Join Date: Jul 2003
Location: Wausau, WI
I've been trying to lose weight for 43 years, and studying the research and nutrition theories.
I don't see the research as being inherently inconsistent. Rather each well-designed study (and you need to understand research design a little bit to judge this) simply provides insight into one very small piece of a very big puzzle.
Carb-tolerance seems to be highly variable. Genetics, age, fitness, general health, exercise, dietary variables, stress and sleep patterns, perhaps even climate/temperature may each play a role.
When I was younger, I lost about as well on high carb as low-carb. Now the difference is much more dramatic.
On high carb, I'm far hungrier and feel like crap. The more high glycemic carbs I eat, the more I crave and the crappier I feel.
On low-carb (high veggie, as I'm not counting fiber carbs) I feel less hungry and more energetic and alert.
Unfortunately, I'm also quite "carb-addicted," and find it very difficult to avoid the foods that make me sick.
I find the research supporting low-carb and paleo very compelling, but probably because it is consistent with my experience. I read my first low-carb and paleo books more than 30 years ago and at the time, dismissed the books and the supporting research for three main reasons:
It was considered controversial and not supported by the medical/dietary community.
It wasn't entirely consistent with my own experience.
The extreme versions of the diets available made me quite ill (with what I now recognize as low blood sugar).
I tend to be rather conservative in trusting the mainstream medical and dietary communities. I didn't give low-carb much respect or experimentation until my doctor suggested that I try low-carb, but warned me not to go too-low (admitting he had no idea what "too low" might be).
I've been experimenting ever since to fing that almost-magical "sweet spot."
I now believe that highly concentrated sources of starches and sugars (even the "healthy ones" ) can be as damaging and addictive as narcotics), at least as addictive as nicotine and caffeine and possibly worse (at least one study found that cocaine-addicted rats, when given a choice, choose sugar over cocaine more often than not).
No single study proves anything. Evidence gains credibility only by cumulative findings, and you need to know the history to see the patterns emerging. I've studied more than 60 years worth of research and would argue that there's ample evidence for reducing sugar and simple starch intake.
While I believe there's a lot more we don't know about health and nutrition than what we do know, I think it's still a safe bet to recommend eating fewer simple and small-chain carbohydrates and more high fiber, highly colored, low-calorie vegetables and low-sugar fruits.
The best advice, supported by virtually all of the research is to eat more low-calorie, high-fiber vegetables (more both in quantity and variety).
Even though this is advice most agreed-upon, it is also the advice least followed.
The research finds the best health effects peak at about the 10 serving point for vegetables and fruit, but most Americans aren't even getting three, unless you count potato and corn.
The only low-freggie, virtually all-animal versions of low-carb supported by the science, are from cultural traditions in which every part of the animal is eaten, so unless you're eating bone, fat, blood, skin, tendon, cartilage, and organ meat (maybe even a bit of hair), not just muscle - you need to be eating a wide vatiety of vegetables and low-sugar fruit.
And yet, the most commonly followed low-carb diet in practice is the "slab-o-meat, eggs and maybe lettuce, drowned in fat " diet.
Even the low-carb diets that allow unlimited low-calorie veggies, rarely require more than 2-3 servings of veggies, and even then, variety isn't stressed enough.
Losing weight is a matter of eating fewer calories than you burn, but a health-promoting diet is so much more.