Some dietitians and health gurus claim that carbohydrates are the primary culprits for causing excess fat and weight gain. As the Harvard School of Public Health states, this was the case with Robert Atkins when he created the original Atkins diet, a carb-free dieting approach. Today, many people have come to realise that eliminating carbohydrates from the diet entirely is not a healthy option. However, limiting carbohydrate intake may be able to speed up the weight-loss process.
Since the dawn of agriculture, according to the University of Colorado, humans have been consuming carbohydrates like vegetables and grains as their primary source of food. This is because carbohydrates are the most efficient foods that the body can use to create energy. Carbohydrates consist of chains of sugar molecules, especially glucose, which cells in the body can readily convert into usable energy for bodily processes like metabolism and muscle contractions. The body stores unneeded carbohydrates in bodily tissues as the polysaccharide glycogen.
A 2006 study published in the "Journal of the American Medical Association" showed that diets low in carbohydrates can help people lose weight more rapidly in comparison to moderately high-carbohydrate, low-fat diets. The study consisted of two 12-month trials, which followed pre-menopausal, overweight women as they engaged in -- and maintained -- different diets. The women on the low-carb diet lost weight more rapidly than other subjects over the first six months. However, all subjects tended to gain weight back before the end of the 12 months. In addition, the Harvard School of Public Health states that many of the women on the low-carb diet cheated, sometimes consuming nearly three times the recommended amounts of carbohydrates.
Carb-Free vs. Low-Carb
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration, or FDA, has guidelines for determining what foods can receive “low-fat” and “reduce-fat” labels. However, as the University of Colorado points out, the FDA has no guidelines -- as of 2010 -- for carbohydrate labelling. This means any food has the potential to earn a “low-carb” label from its manufacturer. Foods that are carb-free will provide a zero percent daily value of carbohydrates and contain zero grams -- or a negligible 1g -- per serving in their nutritional facts. Examples include eggs, processed cheese and butter.
A 1984 study published in the "Journal of Physiology" showed that mice that received a high-carbohydrate diet were able to take in significantly greater quantities of glucose in comparison to mice that received a carb-free diet. Without enough glucose, which is the body’s primary energy source, bodily processes are unable to function properly.
According to the University of Colorado, carbohydrates are an integral component of nutrition. People who want to live healthy lives cannot afford to eliminate carbohydrates completely. The best compromise is to avoid refined or simple carbohydrates, like honey, soft drinks and granular table sugar, and to instead focus on complex carbohydrates, such as vegetables, bread and cereal. The latter types of carbohydrates make the body feel fuller and do not cause blood sugar levels to spike. This is because complex carbohydrates take longer to break down.
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- Harvard School of Public Health: What you Should Eat: Carbohydrates
- University of Colorado: Breakdown of Food
- Harvard School of Public Health: Carbohydrates: Good Carbs Guide the Way
- Texas Tech University: The Effects of a High Galactose Diet…
- "Journal of Physiology": Effect of dietary carbohydrate on monosaccharide uptake...