It also rivaled what experts had told us in the past about the advantages of low-fat dieting. The end result explained that low-fat dieting might cause weight gain, while a low-carb diet will remove it. But at what cost?
Does limiting your carbohydrate intake really contribute to weight loss, and if so, why? Do all the experts agree with the diet, or is there opposition? Are there any nutritional risks with this type of dieting? Let’s take a closer look.
Although there are many low-carbohydrate diets, each professing to be better than the next, there is a unified opinion involved. In simplicity, experts agree that carbohydrates in excess “is the underlying cause of obesity.”
Furthermore, evidence supports the fact that an overindulgence in carbohydrates will lead to an overproduction of insulin, which in turn leads to an excess of body fat.
To understand the function of insulin in the body, author Laura Richards explains it has three primary roles. The first function is to assist the body’s cells in receiving glucose to maintain “biological functions.”
The second function of insulin is to keep the blood sugar balanced, and the third is that it aids in the storage of body fat. The process begins when carbohydrates are eaten.
It is realistic to say, and as Laura Richards concludes, “the greater the amount of carbohydrates we eat, the greater the amount of insulin we produce and the greater the amount of body fat we create.”
A further problem occurs inside the body when high insulin levels are present. A hormone produced by the pancreas, known as glucagon, will actually break down body fat.
There is a catch, of course. The pancreas will not release glucagon, or will only release it in small amounts if there is a continuous supply of glucose or insulin in the blood supply.
The ideal low-carb diet then theoretically lowers carbohydrate intake, which will reduce the insulin level and allow glucagon to be released, thus breaking down one’s excess body fat.
Most of the diets on the market agree that exercise is a benefit to any diet. Plenty of water is also necessary, and most diets recommend a minimum of eight 8-oz glasses for proper cell function. Each diet offers a guideline to what foods to restrict, and what others to include.
For instance, Dr. Atkins recommends not using caffeine because it may induce high levels of insulin.
Ray Audette, the creator of the Neanderthin Diet, has his own “forbidden foods list” that includes sugar, beans, dairy, and grains. It is up to the dieter to decide which diet fits his needs and body type.
What to Expect
Each person will lose weight in his or her own way. “For the most part, average reduced carbohydrate dieters can expect to lose no more than one to two pounds per week, or about 0.5 to 1 percent of their total body weight per week.”
Interestingly, the Atkins diet starts off by restricting carbohydrates for fourteen days, and is known as the “Induction diet.”
Dieters are restricted to merely 20 grams of carbs a day, which really isn’t much.
“The goal of the induction phase is to quickly break carbohydrate addiction and interrupt the destructive cycle of excess insulin production.”
Amanda Pearson lost fifteen pounds in the first fourteen days on the Atkins diet. She explained that the weight loss was encouraging, and that she needed to make many changes to what she ate.
For instance, she switched to decaffeinated coffee and turned to Stevia, a natural sugar supplement, as an alternative to white sugar.
Aside from dropping a size or two in her clothes, Amanda reported that the only side effect she experienced was hair loss, which she attributed to the accelerated weight loss.
Everyone will react differently to a low-carb diet, but there are some setbacks to watch out for. Dieters experience periods of increased hunger and strong carbohydrate cravings. This can often work against those trying to maintain their diet.
Another setback of low- carb dieting is the use and support of artificial sugars, like NutraSweet, Aspartame, and Sorbital, which have been known to cause health problems. Also, those who have an under-active thyroid gland may experience slow weight loss, regardless of the method chosen.
A 2003 report released by the UK’s Food Standards Agency (FSA) stated: “These diets [low-carb] usually involve cutting out starchy foods altogether. It’s a common misconception that starchy foods are fattening- actually they contain less than half the calories of fat. And starchy foods are an essential part of a healthy balanced diet.”
The report details the fact that by cutting out starchy food, a wide range of nutrients can be missed out on.
In addition the report states, “Low-carbohydrate diets also restrict the amount of fruits and vegetables you eat, while these foods provide lots of different vitamins and minerals, as well as fiber, which are vital for good health.”
It is advised by the FSA that “eating plenty of fruits and vegetables can help prevent heart disease and some types of cancer.”
“Low carbohydrate diets tend to be high in fat, too, and eating a diet that is high in fat (especially saturated fat from foods such as meat, cheese, butter, and cakes) could increase your chances of developing coronary heart disease. High-fat diets are also associated with obesity.”
Although there seem to be many immediate benefits to the low-carb diet, there may be long-term health risks.
In the end, the key is balance. Eat a well-rounded nutritional diet, drink plenty of water, exercise, and get a proper amount of sleep.
This article was first published in 2001 and is currently republished for importance.
- Richards, Laura. The Secret To Low Carb Success! (New York: Kensington Books, 2001), 21.
- Richards, 25.
- Richards, 112.
- Food Standards Agency.