Carbohydrates are the latest nutrient to be blamed for the rising incidence of obesity in this country. Tired of playing the low-fat game only to see our belt sizes increase, Americans have looked for other macronutrients as the reason behind their growing waists. And they have often found at least short term weight loss success following such high-protein, low-carb diets as the Atkins and South Beach. Fueled by this success, restaurants and food companies have found ways to market just about everything from beer to bagels as being low in carbs. Are carbohydrates really that bad for us, or is this low-carb craze just another ill-fated curve ball?
Carbohydrates and their role in obesity will be the topic of the opening session of this year’s annual Lillian Fountain Smith Conference June 10 and 11 in Fort Collins. Chris Melby, professor and head the Department of Food Science and Human Nutrition at Colorado State University, will open the conference with a talk titled, "Carbohydrates: The New Cause of Obesity?" His presentation will focus on issues of body weight regulation and health related to high- and low-carbohydrate diets. He will explain how high-carbohydrate, high-calorie diets lead to rapid fat storage and also will talk about some of the long-term negative consequences to health associated with following low-carbohydrate, high-fat diets.
Next, Michael Pagliassotti, professor of nutrition at Colorado State University and Lillian Fountain Smith Endowed Chair, will discuss the role of refined sugars, particularly sucrose and fructose, in the rising incidence of obesity and type 2 diabetes. The causes of obesity and type 2 diabetes are complex but clearly include such factors as exercise and dietary patterns. Recent data suggest that a high intake of refined carbohydrates may increase the risk of insulin resistance. Currently, Americans consume some 318 calories per day as added sweeteners, accounting for 16 percent of total calories. Over the past 30 years, high fructose corn syrup has gradually replace sucrose (sugar) and other simple sugars as the sweetener of choice in soft drinks and other sweetened beverages. Currently, 40 percent of all added caloric sweeteners are in the form of high fructose corn syrup. This change in the type of sweetener used has paralleled the rise in obesity and type 2 diabetes, and at least one study and one recent review have suggested that the overconsumption of high fructose corn syrup in calorically sweetened beverages may play a role in the epidemic of obesity. Other studies have failed to show a relationship, and the debate surrounding the issue will be discussed in detail by Pagliassotti.
The afternoon session on June 10 will focus on Rebuilding the Food Guide Pyramid. Patricia Britten, a nutritionist with the USDA Center of Nutrition Policy and Promotion in Washington, D.C., will discuss the scientific foundation of the Food Guide Pyramid, and Susan Krebs-Smith with the National Cancer Institute in Bethesda, Md., will talk about ways to address today’s health issues using the Food Guide Pyramid.
The two-day Smith Conference, open to the public, is sponsored by the Department of Food Science and Human Nutrition at Colorado State University. The conference will be held at the Fort Collins Marriott Hotel. Registration is $95 for both days and $50 for one day.
For more information, contact Pam Blue at (970) 491-7435 or check out the conference Web site at www.cahs.colostate.edu/fshn/LFSC/.
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by Pat Kendall, Ph.D., R.D., Food Science and Human Nutrition Specialist, Colorado State University, Cooperative Extension