Skip the low carb diets.

This week our contributing writer Doctor Gifford-Jones talks about the importance of getting enough folic acid available in carbs.pexels-photo-496979

Remember when gold hit 800 dollars an ounce in 1981 and people lined up to buy gold? Or when people said that you were missing the boat if you didn’t buy high tech stocks? Others rushed to lose weight on Atkin’s low carbohydrate diet which never made nutritional sense. History shows it’s always time to run for cover when everybody’s doing it.

Restrictive diets have always been hazardous. It’s amazing that some people believed years ago that just eating grapefruit was the answer for weight loss.

It’s been recently discovered that low carb diets can be lacking in folic acid, a deficiency linked to heart attack. Folic acid is also essential to normal development of the fetus in the very early days of pregnancy. Without this vital nutrient children can be born with spina bifida, an underdevelopment of the spine requiring major surgery.

We obtain folic acid from white bread fortified with folic acid, breakfast cereals, pasta made from fortified flour and orange juice. It’s these very foods that are largely discouraged in low-carb diets.

Derryn Gill, chairwoman of the Spina Bifida and Hydocephalus Association of Ontario, says that “vanity should not get in the way of having a healthy child.”

Nancy Green, medical director of the March of Dimes, also expresses concern. She claims that people are fooled by media reports and eliminate carbohydrates without ensuring the replacement of essential micronutrients by eating more fruits and vegetables.

Several studies show that the use of folic acid has resulted in a tremendous reduction in birth defects. For instance, since the fortification of some foods with folic acid spina bifida has decreased by 75 per cent. And the common childhood cancer, neuroblastoma. by 60 per cent.

Women of child-bearing age must take folic acid before becoming pregnant to protect children from spinal defects. Once pregnancy is diagnosed several weeks of fetal development have usually passed and damage has already been done.

But Nancy Green reports that surveys reveal that fewer that one-third of women of child-bearing age take a multivitamin pill. That’s sad news for unborn children.

I wonder how often do nutritionists and this columnist have to tell patients that a balanced diet beats all diets? That there never has been a Ponce-de-Leon diet that is the be-all-and-end-all of nutritious eating.

We all need a balance of protein, fat and carbohydrate. I agree that there are bad carbohydrates like sugar and good ones like whole wheat flour. And that there are good and bad fats.

But discard all the baloney about the perfect diets. What will win or lose the obesity epidemic is the number of calories you consume. And if you think you can consume mega calories and burn them off by exercising, you’re living in La La land. Calories always beat exercise.

You don’t need a book to lose weight. Rather, start the day with low caloric fiber cereal. Purchase fewer packaged foods that contain excessive amounts of sugar and calories. Consume more fruits and vegetables. Order a six rather than a 14 ounce steak. Eat more fish. Remember that milk is a thousand times better than sugar-laden soft drinks. And wait 20 minutes before asking for a second helping. By that time the hunger reflex has usually dissipated.

Read food labels, particularly noting the number of calories. Today food producers are wolves in sheep’s clothing. They’re now selling low fat foods, but never mention that something has to replace fat to provide flavour. It’s usually high caloric sugar.

If people still can’t say no to a low carb diet, they should at least take a multivitamin pill which contains folic acid. It’s a good insurance policy to protect unborn children from birth defects.

Folic acid also helps to decrease the risk of coronary attack in adults by decreasing the level of homocysteine, a waste product of protein metabolism. Studies show that elevated levels of homocysteine in the blood can raise the risk of heart attack as much as smoking a pack of cigarettes a day. High levels of homocysteine are also associated with increased risk of stroke and arterial disease of the legs. All the more reason for taking folic acid.