Low-carb diets are originally aimed at people who want to lose weight. They are based on the idea that despite cutting on fats, people are getting bigger, and that an effective solution is to eliminate carbs. Consequently, low-carb diets aim at eliminating most sources of carbs, leaving proteins and fat as the main nutrients. This approach is successful for many people as they indeed lose weight, at least in the first weeks. By reducing carbs consumption, people may limit their overall energy intake, and lose weight as a result. Also, by limiting the amount of carbs, the body must use energy from fat cells, resulting in weight loss.
This diet is also appealing for people with diabetes because of the perception that reducing carbs can help regulate blood glucose (in part by eliminating blood glucose spikes caused by simple sugars) and reduce the amount of medication.
There are different variations of low-carb diets, such as Atkins (popular for weight loss) and Dr. Bernstein’s (popular with diabetic people).
Low-carb diets are however very controversial:
- Although it is true that limiting carbs helps losing weight and helps regulate blood glucose, carbs are the preferred natural main source of energy of the body. Studies show that eliminating them and replacing them by meat and fat can lead to severe diseases in the long term (heart, kidney, bones, liver, cancer, etc).
- Low-carb diets focus on consumption of meat and diary products, which can lead to multiple diseases (including Type 2 diabetes), while reducing nutrients (including fibers) from carbs, which leads to some disorders in the long term.
- This approach does not take into account the quality of carbs being consumed (simple vs complex carbs). It turns out that most Americans consume large amounts of simple carbs (refined-flour pasta, rice and bread, along chips, soda, candies, etc.) which are very high in fast-releasing sugars content but include few nutrients otherwise, leaving people hungry sooner than natural foods would. Heavy consumption of simple carbs can indeed lead to Type 2 diabetes because of the related frequent glucose spikes.
- Results is weight-loss after a few weeks for many.
- Some people with diabetes are able to better regulate glucose.
- Fits the lifestyle of people who favor meat consumption over other sources.
- Limiting carbs intake can have a positive effect on people with Type 2 diabetes.
- Some long-term studies show that following this diet for long periods of time can lead to many diseases, including Type 2 diabetes for those who consume animal proteins (instead of vegetable proteins).
- Tend to consider carbs being all equal, but studies have clearly shown that complex sugars are beneficial , while simple sugars are not.
- Low-carb diets are usually marketed by for-profit companies driven by very strong commercial interests .