Food with high protein and no carbs. Programs made with only the highest quality nutritional ingredients. You can gain weight by eating a lot of these products if you are living an active lifestyle and exercising. But most of us have to do something like counting calories or carbohydrates to lose fat and create lean muscle mass that is “real” body building.
In a pre-clinical study that helps settle the debate on the pros and cons of carbs, Australian researchers have found the quality and type of carbohydrates eaten in combination with reduced protein levels severely impacts health outcomes.
Researchers at the University of Sydney’s Charles Perkins Centre conducted the largest ever study of nutrient interactions by examining the health of mice on 33 different diets containing various combinations of protein to carbs, and different sources of carbohydrate.
They found that a low-protein (10% of dietary energy), high-carbohydrate (70%) diet produced either the healthiest or unhealthiest metabolic outcomes of all 33 diets, depending on the kind of carbs.
When carbs were made up mainly of resistant starch, a form of starch that is resistant to digestion and is fermented by bacteria in the gut, the low protein diet was the healthiest of all diets. When the carbs were a 50:50 mixture of fructose to glucose, the same make-up as high fructose corn syrup (the primary sweetener used in the US packaged food and beverage industries) the low-protein diet produced the worst outcomes.
The study, which took three years to complete, is published in Nature Metabolism today.
“While the study was conducted in mice, the results appear to explain the disparity between healthy, low-protein, high-carbohydrate diets and growing levels of obesity and co-morbidities associated with highly-processed modern-day diets which are also protein-diluted and high in refined carbohydrates,” said Professor Stephen Simpson, senior author and Academic Director of the University’s Charles Perkins Centre.
“We found that the molecular make-up of a carbohydrate and how it is digested shapes the behavioural and physiological response to reduced levels of protein in the diet, impacts how the liver processes nutrients and alters the gut bacteria.
“These findings could explain why consuming low protein-high carbohydrate diets that avoid high fructose corn syrup, limit readily digestible processed starch and are abundant in resistant starch (which in a human diet would be whole grains and legumes such as beans and lentils) are associated with good metabolic health.”
The work builds on the team’s ground-breaking 2014 Cell Metabolism study, which showed low protein-high carbohydrate diets in mice resulted in the longest lifespan and best cardiometabolic health during mid-and early late-life.
For the 2014 study, the researchers used readily digestible starch as the main carbohydrate source, so the logical next step was to examine what happens if you alter the source of carbohydrate. The present study confirms the earlier findings and extends them to show the importance of the type of dietary carbohydrate, helping explain why the longest-lived human populations on earth, such as the traditional Okinawan Japanese have a low-protein, high-carbohydrate diet, but when protein is diluted in the human food supply by processed refined carbohydrates, the health outcomes are not so favourable.
Low-protein diets are not all equal
Dr Jibran Wali, lead author of the new study, said that all low-protein diets are not equal. A low protein-high carbohydrate diet is a setting to gain maximum health benefits from the carbs that are accessible to bacteria in the colon (e.g., resistant starch) but can also be a means to maximise the adverse effects of highly processed carbs.
“We found that the 50:50 mixture of glucose to fructose created the highest levels of obesity in mice, even when calorie consumption was comparable to other carbohydrates. This suggests that a calorie is not a calorie when it comes to carbohydrates, or even to different sugars and that consumption of glucose and fructose in combination promotes obesity and poor metabolic health,” said Dr Wali, NHMRC Peter Doherty Biomedical Fellow at the Charles Perkins Centre and School of Life and Environmental Sciences.
The researchers say this finding may come as a surprise to many, as while there is consensus that excess calories from sugar cause weight gain and metabolic disease, there is an active debate on which form of sugar (sucrose, high fructose corn syrup, glucose, fructose) is the most detrimental.
“The findings could have immense practical benefits,” said Professor David Raubenheimer, Leonard P Ullmann Chair in Nutritional Ecology at the Charles Perkins Centre and School of Life and Environmental Sciences and co-author on the study.
“For many people wishing to improve their diets, carbohydrates have become the enemy. Some go to extreme lengths, virtually removing them from their diets. Our results suggest this could be a mistake. Reducing certain kinds of carbohydrates, like high fructose corn syrup, would have benefits. But avoiding the digestion resistant forms, which are found in many plant foods, risks losing benefits of a nutrient that is high in the diets of the healthiest and longest-lived populations on Earth,” continued Professor Raubenheimer.
“The results of this study help explain why it is best to stay away from foods such as cakes, pizzas and confectionary and supports filling your plate with wholegrains such as brown rice, oats and quinoa, legumes such as lentils, beans and chickpeas, and opt for plenty of vegetables including sweet potato, pumpkin, and beets”, said Dr Rosilene Ribeiro, a dietitian and a researcher in the School of Life and Environmental Sciences and a co-author on this study.
About the study
The pre-clinical study of male mice explored the impact of 33 diets with different ratios of protein to carbohydrate, and different types and combinations of carbohydrate (fructose, glucose, sucrose, digestible native starch and resistant starch) with fat intake fixed.
The mice were permitted to eat as much as they wanted for 18 to 19 weeks during which time the researchers comprehensively examined their metabolic health and analysed the gut microbiome.
The study employed the use of the geometric framework for nutrition developed by Professors Stephen Simpson and David Raubenheimer. It enables researchers to consider how mixtures of nutrients and their interactions influence health and disease, rather than focusing on any one nutrient in isolation which has been the downfall of many previous nutrition studies.
What would the diet look like in humans?
While the current study was conducted in mice, a sample menu for a low-protein, high resistant starch diet in humans is listed below.
Breakfast: Porridge and fruit
AM snack: Raw vegetables such as carrots, snow peas, tomatoes
Lunch: Brown rice and quinoa salad made with fresh vegetables and chickpeas
PM snack: Wholegrain bread with hummus
Dinner: Plenty of vegetables (at least half of the plate) such as beans and sweet potato and a small piece of lean meat or fish
High Protein & Low Carbohydrate Diet Plans for Hypoglycemia
While the majority of people who have blood sugar problems today are coping with the issue of hyperglycemia, or high blood sugar, a substantial number of individuals are living with the exact opposite problem–hypoglycemia, or low blood sugar. Low blood sugar is just as serious a condition as high blood sugar, although it receives far less attention. As with hyperglycemia, the best treatment for hypoglycemia is adherence to a regulated diet.
When blood sugar is kept chronically low, individuals may experience a number of adverse reactions, such as general confusion, sweating, short temper and headache. The main underlying reasons for the development of hypoglycemia include inefficient glucose metabolism, overabundance of insulin production and a general lack of blood sugar supply. Fortunately, all of these conditions can be regulated by following a tailor-made diet.
Diet for Hypoglycemia
One of the keys to a hypoglycemia diet is to ensure that your body is fed a constant supply of nutrients. So while skipping a meal is generally considered bad for a “normal” person, it is even worse for an individual with hypoglycemia. While dieting with hypoglycemia, no matter what macro-nutrient approach you use, be sure to consume at least five or six small meals daily, eating every two to three hours. A high-protein, low-carbohydrate diet can be used to mitigate the symptoms of hypoglycemia because it can keep blood sugar stable while keeping metabolism high, alleviating many of the common complaints with other diet types, such as lack of satiety and general mood swings. When on a low-carb, high-protein diet, you should strive to consume 30 to 40 percent of your total calories from protein, 20 percent or so from carbs and the remainder from healthy fats.
Keep in mind that a low-carb diet does not mean a no-carb diet; you still need to provide your body with some glucose for day-to-day functioning. In other words, there is no reason to adhere to an ultra low-carb, ketogenic approach such as the Atkins diet plan. Select a more reasonable daily carb limit, between 40 to 75 grams, spaced out evenly among your daily meals. Just be sure to limit your total carb intake per meal to 15 grams or fewer to keep your blood sugar levels constant throughout the day. When making carb choices, your primary target should be vegetables and fruits, with leafy green vegetables taking precedence over everything else because they are your least “carby” source of vitamins, minerals and fiber. Other vegetables and fruits run a close second, with whole grains coming in at a distant third because they can cause greater fluctuations in blood sugar levels. Although you will consume ample amounts of protein, choose lean protein sources to minimize consumption of saturated fats; white meats and seafood are best for this purpose. Finally, keep your fat intake largely limited to unsaturated fats, such as certain oils (from olives, fish, coconuts, macadamia nuts, peanuts and sesame) and natural fats (from almonds, walnuts and peanuts, for example). Balancing your diet in this way will ensure optimal results when attempting a low-carb, high-protein diet with hypoglycemia.
Detox Diet for Diabetics
According to information from the Mayo Clinic, diabetes is a disease which occurs when the body is no longer able to properly regulate its blood glucose (sugar) levels. Treatment for diabetes involves both prescription medication and regulation of dietary intake to keep blood sugar levels naturally low. While it can be difficult to reconcile the recommendations of diabetic dieting with those of many detox plans, there are nevertheless some plans which purport to achieve detoxification effects without compromising the principles of a diabetic diet.
Understand the general principles of diabetic dieting to better determine what requirements a detox plan must satisfy before being sound for diabetics. According to the Mayo Clinic, diabetics regulate their blood sugar levels through diet by controlling both the quantity and type of carbohydrate consumed, with slower digesting carbohydrates being preferable as they impact blood sugar levels less significantly. These slow-digesting carbs consist mainly of fruits and vegetables, making these staple items in any diabetic diet.
Follow nutritionist Jay Robb’s (Everydiet.org) Fruit Flush for a healthy three-day detox for diabetics. Throughout day one of the plan, consume a protein shake every two hours (from 8 am until 4 pm) using whey protein. At 6 pm, consume a healthy dinner consisting of chicken breasts (around four ounces), three to six cups of vegetable salad, and a tablespoon of olive oil. On days two and three of the plan, consume fresh fruit every two hours (again, from 8 am to 4 pm) with a healthy dinner consisting of a protein shake, half of an avocado (for healthy fats), and vegetable salad at 6 pm. This plan comports with the principles of diabetic dieting by relegating your overall nutritional intake to healthy, slow-digesting carbs like fruits and vegetables while providing plenty of added nutrition in the form of protein, lean meat and healthy fats. At the end of the three days you will have likely lost a few pounds without diverging too far from your original diabetic diet.