Right from eternity till some 8000 years back, every human being was on ketogenic diet. People used to hunt and gather and eat food whenever it was available. There was general scarcity of food and human beings were somewhere in the middle of food chain. During lean months with harsh weather, humans would perish of malnutrition.
As humans started cultivation and included more grains in their food, it gave them a distinctive survival advantage. It protected them in two ways. Firstly, increased carb intake allowed their insulin levels to go up and this, in turn, allowed their bodies to store energy in form of increased fat generation (lipogenesis) and fat storage. Secondly, cultivation allowed them to stay together and at one place; thus avoiding other predators on the move.
Cultivation, led by its biological, social and environmental advantages, changed the course of human history and humans thrived to reach on top of food chain on this planet. Taking more carbohydrates became ingrained in almost all civilisations world wide. This biological switch (from fat as a fuel to carbohydrate as a fuel) continued to serve a useful purpose till food availability was limited. This all changed with herald of industrial era.
After industrial revolution, in early 20th century, food scarcity had not been a problem. We are now living in a world with surplus food. But, same advantageous biological switch (from fat as a fuel to carbohydrate as a fuel) that was developed over thousands of year can not really be switched off in few decades. People held on to their traditions and carbohydrates stayed their staple food. But, now it is working to our disadvantage.
Actually, from this point of view, we do not need insulin anymore as a survival tool. Insulin would still be required as an essential ingredient of metabolic milieu of human body. But, taking more carbohydrates and making more insulin inside our bodies is not helping us anymore. Of course, evolution is going to take its own time to turn this biological switch off. There are two ways to handle this now. One, we can make food scarce for everybody and turn the clock back to pre-industrial area. This sounds little too harsh and illogical. But, looking around, that’s exactly what we have been doing so far by restricting calories that people eat!!
Second option to turn off that switch by cutting down on carbohydrates that we take in our diets. Lowering insulin lowers the energy overload in system and reverses all metabolic abnormalities.
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Author: Dr. Rajiv Singla
A leading endocrinologist and diabetologist from New Delhi. An alumnus of University College of Medical Sciences, Dr. Singla completed his MD (Medicine) from Maulana Azad Medical College (MAMC). He went on to pursue DM (Endocrinology & Diabetes) from reputed AIIMS, Delhi.