Weight Loss Myth #2: low carb diet

As well as calorie restriction diet, low carb diet is also very common. Atkins is a popular low carb diet which promotes high protein and fat. It is effective with weight loss; however, the long-term health benefits are highly controversial.

How does Atkins work?

low carb

low carb (Photo credit: daBinsi)

The principle of Atkins is based on converting the body from carbohydrate burning to fat burning for fuel, then slowly reintroducing complex carbohydrates back into the diet during weight maintenance.

Our body normally uses carbohydrates as primary fuel for energy. Generally speaking, fat is stored as a backup or reserve fuel for energy. That’s how our body compensates during a famine or starvation environment. By drastically reducing carbs from our diet and eating more protein and fat, our body is forced to burn fat for energy in order to maintain our daily activity level. This results in weight loss. When we start to burn fat as a primary source of fuel over a long period of time, our body goes into a state of ketosis, which means it burns its own fat for fuel. Ketosis can cause a variety of side effects such as bad breath and constipation.

Long term benefits?

Although there are studies which show that this form of diet is successful in weight loss, the long term health benefit remains controversial in the U.S. and abroad. The concern for low carb/high protein/high fat diet go way beyond the question of whether it is effective for weight loss or keeping the weight off. Many experts are concerned about the long term use of this form of diet with regard to bone health, cancer, and in people with liver/kidney problems. In addition, a low carb diet is not practical for long term in many cultures.

Again, our body is designed to burn carbs as a primary fuel for energy over thousands of years of evolution. Fat as energy fuel is meant as a secondary energy source, not primary energy source. This is not what the body is designed to do. Gail Frank, PhD, former spokeswoman for The American Dietetic Association and professor of nutrition at California State University in Long Beach, says, “When our body get less than our minimum carbohydrates (about 150 grams daily), normal metabolic activity is disrupted.”

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5 Responses to Weight Loss Myth #2: low carb diet

  1. Pingback: 10 Weight-Loss Myths Debunked « mytopweightloss

  2. Pingback: The Great Myths of Fat Burning | abysmalfitness

  3. Hi Dr. James,

    Thanks for “liking” my blog about affect vs. effect. I invite you to follow my blog at http://www.englishgrammargripe.com. I plan to follow yours as I fully agree with your thoughts about calories and carbs. As it happens, I lost a bunch of weight last year and have taken a strong interest in weight management. So many people seem to think you have to eat certain foods, avoid others, combine nutrients in specific ways, etc., in order to lose weight. I guess the old “eat less, move more” isn’t glamorous or esoteric enough for them. But that’s all it takes, really. I’m looking forward to your future blogs.

    Best regards,

    Gabrielle Bauer

  4. Pingback: Mediterranean Diets Beat Low-Fat for CVD Prevention | Ask Dr. James

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