With all of conflicting studies and fuzzy interpretation of information, it's no wonder that confusion reigns when it comes to value and safety of low-carb diets. It seems like heated debates are raging everywhere!
Whether it's Atkins, South Beach or some other low-carb plan, up to 30 million Americans are following a low-carb diet.
Advocates contend that high amount of carbohydrates in our diet has led to increasing problems with obesity, diabetes, and other health problems. Critics, on other hand, attribute obesity and related health problems to over-consumption of calories from any source, and lack of physical activity. Critics also express concern that lack of grains, fruits, and vegetables in low-carbohydrate diets may lead to deficiencies of some key nutrients, including fiber, vitamin C, folic acid, and several minerals.
Any diet, weather low or high in carbohydrate, can produce significant weight loss during initial stages of diet. But remember, key to successful dieting is in being able to lose weight permanently. Put another way, what does scale show a year after going off diet?
Let's see if we can debunk some of mystery about low-carb diets. Below, is a listing of some relevant points taken from recent studies and scientific literature. Please note there may be insufficient information available to answer all questions.
- Differences Between Low-Carb Diets
There are many popular diets designed to lower carbohydrate consumption. Reducing total carbohydrate in diet means that protein and fat will represent a proportionately greater amount of total caloric intake.
Atkins and Protein Power diets restrict carbohydrate to a point where body becomes ketogenic. Other low-carb diets like Zone and Life Without Bread are less restrictive. Some, like Sugar Busters claim to eliminate only sugars and foods that elevate blood sugar levels excessively.
- What We Know about Low-Carb Diets
Almost all of studies to date have been small with a wide variety of research objectives. Carbohydrate, caloric intake, diet duration and participant characteristics varied greatly. Most of studies to date have two things in common: None of studies had participants with a mean age over 53 and none of controlled studies lasted longer than 90 days.
Information on older adults and long-term results are scarce. Many diet studies fail to monitor amount of exercise, and therefore caloric expenditure, while participants are dieting. This helps to explain discrepancies between studies.
The weight loss on low-carb diets seems to be a function of caloric restriction and diet duration, and not with reduced carbohydrate intake. This finding suggests that if you want to lose weight, you should eat fewer calories and do so over a long time period.
Little evidence exists on long-range safety of low-carb diets. Despite medical community concerns, no short-term adverse effects have been found on cholesterol, glucose, insulin and blood-pressure levels among participants on diets. However, it is true that adverse effects may not show up because of short period of studies. Researchers note that losing weight typically leads to an improvement in these levels anyway, and this may offset an increase caused by a high fat diet. The long range weight change for low-carb and other types of diets is similar.