Dr. Lee, the Healthy Professor

Good Health is More Than Low Carb

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The popularity, promotion and discussion of “low” carbohydrate dieting may be missing the point. There is more to good health and responsible weight management than just eliminating carbohydrates. In fact, eliminating or severely restricting any of the “Macro” Nutrients (carbohydrates, fats and proteins) has never been considered wise or healthy.

The fundamental premise behind “reduced” carbohydrate consumption is that need to control blood insulin levels. Insulin is the storage hormone and the “fat-burning” inhibitor. Insulin is secreted by the pancreas in response to the presence of blood sugar (glucose). The amount of insulin secreted is in proportion to blood glucose levels and in proportion to how fast these levels are rising. Refined carbohydrates and simple sugars (high glycemic index foods) that are easily digested will cause a rapid rise in insulin whereas low glycemic index foods (higher in fibre, proteins and/or fats) will produce a moderate insulin response. So the objective should be to eat low glycemic index foods to control the amount of insulin released into the blood.

Insulin transports the glucose from the blood to the working cells of the body. If the energy of the cells is satisfied the next stop is to fill up muscle and liver glycogen stores. Glycogen is the storage form of glucose. This does not take much if one is sedentary. The third step is to store the surplus glucose as fat. If insulin is elevated, we can not burn fat.

The fallacy of many low carbohydrate and low glycemic index promoters is the total exclusion of any reference to the other components of a complete eating plan. You could eat “low carb”, “low glycemic” everything and still not lose fat nor be healthy. You would still have elevated insulin levels and you might lose weight because you would be on a very low calorie diet but the weight loss would be that of lean tissue.

A healthy eating plan must also be “Protein Adequate”, “Essential Fatty Acid Adequate” and “Nutrient Adequate”. Even the original Atkins program, introduced in the 70’s, advocated essential fatty acids and nutrient supplements.

Adequate protein provides the building blocks for a healthy immune system, controls appetite and helps to keep the brain alert. Excess carbohydrates will put you to sleep. Essential fatty acids are necessary for the metabolism of other fats, the production of all hormones, the control of appetite and they help to make food taste good.

The obesity, the type II diabetes and the high blood pressure epidemics are modern problems brought on by modern lifestyles. Old solutions will not solve these problems. Modern problems require modern solutions. Some of the modern solutions that need to become lifestyle staples are part of the “Better Balanced Diet” I have promoted for the last decade. A macro nutrient balance know as 40-30-30  that means 40% of calories from carbohydrates (low glycemic index vegetable and fruits and whole grains), 30% of calories from protein and 30% of calories from fat (try to exclude trans fats). This is a program that will control insulin, produce adequate hormones and encourage fat metabolism. In addition, for optimal health, a responsible supplement program is not an option. This should include multi vitamins, anti oxidants, essential fatty acids and fibre.

Understand that with average calorie intakes below 2,000 calories per day, there is no possible way to obtain enough nutrients from the food we choose, if we wish to provide our bodies with adequate protection from degenerative and infectious disease.

Developing a lifestyle of healthy eating and responsible supplementation will pay big dividends for you and your family. Dividends like more energy, longevity and freedom from having to use the health care system. Lifestyle, not diet, is the operative word here.

This recommendation is not a fad, but a necessity for good health.

L. Lee Coyne