Low-carbohydrate diets are credited with helping a lot of people lose weight. However, there are some pros and cons to take into consideration before embarking on a low-carb diet. There are several types of low-carbohydrate diets available such as the Atkins, Zone, or South Beach. Most require restricting carbohydrates to less than 300 grams a day.
The most popular reason to go on a low-carbohydrate diet is to lose weight, however, this type of diet also helps to control blood sugar, cholesterol, and blood pressure. Low-carb diets help you lose weight because carbohydrates are used as fuel in the body for energy. Excess carbohydrates in the body are stored for later use as energy. If you are not consuming as many carbohydrates, your body will use its stores of fat for its energy supply. This feature enables weight loss.
While some of the low-carbohydrate diets, like Atkins, heavily limit the amount of carbohydrates you can eat, some of the other low-carbohydrate diets such as the Zone and the South Beach diet are slightly less restrictive, and focus more on eliminating carbohydrates that impact blood sugar levels suddenly. These foods include white flour, white sugar, and heavily processed foods.
The benefits of a low-carbohydrate diet are that, generally weight loss is experienced rather quickly. It is believed that the modern diet is highly unnatural, and that people should eat a more basic diet which includes meats and few carbohydrates. Many proponents of a low-carbohydrate diet believe that the modern diet most people consume is responsible for diabetes, obesity, chronic high blood pressure and high cholesterol levels. In addition, those who are on a low-carb diet can enjoy foods such as butter, steak, and bacon, which were forbidden on other diets.
Still, there are a lot of misconceptions surrounding a low-carbohydrate diet. According to Dr James Kenney, PhD, RD, FACN, a Nutrition Research Specialist who is board certified in Human Nutrition, low-carb diets provide poor results over the long term. For people who maintain their weight loss after the first few weeks on the diet, it is because of an overall reduction in calorie intake, not the magic of low carbohydrates. Any calorie restriction will cause a loss of weight, regardless of which foods you are restricting.
Some of the side effects from a low carbohydrate diet can include fainting, which occurs because of a reduction in the amount of fluid and electrolytes in the body. Often when the body is deprived of adequate amounts of carbohydrates, the sympathetic nervous system is negatively impacted, which can result in dizziness or fainting if you stand up or rise too quickly.
Because a low-carbohydrate diet is usually high in animal protein, it may increase the risk of heart disease. The risk of heart disease is increased because diets that are low on carbohydrates and high in animal protein increase levels of LDL, or bad cholesterol. In addition, an increased intake of red meat increases the homocysteine levels as well as iron levels in the body. Both of these having high levels may increase the probability of developing heart disease.
Because of the significant pros and cons to adopting a low-carbohydrate diet, it is best to consult with your physician to determine if a low-carbohydrate diet is right for you.