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Carbohydrates, Insulin and Weight Loss

It is often thought that a calorie is a calorie and that for weight loss reducing calorie intake is all that matters. Yes, this concept is for the most part true: a calorie of carbohydrate has about the same amount of energy in it that a calorie of protein or fat has. These calories are a measure of the amount of energy they contain, protein has 4, carbohydrate has 4, and fat has 9 calories per unit of measure in each gram. Fat is the body’s energy storage bank such that extra food calories are stored and deposited in the ‘fat bank’.

But how the body reacts to the different foods containing those calories is different, and this is because of several metabolic processes initiated during the digestion and absorption of food. The major difference is how the calories in these different foods affect the release of the hormone insulin from the pancreas. Insulin, secreted mainly by carbohydrates, prevents the release of fat from fat cells, helps to store excess carbohydrates in fat tissue and has a major effect on hunger.

In addition when insulin is released in greatest amounts by refined carbohydrates it also causes water retention. The bottom line for weight loss appears to be: reduce your calorie intake but mainly those calories that came from carbohydrates, especially from high fructose corn syrup.

Carbohydrates are not ‘bad foods’ especially when eaten in the form of complex carbohydrates (fruits and vegetables), but they do slow down the weight loss process when eaten in the form of regular sodas, baked goods, pasta and breads.

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