Today’s Joe Public is bombarded with weight-loss advertising. The low-carb variety is no exception. From celebrities to your Aunt Mabel and fitness-conscious professionals too, carb-curbing claims are everywhere on the internet and TV. Millions around the world are turning to this “new” diet in the hope of losing weight – “they work so fast” – (and keeping it off).
This should be great news. Finally, there’s an easy diet plan you can lose weight with yet still eat lots of food, as long as you cut out the carbs. But is there a dark side to no-carb that’s less publicized. Is a good thing in one area (losing weight) going to be offset in another (unintended health effects)?
People love to get something for nothing and this holds true for weight-loss. However, there is no miracle cure for bad nutritional habits. Our society likes instant gratification, and the low-carb diet plan gets an “A” on that score…one of the things that makes them so appealing. And there are more – lowering cholesterol, controlling diabetes or even stopping it from developing in some people. Many followers of a low-carb diet plan have reported this so they’re not advertising puffery.
It is true that much of the weight lost is muscle glycogen (stored carbohydrate), and that weight-loss from water not fat is not good for the body. Also, the body relies on free fatty acids for fuel when muscle glycogen is depleted, so the body relies on amino acids (protein) from the breakdown of lean (muscle) tissue as well. So, while you may be burning fat, you will also burn muscle too (and your heart is also a muscle). And last, carb-less dieters have lower energy (less sugar or pasta intake) and are therefore tire from exercise more quickly.
Current medical thinking says you need carbohydrates for your brain, heart, muscles and other vital organs. Brain and central nervous system fuel is glucose, usually obtained from carbohydrates. If the body suddenly doesn’t have carbohydrates, it changes to an alternate source (ketones) by burning through fatty acids. The ketones build up in the blood stream causing ketosis (side effect is bad breath and unpleasant body odors). Initial weight loss is not from fat but increased urination due to the kidneys trying to rid the body of excess ketones.
On low carb diets, blood becomes more acidic, which introduce side effects such as headaches (dehydration), dizziness, tiredness and constipation (insufficient fiber). The reduction of calories from carbohydrates replaced with calories from meat may increase both saturated fat and cholesterol – increasing your chances of getting heart disease (meat on a low-carb diet must be lean – which tends to be more expensive to buy). And be aware that not every carbohydrate makes you fat, consuming more calories than you burn is what makes you fat, so it would appear that the simplest plan would be to increase your exercise and decrease your bad-food intake – but that is far easier said than done.