Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Wait, Carbs are Good for You Again?

By: Andrew Jagim

As a follow up to my post last week regarding some of the controversy surrounding the pros and cons of dairy consumption, I figured it was only fitting to jump into another area of controversy within the nutrition world: CARBS. Some people love them (i.e. ME) and others think they are slowly killing us (i.e. the Ketogenic world and Paleo lovers).  What's my opinion of them? Check out my conclusions below, particularly in response to some new research that explores some of the health implications of carbohydrate intake.

What did they do?
Researchers conducted a systematic review to determine the potential risk of carbohydrate consumption (and potentially a dose-response relationship) to the development of cardiovascular disease, cancer and all-cause mortality. Researchers reviewed 64 publications that focused on dietary intakes and the development of health issues.

What did they find?
 The researchers actually found reductions in the risk of negative health outcomes when whole grain intake ranged from 210-225 grams per day (~7 servings of whole grains per day).  The following is a direct quote from the article:

"Intakes of specific types of whole grains including whole grain bread, whole grain breakfast cereals, and added bran, as well as total bread and total breakfast cereals were also associated with a reduced risk of cardiovascular disease and/or all cause mortality."

Take Home Message:
The good news is that when strictly looking at an individual's carbohydrate intake, there does not appear to be a link between whole grain intake and their risk of dying or development cardiovascular disease and cancer. 

I feel like it's important to at least mention this first as this conclusion alone dispels a lot of misconceptions that are thrown around the industry without much supporting evidence.  How is this possible? Well it's likely that whole grains actually contain some beneficial nutrients despite what a lot of people like to think. For example, whole grains provide valuable sources of fiber, B complex vitamins, prebiotic starches and not to mention can be a great source of fuel for active individuals.  Is there evidence that supports the opposite of these findings? Sure, and that's the nutrition world for you. What we don't know with some of these studies, is what does the rest of their lifestyle look like? How many total calories are they consuming? Protein and fat intake? Activity levels? Do they have any pre-existing conditions? Are the genetically more/less susceptible to the development of these medical conditions or better able to tolerate certain dietary practices? These issues and other potential confounding factors are what make "one-size fits all diets" impossible to recommend because in my opinion not everyone should eat the same way. We pride ourselves at Total Athletic Therapy in recommending INDIVIDUALIZED dietary and training strategies based upon each person's needs. I don't even really buy into the "good carb vs. bad carb" argument. Instead, I believe there is a time and a place for all carbohydrates; particularly as we learn more about how the glycemic index (and our response to it) may not be as important as once thought (For more on this click here). 

If you are interested in reading the full research article check out the link below:

What about weight gain issues relating to carbohydrates?
Some people like to blame carbohydrates, particularly sugar, for a lot of health and obesity related issues in today's world. However, Dr. Layne Norton wrote an excellent piece dispelling a lot of those misconceptions also.

When it's all said and done, I firmly believe that carbohydrates can be a part of anyone's regular diet and won't completely sway your health status either way as long... as you don't go overboard with them of course.  As I mentioned earlier, they have a lot of valuable nutrients, they taste amazing and they make the logistics of eating just a hell of a lot easier.  Do we NEED to eat them to survive? No. So it's up to you whether or not you want to eat them as long as it works for you and fits with your current goals.

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