The Science of Weight Loss

Does consuming sugars really make you want to eat more? Before you throw out all the carbs in your kitchen, read closely. The key to weight loss isn’t to follow a low-carb diet but to control your calories.

Do high-carb diets make you fat?
Many of the current best-selling weight control books claim that diets high in carbohydrate — from bread, grains, cereal, potatoes, fruit, and sugar — are a primary culprit in weight gain. They use the explanation that eating carbohydrates causes high insulin levels, which in turn prevent your body from using stored fat for energy. They claim that foods that have a high glycemic index (GI) are the most harmful because they cause even more insulin to be released.

The glycemic index (GI)
The GI is a lab measurement of how high your blood sugar rises in response to an equal amount of carbohydrate from a variety of foods. It's most often used to help people with diabetes predict how different foods might affect their blood sugar levels, and really has nothing to do with insulin levels. Unfortunately, the GI is highly variable from person to person, meaning that a food that causes a high blood sugar rise in one person may have a much different affect on someone else. Also, scientists have yet to figure out exactly what it is about foods that causes the varying blood glucose response. The rise in blood glucose may be affected by the amount of fat and protein in the food, the amount and type of fiber, and whether the food is raw or cooked.

High GI does NOT equal elevated levels of insulin
Although it certainly sounds plausible that foods with a high GI that raise blood sugar levels more quickly than other foods would therefore cause a jump in insulin production, it just isn't born out in science. The number one factor that determines insulin output is total calories consumed, not GI of foods. It doesn't even matter if the calories in the meal come from carbohydrate, protein or fat: the fact is, excessive calories cause high insulin levels and the following fat storage.

But won't I eat more if I focus on high-carbohydrate foods?

Nope. Researchers who look at satiety, or fullness levels after eating, wanted to see how full people felt after eating an equal amount of calories from a variety of foods. A high-satiety food left people more satisfied after the meal, and also caused them to eat less two hours later. Can you guess which was the highest satiety food? Potatoes. And potatoes have a high GI, meaning they contain a high amount of carbohydrate, which supposedly makes us hungrier and raises insulin levels! In this case the science brings the truth to light: low calorie dense foods that lead to high satiety levels are the key to weight control.

Foods to choose to increase satiety and lose weight

Focus on foods high in fiber and nutrients such as baked potatoes, brown rice, whole grains, fresh fruits, and vegetables. These foods provide more satiety per calorie than foods with more concentrated calories, so you'll be satisfied with less. If your diet is made up of high-sugar foods that are low in fiber and other nutrients (think of fat-free cereal bars, sugary breakfast cereals, white bread, white rice, and convenience foods), then you most likely will need to eat more calories before you feel satisfied.

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