Understanding Low Carb Diets
A well-devised metabolic process called ketogenesis is followed to achieve this body state called ketosis. Ketosis is simply a normal metabolic pathway in which instead of relying on sugar or carbohydrate, the body cells utilize ketones to make energy. It is interesting to know that as an adaptation to periods of time when food was unavailable, humans developed an evolutionary ability to burn ketones. Low carb diets have always been subject to criticism. However, basically, improving general wellbeing through a metabolic change in which the primary cellular fuel source switches from carbohydrate based fuels containing glucose, to fat fuels and fat metabolism products called ketones is the main purpose and goal of a ketogenic diet plan.
The old way of thinking is that carbohydrates are necessary to avoid hypoglycemia and provide glucose to fuel the brain. Some nutrition professionals still believe that while it cannot possibly be true scientifically. The body undergoes a ‘glucose sparing’ effect when it is in ketosis. Initially, the skeletal muscles burning fatty acids preferentially spares glucose for the brain to use. However, once a person is keto-adapted, less glucose is needed because ketone bodies are being used as an alternative fuel, as the brain switches to using ketone bodies for over half of the fuel it needs. Our body is normally well-equipped to internally generating the little carbohydrate (glucose or blood sugar) needed to fuel the brain during keto adaptation phase.
Nutrients which your body cannot make, have to be obtained on a daily basis from your food sources as essential nutrients. There are essential proteins, and essential fatty acids, but there is no such thing as an essential carbohydrate.
The myths about low carb dieting and specifically ketogenic diets abound in the American collective consciousness are many. I am going to discuss just a few of the most pervasive myths I've encountered, and will explain why they are incorrect and simply don't make sense, scientifically.
Interesting to Know: if adequate amounts of protein and fat are consumed, the lower limit of dietary carbohydrate compatible with life is apparently zero! The amount of dietary carbohydrate that provides for optimal health in humans is still unknown. Some populations in the world ingested a high fat, high protein diet with only a minimal amount of carbohydrate for extended periods of time and there was no apparent effect seen on health or longevity.
The idea that ‘brain needs carbohydrates’ is only true if you eat a very high carb diet. While most registered dietitians will tell you to do that, it will interfere with ketosis because your brain has no ketones to use as an alternative fuel if you eat a high-carb diet. However, I am not indicating that everyone should eat a low carb diet. All the glucose needed for brain function can be made in the liver from glycogen stored in the liver. And if need be, the body can also make glucose from the protein in your food. Hence, it remains to be proven that carbohydrates are essential nutrients. And until then, they are not. Many people across the globe have been known to live without carbohydrates for long periods of time without any effect on health and well-being.
Everyone’s metabolic system works differently and there are people who can tolerate eating large amounts of carbohydrates daily. On the other hand, there are also people who have low tolerance for carbohydrates. This means that if these people eat large quantities of carbs, they develop metabolic disorders like insulin resistance and diabetes.
Humans can continue to maintain perfect health and get by without eating carbs, because the brain and other body systems can use ketone bodies from fatty acids for fuel when carbohydrate intake is low. If you can eat large amounts of carbohydrates without developing any metabolic issues, go for it.
In my next post, I am going to discuss some more about low-carb diet and explain some myths that are scientifically not possible. Myths that when I hear people say, I know they have never read anything about the low-carb ketogenic diet and are only parroting what they have heard from someone else!