Carb Counting 101: Evidence That Low Carb Diets Control Blood Insulin Levels

Carb counting may work. But why? And if low carb diets lead to weight loss and better health, what might this imply not only about the root cause of obesity and overweight but also about the root cause of other diseases of civilization? Furthermore, if carbohydrates and not calories control obesity and these other diseases; on a broader level, what might this say about our system of scientific inquiry?

The carb counting theory of weight loss is premised on a very different paradigm than is the calorie counting theory. According to mainstream health authorities, "a calorie is a calorie is a calorie." The Caloric Balance Hypothesis says it doesn't matter whether you eat a bucketful of corn syrup, a vat of bacon fat, or a heaping platter of fruits and vegetables. It is just the number of calories that you eat that ultimately "counts."

The Lipophilia Hypothesis justifies carb counting by positing that the quality of calories - not the quantity - matters. Eating carbs stimulates secretion of the hormone insulin, and insulin drives glucose into our fat tissue, where it helps to lock triglycerides in our fat cells. By cutting carbs, adipose tissue concentration of insulin decreases, and the triglycerides are allowed to break down and escape; thus, we get thinner.

So now for the evidence. Can low carb diets really control insulin and blood sugar levels?

Apparently yes. Here are resources (some pulled randomly) that acknowledge that carb restricted diets do limit insulin secretion:

1. "Comparison of effects of high and low carbohydrate diets on plasma lipoproteins and insulin sensitivity in patients with mild NIDDM."[1]

2. Here's another study, "Short term effects of low carbohydrate diet compared with usual diet in obese patients with type 2 diabetes."[2]

The authors in the abstract note that:

"A high mono-unsaturated fat/low carbohydrate diet improves peripheral insulin sensitivity in non-insulin dependent diabetic patients."

3. You can also find evidence and arguments that carb counting leads to a reduction in insulin secretion by following these links:

If low carb diets work by acting on insulin and not by directly establishing a negative caloric balance, the Lipophilia Hypothesis seems almost certainly to be correct.

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1. A Garg, S M Grundy and R H Unger "Comparison of effects of high and low carbohydrate diets on plasma lipoproteins and insulin sensitivity in patients with mild NIDDM." Diabetes October 1992 vol. 41 no. 10 1278-1285.

2. Guenther Boden, Karin Sargrad, Carol Homko, Maria Mozzoli, and T. Peter Stein Short-Term Effects of Low-Carbohydrate Diet Compared with Usual Diet in Obese Patients with Type 2 Diabetes Annals of Int Med March 15, 2005 vol. 142 no. 6 I-44.

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