Here, I am talking about the traditional Japanese diet, not the modern one. You know, lots of rice, veggies and little fish. In other words, mostly carbohydrates. And traditionally, obesity was unknown in Japan. In contrast to this, the Atkins diet is all protein and fat. They seem to be opposite extremes of each other, but remarkably, they both work.
If you have watched this video from my earlier post, you will know the answer. If not, here’s a short rundown.
The common denominator in the Japanese and Atkins diets is that they both eliminate the sugar fructose from the diet. But fructose is natural, you may ask, so how can it be bad?
Let’s look at the history to see if it can provide some clues. Obesity in the developed world has started being a problem about 40 years ago. About the same time as the low-fat craze. In order to make low-fat food palatable, companies added sucrose. Otherwise, all the cheap food they were selling would taste like cardboard. Obesity rates have shot up even higher with the introduction of High Fructose Corn Syrup (HFCS) due to economic factors – it’s cheap.
Chemistry and metabolism will provide us with more clues. Sucrose is made up of a molecule of glucose joined with a molecule of fructose. HFCS is like sucrose but has more fructose than glucose and therefore it’s sweeter. Once sucrose hits the stomach, the bond joining glucose to fructose is broken in a matter of seconds. While glucose is utilised by every single cell in the body as fuel, fructose is not. Only liver can metabolise fructose as there is no insulin response in the body in relation to fructose.
The chemical processes in the liver are complex, but the resulting outcome is triglycerides which are incorporated into Very Low Density Lipoproteins (VLDL) which are released from liver and destined for storage. Storage can be either muscle or fat tissue, but it in our modern society it tends to be the latter.
Furthermore, fructose is supposed to be assimilated in the small intestine. However, more and more people are becoming fructose intolerant. This may be due to the lack of GLUT5 transporter in the body. Fructose will then end up in the large intestine where it will provide fuel for the undesirable gut flora. You can imagine the results – I’ll spare you the details.
You can still eat your carbs or protein and fat. It’s the elimination of fructose from the diet that is desirable if you want to lose weight. But it’s easier said than done. Fructose is everywhere. As a side note, a pasta sauce (not mentioning brand names here) I bought the other day, had fructose added. Not sugar, but specifically, fructose. And don’t think that replacing sugar with honey will help – it’s full of fructose. One thing you can do is to buy glucose powder from a health food shop and use it instead of sugar. It is less sweet and you will have to use extra amount in order to compensate. Alternatively, you can go cold turkey and drink your coffee without sugar (now I have my excuse to go back to drinking 8 cups a day, LOL).