Tuesday, July 04, 2006

Purging The 'Body Needs Carbs' Ignorance

This UK Mirror article written by health columnist Madeleine Bailey claims not only do people need to eat high-carb foods such as pasta and bread because these foods aren't the reason for weight gain, but she also portends your health will IMPROVE by doing so.

(Eyes rolling) Oh goody, another idiot health reporter telling us what's good for us!

Bailey hits the ground running with her column by stating her position about what she thinks about carbohydrates right off the bat.

"Let's get one thing straight: carbs don't make you fat. End of story."

That's an intellectual copout, Ms. Bailey, and you know it. While it is certainly true the mere consumption of carbs alone will not necessarily cause you to gain weight, you can't just say that's the end of the story when there are so many other complexities involved. You make people like me question your credibility when you begin a story with such an asinine statement that is meaningless without context and explanation.

Sure, you go on to explain about how there are more calories in fat than in carbs, but again, that's not the whole story. You are spouting the whole "a calorie is a calorie" argument that most of us low-carbers don't adhere to. In fact, many people who are livin' la vida low-carb, myself included, don't even pay attention to calories or portions -- we just eat healthy, delicious and nutritrious foods that give us lots of energy and keep us satisfied throughout the day.

But for Bailey, she thinks just the opposite is true and she even asserts that eating MORE high-carb foods like rice and pasta without any added fats ("bad for your heart") will have you "eating fewer calories and less fat."

I don't know where you are getting your information from, Ms. Bailey, but recent studies have shown fat consumption in combination with a low-carbohydrate diet has been found to lower blood pressure and cholesterol while improving heart health. That sorta makes your suggestion about eating higher amounts of carb-loaded foods look and sound ignorant at best.

Plus, my own experience with eating foods like rice and pasta is that I am MUCH hungrier within an hour of eating them to the point that I absolutely HAVE to eat something else to ward off the hunger. Eating carbs doesn't fill you up, but rather eating more fat and protein does which is the secret behind why low-carb weight loss works so well. You're just NOT hungry all the time like you are on these tasteless, disgusting high-carb, low-fat diets.

Not surprisingly, Bailey quotes a registered dietitian who says BLAH BLAH BLAH...burn off more calories...BLAH BLAH BLAH...than you take in...BLAH BLAH BLAH...or you'll gain weight.

Yeah yeah yeah, we've all heard that long-standing, but incredibly flawed statement for so long about "calories in, calories out" that most people believe is the gospel truth. But alas it has been proven otherwise and for good reason. There are metabolic advantages associated with eating a low-carb lifestyle that can turn your body into a lean, mean fat-burning machine. WOO HOO!

When I started livin' la vida low-carb in January 2004 and I weighed 410 pounds, my body fat was just over 50 percent of my weight. But when I had my body fat percentage analyzed last Fall, it had dropped to just 11 percent of my total body weight. WHOA! My personal experience confirms this recent study that found eating low-carb helps you burn twice as much body fat as eating low-fat.

Don't try telling any of that to Bailey, though, who obviously doesn't want the facts to get in the way of her low-fat, high-carb agenda. She puts forth the notion that the body NEEDS carbs as the "chief source of energy" and that restricting your carb intake as you do on low-carb plans such as the Atkins diet actually makes you lethargic. She adds that any subsequent weight loss on the low-carb lifestyle is actually no more effective than a low-fat diet over the long-term.

I've dealt with this issue about energy on a low-carb plan previously. Some people are under the assumption that if you don't eat carbs, then your body will simply shut down. That's so shortsighted. Now, if you stopped eating any food at all, then I would agree that the body would not last very long. But why are fat and protein getting the short shrift of the macronutrients?

The truth of the matter is fat and to a lesser extent protein become your fuel for energy when you begin livin' la vida low-carb. That's so hard to explain to people who are indoctrinated with the "fat-is-bad" mantra that has been hammered down our throats for three decades. But eating fat, even the much-maligned saturated fat, is extremely healthy for you.

Honestly, those first few days on low-carb are indeed hellacious and I describe my experience beginning my low-carb program in great detail in my book. Let's just say it wasn't a pretty picture when I first started, but it got much better for me in less than two weeks. Then, as my weight began pouring off my body like never before, guess what happened to my energy? Was I moping around like some Ichabod Crane weakling? HA! Not even close.

Like so many other people who have been on low-carb, my body has never felt this healthy, vibrant and alive as it does today. I eat around 50-75g carbs per day which Bailey believes should have me falling flat on my face. Guess what, Ms. Bailey? YOU COULDN'T BE MORE WRONG IF YOU TRIED! In fact, I KNOW I could run circles around you in ANY race at ANY time because I am fit as a fiddle thanks to my low-carb lifestyle.

Oh, and by the way, in case you can't add up the months since I began my low-carb plan, that would be 31 months (over 2 1/2 years) and counting towards for the rest of my life! I wouldn't even think of eating any other way.

Nevertheless, Bailey says eating carbs, such as oats, brown rice and whole wheat breads and pastas, can help "keep you slim" because you stay fuller longer. I think I've pretty well established how incredibly foolish such a statement is in light of the science showing fat and protein are much more satisfying. But people like Bailey have got to push those so-called healthy whole grains to fool people into eating more of them, despite the fact they are much too high in carbs for your body to use when you want to lose weight.

Here's a list of reasons why Bailey says you "need" carbs:

1. For energy

Bailey's belief that carbs are the "main source of energy" for the body explains why she believes this is a reason to eat more carbs. She even pokes fun at us low-carbers for feeling "tired, weak and irritable" because they don't eat enough carbs. If you want to see irritable, I'll show you irritable, Ms. Bailey. But it won't have anything to do with my diet. What I have found since I stopped eating so many carbs is that my energy has increased and eating a lot of carbs brings me down. In fact, I don't have the highs and lows that sugar and other refined carbs kept me on all the time. I'm a happy and jovial man because of the changes low-carb has made in me physically and emotionally.

2. For heart health

I actually agree with Bailey regarding this point inasmuch as eating fiber, which is a carbohydrate that you don't have to count in your net carbs, is an important part of keeping your body functioning well as part of your healthy lifestyle. This is a message low-carbers preach until they are blue in the face. But you also must start eating MORE fat and less sugar (CARBS!) if you ever hope to protect against obesity and your heart from a cardiovascular event.

3. For regularity

Again, this is referring to the healthy carbs from fiber to help, as my brother Kevin always said, make sure everything comes out alright. Or as I put it in this recent blog post, you need to allow your bowel to shake, rattle and roll! :)

4. For lowering cancer risk

The assumption that eating a non-specific amount and kind of fruits and vegetables will fight diseases like cancer is the premise behind these vegetarian diets like this one. It just assumes that if you eat low-carb that you don't eat ANY fruits or veggies at all. Then somebody needs to come look inside my fridge right now which is loaded with fresh strawberries, blueberries, spinach leaves, cauliflower, broccoli...need I go on? Low-fat and vegetarian diets don't own the exclusive rights to enjoying the benefits of eating fruits and vegetables because they are just as important for me on my low-carb lifestyle and will help keep the cancer bug away just as well.

5. For making better choices

This is the bottom line. What are you going to put in your mouth? Bailey believes you need a carbohydrate/fat/protein ratio of 50/35/15, but that your carbs need to be the "right" kind. If half of your food intake is carbohydrates, you'll never be able to experience stabilized blood sugar levels regardless of the "right" or "good" carbs.

But even within the context of "good carbs," there can be poor options for people to consider. However, I applaud Bailey for pointing out such "baddies" regarding carbs including the highly processed "white bread, cakes and biscuits."

"Eat too many of [the bad carbs] and you'll end up on a rollercoaster of highs and lows, and in the long-term you could be increasing your risk of diabetes."

Well, at least Bailey had ONE moment of sanity in this column of hers.

While the point of her story was to try to ease people's anxieties about eating carbs again since half of Americans are lowering their carb intake, Bailey totally misled her readers into thinking a big bowl of pasta is actually good for them to eat.

You really ought to be ashamed to call yourself a responsible journalist and health writer at that, Ms. Bailey! People don't NEED carbs any more than they need a hole in their head. I suggest you read up on all the latest studies showing how healthy and effective livin' la vida low-carb is for people needing to manage their weight and disease. It will truly astound you and you might just learn something worth writing about in the process! That's some low-carb food for thought!

Share your feedback with Madeleine Bailey about her column by e-mailing her your comments at


Blogger Unknown said...

Here's a discussion on a low-carb forum this topic. The general consensus is she's ignorant, sounds like she's talking to a 5-year-old, and that it comes across as a padody because she's so far off from the truth.

She's ignorant and doesn't WANT to know the truth. Simple as that.

7/04/2006 11:11 PM  
Blogger Science4u1959 said...

Amen. You are exactly right. This week I happen to be in Hong Kong and overheard, in the subway, a heated discussion between an old Chinese lady (yes, I speak a little Mandarin) and a (self-proclaimed, probably) "expert" nutritionist who was "warning" the old lady for the smoked pork slices she was munching. According to the nutritionist, or whatever she was, the old lady should eat more rice instead of meats. Subsequently, the old lady told her basically that she was full of it and is 94 years old thanks to her dietary habits - and pointed out that rice, unlike meat, is seriously deficient in vitamin A. I loved it. The furious "nutritionist" got off the next stop and I got a few bites myself :)

Turned out that the old lady was a doctor herself :) Old school, no doubt, but a very wise and useful "old school"...

7/10/2006 9:40 AM  
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7/11/2006 3:29 PM  

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