Carbs: Friend or Foe?


The other day, I had a chat with a friend who is currently following a low carb diet. During the conversation, he explained to me that “it’s working” because he had lost weight. He then tried to convince me that carbs were the culprit for the obesity epidemic occurring in America (and increasingly in other countries).

Many of you have probably already tried a low-carb diet, or at least have someone in your surroundings who swears by one.

In this post, I’m not so much going to talk about carbs, protein or fats…I wish instead to address the issue of the validity of what we read or hear around us, of information we are bombarded with nonstop, without knowing how to separate the truth from the lies.

Milk is good for your bones, you shouldn’t eat fat, too much protein is detrimental, etc….

For a person looking to change their eating habits, all of this information makes things not so simple. So, what to do?

The first thing I invite you to do is understand the following statement: Cum hoc sed non propter hoc , in english:  correlation does not imply causation.

Keep this principle in mind; make it your mission to do so, not just in the domain of fitness or nutrition, but every time you have the occasion to exchange opinions with someone.

In the context of this article, what does the statement mean? Well, it’s simple: just because two events seem to be linked doesn’t mean one causes the other.

My friend’s belief that his weight loss was directly caused by the cutting out of carbs is a typical example of correlation considered as causality.

For many people, reading articles proving that the Atkins diet “works” or even that “sweating makes you lose more weight”  is a common occurrence. Such articles take an approach based on the idea that action=consequence, a principle that is limiting and often misleading. These articles often try to prove an argument someone wants you to believe… before doing so, ask yourself this question: can the evidence provided really prove what is being claimed?

Two test groups: the first for which a low carb diet has been prescribed, and the second for which a high carb diet has been prescribed. A 35% increase in weight loss was observed in group A subjects when compared to those in group B.

You can find these types of studies all over the place: in magazines, online, on TV… Although their results seem to speak for themselves at first, the reality is a whole other picture. Here are the questions you need to ask yourself (yes, a critical mind is a necessity my friend):

  • Who are the individuals making up the test groups?
  • Is their amount of physical activity the same?
  • How did the subjects “prove” what they were eating- were they watched?
  • But most importantly…. despite a different macro-composition, was the caloric total of both diets completely the same?

This example is simplistic … but not so far from reality.

For many studies, you have to remember several things:

A. The subjects used are often volunteers who fill out sheets….

… and history has shown that many people were not systematically accurate during the time of the study, this for several reasons. Some subjects were dishonest, and this for social reasons- the person felt the need to lie in order not to be negatively judged (for example, they ate something and didn’t report it). A subject may also, however, simply make a mistake! (thinking a cookie containing 500 calories only contained 150 or 200)

These margins of error are only human,  but are the first things that de facto falsify the results of a study.

B. The second are often variables that are knowingly omitted…. do you know why?

Well, large-scale studies cost money. This money comes from either the government, or from private organizations. Very rarely will you find private studies fully financed by the government.

Let’s take the case of creatine HCL, which has been proven to ‘work’ by certain studies…. in reality? Not so much. The studies were, for the most part, financed by laboratories who they themselves create and produce creatine!

What do you deduce from this?

Let’s also talk about a component that has been a subject of debate for years now…aspartame, which we can find in milk, “sugar-free” drinks, “diet” foods, etc.

I invite you to try the following exercise: look up studies online proving by A+B that aspartame isn’t dangerous. Trust me, you will find them: studies perfectly accurate on paper, reviewed and validated by a “specialist.”

But, to take this further, I also invite you to ask yourself: “who funded these studies?”

On the well-known “news-medical” site, the dangers of aspartame are considered nothing more than a “myth”:

Yet if you pay attention to the source of this example, it is the Calorie Control Council.

Here, among other things, are what we can find online about this council:

The question that begs itself is “who are the members of this council?”

It will take you less than five minutes to find out that this council, founded in 1966, represents more than 60 producers and sellers of “sugar-free” drinks, “fat-free” foods and most importantly, over 12 brands of sweeteners.

So you know, aspartame was banned for 16 years by the FDA…a political coup then occurred, during which Donald Rumsfeld became head of the cabinet, and since then, aspartame has been considered perfectly safe for consumption.

Put that down!

How should you position yourself with respect to such information?

Understand that when there is a debate, there is money (a lot of money) on the table.  So, considerations for your health will come after considerations for wealth.

Is sugar bad? Is aspartame toxic? Is too much protein detrimental for the bones?

These are questions worth asking. Learn to take a position and stick to it: don’t wait for a study to prove you are right or wrong. Contradicting studies are constantly racing for financial gains, this is a fact.

The first approach consists of taking a step back and asking yourself what our ancestors did. Did they eat less than 30 grams of protein and suffer from osteoporosis?

The second calls for precaution: aspartame was synthesized for the first time less than 50 years ago, in 1965. Do you find it dangerous for a relatively-young synthetic substance to build up in your brain?

The third calls for reason: did people die from Hypercholesterolemia before we preached loud and proud that “egg yolks are as dangerous as tobacco”? (ridiculous)

Examples like the ones presented are abundant today…not because science is progressing (well partially, yes) but because money makes the world go round and so long as this is the case, we will keep science at the heels of industry- with some researchers payed to keep quiet and others payed to lie.

The more the consumer is tricked, the more he or she is the wealth of an industry (“fair trade” that isn’t so “fair”after all, doubtful quality of meat, or even  pesticides that are more than toxic)

Understand that if you don’t want to live at the hands of tycoons who consider your health as a business venture, it is your responsibility to inform yourself, but also to take a political and social stance for the benefit of your health and that of your friends and family.

How to change things?

I often hear phrases such as “it won’t change anything anyways”, very practical and easy to use during a discussion.

  • So you think favoring your local economy can change things?
  • Do you think consuming cage-free eggs is a good thing?
  • Would you be willing to go to farmers markets in order to support local producers?

Yes, yes, and yes. But of course, scapegoating industries is much simpler than engaging yourself for your, and your surrounding’s, benefit.

You can be sure that for every one person who engages themselves for something, at least 10 people will learn about it.

For every one person who cuts out or reduces meat consumption, potentially 10 tons of water are no longer wasted.

A couple who earns a good living and decides to buy their food locally, potentially betters the producer’s life.

Whether you like it or not, your body is your responsibility. But here’s the good news: if you are a dedicated follower of this website, then you already have enough respect towards yourself to no longer be passive in regards to your life, and to make conscientious choices for yourself. More than “just about food,” you are doing something powerful to act for yourself.

So, is sugar dangerous? Well, let’s just say it will never be as dangerous as the lack of education….

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