The “Modern” History of Carbohydrate Restriction

My journey in learning about myself has meant endless hours of reading everything and then, reading some more. It has given me many “aha” moments and helped me understand so much more about what a low carb life really means.

Here is an excerpt from book THE ART AND SCIENCE OF LOW CARBOHYDRATE LIVING, co-authored by Jeff S. Volek, PhD, RD, and Stephen D. Phinney, MD, PhD,

Speaking on where the industrialized world holds a low carb diet.

“Those who don’t know history are destined to repeat it.”

Edmund Burke (1729-1797), British Statesman and Philosopher

One might argue about whether or not we should “repeat history” by adopting lessons learned from our hunting and herding ancestors, who practiced carbohydrate restriction for hundreds of thousands of years. However, few would argue that recent nutrition history (1970 to present), with unprecedented increases in obesity and diabetes, has been good for us. Nonetheless, there are important lessons – albeit negative ones – to be gleaned from this recent painful experience.

Up until the 1970s, we seemed to be on a path to objectively evaluate the benefits and risks of therapeutic carbohydrate restriction. Due more to politics than science, the views of Ancel Keys gained ascendency, dietary fat was deemed toxic, and carbohydrates were promoted. As the food industry built a supporting infrastructure to produce and market low fat foods, understandably the resistance to change became all that much stronger.

Against this fortress built on sand stood low carbohydrate iconoclasts like Robert Atkins, Mike and Mary Dan Eades, and Richard K. Bernstein. But now the sand under the fortress is slowly being eroded away, thanks in no small part to the incisive analysis of Gary Taubes. Time will tell how soon it will fall, allowing carbohydrate restriction to be fairly and objectively evaluated. When that occurs, carbohydrate restriction may finally achieve acceptance as a therapeutic tool in western medicine.


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