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Low-Carb Theory Regarding Meat/Insulin is Flawed

Low-Carb Theory Regarding Meat/Insulin is Flawed

Due to rising obesity and insulin resistance rates, low-carb and Paleo diets have become a popular approach to the growing population of overweight Americans. As stated by Dr. John McDougall, "Advocates of high-protein diets explain the reason people are fat is not because of the fat they eat, but because of hyperinsulinism and insulin resistance. Insulin encourages fat cells to store fat and prevents the release of fat from these cells. Therefore, high levels of insulin, known as hyperinsulinism, would be expected to promote obesity."

One high-protein, low-carb website, emphasizes that carbohydrates are the "root of all evil" when it comes to weight loss and health. Consequently, the majority of calories from a low-carb diet come from meat, which contains protein and fat, but no carbs.

Although carbs do make our insulin levels go up, Dr. Micheal Greger points out in the video above that scientists have known for over a half century that protein makes it go up as well. An "Insulin Index of Foods" was published in 1997 which listed 38 foods that produced higher insulin levels. This study and subsequent studies showed that any type of meat (beef, chicken, and pork) produced substantial insulin secretion. "In fact meat protein causes as much insulin release as pure sugar." Meat raised insulin levels higher than a large apple, a cup of oatmeal, a cup and a half of white flour pasta.

Insulin index of foods Size400

Below we've highlighted a few points from the Insulin Index:

  • "Some of the protein-rich foods (beef, cheese, eggs) had larger insulin responses per gram than did many of the foods consisting predominately of carbohydrate."
  • "Carbohydrate is not the only stimulus for insulin secretion." Protein-rich foods can also stimulate insulin secretion without increasing blood glucose concentrations. "A low-fat diet based on less-refined, carbohydrate-rich foods with relatively low insulin scores may help enhance satiety and aid weight loss as well as improve blood glucose and lipid control
  • "Pasta, oatmeal porridge and All-Bran cereal produced relatively low insulin responses despite their high carbohydrate contents.
  • Some protein and fat-rich foods (eggs, beef, fish, cheese, cake and doughnuts) induced as much insulin secretion as did some carbohydrate-rich foods. Beef was equal to brown rice and fish was equal to whole grain bread.)"

In regards to the above findings, Dr. Greger continues by saying, "So based on their own framework, if low-carb and Paleo people stuck to their own theory, and it's all about insulin - they would be out telling everyone to go vegetarian, as vegetarians have significantly lower insulin levels even at the same weight. Meat eaters have up to 50% higher insulin levels." Meat insulin responseResized400

For example, if you put someone on a whole plant-food diet, "you can significantly bring their insulin levels down within just 3 weeks. And then just by adding egg whites back to the diet, you can boost insulin production 60% within 4 days. Even doubling someone's carbohydrate intake using lots of whole grains, beans, fruits and vegetables will bring their insulin levels down."

Insulin Levels can Drop in as Little as One Week

We had the pleasure to work with a lovely lady named Jacquie at one of the Engine 2 Diet Immersions. Jacquie had suffered from type-2 diabetes for many years. After only one week of eating Plant-Strong her glucose level fell within the normal range for the very first time. Her emotional testimony brought tears to many eyes:

The Atkins and New Atkins Made Easy

Dr. Robert Atkins, creator of the popular low-carb, high-protein and fat diet, "died overweight with a history of heart attack, congestive heart failure and hypertension" according to the medical examiner. In an attempt to make the diet more healthful, proponents of the New Atkins Made Easy diet assumed that the revised diet would lower insulin levels. However, "No significant drop in insulin levels on very low carb diets" was found. What did rise, however was LDL cholesterol levels, which is the #1 risk factor for heart disease.

What About the Paleo Diet?

"The Paleo movement gets a lot of things right" Dr. Greger states. "They tell people to ditch dairy and doughnuts, eat lots of fruits, nuts and vegetables, and cut out a lot of processed junk." Dr. Greger's above video profiles a study regarding the Paleo diet and continues by saying, "They took a bunch young healthy folks put them on a Paleolithic diet along with a Crossfit-based, high-intensity circuit training exercise program. Now if you lose enough weight exercising you can temporarily drop your cholesterol levels no matter what you eat. You can see that with stomach stapling surgery, tuberculosis, chemo, a cocaine habit—just losing weight by any means can lower cholesterol, which makes these results all the more troubling. Ten weeks of hard core workouts and weight loss, and LDL cholesterol still went up. And it was even worse for those who started out the healthiest. Those starting out with excellent LDLs, under 70 had a 20% elevation in LDL, and their HDL dropped. The Paleo diet's deleterious impact on blood fats was not only significant, but substantial enough to counteract the improvements commonly seen with improved fitness and body composition. Exercise is supposed to make things better. Put people instead on a plant-based diet and a modest exercise program—mostly just walking-based, and within 3 weeks can drop their bad cholesterol 20%, and their insulin levels 30%, despite a 75-80% carbohydrate diet whereas the Paleo diets appeared to negate the positive effects of exercise."

For more information, click on the following links:

(1) High-protein Diets: Trading Your Health for Temporary Weight Loss

(2) Are all Carbs Bad?

(3) Weight Gain Attributed to Eating Meat

(4) Obesity-Causing Chicken Virus

(5) Obesity-Causing Pollutants in Food

(6) Chicken Big: Poultry and Obesity

(7) Die Sooner With Good Looking Numbers

(8) Meat Increases Risk of Diabetes

(9) Eggs and Diabetes

(10) Fish and Diabetes

(11) Dr. Carney's Animal-Based Diet Promotes Illness Pinterest Board

(12) Dr. Carney's Low-Carb Diet Pinterest Board

(13) An Insulin Index of Foods: The Insulin Demand Generated by 1000-kJ Portions of Common Foods in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition 1997, Vol. 66: pages 1264-1276 by Susanne HA Holt, Janette C. Brand Miller, and Peter Petocz.

Michael Greger MD Links

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Comments (12)

Rated 5 out of 5 based on 1 voters
This comment was minimized by the moderator on the site

Quote from article :
Some protein and fat-rich foods (eggs, beef, fish, cheese, lentils, cake and doughnuts) induced as much insulin secretion as did some carbohydrate-rich foods

I dont think lentils should be included...this has to be an error

This comment was minimized by the moderator on the site

Hello James,

Good catch! Actually great minds must have been thinking alike because we thought the same thing yesterday and so watched the video again and did not find the mention of lentils. It has been removed now although you may have to refresh the cache in your web browser to get the corrected version to display.

Please do continue to check on our work and let us know if you ever again find something that does not seem to make sense to you!

Sean Carney

  Sean Carney
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I recently saw a January 24 post in Health Issues where you shared that the insulin in the blood is as high or higher due to meat consumption compare to carbohydrate-rich foods.

Is the damage done by diabetes due to the insulin in the blood or the sugar. If it is the insulin, then it seems to me that we are measuring the wrong thing when we measure sugar instead of insulin levels. AS this article points out "Protein-rich foods can also stimulate insulin secretion without increasing blood glucose levels."

I would expect that blood glucose is easier and cheaper to analyse than insulin levels.

  Ray Hatch
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Animal proteins and fats both contribute to higher blood sugar levels through insulin resistance.

Bodies are damaged more by high levels of fasting blood glucose than by elevated insulin levels, yet both are measurements of concern.

That is why, when I order fasting blood tests on serum, I order tests of both glucose as well as fasting insulin.

On a practical level, testing finger-stick glucose each AM is much more valuable than waiting for the MD to order another fasting blood draw, which happens more rarely due to the expense to the patient.

Best Wishes as you seek to optimize fasting blood glucose readings with a low-fat, oil-free vegan diet of whole unprocessed foods. You may also enjoy my powerpoint presentation on diabetes, which can be viewed here:

Dr. Carney

  Comment was last edited about 2 years ago by DrCarney Admin Linda Carney MD
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My personal experience with Type-1 diabetes has illuminated the issue from another perspective: Instead of foods elevating blood-sugar and/or insulin; the food damages the system compromising its ability to regulate. I have learned that the metabolic system is a very complex machine involving almost all organs of the body all working together for a very tight regulation of blood-sugar. When all of these elements are working unimpeded, it is virtually impossible to induce a blood-sugar spike even after consuming a very high dose of sugar. After decades of personal experimentation, I found that fats and animal sourced products damages the elements of the metabolic system, thus any elevation of blood-sugar or insulin is an indication of system damage or compromise (at best). I have also learned that the percentage of the population with a compromised metabolic system is so high it is universally considered "normal". This results in misleading metrics such as the "Glycemic Index".
The good news! - in most cases, a damaged system will heal when the damaging foods are eliminated.

  Comment was last edited about 2 years ago by Ken Thomas Ken Thomas
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Wow Ken,
Thank you for that extremely helpful perspective and addition to this conversation. So glad to hear from you!

  Sean Carney
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Why did you include this graph from the study in your blog post and not the other one that was in the study?

This comment was minimized by the moderator on the site

Hello BillyHW,

I would like to encourage you to create an account on this site so that we can be sure you will be informed when there are responses to your questions. I suspect you noticed in the full study that there were quite a few charts and graphs. We did not try to grab all of them to include in this blog.

  Comment was last edited about 1 year ago by Sean Carney Sean Carney
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I believe your article misrepresents how Atkins's died. Please see:


This comment was minimized by the moderator on the site
  Marky Yvanovich
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Thank you Dr. Linda Carney!

I believe this is true, because Dr. McDougall have lots of patients cured with starch diet. I started following it 2.9 years ago. I'm eating always how much I want (mostly rice and sweet potatoes, with some vegetables), but weight stays stable. In summer, when I'm walking more and do cycling, weight is near 75kg (165 lbs) In winter time when I'm having little physical activity (3 km daily walk usually) it's bit higher, but weight gain slows and stops when it has been raised to certain level: It's currently 80 kg (176 lbs) and was month ago too.

I love starch based diet because it gives energy and good mood and I'm not tired oftenly, what It was previously. I'm 39 years old.

  Comment was last edited about 1 year ago by Sean Carney Erkki Pilving
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We are thrilled to have you here and so happy that you are seeing positive results living Starch-Smart. :-)


  Sean Carney
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