Just a few decades ago, we were a nation of healthy and skinny people. Majority of adults were taking a bike ride to work and exercising just for fun. Parents were playing with their kids outside and burning calories without even knowing it. What has changed?
The communist/socialist regime that was prevalent in countries around our borders was setting an example of strict order and basically scarcity of food, although, many of Slovaks didn´t perceive it that way. They got used to having just enough of everything to live a fulfilling life for that time. The problem occurred with the capitalist era and the Americanism we weren´t able to handle.
James Caldwell, J.D., who´s been teaching at a University and living here for 16 years now, says when he moved here from the USA in 1999, the way people lived and looked was much different. Back then, he “couldn´t find an overweight person in the street, but now that is no longer true.” We are getting fatter, less active, and engulfed by consumerism.
When you start researching the impact of a “new age” on our wellbeing regarding health and weight, the answer you´ll find is sugar, to be precise – fructose. It is an overwhelmingly complex subject matter which is currently being studied by several Universities and freelance doctors. The question is – is it really fructose making us fat and ill; and if it is, why haven´t we addressed it yet?
Athlete´s best friend
If you´re a professional athlete or you´re training for a marathon, your carbohydrate intake is crucial. Carbs are the first nutrient to be used for energy and you need enough of it to prevent your body from using up your muscle tissue and making all your sports efforts useless. Think about Peter Sagan – he just won the World Championships on his bike! Do you think he was drinking water while competing? No way! Bikers fuel their bodies with special sports drinks full of minerals and of course, carbohydrates. The reason we´re talking about fructose specifically is its most well-known source – fruit. It is the most fast-releasing type of carbs so it´s perfect for instant energy boost. Moreover, fruits are full of other vitamins and minerals which makes them a perfect snack.
Fructose as a part of weight-loss diets
When dieting, you probably try to cut down on carbs as much as you can but be careful! Cutting on carbs significantly may decrease your awareness, memory, and the overall brain function. Remember when you had a test at school and your mom gave you a piece of dark chocolate? It wasn´t just a treat to make you feel calm, the sugar in it boosted your brain to perform its best. In a new documentary by BBC called “Sugar v fat,” two identical twin brothers-doctors go on two highly restrictive diets – one high in sugar and low in fat and the second, the other way round. What they find out is remarkably scary. The one who cut down sugar, ended up losing 1.5 kg of fat but also 2 kg of muscle mass in 4 weeks, which in long-term could become a dangerous pattern leading to heart problems and other diseases. What´s more alarming though is that by eating more fat and almost no carbohydrate, his body´s ability to produce insulin dropped significantly, making him prone to diabetes if this diet continued.
Conclusion – balance is key. If you´re dieting, try to stay within the recommended intake – 100-150g a day or try this online calculator to find out your specific carbohydrate needs:
The worst enemy of office workers
Based on what you´ve read until now, you may feel that fructose and carbs as such are actually pretty healthy – and yes, they are. However, everything has a dark side and too much of everything can hurt you. The point is, if you´re active – you get up, walk to work, work out at the gym, and run around to complete everyday tasks, you may be just OK with eating an apple for breakfast AND for afternoon snack. The problem is, most of us don´t do that very often. An ordinary person´s regime looks more like this – you wake up, drive to work, sit behind the computer the whole day, get home physically and mentally exhausted and don´t feel like working out but rather binging on a bag of chips or chocolate. It doesn´t mean you cannot eat your chocolate because you´re still burning somewhere between 1500-2500 calories basically just “being alive.” The snag is in the type of carbohydrate and its amount.
Sedentary lifestyle and toxicity
You may have heard about Dr. Lustig and his theory about fructose basically taking Americans to an early grave. We are not going to support all his claims due to their controversy, however he´s got a point. In a video lecture “Sugar: The bitter truth,” Dr. Lustig talks about the effects of high-carb US diet on inactive people. He explains how fructose contained in sugar (50% fructose, 50% glucose) or even fruit, if not used up for energy, gets metabolized in liver and immediately goes to liver fat stores – which are immensely dangerous. The fructose basically acts like a toxin, similarly to alcohol and can cause horrible health problems. The factors Dr. Lustig doesn´t mention though, are that this theory only applies to very inactive people who are consuming huge amounts of fructose or sugary foods over a prolonged period of time. Another factor that contributes to the obesity and cardio-vascular disease epidemic in the USA is a highly-unhealthy food component, HFCS (high-fructose corn syrup) which is artificially produced by extracting the high-fructose fluid from huge stocks of corn in America, and fortunately, is not affecting us yet.
The carbohydrate / fructose topic can be disputable so our conclusion will be very simple: If you want to avoid any potential negative effects of carbohydrates, eat your fruit to keep yourself healthy BUT don´t forget to burn the calories right away.
by Katarína Vicová
Gunnars, K. (2013). How many carbs should you eat per day to lose weight? Retrieved from: http://authoritynutrition.com/how-many-carbs-per-day-to-lose-weight/
We know your dreams (2015). [picture]. Retrieved from: http://weknowyourdreams.com/fruit.html