Low carb, high carb, all over the carb spectrum… What’s the best way of eating to be your healthiest self?
In this quick video I break down the results of some recent studies to help you decide which diet will work for you.
Nicki: What is better? A high-carb diet or a low-carb diet?
Robb: Well, Nicki, that’s a great question and there is a fair amount of controversy around that, and the reality is it kind of depends. Both approaches can work. Both approaches do work. Clearly this is a contentious pissing match that is difficult to find the likes of … Well, I don’t know. Actually, everything’s a contentious pissing match these days, but when you really dig around in the literature, there haven’t been spectacularly well-done studies looking at this, and we can find anthropological examples of high-carb societies that are way healthier than Westernized populations, low-carb societies that are more healthy.
Robb: But recently Kevin Hall has done at least one, and I think multiple studies that looked at some different elements of this story. Kevin Hall is an interesting guy. He’s been a researcher that’s been pretty critical of the low-carb scene, and he was brought in to do some research by NuSI, which was founded by Gary Taubes, who’s a friend of mine. I like Gary. Gary’s a good dude. I think that Gary got almost religiously attached to the insulin hypothesis, and there was a time when the insulin hypothesis absolutely was what I kind of bought into, but over the course of time, I just don’t think that the data has borne the insulin hypothesis out. Which the insulin hypothesis basically being that obesity is universally driven by elevated insulin levels.
Robb: Now you can get elevated insulin from over-eating, and I think that that definitely becomes a problem, and hyperinsulinemia is without a doubt a big deal, but some of this Kevin Hall research … What they did is they set up a whole foods based low-carb diet, and it was legitimately low-carb. It was around 50 grams of carbs a day, and a whole food based low-fat diet. So they really, really tried to minimize processed foods, and what they found is that both groups generally made very, very good success with regards to improvements in metabolic parameters, weight loss. Within each one of those groups there were outlier individuals that actually made regression, that didn’t do well. But also what was interesting is that both of these groups, they started on the low-carb side, they started on the low-fat side … Both groups had a tendency to slide back towards the middle, which is where things started becoming problematic.
Robb: You know, mixed into all this stuff is this reality that, in general, things start going really sideways the more that we process our food and the more processed food that we eat, which is one of my big, I guess, bones of contention with a lot of the “if it fits your macros” folks. I think that that can work in some circumstances, but not in a broader population sense. And this is another Kevin Hall research paper that was recently done where they tried to very tightly control providing isocaloric intake for people eating what was specifically designed to be a highly refined food diet, and what was interesting with that is even in kind of a metabolic ward setting, dieticians, food scales, measuring cups … It was really, really easy for people to overeat in that highly refined food scenario.
Robb: So I think at the end of day, and it shouldn’t be like totally a crazy proposition, but the more refined our food intake is, and this includes doing stuff like bulletproof coffee … Like, that’s a super dense caloric intake, and so these things are easy to overdo, but in general, if we stick with whole unprocessed foods, we’re generally going to do well. From there it kind of boils down to individual differences with regards to carbohydrate tolerance. If you guys haven’t read my book Wired to Eat, if you go to robbwolf.com/wiredtoeat, I do a massive effort in unpacking the neuro regulation of appetite, but also providing a rubric for figuring out how you or your clients or patients actually respond to different carbohydrate types and amounts, and that can help you unpack all that. So did that help you answer the question of high-carb and low-carb?
Nicki: It all is within context, right? That’s the … There’s no absolutes in Robb Wolf nutrition recommendations.
Robb: Hashtag Context. Yeah. The only absolute is context. Yes.