“We are eating way too much, and far too often,” according to Dr Jason Fung, a nephrologist (kidney specialist) the University of Toronto affiliated Scarborough hospital. Fung has a special interest in weight management and diabetes.
“It is not the energy balance [too many kilojoules in, too few out] that is driving the complex of conditions known as diabesity [diabetes and obesity], but rather the excess of insulin that this promotes.”
Speaking on the second day [Friday] of the Old Mutual Health Convention in Cape Town, Fung said that it is too much insulin – a hormone the body produces in response to eating carbohydrates – that packs on the kilograms and makes us fat.
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Insulin resistance, according to Fung, is caused by the body adjusting to the presence of too much insulin over extended periods of time. “We used to eat two or three times a day, he said, with a fast of around 14 hours between supper and breakfast. This allowed the body a break from insulin,” he said.
“But now we snack all day – on carbohydrates that drive insulin upwards – and are often advised to eat something before bedtime.”
The way to treat the condition of excessive insulin, said Fung, is to remove from the diet the carbohydrates that trigger insulin – and to eat fewer times in each day, allowing the body a chance to recover.
He pointed out that Asian populations have eaten rice in quantity for many centuries without developing a diabesity epidemic; it is only as sugar and refined carbohydrates are added to the diet that they begin to have problems.
“The processing of these foods is what makes them especially ‘toxic’.”
Fung is one of 15 international scientists, researchers and clinicians who have gathered at the Cape Town International Convention Centre from February 19 to 22 to present a number of far-ranging talks on both research and clinical experience of the low carbohydrate, high fat diet for managing non-communicable diseases driven by obesity, such as type two diabetes and cardiovascular disease.