Authors Jeff Volek and Stephen Phinney use the phrase “carbohydrate intolerance” seven times in their introduction to one of my favorite books, “The Art and Science of Low Carbohydrate Living.” They’re telling us something. They’re want to replace the medical term Impaired Glucose Tolerance (IGT) with “carbohydrate intolerance” to make it more “accessible,” and I think that’s a great idea.
IGT involves hormones, enzymes and cell receptors, and unless you’re a molecular biologist, these terms make the eyes glaze over. Besides, the biological actions that occur within the body are autonomic, whereas for the most part, we eat food consciously. And we don’t eat glucose. We eat carbs. Our digestive system breaks down all carbs, including all simple sugars and all complex carbohydrates (starches), into single molecules, most of them glucose.
So, “carbohydrate intolerance” is an excellent way to describe the common disorder that increasing numbers of people have to eating ALL carbs. I am stressing all carbs because of the popular disinformation campaigns 1) to distinguish between simple sugars (mono and disaccharides) and “complex” carbohydrates, or polysaccharides (starches), and 2) consider processed carbs (like white flour) as preferable to “added sugar” and 3) to differentiate “natural sugars” (as in fruit) from “added” sugars. Sure, whole fruits (not fruit juices) contain small amounts of fiber, but they’re all sugar, folks! They’re all glucose in the blood, where they all get to sooner or later, mostly sooner.
It is true that table sugar and fruit sugar is sucrose and breaks down to 50% glucose and 50% fructose. And that fructose is metabolized differently than glucose; It is diverted to the liver where it is detoxified and frequently stored as fat.) And that all “complex” carbohydrates (starches) break down and are absorbed in the blood as glucose. All glucose will raise blood sugar in the same way, but some complex carbohydrates will raise blood sugar more quickly and higher that sucrose. Example: a slice of bread vs. an apple, a banana or a glass of orange juice.
Another extreme example of misinformation about nutrition is this stupid print advertisement, written by a Registered Dietitian, in a NYS apple growers association: “The complex carbohydrates in apples give your body a longer, more even energy boost compared to high-sugar snacks.” That is false. Utter nonsense. There are no complex carbohydrates in an apple. An apple is 86% water, 3% (indigestible) fiber and 11% simple sugars (67% fructose/33%glucose, when digested). An apple is, in fact, just a delicious high-sugar, high-fructose ‘candy bar’.
So, I applaud the initiative of Volek and Phinney to create a user-friendly “buzz word” to describe the condition that affects a large and rapidly growing “cohort” of the population – those who from eating a “Western Diet,” have succumbed to the common condition known as Metabolic Syndrome. We are the Carbohydrate Intolerant.
We are also the obese, or as the case may be, the overweight. Our metabolisms are broken. We make fat and eat for energy when we should be burning body fat for energy. We are also the hypertensive. And we are the ones with “high cholesterol,” diagnosed as high Cholesterol and high LDL (because LDL can be treated with a statin). Whereas, in fact, we have a more difficult-to-treat form of high cholesterol characterized by low HDL and high triglycerides.
The first step is to recognize yourself – to know that you are a member of this “cohort” that has an association with being obese or overweight, has high blood pressure (because you’re overweight), and has high blood sugar, and high “cholesterol.” And that having all these indications puts you at much higher risk of death or another morbid outcome. Are you motivated yet? Will you accept that you and your doctor have failed to reverse these markers?
A reasoned approach, on the other hand, would be to try a different diet. If you are a Type 2 or even prediabetic, or just overweight and have high blood pressure, you and your doctor already know that carbohydrates raise your blood sugar. That means, YOU ARE CARBOHYDRATE INTOLERANT! Accept it, and then do something about it!The consequences of carbohydrate restriction vary, but in general individuals who recognize, accept, and deal with carbohydrate intolerance report weight loss and greatly improved health and quality of life. Why not try it?