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Reduce Carbohydrates to Reduce Obesity

Reduce Carbohydrates to Reduce Obesity
February 2, 2011 Patrick Nemechek, D.O.

Reduce Carbohydrates to Reduce Obesity – Obesity Simplified

Obesity is caused from excessive fat cell growth triggered by high insulin levels from excessive carbohydrate intake.

Obesity is not caused by eating too much and exercising too little.

Energy Balance is Not the Issue

There is no scientific evidence to support the principle that obesity is simply because people eat too much and exercise too little (ie, calories in, calories out).  If it were really as simple as that, don’t you think people trapped in their obese bodies would choose to eat less, exercise more, lose weight and end the emotion distress and social isolation of obesity?

This is the message the obese are given and yet they fail to lose weight.  The extension of this “calories in – calories out” mentality is that if you are obese, it’s only because you don’t care enough to simply quit eating.  You are a lazy, slovenly, glutton.   I believe it is nothing but cruel to promote such a message when there is no scientific evidence to support it.

“10 Units In and 9 Units Out”

Accumulating scientific evidence is forming the new paradigm that obesity is caused by carbohydrate toxicity of your fat cells.

The carbohydrates in your diet stimulate the production of insulin.  Insulin in turn stimulates the growth of fat cells.  Between meals, your insulin levels should decrease back to their fasting level thereby allowing the fat cells to release the energy they previously stored so it can be used for fuel.

For example, if you eat 10 additional units of energy (a fictitious number I invented for the sake of illustration) in a day, 10 units of energy will be stored in your fat cells.  And later between meals or while you sleep, your insulin levels will drop down to the fasting level and those 10 units of energy will be released and burned as fuel.  The net effect is no addition accumulation of energy as body fat.

Now let’s take a different and more common scenario affecting many Americans today.

If you eat too many carbohydrates, your insulin levels increase to store the extra energy you’ve eaten.  But because you’ve consistently eaten too many carbohydrates, your insulin levels have increased to an abnormally high level.  Between meals and while you sleep, these high insulin levels do not return to a low enough level necessary to allow your fat cells to release the extra energy you stored earlier in the day.

So instead of storing 10 units and later burning 10 units of energy, you will store 10 units and burn only maybe 9 units.  This leave 1 unit of energy behind in your fat cells in the form of excess fat.  If leaving behind 1 extra unit of energy in your fat mass occurs daily, you will slowly and consistently increase your fat mass and gain weight.

Why Low Fat Diets Fail to Burn Off Fat

The excessive fat storage from high insulin levels is a very strong metabolic effect and cannot be broken by the simply eating less.   You need to specifically eat less carbohydrates.

If you choose to eat less by adhering to a low fat diet, you will not burn off the excess fat.  The standard low fat meal still contains too many carbohydrates for most people to allow the insulin levels to return to the low fasting level required to release the energy stored in your fat cells.

You will often also feel more fatigue because you haven’t eaten enough energy to fuel your body.  Your body decreases the amount of energy it burns (by making you less active) to match the lower energy supply of the decreased calorie intake; you experience this as fatigue.

Occasionally someone will lose a lot of body fat by eating a low fat diet.  But what is generally happening in this case is that while eating less fat, the individual actually cuts out all the junk food in their diet whether it contains fat or not.  The end result is enough reduction in carbohydrates to release their stores of body fat.

How many people who try to lose weight eating “low fat” but still drink soda candy or ice cream?  Not many I imagine.

Why Exercise Fails to Burn Off Fat

If you try to burn off your extra fat by exercising more, all you will accomplish is to increase your hunger after exercising.  There are no scientific studies of the general population that show that exercise alone will result in weight loss.

The increased energy demands of exercise does not release the energy locked in your fat cells.  This energy is locked within the fat cells because of elevated insulin levels.  Exercise itself does not lower your body’s production of insulin if your continue to consume too many carbohydrates.

Additionally, exercise increases your body’s energy requirements and may result in rebound of hunger to provide needed energy for other body function.

Now it’s easy to find someone who has engaged in an exercise program and lost weight.  The reason for this is the individual has engaged in multiple lifestyle changes that include not only exercise but also cutting out the junk food (generally very high in carbohydrates) and “eating right”.

Again, their weight loss comes back to a reduction in carbohydrates.

Break the Cycle of Fat Storage By Lowering Your Carbohydrate Intake

Reducing your daily intake of carbohydrates (sugars and starches) to less 100 grams/day will lead to a consistent and steady reduction in your body fat, averaging about 2 lbs. per week.  The 100 gram threshold is not difficult to achieve, lowers insulin levels substantially and results in fat loss in approximately 90% of individuals.

If this level doesn’t work for you, you may have a lower biological tolerance of carbohydrates and may need to drop your carbohydrates intake lower.

As I’ve noted in my other writing, try to eliminate most of your carbohydrates from the least psychologically important meals of the day.  For many of us, it’s breakfast and lunch.

Focus instead on eating a higher protein/low-carb or carb-free meals at these times and saving your carbohydrate “allowance” for your most psychologically and socially important meal, dinner.  Dinner is often the meal that involves eating with friends or family, unwinding from your day at work and has a great deal of emotion connected with eating and food.

By saving your carbohydrate “allowance” for dinner, the reduction in carbohydrates won’t seem so intrusive and difficult.  You’ll still be able to enjoy some of your carbohydrate comfort foods and not feel as if cutting back on carbs is such a sacrifice.

Remember, there is no metabolic importance to eating carbohydrates during dinner, it’s only a psychological trick that has helped me as well as many of my patients.

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  1. PattyN 9 years ago

    Hello Doctor,

    Met you a few weeks ago when I came in for a bladder infection. Followed your advice for a couple of weeks after and felt significantly better, did not have the lightheadedness that I was accustomed to, and was actually having no problems waiting to savor most of my carbs at dinner time. My mood was better and had more energy.

    Thank you.

  2. Trepka 9 years ago

    Do you think it would be ok to eat a bowl of bran with some warm milk in the morning while doing the low carb diet? I don’t want to say diet really because this will have to be a life changing way of eating but at least while in the stages of trying to loose weight is it a good idea to eat bran in the mornings? Thank you sincerely Trepka B

    • Author
      Patrick Nemechek, D.O. 9 years ago

      Eating bran is fine with breakfast. You just need to account for your total carb intake for the day.

      A 1/2 a cup of Kelloge’s Bran is about 12-13 net grams of carbs (Total carbs minus fiber). Add that to the 5-6 grams of carbs from the 1/2 cup of milk and your total is a little less than 20 in the AM.

      That still leaves plenty of room in your carbohydrate budget of 100 grams to get through the day and enjpy a wider variety of foods at dinner.


  3. Sara P. 10 years ago

    I started my low carb diet 3 days ago and I was wondering how long the withdrawal symptoms last. Everytime I eat I get a headache.

    • Author
      Patrick Nemechek, D.O. 10 years ago

      This is a common problem that is a result of low blood flow to your brain. Your past carb intake has affected how you nervous system and you are unable to regulate blood pressure effectively. The blood flow to your brain and the scalp muscles is less than is required. Your neurological system will recover in a few weeks.

      In the time being, you need to increase you salt intake for a few weeks. I generally recommend drinking a cup of chicken broth in the morning and midday. This will provide enough salt to increase your blood pressure and alleviate your symptoms. Within a few weeks you won’t need the salt any more. It often decreases your craving for carbohydrates.

      Good luck.


  4. Patrick Nemechek, D.O. 10 years ago


    Almonds as well as most other tree nuts and all forms of protein (meat, eggs, cheese) stimulate insulin only a small amount compared to carbohydrates of almost any form (processed and uncooked). So the almonds and and beef jerky are both good options.

    Pickles or ther salty foods only helps carbohydraate cravings if you are experiencing any of the lightheaded symptoms associated with orthostatic hypotension.

    And antacids only help with hunger cravings if you are having poor stomach motility and stomach acid retention mimicing hunger.

    Sometimes its difficult to sort out which of these is the main player. I’d just stick to the almonds and or protein snacks.


  5. Jim Ferguson 10 years ago

    Doc – very well put. I am down to 292 – really watching my carbs and staying well below the 100 grams. I feel good too – still have the pain but more energy.

    My only issue is the snacking between – can I eat almonds and beef jerky or just pickles? The antacid does not seem to work for my hunger?


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