Carbohydrates are something of a hot topic among healthy eaters. Debates about how many carbs we should eat and when we should eat them erupt at the gym, at restaurants, and even on our Facebook feeds. But no matter where you stand, it’s hard to argue against the evidence showing cutting back on carbs may help ward off certain ailments. With the number of illnesses and diseases affecting us today, anything that can combat them is worth considering. While further research needs to be done to see just how beneficial low-carb diets really are, cutting back on starchy foods may help fight these three diseases.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says that more than one-third of adults in the U.S. are obese, and 70.7% are overweight. Clearly, many of us could stand to lose a few pounds. When it comes to weight loss, nutrition plays a significant role and carbohydrates are constantly in discussion when it comes to what’s best for maintaining a healthy weight.
According to a recent study comparing low-carb and low-fat diets in overweight and obese adults, cutting carbs is actually better for weight loss. Participants followed one of the two diets, and at the end of one year, those who consumed a low-carbohydrate diet lost more weight.
2. Heart Disease
According to the CDC, heart disease is the leading cause of death in the U.S. Risk increases when coronary arteries are damaged, which the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute says can be caused by smoking, high cholesterol, blood vessel inflammation, and diabetes. Since a majority of these causes have to do with diet, changes in eating habits can make a big difference.
The same study from above found, in addition to losing weight, those who cut carbs also reduced their risk of cardiovascular disease. Participants on the controlled carbohydrate diet also had lower inflammation markers. Additionally, the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health mentions another study, which lasted for 20 years, and found that women who followed a low-carb diet were 30% less likely to develop heart disease. This suggests the effect isn’t just a short-term benefit.
According to the Group Health Cooperative, our bodies use 100% of the carbohydrates we eat for energy. Since that requires changing these foods into glucose, blood sugar levels in the body are affected within the first two hours of consuming carbohydrates. People with diabetes run into issues because they’re unable to produce enough insulin to use this glucose properly, so their blood sugar spikes dramatically. But if you cut back on carbs, your body will produce less glucose, so your blood sugar will stay more stable. Following this logic, cutting back on carbs should be beneficial for those with diabetes.
To illustrate this, The New York Times highlights a study involving 129 patients who saw both weight loss and improvement in their diabetes by following a low-carbohydrate diet. Still, the story acknowledges the only proven way to improve diabetes is by losing weight, indicating it may not matter exactly what type of diet you follow to achieve those results. But if cutting carbs helps people make smarter food choices, it might be worth a shot.