Do carbs make us fat?
Are you fat because you eat too much and don’t exercise enough? Not according to acclaimed US science writer Gary Taubes, who believes the wrong carbohydrates and too many of them are to blame.
Taubes said his message appealed to people who had never been able to lose weight following conventional diet guidelines.
“This empowers people to take control of their own lives and the fact that it works, of course, is a wonderful feeling. There are people who have always been obese, even since childhood, and maybe for the first time, they understand why and, more importantly, that it’s not their fault, ” Taubes said.
He claimed carbohydrates threw the body’s insulin regulation out of whack and was the reason why people got fat. He was now taking his anti-carbs argument further, suggesting they might cause some very serious Western diseases such as some cancers and Alzheimer’s.
Taubes said people who followed his recommended diet (which meant abandoning low-fat foods and refined carbohydrates and instead eating full-fat foods) could lose about 1kg a week with little effort.
“As for a realistic daily diet, avoid carb-rich, easily digestible foods — anything made from flour, grains, starchy vegetables, sweets, juices and sodas, beer — and don’t worry about anything else, ” he said.
“You can eat a lot of green leafy vegetables and salads (but) what you want to do is replace the carbs you’re not eating with fatty foods, not lean proteins.
“Again it goes against everything we’ve been taught for the past 50 years, but, as I said, if you pay attention to the clinical trials, the evidence confirms that this is arguably the healthiest way to eat.”
ARE CARBS A BIGGER EVIL THAN FATS?
Dietitians Association of Australia spokesman Alan Barclay said in the context of the US, Taubes’ argument made some sense.
“They’ve removed a lot of the fat from their foods and replaced it with highly refined, high-GI carbohydrates, ” Dr Barclay said. “In Australia we haven’t lowered the fat content of our foods so vigorously nor loaded our foods up with highly refined carbs as much as the North Americans. Our foods are not laden with trans fats and we do not use high-fructose corn syrups.”
Diet by D’Zyne principal dietitian Jo-Anne Dembo said Taubes argued that because carbohydrates raised insulin levels, promoting fat accumulation, carbohydrates were a bigger evil than fat. “Research shows a high fat intake results in weight gain, ” she said. “A healthy body weight is not achieved following a diet based on high-fat foods with minimal carbohydrates, ” she said.
PICKING GOOD CARBS
Gary Taubes said that if you wanted to stay lean and healthy, avoid carbs like pasta, bread and potatoes.
Alan Barclay said while Australians in general ate fewer carbohydrates than other nationalities, as a nation we ate too many of the wrong carbohydrate — those with a high glycaemic index. People watching their weight should look at how refined the carbohydrate was and its GI.
“A bowl of packet mash potato is not much different from a bowl of sugar when it comes to kilojoules. We seem to forget that rice crackers, savoury snacks like crisps, highly refined white breads and breakfast cereals like puffed rice and corn are very low in nutrients, without fortification and will raise your blood-glucose levels very rapidly — as much as refined sugars and sugary foods. The nutrient density of carbs and their GI is more important than their amount of sugars or starches.”
WHAT DOES GARY TAUBES EAT?
Taubes said he ate a diet rich in fat, saturated fat and very few carbohydrates, with no fruit or vegetables. He cooks with butter and occasionally olive oil. An example of his daily diet is:
Breakfast: Three eggs with cheese, bacon and sausage.
Lunch: Two cheeseburgers (no bun) or a roast chicken.
Dinner: A rib-eye or grass-fed New York steak, usually about 450g in size.
Snacks: Cheese and almonds.
THE DIETICIAN V GARY TAUBES
What does the dietician think?
We asked Diet by D’Zyne principal dietitian Jo-Anne Dembo what she thought of Taube’s diet.
“It appears to be high in protein, fat and saturated fat. There is over-consumption of some foods, for example, by eating three eggs every day he is totalling up to 93 eggs per month, beyond the recommendations of egg intake.
“Fish does not feature as part of his diet, therefore limiting the benefits of nutrients such as omega-3 fatty acids. Intake of wholegrains/carbohydrates, vegetables and fruits are non-existent and any diet which removes core food groups is going to be lacking in nutrients and unlikely to be sustainable in the long term.
“A high-protein, high-fat diet such as this one, can and may lead to adverse health effects such as obesity, diabetes, high cholesterol and high blood pressure, just to name a few.
“It is clearly an unhealthy diet to follow on a daily basis.”
“What would I say to this dietitian? Well, she could start by reading my books.
“She could also go to pubmed.gov — the US Library of Medicine website — and pull up all the recent clinical trials comparing carbohydrate-restricted, high-fat diets to low-fat, low-calorie diets (the kind the American Heart Association and, I assume, the Australian Heart Foundation) recommend, and see which diets did better.
“As I’ve said, in virtually every study, the Atkins-like, high-fat, low-carb diets improved cholesterol, blood pressure, led to greater weight loss and improved the symptoms of diabetes or pre-diabetes.
“The evidence is unambiguous.”
© The West Australian