Part 1 – Why does eating carbs pile on the weight and eating the more calorific fats doesn’t?

This is how I understand it:

When we eat fats, they are metabolised into free fatty acids, taken to the liver and converted into triglycerides. Fine.

When we eat carbs, they are digested into glucose some of which is directly used by muscle cells and other cells of the body and the rest is taken to the liver and converted into triglycerides and some into glycerol. Okay.

So eating both carbs and fats should pile on the weight if we’re consuming more than our cells need, right? Well, it isn’t so simple.

Given a set number of calories in a so-called ‘balanced diet’ – let’s say bang on the average –  (and keeping protein constant), consuming both fats and carbs seems to be a recipe for slowly but inexorably putting on weight. With the same set of calories, consuming relatively more carbs (even ‘good’ carbs) and cutting down on the fats to keep the calories constant, most people will still put on weight, maybe even faster. With the same set of calories, consuming relatively more fats and cutting down on the carbs, most people will stop putting on extra weight and some will take it off. Those are facts and they’ve been demonstrated over and over again.

If you cut the fats, you have to diminish the calorie count significantly to take off weight. That’s why such a way of eating is called a ‘semi-starvation’ diet. A period of weight loss is usually followed by a period of weight gain. More than before. Most people lose energy on such a diet and muscle mass as well. So, it’s not particularly effective and it is not easy to follow for many of us, yet still it is the most recommended diet around.

If you cut the carbs down, you don’t have to diminish the calorie count. The extra calories can be fats (and in our hypothetic situation, they will be); it doesn’t seem to matter, you will stop gaining weight and maybe start to take some of it off.

But why?

Maybe it has something to do with glycerol phosphate. And glycerol phosphate is manufactured from carbs.  If glucose is burned by the cells, glycerol phosphate is produced. Glycerol Phosphate is used to turn fatty acids into trigycerides (yup, fats) and that’s necessary to put fat into fat cells. Carbs.

And maybe it has more to do with insulin. Eating carbs stimulates insulin release from the pancreas. Insulin has a number of activities, but its most prevalent use by the body is to pack triglycerides (fat) into cells. Yes, one of the effects of lowering blood sugar and packing fats into cells is to fatten us up. Eat something heavy in carbs (breakfast cereal, sandwiches, spuds, rice, fruit juices, fizzy drinks etc.) and insulin is secreted.

The problem is that a heavy carb intake load ups the blood sugar dangerously. The human body can only function in a narrow band of blood sugar levels or vital organs (especially the brain) can be badly affected. So insulin is needed to cope with this heavy carb loading we have self-inflicted. And it does. It removes blood sugars by shoving triglycerides into fat cells. As the levels of blood sugar decrease, insulin production drops off. Eventually, there is not enough insulin putting fat into fat cells to counteract the fat cells giving out fatty acids for the cells of the body to use as fuel (fat cells are really active cells). And the cells of the body quite like using fats for fuel and there is nothing unphysiological about the process. It happens in you and me all the time.

But if your insulin surge was big and fast enough, it drops just as quickly leaving the body depleted of blood sugars and without enough fatty acids being released from the fat cells to compensate. What happens? You get hungry. Somebody called it ‘internal starvation’.

One famous study had people on huge amounts of calories every day – up to 10,000 calories – up to five times normal. But these calories were from fats and proteins. Then, for experimental purposes, some of the subjects were asked to eat a meal of carbs in addition to their heavy fat and protein intake.

Believe it or not, those people became hungry a few hours after the carb ingestion. Even with all those calories! All due to that surge of insulin which was produced to lower the blood sugar level after eating carbs.

Carbs make us hungry.

Carbs make us put on fat.

Physiologically, we don’t need any carbs other than those found in green and yellow veggies.

If you’re interested in the scientific background to eating the low-carb way, check out FULL STOP – eat until you’re full and stop gaining weight.

Click here:

Carbs deplete vitamins from the body

A balanced diet. All nutritionists, most doctors and other experts (like my grandmothers and yours) have always advocated eating a balanced diet. Most still do today. Why? So we have the right balance of carbohydrates, proteins and fats giving us the nutrients and vitamins and minerals our bodies need. Yet in the 1930s it had already become an established fact that eating carbohydrates deplete the many and vital B vitamins from our bodies. The flip side of this fact is that eating carbohydrates increases your need for these vitamins to maintain health. Simple. Eat carbohydrates and you need to eat more vitamin B complex. Sadly, many just swallow a daily pill instead of removing the offending carbs.

Then there’s vitamin C. Having high levels of blood sugar (and we’re not just talking about the many diabetics and pre-diabetics: latest stats = almost 20% of the population have high blood sugar levels and are classified pre-diabetic) mean the body’s requirement for vitamin C goes up. Diabetics have 30% less vitamin C in their bodies because of the high levels of blood sugar, or so says Gary Taubes in his fact-filled tome ‘The Diet Delusion’. Any non-diabetic who eats a carb-rich breakfast or a bread-dominated lunch will have high blood sugar for a time – high blood sugar means your vitamin C levels will go down. The reason is simple. The vitamin C molecule is somewhat similar in construction to the glucose molecule. Glucose muscles the vitamin C out of the way and is taken up preferentially by the cells. The vitamin C that is not absorbed into the body’s cells is wasted, peed out with the urine. That means you need to eat more vitamin C rich foods to flood your system – but only if you are eating carbs.

A famous experiment in 1928 saw two men, both well-known Scandinavian explorers who had lived with meat-eating Inuit tribes, confine their food to that of fatty meat only – about two pounds a day, 2600 calories more or less – for an entire year. I can’t imagine a more unbalanced diet. The men were supervised by scientists from such impressive universities as Harvard, Cornell and Johns Hopkins – and the scientists performed frequent checks of psychological and physical variables including the analysis of the men’s urine to make sure the men weren’t breaking the meat-only diet. But they stayed the course for the year as instructed. Both men took off some weight with their meat and fat-rich diet, as we would expect with no carbohydrates, but, to the surprise of many, they did not develop scurvy. You’ll remember scurvy is caused by too little vitamin C, a deficiency disease that killed sailors and explorers regularly unless sources of vitamin C, like the pickled veggies/sauerkraut used by Cook, or the limes of the British navy, were added to their diet.

Doctors also predicted Stefansson and Anderson would develop a severe depletion of magnesium and calcium (vital to many activities within the body) because the acid-rich diet promotes excretion of minerals, but they did not. And those B vitamins: they were not eating the husks of rice or barley, the traditional preventatives of vitamin B1 deficiency (beriberi), just fatty meat. Yet Stefansson and Anderson remained healthy. The amount of vitamins and minerals found within the meats they were eating was perfectly adequate to maintain their health. Their blood pressures were good and they had masses of energy in spite of a rather sedentary life style.

Stefansson and Anderson got away with eating such an unbalanced diet because they were eating no carbohydrates.

Do I recommend a meat-only diet? Nope. It’s expensive and it lacks variety. So I recommend some carbs? Not particularly, but all veggies include carbs and I recommend a variety of vegetables, a small piece of fruit every day (half a pear, for instance, or a handful of berries) – eaten with something fatty like butter, olive oil or cream, and protein – eggs, meat or fish. What I don’t recommend is anything sugary or made from flour; white or whole grain, it still raises your blood sugar to unacceptable heights. And depletes you of vitamins.