Insulin Response in Low Carbohydrate Diets

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Insulin Response in Low Carbohydrate Diets

With the current popularity of the Atkins diet and similar plans

that emphasize a reduced intake of carbohydrates, it is important to

understand both the theory underlying these diets and the effects of low

carbohydrate consumption on one's health. In particular, it is crucial

that anyone considering such a program understand the effects of low

carbohydrate diets on the body's insulin response, as well as

consequences of low and high insulin levels in the blood. Therefore, the

research on the insulin response to reduced carbohydrate energy bars

contained in the article "Glycemic and insulinemic responses to energy

bars of differing macronutrient composition in healthy adults" by Steven

R. Hertzler and Yeonsoo Kim should be considered.

The basic concept of the Atkins diet is that certain high

carbohydrate foods, such as bread and foods high in sugar, should be

reduced or eliminated from the diet, or at least replaced by foods lower

in carbohydrates. An example of an acceptable low carbohydrate food is

the Atkins Advantage Bar, a low-carbohydrate energy bar that is primarily

protein and fat and which represents the low carbohydrate food studied by

Hertzler and Kim. The scientific theory behind Atkins' proposed shift

from carbohydrate and toward protein and fat is that carbohydrates

theoretically elicit an increased insulin response. In this

context, "increased insulin response" means that the pancreas releases

high amounts of insulin into the bloodstream during the digestion of

carbohydrates. The Atkins theory also holds that there is a link between

high insulin levels in the blood and undesired metabolic effects. Such


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...response may suggest that these diets do not achieve this objective. A

probable explanation for the increased insulin response of the low and

moderate carbohydrate bars is that protein and/or fat are substituted for

the removed carbohydrate, and both protein and fat can trigger an

increased insulin response. However, it is more likely that the protein

triggered the insulin response since several studies have demonstrated

that dietary protein and certain amino acids, the building blocks of

protein, are insulinogenic, or insulin inducing.

Thus, participants in a low carbohydrate program may continue to

experience the adverse metabolic conditions of inhibited fat breakdown

and increased blood cholesterol. Additionally, these data suggest that

such diets might not contribute to weight loss or to bettering one's

overall health.
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