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BLOOD SUGAR AND THE HIGH CARBOHVARATE DIET

We must explore some fairly intricate hormonal issues if we want to understand the effects of a high-carbohydrate diet on insulin and glucagon ratios. While the body is blessed with an enormous capacity to maintain homeostasis in a very unbalanced world, its homeostatic mechanisms are not infinite. If we want to maintain homeostatic balance and thus keep our weight under control, we must learn how these unbalanced hormones cause weight gain and what we can do to stop their squabbling.

First of all, we need to understand how eating a diet high in carbohydrates affects blood sugar, because the secretion of insulin and glucagon is determined by the level of sugar in the blood.

Think about the source of carbohydrates. Foods like apples, carrots, pasta, cereals, potatoes, rice, baked beans, candy bars, potato chips, and soft drinks have at least one thing in common: They are sugars. Complex carbohydrates—raw fruits, grains, and vegetables—contain complex sugars called disaccharides or polysaccharides, two or more sugar molecules bound together by molecules of water.1 Because these sugars are too large to be absorbed into the bloodstream and burned as energy, they must be digested into single molecules, or simple sugars, for conversion to blood sugar (glucose). The tough fibers encasing these molecules in complex carbohydrates are very beneficial to the body because they help sweep the intestinal tract clear of dietary debris, encourage the proliferation of friendly bacteria, lower blood fats, and eliminate used estrogens from the body.

On the other hand, simple carbohydrates like sucrose, honey, corn syrup, or white table sugar are tiny molecules that have been stripped of their natural fiber coating and can easily cross the intestinal barrier. They absorb quickly into the bloodstream. The sugars released from simple carbohydrates can be dumped into the body within seconds by absorption through the mucosal membrane of the mouth. (If you want to see how rapidly sugars can be absorbed, take a large sip of dinner wine and swish it around in your mouth. See how quickly you feel the effects of the alcohol, which is a sugar. You can feel it within seconds!)

Both simple and complex carbohydrates must be broken down into glucose to be used for the production of energy in the body. Let's follow these carbohydrates as they make their way through the intestinal tract to discover their final destination and what role they play in fat deposition.

The process of digestion begins in the mouth via amylase, the carbohydrate-digesting enzyme secreted in saliva. The act of chewing exposes the food particles to the effects of the amylase, which starts to work immediately on the long-chain carbohydrates or sugars in the food. After you swallow food, it sits in the cardiac portion of the stomach for a few minutes, but that resting time is not wasted. While the food is heating up to 98.6 degrees (the temperature at which enzymes work most efficiently), the amylase continues to cleave the sugars into smaller and smaller units.

"Why did I eat it? Because it was in the kitchen! Why was it in the kitchen? Reality check!"

CHRISTINE

As the food passes through the small intestine, the final process of digestion takes place and the carbohydrates from your last meal are finally reduced to single molecules of glucose and received through the intestinal mucosa into your bloodstream.

Regardless of the original chemical composition and amount of fiber these sugars come wrapped in, a carbohydrate is still a sugar, and the digestive destination of either complex or simple carbohydrates is simple sugars, which are readily absorbed into the bloodstream. In a real sense, the body's response to simple sugars from cakes and candies is not very different from the complex sugars found in high-fiber vegetables and fruits because the result is the same—the production of glucose. Only the rate at which they are absorbed differs.

If we consider the diet plans of gurus like McDougall, Barnard, and the Diamonds, the enormous quantities of grains, vegetables, and fruits they recommend we consume are turned into large quantities of sugar that ultimately flood the intestine. This is where the critical hormones insulin and glucagon enter the picture. When sugar is absorbed into the bloodstream after a meal (particularly a meal high in carbohydrates) the pancreas squirts insulin into the bloodstream to compensate for the sudden onslaught of sugar, pulling the excess sugars into the liver and storing them as glycogen that can be released for energy later as the need arises. Glycogen is a ready source should you need quick energy.

When the liver's storage capacity is filled, the excess sugars are then deposited as fat tissue throughout the body. The body's ability to store excess carbohydrates as fats is virtually unlimited as new storage tanks—fat cells—can be built very quickly. Once built they remain forever, thus ensuring a ready site for fat deposition should the need arise at another time.

It's true that simple sugars absorb more quickly than complex sugars, creating a more volatile blood sugar/insulin reaction with more serious and long-term consequences to the body. But given the fact that all carbohydrates are digested down to simple sugars sooner or later, we have to understand that the ultimate fate of carbohydrates unopposed by the adequate consumption of proteins and fats is the, release of insulin, the hormone that facilitates the storage of fat.

To make matters worse, every gram of glycogen stored in the liver is attached to three grams of water, making you pack on the water weight in addition to packing on the fat weight. That's probably why going on an insulin-reducing diet causes an immediate loss of about ten to fifteen pounds in the form of water.

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