My recent series of articles have focussed on carbohydrates. Over the course of these articles I have come to the conclusion that carbohydrates have a number of benefits as long as you choose wisely. However, even if you do choose the right carbohydrates you can still overindulge. Today I am going to be discussing some of the potential drawbacks associated with consuming too many carbohydrates.
1) WEIGHT GAIN:- Carbohydrates are your body’s preferred energy source. When you eat any type of carbohydrates your body breaks them down into glucose in the digestive tract. This glucose is then released into the bloodstream causing your blood glucose levels to rise. Your pancreas responds to these high blood glucose levels by releasing insulin (a hormone that allows your body’s cells to take glucose from the blood and use it for energy, store it as glycogen or store it as fat). Once your blood glucose levels have become sufficiently low your pancreas stops releasing insulin and starts to release glucagon (a hormone that helps your liver convert stored glycogen into glucose and release it into the bloodstream).
If you eat a moderate amount of carbohydrates your body’s cells will be able to use what they need for energy and store any excess as glycogen. However, these glycogen stores are limited and once they become full any excess glucose is stored as fat. Therefore, by eating too many carbohydrates your body is forced to store fat. Furthermore, eating too many carbohydrates over a long period of time means that these glycogen stores never become depleted so fat storage continues to increase and you continue to gain weight.
2) INCREASED TYPE 2 DIABETES RISK:- Type 2 diabetes develops when either your body’s cells start to resist insulin or your pancreas fails to produce enough insulin. Although no one knows exactly what causes diabetes there are a number of risk factors which can be linked back to high carbohydrate consumption.
First, (as I highlighted above) eating too many carbohydrates leads to increased fat storage. Fat cells have fewer insulin receptors than muscle so the more you have the less responsive your body is to insulin. Secondly, eating too many carbohydrates causes your blood glucose levels to rise meaning that insulin has to be released. If you continue to eat excessive amounts of carbohydrates your pancreas has to produce and release increasing amounts of insulin to cope with your increasingly high blood glucose levels. Pushing your pancreas to the limit like this can ultimately interfere with its ability to produce insulin.
Both insulin resistance and your pancreas failing to produce enough insulin are characteristics of type 2 diabetes. Therefore, long term over consumption of carbohydrates can increase your risk of contracting this disease.
3) POOR APPETITE CONTROL:- As I mentioned above eating carbohydrates causes your blood sugar levels to rise. Although the rate at which they rise is partially influenced by the type of carbohydrate you eat, eating too many in one sitting will cause a large increase in blood glucose levels. This then causes your pancreas to release a large amount of insulin in response which leads to an equally large decrease in blood glucose levels. When your blood glucose levels fall your brain sends out hunger signals meaning that you crave even more carbohydrates a short time after eating them. The overall result is poor appetite control as you are constantly craving carbohydrates despite eating large, regular amounts.
4) FLUCTUATING ENERGY LEVELS:- As I discussed above eating excess carbohydrates causes a rapid surge and then a rapid fall in blood glucose levels. This has a direct effect on your overall energy levels meaning that you will suddenly feel full of energy and then shortly after your energy levels will crash. Fluctuating energy levels makes it very difficult to function properly throughout the day as you will be constantly switching between feelings of too much energy and not enough energy.
5) PERMANENT DAMAGE:- In my article on the damage caused by diabetes I highlighted that high blood glucose levels can cause permanent damage to your body. Eating too many carbohydrates can contribute to high glucose levels and therefore contribute to this damage. The actual damage can affect all your major organs and vessels including; your heart, your kidneys, your eyes, your nerves and your blood vessels.
Carbohydrates are often given a bad reputation for all the reasons listed in this article. However, the truth is that all the above are not a result of carbohydrates being bad – they are a result of consuming too many carbohydrates. If you control the amount of carbohydrates you are eating you can avoid these health complications whilst providing your body with the energy and nutrients it requires.