In the early 2000's low carbohydrate, high protein diets were all the rage for weight loss and dieters trying to find that magic bullet to shed those unwanted pounds. These diets were so popular that large food companies started adding net carbs to their labels to cash in on the craze. With all the money and hype surrounding the low carbohydrate diet it must have worked with helping people lose weight and the truth is it did. Low carbohydrate diets do help people lose weight mostly because, like any other diet, there is a reduction in calories from what a person normally eats. The decrease in calories and the water weight lost from the low carbohydrate intake all add up to a quick weight loss at the start of this diet.
Carbohydrates cause your body to store more fluids because how they are metabolized by the cells. The quick weight loss is what gets most people hooked but the body adjusts to the decrease in calories and water loss which then stabilizes weight loss to a more gradual rate. It is at this point many people start to get a little discouraged that the weight is not coming off so quickly and start to fall back into old habits. For most people who go on a low carbohydrate diet it is difficult to maintain for a long period of time because the foods you can eat are so restrictive. It is one of those diets that starts off sounding great, you can eat bacon and eggs for breakfast every morning, a burger with cheese for lunch, and a steak with a few vegetables for dinner but after a few weeks of only the same foods it gets tiring.
There is no doubt that low carbohydrate diets work for weight loss but it can be difficult to maintain. Once people start to incorporate carbohydrates back into their diets most of the time their weight starts to creep back up. This is one of the drawbacks to fad diets such as this one. It simply restricts what can be eaten instead of teaching people about moderation. In addition there is a safety issue with maintaining a low carbohydrate diet called Ketosis. Ketosis happens when the glucose stores in the liver are depleted and the body starts to break down fat for energy. That sounds like it feeds right into the whole goal of weight loss.
However, what people do not realize is when the body uses ketones for an excess amount of time it starts to become acidic. This can causes problems with the kidneys, nausea, and organ failure. Another area of concern surrounding low carbohydrate diets is they tend to be high in saturated fat due to the amount of animal proteins being consumed. This is a concern since diets high in saturated fats can lead to heart disease and high cholesterol, the very thing weight loss is supposed to help improve. It is important to understand both the risks and benefits of a low carbohydrate diet before starting one. If quick weight loss is your goal then a low carbohydrate diet will work. Bottom line: if your goal is to lose weight and create a healthy lifestyle, a low carbohydrate diet is not the answer.
Grete R. Hornstrom is a Clinical Dietitian who is currently specializing in pediatric care. She holds a Bachelors of Science in Physical Education with a concentration in Exercise Science from Kent State University, a Master of Arts in Wellness Management from Ball State University, and a Master of Science in Dietetics from Ball State University. She has worked with overweight children and adults, recreational and elite athletes, chronically ill children, and every day people on developing nutrition plans and healthy lifestyle changes. In addition she has worked with recreational teams, high school teams, and college teams educating them on the importance of nutrition and performance. She has completed one marathon and three half marathons in the last two years. Her newest sport of choice is cycling.