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Does Low-Carb Induce Binge Eating?

Now here’s a new one for you.

A psychiatrist who specializes in eating disorders told Edmonton Journal health writer Susan Ruttan in a recent interview that livin’ la vida low-carb actually may be one of the root causes for many people who suffer from binge eating disorders.

Dr. Lara Ostolosky, who works directly with anorexic and bulimic patients at the Eating Disorders Clinic at the University of Alberta Hospital, said low-carb diets are a trendy way to lose weight among people with eating disorders, but they have dangerous consequences to their health.

She warns her patients and others that eating carbohydrates is absolutely essential for life because your body needs the glucose in the carbs you eat to produce fuel for the brain to function as it should.

I have a word for that, Dr. Ostolosky — WRONG-O! Had you been paying attention in that metabolism class you undoubtedly had to take in college, then you would already know about the amazing process known as gluconeogenesis which enables the body to produce its own carbs without ever consuming a single carbohydrate.

Why would Dr. Ostolosky conveniently neglect to mention something that is so obvious? Oh, that’s right, she was hoping people weren’t educated enough to know this little factoid of information. Sorry to burst your bubble, Dr. Ostolosky, but your scam has been exposed for everyone to see now. YOU DON’T NEED CARBS TO FUEL YOUR BRAIN! That’s a conniving argument meant to deceive those who may not know about gluconeogenesis. Well, they know now!

Continuing on with her tirade against low-carb, Dr. Ostolosky said eating disorder patients who don’t eat enough glucose (carbs) from the foods they consume will actually lose their ability to feel satisfied and so “they binge like crazy.”

“It’s a nightmare,” she said. “That’s what creates the whole yo-yo dieting.”

Perhaps I’m missing something here, but doesn’t eating low-carb, high-protein food actually burn more fat and make you feel fuller longer so you don’t feel the need to binge from ravenous hunger generally associated with high-carb, low-fat diets? Why would low-carb dieters “binge like crazy” when the low-carb lifestyle allows them to eat satisfying and delicious foods anytime they are hungry? That doesn’t make a lick of sense to me, Dr. Ostolosky!

At the clinic she works, Dr. Ostolosky puts her patients on a daily diet consisting of an astronomically high 55-60 percent carbs, a relatively low 25-30 percent fat, and a measly 10-15 percent protein ratio (in other words, they are on the Standard American Diet, or SAD). It’s sad indeed.

No wonder these people are binge eating! Their blood sugar spikes are off the charts eating that many carbs in a day while restricting the essential and healthy fats their bodies need to function properly. Plus, the lack of protein makes satiety virtually nonexistent, so these patients are CONSTANTLY hungry. AND THIS IS SUPPOSED TO HELP THEM OVERCOME THEIR EATING DISORDER?! I’m not a doctor, but that just doesn’t seem to make sense to me.

Of course, Dr. Ostolosky thinks low-carb is the problem because when she first started working with eating disorder patients a few years back, every single patient with a binge-eating problem had been on the Atkins or other low-carb diet at some point. Yeah, who wasn’t on what they thought was “low-carb” when it was all the rage several years ago? But most never read the book and ended up like the friend of this health professor.

In the end, Dr. Ostolosky concluded that low-carb “fosters abnormal eating.”

Abnormal, huh? Hmm, does eating eggs and cheese for breakfast sound “abnormal,” Dr. Ostolosky? How about a mid-morning snack of almonds? Of course, then there’s the “abnormal” lunch of a turkey and cheese wrap with a side salad and then another “abnormal” post-workout afternoon snack of a protein bar or sugar-free chocolate bar. When suppertime rolls around, I suppose Dr. Ostolosky thinks my grilled chicken, mashed cauliflower, and green beans meal is too “abnormal” an eating pattern as well and God forbid I eat any blueberries or strawberries with whipped cream for dessert!

If ever there was a MORE “normal” way to eat in this world, I have yet to see it and have it still keep my weight under control. What is truly “abnormal” are all those disgusting “low-fat” foods concoctions on supermarket shelves today loaded with so much sugar and salt just to cover up their nasty flavor! Yikes, talk about eating “abnormal.” NO THANKS! I’ll keep on livin’ la vida low-carb and enjoying the literal buffet of delicious and nutritious choices that I can enjoy on this healthy lifestyle.

I tried to find a way to contact Dr. Lara Ostolosky directly, but was unsuccessful. But you can send your feedback about what she said in her interview with the Edmonton Journal regarding low-carb diets to the health writer who wrote this story named Susan Ruttan. Her e-mail address is sruttan@thejournal.canwest.com. Encourage Ruttan to pass along your comments for Dr. Ostolosky to read.

  • Lowcarb_dave

    Gee Wiz, a lot of thought went into her statements!

    All scientifically unfounded, and even anecdotally wrong as well!

    So, she was lying??????

  • reliefcheney

    I’ll bet all those anorectec patients had also been on every Other “fad” diet out there. why pick on lo carb particularly? sheesh!

  • Science4u1959

    Can this, erm, “expert” send me the references in the peer-reviewed scientific literature on which she undoubtedly has based her brilliant conclusions?

  • Gary

    “Of course, Dr. Ostolosky thinks low-carb is the problem because when she first started working with eating disorder patients a few years back, every single patient with a binge-eating problem had been on the Atkins or other low-carb diet at some point.”

    Exactly. Anorectics love the low-carb diet because it is so effective at achieving weight loss.

  • Shayne

    Binging is not about hunger – it’s a mental problem that a lot of us have to deal with. It’s emotional.

    Most binge eaters go for the carbs because they are traditionally the “comfort foods” we grew up with.

  • Lowcarb_dave

    Binging is very strongly linked to blood sugar drops.

    It was in my case!

  • shanny

    May I be a voice of reason here?
    I believe strongly that the quotes given about Dr.O are taken out of context and unfair to her. I know this because I am one of her patients, and in particular, one that was obsessed with the Low-carb lifestyle. I am personally very familiar with her beliefs and practices, and she does not “pick on’ low-carb diets. What she does do is discourage any ristricting of certain types of food, which in her line of work, is absolutely crucial to save the lives of her patients. Those with eating disorders tend to fixate on good food (carrot sticks)- bad food (potato chips). They develop very real fears of certain foods,rational or not. I have been a patient of hers for two years and I can honestly say, that I would not be alive without that program, which by the way, is not “her program”, but the University of Alberta Hospital’s program, directed and run by the best Eating Disorder specialist in Western Canada. She is not the only Dr. on staff, she is one of several, along with two registered dietitians. In the program we are not on high carb low fat diets, frankly I have no idea where you got that information. We are put on diets consisting of all of the food groups laid out in the Canada food guide. Also, it should be mentioned that the patients choose their own menus, and whatever we don’t want, we don’t eat. The calories are made up by drinking Ensure. There is NO lack of protein, and we are given vitamin supplements as well. I don’t know where that information came from, but it’s false. The staff is incredible, our angels, and the clinic a refuge for those of us who have been misunderstood for so long. I am proud to be one of their MANY success stories, and I know that there will be many more. I am happy to say that I am home with my family, able to be a real mother to my children again, and have been for almost a year now.
    I know that it is very unlikely that this will make it on to your site, but at least someone will read it, see the truth, and just maybe cut her some slack.

  • Jimmy Moore

    Hey Shanny,

    THANKS for sharing your comments about your personal experience working with Dr. Lara Ostolosky. I’m so happy to hear she was able to help you overcome your eating disorder and get your life back. CONGRATULATIONS!!!

    My main concern with her was the statement that low-carb is dangerous to your health and that eating excessive amounts of carbohydrates is ESSENTIAL for your body to function as it should, including the brain. This clearly is NOT true.

    I have been eating a low-carb diet for three years (defined as 20-60g daily) and my body and brain have been working as good or better than they ever have. Sure, I’m only one example, but there are millions more out there who are losing weight and improving their health by livin’ la vida low-carb. Gluconeogenesis really works!

    On the point of the article, eating low-carb does NOT cause you to want to binge eat. In fact, your blood sugar becomes so stablized that you are in more control of your body than you ever thought possible. That’s the miracle of the low-carb lifestyle that you don’t hear anyone talk about, but it’s there. Low-carb living is ANYTHING but a “nightmare” as your doctor contends.

    While you say she does not prescribe any one kind of eating plan for her patients, the fact is she admits to putting them on the SAD (Standand American Diet) of 55-60 percent carbs, 25-30 percent fat, and 10-15 percent protein ratio. She says as much in the column I referenced. Was she lying, Shanny?

    I cannot with good conscious cut her any slack because she is dead wrong in her assessment of low-carb. If she indeed believes, as I do, that people should find the eating plan that works for them and then do it for the rest of their life, then so be it. But that’s not what she said.

    THANKS again for sharing and please feel free to have Dr. O contact me directly for an interview if she wishes to set the record straight. My e-mail address is livinlowcarbman@charter.net.