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Carbs: The Gift that Keeps on Giving

Earlier this week I addressed the question of ideal weight [1] and the research that suggests people in their later years benefit from a few extra pounds. But just as I cautioned that a little goes a long way, new research shows [2] that older men and women, particularly those who eat more carbohydrates, may have a harder time regulating their appetite.

We all know that eating results in “stress” to the body and that carbs initiate or exacerbate hormonal processes that other nutrients don’t. Turns out they also prey upon the very parts that tell us to put the fork down. Dr. Zane Andrews, a neuroendocrinologist from Monash University, found that free radicals organize an assault on appetite-regulating POMC neurons. (POMCs tell our body when we’re full.) But the kicker is this: the more carbs in the meal, the more damage to the POMCs. Carbs: pesky varmints of the food world. (Half-kidding.)

Over a lifetime of carb-“rich” meals, these poor POMCs become increasingly damaged and dysfunctional. Given our society’s focus on carbohydrates, Andrews explains [3], we’re setting ourselves up for “premature cell deterioration.” Andrews also says those of us between ages 25-50 are most “at risk.” Our efforts in these years to avoid excessive carbs can encourage the longevity of these neurons and our hunger-regulating cellular balance.

A diet full of carbs encourages weight gain and simultaneously knocks out the neurons responsible for hunger suppression, making it harder to lose weight once a person’s realized it’s time to shed the extra poundage. They’re a menacing catalyst that sets in motion all kinds of degenerative havoc. The high-carb diet, it seems, is the gift that keeps on giving.

Dr. Andrews’ study underscores the importance of a lot of things, big and small, short- and long-term. Starting a healthy, low-carb diet as soon as possible can help you maximize overall benefits. At the same time, every meal counts (whether you’re 25 or 55). The small effort you make today is unequivocally doing you good. The lifetime commitment you make can offer extraordinary advantages.

I’ll be sure to bring you more on Dr. Andrews’ research into the impact of carb-heavy diets. In the meantime, send me your thoughts and questions on carbs and the aging process or any other health issues that might be on your mind.

jek in the box [4] Flickr Photo (CC)

Further Reading:

The Definitive Guide to Grains [5]

What Happens to Your Body When… You CARB BINGE? [6]

What’s the Deal with Artificial Sweeteners? [7]