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Should we all be eating low carb?

Updated: Dec 1, 2023

Let’s chat about the crazies that go round touting about the carb-insulin theory of the obesity crisis that we’re currently living through.

Let’s begin with what the theory says:

Essentially, they believe that diets high in carbohydrates are fattening because they elevate insulin secretion, that insulin then directs energy consumed towards fat storage and away from being ‘burned’, resulting in a perception of cells being ‘starved’ which they reckon increases appetite and suppresses the metabolism, creating an energy surplus and thus, obesity.


Insulin has a role of controlling certain enzymes which promote the uptake, retention and storage of fat. The theory is promoting the idea that eating diets containing higher levels of carbohydrates supress the release of fatty acids into circulation in the body and taking them towards storage as body fat rather than being ‘burned off’. They believe that this hormone dis-regulation drives energy intakes that are too high for individuals, making them overweight.

Let’s question the scientific basis of this theory.

So, according to the theory, diets low in carbohydrates compared with fat but identical in protein and calories will reduce the secretion of insulin, increased fat mobilisation and elevate the burning of body fat…make sense?!

This is said to ‘relieve’ the starvation state of the cells resulting in hunger becoming decreased, an increase in loss of body fat and an increase in calorie burn – this is when compared with diets containing the same calories but higher in carbs.

Looking at the review undertaken by Hall in 2016, this was well and truly debunked.

There was a reduction in insulin secretion with diets lower in carbohydrates, of course. However, such diets did in fact show a slightly lower rate of fat loss! Disclaimer; this is NOT me promoting high fat diets either…

Reduced carbohydrates actually led to a decrease in energy expenditure (the complete opposite of that which is claimed by the carb-insulin theory)!

People on low carbohydrate diets MAY see success but it is highly likely that this is due to effecting the energy intake of the individual due to other mechanisms within the body like satiety and personal likes and dislikes.

It is fair to say that low carbohydrate diets MAY offer metabolic benefits beyond weight and fat loss in some circumstances and by falsifying the theory I am not over here preaching that carbs and insulin are to be disregarded when it comes to regulation of body fat levels, however, I am saying that it isn’t the ultimate solution to the rise in obesity so prevalent in the modern world. This is, of course, for the general population - things could look different for those with differing needs, someone living with PCOS for example, we might have a deeper dive into their needs but if that isn't you, don't sweat it.

Okay, done geeking out, peace and love, A x

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