One of the things I've noticed recently is the change in the way we perceive carbohydrates as an energy source and how detrimental that makes high carbohydrate diets, especially in Asian countries where every food source revolves around carbs - especially rice. India has quite rapidly become the diabetic capital of the world and Chennai and Bangalore are the leading cities, owing to the fact that rice dominates most meals there.
This is fairly basic - when you introduce high levels of carbohydrates into the system, the body needs to produce high levels of insulin in order to process that and use it as an energy source. For about 30 years, we've believed low-fat - high carb diets are the way to go. Unfortunately, this didn't seem to help the obesity / diabetic / heart disease epidemic, forcing a lot of high level scientists to start asking questions about whether we've got it right or not. In the last couple of years, there's been a drive at a number of levels to introduce low carb diets or real food diets. Sweden, after a whole lot of research, now has an official policy in place to move away from high carb diets and officially endorses low carb eating, with other Scandinavian countries fast following suit.
We know now that insulin drives what we call systemic inflammation, specifically in the cardiac arteries. That is the main driver of cardiac disease, and because of the prevalence of high carbs in this part of the world, that is something that we really need to be open-minded about. This is an important concept to understand - when insulin is in the system trying to process the carbohydrates it not only turns off the ability to use fat as the energy source, it also turns on the system that stores fat. So not only are you not using your fat stores as natural energy source, you keep accumulating fat as well. This is why people on low-fat + high-carb diets see no results. Also, carbs hit the blood stream as glucose. Now sugar is addictive - it triggers the same neural addiction pathways as social drugs do. Your brain is triggered all the time, requesting you to take carbohydrates constantly and because carbs are such a very big part of the modern Indian diet. It's a real problem.
This brings us to another issue - in India the meal is also a very cultural, sacred thing. A change in diet calls for a change in mindset, which can be very, very tricky, even though all we need to do is look at research. Prevalence of processed foods like chips, pastries and cake (all pure sugar, by the way), has certainly not helped matters much. We got some cricketers to change their diets and we've seen some very good results in their ability to perform for longer periods with less recovery time. It's really simple - all we're doing is tapping into an energy source that is designed specifically for that very purpose.
We all have enormous stores of potential energy within our fat stores that we never tap into because the body is so busy trying to process the high levels of processed carbs, instead of good carbs like green veggies, dairy and nuts. Sadly, fat's been seen to be the culprit in all of this when in truth - fat lines the arteries because it's trying to repair the damage caused by insulin.
Carbohydrate control is definitely a factor in diabetes because we know that carbohydrates, in fact, drive insulin. What causes systemic inflammatory reaction, especially in the arteries, is insulin. What we consider a healthy breakfast, for example, the traditional South Indian breakfast comprising of idli, dosa and coconut chutney, is all carbs. White rice is just a big insulin burst of nothing. Then there's people avoiding fat like the plague. You've got to remember that fat adds flavour to food. If you take fat out of something, you've got to give it flavour. In most cases, it's normally sugar that is added to give the food flavour. A lot of the systemic issues like migraines, body aches, fatigue, drop in concentration (especially post rice-laden afternoon meals) are, not surprisingly, what insulin does to you.
It's really simple - forget about the fat. Just focus on avoiding processed carbs, and I cannot stress this enough. You'll be amazed at the change you see in your body. Image Courtesy: Glow Images