by Katie Caldesi
“Low carb is for everyone”
Since our family adopted a low-carb lifestyle around 8 years ago we have become rather evangelistic about spreading the message that it is a great way to live. I have been told to shut up by many family and friends as they pass around the biscuits and crisps!
Why do we feel like this? We feel great and both Giancarlo and I feel better than we did before. We have lost weight, kept it off, Giancarlo is in remission from type 2 diabetes, we have more energy, a reduction of appetite, our children are lean and our skin is better, we sleep well, I could go on.
In our family we are low-carb 90% of the time. Running our Italian restaurants means occasionally we indulge in a beautiful plate of fresh pasta, a slice of freshly made pizza or a gelato but we always make sure there are plenty of low-carb options (LC) on our menus for us and our customers.
Giancarlo reports feeling more mentally aware now he is low-carb; it is the opposite of the “carb comas” he used to have after eating huge bowls of pasta every day. He was known to regularly fall asleep at the table!
You may read that evidence is lacking for the benefits of a low-carb lifestyle. However, before dismissing low-carb due to lack of evidence, ask why that is? There is no drug to promote here, no vaccine or sticking plaster. For those of us involved in the low-carb world, there are no pharmaceuticals to sell, only information on how food affects your body.
Below are some more conditions that we believe could be helped by a low-carb lifestyle.
Belly fat and chubby thighs?
The fatty deposits you may have accumulated over time on your body is its way of storing extra energy as fat for a day when you might not have food. These fat stores can be used as energy. This happened when we were hunter gatherers. In fact, it was those who could store fat more easily whose genes survived. So I should be grateful for the efficient way my body stores fat?! It kept my ancestors from dying of starvation during a harsh winter. However nowadays I can run to the fridge or nearest shop when I am hungry so I shouldn’t really need to store fat for a famine.
Dr David Unwin explains:
Nearly all the cells in your body, like the new hybrid cars, are able to burn two different fuels: glucose or fat. However, the higher levels of insulin present in a person eating carbs prevent the use of fat as a fuel. (This explains why I was always hungry for decades, no matter how many biscuits I ate and no matter how much fuel I had stored in my “middle-aged spread”.) Going low-carb enabled my metabolism to adjust to fat burning, so I could access the huge reserves of energy in my belly fat and kick-start weight loss where I needed it most. Another aspect of this change in diet was that my ever-nagging hunger vanished in weeks, an outcome that surprises many of my patients.
Fatty Liver Disease
Our bodies respond to a sugary meal by producing the hormone insulin which pushes the extra sugar into muscle cells for energy. Excess sugar is pushed into belly fat and the liver. Over time as we take in more sugar than we need, central obesity and fatty liver disease result.
The good news is that when patients switch from a high carb diet to a low carb diet with generous healthy fats, the fats in their blood (triglycerides) almost halve, as does gamma GT a marker which indicates fatty liver. This is because low carb eaters learn to become a fat burner, not a fat storer.
In essence, the fewer carbs you consume the quicker your blood glucose and insulin resistance should improve.
What is insulin resistance
Constant grazing on sweet and starchy foods can lead to insulin resistance, where the cells don’t respond as they should and resist taking in glucose to make energy. You react by producing more and more insulin to force sugar out of the blood stream. Once the cells are truly overloaded, despite having high insulin levels, glucose will remain there – it has nowhere else to go. Your body has become insulin resistant and can no longer handle carbohydrates well. Once blood glucose levels cannot be maintained in the normal range, you are diagnosed as Type 2 Diabetic.
You are in good metabolic health when your body finds the correct balance between storing fat and burning it for energy. Metabolic syndrome is when the balance is disturbed by a condition such as obesity, diabetes or high blood pressure. It is thought to affect 1 in 3 adults over 50 in the UK. Metabolic syndrome is measured by the following markers and may be diagnosed if you have more than 3 of them:
- An inability to control blood glucose levels (insulin resistance)
- High blood pressure
- A waist circumference of more than 88cm (31.5”) for a woman and 102cm (35”) for a man. For South Asian men it is 90cm (35”).
- High triglyceride levels (fat in the blood)
- A tendency to develop blood clots
- Low levels of HDL (the good cholesterol)
- Inflammation – a tendency to develop irritation and swelling of the body
Metabolic syndrome is when the balance is disturbed by a condition such as obesity, diabetes or high blood pressure. It is thought to affect 1 in 3 adults over 50 in the UK. See the NHS website for more details.
If a person is diagnosed they are pre-diabetic their blood sugar levels are showing as higher than normal, but not high enough yet to be diagnosed as diabetes. Prediabetes puts you at increased risk of developing type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and stroke.