Low-Carb Baby Trial (n=1)

Isabelle is one year old now and thriving. She has pretty much stopped breast feeding but still gets a little formula. She gets a varied diet of foods high in protein and fat along with lots of non-starchy vegetables, all of which she eats with gusto. Her breakfasts now are gently scrambled egg with spinach puree, kind of a baby version of eggs florentine. She drinks water, mainly, but still likes to sample our beverages at the dinner table. Apart from some formula, she never gets any liquid sugars as juice or otherwise, something I would recommend to anyone whether they are doing low-carb or not. When she was born she was a tiny bit below the 50th percentile for height and weight. Within a few months she began to climb up the growth chart to the point where she is now at the 95th percentile for both height and weight. She is very active, crawls like a bullet and pulls herself up on the furniture and walks while holding onto things. She took her first unassisted steps these last couple of days. Lots of talking, too, but in a language in which we are not fluent. It is fun to witness the emerging personality. She is definitely a go-getter. When Alex was very young his first vocalizations were little sing-song syllables like “daa-daa-ah”. Isabelle’s are more like the sound of a revving motorcycle, “rrrrrRRRR, rrrrrRRRR, rrrrrRRRR”. She has us in stitches when she does that. At the same time she has a sweetness that melts your heart. One smile and her daddy is reduced to a puddle. She adores her brother and lights up whenever he enters the room. Even the cat gets little hugs and gentle touches now that Isabelle is mobile enough to catch her.

She is certainly not demonstrating any adverse effects from a diet devoid of sugar and starch. Perhaps the most interesting development is her position on the growth curve since Alex, Anne and I are all of average height. I have warned Alex to be very nice to her as she is going to be in a position to kick his butt before long. He is actually a very good big brother, gentle and caring.

The other thing we notice is that Isabelle has never had any rashes or illness except for one bout of a very mild malaise with a slight fever a few months back. No rashes at all. I remember Alex used to get yeast rashes and all the usual respiratory infections. In fact, we all seem to be avoiding these things since we started eating low-carb. In the high-carb past, I always succumbed to one or two major colds every year. Now, when these things are in the community, I might experience a day or two of mild sniffles but nothing more. Same for Anne. The other thing I have noticed is that I never get cold sores anymore, either. I used to get them pretty reliably when I went skiing. The UV light at high altitude seemed to trigger it and I would get a few bouts every winter. Now it happens very rarely and, when it does, the sores are mild and resolve quickly. There is definitely an immune system benefit from low-carb that needs to be further explored in the research.

Similarly, I can’t remember the last time Alex had a cold. I think he missed one day of school last year and none the year before. He is a very sturdy little boy with lots of energy. He is good-natured with never any acting-out or discipline issues, at home or at school. He does well academically and has developed close friendships with other boys his age, all of whom we approve of. There are never any outbursts of temper or whining. Anne and I often talk about how blessed we are in this respect. Physically, he is slender like little boys are supposed to be with good muscle development and definition. His skin glows and his eyes are bright. Anne thinks he will be Hugo Boss model material when he gets older but I suspect all moms think that way. I really think the absence of sugar and highly refined carbs from his diet is a major factor in his robust health and well-being. He eats more carbs than the rest of us but there is no sugar in our household and the carbs he does eat are the less-refined types. For instance, for breakfast he will have a one-egg omelette (because one egg is un oeuf) with a piece of whole wheat toast covered in almond butter. Water is his preferred drink. Our biggest challenge with him is when he is outside our home, of course. Everywhere you go people are pushing sugary things. When he is surrounded by his little buddies who are all indulging, it is hard for him not to indulge, too. At his soccer game yesterday, they handed out cartons of some kind of juice-like abomination during half-time and I noticed he drank some. He felt crappy when he got home and spent the rest of the afternoon lying on the sofa. I don’t think he will do that again.

Okay, I am sure these musings about kids and low-carb are of limited general interest. I will, nevertheless, keep you updated on progress in this modest clinical trial of mine. In the meantime, everyone, and I mean everyone, needs to work together to get the sugar and particularly the liquid sugar out of our kids’ food supply. I challenge anyone to show me a shred of evidence to suggest this is not a good idea.

4 thoughts on “Low-Carb Baby Trial (n=1)

  1. Your children are so fortunate. I regret so much that I bought into the low-fat fallacy when my own were growing-up. We all really suffered from that error of judgement. (But my physician ex-husband believed the Ornishes, et. al. and they were doctors..surely they knew best. I can’t help but feel animosity for Dean Ornish with his latest stunt since he was one of the “experts” that were responsible for nearly destroying the health of my entire family. On a side note, my children’s father still buys into low-fat nonsense and the kids report that he breakfasts on m&ms and Sunny D. His health has been spectacularly horrible and he is beginnng to show serious cognitive impairment at age 59. He is not currently a practicing physician)
    Fortunately, we all have changed our nutritional approaches, and are reversing the damages. My daughter has still not completely accepted that she is extremely insulin-resistant and allows herself to indulge, but she does much better than most 20-somethings. She has managed to maintain most of her 150 weight loss. I’ve mentioned my son who is the low-carb guru at his Whole Foods store and eats an incredibly healthy diet.
    Well, I can’t go back and undo what is done, but I continue to speak out for low-sugar, low-grain lifestyles. Now, if I can by example convince my partner’s daughter-in-law that she doesn’t need to feed her family a low-fat diet. Sighing again.

  2. It goes on…My local news channel tonight had a report on the “5 Worst Fad Diets.” I was shocked that the number one “FAD DIET” was Atkins. The reporter said “who ever believed that an all bacon diet was healthy.”
    I’m not sure where the original story was printed. The local coverage appeared to be reporting on stories seen “on the web.”
    Really discouraging.

  3. Hi,

    I love your blog and was just given the link to it today.

    We eat low processed foods in my house and try to eat lower carb. My 20 mo daughter has never had refined grain / sugar products and she is tall, slim, very strong and active, and smart as a whip. (Not bad for such a complicated pregnancy with diabetes, appendicitis and hypothyroid). Sounds like an older version of your Isabel. You are in for so much fun!

    My sisters have also recently gone no grain and feeling so much better on it.

    I am very interested in low carb during pregnancy. I want to minimise insulin doses and believe refined carbs and grains are not good for health.

    What would you consider as low carb for pregnancy? Particularly considering I am diabetic and on insulin. How can I reassure my doctor regarding ketosis. She was very concerned that I am losing weight on this very strict diet.

    Hope it is ok for me to ask such questions here. If not, please ignore.

    Thanks so much, I look forward to learning much more.

    Dr Jay’s Reply:

    My Isabelle is thriving, too. She was born at just under the 50th percentile for both height and weight. She is now at the 95th percentile for both! She is very active and very bright, too.

    You do not mention whether you are a type 2 or type 1 diabetic. If you are type 1, you are at risk for ketoacidosis if you are not getting enough insulin and this can be a serious problem. I am not an expert in managing type 1 diabetes on low-carb but I believe that Dr. Richard K. Bernstein is a credible source on how to do this. I have a link to his website posted here.

    For type 2 diabetics in general, it appears to me that carb restriction delivers great benefits. How low you need to go depends on how severe is your insulin resistance. I am currently recommending the new Atkins book as the best guide. If you are on insulin, blood sugars have to be carefully monitored as you will need to sharply reduce the dosages and possibly discontinue it altogether if you are really compliant with the diet. There is nothing to fear from physiologic ketosis, unlike ketoacidosis. My wife was eating less than 50 g per day during her recent pregnancy and we have a healthy, happy baby. My wife did not have blood sugar issues or other health problems, however.

    I looked at low-carb from the baby’s perspective. It would mean normal glucose, low to normal insulin, physiological ketosis and no exposure to fructose. None of those things appeared to me to be harmful during gestation.

    Since you are under the care of a physician, I would suggest you work with your doctor to educate her about low-carb and to obtain her support in helping you manage a lower-carb approach to your diabetes. While weight loss during pregnancy can be a signal of gestational problems, I don’t think that, if you have excess weight, a little weight loss while pregnant as a result of carb restriction is necessarily a bad thing. I hope you and your doctor can arrive at management plan that allows you to restrict carbs for your diabetes and to maintain a healthy pregnancy at the same time. I don’t see these as incompatible. Good luck!

  4. What you are living and striving for is an example of perfect health. — It is both you and your child, congratulations! — What you are doing is perfect and the whole world should be doing the same thing and following in your footsteps.

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