Low-carb diets: do high-protein and low-carbohydrate diets work?
Nutrition and health expert Jonny Bowden discusses whether a low carb diet is really the way to go
The question on many people's minds is whether or not high-protein and low-carbohydrate diets do the trick when it comes to weight loss. But the interesting thing is that what constitutes 'low' or 'high' protein (or 'low' or 'high' carbohydrates) really depends on your reference point. Time and again I hear speakers and writers misrepresent people like Barry Sears, who wrote A Week in the Zone (Regan Books), saying he advocates a 'high-protein' diet when it comes to weight loss and preventing disease.
Why is it misrepresentation? Because Dr. Sears recommends a distribution of about 40 per cent carbohydrates, 30 per cent protein and 30 per cent fat. Is that a 'high' protein diet? If you're a government agency or a traditionally trained dietician and you believe people should consume about 15 per cent of their calories from protein, then yes. I prefer to think of it, as Dr Sears does, as a 'protein-adequate diet.' In fact, if you notice, 40 per cent of calories in his diet comes from carbohydrates.
The dietary guidelines I recommend do not really constitute a 'low-carb diet', although nutritional zealots might disagree. To them, anything less than a recommendation of 50 per cent of your daily calories from carbohydrates is too low.
Why? Because - unless you're one of the lucky ones whose metabolism operates flawlessly, who is not struggling with a weight problem, who is eating whole and unrefined foods, who is getting an adequate intake of fibre, who is exercising daily and who seems to process a highly grain-based diet effortlessly - unless you have no serious disturbances in insulin metabolism or blood sugar levels, you're going to have problems with the typical high carb-low fat diet. Why? Because, in the race to banish fat from our diets, we have replaced it with, in my opinion, far more carbs than our Palaeolithic digestive systems were ever designed to process. Furthermore, those carbs are not the 'good' kind that well-meaning dieticians talk about when they urge us to eat more of them. The ones we tend to eat are processed, refined, full of hidden sugars and bleached flours, devoid of nutrients and loaded with calories. These foods may be low in fat, but they're making us fat.