Low Carb People- How to explain skinny East Asians?

I’ll put this directly in GD, since that is where it is bound to end up.

For those of you who advocate low-carb diets- how do you explain the relatively low incidence of obesity in East Asia. Now, I can only speak for China, but I can say with authority that China eats a lot of rice. At my school dining hall, every single meal, the students got a huge mound of rice. The veggies, meat, whatever, was more of a condiment or extra than the heart of the meal. The same went for family meals. People ate large amounts of simple white carbs. Alternatively, you might get a mound of noodles with a few veggies and a couple of chunks of meat in it. Still, it was by far mostly carbs.

Despite that, obesity was rare. Indeed, the only places you’d reliably see obese young people was in the larger cities where western eating habits were more common. According to the “it’s the carbs” theory, this makes no sense What’s going on?

Maybe it’s not just carbs, it’s carbs plus/minus exercise.

People in rural china do a lot more walking and/or manual labour than they would in big cities.

No doubt genetics has a part to play, but the Western low-carb diet has developed to take account of our sedentary lifestyle.

Yeah. I’m always amazed when I watch cricket coverage from India. Huge crowds, of presumably affluent people, and no-one is fat.

Well I am not a “low carb person” and know few who could be so described who would argue that it’s all the carbs - but I’ll take a stab at it anyway.

There may be more of an issue with overfat in those Asian populations than you think. Indeed obesity as defined by Western standards of BMI is pretty low, but so is muscle mass. The percent of mass that is fat and the proportion that is stored centrally (a higher risk for diabetes and other aspects of metabolic syndrome) is higher even at lower BMI levels.

Is that based on genetic predisposition or a consequence of a high carb diet? I don’t know. But it is as valid a point as that observed correlation is.

Of course without question the adoption of the more Western diet and lifestyle has exploded obesity rates there. But I’m not sure how that informs the question.

The interplay between the two, the traditional Chinese high glycemic diet and Westernization with less activity, etc., is discussed in some detail here.

I’m mostly with DSeid; there is not a simple answer why East Asians are skinny, and it’s an overgeneralization.

It’s the basics, most likely: genes and nurture in various unstudied combos.

I can tell you why we’re fat in the West though: Overeating and under-moving.

Carbs only trigger the production of fat when the total amount of Calories is in excess. You could live on sugar and rice and still be skinny if you didn’t eat 2500 Calories of it a day. (Yes; you need other nutrients to be healthy.)

The worst thing ever perpetuated on the US diet was the idea that fats are bad for you. They are, but we perpetuated this idea without pointing out that too many Calories, especially from simple sugars is equally bad. The body has no trouble making fat out of sugar. So every “low-fat” thing was typically “high-sugar”–and typically high-simple-sugar to boot–and that’s not much better.

We–I mean, The Pedant–need to eat fewer Calories, less fat, and more complex carbohydrates along with protein and more fiber. Cultures that do that have a better shot at not getting fat. We probably also need to eat slower, earlier and we need regular movement instead of 20 desperate workout minutes crammed into the day.

Finally, in addition to our culture around bad eating, and too much of it, we are obsessed with weight and diets. We go on diets and lose muscle and then put the weight back on as fat. Diet to get the weight off and lose more muscle…you get the idea.

All stuff you know, but if you want to market it as a one weird old Mom’s trick, that’s fine.

I meant to add that IMHO worsening obesity rates anywhere is not so much to be blamed on the West (highly popular concept though it be for any of the world’s ills) as it is on Plenty.

The human body prefers Lotsa Sweet Fat to all else and this is quite a good idea when food is scarce, storing up Calories for lean times. When lean times never come, you just get fat.

It’s not the “Western Diet” fattening up them Chinese (see DSeid’s ref*). It’s just that the West invented Plenty and Lackamotion first. Now that it’s coming to East Asia, it turns out they preferred a “Western Diet” and Relaxation all along. They just forgot to invent Plenty of What You Crave, and Plenty Inactive, before we did.

**" Additionally, the influx of Western diets rich in saturated fats and high-glycemic sugar-sweetened beverages also threaten the health of the population." *

Some good points CP, and I like your copyrighted phrase of “Plenty and Lackamotion”, but I’m not so sure the West invented it so much as mass marketed it to even the poor of the society like never before.

My take on it is that low carb is one way to lose weight, but it only works for some of the population.

I agree with Chief Pedant up there. Remember the old days? Back in the fifities and sixties a diet plate was a hamburger without a bun and a scoop of full-fat cottage cheese on a lettuce leaf. People weren’t fat back then, at least in general. Sure, we drank too much and smoked too much, but that’s a different issue.

Sometime in the seventies someone got the idea that since carbo-loading was good for endurance athletes it was good for everyone. The problem was said to be fat. All of a sudden it didn’t matter if you ate bread, as long as you left the butter off it. Baked potatoes were fine; just use low-fat sour cream. People who did nothing more strenuous than walking from the car to the mall loaded up on pasta like a marathon runner. I think the results speak for themselves.

You need fat and protein in your diet. Carbohydrates are not a necessity.

And the men immortalized in the Old Testament lived to be 900 years old. I don’t know that we can assume ancient art was representative. :slight_smile:

Maybe the occasional high ruler was fat, if he or she could dominate enough people into supporting him or her, and fat became an artistic ideal, symbolizing a god-king or -queen.

Losing weight is really very different than maintaining weight. To lose weight in a sustained fashion, you have to maintain a consistent calorie deficit. That’s not a normal thing to do, and your body will fight it, in the same way your body fights holding your head underwater. Persistent, grinding hunger is hard to live with, and is the reason many diets are unsuccessful. For some people, low-carb diets seems to curb appetite better than higher carb diets, so they are more likely to maintain a caloric deficit for longer. I’m not an Adkins person, but I do find I get significantly less hungry when I get more (like 40%) of my calories from protein. On the other hand, fat seems to sate some people and it doesn’t sate me at all. I can eat rich things forever. So YMMV.

Furthermore, fat cells produce hormones that interfere with insulin in ways that, near as I can tell, we are just beginning to understand. An overweight person may have very different physical reactions to a carb-heavy meal than someone in the normal range.

Complex carbohydrates with a low glycemic index break down slowly in your digestive system and are the good carbs. The bad carbs are the refined carbs that break down quickly, leaving a flood of insulin in your body signalling you to consume more.

I don’t know what kind of rice the typical Chinese person is consuming, but if it’s not all instant rice then most of what they’re eating is probably somewhere in the middle of the glycemic index. Beans, legumes, and veggies all generally have low GIs.

Well first I wouldn’t assume everyone watching cricket in India is affluent. And second, at the game I went to in Bangalore, there were fat people (even apart from myself). Certainly not as many as you would see at a baseball game, but not everyone was a skinny person.

Yeah, presumably obesity in such times was an ostentatious display of wealth and status akin to owning a Bugatti Veron,

I’ve read that Americans eat many, many more pounds of sugar annually than Asian countries. Once Japanese people move to the US, their diet stays fairly similar to before, except for a huge increase in sugar. This is likely why their blood pressure, heart disease, and cancer rates increase once they move here. This would also help account for why Americans have a much higher rate of obesity.

Well, we sure weren’t the first to have fatties, but I’ve always thought what we in the West did well is provide essentially unlimited Calories (and crummy Calories, because we crave sweet fat as humans) to a large part of the population–almost all of them in fact. Plus we got good at not having to walk around or do a lot of physical labor, and so on.

In the olden days, you hadda be rich to eat all you want of whatever you wanted and you hadda be rich to have peeps doing your stuff. So obesity was a sign of affluence and power (I think; perhaps I have this all wrong). And I think in some societies a few more robust curves on women might have been interpreted as a better shot at fertility since to be obese she must be successful.

I don’t want to claim credit for the West inventing obesity, but rather for the West inventing widespread Plenty for All, along with Couches and TV as an optional lifestyle for all. IOW China’s worsening of its obesity reflects its growing wealth more than its poisoning by the West. Given an option, the option to eat a lot of sweet fat and lie around digesting it turns out to be surprisingly popular in any culture.