Dr. Cynthia Kenyon is a genetic researcher who has done experiments with roundworms. She found that roundworms age more rapidly when given glucose. Feeding them as little as .1% glucose causes them to age faster. Their normal diet is pure bacteria. Roundworms are very small- too small to see with the naked eye.
Going up as high as 2% dietary glucose caused even more accelerated aging in the roundworms. But, that’s as high as she went.
Besides feeding them varying amounts of glucose, she has done gene modification on roundworms that blocked their “insulin signaling” which resulted in longer lifespan.
As a result of these experiments on roundworms, Dr. Kenyon has changed her diet. She eats:
“No desserts. No sweets. No potatoes. No rice. No bread. No pasta. When I say ‘no,’ I mean ‘no, or not much,’ she notes. Instead, eat green vegetables. Eat the fruits that aren't too sweet. Meat? Meat, yes, of course. Avocados. All green and non-starchy vegetables. Nuts. Fish. Chicken. That's what I eat. Cheese. Eggs. And one glass of red wine a day.”
In other words, Atkins, all over again.
But, if it’s really logical to change the diet of a human being based on experiments with roundworms, then why stop there? There are lots of other creatures. If you can make deductions going from roundworms to humans, then you have to apply the same reasoning across the board to other animals. I’ve got birds and squirrels eating figs in my backyard, and now I’m really worried about those critters. They can’t tolerate that fructose. They’re shortening their lives. And there are ants that get into my figs sometimes as well- the poor devils. It seems that the whole natural world is oblivious to the wisdom of Dr. Kenyon.
I don’t know how old Dr. Kenyon is, but let’s assume, for the sake of argument, that she gets pregnant and has a baby. Now she is breastfeeding. But wait! Breast milk is loaded with sugar! Forget about 2% of calories from sugar, as she fed the worms. Human breast milk has nearly 40% of its calories as sugar! Human milk is the sweetest milk on the planet, and by far. In this whole wide world of mammals, going from the tiny pygmy shrew which weighs less than 2 grams all the way up to the blue whale, which is the largest animal that has ever lived, to every mammal in between, none makes a milk as sweet as ours. Nothing even comes close. Human breast milk, by weight, is over 7% sugar! In comparison, cow’s milk is only 4.8%, goat’s milk 4.4%, sheep milk 5.1%, and water buffalo milk 4.9%. And it goes on and on. When it comes to milk, we, the human race, are the most highly sugared species in the world.
But, let’s assume Dr. Kenyon isn’t happy about that. After all, she doesn’t want her baby aging prematurely. So, she tries to lower the sugar content of her breast milk by avoiding all sugars and starches. She stands little chance of success. Her body will thwart her. Her body will convert the glycerol portion of fat and certain amino acids that are “glucogenic” into glucose and then into lactose. Her baby is going to get just as much sugar as anybody else’s- whether she likes it or not.
Another interesting fact about human milk is that it is very low in protein. It’s only 1% protein by weight. In comparison, cow’s milk is 3.4%, goat 3.2%, sheep 5.4%, dog 8.0%, and cat 10.6%. Some analyses of human breast milk have come in as low as .8% protein. And yet, on that small amount of protein, a human infant can double its birth weight in 6 months. It is the most rapidly growing period in human life. What does that tell you about the amount of protein that a human being really needs?
Perhaps Dr. Kenyon would say that it’s normal to pack in lots of sugar while nursing, but once you’re weaned, it’s Atkins time. But, the problem is that we’ve got all those sugar sensors on the tips of our tongues. There are thousands of them. Humans are the most powerful sugar detectors on the planet. Our ability to taste sugar is higher and stronger than any other creature. And why are the sugar detectors all crowded on the tip of the tongue? It’s because if you’re out in the jungle and you discover a new fruit, you can dip the tip of your tongue into it to determine if it’s any good to eat. And the criteria is: if it’s sweet it’s good; if it’s bitter, sour, or caustic, it’s bad, so you spit it out. Those sugar detectors weren’t put there for you to commit suicide with. They were put there to connect you to your natural fuel.
I think we all agree that, beyond breastfeeding, babies hold on to their sweet tooth. It doesn’t go away when the milk dries up. The first food my son received (after nursing) was blended cantaloupe. And it was a sweet one too, and he lapped it down with gusto. And, the sweet tooth is not just an infant thing. It’s a lifelong thing for human beings. It’s a cardinal human trait. It is a primal and instinctual craving- as much so as sex. Some foods you have to cultivate a taste for. Who was born with a taste for frog’s legs? But craving sugar goes to the very heart of who we are as a species.
But what about insulin? Insulin is a normal, physiological influence. Insulin opens the door so that glucose can enter your cells. It also opens the door so that amino acids can enter your cells. So yes, when you eat your high-protein diet with all that meat, you are provoking insulin release. As reported in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition in 2005, beef provokes more insulin release than whole wheat, cheese more than white pasta, and fish more than porridge. Are you listening Dr. Mercola? Insulin also opens the door so that potassium can enter your cells, which is critically important. Without proper potassium, your nerves and muscles don’t function correctly, and your fluid balance gets out of whack.
Insulin resistance is where the cell receptors for insulin aren’t responding properly, so the door doesn’t open. British endocrinologist Dr. James Mann- who is considered one of the leading endocrinologists in the world- says that high-protein/low-carb diets increase insulin resistance and raise the risk of developing diabetes. He says: “We advise people strongly against the Atkins diet. We believe it has a powerful effect to increase insulin resistance.” Keep in mind that it is widely believed in Medicine that insulin resistance is caused primarily by bodily fatness, and particularly, abdominal fatness.
Unrefined carbs do not promote bodily fatness. I eat them every day, multiple times. I eat lots of fruits, melons, and berries. I eat starchy vegetables, such as potatoes and yams. I eat brown rice, and I eat beans of all kinds. I enjoy oatmeal. That’s a lot of carbs. Why hasn’t it made me fat?
I’ll tell you a little secret, and I’m embarrassed to tell you this: I bought some shorts for the summer yesterday, and I had to go to the boys' department. That’s right: I am a 60 year old man wearing boys' pants. You see, I am very slim-waisted, and the smallest adult size is too baggy. I am 5’6” and weigh 130 pounds. That puts me at the low end of the normal range on most charts. But, I have very low body fat, and it keeps my waist very slim, less than 30 inches. My point in telling you this is that eating unrefined carbohydrates has not made me fat.
My advice to Dr. Kenyon is: forget about the roundworms. You’re wasting your time. People are not giant roundworms. Here’s an idea: do research on people. You could study fluctuations in diurnal blood sugar on different diets. You could measure and compare the formation of various glycation endproducts, including glycated hemoglobin, on different diets. That would be interesting and relevant. But, in the conclusions you are drawing from your roundworm experiments, you are taking a huge flight of fancy.
And to my readers, what should you do about carbs? Well, certainly, you should avoid all refined carbs. Dr. Kenyon and I are in complete agreement about that. And many times you can just cut them out and replace them with nothing. For instance, if you’re used to having a cold bottle of soda in the afternoon as a pick-me-up, replace it with a cold bottle of carbonated mineral water with fruit essence. It has no calories, so for all practical purposes, it’s just plain water. But, it’s very refreshing, and it really hits the spot. And otherwise, eat fruits, melons, berries, starchy vegetables like potatoes and yams, and complex carbs like brown rice and black beans. All of that is good food. Of course, the amount you should eat depends on how active you are. And of course, if you are diabetic, then you do have to be careful with fruits and certain other carbs. For instance, you may have to eat your fruits in the morning. But, just because a sensitivity to carbohydrates develops after you become diabetic does not mean that eating unrefined carbohydrates in the first place causes diabetes. They most certainly do not.