Despite intensive research, the causes of the current obesity epidemic remain obscure. When it comes to body weight, the calorie intake minus the calorie expenditure equals the calorie stored. The more you eat and the more sedentary you are, the more weight you gain.

If this model is right, the simple solution would be to exert willpower and eat less. However, the problem is that this advice doesn’t work, at least for most people in the long run. Conventional calorie-restricted diets fail to provide a sustainable solution for weight loss.

More people are obese than ever in spite of the incessant focus on calorie balance. But, what if we are confused about the exact root of the problem?

In this article, know that overeating does not cause you to get fat, but the process of getting fatter causes you to overeat and learn all about the carbohydrate-insulin model of obesity.

What is Carbohydrate-Insulin Model of Obesity or CIM?

According to Dr. David Ludwig a pioneer of this model, the processed carbohydrates that flooded our diet during the low-fat diet craze deteriorates your metabolism and accelerates weight gain.

This is because the high glycemic load of carbohydrates stimulates hormonal changes that promote deposition of calories in the adipose tissue, exacerbate hunger and lower energy expenditure.

Here’s how eating too many carbs can put in you a vicious path towards obesity:

Step 1: Processed carbohydrates in the form of white bread, white rice, potato, junk food, low-fat snacks, pastries lead to overproduction of Insulin more than any other food.

Step 2: Insulin is like the miracle-grow for your fat cells. As a result, too much insulin in the body leads to excessive storage of fat.

Step 3: When too many calories that you consume get locked away in fat cells, there is not enough calories to supply the needs of the brain and other organs. The brain signals the body to increase calorie intake and save energy. This makes us hungry and overeat. To make it worse, it slows down metabolism drastically, further accelerating weight gain.

To put it simply:

Conventional View of Obesity –  Overeating > Increased Energy Intake and Lower Energy Expenditure > Circulating Metabolic Fuels of Glucose and Lipids > Fat Storage

CIM – Dietary Carbohydrate > Insulin Secretion > Fat Storage >  Circulating Metabolic Fuels of Glucose and Lipids > Increased Energy Intake and Lower Energy Expenditure > Overeating

If the conventional view is right, you need to maintain a calorie balance outlook by adjusting your calories and indulge in calorie counting. But it seldom works in the long term and has only contributed to the rise of obesity.

On the other hand, the CIM view emphasizes lowering insulin secretion with a low carbohydrate/high fat/moderate protein intake along with other supportive lifestyle measures. Calorie balance will then automatically adjust with reduced hunger, greater satiety and faster rate of metabolism.

The Role of Glycemic Load in Your Diet

Assessing the glycemic index of GI of the food will help you understand whether that food will cause an immediate spike in blood sugar levels. But, a better indicator of the amount of carbohydrate in a serving of food is the Glycemic Load.

For example, watermelon is said to have a high GI of 72, yet a low Glycemic Load of 7.21. What this means is that while the high GI of watermelon is based generally on 5 cups of watermelon, the glycemic load is based on a single serving of watermelon which does not have many carbs. The same goes for carrots. That said, juicing carrots or watermelon will have a greater impact on blood sugar than having a single serving.

Paying attention to both the GI and glycemic load indicators is crucial to keep insulin levels under control. In addition, a food high in GI and glycemic load can have far-reaching effects on the brain triggering the same brain mechanism tied to substance addiction.

A study was undertaken by David Ludwig, MD, Ph.D., Director of the New Balance Foundation Obesity Prevention Center at Boston Children’s Hospital, found that consuming highly processed, rapidly digested carbohydrates can cause excess hunger and stimulate brain regions involved in reward and cravings.

Low Carb and Low Glycemic Load Diet Can Prevent Obesity

As seen, excessive secretion of insulin is the prime cause of obesity and the glycemic load of your diet is to blame for weight loss issues. This new Carbohydrate-Insulin model transcends the traditional calorie restriction theory. In support of this theory, a long study was undertaken by Boston Children’s Hospital in partnership with Framingham State University.

In this study, a total of 234 overweight people were enlisted and put on an initial weight loss programme for about 10 weeks to bring them to an initial point. Out of these 164 successfully lost weight and continued into the maintenance phase.

In this phase, they were randomized to follow high-, moderate- or low-carbohydrate diets for an additional 20 weeks — with carbs comprising 60, 40 and 20 percent of total calories, respectively. The goal during this phase was to compare the rate of energy expenditure or the number of calories burned at the same weight.

Over the course of 20 weeks, total energy expenditure was significantly greater on the low carb vs the high carb diet. Also, ghrelin a hormone that controls your appetite was lower on the low carb diet.

All of these suggest that low-carb diets can aid weight loss and be a sustainable solution to help you manage your calories efficiently.

Basic Principles of Low Carb Diets

Based on the CIM, there are six basic dietary recommendations:

  • Reduce High Glycemic Load carbohydrates
  • Emphasize Low Glycemic Load carbs such as nonstarchy vegetables and nontropical whole fruits
  • When consuming grains, choose whole kernel or traditionally processed alternatives
  • Increase Nuts, seeds, avocado, olive oil, and other healthy high-fat foods
  • Maintain an adequate, not high intake of protein
  • Replace healthy fat for carbohydrate to provide the greatest benefit, for metabolic syndrome or type 2 diabetes

Closing Thought

The Carbohydrate-Insulin Model of Obesity has led to the novel idea that not all calories are alike. There are good calories and bad calories. Limiting bad calories in the form of processed carbohydrates is the most effective solution to tackle obesity, weight loss, and chronic diseases.

A leading obesity researcher Julius Bauer stated that “The current energy theory of obesity which only considers an imbalance between intake of food and expenditure of energy is unsatisfactory. Increased appetite with a subsequent imbalance between intake and output of energy is the consequence of storage of fat in tissues rather than the cause of obesity”.  


Solving the Weight Loss Puzzle: Understanding the Role of BMR, Body’s Set Weight, and Insulin


Sustainable Weight Loss : Ten Guiding Principles


High Insulin Is Responsible For Many Chronic Conditions