Saturday, March 04, 2006

Gluconeogenesis: The Body Makes It Own Carbs

2006 Brooklyn conference T-shirt states "I Get My Carbs From GNG"

As an ongoing student of the low-carb lifestyle, I have to admit I don't always understand every little detail about how and why this way of eating works so well to help people manage their obesity, diabetes, and other health-related issues.

But that doesn't mean I'm just gonna throw my hands up in the air in disgust and give up trying to absorb all the information I can about livin' la vida low-carb. Instead, hopefully I can impart to you what I have learned in easy-to-understand language that will make it crystal clear why low-carb is the fantastically miraculous nutritional approach so many of us think it is.

Today I want to introduce to you a vital concept in the wonderful world of low-carb that you may or may not have heard about before. I discovered it for the first time in January at the Nutritional & Metabolic Aspects of Carbohydrate Restriction conference in Brooklyn, New York. The more I find out about this process, the bigger my smile gets for choosing low-carb as my permanent lifestyle change.

Understanding this revolutionary concept alone about low-carb will arm you with so much knowledge that you will simply confound the enemies of low-carb living so much they'll be speechless! :)

What is it? In a word, it's GLUCONEOGENESIS!

Glucosaywhatsaywhat?!?! Get used to saying it because it is a key concept in livin' la vida low-carb. Gluconeogenesis (Pronounced GLUE-CO-NAY-OH-GEN-EH-SIS), also known as GNG (that's easier to say anyway, isn't it?), is the body's way of creating glucose, or sugar carbs, out of the breakdown of proteins in the liver.

Thus, in the T-shirt diagram at the top of this column, you see how this gluconeogenesis process works.

Although opponents of low-carb programs believe you are depriving your body of important dietary elements when you don't eat a the large amount of carbohydrates their low-fat buddies want you to, gluconeogenesis blows that theory out of the water because actually your body can make its own carbs from the protein you eat.

Did you know this? I dare say not many people do. Should gluconeogenesis be a part of any discussion of healthy dietary methods and what is absolutely necessary for people to consume for energy? I sure think so!

During gluconeogenesis, blood glucose levels in the body are normalized and maintained when the glucose is synthesized in the liver. During those times when the body is not taking in any food (i.e. while you are sleeping), gluconeogenesis goes to work in this "fasting" mode using amino acids, lactate, and glycerol to begin creating the sugar the body needs and is controlled by hormones such as cortisol and insulin to maintain proper levels of glucose.

After about one day of fasting, all of the glycogen in the liver is depleted and gluconeogenesis begins in earnest using things such as lactic acid and protein to create glucose for the body. The exciting part of gluconeogenesis is that it sets your body into FAT-BURNING mode (WOO HOO!), or ketosis (the state you put your body in when you are on the Induction phase of 20g carbs daily for the first two weeks of the Atkins diet), where excess ketone bodies are released into the blood system, brain, heart and muscles for energy.

Isn't this an incredible process? Once you grasp the concept of gluconeogenesis, you are light years ahead of most people in understanding better about the low-carb lifestyle and what makes it so special in the realm of diet, health and nutrition.

More importantly, you will have the scientific facts to throw back at these naysayers (remember this one?!) who tell you that you "need" to eat carbohydrates for your body to function right. As my wife would say, "Bullfunky!" No you don't. With gluconeogenesis working for you, your body could never take in another carbohydrate ever again and still survive just fine.

That's the amazing process of gluconeogenesis defined!


Blogger Lowcarb_dave said...

Yeah, this is fantastic!

As Dr. Eades of 'Protein Power' always says: There is actually no dietary requirement by the body to ingest carbs.

Of course we need the vitamins and nutrients that veggies and animal fat can provide!

3/04/2006 9:01 PM  
Blogger Science4u1959 said...

Isn't this a wonderful piece of incredibly advanced bio-electrochemical engineering? Nothing we ever will be able to do, technologically, comes even close. The more one learns about even the most simple things in nature, and how they work, the more awe it inspires. The human body and -metabolism is absolutely stunning.

As for gluconeogenesis, the first vegan- and low-fat "experts" already have declared that this very process may cause weight GAIN due to excess intake of dietary protein. Of course that's a load of tripe - the body will convert precisely enough "carbs-from-protein" and not too much, which would cause weight gain. The fact of the matter is that it has been shown that a TOO LITTLE intake of dietary protein may cause weight management problems.

The gluconeogenesis theory of weight gain might sound feasible on paper, but in reality most protein foods cause very little elevation in blood glucose. That's why foods like meat and eggs are absent from glycemic index charts -test subjects simply were not able to consume them in large enough quantities for researchers to detect any meaningful rise in blood glucose. That's of course, in the context of GNG, part of the metabolic advantage low-carb offers.

For physically active people, research indicates that around 1.6g protein per kg bodyweight is optimal. Keep in mind this figure was obtained using active athletic subjects (i.e., if someone weighs an obese 150kg, they should not start consuming 240g protein a day).

If one is overweight, they could substitute the following formula: up to 1g protein per pound of lean bodyweight (or 2g per kg of lean bodyweight). Lean bodyweight means your bodyweight minus body fat.

Keep in mind these are upper ranges and are merely guidelines, and these are derived from athletes - the optimal amount of protein a person needs will depend on your activity levels, metabolism, the all-important concurrent intake of fat and, to a lesser extent, carbohydrate.

3/04/2006 9:47 PM  
Blogger Unknown said...

Dr. Michael Eades actually asserted that when the body needs to make grucose from protein, the first thing it will go after is "junk protein" in the cells, so that ketosis actually helps clean the body.

Ketosis cleans our cells

3/06/2006 1:27 AM  
Blogger Unknown said...

You inspired me to do an entry of my own on this and I finally finished it and got it up. :)

3/08/2006 8:35 PM  
Blogger fuquinay said...

I'm not sure why everyone thinks this is such great news.

Low-carb proponents are always arguing that the body doesn't need carbohydrates, and this only proves that it needs them so much that if you don't supply them, the body will make them!

6/13/2007 4:52 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


Some cells, such as those without mitochondria, need glucose; however this does not mean that the body needs carbohydrates. As the article mentions, glucose can be produced from the break-down of proteins. Carbohydrates are not needed in this process.

What that means is the body's glucose needs can be met without eating carbs. NOT that the body "creates" carbs to survive.

The body needs glucose, which is NOT carbohydrate dependent, to survive. Not carbs.

8/21/2008 3:15 PM  
Anonymous stevea said...

No offense meant allbombguy, but all human cells have mitochondria and these are needed for respiration of sugar. Of course some non-eukaroyte cells have no mitochondria, and can only produce lactate and acetate from sugar. Even yeast (eukaroyte) have mitochondria, but they happen to be rather bad at respiration so they produce loads of acetaldehyde which they convert to ethanol for redox balance reasons.

12/09/2009 1:33 PM  

Post a Comment

Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]

<< Home