Weighing-In On Low Carb Diets
With all of the conflicting studies and fuzzy interpretation of information, it's no wonder that confusion reigns when it comes to the value and safety of low-carb diets. It seems like heated debates are raging everywhere! Whether it's Atkins, the South Beach or some other low-carb plan, as many as 30 million Americans are following a low-carb diet.
Advocates contend that the high amount of carbohydrates in our diet has led to
increasing problems with obesity, diabetes, and other health problems. Critics, on
the other hand, attribute obesity and related health problems to over-consumption
of calories from any source, and lack of physical activity. Critics also express
concern that the lack of grains, fruits, and vegetables in low-carbohydrate diets may
lead to deficiencies of some key nutrients, including fiber, vitamin C, folic acid, and
Any diet, weather low or high in carbohydrate, can produce significant weight loss
during the initial stages of the diet. But remember, the key to successful dieting is
in being able to lose the weight permanently. Put another way, what does the scale
show a year after going off the diet?
Let's see if we can debunk some of the mystery about low-carb diets. Below, is a
listing of some relevant points taken from recent studies and scientific literature.
Please note there may be insufficient information available to answer all questions.
- Differences Between Low-Carb Diets
There are many popular diets designed to lower carbohydrate consumption.
Reducing total carbohydrate in the diet means that protein and fat will represent a
proportionately greater amount of the total caloric intake.
Atkins and Protein Power diets restrict carbohydrate to a point where the body
becomes ketogenic. Other low-carb diets like the Zone and Life Without Bread are
less restrictive. Some, like Sugar Busters claim to eliminate only sugars and foods
that elevate blood sugar levels excessively.
- What We Know about Low-Carb Diets
Almost all of the studies to date have been small with a wide variety of research
objectives. Carbohydrate, caloric intake, diet duration and participant characteristics
Most of the studies to date have two things in common: None of the studies had
participants with a mean age over 53 and none of the controlled studies lasted
longer than 90 days.
Information on older adults and long-term results are scarce.
Many diet studies fail to monitor the amount of exercise, and therefore caloric
expenditure, while participants are dieting. This helps to explain discrepancies
The weight loss on low-carb diets is a function of caloric restriction and diet
duration, and not with reduced carbohydrate intake. This finding suggests that if
you want to lose weight, you should eat fewer calories and do so over a long time
Little evidence exists on the long-range safety of low-carb diets. Despite the
medical community concerns, no short-term adverse effects have been found on
cholesterol, glucose, insulin and blood-pressure levels among participants on the
diets. But, adverse effects may not show up because of the short period of the
Researchers note that losing weight typically leads to an improvement in these
levels anyway, and this may offset an increase caused by a high fat diet. The long
range weight change for low-carb and other types of diets is similar.
Most low-carb diets cause ketosis. Some of the potential consequences are nausea,
vomiting, abdominal pain, and confusion. During the initial phase of low-carb
dieting some fatigue and constipation may be encountered. Generally, these
symptoms dissipate quickly. Ketosis may also give the breath a fruity odor,
somewhat like nail-polish remover (acetone).
Low-carb diets do not enable the consumption of more calories than other kinds of
diets, as has been often reported. A calorie is a calorie and it doesn't matter weather
they come from carbohydrates or fat. Study discrepancies are likely the result of
uncontrolled circumstances; i.e. diet participants that cheat on calorie consumption,
calories burned during exercise, or any number of other factors. The drop-out rate
for strict (i.e. less than 40 grams of CHO/day) low-carb diets is relatively high.
What Should You Do? - There are 3 important points I would like to re-emphasize:
- The long-range success rate for low-carb and other types of diets is similar.
- Despite their popularity, little information exists on the long-term efficacy and
safety of low-carbohydrate diets.
- Strict low-carb diets are usually not sustainable as a normal way of eating.
Boredom usually overcomes willpower.
It is obvious after reviewing the topic, that more, well-designed and controlled
studies are needed. There just isn't a lot of good information available, especially
concerning long-range effects. Strict low-carb diets produce ketosis which is an
abnormal and potentially stressful metabolic state. Under some circumstances this
might cause health related complications.
The diet you choose should be a blueprint for a lifetime of better eating, not just a
quick weight loss plan to reach your weight goal. If you can't see yourself eating the
prescribed foods longer than a few days or a week, then chances are it's not the
right diet. To this end, following a moderately low fat diet with a healthy balance of
fat, protein, carbohydrate and other nutrients is beneficial.
If you do decide to follow a low-carb plan, remember that certain dietary fats are
associated with reduction of disease. Foods high in unsaturated fats that are free of
trans-fatty acids such as olive oil, fish, flaxseeds, and nuts are preferred to fats
from animal origins.
Even promoters of the Atkins diet now say people on their plan should limit the
amount of red meat and saturated fat they eat. Atkins representatives are telling
health professionals that only 20 percent of a dieter's calories should come from
saturated fat (i.e. meat, cheese, butter). This change comes as Atkins faces
competition from other popular low-carb diets that call for less saturated fat, such
as the South Beach diet plan. Low-carb dieting should not be considered as a
license to gorge on red meat!
Another alternative to "strict" low-carb dieting would be to give up some of the bad
carbohydrate foods but not "throw out the baby with the bath water". In other
words, foods high in processed sugar, snacks, and white bread would be avoided,
but foods high in complex carbohydrates such as fruit, potatoes and whole grains,
Tim Robinson is the owner of Weight-Loss-Diet-Search.com
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Are you considering a low carb diet? If so you may be confused as to which low carb diet is the best. There is no easy answer for this question. Low carb diets are high in protein and very low in carbohydrates. Two of the more popular low carb diet programs are the Atkins Diet and the South Beach Diet. Deciding which one is right for you can be quite a challenge. A low carb diet is a great way to lose weight now and experience quick results. Here are brief descriptions of both the Atkins Diet and the South Beach Diet to help you in making your decision.
The Atkins Diet is probably the most well known among low carb diets. The plan
begins with a 14-day beginning period in which carbohydrates are limited to
twenty grams per day. This begins the fat-burning process. During the
fourteen-day induction period you should eat at least three cups of non-starchy
vegetables per day. In calculating the number of carbohydrate grams you are
consuming, you can deduct the fiber grams from the total carbohydrate grams. For
example, if a particular food lists 5g carbohydrates and 2g fibers, subtract the
fiber grams from the total carbohydrates, which will leave you with a total net
carb count of 3g. After the induction period, you gradually increase the amount
of carbohydrates you consume. The Atkins Diet allows you to eat almost unlimited
amounts of cheese, meat, butter, nuts, and non-starchy vegetables. There is no
need to count calories on the Atkins Diet.
The South Beach Diet is designed to promote good health, with fast weight loss
as an added bonus. The South Beach Diet is not a low carb plan or a low fat
plan. This diet consists of eating the right carbohydrates and the right types
of fats. You will not be required to counts calories or fat grams. Phase one of
this diet lasts two weeks in which you will eat meat, poultry, fish, eggs and
cheese, and olive oil. You may not consume alcohol, bread, pasta, or sugar.
Phase two of the South Beach diet is designed for continuing weight loss. You
may add moderate amounts of carbohydrates and even enjoy chocolate occasionally.
Phase 3 helps you maintain your new, healthier weight.
You will enjoy the foods you love in moderation and will be well prepared to
adhere to this healthier way of eating.
Low carb diets have produced favorable results for millions of people. You can
lose weight now and keep it off by living a low carb lifestyle.
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