Reason #1: I’d Like to Live Longer
Carbs are Linked to Diabetes and Heart Disease
Human metabolism is the process of extracting energy from three types of “fuels”: carbohydrates, lipids, and proteins. Here is a list of “steps” in the human metabolic process:
- Carbohydrates are broken down into sugars and placed in the bloodstream for delivery to muscles and organs. [Source]
- Insulin is used to help the muscles and organs extract and use the sugar from the blood stream. [Source]
- A condition called “Insulin Resistance” can develop when the metabolic system is overexposed to carbohydrates. [Source]
- Insulin resistance can lead to metabolic syndrome. [Source]
- Metabolic Syndrome increases the risk for heart disease, diabetes, and stroke. [Source]
Cancer is Fueled by Sugar
Additionally, there is reason to suspect the risk of cancer can be reduced with a low carbohydrate diet. In 1924, Nobel Prize winner Otto Warburg discovered that cancer cells strongly prefer sugar to other fuel sources. Because humans can survive without carbohydrates, some doctors and scientists hypothesize that this “metabolic quirk of cancer” can be exploited for prevention and treatment purposes. This is a recent hypothesis as far as I can tell, and as such I have been unable to find any experiments on this topic. (If you know of any please let me know.)
Reason #2: I Want to Feel Better
Do you ever feel Hangry? Hanger (Hunger + Anger) is caused when your blood sugar levels crash. That “2:30 feeling” described by 5-hour energy ads is just another phrase for a blood sugar crash.
Just as the best way to avoid a hangover is to avoid alcohol, the best way to avoid a sugar crash is to not eat carbohydrates/sugar. (Fortunately, wine and liquor are low in carbs. Beer, not so much.)
Reason #3: I Want to Eat Tasty Foods
Living longer and feeling better is great — but at what cost? It turns out a low-carb diet is actually pretty tasty. Here is a small sampling of foods that are low-carb:
- Meats: Steak, Chicken, Pork, Eggs, Bacon
- Vegetables: Broccoli, Asparagus, Spinach, Kale, Sweet Potatoes
- Fruits: Berrys, Avocado
- Oils: Coconut, Olive, etc
- Nuts: Almonds, Walnuts, Cashews
Postscript: Responses to Common Concerns
People usually don’t disagree with logic behind the 3 reasons listed above — but they are often concerned with other perceived dangers. Of course I appreciate their concern, but it is interesting that they often don’t seem to question high-carb diets with the same rigor.
That said, I am concerned about my health, and want to understand and research their viewpoints. So below I’ve listed the common concerns raised and my thoughts on them.
- “Red Meat Will Kill You!” Some studies have concluded that red meat increases your mortality risk. Unfortunately, all these studies have been based on observational studies, so the adage “correlation does not imply causation” applies. (Dr. Peter Attia of the Nutritional Science Initiative goes into more detail exposing the shortcomings of these studies. Gary Taubes goes on a similar exploration of the problems with observational studies)
- “Your Brain Will Starve!” Yes, your brain can use blood sugar as a fuel source. It can also use ketones. (Again, Dr. Peter Attia dives into the science to understand if Ketosis is dangerous).
Thanks to @n_mangum for reviewing drafts of this post