadvertently led to the health epidemic that we see around us today… weight gain, obesity, bulging abdomens of visceral fat, prediabetes, and diabetes on a scale never before witnessed. This failed dietary “experiment” demonstrates very clearly what can happen to people when we reduce fats and replace these lost fat calories with “healthy whole grains.”

Dietary diseases need appropriate dietary solutions. We can begin by trying to eliminate the foods that initiate this process in the first place. If we eliminate foods that elevate blood sugar and insulin to high levels, an entire domino effect of changes develops and the collection of abnormalities can reverse. Foods that trigger insulin the most (carbs) are therefore the most potent for weight gain, while their absence allows for weight loss.

Study after study has shown that eliminating grains and sugars via a low carb restriction while not limiting calories not only generated greater weight loss than other macronutrient manipulations, such as cutting fat, but also led to better cardiovascular profiles (higher HDL, lower triglycerides, and reduced blood sugar). Additionally, we can then emphasize replacing the traditional high carb pyramid with meals consisting of meats, vegetables, eggs, nuts, and healthy fats (coconut oil, avocado oil, olive oil, fish oil and butter), water to drink, and fruits for dessert.

Our health is extremely valuable, and it’s worth making a change.

Brett Lukert3 Posts

Dr. Brett Lukert, D.C. is a licensed chiropractor for Lukert Chiropractic & Wellness. In addition to his chiropractic training, Dr. Lukert is a Certified Chiropractic Sports Physician® (CCSP®) and Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist® (CSCS®) by the National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA).

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