Animal Research: Where Would You Draw The Line?


Background

Today, a discussion about morality of animal research among the public provokes a diverse range of strong feelings and opinions. However, the moral issues of animal research has only recently in the past century or so 
become a topic worthy of serious debate. Historical evidence informs us animals have been used as models for biomedical research for over 2000 years. Early Greek physicians such as Aristotle (384-322 b.c) and Erasistratus (304-258 b.c) often routinely experimented on animals (Hajar, 2011) which included the use of vivisection to advance their understanding of the human body. This practice of course continued throughout history and is now the backbone for a large proportion of the scientific research conducted and produced today (Understandinganimalresearch.org.uk, 2014). The necessity of animal experimentation as it stands today though is questioned now more than ever. Particularly with the use of primates and when experiments are very invasive and cause significant pain or suffering (Crueltyfreeinternational.org, 2016). Therefore the morality of animal experimentation at its most fundamental level tends to hinge on, 1) what animals are used for experimentation and why, and 2) the point at which we conclude the risk, or infliction of harm and suffering on animals is worth the benefits gained. The distinctions between what animals people believe should or shouldn’t be subjugated to animal research seems somewhat arbitrary but can be explained by several factors including cultural and social biases which differ between countries (von Roten, 2012) and personal characteristics and traits which differ between people. The latter point that dictates whether it is morally acceptable to use animals for research strongly resembles utilitarianism, whatever action results in the greatest good for the greatest number (Iep.utm.edu, 2016). These are arguably the two most salient points when questioning the ethics or morality of experimentation on animals. Efforts have been made to understand the views of the general public about the the ethical issues of animal experimentation, because ultimately, government policy and legislation, and in particular the direction and limits of scientific research and the majority public opinion are intimately tied (Shuttleworth and Frampton, 2015). Therefore several large surveys have been conducted to help investigate not just how the public feels about animal experimentation but why. This will help shape future research models and may change the way we use animals for research indefinitely. This review discusses a survey involving a sample of 100 members of the public of mixed demographics, somewhat representative of the population as whole, to investigate public opinions on what animals should be permitted for experimentation and any correlations present which may motivate such opinions.


Findings

The results taken from the survey showed a particular trend towards approving the use of “lower life forms” such as insects, slugs and reptiles and mammals we deem as food and pests. Nearly every subject condoned the use of slugs and insects with only three subjects opposing research on all animals altogether. Eighty-nine approved the use of reptiles whilst eighty-five approved the use of fish for research. Eighty-three people approved the use of food mammals and pest mammals for research. Only 10 people approved the use of primates and 20 people for the use of pet mammals for animal research.

(Fig 1) – Across a sample of 100 members of the public with various demographics representative of the general population, opinions on the use of particular animals for research are presented above.

A statistical analysis using Pearson Chi-squared test of independence (SPSS) was made to identify any correlations between owning a pet and the use of pet animals for research. The results found no significant correlation (pvalue 0.544) between previously or currently owning a pet and using pet animals for animal research. The total number of pet owners compared to non pet-owners, as shown in (Table 1) were almost equally divided (42 and 43 respectively) but the largest group of thirty-six people were those against the use of pet animals for research who didn’t own pets, whilst the second largest group of thirty-three were also against the use of pet animals who did own pets. The largest group of people approving the use of pet animals for research were pet owners of which nine approved compared to seven non-pet owners which approved the use of pet animals for research.

(Table 1) – Shows the frequency of pet owners and non-pet owners who approved of the use pet animals for research.

Discussion

A dramatic shift in opposition is seen in (Fig 1) when it came to opinions on using primates and pet mammals for animal research compared with food and pest mammals and even more so compared to species outside of our Mammalia class. A growing objection in the use of primates is likely motivated morally by the explicit similarities we identify between ourselves and them. A more recently growing objection to research on primates is in part due to the highly controversial deprivation experiments which has recently prompted David Attenborough and 21 other experts to call for an end in the use of primates for research (Ted Jeory, 2016). However our data doesn’t reflect much of the larger polls carried out which shows around 44% of the UK public condone the use of primates for experiments (ECEAE, 2010) compared to 10% shown in (Fig 1). This must be interpreted with caution though, since many surveys combine other animals such as dogs with primates. Therefore it’s difficult to get an accurate and definitive picture of public opinion relating to specific animals in the use of research. A slightly lesser number, although still a majority of people in (Fig 1) still objected to pet animals for use in research. This likely stems from our emotional attachments or our cultural perceptions of pet animals which underpins our biases towards them as an influential factor in objection to their use (Wells and Hepper, 1997). When the number of pet animals approved for animal research is compared to the number of food animals permitted for research we must question whether this discrepancy is grounded in a logically sound rationale, given that some food animals display much higher levels of intelligence that pet animals (PETA, 2012). The findings reported in (Table 1) showed marginally more people without pets were against the use of animals for research than people who owned pets. Similarly, there was a marginal amount of people more who owned pets who approved the use of pet animals in research compared to those who didn’t own pets. Based on the findings owning a pet doesn’t appear to bias a persons opinion about the use of pet animals in research although public perceptions of pet animals certainly has been shown to be distinct (Research, 2009). Since there was only one vegan and little more than a few vegetarians there was not a big enough sample size to draw meaningful inferences about whether or not there is a correlation between the amount of animals foods a person consumes and the types of animals they permit for research. Public attitudes towards animal research has shifted over the last few decades in support against animal research
(Herzog et al. 2001; Moore 2003; Rowan and Loew 2001). A UK survey in 2014 found that out of 969 respondents questioned, 68% agreed that they “can accept the use of animals in research for medical purposes where there are no alternatives” (Gov.uk, 2014) compared to 76% who supported this notion in the 2010 survey (Understandinganimalresearch.org.uk, 2012). However when investigating public attitudes towards animal testing, survey questions each year are often rephrased and also fail to specify the types of animals used for research purposes which may mislead to the simplification of a much more complex issue, both in question and response. Some members of the public are also ignorant to anything more than a superficial understanding of animal research and therefore may not be able to make properly informed opinions to begin with thereby reducing the credibility of those opinions. This may be reflected by the fact that 40% of the public who were asked about animal research wanted to know more about it (Understandinganimalresearch.org.uk, 2012).

Conclusion

There are no correlations between owning a pet and permitting pet animals for research. There are, however, clear distinctions between what the public deem as a justifiable animal model for research. Many people agree pet animals and primates are distinctly different from the rest of the animals in question and deserve exclusion from research use with non-mammalian species accounting for a much higher approval rate for use in research. These are in part due to a reservation of bias towards animals such as primates and pet animals. Whether this is a logically and morally justified basis for which animals are to be used for animal research is highly questionable. Wording and phrasing of the questions are also important in changing the answer perspective which may also either improve or impair the quality of data received.


References

Crueltyfreeinternational.org. (2016). Sir David Attenborough calls for end to brain experiments on monkeys | Cruelty Free International. [online] Available at: https://www.crueltyfreeinternational.org/what-we-do/breaking-news/sir-david-attenborough-calls-end-brain-experiments-monkeys [Accessed 11 Dec. 2016].

ECEAE, (2010). ECEAE | Eurobarometer survey shows public concern on animal testing. [online] Eceae.org. Available at: http://www.eceae.org/no/category/watching-brief/76/eurobarometer-survey-shows-public-concern-on-animal-testing [Accessed 12 Dec. 2016].

Gov.uk. (2014). Public attitudes to animal testing – Press releases – GOV.UK. [online] Available at: https://www.gov.uk/government/news/public-attitudes-to-animal-testing [Accessed 12 Dec. 2016].


Iep.utm.edu. (2016). Utilitarianism, Act and Rule | Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy. [online] Available at: http://www.iep.utm.edu/util-a-r/ [Accessed 11 Dec. 2016].

Hagelin, J., Carlsson, H. and Hau, J. (2003). An overview of surveys on how people view animal experimentation: some factors that may influence the outcome. Public Understanding of Science, 12(1), pp.67-81.

Hajar, R. (2011). Animal testing and medicine. Heart Views, 12(1), p.42.

Herzog H, Rowan A, Kossow D. Social attitude and animals. (2001) In: Salem DJ, Rowan AN, editors. The State of the Animals. Washington, DC: Humane Society Press; pp. 55–69.

Ormandy, E. and Schuppli, C. (2014). Public Attitudes toward Animal Research: A Review. Animals, 4(3), pp.391-408.

PETA. (2012). If Your Dog Tasted Like Pork, Would You Eat Her?. [online] Available at: http://www.peta.org/features/dog-pig/ [Accessed 12 Dec. 2016].

Research, N. (2009). Use of Dogs and Cats in Research: Public Perception and Evolution of Laws and Guidelines. [online] Ncbi.nlm.nih.gov. Available at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK32668/ [Accessed 12 Dec. 2016].

Rowan AN, Loew FM. (2001) Animal research: A review of developments, 1950-2000. In: Salem DJ, Rowan AN, editors. The State of the Animals 2001. Washington, DC: Humane Society Press;. pp. 111–120.


Shuttleworth, S. and Frampton, S. (2015). Constructing Scientific Communities: Citizen Science. The Lancet, 385(9987), p.2568.

Ted Jeory, J. (2016). David Attenborough calls for end to ‘cruel’ brain tests on primates. [online] The Independent. Available at: http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/david-attenborough-primates-neuroscientists-cruel-brain-tests-a7230711.html [Accessed 12 Dec. 2016].

Understandinganimalresearch.org.uk. (2014). Forty reasons why we need animals in research | Understanding Animal Research. [online] Available at: http://www.understandinganimalresearch.org.uk/about-us/science-action-network/forty-reasons-why-we-need-animals-in-research/ [Accessed 11 Dec. 2016].

Von Roten, F. (2012). Public perceptions of animal experimentation across Europe. Public Understanding of Science, 22(6), pp.691-703.

Wells, D. and Hepper, P. (1997). Pet Ownership and Adults’ Views on the Use of Animals. Society & Animals, 5(1), pp.45-63.

Vital Nutrition

Nutrition is vital to us, plain and simple, we need it, we enjoy it and we can’t live without it, but nutrition is a word that’s been ignored. Nutrition is something that’s so overlooked and so disregarded by too many people with the same goals. It still surprises me to see so many people are so unaware of just how important nutrition is to many things including their mood, their performance, their results in the gym and most importantly their vitality and health.

It may surprise you to know many physical and mental health conditions today can be attributed to a poor diet. Nutrition during pregnancy is a crucial period as even mild deficiencies can have profound long term implications or worse cause permanent birth defects. Child and adolescent nutrition is also of the up-most importance for the healthy development of a brain and body. Good nutrition at these stages can be pivotal. The correct nutrients and minerals boost the brains cognitive abilities helping with memory retention, concentration and learning ability. These nutrients also play key roles as structural components of all growing tissues all throughout the body. Nutrition is vital not just for aesthetic purposes but for the very foundations of our growing bodies since before we are even born.

Diet is the key to long term results

Most people however are fairly familiar with nutrition in terms of body composition and are aware of the ups and downs of dieting and trying to lose weight. So many times I have had people ask me the same questions over and over, they ask why they’re not losing weight or tell me how they cant seem to put muscle weight on and ask why that is. I usually respond with the same question first… well, tell me what you eat?

Nutrition provides our body with sustenance, it provides us with the vital vitamins, minerals and nutrients our body thrives off to make almost every physiological process possible and if your exercising this demand for sustenance is increased. Third to oxygen and water its an important life source we can’t live without. The body needs food and if it has no source of energy it will catabolise it’s own energy rich tissues in order to get what it needs. The body seeks these nutrients for it’s immediate needs at any cost.

This one reason many people fail on their fitness goals. They use fad diets that are far too restrictive which deprive the body of many essential nutrients or eat too much of certain nutrients altogether. Without some basic understanding of these processes, the long term result can be one step forward one back at best and at worst unhealthy. Of course this all leads to a very dismayed and disheartened individual that thinks they are “just one those people that cant lose/gain weight” despite trying every so-called diet when in fact the reasons why they’re not losing weight are very simple. They just don’t know it yet.

Today’s nutrition tradition

Unfortunately in today’s society nutrition has become more then just a means to survive, gone are the days where food was purely a source of fuel and a way to survive. We now live in an age where food is used traditionally as a way of socializing and a way of having fun. It’s also used as an emotional tool to make us “feel better” when were down and for a large majority its even used purely just to pass time. Due to the fact we no longer have to hunt for our food (and its available in abundance in mostly unnatural and processed forms all within a stone throw away), we now suffer with more medical issues associated with food alone more than ever. Diabetes, obesity, fatty liver disease, coronary heart disease, hypertension, hyper-lipidemia to name a few. Cancer, cardio-vascular disease, stroke, lung and liver disease are Britain’s biggest killers, most of which are preventable or attributed to poor diet and/or lifestyle. We also now live in an age where obesity has more then doubled since 1980, its dominating people of all ages and is also growing concern among children. Nutrition is an absolutely crucial element in improving longevity and good health. This is why it is in my view that food should be eaten mostly to provide the body with a benefit first and pleasure or convenience secondary where possible. We are after all what we eat what we eat.

Good nutrition alongside a healthy lifestyle

Good nutrition also should not excuse hard work in the gym. Research has consistently shown diet alone is less effective than diet and exercise combined. Training and nutrition go hand in hand, there’s no doubt about that and one will only take you so far. Once you have a healthy structured eating habit which reflects your goals, a good training regime will then be like the icing on the cake, that last piece to the puzzle…And remember, power is knowledge but knowledge is nothing without application.

Wrong to teach kids about nutrition?

Parents, kids and food education
This article was inspired by an unfortunate disagreement that had arisen between me and someone I know. This disagreement was sadly over my efforts to encourage healthy eating in my Daughter (who was a very aware and conscious 5 year old at the time) and from the education I had provided her regarding the benefits and the potential dangers of unhealthy food. My efforts with my daughter and with many other people whose lives and healths I have helped improve over the years, have never been based on exaggerations, or scare tactics. My efforts, identical to my articles, views, values and philosophies in nutrition, have always been influenced and supported by scientifically validated facts and evidence as well as logical rationale.

This is an important point to note. I don’t believe in lying to my child in the same way I don’t expect my child to lie to me. In fact I have a real hard time with the whole Santa thing and just avoid the question when she asks me. I don’t believe in discouraging them from eating crisps by telling them, “if you eat crisps you’ll get cancer”. I don’t agree with scaring them into eating healthy food. In contrast I disagree with saying things like “if you eat your vegetables you can have dessert” as I also don’t agree with bribing them to eat healthy food with the reward of eating unhealthy food afterwards either. In fact it completely contradicts my point of promoting healthy food over unhealthy food. I don’t agree with distorting the truth in any way or promoting unhealthy eating habits to promote healthy eating to kids, at all.

Sometimes the best way to teach a child, is to teach a child. Sometimes a child needs to learn and know instead of being told what to do or what not to do. If you can educate a child on why they should be eating healthy food, why they should only eat chocolate sparingly, then that’s half the battle. Once a child is aware of the effect on health food can have, based solely on facts, it’s human nature and instinct to avoid or at least reduce contact with things that we know could be harmful to us through behavioural change. This works particularly well in children, more so than in adults because children function through more primal instincts and emotions. Where as with maturity, comes the complex advancement in attitudes, willful ignorance, pride and stubborn behaviours which can of course have a negative effect on one’s on health.

Ignorance is far more common in adults especially with regards to health. Ignorant not just about nutrition, but willfully ignorant to acknowledge anything that may challenge their current paradigm, regardless of logic or fact. But that’s a discussion for another article. Children’s instincts and emotions are far simpler. They are more instinctive in nature in the respect that they show less ignorance to dangers in general. This instinctive nature can guide children in making healthier food choices. Based on this they can potentially show much more enthusiasm in being healthy, particularly when they understand and are aware of the negative effects such things can have on their health. In the same way a child can learn to associate strangers or say a wasp with negative connotations you can also create a negative association with unhealthy food.

This brings me swiftly to my point. This is how I have educated my daughter. I’ve made her aware of facts and educated her on how to be healthy. She can tell the difference between refined and wholegrain carbohydrates, with a fairly good understanding of which ones can lead to sharp rise and falls in blood sugar and which ones don’t. Some kids her age are still learning the alphabet or their months, but my Daughter has been able to distinguish all the major muscles on the body from gastronemus to trapezius with near perfect pronunciation from the age of 4. What’s great is that she generally enjoys learning about food and is always quizzing me for information and then randomly recites information back to me two weeks later, much to my surprise and satisfaction. I would say she is the epitome and vision of what many public health professionals including myself want for the future of children in this country.

 It’s now becoming more common for children to get diagnosed with adult onset type II diabetes despite the fact its usually diagnosed in adults over the age of 40, children that are now on medication because of an adopted, family drawn perception that has been perpetuated by clever food marketing in the media, that certain refined and processed foods are normal foods to eat and are part of our staple diet. But yet my daughter knows what diabetes is. Not only does she know what it is she’s aware of what foods are potential promoters of it and she limits her intake of them foods. Given that there are more children now obese and overweight with diet related diseases than ever before, the importance of this can’t be down-played or shrugged off.

Chocolate is NOT food. Crisps are NOT food. Refined, processed, chemically altered, artificially made, aggressively manufactured, contaminated man made junk is NOT food. If it does not grow from natural vegetation teach your child to limit their intake of it and educate them about why.

So what age is the right age to tell a child fruit offers many nutrients that help you learn better at school? when is the right time to tell a child a diet high in sugar will decay their teeth and can lead to health problems? when is the right time to tell them that having crisps for lunch will only provide empty calories that will not give them lots of long lasting energy to play with their friends at break? when is the right time to tell a child the saturated fat in McDonald’s burgers is not good for their heart and to be weary of marketing ploys designed to appeal to a child’s immediate desires? The main point of being a parent is to look after and protect your child. It’s to provide them with the best quality of life possible. Then surely wouldn’t the right answer to the question; when is the right time to teach kids about health? be at the very least, sooner, rather than later?

I may be criticised for teaching my daughter things she “doesn’t need to know about at her age” but at least I know with confidence my Daughter is not part of the huge public health crisis where many of today’s kids will grow up unhealthy, over weight, nutrient deficient and lacking fundamental food education to protect them from diet related diseases in the future. Now that for me, is a comforting thought and well worth the criticism.

“Good” carbs vs “Bad” carbs

 

Introduction

For many people and particularly dieters, carbohydrates have had a sinister stigma attached to them for many years now. Their reputation has evolved from the understanding that they are a significant contributing factor in the cause of weight gain, as well as their association with promoting disease conditions. Because of this it has led to many misconceptions and fear of consuming Carbohydrates. In this article the differences between the generic terms of “good” carbs and “bad” carbs will be discussed using complex carbohydrates and simple sugars as prime examples will be discussed. In particular the physical states and physiological responses to both types will be discussed outlining key points for health and improving body composition.

Key factors when it comes to carbohydrates

  • choose low G.I carbohydrates
  • choose the ones highest in fibre
  • look for the ones rich in minerals, vitamins and if possible protein
  • go for natural and whole not refined and processed
  • refrain from over cooking and over boiling them
  • add protein or fat to your carbohydrates to lower its G.I rating

The dark side of carbohydrates

The reality is that in today’s society, lifestyle and dietary related diseases are on the rise with diabetes being the leading threat to human health along with heart disease. Right now more than 3.7 million UK people are suffering with type II diabetes. The ironic thing about this fact is that type II diabetes is a completely self inflicted condition caused by bad dietary habits, specifically from the excess consumption of refined carbohydrates. The sad thing about this is that type II diabetes is completely reversible if tackled early enough and yet unfortunately it is on the rise and is estimated to hit 5 million people by 2025 [1]. Our current high refined carb diet may have been encouraged by much earlier warnings about the increasing rate of ischemic heart disease caused by the high consumption of saturated fats at the time. The warnings encouraged a decrease in the intake of fats in favour for eating more complex carbohydrates [2]. This has resulted in mass confusion as many people today still believe the complex and simple carbohydrates term is an effective way to distinguish between “good” and “bad” carbohydrates. Unfortunately the truth is, excuse the pun, less simple and more complex then that.

Good or bad carbohydrate?

As I will explain in another article there is no good or bad carbohydrate per se, there can be a time and a place for both particularly for those participating in sports. But there are some key differences and reasons as to why one type is generally considered to be “bad” and one is considered to be “good” and I’d like to address the differences between the two.

Simple sugars, as the name implies, have simple chemical structures made of monosaccharides (single sugar units). Simple sugars like glucose for example are said to be “bad” as they are absorbed through the intestinal tract quickly promoting a hormonal response (releasing insulin) that causes weight gain, fatigue and sugar cravings. Complex carbohydrates due to their complex chemical structure as the name implies, is made up of a complex chain of disaccharides and polysaccharides, (two or more sugar units combined). Complex carbohydrates like the sugar lactose for example is a disaccharide its made of two sugar units glucose and galactose and is said to be “good” as they are absorbed and digested slowly. Very little insulin is released from complex carbs and the conventional understanding goes that complex carbs provide a slower release of energy from the food and they help improve fat burning. But why is insulin bad and how does it cause weight gain? Well this depends entirely on ones insulin sensitivity.

If your muscle cells are insulin sensitive at the time of consuming simple carbs the muscles are primed to absorb the glucose and convert it into its stored form, glycogen. If your not insulin sensitive when consuming simple carbs the path way for glucose storage in skeletal tissue is closed and the flood gate is open to fat cells. This is how and why people get fat from simple carbs like sugary sweets and this is why its best to consume complex carbs at times when insulin sensitivity is low.

The answer to the next question, how do you know whether your muscles are insulin sensitive or not, depends on many factors. Your insulin sensitivity will be higher if you are in an active state, a fasted state or if your glycogen levels are depleted. For example first thing in the morning and after an intense workout your insulin sensitivity will be higher so consuming simple carbs will actually help with recovery and will refill depleted muscle energy. On the contrary if you eat the same type of simple carbs late at night in an inactive and rested state, insulin sensitivity will be low which as mentioned will promote fat storage. Consistently high insulin levels (on top of causing weight gain, fatigue and sugar cravings) can eventually lead to insulin resistance and type II diabetes. So in conclusion the conventional understanding goes simple = fast digesting and complex = slow digesting. However relying solely on this simple and complex classification is not wholly accurate and can often be confusing and misleading and here’s why…

Simple doesn’t always mean fast digesting, complex doesnt always mean slow digesting

Fruits are considered sources of simple sugars and yet some types of fruit despite their simple chemical structure release their glucose slowly into the blood stream which keeps insulin levels low. This contradicts the simple = fast digesting mantra. Conversely waxy maize starch is a complex carbohydrate yet it digests so fat its comparable to glucose. Insulin and glucagon compete with each other, insulin is a storage hormone, glucagon breaks down energy stores, when you have high levels of circulating insulin your body is in storing mode and glucagon will be low therefore you are not in energy burning mode. Some fruits which are considered a simple sugar, don’t actually impact insulin dramatically because of the slow release of energy which of course equates to steadier sugar levels, reduced cravings and appetite, better mood and enhanced fat burning. This would be considered by many to be a positive hormonal response, if your health and body weight is of any concern. In fact fructose the simple sugar found in fruit despite it being simple has even shown to be useful in treating people with type II diabetes due to its slow digesting nature [3].

In contrast some types of complex carbohydrates, white rice for example, despite its complex chemical structure is broken down and absorbed quicker then some simple carbohydrates and would technically put them in the category of being a “bad” carbohydrate based on the negative hormonal response from the body. Basically because white rice considered a complex carbohydrate causes high amounts of insulin to be released which blunts glucagon production meaning no fat burning or burning any stored energy, energy spikes and crashes, sugar cravings and weight gain, all despite the fact it is complex which is considered “good”. This of course is why it causes what is considered to be a negative hormonal response.

So as you can see, it’s this inaccurate classification of carbohydrates that has led to a huge misconception about what’s healthy and what isn’t. This somewhere down the line has contributed to the huge increase in refined carbohydrates leading to a continuous flurry of health problems worldwide.

The glycemic index scale

So how can we tell what’s good or not? The glycemic index is a reliable and practical way of determining a good choice of carbohydrate, it’s very basic and easy to use and understand. The glycemic index was devised for people who were diabetic and trying to manage their blood sugar levels. The G.I index is a measurement based on a percentage of how quickly 50g of a carbohydrate enters the blood stream compared to glucose which enters the bloodstream almost instantly and has a GI rating of 100. So say a baked potato has a GI rating of 85 it means the baked potato digests and releases its glucose into the bloodstream nearly as fast as glucose, only 15% slower, or in other words 0.85x the speed glucose would enter the blood stream. Since low glycemic index (low G.I) carbs are digested slow and release their energy slowly they are better for keeping sugar levels steady and healthy therefore should be the prime choice of carbohydrates for those managing diabetes and especially for those trying to avoid it [4]. High glycemic carbs on the other hand are digested quickly and therefore release their energy too quick and are not considered good choices for our health among many other things such as energy levels and appetite [5].

High GI vs Low GIexamples of low vs high GI foods

Carbohydrates that digest quickly, like white rice for example will have a high glycemic index (high G.I) that promote the release of insulin from the pancreas to regulate the high amounts of sugar rapidly entering the blood. This fast acting regulatory endocrine system is important to us because the sugar in excess will actually poison the blood. However insulin is a double edged sword since insulin is a storage hormone and is directly responsible for the deposit of glucose into adipose tissue leading to weight gain. Further more repeated and chronic insulin responses from the continuous consumption of high GI carbohydrates will lead to decreased insulin sensitivity. When this happens insulin no longer has the same effects on glucose metabolism it once had. Similar to taking a drug continuously your body eventually becomes tolerant to it, consuming refined high GI carbohydrates day in day out is the same thing but in this case you become resistant to your bodies own natural mechanism of controlling its blood sugar via the release of insulin. The end result at the very least is insulin resistance and clinical diagnosis of type II diabetes [6]. Low GI diets have long shown in studies on obese subjects that not only do they improve insulin sensitivity but they also increase fat oxidation and reduce waist circumference compared to those on high GI diets [7].

That excludes other benefits such as increased and sustained energy release, improved mood, less cravings and decreased cholesterol etc. Carbohydrates are certainly not the enemy but I would say misunderstanding them most definitely is.

What to look for

There are obviously a few components when it comes to determining what sources of carbohydrate are the best to consume but they can be summed up by a few simple differences. You should always choose more natural wholesome sources of carbohydrates that are high in soluble or insoluble fibre and are rich in nutrients like vitamins and minerals. The more wholesome and less refined a carbohydrate is generally the better. Refining of a carbohydrate really makes no sense because its a process of stripping a once wholesome and natural food that was full of fibre and nutrients down essentially to nothing but starch. The reason this is done is mainly to increase shelf life which of course benefits the companies selling it, as refined fibre reduced carbohydrates are less susceptible to go off. Cooking carbohydrates also changes its digestibility and therefore can increase its G.I rating, so a baked potato would have a higher glycemic index compared to a raw one, the same applies to food when you boil it too. In contrast adding fat and/or protein to a meal containing carbohydrates will actually lower its G.I rating. This is why consuming protein with every meal is recommended for fat loss.

Summary

  • choose low G.I carbohydrates
  • choose the ones highest in fibre
  • look for the ones rich in minerals, vitamins and if possible protein
  • go for natural and whole not refined and processed
  • refrain from over cooking and over boiling them
  • add protein or fat to your carbohydrates to lower its G.I rating

Conclusion

It’s clear from all of the evidence long term consumption of refined carbohydrates is a recipe for the decline in the future of human health. In summary as humans if we are to stay healthy, disease free and also wish to maintain a healthy weight, low G.I carbs should be the main source of carbohydrates for everyone looking to avoid insulin resistance, diabetes and especially for those who want to avoid unnecessary weight gain, feelings of fatigue and repeated sugar craving cycles. The long term consumption of high G.I carbs is a slippery slope and we must all work together to stay off for the good and the benefit of our future generations to come.

[1] http://www.diabetes.org.uk/documents/reports/nhs-health-check-lets-get-it-right-0912.pdf

[2] http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2869506/

[3] http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2682989/

[4] http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23705645

[5] http://www.diabetes.org.uk/Guide-to-diabetes/Managing-your-diabetes/Glycaemic-Index-GI/?gclid=CjwKEAjwxtKeBRDMzoeQmYn5uHcSJACGCF3D1mPlKw9KXkfkcUMg3zlXVwRxvMUnLj6wn_C3v3Zg-RoC8Tbw_wcB

[6] http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19934403

[7] http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3937245/