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Are You A Carbavore? • Big Picture • Financial • Practical Preparation • Environmental News • Health
ARE YOU A CARBAVORE?
If you have been listening to the medical advice given for the last 40 years, chances are that you are a carbavore — someone who eats predominantly carbohydrates. Various authorities tell us to eat 60% of our calories from carbohydrates. However, I've showed that carbohydrates are increasingly being fingered as the culprit for many diseases of civilization like obesity and diabetes. In the future, I'll describe what we know about carbohydrates, cancer and dementia...the link there is getter stronger all the time, too.
Last week I discussed how there are two factors to eating glucose that we must track if we are interested in knowing the effects of carbohydrate consumption on the human body.
The first factor is the immediate load to the body at the time of eating a carbohydrate food like refined flour or starches. The glycemic index database will tell you the blood sugar spike from various foods; the higher the number the quicker the body digests the carbohydrate and the larger the pulse of insulin that must be secreted to deal with the sugar.
The second factor is how much carbohydrate goes through your system in total. If glucose enters the blood stream slowly, via the slower digestion of complex carbohydrates, you won't experience a spike in insulin — but that doesn't mean that there is no insulin response. Also, the damage that carbohydrates do to the human body, via glycation (the process where glucose binds to the proteins we need), continues occurring — just at a slower pace. The result still contributes to insulin resistance and faster aging.
Over time, regardless of whether you are spiking your insulin or gently raising it via complex carbohydrates, the insulin receptors become dulled and it takes increasingly more insulin to do the same job. Eventually, the lifelong onslaught of sugar damages the insulin (and leptin) signalling until the body no longer can accurately regulate blood sugar levels. The result is runaway weight gain and diabetes.
Some populations that eat a lot of rice can hold off insulin resistance because their heavy manual labor burns the glucose in the rice starch quickly. As recently as 1989, 65% of the Chinese population performed manual labor. Now, with manual labor down and Western eating habits more common, the Chinese are suffering from an obesity epidemic, too.
Reintroducing Our Original Fuel System
Dr. Rosedale, who travelled the world a decade ago describing to other doctors what the role of insulin in the body was, puts it this way: the long term health of the human body is directly proportional to the ratio of fat vs carbohydrates one burns. In other words, the less carbohydrates you eat and the more healthy fat you eat, the healthier you will be and the longer you will live. For an excellent discussion of why this is so, I highly recommend reading Insulin and Its Metabolic Effects (PDF), by Dr. Rosedale (who also happens to be an expert in human aging). You will know much more than many doctors after reading this.
But doesn't practically everyone tell us that carbohydrates are necessary for life? Yes, they do, however those people are, unfortunately, overstating the case for carbohydrates quite a bit and are missing critical pieces of the puzzle.
First, let's get something out of the way: there is no such thing as an "essential carbohydrate." There are essential fats and essential proteins but you will not find an essential carbohydrate. It's true that some carbohydrates contain vitamins and other trace nutrients but you will not find a carbohydrate food that is the only source of any of the 50 or so essential nutrients humans need.
Second, the body has two fuel systems. The first fuel system is glucose and it is stored in the liver and directly in our muscles. There isn't that much there and it will be completely used up after a day of moderate activity. The likely reason we have it is in case of danger and we have to fight or turn our tail and run away from the danger.
The second fuel, which everyone seems to have forgotten, is fat. Our body stores fat (around our middle first, where it is most easily accessed) so that it has a handy fuel storage depot.
The problem is that we've demonized fats in the last few decades and most of us have grown up with ubiqtuous carbohydrates and thus have been lifelong sugar burners. A direct consequence of being a sugar burner is that we need to eat often during the day to keep our blood sugar up so that we don't feel depressed or lethargic. We eat carbohydrates, say a bowl of oatmeal, feel fine for a couple hours but then are ravenous before lunch because we've burned the sugar and our body needs another "hit."
This is, simply put, crazy. Eating the 200g or more of carbohydrates per day most people eat is not how our bodies were designed to eat. It is making us fat by causing insulin and leptin resistance. It is aging us faster since glucose is like a sort of jet fuel for the body. It's even destroying our moods because it's not just kids that react poorly to this roller coaster of sugar.
Certain parts of the body do require glucose and for that purpose the body has a mechanism for creating it when necessary, called gluconeogenisis. Like many other substances in the body, if you need it, the body will create it. Gluconeogenisis is a fundamental process to life that is common throughout the animal and plant kingdom.
Eat Fat to Fuel Your Body
Clearly, given what is happening to us, we do not need the amount of carbohydrate that we are currently eating. Many people make the mistake of thinking that just because the body preferentially burns carbohydrates, that means that we should be fueling ourselves primarily with carbohydrates. However, I think Dr. Rosedale's hypothesis is correct: since high levels of sugar are extremely dangerous, the body must get rid of it quickly before too much damage occurs. So, once again, most people people have it backwards: glucose (from carbohydrates) should be eaten sparingly. Let your body make what it needs. Eat plenty of fibrous, colorful vegetables but get your energy from fat. In a future newsletter I'll describe what we know about fat, protein and carbohydrate ratios in hunter-gather societes. That's important because they are the healthiest and thinnest populations on the planet before they become Westernized.
You can convert from being a sugar-burner to being a fat burner by dramatically reducing your carbohydrate intake, under 50g per day does the job for almost everyone. Some poeple can do it eating less than 100g of carbohydrates per day. I converted about three months ago and feel great. After eating a breakfast of eggs, meat protein and butter in the morning (but no grains!), I often work right through lunch and have to remind myself to eat. That's because protein and fat satisfy us longer and, now that I'm a fat burner, my body has plenty of energy to use from my fat stores. Many people report that a host of health issues disappear, from skin blemishes to arthritis, when they stop eating so much sugar.
Some people will tell you that burning fat is dangerous because of something called ketosis. Unfortunately, they are mistaking ketosis, which simply indicates the body is primarily burning fat for fuel, with ketoacidosis, which is when the body is using muscle protein for fuel because it doesn't have enough fat or sugar to burn.
Trust me: you have enough fat on your body that your muscles will not be turned into fuel. If anyone tells you this is a dangerous diet, they don't understand the biochemistry. Once our body, after about three weeks, converts to being a fat burning machine, it will regulate the amount of fat it stores and will preserve your muscles. Even humans that are sugar burners enter ketosis every morning before breakfast when they've run out of glucose. Plus, you want to enter ketosis if you are aiming to lose weight because that indicates that you are using up your fat stores. Because the word ketosis unnecessarily frightens people (it does sound ominous, after all), Mark Sisson of Mark's Daily Apple prefers to call this state ketoadapted. Here is an excellent podcast on the topic.
But if you keep eating sugar — table sugar, sweets, ice cream, fruit juices, bread, pasta, starches like rice and potatoes — your body will use that instead of fat and you'll remain a sugar burner. The only way you'll be able to lose weight is by restricting calories instead of simply letting your body regulate your fat level by eating properly.
Consider becoming a fat burner instead of being a sugar burner. You'll lose weight without being hungry, you'll feel better and you'll slow down the aging process.
But, you say, isn't fat bad for us? Isn't that why we aren't eating red meat, because of its saturated fat content? It turns out the evidence just isn't there that fat is bad for us despite years of research. I'll go through that next week.
The Descent into Stasis | The Archdruid Report, May 9, 2012
Greer continues discussing the arc of civilizations. You can hear my take on it on the ASPO video on the front page of the Post Peak Living site.
The Peak Oil Crisis: Perspective | Post Carbon Institute, May 9, 2012
Shackles That We Will Believe In | The Automatic Earth, May 11, 2012
The difficult future facing black gold | Swiss Info, May 13, 2012
Major oil companies on peak oil | ASPO-USA, May 14, 2012
Free Energy Does Not Occur in Nature | Contraposition, May 14, 2012
The Real Unemployment Rate: 22% — Not 8.1% | Financial Sense, May 8, 2012
In Jim's view, the coming fiscal cliff is on track for 2014.
High Inflation Causes Societies to Disintegrate' | Spiegel Online, May 11, 2012
There Is Not Enough Money On Planet Earth | The Automatic Earth, May 11, 2012
Federal Reserve Allows First Chinese Government Takeover of U.S. Bank | AllGov, May 14, 2012
The Bank Runs In Greece Will Soon Be Followed By Bank Runs In Other European Nations | The Economic Collapse, May 15, 2012
That Which is Unsustainable Will Go Away: Pensions | Of Two Minds, May 15, 2012
Tomatoes: A Complete Planting Guide | The How Do Gardener, April 12, 2012
The How Do Gardener has provided a comprehensive resource on appropriate tomato varieties for each state.
DIY Vertical Garden | Bridgman, April 20, 2012
Butterbur: An Overlooked Herb for Allergies, Migraines, and Asthma | The Survival Doctor, May 10, 2012
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Biodiversity loss is as damaging as climate change and pollution | Click Green, May 3, 2012
Arctic Ocean is a Potent Methane Source Too | Mother Jones, May 9, 2012
U.S. Sees Warmest Year Since Record-Keeping Began 117 Years Ago | AllGov, May 11, 2012
Australian project simulates effects of runaway climate change | The Guardian, May 14, 2012
Wasted milk produces as much CO2 as 20,000 cars | Grist, May 15, 2012
Earth's environment getting worse, not better, says WWF ahead of Rio+20 | The Guardian, May 15, 2012
The Weight of the Nation | HBO Documentaries, May 14, 2012
This documentary gets close but still misses the mark. They understand the role of sugar and, to some extent, refined carbohydrates, but they still demonize red meat. You can stream this online at no charge for a limited time.
Why the Campaign to Stop America's Obesity Crisis Keeps Failing | The Daily Beast, May 7, 2012
Another spot-on article by Gary Taubes. Going low fat was a huge mistake. We should have gone low carbohydrate instead.
Is The Food We Eat Killing Us? | The Economic Collapse, May 9, 2012
Is It Primal? — 8 More Foods Scrutinized | Mark's Daily Apple, May 9, 2012
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Why We're Missing Out on Real Life | Mark's Daily Apple, May 15, 2012
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