High Carbo Diets Essay, Research Paper
High Carbo Diets
The High Protein Diet Controversy Aaron D. Anderson Cumberland College Health Issues II Spring Monday, February 12, 2000 Introduction The traditional dietary guidelines most of us were taught in school are now being challenged as a result of a new diet. Remember when your teacher told you that all you needed to do to eat healthy you just needed to consume a lot of pastas and breads and eat meats and fats sparingly. Times have changed. In today’s fast paced world of dot coms and international space stations, everyone is looking for something new. It’s in with the new and out with the old. It seems this is true with our eating habits as well. I guess we could credit some of this change to the rise of obesity in America. Whatever the reason, it seems that this new high protein diet is here to stay. In fact, according to a new breed of nutritionist, the wait is over. The answer this new protein diet offers for an age-old problem of obesity includes a 180-degree turn around in the currently accepted dietary guidelines. The advocates of the “high protein diet” recommend that a person almost completely eliminate your carbohydrate intake and double your protein intake. This is a far cry from what nutritionists have recommended in the past. In fact, high protein diet plans are insisting that instead of having that plain baked potato and brown rice you planned for dinner, that you serve up a nice, juicy, double helping of barbecue ribs, and ignore the fat. Never mind the fat? What do they mean ignore the fat? Don’t they know about fat? Sounds too good to be true, right? Well, not according to advocates of the protein diet. They insist that by eliminating high carbohydrate foods and replacing them with high protein foods, regardless of the amount of fat they contain, your body can more efficiently burn fat and therefore help you to lose weight. Yes, the new protein diet actually insists that you can eat fat and lose weight. However, the question still remains, “Is this diet healthy for Americans?” This is exactly what I hope to answer for you in the following pages. What is A Protein Diet? To help you understand what nutritionists are calling a high protein diet I will review the popular literature that has been published on the topic. You have heard the popular saying, “History repeats itself.” It appears that it applies to diets as well, because in actuality, high protein diets have appeared for over 40 years. In the 1960s the Atkins’ Diet. In the 1970s, it was reincarnated as the Stillman Diet. Then, in the 1980s it surfaced again as the popular Scarsdale Diet. In each of these decades the high protein diet craze eventually died down because of the lack of scientific support and the publics trust in the guidelines put forth by our government. Despite high protein’s questionable past and the repeated warnings by every major health institute in America, a new crop of high protein diet books, such as The Zone and Dr Atkin’s New Diet Revolution has caught the public’s attention again (4). To try to comprehend what the stir is all about we will examine one of the top selling books on the market today about protein diets, The Atkin’s Diet. The main dietary principle driving the Atkins Diet is ketosis (5). Ketosis is a condition in which unusual products of fat are broke down in the blood. More simply stated, it means excess, stored body fat is burned, which results in weight loss. To put the body into a state of ketosis you must restrict the amount of carbohydrates consumed in a day to less than 100 grams. According to Dr. Atkins, regular insulin production converts excess carbohydrates into body fat. However, in the absence of carbohydrates the body cannot use its’ fat in the normal way. Therefore, energy the body requires can be burned through benign dietary ketosis, or the burning of stored fat, rather than from carbohydrates consumed (5). What does all of this mean to you and me? To explain it in layman’s terms, it simply means that when fewer carbohydrates are consumed, the body naturally produces less insulin. As a result, the body, which now lacks its’ carbohydrate energy source, finds alternative methods such as ketosis, the burning of stored fat, for necessary energy. Although it only takes a minimum of 100 grams to put your body into a state of ketosis, Dr. Atkins says it can vary anywhere between 15 to 60 grams of carbohydrates per day, depending on how your body responds to carbohydrate intake. To give you a comparison on how severely your carbohydrate intake is limited by Dr. Atkins Diet, the American Heart Association suggests 300 grams of carbohydrates per day based on a 2000 calorie per day diet (5). So if you can’t eat carbohydrates, what can you eat? On Dr. Atkin’s plan, he suggests eating unrestricted amounts of high protein, which include meat, fish, shellfish, poultry, eggs, and cheese (7). On the other hand, food items like pasta, bread, and foods with large amounts of refined sugar are eliminated. Still not sure what a high protein diet consists of? To give you a better idea, the following is a sample of what your meals would consist of on a daily basis. For breakfast you may include bacon and eggs, no toast, or juice because they contain too many carbohydrates. Then, for lunch a small salad and a double cheeseburger. A bun would put you over the allowed 60 grams of carbohydrates in a day. Finally, for dinner, you would have a salad with blue cheese dressing, and steak or fried chicken if you prefer. Be sure not to include any bread or after dinner snacks, as they too would break the carbohydrate limit (7). When you consume these types of meals you consume approximately 40% of your calories from carbohydrates, 30% of your calories from protein, and 30% from fat (8). The increase in the intake of protein and the severe restriction of carbohydrates is the major difference between the high protein diet and the high carbohydrate, low fat diet that is currently accepted by all the major health organizations. Current Dietary Guidelines As you can see, the dietary recommendations of protein diets are quite different than what you have been told your entire life. To be sure that you do understand the difference, let’s look at what the current dietary standards are in the United States. In May 1992, the U.S. Department of Agriculture provided a new way of categorizing foods called the Food Pyramid (12). The Food Pyramid organizes foods into groups based on the Dietary Guidelines. The Dietary Guidelines for Americans were developed to reflect what was currently known about the effects diet has on a person’s health. There are seven Dietary Guidelines for Americans: a) eat a variety of foods; b) maintain a healthful weight; c) choose a diet that is low in fat, saturated fat, and cholesterol; d) choose a diet with plenty of fruits, vegetables, and grain products; e) use sugars only in moderation; f) use salt and other forms of sodium only in moderation; and g) for adults who drink alcohol, do so only in moderation (12). These guidelines were developed to serve as a guide to help Americans live a healthy and prosperous life when the guidelines were followed closely. The Food Pyramid, which acts as a daily meal planner, even gives you examples of what you should and shouldn’t eat, as well as how many servings you should consume. According to the Food Pyramid, foods such as bread, cereal, rice, and pasta should make up the largest part of your diet: 6 to 11 servings a daily. As you recall, these are the foods that you are not allowed to have on the protein diet. However, this is only part of the conflict between the two diets. As you move up the pyramid you need fewer servings of each of the food groups that follow. For example, you need 3 to 5 servings daily from the vegetable group, and 2 to 4 servings daily from the fruit group. But, according to the protein diet fruits contain too many carbohydrates and should be avoided. Finally, the Food Pyramid recommends that you only consume 2 to 3 servings daily from both the milk and cheese group and the meat group. Again, this is exactly opposite of what nutritionists who support the protein diet insists on. The protein diet suggests that you consume 40% protein rather than the suggested 10-15%. Furthermore this diet does not consider fat to be the enemy, therefore it is not restricted. However, at the top of the Food Pyramid is where you will find fats, which is suggested to consume sparingly. As you can see this again is different. The protein diet’s battle plans are for carbohydrates only. All of the foods suggested by the Food Pyramid when consumed make up your daily caloric intake. In fact, three of these nutrients provide all of your calories – - carbohydrates, proteins, and fats. Balancing calories consumed from these three nutrients is one of the keys to eating healthy. One way to make sure you have a balanced diet is to consume the proper percentage of calories from each of these nutrients. All major professional health organizations, including the American Heart Association, the National Cholesterol Education Program, and the American Cancer Society, endorse a diet that is composed of 10%-15% protein, 55%-60% carbohydrates, and 25%-30% fat calories (4). However, if a you eat the types of meals suggested by the protein diet you consume approximately 40% of your calories from Carbohydrates, 30% of your calories from protein, and 30% from fat (8). As you can see, there is a big difference between the two recommended diets. Why are the three nutrients proportioned so that carbohydrates make up the most of your daily calories, rather than fat, and protein? The answer can be explained through understanding the way the body uses the calories that you consume throughout the day. Physiology of Weight Loss Understanding weight loss and weight gain is not that difficult. In fact, your body works much like an automobile . Let me clarify what I mean. When you put gas in a car you fill up the gas tank so that your engine will run. Likewise, you do the same for your body each time you eat a meal. By eating, you fill your body up with calories so that you can continue to complete the necessary basic functions for life. As with a car, the body will eventually run out of gas or energy. When this occurs you will become hungry, and you will meet this need by filling your body up again by consuming more calories. However, there is one major difference between the filling process of a car and that of the body. In a car you can only fill the tank with so much gas, because there is a certain amount of fuel the gas tank will hold. The body, on the other hand, has an unlimited amount of space; therefore, it is capable of storing excess amounts of fuel as fat. For example, when you sit down to eat your body begins to take in calories or energy that it needs to function. When you exercise you burn or use up those calories. Therefore, we can conclude that as long as you burn as many calories as you take in you will not induce weight gain. However, when you eat more calories than you burn, the addition of those added calories will lead to weight gain in the body. As a matter of fact, if you burn more calories than you eat, you will create a negative caloric balance, and therefore lose weight. Because this energy balance must be constantly maintained in the body, we as humans must continually fill our tanks with the adequate amount of fuel. To finish the example of the car, when we take in fuel (or calories) our tank, or our caloric needs begins to fill up. Unlike the gas tank on the car, which has a set limit, the body will take any additional fuel that is obtained through eating and store it as fat. When an excess of 3,500 calories has been consumed it will equal one pound of fat. Conversely, when you burn or use up 3,500 calories it also equals on pound of fat loss regardless of whether those calories came from proteins, fats, or carbohydrates. To sum up how the body loses weight, is relatively simple. Weight gain will occur when food intake of calories is greater than the energy output; and, weight loss will occur when food intake of calories is less than the energy output. Now that we know what the current accepted standards are for daily food consumption, and what the protein diet consist of, we can now look at the benefits and advantages of high protein diets. Advantages of High Protein Diets When looking for advantages of high protein diets there are two obvious ones that immediately stick out. The first major advantage of the high protein diets is the fact that you get to eat many of the foods that are normally restricted or at least severely limited, on other diets. With protein diets, you need not feel guilty when you give in to the craving for a big juicy stake or a scrumptious rack of baby back ribs smothered in your favorite sauce from your favorite restaurant. The other obvious advantage the protein diets have over the traditional dietary guidelines is that exercise is not noted as a necessary habit. Just think of it, a weight loss plan that does not involve all of those torturous hours in the gym on a stair climber or treadmill. Another not so obvious example of a benefit of the high protein diets is satiety, or the feeling of fullness. It is a common complaint of dieters that low-fat meals do not feel them up, which causes them to get hungry more often (3). On the protein diet you get to consume meals that are high in fat and high in calories. As a result, you feel full; therefore, you do not have to worry about getting hungry again. The advantages of the protein diet are mainly obvious ones, simply because there is just not a lot of scientific research to support the actual effects of high protein diets (4). However, there are several reports on how large consumption’s of fats can adversely effect the dieter. Dangers of High Protein Diets The most obvious danger of high protein diets is the increased amounts of saturated fat that is consumed. Fats are a class of nutrients that supply more energy per gram than carbohydrates or protein (12). Fats’ are, however, a very important fuel for the body, because they are responsible for helping in the process of certain hormones in the body. However, not all fats are created equal. There are different kinds of dietary fat. The two that are most commonly referred to are saturated fats and unsaturated fats. Saturated fats are usually found at room temperature (i.e., animal fats, butter, and lard). On the other hand, unsaturated fats are commonly found liquid at room temperature (i.e. vegetable oil). The significant difference between these two types of fats is that one is linked to the development of disease. Saturated fats are believed to lead to the development of cardiovascular disease and some forms of cancer. To reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease and cancer, it is recommended that you limit the total amount of fat in your diet to no more than 30% of your day’s total calories. The consumption of the large amounts of meat that is advocated in protein diets also lead to increased amounts of intake of saturated fats. It is this consumption that is the main concern with high protein diets. Because of the increased amount of saturated fats in high protein diets, you become more susceptible to cardiovascular disease. This however, is not the only concern with high protein diets. High fat diets also increase your blood cholesterol levels as well. High blood cholesterol is also a leading cause in cardiovascular disease. Although, you may be losing weight by using the high protein diets, you also may be losing years off of your life as well. The question you must ask yourself is, which diet will help you to lose weight and help you to live a long and happy life. Discussion The findings in researching the high protein diet, have led me to three conclusions. First, the high protein diet does help you to shed those extra pounds. As I pointed out during the paper, any time you reduce the amount of calories consumed you create a negative caloric balance, and therefore will lose weight. The protein diet does just that. How you ask? Well, it restricts the amount of calories consumed through carbohydrates. The key word here is restricts. The protein diet does allow you to eat any type of protein you like, but there is a limit to how much of it you are aloud to consume. High protein diets work because they are cutting out your primary source of calories that you were eating before the diet, and for some of us we do eat a lot of carbohydrates. Therefore, the reduction in carbohydrate calories is going to cause a negative caloric balance, which in turn will lead to the desired weight loss. So the question of whether I think the high protein diet works or not is yes. Secondly, the protein diet does not advocate exercise; therefore, I must conclude that any diet that does not stress exercise as part of its’ program is more concerned about book sales than a person’s health. For a diet to be a successful money – maker it must have a marketing tool. For the protein diet, it is the fact that you can lose weight without exercising, as well as eating all the fatty protein you want. With advertising propaganda like that, who would not want to try this diet. And, keep in mind the diet will work, because of the decreased amount of calories consumed through restricted carbohydrates. As a result, you not have all of these people running around claiming how great the protein diet is because it allowed them to lose 20 pounds while eating all the fat they wanted and not exercising. Finally, I do not think that the protein diet will lead to a healthier person than you were before you began the diet. You may lose a few pounds; in terms of life expectancy, there is no doubt, that people on protein diets are actually headed toward unwanted high cholesterol and heart problems. High protein diets cause high cholesterol through their increased consumption of animal products. With cardiovascular disease already the number one cause of death in the United States, the protein diet may cause a drastic rise in the number of heart related diseases as more and more people looking for an easy answer to healthy eating turn to the protein diet. In my personal opinion, the protein diet is simply a fad diet claiming that you can eat fat and get skinny. Because all of the increased high protein in this diet will come from foods that are also high in saturated fats, individuals who are on the protein diet will experience elevated cholesterol levels. This, unfortunately, is one of the primary causes of heart disease. In conclusion, the protein diet is a diet that will work, but so will starving yourself. The more important question to ask is, “What are the long-term effects of high protein diets?” I think long-term studies of the high protein diet, which are currently under way, will yield the same findings we already have about high fat diets. That is that diets high in fat lead to cardiovascular disease and an increased risk of heart attacks. However, in today’s “Charge now, pay later” society, I am afraid that we are not concerned with the long-term effects of diets such as the protein diets. We are, however, concerned with our appearance and how we can improve it with the least amount of discomfort as possible. However, the damage that will be done in terms of the number of lives cut short by the dangers of the protein diets may be more than most bargained for.
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