Low carbohydrate diet….myths and facts

Low carbohydrates, high protein or high fat diet are getting popular these days for weight loss. Some examples of these diets include paleo, Atkins and ketogenic diets. But are these diets really healthy?

Common questions which comes in the mind of an ordinary man are;

  • Are these diets really effective for losing weight?
  • Are there any long term consequences of these diets regarding general health.
  • Does the weight loss after these diets is long term or one gains weight soon after switching to routine diet.

To get the answer to all these questions we need to know the importance of each macro nutrients, their functions in body and their sources. The brief introduction to these macronutrients is illustrated in the table below;

According to USDA the general dietary requirements of carbohydrates for a normal healthy adult is 45-65% of the total calories. The requirements of proteins is 10-35% and of fat is 25-40% of the total calories.

Science behind these weight loss plans

All these diets , Paleo, Atkins and ketogenic focuses on limiting carbohydrates to less than 20 grams per day. According to these diets advocates, it initiates the process of ketosis . The carbohydrates after absorption is converted into glucose which is then transported via blood to all parts of the body as a source of energy required in different functions. The excess glucose is stored in the form of glycogen in liver. The remaining glucose is then converted in fats and is stored in adipose tissues. During fasting state when the body is not provided with sufficient glucose the body uses glycogen stores for energy. Once the glycogen stores are depleted, the fats stored in adipose tissues are used up by the body for energy.

The aim of these diets are to restrict calories from carbohydrates sources which would eventually results is burning of stored form of fats and thus results in weight loss. However the success of these diets vary among individuals.

Advantages and disadvantages of different diets

Atkins diet:

The Atkins diet was first promoted by Dr Robert Atkins in 1972. The diet promotes high proteins and saturated fats intake and limit carbohydrates consumption to less than 20 grams in a day. The main reason of weight loss is that the food low in carbohydrates are less palatable and one ends up in eating less calories. It encourages to eat fats and proteins like :

  • Meat
  • Poultry
  • Seafood
  • Butter
  • Eggs
  • Oils
  • Cheese

It restrict foods such as

  • Breads
  • Rice
  • Potatoes
  • Chips
  • Cookies
  • Candies


  • Promote rapid weight loss.
  • Fancy diet which enables individuals to consume variety of meat products and fatty foods.


  • Diet is very restrictive in nature.
  • Diet is high in saturated fats and is not advisable for patients with positive family history of heart diseases.
  • This diet can cause nervousness , bad breath ,nausea and headaches.
  • High proteins diet place additional burden on kidneys and increases the risk of developing kidney diseases.
  • Atkins diet offers less vitamins and minerals which eventually leads to nutritional deficiency.

Paleo diet

This diet was developed by Loren Cordain , a phd researcher in late seventies. This diet suggests eating all the foods available to people in prehistoric era . It includes meats,fish, nuts, leafy greens, vegetables and seeds. And restrict foods such as grains, dairy, processed and high sugar foods.


  • People tend to lose weight because of limited food choices.
  • Improved satiety due to high fat and protein intake.
  • Improved iron levels due to high intake of red meats.


  • The portion size of the food is not clearly specified, which end up in eating more than required proportions of foods.
  • The diet is quite expensive.
  • Not suitable for people who are vegetarian.
  • This diet end up in developing calcium deficiency because of dairy restrictions.
  • Not suitable for athletes and may result in hypoglycaemia.

ketogenic diet

For detailed review visit Ketogenic diet .

Practical recommendations to lose weight

  • An overall caloric restriction along with exercise is the best way to lose weight. Restrict your calories to 1000 or 1200 calories.
  • Avoid eating refined grains such as white bread, rice and pasta and eat whole grains. Increase fiber intake as it increases the feeling of fullness.
  • Limit high fat, high sugar and processed foods.
  • Drink plenty of water.
  • Fill half of your plate with fruits and vegetables.


Aliya Waqas

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