Monday, November 05, 2012
The first question we need to ask is whether this is even the right question, because if we ask the wrong question we will certainly get the wrong answer.
So let's back up one more step. Does the number of carbs matter to determine the best approach to ideal health?
My own answer to this is that the number of carbs we consume does matter for ideal health because of the effect that carbohydrates of any kind (except fiber, which is not digestible) have on the energy available to our bodies and the hormone levels in our bodies, in particular insulin.
But the number of carbs is not the only issue when it comes to carbs. Where these carbs come from makes a huge difference, something that some low-carb followers don't pay much attention to because low-carb, regardless of where the carbs come from that we do eat, will almost always lead to significant weight loss for anyone who is significantly overweight. Once people get closer to a healthy weight this can change. The dramatic and fast weight loss has often stopped and people realize that there are still health problems that did not disappear.
Paying attention to where the carbs we DO eat come from now becomes critical. Grains, sugars or other sweeteners, beans and starches are often not a good idea, even some fruits are loaded with sugar, because even small amounts of these can maintain a carb addiction.
I'm talking from experience here because I was a fruitaholic for a long time after I gave up most sugar and candy. Lower carb vegetables on the other hand are nutrient dense but free of addictive substances. For people who have lost a lot of weight on Atkins the issue of eating a lot of vegetables has often not come up yet. They may have used their carbs to get low-carb processed foods or even small amounts of sugars and starches. Unfortunately this does not allow for very many vegetables and many of the benefits our bodies get from vegetables are lost. This is especially important for people who have immune disorders or a genetic predisposition to cancer. Also, vegetables have a lot of fiber which is helpful to main gut regularity.
So assuming that the carbs we eat come mostly from vegetables and maybe a little from fruit, dairy and nuts, HOW MANY CARBS ARE IDEAL FOR HEALTH?
Given that the answer will vary with the individual to some degree is there a level that is too high or too low for almost anyone?
I think that Mark Sisson gives a very balanced approach when answering this question over here:
Many people who want to lose weight and be healthy can do so easily if they stay between 50-100 grams of carbs/day.
People with diabetes or insulin resistance may always have to stay under 50 grams of carbs/day.
There may be a significant number of people who exercise a lot and/or have a genetically higher carb tolerance who do better on more than 100 grams of carbs.
The number of people who do best over 150 grams is probably very small. Even distance runners who burn thousands of calories in training can fuel their bodies primarily with fat.