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Carbs & Weight Loss Information
Effect of Carbohydrate on Weight Reduction, Insulin and Blood-Glucose According to Glycemic Index
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Does Carb Intake Cause Overweight, Obesity or Health Risks?

Carbs and Weight Loss

The Carbs-Are-Bad-For-Weight-Loss Viewpoint

Popular high protein and low carbohydrate diets state (or at least strongly imply) that all carbohydrates are bad for weight. This kind of blanket anti-carbohydrate statement is not accurate and is not supported by clinical weight loss trials. Neither is it true that all carbs cause obesity.

The Truth About Carbs and Weight Loss

The relationship between carbs, weight and obesity is more complex. For example, many carbs are good for weight control and essential to a healthy diet.

Weight Loss/ Weight Gain Energy Equation
Firstly, the reason we become overweight is because we take in more energy (calories) than we burn. Simply put: we eat too much and exercise too little. This energy equation applies to weight loss or weight gain irrespective of what foods we eat. An excess intake of carbs leads to weight gain just like an excess intake of fat.

Carbs Don't Cause Obesity
Second, carbohydrates have been a staple food of the human diet for centuries, without any sign of obesity or overweight until the past few decades. If carbs caused weight gain, obesity rates in China and Japan would be sky high. The truth is, obesity rates in these countries are a fraction of those in the West. And the leanest and longest living people in the industrialized world are the Japanese whose diet is dominated by carbohydrates.

Carbs Are Essential for Nutrition
Third, carbohydrates are essential for good diet nutrition. Even Dr Atkins diet favors the reintroduction of carbs fairly speedily. The South Beach Diet increases carb-intake even faster. The World Health Organization (WHO), and most heart and cancer experts strongly recommend the nutritional benefits of carbohydrates and plant-based eating, which they believe to be superior to the typical meat-based dietary patterns of the West. Most dietitians and nutritionists recommend that carbohydrates should make up between 50-60 percent of our calorie-intake.

Refined Carbs Are Not Good for Weight Loss or Nutrition
Fourthly, most weight loss and diet experts agree that refined foods - including refined carbohydrates - are detrimental to both weight loss and nutrition. This reflects a general concern about refined, sugary foods, both for health and obesity. In a nutshell, it is the TYPE of carbohydrate that is critical, NOT whether you eat carbohydrates.

Carbs, Weight Loss and Health - Summary

Carbs and Weight Loss - Glycemic Index

Originally devised for diabetics, The Glycemic Index (GI) is a ranking of 'carbohydrate' foods according to how fast blood glucose (sugar) levels rise when a particular food is eaten. Glucose itself has a rating of 100. A 'carbohydrate' food with a high GI is absorbed more quickly, causing blood sugar levels to rise (and fall) more quickly. A 'carbohydrate' food with a low GI is absorbed more slowly and is likely to keep blood sugar levels constant, which helps to avoid hunger pangs.

Carbs and Weight Loss - Glycemic Index - Usefulness for Dieting

Although a useful guide to the blood sugar-raising levels of individual foods, the GI Index is not an exclusive basis for any healthy weight loss diet.

  • To begin with, we tend to eat combinations of foods. Thus, by eating a low-GI food with a high-GI food we can (and do) achieve a more balanced effect on our blood sugar levels.
  • Also, some chocolate bars have a much lower GI rating than (say) baked potatoes or broad beans. But no one suggests that a refined food product like chocolate is healthier or better for weight loss than baked potatoes or broad beans.

Carbs and Weight Loss - GI Index - Summary

The Glycemic index is a useful reminder to consider the proportion of high-GI carbohydrates, when devising a weight loss diet plan. Simply put: when losing weight, eat a balanced diet.

Best Carbs for Health and Weight Loss

  • The majority of carbohydrate calories should come from the less processed wholegrain, whole wheat carbohydrates.
  • Good weight loss carbs are likely to be 'brown', denser and more chewy. Whole wheat bread, brown rice, basmati rice, oats, barley, rye, vegetables, potatoes, whole wheat pasta, beans and legumes (pulses), are all good choices.
  • If eating refined carbs like sugar, glucose, syrups, jelly, preserves, eat them in moderate quantities and include a helping of low-GI foods to achieve balance.

Carbs and Weight Loss - Articles

From: National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases

Myth: Starches are Fattening and Should be Limited When Trying to Lose Weight.

Fact: Potatoes, rice, pasta, bread, beans, and some vegetables (like squash, yams, sweet potatoes, turnips, beets, and carrots) are rich in complex carbohydrates (also called starch). Starch is an important source of energy for your body.

Foods high in starch can be low in fat and calories. They become high in fat and calories when you eat them in large amounts, or they are made with rich sauces, oils, or other high-fat toppings like butter, sour cream, or mayonnaise. Try to avoid high-fat toppings and choose starchy foods that are high in fiber, like whole grains, beans, and peas.

The Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommends 6 to 11 servings a day from the bread, cereal, rice, and pasta group, even when trying to lose weight. A serving size can be one slice of bread, 1 ounce of ready-to-eat cereal, or 1/2 cup of pasta, rice, or cooked cereal.

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Myth: High Protein Low-Carbohydrate Diets are a Healthy Way to Lose Weight.

Fact: A high-protein/low-carbohydrate diet provides most of your calories each day from protein foods (like meat, eggs, and cheese) and few calories from carbohydrate foods (like breads, pasta, potatoes, fruits, and vegetables). People often get bored with these diets because they crave the plant-based foods they are not allowed to have or can have only in very small amounts. These diets often lack key nutrients found in carbohydrate foods.

Many of these diets allow a lot of food high in fat, like bacon and cheese. High-fat diets can raise blood cholesterol levels, which increases a person's risk for heart disease and certain cancers.

High-protein/low-carbohydrate diets may cause rapid weight loss--but most of it is water weight and lean muscle mass--not fat. You lose water because your kidneys try to get rid of the excess waste products of protein and fat, called ketones, that your body makes.

This is not a healthy way to lose weight! It overworks your kidneys, and can cause dehydration, headaches, and bad breath. It can also make you feel nauseous, tired, weak, and dizzy. A buildup of ketones in your blood (called ketosis) can cause your body to produce high levels of uric acid, which is a risk factor for gout (a painful swelling of the joints) and kidney stones. Ketosis can be very risky for pregnant women and people with diabetes.

By following a reduced-calorie diet that is well-balanced between carbohydrates, proteins, and fats, you will still lose weight--without hurting your body. You will also be more likely to keep the weight off.

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From The National Women's Health Information Center, DHHS (US).

What Are High Protein/ Low Carbohydrate Diets? Are They a Healthy Way to Lose Weight?

Most of a person's calories come from protein foods, like meat, eggs, and cheese when on a high-protein/low carbohydrate diet. This diet has fewer calories that come from carbohydrate foods, like breads, pasta, potatoes, fruits, and vegetables. Two problems with this type of diet are it: 1) can lack key nutrients found only in carbohydrates that a person needs to be healthy; 2) allows foods high in fat, which can raise blood cholesterol levels, increasing a person's risk for heart disease and some cancers.

These diets have become popular because people often loss weight quickly. But, most of the weight a person looses is water weight and lean muscle mass, not fat. Water is lost because the kidneys try to get rid of the excess waste products of protein and fat, called ketones, that the body makes. These diets are not a healthy way to lose weight. They overwork your kidneys, can cause dehydration, headaches, and bad breath. You can also feel nauseous, tired, weak, and dizzy. Health problems, like kidney stones and gout (a painful swelling of the joints) can develop as a result of these diets. A reduced-calorie diet that has a good balance of carbohydrates, proteins, and fats is the safest and best way to lose weight. You will also be more likely to keep the weight off over time.

Starch is an important source of energy that all bodies need, even when a person is trying to lose weight. It is found in foods like potatoes, rice, pasta, bread, beans, and some vegetables. Foods high in starch can become high in fat and calories when you eat them in large amounts, or when they are made with rich sauces, oils, or other high-fat toppings like butter, sour cream, or mayonnaise. Stick to starchy foods that are high in fiber, like whole grains, beans, and peas.

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From: Ellen Coleman, RD, MA, MPH - The Physician and SportsMedicine

Do High-Protein, Low-Carb Diets Increase Your Ability to Burn Fat?

No diet will help you gain better access to your body's fat stores during exercise. Carbohydrate, not fat, is the primary fuel for exercise at or above 70% of aerobic capacity, the intensity at which most people train and compete. Fat only becomes available for fuel after about 20 minutes of exercise, and most people don't work out long enough to directly burn significant amounts of fat during a workout. But regular exercise can create a calorie deficit that promotes gradual fat loss over the long haul. Further, aerobic exercise raises the level of several hormones that promote greater fat use. Therefore, the best way to crank up your body's fat-burning ability is to keep working out.

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From: Carbohydrates Information

Low Carb Weight Loss Plans

There is no question that low carb eating plans are beneficial for blood-glucose management. This is clearly supported by research into the Glycemic Index, a rating-system which compares foods according to their effect on blood-sugar. It is equally clear that a low carb diet is beneficial for weight reduction, which is relatively rapid in the early stages of dieting.

Questions About Low Carb Diets

However, a number of weight and health related questions about low carb diets remain unanswered. For example:

Q. Do low carb diets lead to easier long-term weight loss?
If so, is it due to carb-restriction or cutting calories

Q. Do low carb diets improve health indicators for serious conditions, like heart disease?

Such indicators include:
- HDL cholesterol
- LDL cholesterol
- Triglycerides
- Blood pressure.

It is these sorts of questions which recent and ongoing weight loss trials of low carb eating plans are trying to answer.


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