Why cutting out carbs is making you fat

Dr Nick Fuller
Leading Obesity Expert at the University of Sydney and founder of Interval Weight Loss.

Since the evolution of the Atkins Diet in the 1970s there has been a very noisy group advocating that carbohydrates be cut from the diet. Over the past 40 years, the Atkins Diet has evolved into many derivatives, and one in which we are most familiar with, being the modern-day Paleo diet. All have the same key theme, cut carbohydrates and you will achieve weight loss and improvements in health. People love it because they see results straight away. And the celebrities love it because they continue to sell product. Clever yes, but at the detriment of our health. Sorry to be the bearer of bad news, but Paleo Pete, and all others advocating we stay away from grains are simply wrong.

So what is all the fuss about?

Take out the bread, remove the cereal, strip the rice, and your weight starts to go down. And with two in three people now overweight or obese and trying on average 4 to 5 diets every year, this is exactly the result they are looking for (quick weight loss). Sadly, only to regain the weight every single time. 

Carbohydrates are made up of many sugar units bundled together to form glycogen. As it turns out, each gram of glycogen binds 3 grams of water. So the main reason you see weight loss when you take out the carbs is due to water loss, and definitely not a decrease in fat mass, which we are made out to believe. 

If you then stick to the reduced energy (reduced calorie) diet that is low in carbohydrates, you will go on to lose weight but you will also go on to lose weight if the diet is high in carbohydrates. If both diets contain the same reduction in calories (regardless of the amount of carbohydrates) both achieve exactly the same weight loss over time.

Why shouldn’t you be avoiding them?

Most recently a group of 30 leading national and international experts came together to review the evidence and they found a clear health benefit of eating wholegrains not only to prevent weight gain but also to prevent disease, such as cancer and type 2 diabetes.

The particular benefits come from cereal fibre. They found many positive studies showing that a lack of cereal fibre is associated with increased risk of colon cancer. This means not only eating foods such as fruit and vegetables, but also wholegrain products.

Why? Because a wholegrain retains its original form and has not been subject to processing so you retain the bran, germ and endosperm. Many refined carbohydrates sources such as wholemeal or white bread remove the bran and germ which are important nutritional components. On the other hand, examples of quality wholegrains include wholegrain and seeded bread, steel cut oats, and brown rice, of which we should be including plenty every day.

So next time you think to cut out the carbs from your diet, think again. Not only is this detrimental to your waistline but also to your health.

About Dr Nick Fuller

Dr Nick Fuller is the founder of Interval Weight Loss and is a leading obesity expert at the University of Sydney with a Ph.D. in Obesity Treatment. Dr Fuller is also the author of three best-selling books and his work been published in top ranked journals in the medical field, including JAMA, Lancet and American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.