Low-carb Madness

It’s hard to miss the fact that Americans are diving into low-carb diets by the millions. Even large restaurant chains are now advertising “Atkins-approved menus” (whatever that means).

Considering that I have promoted carbohydrate restriction for years, when everybody else thought that low-fat was the answer to all human ailments, I should be pleased to see this trend; but the way it’s being implemented is loaded with pitfalls.

Recently a mother brought a box of pasta to my office and asked if it would be OK for her child, who is on a restricted-carb diet. The label did read “low-carb,” and it took me a while to understand what seemed at first to be a contradiction in terms: how can pasta be low-carb?

The two major ingredients in this pasta turned out to be wheat gluten and soy concentrate. It cannot be denied that gluten is actually a protein, not a carb, that is found in small amounts in wheat and other grains. In this case the manufacturer separated the gluten from the starch in the wheat and concentrated it to make high-protein pasta.

The only problem is that gluten is the single most problematic food component in our diet. It is very difficult for our digestive systems to break it down completely, and partially digested gluten has been implicated as a trigger for hyperactivity, auto-immune disease, intestinal disorders, autism, schizophrenia and more.

In addition, many of us have a relative intolerance to gluten. This means that we can stand small amounts of it, but we develop symptoms when we exceed our individual thresholds. So concentrating gluten to make “Atkins-approved” pasta is one of the worst ideas I have seen in a long time and one that is likely backfire on Americans’ health in a significant way.

The second ingredient in this “low-carb” pasta was soy, which is loaded with problems of its own. Soy is also very challenging for humans to break down, especially if it is not fermented (as it is usually found in traditional diets in Japan). In addition, soy has been found to inhibit enzymes in the brain that produce neurotransmitters. Soy also contains high levels of naturally occurring estrogens that can disrupt hormone development in children and can be a factor in hormone-related disorders in adults. These estrogens also inhibit the thyroid, and may be implicated in the current epidemic of hypothyroidism. To read more about soy and its dangers go to www.westonaprice.org/soy/tragedy3.html.

My idea of a low-carb diet has always been one based on natural protein and fresh vegetables, with grains and fruit consumed in small amounts. It would seem that the food industry has quite a different view of things. One thing is very clear: when food industry giants get involved, there’s likely to be trouble ahead.

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