Carbohydrates make it easier for people to gain weight, its meaning other than just calories

  When we consider that “eating a lot leads to gaining weight…,” I believe you have the image of carbohydrates like bread, rice and noodles in mind.
  This time, I am going to explain the reason why carbohydrates (*1) make it easier for people to gain weight, not because of an increase in calories or of its tendency to higher blood pressure, but by other indirect meanings.
(*1) Although technically sugar is also a sort of carbohydrate, I use the word carbohydrate here to mean “polysaccharide” such as starches and grains.

1. If there were no carbohydrate

  When my total body weight fell down to around 35kg, it would have been impossible to have gained weight without the help of carbohydrates. In my case, neither oil (fat) nor sugar could have done that … In other words, I would never have gained weight by eating cream-filled cakes or oily pork cutlets and Chinese food. I am going to explain the reason next.
  To be precise, I don’t mean all “carbohydrates,” but just refined digestible carbohydrates (such as white bread, rice, potato, starch etc.).

  Thus, in the case of brown rice, fried rice, whole-grain bread and al dente cooked pasta etc., the result may be different even though they are the same carbohydrates. These are known as foods that won’t increase blood sugar levels (glycemic index, resistant starch) but in short, they are “indigestible”.

2. With indigestible foods, it is difficult to gain weight

  When you always eat indigestible foods, such as the above-referenced carbohydrates that don’t increase the blood sugar level, oil (fat), high-fiber vegetable, seaweed and dairy products, it can be said that it is difficult to gain weight: “Base Weight” in my definition is unlikely to go up.
  As I have already explained, each person’s Base Weight level will not go up since the body recognizes that “the state which undigested foods are still in the intestine” = “there are still foods” → “there is no need to store.”
  I’m saying that it is difficult to gain weight if a thin person eats properly every day.
  Although a person who has already gained weight may not lose weight by eating some, I consider this that it may be possible to lose weight depending on how you eat them, since these foods are always discussed in dieting techniques.

3. The effect of carbohydrates that make it easier for people to gain weight

  Contrarily, refined digestible carbohydrate (rice, white bread, potato, starch etc.) will promote digestion. By eating together with digestible side dishes (meat and fish with less fat), they make it easier to create hunger.
  That is to say, “intestinal starvation state” will be occur more easily.There are 2 effects that I can think of so far.

(1) Dilution Effect 

  You may have heard the word “PFC Balance (protein, fat, carbohydrate)” and currently in Japan, it is said to be ideal to take 50 to 65% of energy from carbohydrate in average (Food Intake Standard-2015). However, I believe many people take still around 70%.
  If you proportionally increase digestible carbohydrates, the percentage of side dishes such as fat, meat, fish and vegetables will be relatively smaller. The density of a spoonful of oil will be lower if you add water by doubling your bread or rice portions.
  Raw egg is indigestible but if you eat together with bread and coffee, the density of the egg will be lower.

  If the amount of side dishes are the same for everyone, the one who has relatively more carbs and water will be sending diluted nutrition to the intestine. So it will be easier to be hungry (intestinal starvation).
  For example, let’s say I eat a hamburger and a potato, another piece of bread and tea altogether.

  If we mix these all in a blender, it will be something like meat diluted with starch and water.(figure below)

  If I remove the bread and add broccoli mayonnaise salad… The dilution effect of carbohydrates will be less and fiber and fat will be added.

※ On calorie basis, broccoli mayonnaise salad is about 70 to 100kcal. However, adding it to the meal doesn’t have the same meaning as adding another piece of bread . This is why calorie intake basis thinking may go wrong.
  On the other hand, what would happen if I proportionally decrease carbohydrate? As you can see in low-carb diet, if I decrease the carbohydrates of the main meal and increase proteins such as meat and fish, oil or vegetables, I can send nutrition of higher density to my intestine.

  In this case, there will be the reverse effect that secures nutrition and causes less hunger. Moreover, since our intestines are long, about 6 to 7m, while the food is still inside our intestines, there will be indigestible substances that prevents intestinal starvation.

(2) Pushing out Effect 

  When we take carbohydrates together with water, our stomach expands (“balloon effect” of stomach).

  However, if we take carbohydrates together with digestible side dishes such as stew, its holding time will be shorter and the food will be pushed out of the stomach soon. Also, our intestine starts to move actively.
  For a foreigner, it may be easier to imagine instant noodle and toast or rice.

  Though our stomach does expand after we eat, since it’s easy to digest, it will start moving actively and smoothly. I had the problem with my stomach and intestines and suffered often from constipation or diarrhea, but this resolved it several times. And not just that our stomach starts to move but since the foods are digestible, it will be easier to be in an intestinal starvation state.
  On the other hand, though there are people who say taking meals with a lot of oil (Chinese food or fried food) will give us stamina, it actually means that it stays in stomach for a longer time and its energy could be sustained during sports. That is to say, since its holding time in stomach will be longer, it will be more difficult for us to become hungry (intestinal starvation).

■Lastly, taking into account the reasons stated above,

(1) I consider sugar (monosaccharide, disaccharide) and polysaccharid (starch, cereal) can not be put into the same category since they have slightly different characteristics.
  Recently-popular low-carb diets pay attention only to the “characteristics that increase blood sugar rate easily” so I don't believe it’s sufficient.
(2) Obesity among poverty stricken people worldwide can be understood as the influence of cheap carbohydrates (cereal, starch) and unbalanced foods (lack of vegetable etc.). Considering them, it may be easier to imagine that they are not gaining weight due to taking too much calories or sugar, but rather from consuming cheap carbohydrates as mentioned above.
(3) Also, the fact that Sumo wrestlers (Japanese national sports) eat hot pot dishes called “Chanko-nabe” with a lot of rice in order to make their bodies larger is a very logical view in this sense.


Debate whether carbohydrate makes us fat or calorie makes us fat


・Up through the 1960s, there were some research and studies that obese people were able to lose weight by replacing many of their carbohydrates to plenty of dietary fats or meats, etc, without thinking about calories.
  On the contrary, when overweight students were put on conventional semi-starvation diets, they lost little weight and they were discouraged because they were always conscious of being hungry.
・in the 1960s, few doctors were willing to accept a cure for obesity predicated on the notion that fat people can eat large portions of food. They believed that the obvious reason of obesity is that fat people eat too much.
・Health officials had come to believe that dietary fat causes heart disease, and that carbohydrates are “heart-healthy" in the 1960s.
  As a result, doctors and nutritionists started attacking carbohydrate restricted diets because they believed dietary fat causes heart attacks and that a diet that replaces carbohydrates with more fatty foods threatens to kill us.

1.Old history of low carbohydrate

In Japan, Locabo diet (meaning a low-carb diet) was popular around 2015, but when we look around the world, this way was repeatedly conducted since the 1800s.
 Though there will be a lot of quotes, I will explain this. This is very interesting in view of my theory.

  Jean Anthelme Brillat-Savarin was born in 1755. His passion, though, was always food and drink, or what he called the “pleasures of the table”. He began writing down his thoughts on the subject in the 1790s; Brillat-Savarin published them in a book, The Physiology of Taste, in December 1825. (*snip*)
“Tell me what you eat,” Brillat-Savarin memorably wrote, “and I shall tell you what you are."
 Over the course of thirty years, he wrote, he had held more than five hundred conversations with dinner companions who were “threatened or afflicted with obesity,” one “fat man” after another, declaring their devotion to bread, rice, pasta, and potatoes. This led Brillat-Savarin to conclude that the roots of obesity were obvious.(P.148)

  The first was a natural predisposition to fatten. “Some people,” he wrote, “in whom the digestive forces manufacture, all things being equal, a greater supply of fat are, as it were, destined to be obese.”
 The second was “the starches and flours which man uses as the base of his daily nourishment,” and he added that “starch produces this effect more quickly and surely when it is used with sugar."
 This, of course, made the cure obvious as well. (*snip*)..... It can be deduced, as an exact consequence, that a more or less rigid abstinence from everything that is starchy or floury will lead to the lessening of weight.” (*snip*)
 What Brillat-Savarin wrote in 1825 has been repeated and reinvented numerous times since. Up through the 1960s, it was the conventional wisdom, what our parents or our grandparents instinctively believed to be true. (pp.148-149)(Citation from “Why We Get Fat?” by Gary Taubes)

Jean-Francois Dancel (a French physician) presented his thoughts on obesity in 1844 to the French Academy of Sciences and then published a book, Obesity, or Excessive Corpulence: The Various Causes and the Rational Means of a Cure.
“All food which is not flesh ―all food rich in carbon and hydrogen [i.e., carbohydrates] ―must have a tendency to produce fat,” wrote Dancel.

 Dancel also noted that carnivorous animals are never fat, whereas herbivores, living exclusively on plants, often are. (*snip*)
 Dancel claimed that he could cure obesity “without a single exception” if he could induce his patients to live “chiefly upon meat," and partake “only of a small quantity of other food."
 Dancel argued that physicians of his era believed obesity to be incurable because the diets they prescribed to cure it were precisely those that happened to cause it. (pp.151-152)

(Note: This is common with my blog and the point made by Mr. Gary Taubes)

 Until the early years of the twentieth century, physicians typically considered obesity a disease, and a virtually incurable one, against which, as with cancer, it was reasonable to try anything. Inducing patients to eat less and/or exercise more was just one of many treatments that might be considered. (*snip*)
 In the 1869 edition of The Practice of Medicine, the British physician Thomas Tanner published a lengthy list of “ridiculous" treatments that doctors had prescribed for obesity over the years. (*snip*)
 “All these plans," wrote Tanner, "however perseveringly carried out, fail to accomplish the object desired; and the same must be said of simple sobriety in eating and drinking.” (Tanner did believe, however, that abstinence from carbohydrates was one method, perhaps the only one, that worked. “Farinaceous [starchy] and vegetable foods are fattening, and saccharine matters [i.e., sweets] are especially so,” he wrote.) (p.151)
 Margaret Ohlson (head of the nutrition department at Michigan State University, in the 1950s)
 When overweight students were put on conventional semi-starvation diets, Ohlson reported, they lost little weight and “reported a lack of ‘pep’ throughout... [and] they were discouraged because they were always conscious of being hungry.”

 When they ate only a few hundred carbohydrate calories a day but plenty of protein and fat, they lost an average of three pounds per week and “reported a feeling of well-being and satisfaction. Hunger between meals was not a problem.”
The reports continued into the 1970s.
The dieters lost weight with little effort and felt little or no hunger while doing so.(pp.157-158)
(Citation from “Why We Get Fat?” by Gary Taubes)

2.The reason doctors couldn’t accept carbohydrate restriction

 As you can see, it seems that reducing carbohydrates and sugar and eating more other things would lead to resolving obesity... but here is the basic rule of calories.

 By the 1960s, obesity had come to be perceived as an eating disorder.  (*snip*)
 Adiposity 101 was discussed in the physiology, endocrinology, and biochemistry journals, but rarely crossed over into the medical journals or the literature on obesity itself.
 When it did, as in a lengthy article in The Journal of the American Medical Association in 1963, it was ignored. Few doctors were willing to accept a cure for obesity predicated on the notion that fat people can eat large portions of any food, let alone as much as they want. This simply ran contrary to what had now come to be accepted as the obvious reason why fat people get fat to begin with, that they eat too much. 

 But there was another problem as well. Health officials had come to believe that dietary fat causes heart disease, and that carbohydrates are what these authorities would come to call “heart-healthy." (*snip*)

 This belief in the carbohydrate as "heart-healthy” started in the 1960s and it couldn't be reconciled with the idea that carbohydrates make us fat. After all, if dietary fat causes heart attacks, then a diet that replaces carbohydrates with more fatty foods threatens to kill us, even if it slims us down in the process. As a result, doctors and nutritionists started attacking carbohydrate restricted diets (pp.159-160)
 The Times article, “New Diet Decried by Nutritionists: Dangers Are Seen in Low Carbohydrate Intake,” quoted Harvard's Jean Mayer as claiming that to prescribe carbohydrate-restricted diets to the public was “the equivalent of mass murder.”
 First, as the Times explained, “It is a medical fact that no dieter can lose weight unless he cuts down on excess calories, either by taking in fewer of them, or by burning them up." We now know that this is not a medical fact, but the nutritionists didn't in 1965, and most of them still don't.
 Second, because these diets restrict carbohydrates, they compensate by allowing more fat. It's the high-fat nature of the diets, the Times explained, that prompted Mayer to make the mass murder accusation.(p.161)
(Citation from “Why We Get Fat?” by Gary Taubes)


Wealthy ones get fat? Poor ones get fat?


  1. Wealthiness is said to be the cause of obesity....
  2. The example of obesity in poverty
  3. Though we became wealthy, how is the quality of our food?
  4. Underweight and obesity can coexist

I want to tell you something interesting that is related to the content of my blog. At the end of this article, I will explain how it is related to my experience.

1. Some believe that wealthiness is said to be the cause of obesity...

 "Ever since researchers at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) broke the news in the mid-1990s that the epidemic was upon us, authorities have blamed it on overeating and sedentary behavior and blamed those two factors on the relative wealth of modern societies.

<In 2003>
  "Improved prosperity" caused the epidemic, aided and abetted by the food and entertainment industries, as the New York University nutritionist Marion Nestle explained in the journal Science.

The Yale University psychologist Kelly Brownell coined the term "toxic environment" to describe the same notion. Brownell says, live in a toxic environment "that encourages overeating and physical inactivity." Obesity is the natural consequence. (Cheeseburgers, French fries, super-sizes, soft drinks, computers, video games etc ) (P.17)


The World Health Organization (WHO) uses the identical logic to explain the obesity epidemic worldwide, blaming it on rising incomes, urbanization, "shifts toward less physically demanding work...moves toward less physical activity...and more passive leisure pursuits." (P.18)

(Citation from “Why We Get Fat?” by Gary Taubes)

In Japan, this idea is widely accepted and TV programs, magazines on dieting or the majority of specialist explain that high-calorie food and less exercise are the cause of obesity.

2.The example of obesity in povert

However, what we have to consider here is that obesity is spreading in poor layer, too.


"This was first reported in a survey of New Yorkers - midtown Manhattanites - in the early 1960s: obese women were six times more likely to be poor than rich; obese men, twice as likely.

Can it be possible that the obesity epidemic is caused by prosperity, so the richer we get, the fatter we get, and that obesity associates with poverty, so the poorer we are, the more likely we are to be fat? (P.18)

▽In the early 1970s, nutritionists and research-minded physicians would discuss the observations of high levels of obesity in these poor populations, and they would occasionally do so with an open mind as to the cause.
This was a time when obesity was still considered a problem of "malnutrition" rather than "overnutrition" as it is today. (P.29)

Between 1901 and 1905, two anthropologists independently studied the Pima (Native American tribe in Arizona), and both commented on how fat they were, particularly the women.

What makes this observation so remarkable is that the Pima, at the time, had just gone from being among the most affluent Native American tribes to among the poorest.

The Pima used to be hardworking farmers and hunters, so it is said, and now they're sedentary wage earners, like the rest of us, driving to the same fast-food restaurants, eating the same snacks, watching the same TV shows, and getting fat and diabetic just like the rest of us, only more so. The tribe was relying on government rations for day-to-day sustenance.

Why would the Pima get fat on the abundant rations and not on the abundant food they'd had prior to the famines? Perhaps the answer lies in the type of food being consumed, a question of a quality rather than quantity. (PP.19-22)

Two researchers from the University of Chicago studied another Native American tribe, the Sioux living on the South Dakota. Fifteen families, with thirty-two children among them, lived "chiefly on bread and coffee." This was poverty almost beyond our imagination today.

Yet their obesity rates were not much different from what we have today in the midst of our epidemic. But the researchers noted another pertinent fact about these Sioux: one-fifth of the adult women, a quarter of the men, and a quarter of the children were "extremely thin".

This combination of obesity and malnutrition or undernutrition (not enough calories) existing in the same populations is something that authorities today talk about as though it were a new phenomenon, but it's  not. Here we have malnutrition or undernutrition coexisting with obesity in the same population eighty years ago. "(PP.23-24)

(Citation from “Why We Get Fat?” by Gary Taubes )


Groups with high obesity rate despite their poverty and undernutrition were found all over the world. Below are just a few examples.

"1961-63: Trinidad, West Indies
A team of nutritionists from the US reports that malnutrition is a serious medical problem on the island, but so is obesity.

1971: Rarotonga, the South Pacific
40% of the adult women are obese; 25% are "grossly obese."

This is from a 2005 New England Journal of Medicine article, "A Nutrition Paradox - Underweight and Obesity in Developing Countries," written by Benjamin Caballero (Johns Hopkins University).

Caballero then describes the difficulty that he believed this phenomenon presents:
"The coexistence of underweight and overweight poses a challenge to public health programs, since the aims of programs to reduce undernutrition are obviously in conflict with those for obesity prevention.”

Put simply, if we want to prevent obesity, we have to get people to eat less, but if we want to prevent undernutrition, we have to make more food available. What do we do? " (PP.30-31)

( Citation from “Why We Get Fat?” by Gary Taubes )

3.Though we say we became wealthy, how is the quality of our food?

I want to explain my consideration based on 1 and 2.
First of all, in order to consider “obesity”, isn’t it too simple to believe that “obesity increased since we became wealthy”? 

▽It is certain that our life is much freer and is wealthier in a sense that we have a lot of things. If we have certain income, we can do what we like and eat what we want.

However, when the income is low, we can’t spend a lot for food. Also, we don’t have enough time to eat.
We might disproportionately take too much carbohydrate like eating toast and coffee for breakfast and burger or a cup of noodles for lunch. We might skip breakfast.

In addition, those who get fat easily try to eat simple light meal since they ate a lot the day before. The idea of offsetting an over intake of calories from yesterday, eating less today, is wrong. 

That is to say, even if someone is said to be wealthy, in regards to  food, there are many things in common with groups in poverty with a high rate of obesity. As Mr. Gary says, what is important now is the “quality” of food rather than the “quantity”.

4.Underweight and obesity can coexist

I will explain that underweight and overweight can coexist through the previous content mentioned earlier in “The coexistence of underweight and overweight poses a challenge to public health programs.

▽I repeat that when I was very thin about 30kg, at first I was eating a lot of high-calorie food but I couldn’t gain any weight. And then, I realized that I can gain weight by creating “intestinal starvation”.


The easiest way to create intestinal starvation was to take carbohydrate and good protein, but since it lacked vegetables and minerals, I felt dizzy by the undernutrition. 
If I eat milk, egg, vegetable, beans and fish to add nutrition and mineral, though nutrition is better, I couldn’t gain any weight. For me, it was because I couldn’t digest them well.

So, even if they eat similar food in the same group, it may lead to a different result in the body. Some people who digested all the food they ate in their whole intestines may have become obese. However, those who did not digest all the food in their whole intestines remained underweight.

A small difference sometimes makes a big difference in the result. Whether or not they are overweight is not based on the amount of intake of calories they eat.

 "Not all of us get fat when we eat carbohydrates, but for those of us who do get fat, the carbohydrates are to blame; the fewer carbohydrates we eat, the leaner we will be. (p.134)

These foods are also, almost invariably, the cheapest calories available. This is the conspicuous explanation for why the poorer we are, the fatter we're likely to be." (P.150)

(Citation from “Why We Get Fat?” by Gary Taubes)

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