Saturday, June 2, 2012

No Essential Firewood

I've been eating a low carb diet for over a year now. Throughout this time I have been following dozens of low carb and paleo blogs and podcasts. I appreciate all the work these advocates do as I'm constantly learning more about the science and I'm never lacking inspiration or food for thought.

As time goes on, there are a few oft-repeated truisms that I find myself questioning more and more. Today, the one I want to question is the statement that there is "no essential carbohydrate".

While this may be technically true from a strictly nutritional standpoint, I wouldn't like to tell that to my red blood cells or my brain. Low carb advocates are quick to respond that the liver can create all the glucose those organs need via gluconeogenesis and that's usually where the discussion ends.

Advocates for the consumption of safe starches point out that this isn't necessarily a desirable state to be in. To be honest, that's usually where the science starts to go over my head but the following thought experiment convinced me to try upping the carbs just a bit.

Let's imagine you have a house in a cold region and you need to keep it heated. Most of the rooms in this house can switch between using the gas central heating system or burning wood in a fireplace. While there appear to be benefits to using the central heating, there are a few rooms in the house that don't have the ducting needed to take advantage of the gas. Their only choice is to burn wood.

"Well", argues the gas burning advocate, "it may be true that you need to burn wood in those few rooms, but every house comes with an axe that is more than capable of creating all the firewood those rooms need." "How so?", questions the novice. "Well, you just use the axe to chop up bits of the framing of the house or pieces of furniture. You can use it to create all the firewood you need!"

Well, you can see where I'm going with this. Just because your body can make do without something, that doesn't mean it's necessarily advantageous for it to do so. The raw materials for creating glucose have to come from somewhere and I can't help but think that the cost of repurposing other nutrients is kind of like taking your chair and using it as firewood.

No comments:

Post a Comment