The Low Carb Paradox
Low Carb Aphrodisiacs
The Measure of Love
Cosmetic Surgery: Part III
Valentine's Day Treats
Interview: Jonny Bowden
The Bear Facts
A German Vacation
Make It Low Carb!
Snapshot: Schlotzsky's Deli
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"Adapt or perish, now as ever,
is nature's inexorable imperative.
— H. G. Wells
Humans like to think that we are the originators of everything. Any new idea or
practice that manifests in our culture is cause for a grand round of hand shaking
and backslapping and general self-congratulatory behavior. However, if we take a
close look at nature, we would find that there is little new under the sunů
The low carb diet profile has made a tremendous difference in the lives of many
individuals with weight or other health issues. When the principles behind low
carb eating were put forth to the public, we were astonished by the revolutionary
ideas and the body of supporting evidence. However, for nature, this was old hat.
Bears have demonstrated the fundamental principles of low carbing throughout their
evolutionary history. This has been observed and chronicled by researchers, but
the ideas were not extrapolated to humans. By manipulating their diets in respect
to composition of carbohydrates, fats and proteins, bears regulate their body
weight to meet their environmental situation.
Bears can be divided roughly into two groups: hibernators and non-hibernators.
Hibernating bears inhabit areas where the food abundance for part of the year is
very poor. They enter a state similar to a deep sleep, where the body temperature
lowers only a few degrees below normal and their metabolic rate drops only slightly.
Bears will, therefore, lose weight during their winter hibernation as they continue
to burn calories without ingesting food to balance the expenditure. Non-hibernating
bears have a more stable abundance of food and, therefore, do not need to enter
hibernation and maintain a relatively constant weight year-round.
When hibernating bears emerge from their winter sleep, they demonstrate significantly
reduced body weight. The loss is associated with both muscle and fat tissue. At
this time, bears begin to feed on young shoots of plants (which have a higher proportion
of quality protein than older plants) and animal material. Researchers note an
increase in lean body mass in association with this time of feeding. Animal tissue
and plant material comprise the summer diet and bears will forage on any live prey,
carrion, insects, grasses, roots, vegetable/herb material or early berries and fruits
that they find. They need to rebuild muscle lost from hibernation and to maintain
their now-active lifestyle. With the onset of autumn, however, hibernating bears
demonstrate a marked shift in their dietary profile. At this time of year, the bears
begin to consume large quantities of starchy roots, berries and fruits. Honey (in
association with bee larvae) is also consumed when available. Animal tissue
(especially fat-rich animal tissue such as moths, fattened sheep and spawning salmon)
is still consumed, but the ratio of carbohydrate to animal protein is drastically
shifted towards the carbohydrate end. It is at this time that bears begin to lay
down fat reserves for winter's hibernation.
Non-hibernating bears consume animal material, insects, fruits, berries, and other
plant material year-round. They do not demonstrate the seasonal change in dietary
profile as exhibited by the hibernating species. These bears are also active
year-round and have a high level of daily activity, as well. The higher level of
activity and the balanced consumption of fats, proteins and "good" carbohydrates
likely prevents the increased accumulation of body fat as witnessed for the
hibernating bears — their weight remains relatively stable throughout the year.
Consume protein, fats and a moderate amount of "good" carbohydrates: increase
or maintain lean body mass. Consume simple carbohydrates in large amounts:
increase fat mass. Be active and you can consume more carbohydrates and maintain
body weight. The basic principles of low carb eating used instinctively by the
world's bear species.
However, when low carb diets were gaining popularity, critics were quick to point
to the higher consumption of fat and the "connection" between fat consumption,
cholesterol and heart disease. Again, the bears have known the truth for a long
The polar bear's diet is 85-90% fat. They have been observed eating just the
fat from a prey item (usually a seal) and leaving the remainder. And the total
amount of fat they consume is staggering. To survive, polar bears must consume
an average of 18,000 calories of fat per day; virtually 100% being animal fat.
Here, then, we should find animals plagued by crippling heart disease. However,
when polar bears have been examined post mortem, heart disease is conspicuously
absent. Live polar bears have been assayed for cholesterol and, although the
general cholesterol levels were high, the cholesterol balance was strongly biased
towards HDL or good cholesterol and against LDL or bad cholesterol. HDL
cholesterol and certain other components of seal fat, mainly omega-3 fatty
acids are heart protective, thereby preventing the predicted high heart disease
level. This has also been noted for Inuit peoples studied in Greenland.
Humans that eat a higher-fat diet rich with natural, heart-healthy fats (and
low in synthetic trans-fats) reap the same benefits for heart protection as
the polar bears.
Polar bears also demonstrate the limits of low carb eating. Many low carb
dieters approach their new eating style with abandon and take the advice of
Dr. Atkins to heart during Induction — count carbs, not calories. However,
Atkins remarks that low carbing is not license to gorge. Even with a diet
that is almost solely composed of fat, polar bears maintain and add a good
deal of body mass in the form of fat. Their caloric intake is sufficiently
high to produce weight gain — calories do count, but they count less than
for a high-carb diet. Someone following a low carb diet has to eat more
calories of fats to see stalling or weight gain than someone following a
high-carb plan; but there is a limit, and each individual must find the
correct balance of calories and carbs to meet their personal weight loss
or maintenance needs.
Natural systems have displayed the principles of low carb eating for
millennia and researchers have noted these ideas in countless professional
papers. However, humans were slow to appreciate and promote these ideas
for our own species. Now, we are catching up in the knowledge base with
nature. I wonder what else is out there for us to discover?
Copyright © February 2004 Cerise Cauthron and Low Carb Luxury
Title photo Copyright © 2004 Neil Beaty and Low Carb Luxury
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