Low Carb diets are very popular these days. But considering the value and effectiveness of low carb diets, opinions vary. Indeed, you are stumbling upon discussions about this matter all over the net – especially in dedicated weight loss forums.
Numbers vary according to the source, but according to the Boston Medical Center approximately 45 million US – citizens diet each year. And roughly estimated 30 million of them are on a low carb diet like South Beach diet, Atkins diet or another low carb diet plan.
Nutritionists, diet plan authors and personal trainers supporting low carb diets emphasize, that excess carbohydrates, commonly referred to as carbs, in our diet is the key factor for many problems. The main problem is obesity – obviously – and many other health problems like diabetes. Other professionals say, obesity and related health situations is a direct consequence of eating way too much and having way too little physical activity. They also point out, that many sources of carbohydrate are also rich sources of vitamins, minerals and many other vital nutrients like folic acid and fiber.
What makes a diet successful? A successful diet enables you to lose weight permanently. And it is well known, that diets high in carbohydrates can also produce good results even in short periods of time. It is possible to create these results even in early stages of the diet without any tedious adaption phase as is claimed by some nutritionists.
In the following paragraphs we will highlight some points about low carb diets. Considering some recent studies and scientific literature we will try to demystify low carb diets and point out some aspects that help to choose the right diet.
Not all Low Carb Diets are equal! Here are some differences:
Low Carb Diet in essence means that the overall intake of carbohydrate is reduced to a certain point. This in turn means that the intake of fat and protein rises proportionally to maintain a certain level of total daily caloric intake. This is the core principle of many famous diets. What makes these diets different is the ratio of carbohydrate to protein and fat and some other subtleties.
Some low carb diets like Sugar Buster Diets just eliminate sugars and foods that cause a rise of the blood sugar level. Other low carb diets like the Zone Diet or Life Without Bread are more strict. The South Beach Diet in the first phase and the Atkins Diet are rigorous when it comes to carb intake. The Atkins Diet aims at transforming the metabolism into a ketogenic mode of operation. This means that the body burns fat rather than carbohydrates. In the usual mode of operation carbohydrates are transformed into glucose which is the main energy source for the body. In a ketogenic state the liver converts fat into fatty acids and ketone bodies. This replaces glucose as the main energy source.
Known Facts about Low Carb Diets
- There have been published studies on the effectiveness of Low Carb Diets in general and more specific about the Atkins Diet and various other diets. But nearly all of them were small, had a small sample size and wide field of research. Due to the different variations of low carb diets there is a huge variation in carbohydrate and caloric intake. But also the duration of the studies and the characteristics of the participants are quite wide-ranging. But as diverse as the studies are, most of them have two things in common: None of the studies we examined lasted longer than about three months. None of these studies researched the effectiveness of low carb diets with participants with an average age over 53.
- So findings about long term results and results about older people are meager. Also, many studies about diets do not take into account the caloric usage of participants. Often, the decision to diet also implicates modified lifestyle habits. This means working out on a regular basis for example. Or just using rather the bicycle instead of the car to go to work. This may render a study on the effectiveness of a certain diet quite useless.
- Some nutritionists and other professionals in this field claim that weight loss during a low carb diet originates from a lower calorie intake due to the dietary change and not from a low rate of carbohydrates.
- Due to the nature of the studies on this subject it is unclear, if low carb diets are safe in the long term. On the other hand, none of the participants of the known studies on low carb diets have shown any negative effects with respect to diabetes, insulin levels, blood-pressure and similar affected issues in this short periods of time. Medical professionals raise concerns and say, in these short periods of time negative effects can not show up. They say, weight loss in general improves health conditions in these areas. And this may lead to a delay of the effects induced by a diet high in protein and fat. The medical community also points out, that the levels of weight loss achieved by low carb diets and other types of diets are quite similar.
- Constipation as well as fatigue may be symptoms of starting out on a low carb diet. However, these symptoms don’t last for a long time. But one effect of many low carb diets actually is ketosis. Ketosis is known to cause confusion, regurgitation, queasiness or stomachache.
- One of many claims of supporters of low carb diets is, that on a low carb diet you can have more calories. Critics say, a calorie is a calorie – no matter what the intake may be. Although this is true, it is not a matter of how many calories your food contains. It is, how many calories your body absorbs. And with a low carb diet this should be less, supporters claim.
So, there are three main points to take into consideration:
- Low carb diets and other diets do have similar results when it comes to weight loss.
- Although low carb diets enjoy high popularity, not much is known about safety and effectiveness on a long term basis.
- With low carb diets – especially with the more strict ones – some health issues come long. Abdominal pain and other problems outlined above make it hard for many people to stay on a low carb diet until the desired effects take place.
After examining many publications on low carb diets, it is clear that more thorough long – term studies are needed. But it is safe to say that the change of the metabolism brings lots of problems along.
Many nutritionists and medical professionals agree on one thing. A diet should not be seen solely as a way to lose weight. A diet should be one piece of a new healthy way of life. Weight loss should be seen as a positive side effect.
So, how to choose a diet? Imagine how your life will be in some weeks or even months. Visualize your new way of life and think twice, if a certain diet is still a part of this life. Having said this, a well balanced diet with all important nutrients, protein, fat as well as carbohydrates and well thought-out meals may be a good choice. To lose weight, exercise is also a very important factor. It is extremely hard to seriously lose weight without some form of exercise! No matter if on a low carb diet or not…
Please feel free to add your comments below.