Friday, January 21, 2011

Defining Low-Carb

The concept of  "low-carb" should be easy to understand but there have been times when researchers have missed the point. We have seen instances where the clinical trials held 100 grams of carb/day as "low-carb."Of course, the results are not what they should be when such a diet is compared to the Standard American Diet in these studies. The low-carb way of eating means that fat is being consumed in the place of carbs. Hospitals and doctors, who are currently treating children for seizures using the "low-carb" approach, are generally worried about the long-term results. The seizures go away but they worry about what looms on the horizon for these kids. They worry that the price for success in one therapeutic outcome will exact a price somewhere else on the horizon. After the seizures are gone along come the heart problems - that is what they think.

The low-carb community consists of those who are trying to promote the view that, since the 1970s, the American Standard Diet, supported by multinational corporations, health agencies, and governments, has impacted the health and well-being of countless people in a negative way - the results are the diseases of civilization - obesity, heart disease, diabetes, cancer, and a host of others. Researchers are scared of experimenting with very low-carb intake; researchers, eliminating seizures through the low-carb diet, are afraid of the long term effects; doctors, who have long noted that low-carb diets reduce tumors, are afraid to support it in public. Mainstream society seems to think fat is bad and to be avoided; the low-carb community has an opposite view - it is not fat that is the problem, it is the carbs - the foods that are not in tune with our evolutionary journey.

The idea of eating fat in place of carbs is the universal maxim of the low carb lifestyle, often referred to as "paleo." The differences between the two are minimal -paleo avoids dairy because the "caveman" didn't drink it. They have to be understood within a context. To illustrate this, I've gathered (in no special order) a number of low-carb advocates from my blog list and see how they are similar and different in their presentations of what constitutes a low-carb diet or a low-carb way of life.

Some blogs lay it out in detail and some don't, but the gist of what low carb is actually does clarify itself. Robb Wolf starts off his blog by saying that the "Paleo diet" is "effective for fat loss and halting or preventing a number of degenerative diseases." The building blocks of the Paleo meals are meat, fowl, and fish -wild and grass fed; fruits and veggies in season and "healthy fats such as nuts, seeds, avocado, olive oil, and coconut oil." Operating under the shadow of his mentor, Loren Cordain, animal fat is not mentioned here. Elsewhere he suggests lean meat.

At the blog of Dr. Art Ayers (Cooling Inflammation), the emphasis is on the contrast - what not to eat. These are starches, simple sugars, and high fructose corn syrup. He says the focus of our diet ought to be "meats, fish. eggs, and leafy vegetables." Trans-fat are a no-no but probiotics are good as well as saturated fats - in fact he says that "saturated fats are healthy and reduce the peroxidation of omega-3 fatty acids at sites of local inflammation." He seems to emphsize that "saturated fats should be the major source of dietary calories."

Over at the PaNu blog of Dr. Kurt Harris we find a 12 step solution that will "remove the neolithic agents of disease in an efficient and practical manner." The steps are to be followed in the order as they are set out - you get healthier the further you go along this path: 1) get rid of sugar - fruit juices, sport drinks - and foods that contain flour; 2) eat proper fats -animal, coconut oil, and whole cream; 3) get rid of gluten grains - limit grains like corn and rice; 4) get rid of "grain and seed derived oils" - those are "cooking oils" that should be replaced with coconut oil, butter, animal fats, or ghee; 5) eat meat from ruminants & include eggs and some fish; 6) get sun & supplements for Vitamin D; 7) two or three meals a day is all you need; 8) adjust the omega 6 and omega 3 ratio; 9) exercise using resistance and interval training instead of aerobics; 10) ease up on fruits because of fructose - emphasize berries; 11) get rid of legumes; you may want to avoid dairy, if allergic or concerned with casein - stick to butter and cream. He is not concerned about numbers but says that Paleo should range along this ratio: 5-35% carbs, 10-35% protein, 50-80% fat. This depends if you are dieting or maintaining your weight. One point he makes is that the issue is not fat vs. carbs but "neolithic agents of disease versus everything else."

These views are succinctly summarized by Mark Sisson (Mark's Daily Apple) where, on his blog, he says the following: "Focus on quality sources of protein (all forms of meat, fowl, fish), lots of colorful vegetables, some select fruits (mostly berries), and healthy fats (nuts, avocados, olive oil)..... Eliminate grains, sugars, trans - and hydrogenated fats from your diet."

From Richard Nikoley's Free the Animal blog we get a five-point summary: one should eat "real foods" and by that he means meat, fowl, fish, natural fats from animals, coconuts, and olives; veggies, fruits, and nuts. He points out that one should remove grain, sugar, and vegetable oils from one's diet, supplement with omega 3 fats, and engage in intermittent fasting; get sunshine, supplement it with Vitamin D, and do short intense exercises.

From this we can come away with some universal maxims: eat animal fat, tropical oils (coconut/palm) & avoid industrial oils (vegetable -canola, safflower etc...); get rid of all carbs (starch/sugars) except for some nuts, some vegetables & minimal fruits; get into the sun, supplement with Vitamin D; exercise briefly but intensely. The bottom line is to eat like the human race has done for millions of years or  at least the last 200, 000 years, since our last migration out of Africa. We did not evolve to eat synthesized, processed, boxed, packaged, wrapped, and canned foods.

No comments:

Post a Comment