A restricted-calorie, balanced diet we have learned is a “starvation diet.” They don’t work because your body tells you that you are starving. You feel weak and tired and hungry, and your metabolism slows down. Your body is screaming for more “energy in” and eventually overrules your will power. The result: you shovel more energy in! The problem, of course, is that you are not letting your body get the energy it needs from the body fat you have stored for this purpose.
This would be a good time to go back and re-read Gary Taubes’s 10 “certain conclusions” in installment #4 in this series. If you didn’t save it, I have begun a Blog on Google’s Blogger site to post installments in this series after they are published. The URL is http://danbrown-thenutritiondebate.blogspot.com. A Google search using the URL in the Internet Explorer (IE) search engine works. I understand that a search in the Firefox browser or the Google Chrome search engine will also bring it up. When you find it, pay special attention to conclusions 2, 8, 9 and 10.
Now, let’s get back to The Nutrition Debate. The food we eat, when digested, is rapidly absorbed -- sugars and starches more rapidly than fats and proteins. Sugars and starches are all carbohydrates and all become sugar (glucose) in the blood stream when they are completely broken down by the digestive process. The sugars and starches which break down most rapidly are said to have a high glycemic index, a term now familiar to us all.
The body prefers to use sugar and starches for energy because most of them are quick and easy to break down and burn. Fat takes a little longer, and has less precedence, as it was designed to be stored for times of famine. Protein takes the longest, remaining in the stomach for several hours. The good thing about fat, though, and protein too to a lesser extent, is that it provides a feeling of fullness (satiety). Carbs give us a quick “spike” of energy, but are then followed by a similarly precipitous “crash” and then that “hungry feeling” one gets (on a high carb diet) between meals.
This “craving” is the result of a hormonal signal calling for more glucose (more sugars and starches) to supply more quick energy (in the form of glucose) to the blood stream. It’s not signaling for protein or fat. It wants sugary foods and carbs that quickly become sugar (glucose) in the bloodstream. Some starch, like white bread, actually digest more quickly (have a higher glycemic index) than table sugar (sucrose)!
When you eat a diet that is largely comprised of carbohydrates, such as the Standard American Diet (SAD) which is 60% carbohydrate (see installment #2), you are, in metabolic slang, a “sugar burner.” You may eat healthy proteins and fats too, but your body is running on glucose and storing fat. It calls for you to eat more carbs whenever your blood sugar crashes, which is just a couple of hours after you last ate carbs. Because you are primarily burning carbs for energy, most of the fats you eat, plus extra carbs, and any excess protein (to be explained shortly), will be stored. The fats (and ultimately the extra carbs) will become triglyceride molecules and will be deposited within the fat cells of your adipose tissue. The protein, which breaks down to amino acids, will be taken up by the muscles and other body tissue to repair and restore them within 4 to 5 hours after it is eaten. Beyond that, they can’t be utilized by the body so they are sent to the liver where they are stored. Later, when there is a low blood sugar signal, the liver will reconstitute these amino acids (from the excess protein) as glucose, through a process of gluconeogenesis. And, as we know, the body uses glucose as its preferred source of energy, after stored carbs and before stored fat.
So, how do you get away from this endless cycle of “sugar” (glucose) spikes and crashes that characterize the SAD? How do we get away from this diet that is making us fatter, and sicker? And, if you need to lose weight, how do you become a “fat burner?” I think you know by now where I am going with this, but in the next installment I will first tell you something of the consequences of the dietary program our leaders have advocated and we have now been mainstreaming for the last fifty years. It is the story of one of the Diseases of Civilization, first described as Syndrome X and now more commonly known as the Metabolic Syndrome.
© Dan Brown 1/16/11