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High-Protein Low-Carb Diets

The high-protein low-carb diet was popular in the 1970’s, before saturated fat and heart disease became closely associated. Now, high-protein low-carb diets are once again popular due to the faster initial weight loss they can achieve. However, many dietitians retain doubts about the long term health effects of these carb-restricted weight loss plans.

That said, recent (albeit small-scale) studies suggest that high-protein low-carb diets may be less harmful and more beneficial than supposed. A futher long-term study is underway. This should help to clarify the health and safety issues of high protein diets.

Healthy High-Protein Low-Carb Diet

Some low-carb plans provide insufficient carbohydrates and permit excessive fat-intake, including saturated fat. The best type of low-carb diet provides a reasonable amount of ‘healthy’ carbohydrate and a moderate amount of healthy (ie. unsaturated) fat.

Weight Loss or Water Loss?

  • Although high-protein low-carb diets may lead to fast weight loss in the short term, much of this may be water loss. This is because when the body is starved of carbs it takes energy from it’s glycogen stores. And each gram of glycogen has 4 grams of water attached. So although weight loss looks good, much of it is water. As soon as carb intake returns to normal, much of this ‘water-weight’ is regained.
  • High-protein low-carb diets tend to encourage over-consumption of saturated fat and cholesterol, which in turn leads to increased risk of heart disease and some cancers.

Weight Gain When Diet Stops

According to sceptics, high-protein low-carb ketogenic diets can bring about changes in a dieter’s fat cells causing these fat cells to accumulate even more fat when the person comes off the diet. They can also cause mood changes like tension and irritability, which may result in cravings for high carb foods and fatty snacks.

High-protein low-carb diet plan

  • The diet is based on eating lots of protein like meat and eggs but almost no carbohydrates like bread, potatoes, pasta, or rice, at least for a period of time.
  • Most versions recommend large quantities of protein in unrestricted amounts, including red meat, fish, shellfish, poultry, eggs, and cheese. They forbid (or limit) pasta, bread, potatoes, fruit, many vegetables, plus any foods with large amounts of refined sugar.

What Sceptics Say About High-Protein Low-Carb Diets

  • High protein diets tend to cause problems with mood changes, resulting in cravings for carbohydrate-rich foods and snacks.
  • By contrast, higher carb diets tend to raise the level of serotonin (the feel good brain hormone) thus improving mood and appetite. A recent study, reported in Obesity journal, followed a number of obese women with a long history of yo-yo dieting who followed either a higher carb diet, or a high protein diet of 1400 calories. The higher carb dieters had fewer cravings and better overall moods than those on the high protein diet. These also lost significantly more weight than those on the high protein diet plan.
  • High protein diets violate several dietary and nutritional guidelines of the US Government and the American Heart Association. In addition, the dietary guidelines laid down by the World Cancer Research Fund contradict many of the recommendations in many high protein diets, with the exception of those concerning refined sugar.
  • By overloading dieters with protein, high protein diets can lead to loss of calcium from bones, which may lead to osteoporosis. They also pressurize the kidneys as they try to eliminate large amounts of urea, a by-product of protein metabolism.
  • Carbohydrate is a nutrient group which is readily converted to energy. By minimizing carbohydrate consumption, high protein diets can quickly lead to tiredness and fatigue.
  • Carbohydrates are also good for your brain. A shortage of carbohydrate can cause loss of concentration and a slow down in reactions.

Summary

Although some recent studies suggest that high protein diets may be less harmful and more beneficial that some of the sceptics experts suggest, it is not yet possible to form a clear opinion on the long-term health benefits of high-protein low-carb diets. So if you want to follow a high protein diet, choose a healthy one.

Related Links:

Atkins Diet Controversy
Atkins Diet Study Abstract (1)
Atkins Diet Study Abstract (2)
Atkins Diet: Health Issues
Atkins Diet: Expert Opinions
Atkins Diet Comment
Vegetarian Diet Health Benefits

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