What's eating Mckeating? Part 4 (final part)
Posted on 13th February 2020 at 09:36
lowInsulin/ diabetes and common misunderstandings
A recent event prompted me writing this article, it was a field piece on a well-respected news program from a reporter who had apparently “spent hours looking into nutrition” and had concluded that we need to drastically rethink our diets. She then went on to interview various low carb experts, some of them doctors, one of whom came out with the following line of reasoning
When we eat carbohydrates, blood sugar is increased, and in response insulin is raised, its main purpose is to force all that extra blood sugar into a cell, whilst this is happening, the body is prevented from burning any fat.
Excess carbohydrates are then turned into fat and stored.
If insulin is constantly raised, then our internal cells become desensitised to insulin, leading eventually to diabetes.
These might sound logical enough, but the actual Science tells us otherwise.
Firstly, carbs aren’t the only thing which raises insulin, so if this hormone really is an issue, we should be concerned that protein can raise it just as much as carbohydrates can. Dairy is also a potent raiser of insulin, and yet research has shown that high intakes of dairy are associated with greater fat loss.
And contrary to what many people think, insulin doesn’t just cram sugar into cells, in fact sugar can get into cells without insulin through a concentration gradient, the important thing insulin does is stop the liver from producing and releasing more sugar into the blood.
But let’s stick with why insulin might be an issue for weight loss, so remember that if insulin is higher than usual fat burning processes which take place during most of the day are put on hold. This is because an enzyme known as hormone sensitive lipase (HSL) is lowered, HSL is responsible for the breakdown of stored fats. If you think that a low carb diet will give you a break from lowered HSL however your sadly mistaken, as a high fat diet will also lower HSL.
Throughout the day every time you eat a hormonal dance takes place in which insulin may be temporarily increased and then come back down again, unless you spend the majority of your time eating and are consuming more calories per day than you expend then it’s unlikely that the balance of fat storage to fat burning which tips back and forth throughout the day will result in weight gain.
The good news is that muscle protein synthesis (gainz) is increased with high insulin, which is why some bodybuilders inject themselves with it.
Alongside Insulin another hormone is also secreted called Amylin, this hormone helps to breakdown fat and reduce appetite. In type one diabetics no Amylin is produced, and in type two diabetics Amylin is impaired, there have even been successful diabetic weight loss trials using an Amylin like drug as a treatment.
But what about excess carbohydrates being turned into fat?
This is an extremely metabolically expensive task, the body will preferentially oxidize carbs for use as energy for muscle tissue, the brain and organs and any excess fat will instead be stored.
In a progressive overfeeding experiment nearly 5000 calories per day where eaten by subjects, with 83% of these calories coming from carbs.
That’s about 42 slices of bread!
The amount of carbohydrates burned by the subject’s bodies increased from 74g per day to 398g per day.
We can store about 15g of carbohydrate per kg of our bodyweight, so a 100kg person could reasonably store 1500g of carbs before they would need to start burning it up for energy.
We store about 80 to 100g in our liver, around 800g in our muscles and .9g for every litre of blood in our body.
None of this is to say that excess carbs are never turned into fat, they can be, however it’s more likely that instead they will be burned up for energy or stored and fat will be stored instead.
Finally, I’ll turn to the risk of diabetes from carbohydrate intake.
It’s an easy mistake, carbs raise insulin, diabetics are insulin resistant, so therefore carbs cause diabetes.
But it’s a false chain of reasoning, obesity causes insulin resistance, and obesity is caused from an excess of calories, be they from fat/ carbs or protein. It really doesn’t matter where the calories come from, if a person eats more than they expend, then insulin resistance builds up and eventually there becomes a risk of developing diabetes.
I’ll end on this. I’ve given low carb diets to a number of clients over the years, I can attest to their effectiveness, I still give them to some people when I know it’s something they personally prefer, however when I do so I usually try to give them a choice of carbs they can still eat and how much.
Low carb doesn’t have to mean zero carbs.
I also do this knowing that
They can still over consume calories if fat is too high (have seen this happen a few times)
Most likely it’s not something they will stick to long term, so long as they know this and are cool with it then that’s fine.
They’ll need fibre, plenty of it.
They’ll need to stick it through the first few days where it sucks to be low carb.
Most of the weight they lose initially will be lost water, as 1g of carbs in the body also stores 3 to 4g of water, losing weight this quick can help with motivation, but beware that at some point when transitioning to a more sustainable approach there will be some weight gain as glycogen stores become full again.
If you want to do a low carb diet, do it out of preference, and avoid demonising carbs or thinking they are fattening.
I’ve tried to avoid using my personal bias throughout these articles and just stick with the facts, I got in great shape just last year using a reasonably high carb low calorie plan ( 2000 calories per day with 300g coming from carbohydrates)
Happy dieting folks, any issues or questions with anything I've mentioned get in touch.
Share this post: