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Thoughts on BBC's "truth about Carbs"

Did anyone watch "The TRUTH about carbs" on BBC 1?


Anyone else have their heads in their hands? Did it leave people more confused, or create clarity?


If you missed it, here’s the main lesson I learned:

  • Avoid watching too many nutrition related TV shows (and that includes ‘documentaries’ on Netflix!), the stress from watching is often just too much! There were a few things that bugged me in the show:


Firstly, the suggestion that carbohydrates per se are causing the obesity epidemic... I thought we were past carbs are evil, obviously not.


There was a complete lack of mention to the fact that foods don’t just contain one thing. Suggesting that a potato contains the same amount of sugar as 19 sugar cubes is just inaccurate, you'd only do that if you have a bias and were looking to demonise that food group or food by singling out one aspect of the food... You could say the same about a banana, or a cup of green peas, are they evil because they contain sugar too? Thats also one big ass potato, and second of all those sugars are packed into starch which takes a while to digest and is also accompanied by a bunch of vitamins and fibre; which as they said on the program are beneficial to health.


So starch is good from green peas, but not potatoes, is it because they are white?


Moving on....


Dear BBC production manager - calories weren't mentioned once (not that I can recall), you don't think that was important? Seeing as calorie intake controls weight loss or gain. Or more specifically fat loss or gain, which is what most are interested in, fat loss, not weight loss.

Even the NHS says:


"Any food can be fattening if you overeat. Whether your diet is high in fat or high in carbohydrates, if you frequently consume more energy than your body uses you are likely to put on weight."


So is it sugar, or calories that is key? You can't make one rule, the human body isn't as simple as that.

People lose weight on low carb diets for a reason, they dramatically cut their calorie intake, even the NHS website outlines this (after all the presenter was a doctor, assuming he's chummy with the NHS...)


"When people cut out carbs and lose weight, it's not just carbs they're cutting out, they're cutting out the high-calorie ingredients mixed in or eaten with it, such as butter, cheese, cream, sugar and oil," says Sian. "Eating too many calories – whether they are carbs, protein or fat – will contribute to weight gain."


Now to get geekier and highlight a specific element of the show...


The Cracker Test

See, your saliva contains amylase, an enzyme used to break down sugar chains called polysaccharides. That means that once amylase has done it’s job the starches you chew will taste sweeter.

Now the level of amylase produced by an individual is determined genetically, with there being a pretty big variation between one person and another in terms of how fast starches are broken up by your saliva

Some will taste sweet quickly

Some will taste it slowly


But here’s the thing;


There’s barely any data to suggest this correlates with weight gain because it’s WAY more complicated than that. Sure there is some, but not a lot and it’s not like there isn’t a good amount of evidence to the contrary. Salivary amylase is only part of starch digestion – a lot of the chemical breakdown of starches occurs in your intestine and then we need to talk about glucose transport rates and what your body actually does when all that ‘sugar’ hits your blood


Then we're back to calories, whats the point of mentioning them, they don't matter? In short, what do we need to know about carbohydrates?


1. They are good for you and beneficial to your health if eating whole food carbohydrates sources like fruits, vegetables and starches, they are packed with vitamins, minerals and fibre


2. Is it beneficial to limit the more nutritionally sparse carbs like bread, simple sugars and refined flour. 100%. I'd like to think thats common sense from a HEALTH perspective, and the fact they are REALLY easy to overeat and thus you eat too many calories.


3. Carbs do stimulate insulin, but so does protein, insulin rises in response to elevated blood glucose levels.

Does this store fat.... YES. But your body is in constant flux of storing and burning so you can never be just burning 100% of the time, this is why it's still important to control your overall daily calorie intake.


If you are eating carbs and in a calorie deficit it doesn't mean you don't not lose weight, regardless of a high or low carb diet, if you're eating less calories than you burn you'll lose weight


Carbohydrates on their own, whatever colour or form will NOT make you fat by themselves. Eating too much makes you fat.

Can and should we choose our carb sources wisely for optimal health? 100%; Health comes from nutritionally dense foods, no ones getting fat from eating a big potato (unless it causes you to eat too much that day) or a pint of beer, or a bag of skittles or... [Insert favourite sugary carb here]


It's a shame as there were some great points in the program, but there was a bias and an agenda and its not the right thing to create more confusion and food phobia with the general population


And to think I could have watched Love Island…




BBC The Truth About Carbs


NHS carbohydrate webpage

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