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Low carb diets help metabolic syndrome and obesity but how low should you go

Low carb diets help with multiple conditions.
Low carb diets help with multiple conditions.
Photo by Andreas Rentz/Getty Images

In their role in providing weapons for their patients' battle of the bulge, more health professionals are recommending low-carb diets. These plans, which contain varying amounts of protein, fats and carbohydrates, have been shown to help with metabolic syndrome, obesity and diabetes, reported the Free Press on July 29.

University of Alabama researchers provided evidence indicating that low-carb diets should be used first in treating type 2 diabetes. Patients with type 1 diabetes should be given insulin along with guidance on customizing low-carb diets.

Diabetes should be considered a disease of carbohydrate intolerance, said at Barbara Gower, Ph.D., professor and vice chair for research at the university's department of nutrition sciences. Consequently, she views the restriction of carbohydrates as an obvious treatment.

In particular, said Gower, people with type 2 diabetes may experience such dramatic improvement that they can stop taking medication. In addition, the study showed that these individuals often experienced normal blood glucose and weight loss.

But for those who want to lose weight by going on a low-carb diet, how do you know the right amount of carbs, protein and fat exist? It depends on your total calorie allowance, reported Dr. Mike Roussell on July 29 in Shape.

Protein helps you feel full, making it a key for curbing cravings. As a result, Dr. Roussell recommends customizing your diet by beginning with making sure you allot "calories to meet optimal protein needs first before setting carbohydrate needs."

If you want to lose weight, he suggests using these calculations: Calories = body weight times 12; protein = one gram per pound and carbohydrates = 0.9-1.25 grams per pound body weight. The rest of your calories should come from healthy fats.

But despite these recommendations to emphasize protein and restrict carbohydrates for weight loss and health, most consumers focus on avoiding fat when they want to lose weight. A new survey showed that less than 30 percent of Americans try to avoid carbohydrates, reported Live Science on July 29.

In contrast, 56 percent of Americans fear foods containing fat. That number has decreased about eight percent since 2004.

But for Americans who want to lose weight, the percentages are different. While 73 percent try to avoid fats, 44 percent stay away from carbohydrates.

Are those dieters who steer clear of avocados, nuts, beef and butter on the right track? Or are carbohydrates one of the key culprits in the epidemics of obesity, diabetes and metabolic syndrome? Dr. Axel F. Sigurdsson believes that as a nation we need to look more closely at our consumption of refined carbohydrates, noting his views in a July 29 blog.

Metabolic syndrome's symptoms include a higher risk of high blood pressure, lipid disorders and type 2 diabetes. But although obesity is linked to those conditions, Dr. Sigurdsson contends that "it's not necessarily their underlying cause."

Instead, says the physician, it's important to understand the condition known as carbohydrate intolerance, which occurs when our bodies have problems metabolizing carbohydrates. He notes that Gary Taubes discusses this issue in his book "Why We Get Fat: And What to Do About It."

Dr. Sigurdsson refers to the book "Big Fat Surprise: Why Butter, Meat and Cheese Belong in a Healthy Diet" by Nina Teicholz, in which she reports on how our diets have changed since the first guidelines prescribing low-fat, high carb diets. "We have successfully increased our fruits and vegetables by 17 percent, our grains by 29 percent, and reduced the amount of fat we eat from 43 percent to 33 percent of calorie."

But that "success" has resulted in higher levels of obesity and related conditions. The solution, says Dr. Sigurdsson: A low-carb diet. By restricting carbohydrates, dieters can lose weight and improve health indicators ranging from cholesterol to blood pressure to insulin resistance.

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