Obesity Fad Diets Low Carb

Low carb diets were the diet fad of choice during the 1990s, and they remain one of the most popular weight loss diets available. A low carb diet focuses on restricting carbohydrates while eating protein and fat.

If you’re looking for diets that work, you may be considering just eating low carb foods. Although this may result in temporary weight loss, long-term effectiveness of carb restriction is a matter of debate.

Low Carb Diet Origins

Low carb diets became prevalent with the Atkins Diet®, named for its creator, the late Robert Atkins. The basic premise behind the Atkins Diet® is as follows.

Carbohydrates are a primary source of energy, which the body converts into sugar. Insulin moves blood sugar into body’s cells to provide energy. As blood sugar levels rise, so do insulin levels.

Low carb diet advocates believe that insulin prevents fats from breaking down because blood sugar is available as an energy source. In theory, restricting carbs lowers blood sugar, which lowers insulin levels. To compensate for lower blood sugar, the body burns stored fat for energy, or so the theory goes.

How Low Carb Diets Work

Some evidence suggests that insulin levels don’t influence low carb diets. A number of factors combine to promote weight loss when eating low carb foods, including:

  • Feeling full: Proteins and fat take longer to digest than carbohydrates, so low carb food may leave people feeling full for longer after eating.
  • Loss of fluids: Low carb diets produce a diuretic effect. Loss of fluids does result in weight loss, but any lost fluid is replenished quickly at the diet’s end.
  • Reduction in calories: Low carb foods are very restrictive, leading many people on low carb diets to eat less.

Low Carb Diets and Ketosis

A low carb diet can also cause ketosis, a condition in which nutrients come primarily from fats. Ketosis occurs during starvation as well as during high fat or low carb diets and is the result of improper fat metabolism breakdown.

Ketosis results in the buildup of waste products called ketones in the blood, which can cause nausea, vomiting and breath that smells somewhat like nail polish.

Ketosis can also suppress appetite. In low carb diets that work, ketosis occurs while fats and protein provide sufficient nutrients. Severe ketosis, however, is a medical emergency.

Health Concerns and Low Carb Diets

Long-term use of a low carb diet could result in heart disease if high levels of saturated fat are consumed. Improvements in blood cholesterol and the body’s use of insulin have been documented in people on low carb diets. It’s unclear, however, if these positive changes are from eating low carb foods, or simply from weight loss.

Diabetics should be especially careful when considering low carb diets, as high protein diets can worsen diabetic kidney disease.

Low carb diets can work as temporary weight loss diets. The restrictive nature of low carb diets results in many people abandoning the diet, and any weight lost tends to return when normal eating habits recommence.

Resources

Barrett, S. (2008). Low-carbohydrate diets. Retrieved May 25, 2010, from http://www.quackwatch.org/06ResearchProjects/lcd.html.

Center for Young Women’s Health. (2009). Low-carb diet facts. Retrieved May 25, 2010, from http://www.youngwomenshealth.org/low_carb.html.

Every Diet. (2010). Low carb diets. Retrieved May 25, 2010, from http://www.everydiet.org/diet/low-carb-diets.

Mayo Clinic. (2010). Low-carb diet. Retrieved May 25, 2010, from http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/low-carb-diet/nu00279.

Wrong Diagnosis. (2010). Ketosis. Retrieved May 27, 2010, from http://www.wrongdiagnosis.com/medical/ketosis.htm.