by: Amanda Ennett
“Carbohydrates are as bad for you as cigarettes!” The headline read. But is it true? Let us discuss.
Cigarettes are clearly bad. Aside from arsenic, lead, and tar, there are more than 7,000 chemicals in tobacco smoke. Cigarettes have been shown, without a doubt, to cause cancer of the mouth, throat, and lungs. Smoking also causes heart disease, stroke, lung diseases, diabetes, and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), which includes emphysema and chronic bronchitis. Smoking also increases risk for tuberculosis, certain eye diseases, and problems of the immune system, including rheumatoid arthritis. And, unfortunately, smoking is a known cause of erectile dysfunction in males.
Pretty bad, right? Especially because smoking is preventable. 6 million people die each year due to a death they could have prevented.
Carbohydrates are a food we eat for energy. Since populations were able to cultivate, they have been eating carbs. I think few people would argue that whole grain, non-refined carbohydrates are not the enemy. Also, fruits and vegetables. They technically contain carbs, but they also contain a host of vitally important vitamins, minerals, and phytonutrients. So maybe let’s just talk about the bastardized carbohydrates in the Western markets today. Those highly processed sugars and high glycemic foods.
In modern society food is highly processed for color, texture, and cost-effectiveness. The article that proclaimed that “carbs are the new cigarettes” specifically warned that white bread or bagels, corn flakes, and puffed rice may increase the risk of lung cancer. They stated that because these foods are high glycemic (which raise blood sugar quickly after ingestion) trigger higher levels of blood glucose and insulin. This, in turn, increases levels of a type of hormone called Insulin-Like Growth Factors (IGFs). Elevated levels of IGFs have previously been linked with a higher risk of lung cancer.
But can we say that just because they are “linked with a higher risk of lung cancer” then they are “as bad as cigarettes”? I don’t think it’s fair. Shouldn’t we warn people against other risks of eating sugary, processed white carbs? Like an increased risk for diabetes and weight-gain. Instead of scaring people away from all carbs, might we encourage them to eat a boat-load of healthy vegetables and fruits to help ward off disease?
So really, these few articles that make claim that eating carbohydrates is as bad as smoking have only looked at carb’s effects on lungs. But what about all of the other nasty side effects of smoking? There is no way that one can truthfully say that one is as bad as the other when you look at the facts.