The Carb Debate is Here Again

by updated 2012/07/07

Several years ago dietary carbohydrates were found in several studies to be a big contributor to long term weight gain.  Low carb diets were all the rage.  Over time the fanfare over low carb eating died down but many people still adhered, feeling that it was working for them.  After a few years of being relegated to the back burner, carbs are back up front in a big way.  In a study recently published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, researchers found that people who consumed a low carb diet lost weight faster and kept the weight off longer than those on a low-fat diet.

After the publicity years ago that prompted so many to drop carbs in favor of a more fatty, high protein diet, additional studies seemed to show the whole carbs are bad for you thing was not necessarily what it seemed.  Many people felt that dropping carbs for high protein fats was a big mistake.  Then research started to show that there really are good fats vs. bad fats and that a low carb diet that made use of these good fats was maybe the best way to go.

No matter how many times it happens this “good for you, bad for you” diet debate never ceases to frustrate me.  Coffee is another one that seems to swing back and forth from good to bad several times a year.  The most worrisome one for me is the big idea now that whole grains are bad for you.  A big part of my diet is whole wheat, brown rice, nuts, and seeds.  It’s what I like, but research now seems to show whole grains might be bad for you.  Hope that one changes back real soon. I think the main positive change that can be made is still to cut out all highly processed food and soda. Do that and all the rest may not really matter.

The recently revived focus on dietary carbs got a big boost from NPR when the program On Point ran a show titled New Research On Carbs.

Will Sig
1 John

This is exactly why nutrition fascinates me… massive complexity! And making things even more complicated is the fact that no two people react exactly the same to any particular food. Since I found out I have Celiac Disease, wheat is public enemy #1 in my kitchen, but I haven’t seen really good evidence that whole wheat is bad for the majority of people who don’t have an immune issue with it.

That also kind of led me down the low-carb road, but like the study shows you shouldn’t just go to zero on the carbs. There are healthy sources of carbs like beans, potatoes, seeds, grains, etc… and even if you’re pigging out on them you still won’t get as much sugar as if you drank one big soda. Pure sugar, removed from nutrients, is going to spike your blood sugar, promote insulin production, and lead to energy being stored as fat. Balanced carbs mixed in foods that also have vitamins and proteins and fats are more likely to give you energy to do what you need to with the other nutritional components.

Now, about coffee? They can pry that from my cold dead hands! I’ve found that psychologists are the biggest critics because caffeine is a rather addictive and volatile drug that can lead to serious issues in some people. Oncologists, on the other hand, will point to coffee’s role in the reduction of cancer risks. Cardiologists might focus on coffee’s apparent ability to reduce stroke risks, but I’m going to keep drinking it on the grounds that it tastes great and helps me be more productive!
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2 Will

Thanks for all those great points, John! You are right about the different kinds of carbs, of course. But worries me are the things I have recently read like this: White Rice Better Than Brown.
As for coffee those anti-cancer properties seem to be real. I just can not handle the caffeine at all and don’t really like coffee enough to regularly drink decaffeinated. Plus I bet we will be reading soon that decaf does not offer the same protection!

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3 Tony McGurk

The whole dietary Good/Bad thing changes faster than the weather. I try & stick to a general all round well balanced diet & leave the junk alone. Combined with my daily workouts it seems to be working for me. I have been maintaining a weight of around 70-72kg & my body fat % is now down to 24% (started at 32% this time last year) although there’s a lot of variation depending on what online calculator I use. I have ordered a pair of body fat callipers which I’m told is a more accurate method.
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4 Will

That is really fantastic results, Tony! I sure hope you can defy the odds and maintain it for life.

I clicked eagerly over to your post this morning expecting, (hoping), to find some photos of super models exercising or something, well lets just say I was a bit disappointed. ;-)

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5 Tony McGurk

Oh I dunno Will. Ernie & Bert can be pretty alluring
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6 Binky

You would think by now we would have a true understanding of basic nutrition at least, but it seems everything changes every time there’s a new study.

One of the things that seems to make sense to me is the Omega 6 essential fatty acids vs Omega 3 fats. The theory is that the ratio of these fats has changed significantly in the Western world in the last 100 or 150 years, and that this imbalance may be causing a lot of problems with weight and health issues. The theory says we’re now eating far too many Omega 6 fats (largely from vegetable oils like corn, sunflower, soy, etc.) and far too few Omega 3 fats from fish.
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7 Will

Interesting. I often wonder though if the Omega 3 pill I take every day really provides the same benefit. That toad food of Fraz’s is another good example of something that is good for you one month and bad for you the next!

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8 Sigrid

I have read so much about the efficiency of the low carbohydrate diets, but unfortunately, they didn’t work for me. I have tried several diets, but after a temporary result, they all went wrong. Now I am doing actually a paleolithic diet, it is a little bit similar to the usual low carb nutrition, but without bread. It really works, I think it is really worth to give it a try!

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9 Sandy

In my opinion, there is no good or bad for everyone. As Sigrid mentioned low carbohydrate diet doesn’t work for everybody. For me sugar-free diet worked, but it just only for a month in a year. I haven’t heard whole grains could be harmful. As I see eating something healthy-called, if you don’t like it, could be more harmful, than eating something “unhealthy” you like.

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10 Helga

As a nutrition specialist, I totally agree with you, low carb diets are the most efficient ways of a weight loss in a healthy way. But the most important thing: it doesn’t work without exercising!

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