Low-carbohydrate diets for weight loss are receiving a lot of attention of late. Meanwhile, reasons for this interest include a plethora of low-carbohydrate diet books.
Also because of the over-sensationalism of these diets in the media and by celebrities. Along with the promotion of these diets in fitness centers and health clubs
You might be knowing a lot about a low carbohydrate diet. There are a lot many papers saying benefits of it in weight loss, heart disease, and many more.
While short-term carbohydrate restriction can result in a significant loss of weight (mostly from water and glycogen stores). However, a serious concern is about following this type of eating plan for longer periods of months to years.
We will try to know about the low carbohydrate diet and its effectiveness.
- History of low carbohydrate diet
- Insulin-Carbohydrate Model
- Types of low-carbohydrate diets
- Short-term health Effects
- Long-term health Effects
- Different study views
- Frequently Asked Questions
1) History of low carbohydrate diet
A low carbohydrate diet first used to treat type 1 diabetes became a popular obesity therapy with the Atkins diet in the 1970s.
Above all the hypothesis that insulin is the main cause of weight gain and regain predicted its effectiveness. Therefore reduced carbohydrate intake would promote and sustain weight loss.
2) Insulin-Carbohydrate Model
The insulin-carbohydrate model is based on the known action of insulin. It increases the cellular uptake of glucose and fatty acids, stimulates lipogenesis, and inhibits lipolysis.
According to this hypothesis, a high carbohydrate diet stimulates insulin release. As a result the central nervous system sense a resultant decrease in circulating glucose and free fatty acids
This invokes subsequent hypometabolism and hyperphagia as well as the preferential storage of ingested calories, such as fat. Clinically, the result is weight/fat gain and increased difficulty in weight management.
3) Types of low-carbohydrate diets
There are many variations on just what a ‘low-carbohydrate’ diet is. Some popular diet
books such as Dr. Atkins’ Diet Revolution, The Carbohydrate Addict’s Diet, Protein Power, and Sugar Busters, have common recommendations.
In that, they advise consuming protein as the primary macronutrient for the body. Certainly, fat gives the remainder of the energy
The most widely used low-carbohydrate diet is the one said by Robert C. Atkins, M.D. His 1972 book Dr. Atkins’ Diet Revolution sold millions of copies within
the first two years. Typically the diet involves :
Firstly a two-week ‘induction’ period. During which the goal is to reduce carbohydrate intake to under 20 g/d. Secondly to take the individual into ketosis.
Protein intake from foods as beef, turkey, fish, chicken, and eggs is encouraged during the induction phase.
Although high protein intakes well above the individual’s habitual diet are not recommended. However, one can consume an unlimited amount of fat.
No fruit, bread, grains, starchy vegetables or dairy products other than cheese, cream, or butter allowed.
The Carbohydrate Addict’s Diet
It breaks cravings for ‘fat-causing carbohydrates’ by limiting the intake of carbohydrate-containing foods to only one meal per day.
Protein Power diet
This diet provides for 0.75 g/d of protein per kilogram of body weight. Less than 30 g of carbohydrates per day allowed in the induction phase and up to 55 g/d thereafter.
The Protein Power diet is, by its nature, a carbohydrate- and protein-restrictive diet. Mostly when compared against habitual intakes of carbohydrate and protein of most individuals.
The Sugar Busters! diet
This diet advises the avoidance of sucrose and high-glycaemic index foods such as potatoes, pasta, corn, white rice, and carrots.
According to the Sugar Busters! diet, it is high glycemic index foods that cause a spike in insulin response. Hence are responsible for the deposition of fat and the cause of insulin resistance.
Most popular low-carbohydrate diet books say that a reduction in carbohydrates will result in a lowered insulin level. Hence promote more triglyceride breakage into free fatty acids – leading to fat loss in overweight people.
In reality, these diets work in the short term. Because they result in a reduction in total calorie intake which leads to weight loss due to an energy deficit.
4) Short-term health effect
Common metabolic changes seen when a person follows a low-carbohydrate diet is ketosis. Firstly the body will utilize its reserves of glycogen in order to meet glucose demands.
Meanwhile, 3g of water bind each 1 gram of glycogen. Hence simple calculation shows that a ‘weight loss’ of around 1- 2kg can be achieved within the first week. Certainly due to diuresis and not due to the burning of fat stores.
Loss of glycogen and water is not a true measure of weight loss. Because once the diet ends glycogen and water stores will replenish.
Secondly, the body begins to increase fat oxidation as a means of meeting the majority of its energy demands. The liver can oxidize fatty acids which liberate into the blood for energy production.
Kidneys filter the ketone bodies and cause an increased renal loss of sodium, thereby increasing water loss.
Common adverse events attributed to the diet included dehydration, gastrointestinal symptoms, hypoglycemia, as well as and vitamin deficiencies.
Persons following ketogenic diets show mental effect, increased lipids, impaired function. Above all stone in urine, eye problem, and the bone problem is also seen. In addition, the elevation of blood uric acid levels is a well-recognized side effect of prolonged ketosis.
Losses of protein and fat are the same during a ketogenic diet and during a hypo energetic, non-ketogenic diet. Hence no diet is superior to another in terms of preservation of lean body mass.
However, low carbohydrate diets are at greater risk of being nutritionally inadequate as they enforce the restriction of food choices.
Typically, low-carbohydrate diets are low in fiber, thiamin, folate, vitamins A, E, and B6, calcium, magnesium, iron, and potassium. In the absence of supplemental multivitamins, there is a real risk of nutritional deficiencies occurring.
Low-carbohydrate diets are also usually higher in saturated fat and cholesterol. Animal sources provide most of the protein in the diet.
Short-term effects of low-carbohydrate diets often reported by individuals include nausea, thirst, polyuria, headache, dizziness, halitosis, and fatigue.
Dehydration is very common during periods of restricted carbohydrate consumption. As a result of increased water loss due to ketone bodies. Also water loss from the depletion of glycogen stores.
5) Long-term health Effects
Insulin secretion, in response to carbohydrate ingestion, results in a metabolic imbalance that promotes obesity. Hence supporters promote this as the main rationale for the intake of low carbohydrate diets.
Dietary amino acids are also able to stimulate insulin secretion without augmenting glucose concentrations? This fact is overlooked by the supporter of low-carbohydrate diets.
Investigations showed that protein foods such as meat and fish elicited a greater peak insulin concentration than white pasta.
Long intake of a low-carbohydrate diet, coupled with elevated amounts of protein as a major macronutrient result in
- increased liver glucose production
- decreased blood glucose utilization,
Both indicative of an insulin-resistant state.
Any diet that results in weight loss will elicit a favorable response on blood lipid parameters. Typically reported changes to include a reduction in total cholesterol, triglycerides, LDL- and HDL-cholesterol while free fatty acids are elevated.
However, the nutrient composition of energy-restricted diets can have differing effects on absolute changes in blood lipids.
Greater decreases in LDLcholesterol are seen during active weight loss when diets are low in saturated fat. However, a low-carbohydrate diet is typically higher in saturated fat than conventional weight-loss diets.
LDL-cholesterol is considered a major contributor to the process of fat accumulation in blood vessels. Meanwhile, long-term use of these diets, be for weight loss or weight maintenance, increase the risk of heart disease.
The loss of the body’s calcium stores is a major concern, especially in women and the elderly. Because it is strongly linked to the porous bone. Low-carbohydrate diets promote the restriction of dairy products(milk and yogurt) which are the main sources of calcium in the diet.
Low carbohydrate diets promote the consumption of animal protein as a good way of limiting carbohydrate intake. Hence adding the potential effects on blood acidity and calcium loss.
There is overwhelming evidence for a protective effect of fruits and vegetables in almost all major cancers.
For example, substances such as antioxidants, fiber, isothiocyanates (in cruciferous vegetables), allyl sulfides (in onions and garlic). Above all flavonoids, and phenols have been linked to augmenting the body’s protective mechanism against cancer promotion.
A low-carbohydrate diet is one that is low in fruits, and grains. Above all vegetables, if starchy vegetables aren’t adequately replaced with other types of low carbohydrate-containing vegetables.
Thus increasing cancer risk if the diet is followed long term. The link between increased intakes of meat (typically seen on low-carbohydrate diets) and bowel cancer risk can not be ignored.
6) Different study view
Studies prove that there is insufficient data saying that low carbohydrate is a superior means to achieve weight loss.
The main drawback with all this is low carbohydrate diets are complicated as no standard definitions of these diets.
The American Academy of Family Physicians has defined a low carbohydrate diet as having <20% of calories from carbohydrates. The Atkins diet that was popularized in the 1970s restricts carbohydrate intake to 15–20g per day during the induction phase.
Whereas ketogenic diets encourage 90% of calories to come from fat, 1g/Kg of protein, and minimal (<15g per day) carbohydrates. The traditional ketogenic diet has a ratio of fats to protein and carbohydrates of 4:1.
Similarly, there is not a standard low-fat diet definition, but generally <30% Kcal from fat can be considered a low-fat diet and <20% a very low-fat diet. Without standard definitions, the idea that these diets could become universally prescriptive under any circumstances is unlikely.
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Long-term restriction of carbohydrates in the diet results in complications such as heart arrhythmias, cardiac contractile function impairment, sudden death, osteoporosis, kidney damage, increased cancer risk, impairment of physical activity, and lipid abnormalities.
There is a rising tide of obesity in developed countries. Because of which the lure of easily attainable weight loss by following a low-carbohydrate diet is certainly appealing.
Yet little discussion is given to the potential negative health aspects potentially associated with this type of dieting regime. When health professionals speak of low carbohydrate diets they rarely say it can be dangerous.
This does little to deter people in the quest for weight loss. Also, there is a common belief that ‘As long as I lose weight I don’t care what I have to do.’
Hence by delivering a stronger message in the future and addressing such serious potential health aspects to low-carbohydrate diets such as potential cardiac complications, osteoporosis, muscle loss and possibly insulin resistance, people are better able to make informed choices based on the latest scientific thinking
8) Frequently Asked Questions
Ans. Simply focusing on reducing the number of carbs that you normally consume would be one approach. Restricting fruits, starchy vegetables, grains, and milk would be changes involved in this type of diet.
Ans. No. There can be many health benefits of limiting carbohydrate consumption. Many carbohydrate ridden foods are heavily processed, laden with many additives, sugars, dyes, etc. Not at all the diet, our grandparents consumed.
Ans.The diet, in which carbohydrates (CHO) are replaced by a greater intake of fat and/or protein. Hence popular weight-loss option compared with the conventional low-fat (LF) diet.
Ans. Removing these unhealthful foods from your diet will subsequently reduce carbohydrate consumption. This will maintain a healthy weight and a healthy body from the inside out.
Ans. The Ketogenic Diet is similar to the initial phase of the Atkin’s diet. Instead of gradually lightening up your carb restriction dieters remain under ~20-40 g of net carbs indefinitely.