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Low-Carb Dieting: Information, Results and Risks

  • Synopsis: Published: 2014-09-09 - Information on starting a diet low in carbohydrates by emphasizing dietary protein and fat intake and lowering body insulin levels - Thomas C. Weiss (Disabled World).

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Quote: "Some low-carb diets say their eating plans may prevent or even improve serious health conditions such as diabetes, metabolic syndrome, cardiovascular disease or high blood pressure."

A diet low in carbohydrates or, "low-carb diet," limits items such as starchy vegetables, fruit and grains while emphasizing dietary protein and fat.

A number of types of low-carb diets exist and each has varying restrictions on the types and amounts of carbohydrates a person can eat. A low-carb diet is generally used to lose weight. Some low-carb diets say they have health benefits beyond weight loss, such as reducing risk factors associated with certain forms of cancer, heart disease and metabolic syndrome. A person may choose to follow a low-carb diet because they:

  • Desire to change their overall eating habits
  • Want a diet that restricts certain carbs to lose weight
  • Enjoy the types and amounts of foods featured in low-carb diets

Bear in mind that it is important to consult a doctor or health care provider before starting a weight-loss diet, particularly if you experience any form of health condition, to include diabetes. As the name suggests, a low-carb diet restricts the amount of carbohydrates a person may eat. Carbohydrates are a type of macro-nutrient found in many foods and beverages. The majority of carbohydrates occur naturally in plant-based foods such as grains. Food manufacturers also add carbohydrates to processed foods in the form of added sugar or starch. Common food sources of naturally occurring carbohydrates include the following:

  • Milk
  • Nuts
  • Fruits
  • Seeds
  • Grains
  • Legumes
  • Vegetables

A person's body uses carbohydrates as its main fuel source. Starches and sugars are broken down into simple sugars during digestion. They are then absorbed into a person's bloodstream, where they are known as, 'blood sugar,' or, 'glucose.' From there, the glucose enters the cells in a person's body with the help of insulin. Some of this glucose is used by the person's body for energy, fueling all of their activities. Extra glucose is stored in a person's liver, muscles and other cells for use at a later time, or is converted to fat.

The theory behind the low-carb diet is that insulin prevents fat breakdown in a person's body by allowing sugar to be used for energy. Supporters of the low-carb diet believe that decreasing carbs results in lower insulin levels, something that causes a person's body to burn stored fat for energy and ends up helping them to lose excess weight while reducing risk factors for a number of health conditions.

A General Low-Carb Diet

In general, a low-carb diet concentrates on proteins to include poultry, meat, eggs and fish, as well as some non-starchy vegetables. A low-carb diet usually limits or excludes most beans, grains, breads, fruits, pastas, sweets and starchy vegetables and sometimes seeds and nuts. Some low-carb diet plans allow certain vegetables, fruits and whole grains. A daily limit of 50-150 grams of carbohydrates is common with a low-carb diet. Some low-carb diets greatly restrict carbs during the beginning phase of the diet and then gradually increase the number of carbs a person is allowed.

The Results of a Low-Carb Diet

The majority of people can lose weight on nearly any diet plan that restricts calories and what a person can eat; at least over the short term. Over the long term, studies have shown that it is common to regain the weight a person has lost, regardless of the particular diet they have followed. Some studies have also shown that people who continue to follow certain low-carb diet plans for two years lost an average of around nine pounds, which is similar to the amount of weight lost on higher carbohydrate diets. It may not be simply cutting carbs that leads to weight loss. Some studies have shown that a person may lose some weight because they eat less on low-carb diets because additional protein and fat keep them feeling full for a longer period of time.

Some low-carb diets say their eating plans may prevent or even improve serious health conditions such as diabetes, metabolic syndrome, cardiovascular disease or high blood pressure. The fact is - nearly any diet that helps a person to lose excess weight can reduce or even reverse risk factors for diabetes and cardiovascular disease. The majority of weight-loss diets, not only low-carb diets, might improve a person's blood sugar or cholesterol levels; at least on a temporary basis.

Low-carb diets may improve HDL cholesterol and triglyceride values a bit more than moderate-carb diets. It might not only be how many carbs a person eats, but also the kinds of carbs they eat that are important to their health. Legumes, whole grains, fruits, vegetables and low-fat dairy products for example, are usually healthier than carbs from sweets or processed and refined grains such as white bread, potato chips or white rice.

Risks Associated with a Low-Carb Diet

Pursuit of a low-carb diet comes with certain risks. If a person suddenly and drastically cuts carbs, they might experience a number of temporary health effects. These health effects include the following:

  • Fatigue
  • Dizziness
  • Weakness
  • Headache
  • Constipation

Some diets restrict a person's carbohydrate intake so much that they may result in nutritional deficiencies, or insufficient fiber. The result may be health issues such as diarrhea, constipation and nausea. Eating carbs that are high in fiber, whole grains and nutrient dense may improve the health profile of some low-carb diet programs. Some low-carb diets now recommend taking small amounts of extra salt, as well as vitamins or supplements, in order to prevent diet side-effects.

It is also possible that severely restricting carbohydrates to less than twenty grams per day may result in, 'ketosis.' Ketosis happens when a person does not have enough sugar for energy, so their body breaks down stored fat, causing ketones to build up in their body. Side-effects from ketosis can include headache, nausea, bad breath and mental fatigue. It is not clear what kind of potential long-term health risks a low-carb diet might present because most research studies have lasted less than one year. Some health experts believe that if a person eats large amounts of protein and fat from animal sources, their risk of certain forms of cancer or heart disease might increase.

Low-Fat Diets Compared to Low-Carb Ones

Over a period of time, a number of different types of diets have been popular - to include low-fat and low-carb diets. Several years ago, low-fat diets were the, 'in-thing.' In more recent years, low-carb diets have been popular, promising people effortless weight loss and the ability to eat all the high-fat foods a person could want. Low-fat usually means high-carb, but does not always mean low-calorie if a person eats too many carbs, especially processed carbs that are more concentrated in calories.

In comparison, low-carb diets usually mean high-fat. Many people who have tried this type of diet are aware it can be hard to continue for an extended period of time because a lot of good tasting fruit and additional carbohydrates are, 'off limits,' and high-fat treats do get a little old after a while. The most important factor related to weight loss is not low-fat or low-carb, it is calories. Either type of diet might lead to weight loss if a person's total calorie intake is low.

A number of studies compared weight loss with these two types of diets. Generally, low-carb diets may result in a bit more weight loss in the first three to six months. After one to two years - there is not much of a difference. What is interesting is that the amount of weight loss varies greatly among people following either one of these diets. Which type of diet a person chooses may matter less than whether they stick to the diet they have chosen.

Another important factor is the, 'healthfulness,' of the diet. Both of these diets could be either healthy or unhealthy, depending upon the types of carbohydrates and fats a person eats. Additional things that might influence how long a diet is followed by someone include taste, satiety and practicality.

Related Information:

  1. Special Diets for Health Conditions and Allergies
    /fitness/diets/special/
  2. How to Lose Body Fat Fast - Targeted Weight Loss Solutions - Daniel Murray - (2013-05-31)
    https://www.disabled-world.com/fitness/diets/bodyfat/body-weight.php
  3. Weight Loss Planning Calculator for Women and Men - Disabled World - (2010-12-26)
    https://www.disabled-world.com/calculators-charts/weight-plan-calculator.php


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