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Thursday, May 26, 2005

Carbs? We Don't Need No Stinkin' Carbs!

Or do we? Well, actually even kindly old Dr. Atkins would have admitted that we do need carbs, that is unless we want our trusty old brains to revert to caveman functionality. The good doctor was probably too busy trading shots with his critics to refine the message he was trying to get across. Even though I'm not ready to sign on with the low-carb camp, I'm always willing to listen to the other side of the debate and so I went to a new book for help. The book is entitled Dr. Robert Atkins: The True Story of the Man Behind the War on Carbohydrates by Lisa Rogak (Chamberlain Brothers Penguin, 2005). It's a quick breezy look at the doctor and makes for painless reading. I can't say that I learned too much from the book but the once muddy waters are now starting to clear ... but it's still a pretty murky picture.

Dr. Atkins was not the person who discovered the effect of carbohydrates. That honor goes to a nineteeth century British undertaker -- William Banting. In his 1864 Letter on Corpulence (which sold more than 60,000 copies in England alone!), Banting became the first low-carb proponent when he wrote:
  • Of all the parasites that affect humanity I do not know of, nor can I imagine, any more distressing than that of Obesity, and, having emerged from a very long probation in this affliction, I am desirious of circulating my humble knowledge and experience for the benefit of other sufferers, with an earnest hope that it may lead to the same comfort and happiness I now feel under the extraordinary change -- which might almost be termed miraculous had it not been accomplished by the most simple common-sense means.

I don't think there's any question that a low-carb diet can help you lose weight. The science is pretty much indisputable. The problem is that the media played up the aspect of eating all that fatty food when the real message is to reduce your intake of carbohydrates, especially simple carbohydrates which is what most of our heavily processed food is. Of course you don't necessarily have to eat a high fat diet to do that. Even though I seem to need a lot of carbohydrates to maintain a stable body weight, I'm still not sure how much of an adverse effect eating them has on your pancreas which has to work overtime to process them.

The reason I've finally decided to trim the carbs a bit is that I learned that less carbohydrates results in a better lipid profile with lower cholesterol (at least triglycerides) being the main result. We'll see.


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Blogger Cap'n Bob Napier said...

I'm in my third week of Atkins. The first two weeks I ate no carbs at all and restricted my intake to meat and poultry with a side of sauteed onions and mushrooms, or salads. Dropped 15 pounds. The next week I sneaked in a few carbs (I'm allowed 20 grams a day) and one taco salad at El Toro. I gained back 2 pounds. No more cheating (like that miniature Heshery bar) and I hope to hit my fighting weight by August.
The one thing I noticed when I eschewed starches and sugars was a sharp decrease in my appetite. It feels good to not be hungry, especially after eating.

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