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Are Low Carb Diets Effective For Weight Loss?

 Learn the pros and cons of low-carb diets as well as the best solution for lasting weight loss.

Is eliminating carbohydrates from your diet the most effective way to lose weight?

Since carbohydrates raise blood sugar levels , shouldn't we just eliminate bread, pasta, rice and grains from our diets? No, it's not that simple. If low carbohydrate diets lost dimension is that in the long run, they are not good for health . This doesn't mean that you shouldn't cut into carbohydrates, just that you shouldn't fall into the opposite excess.


Low-carb diets, a new fad like any other

When low-carb diets became popular, they seemed to bring a breath of fresh air after the low-fat (and high-carb) diet fad where the word “low” was on just about every food package. With the advent of low-carb diets, you could suddenly eat all the bacon you wanted, as long as you eat your burger without bread and forgo sandwiches and spaghetti. The results were impressive: some subjects could lose pounds in a few days.

In addition, these diets seemed to provide other benefits, including lowering cholesterol, blood pressure and triglyceride levels (those fats that are linked to the risk of heart attack).

The most extreme low-carbohydrate diet was developed by Dr. Robert Atkins, whose first book, The Diet Revolution, appeared in 1972. It promised rapid and lasting weight loss, as well as a preventative effect. against chronic diseases, while allowing the consumption of fatty meats and ice cream. Subsequently, other more moderate diets allowed small amounts of foods high in carbohydrates, but they still banished most grains, starches and even fruits.

The disadvantages of low-carb diets

The Atkins diet , along with those who followed it, ultimately turned out to be less effective and less healthy than advertised. Many times people gained weight and the problems with high blood pressure and high cholesterol returned. Not to mention that many of those who followed them had discovered in the meantime that they did not want to live without pasta until the end of their days.

Eat a low-carb diet and you'll feel bad

In the first phase of this type of diet, almost all carbohydrates are banned. You will only consume the equivalent of 20g per day, or less than 100 calories. On a 1200 calorie diet, this is only 12%, while experts recommend that carbohydrates account for 45 to 65% of calorie intake. When the consumption of carbohydrates falls below 100 g, the body reacts by burning muscle tissue to extract the glycogen (stored glucose) it contains. When glycogen stores are depleted, it attacks fatty tissue, a particularly inefficient method of producing glucose in the blood. The human body only uses it when absolutely necessary (when it is hungry, for example), and for a very good reason: the transformation of fatty tissue into glucose results in the production of ketones, byproducts that cause fatigue, dizziness, headaches and nausea. It is true that we have less appetite when we feel miserable, but it is surely not the best way tolose weight.

In addition, without carbohydrates, it is difficult to concentrate. According to the Institute of Medicine at the National Academy of Sciences, the human brain needs at least 130g of carbohydrates per day to function at its best.

Your health may suffer from low carb diets

If you are overweight or obese and suffer from insulin resistance (especially if you are prediabetic or diabetic), a significant decrease in your carbohydrate intake can bring you immediate benefits: your blood sugar and insulin levels will drop, your triglyceride levels and your blood sugar levels will drop. blood pressure may drop while your good cholesterol (HDL) levels may rise.

But there is also a price to pay: when the body uses muscle tissue for energy, it has to burn a lot of calories; as a result, the metabolism slows down. This is why we regain weight after having banned carbohydrates for a while.

It could also hurt your heart, especially if you are following a diet high in saturated fat, as these diets often advocate. In high doses, steak and bacon raise bad cholesterol (LDL) levels. In addition, if the diet is low in vegetables, the homocysteine ​​level will go up too. This is an amino acid that increases the risk of heart disease. Not to mention that in order to get rid of ketones, the kidneys have to work harder, which increases the risk of kidney stones.

Ironically, low-carbohydrate diets may decrease insulin sensitivity: the pancreas may require a certain amount of carbohydrate for insulin production by the pancreas.

Low-carb diets cause a deficiency

Not only will you suffer from the lack of bread, fruit and many other good things, but your body will be deprived of essential foods and nutrients, including:


  • Whole grains. They protect against metabolic syndrome, diabetes, heart disease, stroke and cancer. Find out how to get more whole grains .
  • Fruits and vegetables. They protect against heart disease, stroke and certain cancers. They give you a feeling of fullness while being low in calories, which studies have shown can help you lose weight or stay lean .
  • Legumes. Rich in protein, complex carbohydrates, B-complex vitamins and soluble fiber, they are also devoid of saturated fat. As an added bonus, they contain chemicals that protect against heart disease and cancer.
  • Lean dairy products. These diets allow for butter and cream, but you won't get much calcium or protein from them, while low-fat milk and yogurt are great sources.
  • Fibers. Apart from dairy products, all of these foods provide fiber, which protects against heart disease and diabetes. Legumes, fruits and vegetables are very high in soluble fiber, which helps lower blood sugar and LDL cholesterol levels, as well as quell hunger .
  • Citamines, minerals and protective phytonutrients . Whole grains are rich in compounds such as lignans which, regardless of their effects on blood sugar, may protect you against diabetes. In addition, in the absence of fruits and vegetables, one can hardly expect to get enough vitamin C or other useful antioxidants from one's diet.

Low-carb diets contain too much bad fat

Part of the reason the Atkins diet has been so popular is because it allows you to consume foods that other diets have prohibited, such as the cheese burger (without the bread). In its more recent version, it makes, like other similar diets, a better place for healthier fats, for example fish and olive oil, but in fact, if you ban bread, fruit and legumes, you will be inclined to consume more than your share of fatty animal products. You have to eat something, right?

Diets high in saturated fat (up to 26% of calories in the Atkins diet versus 10% or less than experts recommend) are not healthy because they raise bad cholesterol (LDL) levels. It is true that in its most recent version, the Atkins diet emphasizes lean poultry and seafood, but it remains that many people undertake it with the aim of eating butter and bacon at will. .

By negatively affecting the body's response to insulin, saturated fat may promote insulin resistance and, consequently, lead to metabolic syndrome, diabetes and heart disease. So think twice before embarking on a diet low in carbohydrates and high in saturated fat.

You will gain weight by following a low-carb diet

In two studies published in the New England Journal of Medicine , obese men and women were observed to follow either a low-carbohydrate and high-fat diet or a low-fat, high-carbohydrate diet. Both were low in calories.

In the first study, which lasted for six months, the low-carb diet seemed to work better than the other. Those who followed it had lost 6 kg (13 lbs) while those who followed the low fat diet had lost only 2 kg (4 lbs). But in the second study, which lasted six more months, it was observed that people who followed a low-carbohydrate diet actually lost more weight than others after the first six months, but recovered. weight in the past six months. At the end of the year, there was no difference between the two groups. In short, very low carbohydrate diets are not effective in the long term, which could explain why they are no longer popular.

Take the good and leave the bad of low-carb diets

Low-carbohydrate diets still help you lose weight, but that may not have anything to do with carbohydrates per se. Rather, it may be because they encourage the consumption of protein, since the latter promotes weight loss, possibly because it causes the body to burn more calories than carbohydrates or fat.

But above all, they provide a feeling of satiety; dieters therefore consume fewer calories and lose weight.

In a recent study at Seattle Washington University School of Medicine, volunteers were put on a diet in which carbohydrates accounted for 50% of calories, neither too high nor too low.

Initially, protein accounted for 15% of calories and fat for 35% (which reflects our diet in general). Then, the percentage of protein in the diet was increased to 30% and that of fat to 20% (that of carbohydrates remaining the same). Although they were free to eat as much as they wanted, the participants actually ate less.

Thanks to the extra protein intake, in 14 weeks, they lost an average of 5 kg (11 lbs), of which 3.5 kg (8 lbs) as fat.

The best solution for lasting weight loss: more protein and carbohydrates in moderation

It's a fact, we are taking in more calories than in the past, mostly in the form of carbohydrate foods (think chips and cookies). It is therefore desirable to reduce its consumption, especially that of carbohydrates with a high glycemic load (GC), which cause blood sugar levels to skyrocket.

This method provides the benefits of a very low carbohydrate diet without presenting the risks. Your blood sugar and insulin levels will get better for it; thanks to protein, your appetite will be satisfied and, by choosing the good fats over the bad , your bad cholesterol (LDL) level will remain low, a definite advantage for your heart. What's more, you can continue to eat with pleasure rather than feeling deprived.

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