Low carbohydrate diets

Published:March 26th, 2012

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 Introduction

Low-carbohydrate diets or low-carb diets are diet plans or programs created mainly for overweight individuals to help them not only to lose the excess weight but also to control it. These types of diet often accompany the treatment plans for people suffering from chronic illnesses such as diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure, certain cancers, epilepsy, chronic fatigue syndrome, and polycystic ovarian syndrome.

Various low-carbohydrate diets

Examples of low-carb diets include the Atkins Diet, the Mayo Diet, the Air Force Diet, the Drinking Man’s Diet, the Calories Don’t Count Diet, the Grapefruit Diet, the Ski Team Diet, and the Stillman and Scarsdale diets. In these forms of diet plans, carbohydrate consumption is highly-limited and is replaced or compensated by foods high in protein and fat.

Proponents of low-carb diets believe that this particular kind of diet is quite closer or a lot similar to what ancient humans used to eat before the advent of agriculture, hence, emphasizing the idea that humans are “genetically wired” to survive on diets naturally deficient in carbohydrates. Low-carb diets appeal to many dieters because they promise quick weight loss.

How do these diets work?

Diets reduced/made-low in carbohydrates basically work by depriving the body of its primary source of fuel, i.e. carbohydrates. To compensate for this lack or deficiency of carbohydrates in the system, the body produces ketones. Ketones are acids made from body fat that can be used as a substitute for carbohydrates and serve as alternative source of energy. Reducing carbohydrates in the diet results in lowered insulin levels, thus, causing the body to burn stored fats. This helps an overweight individual shed additional pounds and likewise lower risk factors for a number of health conditions.

What constitutes a low-carb diet?

In general, low-carb diets focus on proteins such as meat, poultry, fish and eggs, plus some vegetables of the non starchy-variety. A typical low-carb meal basically removes or limits plant-based sources of carbohydrates including grains, beans, fruits, and starchy vegetables, processed foods such as breads, sweets, and pastas and sometimes nuts and seeds. However, there are a few diet plans of such type that allow certain fruits, vegetables and whole grains to be incorporated in a meal. A regular intake of 50 to 150 grams of carbohydrates is commonly allowed in most of the low-carb diets. Some variations of low-carb diets are known to greatly restrict carbohydrate-intake during the initial phase of the diet and then slowly raise amounts of allowed carbohydrates once the first part of the diet plan is met or achieved.

The controversy behind these diets

Low-carb diets have been highly-controversial, primarily because of the potential adverse affects high-fat intake may pose on overall health. Critics also point out the possible nutritional deficiencies associated with these types of diets. Because low-carbohydrate diets limit natural fiber intake, critics raise concerns about constipation and risks of cancer and diverticular disease. In some studies, low-carb diets are known to elevate uric acid levels and aggravate gout.

Persons on low-carbohydrate diets have been reported to experience halitosis, headaches, insomnia, and kidney stones. Some weight loss experts even question the overall effectiveness of low-carb diets in keeping off weight in the long run. Blood sugar levels may drop really low in those following this form of diet. Strict followers are usually prone to develop low blood sugar or hypoglycemia resulting in dizziness, fatigue, weakness, syncope, and irritability. High level of blood ketones due to reduced carbohydrate intake is also dangerous. Perhaps the most serious and alarming threat a low-carb diet poses is a medical condition referred to as ketoacidosis, a condition which can potentially lead to coma and ultimately death if permitted to persist for a long time. Hence, habitual monitoring of urine for ketones is usually instructed to followers or adherents of this type of diet.

 

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