All carbs aren??™t equal
August 5th 2009, 13:01
A few months ago, thinking ahead to bathing-suit weather, I decided,
like most women on the planet, to lose five pounds. Intrigued by an ad
in the newspaper that promised a diet combining low-carb with natural
fat-burning foods, I sent away for the details and received a pack that
was, essentially, a more extreme version of the Atkins low-carbohydrate
diet. The diet was kickstarted by three days of protein-only foods and,
thereafter, only included foods with a very low glycaemic index (GI)
score, with three snacks a day composed entirely of protein.
However, like God, you could rest on the seventh day and eat whatever
you wanted, so long as it was followed by a protein-only day.
Although highly sceptical of an approach so heavily reliant on a single food group, I
decided to try it for a week. After all, my metabolic type slightly favours a high protein
consumption, so I eat a lot of protein anyway.
I embarked on my first protein-only day-and abandoned it by dinner time. In the time
in between, my system was virtually shut down: my brain had ceased to function; my bowels
had blown up with gas and constipation; my breath smelled bad; I carried around a lowgrade
headache; and, on top of that and contrary to all assurances, I felt constantly hungry.
I tell you this by way of a cautionary note related to our cover story this month, which is
about the new evidence of a link between high insulin levels and cancer, as well as evidence
that a low-carbohydrate diet may be cancer-protective.
But all low-carb diets are not the same. Many, like BodyTrim or the Atkins, initially
cut out other food groups and encourage the consumption of anything, no matter how
processed-Diet Coke, highly processed cereal bars, bacon fat, protein shakes-so long as
it's not a carbohydrate.
This is why, in the wake of the Atkins 'diet revolution', the food industry has declared
open season, replacing low-fat foods with a huge array of highly processed low-carb 'food'.
Indeed, heart specialist Dr Dean Ornish has taken it upon himself to act as a one-man
critic of the Atkins approach. As he points out, evidence shows that the Atkins diet can
increase calcium and potassium loss-as a result of protein overconsumption-leading to
osteoporosis, or brittle bones. In those with kidney problems, it can put excess stress on
the kidneys, lower blood flow to the heart, lower cognitive function and even, in the case of
one young woman, trigger fatal cardiac arrest.
In addition, according to one study, large numbers of patients endure bad breath,
constipation, headache, hair loss, abnormal periods (in the case of women) and dizziness.
Nevertheless, Ornish's own answer to heart disease and cancer is also extreme: a wholefood
vegan diet, which many may find difficult to adhere to and which also often includes
many soy products that themselves have been linked to cancer.
However, there is a third option: the Montignac diet is low in carbs, yet encourages
healthy amounts of whole natural foods, wholegrains, natural fats, and unlimited amounts
of most fruits and vegetables. The Montignac diet is, in a sense, a kind of French Stone Age
diet-low in grains, with wine thrown in-the closest we have to a sensible, holistic low-carb
I went on the Montignac diet this spring and not only lost my five pounds, but stabilized
what was beginning to feel like yo-yo hypoglycaemia.
The simple secret of the Montignac diet is that an organic wholefood, non-processed diet
that includes most fruit and vegetables is, essentially, a low-carb diet-and one that is likely
to be your biggest weapon against cancer.