September 8, 2014

Be Careful of People Advising Against Low Carb

Before I learned that the glycemic index for foods was developed by using only healthy people, I was an advocate for using low glycemic foods. Now I only use the index as a guideline and nothing more. Several researchers have also recommended using them as guides because they have discovered that certain chronic illnesses do not yield the same results.

Now the author of the glycemic index, Professor Jennie Brand-Miller, is speaking out against very low-carbohydrate meal plans (diets). She was answering this question - If carbs increase my blood glucose levels, wouldn’t a low-carb diet (or even a very low one) make better sense for managing it? Her answer was “In theory, a low-carbohydrate diet seems a logical choice if your aim is simply to reduce blood glucose levels. But presumably your goal is long-term, optimum health with good glycemic control and reduced risk of chronic disease. If so, very low-carbohydrate diets need a little caution because you will be missing out on the micronutrients, antioxidants, phytochemicals and fibre that plant foods (fruit, starchy vegetables, legumes and grains) provide.”

She then avoids talking about fats of any kind when she continues, “In studies that tracked individuals for long periods of time, those eating the least amount of carbohydrate and very high amounts of protein had almost double the risk of dying during the follow up period, especially from cardiovascular disease. You might also find this very low carbohydrate diet so extreme that it's hard to lead a normal social life and enjoy eating because you have to exclude so many favourite foods (think potatoes, oranges and honey).” Bold is my emphasis.

Then she refers to this from Nutrition in July 2014 which the press release can be read here and my blog on it here. She says that the authors, “Call for a complete reappraisal of dietary guidelines for diabetes management and they present evidence for dietary carbohydrate restriction as the first approach in diabetes management. I do think there is some truth in the benefit of modest reductions in carbohydrate intake (to say 40–45% energy). However, I’m not in favour of further reduction because it’s just too hard for most people to comply. Conversely, I'm not recommending an increase in carbohydrate intake to 65% of calories to someone with diabetes; it strikes me as "pushing the envelope" too far.”

For people that do talk about low carb and at least medium fat, read these blogs by David Mendosa, Managing the Condition of Diabetes, Managing Diabetes with a Strange Fat, and Saturated Fat is Back for People with Diabetes. An article in Medscape talks about different fatty acids and how they affect us.

She concludes her article about low carb diets with this statement. “I believe that very low-carb diets are unnecessarily restrictive (bread, potato, rice, grains and most fruits are off the menu) and may spell trouble in the long term if poor quality food takes the place of high quality carbohydrate. Modestly higher protein/low GI diets strike me as a happy medium between low fat and low carb-diets – you can have your carbs, but choose them carefully.”

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