Are Carbs the Enemy of Health?
Ten Commandments of Health and Longevity
I grew up in the 1970s when carbohydrates were the best thing since sliced bread (because it was sliced bread!). Mom made sure we had a good supply of carbs with every meal. We lived on Ramen noodles, bread, cold cereal, hot cereal, pasta, rice, corn – and sugar. After all, “just a spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down!” Life was sweet!
But today, carbs are the villain! They are hated and feared by all. They are the cause of all our woes – especially obesity. Remember when eating fat caused fatness? Well, now sugar causes fatness – go figure! As we eat more carbs, we gain more fat. The rate of obesity is increasing so fast, it’s hard for the government to keep track.
Overweight and Obesity among Adults Age 20 and Older, United States, 2009–2010
■ Normal weight or underweight (BMI under 24.9) = 29.8%
■ Overweight (BMI of 25 to 29.9) = 32%
■ Obesity (BMI of 30+) = 30%
■ Extreme obesity (BMI of 40+).9) = 7.7%
As you can see, almost 70% of our population is overweight! And now, seven years later, it’s well over 70%. This is what happens after 40 years of dieting with low-fat diets. It’s not just a trend – it’s an epidemic!
Diabetes is also in epidemic proportions. Twenty years ago when I was in medical school, there were two types of diabetes. Type 1 was called “childhood onset diabetes” and type 2 was called “adult onset diabetes.” Now, however, we are seeing so many children with “adult onset diabetes” that this term is no longer in use.
Complications of obesity and diabetes are also on the rise. Diabetes is the number one cause of dialysis, amputation, neuropathy, Alzheimer’s disease (type 3 diabetes), heart disease, and strokes.
Could all this death and disease be due to our diet?
Are we really just committing suicide with our own forks?
Could we stop the madness and turn it around before we reach the predicted HALF the population with diabetes, or pre-diabetes in 2020?
Stone them with “old rocks”
The answer, say many different nutrition specialists, is to return to our roots. If we go back to a time before food was processed, preserved, sweetened, irradiated, and manipulated we could become healthy like our ancestors.
The concept of a “Paleo” (from the word “paleolithic,” meaning “old rocks”) diet goes back to an era even before cultivation. This is the “caveman” diet, that allows meat, and… well, meat, and things that might have been growing wild, such as greens and berries. Grain isn’t an option on the Paleo diet. Thus most carbohydrates are eliminated: no bread, no cereal, no pasta, no tortillas, etc. (However, it is funny to see people on a Paleo diet who love their bread and make “paleo bread” out of nuts like almonds and coconut flour.) Perhaps it’s just “throwing the baby out with the bath water.”
Are there good carbs and bad carbs?
Others would have us eat according to the “glycemic index” of foods. That’s the measure of how rapidly the carbohydrate in the food is absorbed. This idea makes a watermelon worse than ice cream because the sugar is absorbed faster, causing more insulin release, and making us more resistant to insulin, which causes more fat to be stored, more obesity, and more diabetes.
Whew! While there may be some slight long-term benefit to eating a lower glycemic index diet, studies seem to indicate that it isn’t the glycemic index that makes the difference, but rather the total amount of carbohydrates eaten. Thus, it may not be important to go through charts of glycemic index to determine what foods we can eat. Just the thought of memorizing another list of foods makes my head spin!
The key to carbohydrate diets
I could give the whole sermon in three words:
LESS IS MORE
There, do you get it? The studies on food are clear. The problem is not the carbs, nor the type of carbohydrates. The problem is not even sugar! The problem is amount. The average American eats ten times the sugar that we ate only a generation ago. Occasional use such as birthday celebrations aren’t an issue, it’s the constant daily barrage of sugar that kills. Those who eat “bad” carbs such as cakes, cookies, and candy can have the same health benefits if they limit them.
The problem with sweets is that they are so good! We love them. We crave them. We can’t seem to be able to live without them. We prefer sugar to cocaine to feel better! I have had to deal with so many sweet addicts – and it’s not just sugar.
I put one patient, Frank, on a detox program because of his risk factors for diabetes. He has two young children and wants to be around to see them grow up. He did great on the program, eating only green foods and drinking only bone broth for almost six weeks. He started losing weight, had good energy, was able to make it through the day without caffeine, and was still able to play with his kids when he got home at night. Then once off the program, he had “just one” diet cola (with artificial sweetener), and relapsed. Now he is all the way back to where he started, and doesn’t have any motivation to do another detox.
I know children who will not eat anything that isn’t sweet. They won’t drink water, or even milk without something sweet in it, and all their snacks are candy, cookies, and sweetened breakfast cereals. The problem with sweets is that we enjoy them so much and a taste for them causes us to want more. The more we have, the more we want. This cycle is hard to break, at least as hard as smoking, alcohol, and heroin.
The fact is, eating carbohydrates on a daily basis causes many of the health issues we deal with. However, it isn’t just carbs, it turns out that EATING on a daily basis is not healthy for our system. Even “good food” that is organic, natural, full of fiber, whole, living, and without eyeballs can mess up our systems if we have them all the time. In other words, the greatest factor in our health may not be related to the composition of our diet, so much as the amount and constancy.
The fastest answer to all the health problems in the world
There is an answer. There is a way to overcome all these problems. There is a natural way to cure type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and even the dietary addictions that plague our world. It’s as simple as the three-word-sermon given earlier, but it’s only one word.
What we eat is less important. I always recommend eating nutritious foods, but even that is less important than fasting. There are those who advocate low-calorie diets, eating several small meals every day so our stomach never gets empty, thus preventing us from getting hungry. However, this is not as useful. It turns out that the most important factor in:
- Preventing diabetes
- Preventing cancer
- Preventing obesity
- Living longer, and healthier
- Repairing the intestines, and body
- Preventing Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias
…is having an empty stomach. The types of carbs, diet, and other factors are less important.
What about supplements?
Nutrients can have a large effect on our ability to use sugar. I have done thousands of tests on my patients and have found almost all of them to be low in two minerals that are needed for us to use carbohydrates well.
Our soils don’t contain these minerals so they aren’t in our food. A deficiency of chromium could cause diabetes all by itself, even if we aren’t indulging in chocolate and Skittles. Both of these minerals work together to help our mitochondria use sugar efficiently, giving us more energy. To stoke the metabolic fire that helps our blood sugar stay nice and healthy, add these nutrients to a water extract of cinnamon. Cinnamon’s unique compound makes us more sensitive to insulin, allowing us to process carbs well.
Now let’s look at a practical guide to health. I call them the Ten Commandments of Health and Longevity, in order of importance. The most important is first: