The Paradox of Carbs in Human Health




All fingers are now pointing at sugars as culprit risk factors for a variety of health ailments such as cardiovascular diseases (hypertension or high blood pressure and atherosclerosis included), diabetes, some forms of cancer, various forms of body aches, etc. However, on the other hand, it is a well-established fact that carbs are the ideal source of readily available energy, for normal body functions. We need carbs and they are good for us at optimum intake levels, but excess intake brings with it numerous health problems. The challenge then is, how do we know when enough of the carbs intake is enough. Advice from our professional health care providers has been available for a while now, but the health problems said to be associated with the so-called excess intake appear to stay put in the greater part of the population world over.

The question then is, are we on the spot as to the link between carbs and our chronic illnesses and the possible appropriate intervention measures, or there is something we are missing? We might agree on the fact that sugars are the main culprit in weight gains and a risk factor to cardiovascular diseases but what I would personally not agree with, is that we can effectively fight nutrition related chronic diseases by merely manipulating our diets or food patterns alone. This is too simplistic an approach to navigate and come up with solutions to the nutrition-chronic diseases link (a very complex scenario of our health). More understanding of the nutrition-disease relationship is required to get to the root cause of the diseases, for us to come up with relevant, effective and realistic intervention approaches.

At the very basic level, most of the non-communicable chronic diseases, including those in which carbs are said to be the main culprit risk factor are all believed to be linked to the natural processes of oxidative stress and inflammation. Oxidative stress is a result of the insults on cells and body tissues by oxidants (free radicals) and are a product of metabolism. Oxidative stress occurs when there’s an imbalance between free radical activity and antioxidant activity. When there are more free radicals present than can be kept in balance by antioxidants, the free radicals can start doing damage to fatty tissue, DNA, and proteins in your body, which is indicated to be linked to most of the non-communicable chronic diseases (cardiovascular disease, diabetes, some cancers, etc.)

Given the information in the paragraph above on the relationship between oxidants and antioxidants, and development of chronic diseases, it sounds logical or reasonable to me that the best approach to confront chronic diseases will be to bring back in balance the oxidants activity and the free radical activity.  The most sure way of getting desired quality and quantities of antioxidants (vitamins, phytochemicals, etc.) is through nutritional supplements intake. Getting nutrients from food alone is not a good idea and is likely unrealistic because those nutrients might be inadequate in those foods. Controlling intake of carbs is equally a huge challenge in our current food environment, but a reasonable approach might be to include the control of carbs intake approaches that improve metabolism of carbs. Several micronutrients supplements are good at that.

More in the next post.

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