A person surveying this blog may find it difficult to understand how the themes of this blog, especially the latest category, “Carbs are poison”, cohere except that they all involve the author’s own concerns. I started this blog with the idea that a Christian could be an investor, and that there would be right ways to do it and wrong ways. So it touches upon issues of Christian ethics and praxis, especially in the area of investing and finance. But does low carb dieting relate to these themes?
Imagine that I was writing instead about the production, marketing and exportation of a substance that causes lung cancer, emphysema, and heart disease; many ethical investors would argue that one should not invest in a product that is essentially a dealer of death. Tobacco, of course, is off the list of many people’s investment portfolio for ethical reasons. If I started sharing about how I stopped smoking and began to expose how tobacco is a killer; and I began to recommend that others quit smoking and stop listening to all the ads that say that smoking is cool; if I recommended divesting oneself of tobacco stocks, I think it would be easier to see the connection between the this subject of investing and Christian ethics. But people would soon become bored. We’ve known about the evils of tobacco for decades now. It would hardly be contrarian to oppose tobacco.
Lately, however, I’ve been railing against carbohydrates. Unlike tobacco, which carries warning labels about how deadly it can be, carbs market freely in our world with no such labels. Here would be an appropriate label for a loaf of whole grain bread: “Warning: the Minster of Health has determined that this food is high in carbohydrates; the excess consumption of carbohydrates can lead to diabetes, heart disease, obesity, cancer, Alzheimers and death.” In the small print, “Please check your blood sugar level after the consumption of this product; you may be suffering from dangerously high, organ-damaging blood sugars.”
Food is a big part of our economy, and a large part of the population in the world suffers from diseases related to uncontrolled blood sugars that damages, among other bodily tissues, the eyes, the nerves, the kidneys, the arteries, the pancreas and the brain. Excessive blood sugars can also feed cancerous growths and are likely related to terminal cancer. Blood sugars spike in normal people after the consumption of high carbohydrate foods. The person with metabolic syndrome, prediabetes or diabetes, however, will have high blood sugars for many hours after such a meal, high enough to cause cause physical damage that can lead to premature death. These facts are scientifically verified and hardly controversial. What is controversial are the opinions as to the best way to deal with the problem. Most doctors, dieticians, and even diabetes specialists and associations (e.g., both the American and the Canadian Diabetes Associations), recommend that diabetics and prediabetics lose weight by avoiding too much red meat, dietary fat and by consuming a low calorie, high carbohydrate diet–i.e., they recommend that people receive the majority of their calories from the very carbohydrates that lead to uncontrolled blood sugars. If you don’t believe me, google the “diabetic food pyramid” and see that according to official recommendations diabetics should eat a “Standard Western Diet”, high in carbs and low in meat and dietary fat.
Thus, just like my fear of hyperinflation and my investment in silver and gold, oil and gas, my low-carbing is contrarian. All you have to do is walk into Costco to see how contrarian it is. While I know a handful of people who have started low-carbing, including other members of my own family, the vast majority of the people you see in grocery stores are carrying about 25-100 lbs too much weight. Rarely do you see anyone under 30 who looks like they are at a healthy weight, and when you see their grocery carts, they are always buying high carbohydrate food and drinks, such as juice, fruit, and wheat products. The stores have multiple aisles (essentially all the middle aisles) with high carb foods that I can’t purchase or consume, and I assume they do this because these products sell very, very well. I’ve also had some folks at my church walk away from me as I tried to explain how I lost weight on a high fat, low carb diet.
The public, it seems, is not at all aware or accepting of this reality and it seems that we are towards the end of the first stage of a low-carb bull market (“shock and fear”–not of carbs but of the good foods: e.g., red meat and dietary fat; see this post for the six stages of a bull market) of what I think is a “bull market” in nutritional change, that begins perhaps with the life work of Dr. Robert Atkins, the quintessential contrarian.
With the seminal work of Gary Taubes, Good Calories, Bad Calories; the effective diabetes therapy of Richard Bernstein, The Diabetes Solution; and the condemnation of modern wheat by William Davis, Wheat Belly, and finally, many paleo-diets, we are seeing a significant upward trend in low-carbing; however, we are still only at the beginning of the second stage of “guarded optimism” by only a few contrarian dieters. Eventually, as with well-performing companies, the market may remain irrational for months or even years, but eventually the fundamentals will win out. Unfortunately, many millions of people will die before this low-carb bull market comes into full swing. The standard fear of fat and low-carb dieting still prevail.
Thus, good nutrition is like good investing. The best hope that anyone has is to be contrarian and do the opposite of the what the majority of experts recommend.
In the meantime, we live in a major carb bubble and it manifests many signs of distress, just like the housing bubble.
- About one out of every four people in Canada and have diabetes or pre-diabetes. In the United States it is almost one out of every three people.
- I go to an aging church: many parishioners are suffering from diseases related to high blood sugars: obesity, artery disease, cancer and Alzheimers. However, you would never know this from our table of hospitality at coffee time–full of an assortment of high carb treats. I used to partake handsomely and every Sunday afternoon I would sleep for about three hours to recover. Thankfully, they sometimes also offer cheese, and the occasional vegi platter and cold cuts: I can also have the coffee with 10% cream and this contributes to conviviality, the ultimate goal of our coffee time.
- When I eat in a restaurant, I usually have to order a large steak (12 oz) in order to not leave the table hungry. If you ask for more vegetables instead of potatoes and bread, they are unable or unwilling to provide adequate quantities, so the only way to compensate for it is to order a over-large steak. I haven’t seen a low carb restaurant yet, though some have a few low carb choices.
- Marketing promotes low fat products, even when they are loaded with carbs: e.g., low fat honey.
- Marketing promotes “heart healthy whole grains”. The book Wheat Belly explains how that is actually quite the opposite of the truth.
- Some ethicists have promoted the eating of grains instead of meat in order to fight world starvation. For example, Christian writer Ronald Sider, Rich Christians in an age of hunger (IVP Press, 1977) famously claimed that it takes thirteen pounds of grain to provide one pound of meat, and that Christians should respond by eating grain directly instead of feeding it to livestock (p. 42-43). We now know that these grains are poisonous to many people. What are they supposed to eat when meat is off the table? Didn’t Jesus declare all foods clean (Mark 7.19)?
- Sugar and grain industries have had great success in lobbying to the effect of having their products declared safe for human consumption, even for diabetics. The bacon and egg industries have been far less successful.
- Governments have largely promoted high carbohydrate dieting (see USDA food pyramid above). Thus, like the housing bubble, the carb bubble is a beneficiary of various kinds of government policy and stimulus. Government literally promote nutrition which destroys the health of the population.