Maybe we should eat those carbs after all
| June 04, 2015
In the film "The Devil Wears Prada," Anne Hathaway's character Andy is admonished by a colleague because she eats carbs. The line was meant to be funny, but what it actually represented was a whole generation of people shunning an entire group of foods.
For years now we have listened to diet and nutrition experts preaching the goodness of proteins and the evil that lurks in carbs. Well, just as we have managed to psych ourselves out of the carb craving, a new study in Australia reveals we should reverse our efforts. The research, led by scientists at the University of Sydney, offers veritable proof that carbohydrates have a lot of positive health benefits.
In the study, mice were administered a low-protein, high-carbohydrate diet. The results showed a definite reduction of blood sugar, insulin, cholesterol levels and even loss of weight. While not arguing about the pros and cons of proteins, the study shows that carbohydrates have some natural goodness that can positively contribute to good health, too.
According to the researchers, lower portions, calorie-restricted diets and lower body weight go a long way to prevent a lot of serious illnesses and improve overall health. But including moderate portions of healthy carbohydrates in the diet and balancing them with high-quality protein will create a better health balance.
The last decade has seen the rising popularity of high-protein Paleo and Atkins diets. Studies conducted over the years have also found that excessive protein does not suit all body types.
Those fanatical about losing weight or building up muscles have upped their protein intake and lowered their carb intake to almost a zero. This has often resulted in side effects like nausea, diarrhea, fatigue, headaches and weakness, especially if the carb intake is minimal. Bad breath, hair loss, dry mouth and constipation can soon follow as well.
In the same way as carbs, excess protein in the body converts the calories into sugar and fat. This may lead to increased blood sugar levels that may in turn lead to bacteria and yeast.
But beyond these, there are some severe side effects of excessive protein intake that we should always keep in mind. Consuming too much protein stresses out the kidneys, which now have to flush out more nitrogen and sugar than before, leading to renal ailments. It decreases the liver's ability to break down and excrete the protein. This in turn leads to toxin buildup in the bloodstream, which can be fatal.
What these studies essentially reveal is that while low-calorie, high-protein diets can be helpful, focusing too much on them may lead to severe long-term health effects. What the University of Sydney study showed was that the mice received the same benefits from a high-carb, low-protein diet as they did from a diet of 40 percent fewer calories.
For years now we have fretted over the unsustainability of low-calorie, high-protein diets. Only a few have the discipline to maintain this lifestyle over a long period of time, and even then they face risks like infertility, loss of libido and loss of bone mass.
Balancing the diet with carbohydrates will create a realistic and feasible dietary intervention, something that can be sustained by most of us. Further studies point to human subjects in order to gauge the exact benefits of healthy carbohydrates in our body.
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