Sunday, August 31, 2008


There are many debunkers of science invariably casting aspersions on the findings and conclusions arising out of vast studies authored by reputed scientists with excellent credentials. The foundation of modern food science and human nutrition is based on more than a century of findings by biochemists and nutritionists and what a normal adult needs to maintain good health is well established, accepted universally by all countries. A daily requirement of 2000 kC energy through carbohydrates and 50-60 g each of proteins and fats, 25-30g of dietary fiber and minimum levels of essential vitamins and minerals, essential amino acids and essential fatty acids will have come from the diet consumed. Of course these figures can vary depending on the climate, physical activity and age of the individuals.

Modern societies' curse in the form of various health disorders caused by improper eating, imbalanced foods and excessive indulgence in foods some times is attributed to inadequate understanding of the human nutrition and commercial interests find a loophole to exploit these sentiments to advocate out of the way solutions to establish new foods with new claims. The famous( or infamous?) Atkins diet targeted at people desperately trying to reduce their body weights ( at times at any cost) is such a classical example. The Atkins diet is founded on the concept that a low carbohydrate and high protein diet can help reduce weight with fat playing no critical role. As recently as five years ago,1 out of 11 Americans was on this diet believing they can improve their quality of life through low carb diets as recommended by Atkins Foundation. Though the objective of weight reduction was achieved through this diet administered under medical supervision, the phenomenon did not last long and to day the business has plummetted reducing the clientele to less than 2%. It is another matter the company filed for bankurrupcy in July 2005 and realization has dawned on many consumers about the risks involved in adopting such radical changes in basics of human nutrition.

Low carb diets do reduce body weght during the initial phase and this is attributed more to loss of water or/and rapid glycogen reduction rather than fat. Most shocking was the vulnerability of people on low carb diet to heart diseases, accumulation of acetone leading to life threatening situations, diarhea, general debility and weakness, skin rashes and muscle cramps. It is amazing how scientific studies can be tailor made to get results supporting unorthodox ideas like low carb diets. A group of scientists in Israel report their findings that a diet containing low carbohydrates, even in presence of high fats, showed better cholesterol and triglyceride profile as compared to high carbohydrate diets implying that carbohydrate is the only culprit causing overweight. This probably may give new impetus to the industry to come out with products low in carbohydrates but high in fats with disatrous consequences. It is true that excess carbohydrates in the diet can lead to fat accumulation through formation of pyruvates which happen to be the feedstock for fatty acid synthesis. While carbohydrates can generate lipids, reverse does not take place and excess fat will have to be metabolized into energy or stored in adipose tissues.

One of the fundamentals of weight control is that unless intake calories are less than basal metabolic rate, weight loss cannot take place and carbohydrate level has to be above the levels that causes ketosis, an undesirable event in daily life. Fat burning produces acetone which is excreted from the body through urine. While photosynthesis, glycolysis, lipolysis and pyruvate flow into Kreb's Cycle, pentose phosphate pathway, glycogenesis, glycogenolysis, amino acid conversion to glucose under some conditions, glucoreulation for steady maintenance of glucose as a part of homeostasis to conserve the internal environment around the cell are all well established basics of natural metabolism and any challenge to these facts will have to be mounted on solid science, insulated from commercial interests. For normal population there is does not seem to be any alternative to diet control and active life for maintaining ideal body weight. Going for short cuts can be disastrous in the long term.


No comments: