Low carb diet doesn’t do anything miraculous: It loses weight because it reduce calorie intake. This is done by minimizing your consumption of carbohydrate-rich foods (bread, pasta, cereals, potatoes, some fruits and vegetables and most dairy products).
For the first 6 months, a low-carb diet can help you lose weight a little faster than a diet low in fat and high in carbohydrates.
There is a lot of scientific evidence that this type of diet is the best option for people who want to lose weight, optimize health and reduce the risk of illness.
Does low carb diet work?
The impact of low-carb diets on body weight has been the subject of a large number of randomized clinical trials over the past two decades. In general, these studies show that in the short term (3 to 6 months), obese or morbidly obese people who are subject to these diets undergo a significant weight loss, higher than those obtained by traditional dietary calorie diets ( low fat, for example).
How to get started?
The best known low carb diets are the Atkins diet and the ketogenic diet. Atkins is very effective for weight loss and diabetes, while the ketogenic diet has therapeutic effects in diabetes, epilepsy, migraine, cancer and Alzheimer’s disease.
Low carb diets – How it works (The basic principle)?
In recent years, it has been proposed that low-carb but high-fat diets (“low-carb, high-fat”, or LCHF) may be a solution to promote weight loss. Since carbohydrates cause a marked increase in insulin levels, the hormone involved in the storage of stored energy in the form of fat, it is proposed that a diet low in carbohydrates could reduce these insulin levels and thus allow to the body to mobilize fat stored in adipose tissue and use them as a source of energy. According to this model, this increased use of fat would allow an increase in metabolism (around 500 kcal / day) and should therefore allow a significant loss of weight.
In Canada, the food guide recommends the consumption of about 300 g of carbohydrates per day, which corresponds to 1200 calories, or 60% of the total consumed by an average adult (2000 calories). In a low carbohydrate diet, this proportion is around 20% of total calories (100 g of carbohydrates) and can even decrease up to 5% of calories (20 g of carbohydrate, the equivalent of a single slice of bread) in ketogenic diets.
The basic principle behind low-carb diets is that calories from carbohydrates favor more accumulation of excess weight than calories from fat. In other words, it is not so much the quantity, but especially the type of calories consumed that would be important to lose weight. This hypothesis is based on two well-documented effects of insulin on metabolism:
1) When the diet is high in carbohydrates, the insulin secreted by the pancreas allows the fat cells to capture the sugars released in the blood and turn them into fat for future use.
2) In parallel, insulin blocks the use of these accumulated calories in adipose tissue and thus prevents weight loss. These actions of insulin ensure that adipose tissue not only accumulates excess calories, but that these calories can’t even be used to support the body’s energy needs.
In other words, even if there is a surplus of stored energy, the body is in famine! In response to this deficiency, the body reduces its basic metabolism to save energy (which helps to prevent the use of excess calories) and increases the appetite in parallel to obtain the calories needed to maintain these functions. So there is a vicious circle in which excess carbohydrates lead to overweight, while this overweight leads to an increase in food consumption. This model would explain the increase in body weight seen in many people with diabetes who are treated with insulin.
Advantages and disadvantages
Just like the low-fat, high-fiber diet, the low-carb diet can help you lose weight. However, it has several disadvantages:
- By eliminating fruits and some vegetables from your diet, you’re missing antioxidant sources that can protect you from heart disease and certain cancers.
- Whole grains are an excellent source of fiber that is a valuable ally against constipation, heart disease and weight gain.
- People on such a diet are at higher risk for vitamin B deficiency, vitamin C and calcium.
- By its monotony and prohibitions, it can also be difficult to follow. Evidence for this: a study published in 2005 showed that the quit rate for these diets is about 50% at 12 months.
- When practicing physical activity, the body may not be able to draw the energy it needs from its carbohydrate stores. As a result, you feel tired quickly and your performance is greatly diminished.
- This diet can have many other health effects such as headaches, drowsiness, confusion, nausea, fatigue, mood swings, sleep problems, and so on.
- The long-term effects on health (including kidney and heart) are unknown.
Medical organizations and low-carb diet
American Heart Association recommends low-carb diet for weight loss if it conformed to the AHA (American Heart Association) guidelines for low fat content.
Exercise and low-carb diet
There is a big advantage in low-carb diet that it doesn’t cause any defect or weakness – except in the first weeks until your body adjusts – so you can continue your exercises as part of your healthy lifestyle.
Low-carb diet and very Low-carb diet (ketogenic )
Don’t confuse with another diet type called: very Low-carb diet (ketogenic). In this type of diet, your carbohydrates consumption should only be less than 50 grams per day. This is very low quantity of carbohydrates as compared with 130 grams of carbohydrates per day in low-carb diet. This very low carb diet (ketogenic) is one of very low calories diets that are recommended for special cases of patients who are under full investigation in medical clinic or hospital. And these very low calories diets are also recommended as pre surgery diet before weight loss operations like: gastric bypass surgery. You can find all details about these very low calories diets in the article with same name here.
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