Excess visceral fat (intra-abdominal fat) raises the risk of these diseases.
According to Eurekalert:
“... [S]ubjects who consumed [a] moderately carb-restricted diet had 11 percent less deep abdominal fat than those who ate the standard diet ... [S]ubjects on both diets lost weight. However, the moderately carb-restricted diet promoted a 4 percent greater loss of total body fat”.
Many people are still seriously confused about what types of food to eat to lose weight, and it's not really their fault. The conventional nutritional dogma of the last decade has been pushing a low-fat or fat-free diet on Americans, misleading them into thinking they've got to cut out fat to lose weight.
As Americans cut fats from their diet (and also the protein that's often abundant in full-fat foods), they replaced them with carbohydrates -- and not the good kind in vegetables. Partly as a result of Americans' reliance on unhealthy carbs -- bagels, pasta, pretzels, rice, potatoes, etc. -- a full two-thirds of the U.S. population is overweight or obese, and nearly one in four is considered obese, not just overweight.
The idea that cutting carbs from your diet can lead to weight loss is beginning to catch on though, and as the new study above points out, even moderate reductions in your carb consumption can help you shed extra pounds.
Cutting Carbs, Not Fat, Helps Reduce Body Fat
Researchers from the University of Alabama at Birmingham revealed that when 69 overweight people were given a diet with a modest reduction in carbohydrates for eight weeks, they had 11 percent less deep abdominal fat than those given a lower-fat diet. Further, during a second eight-week period in which calories were reduced by 1,000 each day, those on the lower-carb diet lost 4 percent more total body fat.
An important point is that the reduced-carb diet promoted the loss of deep belly fat, also known as "visceral fat," even when no change in weight was apparent.
Visceral fat is strongly linked with type 2 diabetes, heart disease, stroke, and other chronic diseases. It is thought that visceral fat is related to the release of proteins and hormones that can cause inflammation, which in turn can damage arteries and enter your liver, affecting how your body breaks down sugars and fats.
While it's often referred to as "belly fat" because it can cause a "beer belly" or an apple-shaped body, you can have visceral fat even if you're thin. So even if you aren't trying to lose weight, cutting unhealthy carbs in your diet could have a positive impact on your levels of visceral fat, and thereby potentially reduce your risk of chronic disease.
Fructose: The Biggest Carb Culprit
People on low-carb diets lose weight in part because they get less fructose, a type of sugar that can be made into body fat quickly. Although fructose is naturally found in high levels in fruit, it is also added to many processed foods, especially in the form of high-fructose corn syrup. If your only source of fructose came from eating an apple or orange a day, keeping your total grams of fructose to below 25 per day, then it would not be an issue.
But what many completely fail to appreciate is that fructose is the NUMBER ONE source of calories in the United States and the typical person is consuming 75 grams of fructose each and every day. Because fructose is so cheap it is used in virtually all processed foods. The average person is consuming one-third of a pound of sugar every day, which is five ounces or 150 grams, half of which is fructose. This is 300 percent more than the amount that will trigger biochemical havoc, and this is the average -- many consume more than twice that amount.
Evidence is mounting that excess sugar, and fructose in particular, is the primary factor in the obesity epidemic, so it's definitely a food you want to avoid if you want to lose weight. Does this mean you need to avoid fruit too? As you can see in this table, some fruits are very high in fructose, so munching indiscriminately on the wrong ones could set you back.
Fruit Serving Size Grams of Fructose Limes 1 medium 0 Lemons 1 medium 0.6 Cranberries 1 cup 0.7 Passion fruit 1 medium 0.9 Prune 1 medium 1.2 Apricot 1 medium 1.3 Guava 2 medium 2.2 Date (Deglet Noor style) 1 medium 2.6 Cantaloupe 1/8 of med. melon 2.8 Raspberries 1 cup 3.0 Clementine 1 medium 3.4 Kiwifruit 1 medium 3.4 Blackberries 1 cup 3.5 Star fruit 1 medium 3.6 Cherries, sweet 10 3.8 Strawberries 1 cup 3.8 Cherries, sour 1 cup 4.0 Pineapple 1 slice
(3.5" x .75")
4.0 Grapefruit, pink or red 1/2 medium 4.3
Fruit Serving Size Grams of Fructose Boysenberries 1 cup 4.6 Tangerine/mandarin orange 1 medium 4.8 Nectarine 1 medium 5.4 Peach 1 medium 5.9 Orange (navel) 1 medium 6.1 Papaya 1/2 medium 6.3 Honeydew 1/8 of med. melon 6.7 Banana 1 medium 7.1 Blueberries 1 cup 7.4 Date (Medjool) 1 medium 7.7 Apple (composite) 1 medium 9.5 Persimmon 1 medium 10.6 Watermelon 1/16 med. melon 11.3 Pear 1 medium 11.8 Raisins 1/4 cup 12.3 Grapes, seedless (green or red) 1 cup 12.4 Mango 1/2 medium 16.2 Apricots, dried 1 cup 16.4 Figs, dried 1 cup 23.0
If you struggle with insulin resistance, which you would know by measuring your fasting insulin level and seeing if it is over 5 OR if you have any of the following conditions, you'll need to be particularly careful about limiting your fructose intake to 15 grams per day or less.
- High blood pressure
- High cholesterol
These "Healthful" Carbs Should be Avoided Too
Many dieters snack on pretzels in lieu of potato chips and other salty snacks, believing them to be healthier alternatives. But eating pretzels is akin to dipping a spoon straight into a bowl of sugar, as that's precisely the way your body responds to this refined carbohydrate snack.
Don't be fooled by the fact that they're "fat-free" – remember it's the carbs that are the culprit.
Your body prefers the carbohydrates in vegetables rather than grains because it slows the conversion to simple sugars like glucose, and decreases your insulin level. Grain carbohydrates, like those in pretzels, will increase your insulin resistance and interfere with your ability to burn fat -- which is the last thing you want if you're trying to lose weight.
Even cereals, whether high-fiber, whole-grain or not, are not a food you want to eat if you're concerned about your weight. If they contain sugar, that will tend to increase your insulin levels even more … but even "healthy" sugarless cereals are an oxymoron, since grains rapidly break down to sugar in your body, stimulating insulin production and encouraging weight gain.
Of course, increasing numbers of people are now aware that refined carbs like white sugar and white bread may make you pack on the pounds. But many are still being misled that "good" carbs like whole grains and fruit won't. Remember, whether it's a whole grain, a sprouted grain or a refined grain, ALL grains rapidly break down to sugar, which causes your insulin resistance to increase and will make your weight problems worse.
This is NOT the case with vegetables, however. Vegetables will NOT convert into sugar the way grains do, and most Americans need to eat far more vegetables. Eating carbs in the form of vegetables may make your carb intake higher, but will not be a hindrance to your health goals. One caveat, corn and potatoes do not count as vegetables; they act much more like grains as far as your body is concerned.
So What Should You Eat to Lose Weight?
Many people resist the idea of cutting grain and sugar from their diets, wondering what else there is to eat if they avoid bread, potatoes, pizza, baked goods and other unhealthy carbs.
The truth is, there is a wonderful variety of delicious foods available that are not processed, full of fructose or based on refined white sugar and flour. I've outlined many of them in my comprehensive nutrition plan, and this is the place I recommend you start if you want to tweak your diet to lose weight or just become healthier. This program will take you from the beginner stage through intermediate and advanced, allowing you to make healthy changes to your diet and lifestyle one step at a time, at a pace that feels comfortable to you.
My program comes from decades of experience in which I have researched extensively, conferred with my professional colleagues, and most importantly, successfully treated tens of thousands of patients. Many are struggling with weight issues, but I am certain that if you adhere to the recommendations in my program, you will reach your weight loss goals.
Again, the details are outlined in my nutrition plan, but generally speaking a "healthy diet" is qualified by the following key factors:
- Unprocessed whole foods
- Often raw or only lightly cooked
- Organic or grass-fed, and free from additives and genetically modified ingredients
- Come from high-quality, local sources
- Carbohydrates primarily come from vegetables (except for corn or potatoes)
To round out your weight loss program, you'll also need to have an effective exercise regimen, and for this intensity is key. High-intensity, burst-type exercises such as Sprint 8 can significantly cut down on the amount of time you have to spend exercising, while optimizing your ability to burn body fat. Full instructions on how to properly perform these exercises can be found in this previous article.