So where does this unprecedented increase of dietary carbohydrates leave us in the modern era? Modern humans presently consume more carbohydrates in a single day than Stone Age humans consumed in a year, and 20-30% more than we did just a few decades ago.
Part of the reason for the significant increase is that carbohydrate-based food products are becoming cheaper to mass-produce and are more convenient for the consumer to obtain (prepared foods, instant products, fast food, restaurants).
An additional factor is the low fat eating recommendations put forth by U.S. government health agencies and the medical community in the 1980’s and 90’s. Although effective at substantially reducing the per capita consumption of fat, the low fat dietary recommendations have lead to a reduction in the frequency of protein consumption as well as an increase in carbohydrate consumption of approximately 20-30%. The following tables demonstrate the increase of carbohydrate intake for men and women over the last few decdes.
Remember what the typically breakfast was in the 1940’s, 50’s or 60’s (if you aren’t old enough to remember, ask your parents or grandparents)? Often it was eggs, with steak or bacon or a cut of ham. If it was oatmeal, it wasn’t the highly process kind we have today and it too was often associated with eggs or bacon. Protein was often an included part of breakfast as well as the other meals in the day. Adequate intake of protein is one of the most effective appetite suppressants we have.
Aside from making carbohydrates inexpensive and convenient, modern agricultural and manufacturing techniques are producing a wide range of carbohydrate food products that have been so highly processed that they have very little of the food’s natural fiber content. The reduced fiber content of modern carbohydrates are the reason the processed carbohydrates often stimulate our level of hunger, and have a unhealthy effect on our metabolism and health.
For example, many forms of instant oatmeal have had so much of their protective fiber content removed that they can increase our blood sugar almost as rapidly as simple table sugar. Unless you are eating old-fashioned, steel-cut oatmeal which takes a long time to prepared, your modern oatmeal is no longer the healthy, warm breakfast food we grew up with and bears little resemblance to the nutritious breakfast food the manufacturers use in their advertising.
Stay tune for more of this topic with Part II of Modern Day Life and Carbohydrates.