Traditionally we have been taught that excessive fat in our diet is the predominant nutritional reason for weight problems and diseases of lifestyle such as obesity, coronary heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, and cancer. Recent medical research has challenged this 40 year old belief and promoted a key shift in our understanding. In February this year, the first World Medical Congress on Low Carbohydrate Nutrition was held in Cape Town. There it emerged that the underlying cause of weight gain, especially ‘belly fat’ and associated diseases of lifestyle, is the development of increasing carbohydrate resistance or intolerance, also called insulin resistance.
Carbohydrate resistance is a condition lurking in our genetics and provoked by the quantity of refined carbohydrate and sugar in our diet. What this means for a carbohydrate resistant person eating excessive amounts of sugar, sugary drinks and refined carbohydrates such as bread, pasta, white rice and cereals, is the stimulation of excessive insulin levels in the body. This in turn leads to increased conversion of sugar to fat in the human liver, increased fat storage in the body’s fat stores and a metabolic ‘lockdown’ of those body’s fat stores. Carbohydrate resistant individuals eating a high refined ‘carb’ diet end up with increasingly full fat cells but are not able to utilise their fat stores to fuel bodily processes including exercise. The body’s cells, without sufficient long term fat fuel for energy, and relying on short term sugar fuel are thereby ‘starved’, causing the brain to stimulate hunger and fatigue, resulting in more carb eating and increased weight gain – a vicious cycle.
So how do you know if you are carbohydrate resistant? You are very likely to be so if you have:
Studies on the traditional low-fat and low-calorie dieting approach show poor long term results in terms of sustainable weight loss – the main reason being that eating fat is not the fundamental problem. Increasing evidence shows that it is eating sugar and refined carbohydrates that play the greater role in making us fat! Conventional low fat and low calorie diets, even when combined with exercise are more likely to result in hunger, fatigue, and the rapid regain of lost weight or gaining even more weight than when you started once the dieting phase is ended. We are getting fatter predominantly because of the amount of refined starchy foods and sugar that we are eating, and so many of our foods have added sugar.
Adopting an eating program that cuts out sugar and refined carbs and includes a higher healthy fat intake, results in positive metabolic changes, with resultant direct health benefits:
Low carbohydrate eating is a nutritional program for life, as you are never ‘cured’ of carbohydrate resistance, rather it is controlled by avoiding refined carbs, eating carbohydrates mostly from vegetable and fruit sources and adopting a higher intake of healthy fats. Low carb eating is simple, versatile and sustainable. Important clarifications are that the recommendations are not for a NO carb diet, but a LOW carb program. It is not a HIGH protein diet, but a LOW carb, higher fat, moderate protein nutrition program.
In summary, a return to eating REAL food and healthy fats is the way forward for health and healthy weight
Dr Jeans runs The Rolf Valley Centre for Sports Medicine and is the Harare Medical Director of The Weight Lite Nutrition Intervention Program. More details can be obtained from The Centre for Sports Medicine’s Weight Lite Program, contact email [email protected], cell 0772 402 390.