Good Carbohydrates: What's So "Good" About Them Anyway? And Why are We Getting Fatter Despite Eating Less Fat and Exercising More?

Good carbohydrates -- those found in foods like whole grains, vitamin rich vegetables and fruits and so forth -- are often touted as health foods. Conversely, dietary fats -- particularly, saturated fats -- are regularly demonized as fattening and bad for the heart and arteries.

But why are we obsessed with this idea that a low fat high carb diet -- one replete with good carbohydrates -- must necessarily be "balanced"? Are human beings really predisposed biologically to thrive on such a diet? Where is the evidence to support this claim? And if the balanced diet theory is correct, then how can we account for certain paradoxes about, for instance, the obesity epidemic?

Here's a prominent paradox for you: we eat far less fat today than we did prior to the obesity epidemic. That's right. You read that correctly. If you want to blame double bacon cheeseburgers and butter for making us fat, this observation is a problem.

As Gary Taubes has pointed out, the USDA's Center for Nutrition Policy and Promotion tells us that extra fat can't possibly be the problem in our diets.

1. Check out this article: "Is total fat consumption really decreasing?" It tells us:

"Adult Americans have dramatically lowered the percent of caloric intake from total fat over the last three decades. The reduction is from about 45% of calories from fat in 1965 to about 34% in 1995."[1]

Furthermore, it tells us that in 1965, men ages 19 to 50 ate 139 grams of fat per day. Women ate 83 grams of fat per day. By the mid 1990s, men ate just 101 grams of fat per day; whereas women ate just 62 grams of fat per day.

These are the USDA's own statistics! They tell us that, although we're eating far less fat, we're getting fatter. The article also tells us that we've been eating more calories than we did prior to the obesity epidemic. And guess where all these calories are coming from? They're coming from the carbohydrates in our food. They're coming from good carbohydrates and bad carbohydrates -- they're not coming from fats or saturated fats.

And this is a paradox.

Public health authorities also say we're more sedentary than ever. We play video games, we surf the internet, we take cars instead of walking or riding our bikes, etc. We're told again and again and again that, if only we would go to the gym more often and eat more good carbohydrates, we'd slim down.

But again, the evidence explodes this "obvious" idea. As we've explored at length, exercise does not seem to lead to weight loss over the long term. And calorie restriction does not cause weight loss over the long term, either.

2. Also, as Taubes points out, we exercise far more than we think we do.[2]

So to sum up:

  • The percentage of carbohydrates in our diets -- both good carbohydrates and bad carbohydrates -- has increased during the years of the obesity epidemic.
  • The total number of fat calories as well as the percentage of fat in our diets has decreased during these important years.
  • We're exercising more than ever.
  • We're fatter than ever.
  • Calorie restricted diets don't appear to work.
  • Exercise apparently doesn't help us lose weight.

If you look at these observations through the lens of the Caloric Balance Hypothesis, it's completely baffling. It's a smorgasbord of contradictions. For instance:

If fats are bad for us -- if they're more than twice as "energy dense" as good carbohydrates or protein -- and we've been cutting fats from our diets -- then why are we getting so fat?

If exercising and calorie restriction should make us thinner, why don't they?

Okay, let's "flip the switch" and look at these observations through the lens of Lipophilia. Suddenly everything clicks. All the observations make sense:

  • "The percentage of bad and good carbohydrates in our diets has increased during the years of the obesity epidemic." This makes perfect sense, since carbs cause obesity.
  • "The total number of fat calories as well as the percentage of fat in our diets has decreased during these important years." Again, this makes sense, since fats don't make us fat.
  • "We're exercising more than ever. We're fatter than ever. Calorie restricted diets don't appear to work. Exercise apparently doesn't help us lose weight." Again, no contradictions here. Exercise and calorie restriction don't lead to weight loss, according to Lipophilia.

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References


1. Rajen S. Anand, P. Peter Basiotis Is total fat consumption really decreasing? Family Economics and Nutrition Review (Summer, 1998).

2. Taubes, Gary. "Good Calories, Bad Calories." p. 234. New York: Knopf (2007).

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