The carbohydrate addict's diet is an eating plan that emphasizes foods low in carbohydrates (carbs). It is based on the theory that some people develop unmanageable cravings for high-carb foods due to the pancreas producing too much of the hormone insulin, and that regular consumption of these foods leads to weight gain.
American research scientists Rachael Heller and Richard Heller developed the carbohydrate addict's diet in the early 1990s after they lost a combined 200 lb. (75 kg) on the diet. Both Hellers are professors and researchers specializing in biomedical sciences. They outlined their method in their first book, The Carbohydrate Addict's Diet, published in 1991. They have since expanded upon the diet in subsequent books and several updates of the original book. The term “carbohydrate addiction” was coined in 1963 by Robert Kemp, a biochemist at Yale University.
The Hellers claim that carbohydrate addiction is caused by an overproduction of insulin when foods high in carbohydrates are eaten. The insulin tells the body to take in more food, and once the food is eaten, the insulin signals the body to store the extra food energy as fat, according to the Hellers. When too much insulin is released after eating, it is called postprandial reactive hyperinsulinemia. Over time, some people with this condition develop insulin resistance, where cells in tissue stop responding to insulin. Normally, insulin helps the body process glucose, or sugar. In insulin resistance, the body continues to produce insulin but is unable to use the glucose (sugar) properly. Insulin resistance often occurs with other health problems, including diabetes, high cholesterol, high triglycerides, high blood pressure, and cardiovascular disease. Insulin resistance syndrome is the occurrence of more than one of these diseases together.
There is no medical test that indicates carbohydrate addiction, so the Hellers developed a self-administered quiz to determine if a person is a carbohydrate addict. The quiz, which is available in their books and on their Website, asks ten “yes” or “no” questions, such as “Is it hard to stop eating starches, snack foods, junk food, or sweets?” Scoring of the quiz is based on the number of “yes” answers. A score of 0–2 indicates no carbohydrate addiction, a score of 3–4 suggests a mild carbohydrate addiction, a score of 5–7 suggests a moderate addiction, and a score of 8–10 indicates severe addiction.
The carbohydrate addict's diet begins with the entry plan, which allows two complementary meals and one reward meal each day for the first week. In subsequent weeks, the diet is adjusted depending on a person's weight loss goal and amount of weight lost in the previous week. The diet also allows for a snack and salads. The complementary meal is composed of one serving of meat and two cups of low-carb vegetables or two cups of salad. There is an extensive list of meats and vegetables to choose from. The reward meal can be as large as the person wants but it must be composed of equal portions of protein, low-carb vegetables, and high-carb foods (including dessert). The reward meal must be eaten in an hour. A snack is the same as a complementary meal but half the size. The diet allows for an unlimited amount of water, diet drinks, and unsweetened coffee and tea.
The Hellers claim that few people need to eat breakfast, which goes against the advice of all major medical and dietetic organizations. Skipping breakfast is not widely recommended by registered dietitians.
The premise of the carbohydrate addict's diet is to correct the excess release of insulin, which occurs following consumption of foods high in carbohydrates. The Hellers claim that this triggers an intense and recurring craving for more carbohydrate-rich foods. The diet is designed to correct the underlying cause of the cravings.
The primary benefit of the carbohydrate addict's diet is the control of cravings and weight loss. The diet is less strict than other low-carb diets, such as the Atkins diet, since it allows for one meal a day with three equal portions of foods high in carbohydrates, high in protein, and low in carbohydrates. The carbohydrate addict's diet is suitable for vegetarians (though not vegans) since it allows for low-fat cheeses, egg whites, egg substitutes, and tofu.
Like any strict diet, the carbohydrate addict's diet should be undertaken with the supervision of a doctor. People with diabetes should consult an endocrinologist, who may recommend discussing the diet with a registered dietitian. Children and adolescents should not follow the carbohydrate addict's diet unless recommended by a physician.
Critics of the diet claim that it contains too much fat, is not nutritionally balanced, and is not a longterm solution for losing weight and keeping it off. It may be difficult for people to maintain a low-carb diet over the long-term. The diet is not recommended for women who are pregnant or nursing. Individuals who have a history of stroke, diabetes, heart disease, high cholesterol, or kidney stones should talk to their doctor before starting a low-carb diet.
There is mixed acceptance of the carbohydrate addict's diet and low-carb diets in general by the medical community and dietitians. Some studies have shown that low-carb diets can be effective in controlling blood sugar levels in people with diabetes and in helping people lose weight. Other studies have contradicted these findings. Most professional organizations, including the U.S. federal dietary recommendations, do not support low-carb diets.
A 2003 study by researchers at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine found that a low-carb diet produced a greater weight loss than a conventional low-calorie, low-fat diet after six months. However, after one year, the two diets produced similar weight loss results. A 2004 study by the same medical center found that both a low-carb and a more conventional diet produced similar weight loss results after one year but that a low-carb diet improved the health of people with atherogenic dyslipidemia, a cholesterol disorder characterized by the elevation of triglycerides and a decrease in “good cholesterol” high-density lipoprotein (HDL) levels in the blood. This lipid disorder is associated with an increased risk of developing cardiovascular disease. Individuals participating in the study also had better control of blood sugar levels.
See also Atkins diet ; Carbohydrates ; Cravings ; Dietary supplements ; Insulin ; Low-fat diet ; Low-protein diet .
Heller, Rachael F., and Richard F. Heller. The Carbohydrate Addict's 7-Day Plan: Start Fresh On Your Low-Carb Diet! New York: Signet, 2004.
Heller, Rachael F., and Richard F. Heller. The Carbohydrate Addict's Diet. New York: Dutton, 1991.
Heller, Rachael, and Richard F. Heller. The Carbohydrate Addict's Carbohydrate Counter. New York: Signet, 2000.
Heller, Richard F., and Rachael F. Heller. Carbohydrate-Addicted Kids: Help Your Child or Teen Break Free of Junk Food and Sugar Cravings—For Life! New York: Harper, 1998.
Heller, Richard F., and Rachael F. Heller. The Carbohydrate Addict's LifeSpan Program. New York: Signet, 2001.
Heller, Richard F., and Rachael F. Heller. The Carbohydrate Addict's No Cravings Cookbook. New York: Dutton, 2005.
Heller, Richard F., Rachael F. Heller, and Frederic J. Vagnini. The Carbohydrate Addict's Healthy Heart Program: Break Your Carbo-Insulin Connection to Heart Disease. New York: Ballantine Books, 2000.
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Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, 120 South Riverside Plz., Ste. 2000, Chicago, IL, 60606-6995, (312) 899-0040, (800) 877-1600, email@example.com, http://www.eatright.org .
American Society for Nutrition, 9650 Rockville Pike, Bethesda, MD, 20814, (301) 634-7050, Fax: (301) 634-7894, http://www.nutrition.org .
Ken R. Wells