Effectiveness of low carb Diet for weight-loss
It’s a well-known fact that obesity is reaching epidemic proportion across the world and the increasingly dangerous trend is the level of obesity in children and young adults. And all of us understand the significant linkage between obesity and all major illness including diabetes, cardio vascular issues and even cancer and Alzheimer. Though there could be various reasons why somebody becomes obese, the sudden increase in the propensity of people becoming obese needs very close attention.
The fact that complicates this understanding is multiple research including by people with great standing in the scientific community, seem to be reporting conflicting ideas. It needs some informed analysis to wade through the jungle of various research to understand the rigour of those works and to form a meaningful pattern out of all these reports. In that area, we would strongly recommend what we at Paleto, believe is the most important work in decoding obesity – The book “Obesity Code” by Canadian Nephrologist Jason Fung.
One of the problems Dr Jason outlines is – In the science of nutrition, there is rarely any consensus about anything: Researches claim
- Dietary fat is bad. No, Dietary fat is good. There are good fats and bad fats.
- Carbohydrates are bad. No, carbohydrates are good. There are good carbs and bad carbs.
- You should eat more meals a day. No, you should eat fewer meals a day.
- Count your calories. No, calories don’t count.
- Milk is good for you. No, milk is bad for you.
- Meat is good for you. No, meat is bad for you.
To discover the answers, he argues for the need to turn to evidence-based medicine rather than vague opinions.
In a compelling analysis, covering hundreds of researches done over a period of more than 100 years and his extensive work applying his learning on various patients, he argues that obesity is a hormonal and not a calorie disorder. Even though various global nutritional bodies have been recommending low fat Diet and a very simplified version of calorie in calories out methodology for decades, the fact that those methods have failed miserably and ended up augmenting the problems is obvious for anybody to see.
While we would strongly recommend reading the book for a complete understanding, we would like to present a very simplified summary of his argument. The key hormone which causes obesity is Insulin. For some of the basics of how insulin works we recommend reading our blog Why Low Carb Diet.
The central argument is – insulin is a fat storing hormone. As soon as blood glucose levels go up after eating, insulin gets secreted and it
- pushes the blood glucose into cells,
- converts excess glucose into Glycogen reserves to be used later
- converts the remaining glucose into fat to be used later.
The cells ability to take in glucose is limited and the capacity to store glycogen reserve also is limited, while there is fairly large capacity to store as fat. The idea is when the blood glucose levels go down (for e.g while sleeping) the glycogen reserves will be converted into glucose and when that storage is used, body can convert back stored fat into glucose. With our current Dietary habits where the window of eating has increased and the frequency of eating has increased and the amount of refined carbohydrate consumption has shot up, the body is continuously bombarded with Insulin. This constant presence of insulin makes it less effective in pushing the glucose into the cells, a condition explained as insulin resistance. Also, since insulin is there, it signals to stop the fat utilisation and increases fat storage. The fact the cells are not getting enough glucose, triggers more insulin generation and creates a vicious cycle.
With this understanding and with the understanding that carbohydrates are the primary trigger for insulin, one can appreciate the effectiveness of low carbohydrate Diet. The focus has to be to bring down the amount of insulin circulating in the body, so that stored fat can be used as well as fresh storage of fat can be avoided. In that context a well formulated low carbohydrate Diet along with intermittent fasting has been shown to be a effective way to bring down weight in obese people. Various forms of low carbohydrate Diet includes Keto Diet also called as LCHF Diet (Low carb high fat), Paleo Diet and Atkins Diet.