4 June 2013

Role of carbs in obesity & Diabetes

Carbohydrates… Carbs… CHO… It’s what, as modern humans, is supposed to make up the largest part of our diet, yeah? Umm, sorry, but it really isn’t.

Fact: Carbohydrates are not an essential nutrient for humans!

Before we look at the link to obesity and diabetes, lets pry this huge food group open and quickly look at what makes it up… What is a carbohydrate? In its simplest form, it’s an organic compound that only consists of Carbon, Hydrogen and Oxygen. A carbohydrate can be broken into two parts – sugar and fibre.

The foods we commonly refer to as carbs are Starchy Foods:

  • Grains / Wheat
  • Bread
  • Rice
  • Pasta
  • Potatoes

Fruit is also a carbohydrate, however they are generally complex and high in fibre. I’m not saying they can be consumed without care or thought, but starchy grain based foods is what needs urgent attention. As you know from reading the Paleo Nutrition page, humans have not evolved to eat food produced from grains / wheat and we certainly don’t want our diet to be made up of 60% starchy foods.

Carbs and Obesity

Because you have been brought up on a predominantly starchy diet, your body has become lazy and rather than use fat, both stored and consumed, to produce Glucose (sugar) for energy, it uses the Glucose from all the carbs you eat. The body can only store so much Glucose though, it stores it as Glycogen in the muscles and liver – about 500g or 2,000kCal. And when these stores are full all the rest of the glucose from carbs is stored in the body as… Fat.

So, you follow government guidelines for diet, and they are going to make you fat. That’s hard to take in and accept, but unfortunately it’s true. If you are obese or overweight and you try to lose weight, without changing your diet you are fighting a losing battle. Don’t start a fad diet, they are not healthy and in no time the weight will be back on and you’ll feel like you failed. You didn’t fail, society and our government failed.

To lose weight, you need to cut out foods from grain / wheat, and minimise rice and potatoes to a level that suits your training / fitness demands. You should eat a balanced diet that you evolved to eat, check out the Paleo Food Pyramid.

Carbs and Diabetes

Carbs and all foods containing sugars produce a Glycemic Response, that is the speed at which the sugars are absorbed into the blood. Foods are given a rating on the Glycemic Index (GI), this highlights how fast they are absorbed. High GI foods include:

  • White & brown (non-whole meal) bread
  • White rice
  • Breakfast cereals
  • Fizzy drinks
  • Sugar – such as in your tea or coffee
  • Parsnips
  • potatoes
  • Bananas
  • Carrots
  • Alchohol

As these foods are rapidly absorbed into the blood, your blood sugar suddenly soars and goes way beyond the level the body likes. So the Pancreas get’s going and releases Insulin to bring the levels down. But because you’re used to consuming these foods and that associated sugar high, you now feel low and so eat a sugary snack, which makes your blood sugar soar again and your Pancreas releases more Insulin….. And so the cycle continues, unfortunately the cycle breaks down. The Pancreas isn’t meant to work this hard and this high Insulin response becomes less and less effective, when this happens you become dangerously at risk getting Diabetes.

How can you avoid this happening to you? Simply cut down on high GI food, it isn’t necessary! I’ll say it again, you should eat a balanced diet that you evolved to eat, check out the Paleo Food Pyramid.