Nowadays, just about every magazine you pick up at your local grocery store has an article featuring some type of nutrition and dietary recommendations. Diets include low fat, low carb, Zone, Paleo, Mediterranean, and the list goes on and on. Don’t forget the supplements promoted to help fat magically melt away like Raspberry Ketones, HCG, B12. With so much out there and so many conflicting messages, it’s no wonder everyone is confused about what really works.
Being a Bariatrician, it is my job to know the science of dieting and weight management. I am an avid believer that the same diet doesn’t necessarily produce the same results in everybody. Thus, I cannot sit here and say I have all of the answers to the nation’s battle against obesity. However, because preventing and treating obesity is a passion of mine, I have learned quite a bit about what works and what doesn’t. But don’t take my word just because I happen to have an M.D. behind my name. I base my conclusions, and hence my low carbohydrate approach with patients, on the fact that there is a growing body of scientific evidence which support a carbohydrate restricted diet. As far as why this evidence is not more widely accepted and understood?? Well, that’s a topic for another day.
For the past thirty years, federal guidelines have directed nutrition recommendations at caloric restriction accompanied by a reduction of fat, salt, and cholesterol in our diets. These recommendations date back to the late 1970s when Senator McGovern and his congressional committee essentially rewrote our nutrition guidelines culminating with the introduction of our first USDA food pyramid in 1992. The original studies, on which the guidelines were based, were insufficient and certainly not up to par with our current scientific standards of evidence based medicine.
As a result of these recommendations, we made dramatic changes in the types of foods we ate, most notably substituting fat with more carbohydrates. We stopped eating eggs and bacon for breakfast and increased the amount of oatmeal and cereal in our diets. Because carbohydrates are rapidly digested, we end up hungrier sooner than we would if we had eaten protein and healthy fats. Thus we reach for a snack. Typical snacks in our diet are fruit, granola bars, chips, and high caloric beverages. What do all of these have in common? Carbs! Lunch comes along and a typical American lunch often consists of chips and a sandwich, burger and fries, tacos, pizza, Chinese food. Again, more carbs! Mid afternoon many reach for another snack…see same list above. I think you get the point. Thirsty? How about a soda? Our consumption of sugary beverages has more than doubled in the last few decades. Our bodies are being bombarded with carbohydrate load after carbohydrate load hour after hour, day after day and our bodies were simply not designed to handle this burden. And a burden it is. The average American consumes 300-400 grams of carbohydrates per day. When you understand that at any given time our body only needs about 5 grams (a teaspoon’s worth), it should come as no surprise that our system starts to breakdown when we are feeding it inappropriate amounts of fuel in the form of sugar and starch. It’s sort of like using the wrong gas for your car…eventually you will end up with a malfunctioning machine.
It’s ironic that there is so much push these days for new medications to treat obesity. Everyone wants a magic pill! The truth is that we already have a great medicine to treat obesity. That medicine is a LOW CARB DIET!
I ask you to have a healthy dose of skepticism when it comes to what the government tells us we should and shouldn’t be eating. Understand the influential role big businesses and industry have played in these recommendations and in driving our daily food choices. Just think about how our grocery stores might look if the government suddenly said we should reduce the consumption of carbohydrates we consume, particularly high carbohydrate, grain-based products? Goodbye aisle numbers 4, 5, and 6 which are lined with cereal, oatmeal, breakfast bars, pasta, rice, breads, chips, and sodas. Review the newer science we now have available. Talk to physicians who are using this approach, check out some of the outstanding low carbohydrate blogs, and read the life changing stories from real patients who have transformed their lives living a low carbohydrate lifestyle. It may not be for everyone but for those who embrace it, they are seeing significant weight loss, and dramatic improvements in their health and overall quality of life. Carbohydrate restricted diets are not a fad or gimmick, nor are they dangerous or unsafe. They are legitimate, based on real science, and for most people—once you you get the hang of it, a low carbohydrate diet is easy to do!
Dr. Jenny Seger, M.D.
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