Insulin Resistance & High Carbohydrate Diet: Chicken or Egg?

There is so much controversy these days over the burgeoning science of food.

The burning question:  “How then shall we eat?”

Sad to say, there is so much vitriol on the web.  People get emotional about food.

Once upon a time I read, uncritically, “The China Study.”  Riding on the heals of the 50-yr “high carb, low fat” binge  arising from Ancel Keys’ overcooked data back in 1953, this book had a fair amount of appeal, adding more fuel to the miserable history of American food confusion.  Picasso had his “blue period.”  As it relates to food, fat, cholesterol, and the medicalization of everything (see “Selling Sickness” by Ray Moynihan), this is America’s dietary and nutritional “blue period.” Or worse.  Perhaps the new Dark Age where the wisdom of engineered food turned out not to be so wise. (Just check obesity rates in the U.S. from 1991 until now.  Yikes.)

Unfortunately I recommended “The China Study” to a friend years ago.  She became vegan.  Then she became sick.  Then sicker.  Now her body won’t accept real, nutritious food and unless she is willing to re-adapt, she’s on a slippery slope.  Like Dr. Keys, The China Study cherry picks epidemiologic data to make a point.  In nutrition science, we must do better.

Enter Professor Tim Noakes at the University of Capetown, South Africa. Bold in his “about-face” regarding carbohydrates, and diabetic himself, Dr. Noakes admits that he was wrong in advocating high carb, low fat nutrition plans.  And I must make the same admission.

Here is a 44 minute lecture by Dr. Noakes that makes a clear, evidence-based case for a low-carbohydrate, if not carbohydrate-restricted diet.  He’ll provide clear evidence that answers the chicken-and-egg question:  does the high intake of refined carbohydrate cause insulin resistance, or is insulin resistance the cause of aberrant carbohydrate metabolism?

Some critics believe Dr. Noakes overreaches in his case for carbohydrate restriction and respectable amounts of dietary fat. Interestingly, most don’t argue with the data he presents.  Rather, they take umbrage with the degree of zeal and his tone of absoluteness regarding his topic.  Well, so be it.  Let the viewer examine the data and sort it out for himself/herself. I appreciate Dr. Noakes’ salient presentation, and must encourage those who wonder what to eat to curtail their well-intentioned carbs in deference to more generous portions of fat — yes, fat — in your diet.

It takes 30 years for a paradigm to catch on.  Remember, there is/was Mazola in every cupboard.  Now there is GMO, MSG-derivatives, or high fructose corn syrup in almost everything we are told, by advertisers, to eat in this country.  Stop, go home, and rediscover the much maligned egg for breakfast.  McBanish the McMuffin and OJ.  (Even 8 ounces of orange juice contains 26 gm carbohydrate.  Twelve ounces of Coke — 39 gm).  Did I mention I have a patient who was drinking 9 Cokes a day?  Did it matter that they were Diet Coke?  Was that better, or worse?  Fodder for another blog.

Bottom line:  The way out of the current nutritional, eat “lean everything” nutritional dark age is this:  get back to eating real food.  Embrace your inner omnivore, but understand that there is a reason you can chew and digest animal protein.  Your pancreas has all the right equipment for that.

Enjoy Dr. Noakes, and thanks for reading. Bon apetit!

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