The article first appeared in Tufts Health and Nutrition Letter, published every monthly by Tufts’ Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy. Learn how you can get professional advice regarding healthy cooking, eating and living.
Weight loss diets that reduce calories have become the norm. Before you jump on the trend, look at the responses to these questions that are frequently asked:
What is low-carb eating?
Carbohydrates (sugars as well as starches and fiber) are naturally found in vegetables, fruits and legumes, as well as nuts, seeds as well as whole grain. The majority of the carbohydrates found in our modern diets are processed foods that are made from processed grains and starches as well as added sugars.
A low-carb diet typically includes lower than 26 per cent of the daily calories from carbohydrates, which is less than 130 grams (g) daily in a 2000-calorie diet.
A low-carb diet offers less than 10% of the calories that come from carbohydrates (less than 50 grams daily). If the body’s reserves of glucose are exhausted and it is forced to rely on the decomposition of fatty acids to generate energy. In the absence of sufficient carbohydrate for this process, compounds known as ketones are formed during a process known as ketosis. This is why very low carbohydrate diets are called ketogenic diets. “While many believe in ketosis’s benefits,” says Dariush Mozaffarian who is dean of the Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy and editor-in-chief of Tufts Health & Nutrition Letter, “the scientific evidence remains uncertain as to whether ketosis is required to reap the health benefits that come from ketogenic diets that are low in carbohydrates.” These ketones may affect the fetus in development, therefore those who are or is planning to become pregnant should steer clear of ketogenic diets that are very low in carbs.
Can I lose weight?
“The research that we have up at present shows that following very-low or low carb diet could result in substantial weight loss,” Mozaffarian says. Mozaffarian. Short-term studies show faster weight loss on low-carb versus low-fat diets, however the longer-term research shows similar results. “For certain individuals,” says Mozaffarian, “the restrictions, less range, and the possibility of being excluded of their favorite foods may make low-carb diets more difficult to adhere to in the long run.”
Is it healthy?
“Lowering intake of carbohydrates, particularly from processed foods reduces the speed and quantity of these fuels that enter in the bloodstream” Mozaffarian says. Mozaffarian. “This is a great health benefit for everyone.”
Weight loss is many health advantages. We know this to date:
Heart health: “Because these diets lead to weight loss and cardiovascular risk factors, they generally increase,” says Mozaffarian.
Type 2 Diabetes Cutting down on carbs enhances the glycemic (blood sugar) control. In addition any diet that leads to weight loss is beneficial to treatment and prevention. Recent guidelines issued by the American Diabetes Association have included the consumption of low-carb foods as a possibility for treatment of this common disorder. However, there is the potential for eating very low in carbs to increase the risk of developing the life-threatening condition called diabetic ketoacidosis among people who are taking medications to treat Type 2 Diabetes (particularly the category of medications whose names end in the letters -liflozin).
Health and Nutrition in general: “Reducing the intake of refined sugars and grains generally is good for your health, and the consumption of low-carb foods can provide numerous benefits,” says Mozaffarian. However, there are few concerns: certain low-carb diets contain red meats–and especially processed meats — at levels that are which are linked to greater risk of dying and colorectal cancer, cardiovascular disease and diabetes. Furthermore, many diets are low in natural, healthy sources of carbohydrates like beans, fruits and whole grains that are not processed at all. Extremely low-carb (ketogenic) diets may cause constipation or fatigue, headaches, and bad breath.
What to Do?
“Reducing consumption of refined grains and sugars and replacing them with less processed food items such as nuts, seeds vegetables, fruits, and oils high in unsaturated fats is an excellent option for weight management as well as metabolic health and general well-being,” says Mozaffarian. “Avoiding carbohydrates that are healthy, such as beans, fruits, vegetables and even the whole grains that are not processed can aid in the initial phase of weight reduction and blood sugar control However, considering the benefits generalized by these foods, abstaining from them for a long time isn’t the best idea. Also, while substituting refined carbs with eggs, fish, poultry or plain yogurt and cheese can be beneficial, do not take a huge amount of red and processed meats.”