Many experts attribute the large-scale epidemic or obesity in the United States, where 1/3 of all adults are obese in large part to a steady increase over a prolonged period of time in the intake of unhealthy carbohydrates, which include, but are not limited to table sugar and all items made from it, refined starches, processed food and even too much fruit sugar.
According to one study, (Cohen E, et al., Statistical Review of U.S. Macronutrient Consumption Data, 1965–2011), the number of overweight and obese Americans rose from 42.3% to 66.1% from 1971 to 2011 and during this time:
- The consumption of fat decreased from 44.7% to 33.6%
- The consumption of carbohydrates increased from 39% to 50% from 1965 to 2011
Researchers surmise that these statistics imply a link between high carb intake in our diets and obesity on a societal scale.
Before judgments are made, it is important to understand the major differences between the two types of carbs, and if one is particularly more advantageous over the other. It is also important to consider your goals in diet, do you want to lose weight, are you prediabetic, or have diabetes, or maybe you are fit and healthy?
Complex carbs or multiple-chain sugars are believed to not result in a rapid surge of glucose into the bloodstream, but rather a slower, more sustained release over the course of many minutes, or hours.
Insulin is better able to (though not in all individuals) handle the glucose load, reducing the likelihood of excessive sugar being left in the bloodstream.
- Whole grains: wild rice, brown rice, whole wheat, spirulina, rye and other whole grains that are not processed, such as white rice, pasta, and white bread
Simple carbs are single-chain sugars, therefore the name simple, they do not take long to process in the body and do cause erratic blood sugar spikes to occur.
- Sucrose is a plain old table sugar
- Glucose is found in some fruits and starchy vegetables
- Fructose is the sugar in all fruits and honey and is also used to make many processed food products because of its high level of sweetness
- Galactose is the sugar that occurs naturally in dairy, like milk and yogurt
Complex Carbs In Detail
Maybe Useful In Helping To Manage Blood Sugar Levels In Diabetics
Type 2 diabetics, in particular, have insulin that is both impotent and possibly deficient in quantity. As such, the body is ill-prepared to properly metabolize, or store blood sugar, causing an abnormally high amount to be left circulating in the blood. Often, complex carbs are recommended over simple carbs to those with insulin issues and diabetes to better manage blood sugars and reduce glycemic load.
However, it should be noted that not all people with diabetes or prediabetes react well to complex carbs, where for them they cause the same erratic spikes in blood sugar as simple carbs do.
Better For Weight Loss And Maintenance
When it comes to the body’s weight control mechanism, hormones play an extremely important part. Once again, our friendly neighborhood insulin can be the cause of you gaining dozens of pounds, as opposed to maintaining your body weight. The fact is insulin is a Storage Hormone.
It wants to shuttle as much sugar and fat as possible into your cells, while at the same time restricting the usage of fat (also known as lipolysis). This inhibition of fat breakdown and enhanced storage of the same is one major reason sugars contribute to weight gain.
Slower digesting carbs do not result in a very acute insulin spike, so its duration of action is shorter, and may not contribute to weight gain as simple carbs do.
However, while all the above may be theoretically true, not everyone tolerates carbs well, especially in regards to weight loss and this includes complex carbs and some experts disagree that simply using the label of Complex to evaluate a food’s impact on weight management or loss is lacking and that evaluating glycemic load of a food is a far better predictor.