When the scale isn’t moving or is moving in the wrong direction for those who want to lose weight, the only option is to try a new strategy. If you ask most people, the best strategy for weight loss is to “cut carbs.” I think it may be fundamentally accepted among dieters that “carbs are bad.” However, carbohydrates are essential to the body’s functionality with its main use being an unrivaled energy source. In fact, eliminating carbs from the diet for a long period of time may prove dangerous and would definitely be ill-advised.
In a 2005 article on webmd.com, it was concluded that participants in a short-term study lost weight from cutting carbs simply because of the loss in calories; they ate less calories by cutting carbs which resulted in weight loss. Back to the old numbers game: weight loss will result from eating less calories or increasing the number of calories burned during the day and doing both will undoubtedly speed up the process. According to the article, the lead researcher was surprised to find that the participants did not try to make up for the lost carbs by eating more of other foods; instead, the participants seemed satisfied with the diet as there were no hunger complaints. Because of that outcome, he states: ‘That told me that it was the carbs that fueled their excessive appetites in the first place. In my opinion, carbohydrates do stimulate appetite.’ Nevertheless, he concluded that: “there is no convincing evidence that low-carb diets are easier to stay on or help people lose more weight than other approaches to weight loss.”
That conclusion was challenged by the comparison of “23 Studies on Low-Carb and Low-Fat Diets” which is a 2017 article on healthline.com. Almost all of the studies proved that low-carb diets result in greater and faster weight loss than low-fat diets. Likewise, in most of the studies, the low-carb diet had measurable improvements to blood triglycerides and HDL cholesterol. In other words, low-carb diets showed greater improvements to blood sugar and cholesterol levels.
Low-carb diets are not celebrated by everyone. According to a 2018 article on psychologytoday.com, researchers at two top universities (Harvard and Minnesota) warned that a low-carb diet may cause an early death. The author of the article took issue with many things about the study including its method, missing data, and lack of explanations. The author’s overall concern seemed to be the “potentially far-reaching implications for public health [because] . . . people will take this study at face value.”
To Low-Carb Diet or Not to Low-Carb Diet? That is the question within thy frontal lobe.
In the opinion of a person who took an intro to medicine class in 2002 (Go Knights!), all three articles appear to have merit. Cutting calories via a low-carb diet will most likely result in weight loss especially if carbs do increase appetite which, from personal experience, I suspect to be true. Cutting carbs on a short-term diet seems to be easier to maintain than measuring out foods for each meal – you basically know what you can and can’t eat v. trying to eyeball a proper serving size. Assuming the person has a strong will, the short-term low-carb diet would likely yield a higher compliance rate than calorie counting or portion control because cheating is more obvious when you eat something that you are not supposed to eat v. guesstimating the correct portion size on your plate. In addition, a low-carb diet seems less of a hassle and would likely be easier to adhere to while eating out.
Lastly, I understand how a long-term low-carb diet may lead to an earlier death than other diets because some people replace the carbs with very fatty meats for breakfast, lunch, snack, and dinner. I suspect that, in the studies with decreased cholesterol levels from the low-carb diet, the participants were consuming mostly (if not all) lean meats, poultry, and fish and that they were prepared in a healthy way most of the time. I do not believe that a low-carb diet is license to eat 5 strips of bacon for breakfast each morning, a porterhouse steak for lunch each day, and fried chicken (naked) for dinner each night. In the end, unhealthy eating is unhealthy eating regardless of the diet you choose. Even on a low-carb diet, balance should be the goal.
For a list of low-carb foods, click here (also referenced below).
Boyles, Salynn, WebMD, March 14, 2005, “Why Do Low-Carb Diets Cause Weight Loss?” https://www.webmd.com/diet/news/20050314/why-do-low-carb-diets-cause-weight-loss#2
Ede, Georgia, MD, Psychology Today, Sep 05, 2018, “Latest Low-Carb Study: All Politics, No Science”
Gunnars, Kris, BSc, Healthline, June 22, 2017, “23 Studies on Low-Carb and Low-Fat Diets — Time to Retire The Fad,” https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/23-studies-on-low-carb-and-low-fat-diets#section4
Gunnars, Kris, BSc, Healthline, July 9, 2018, “44 Healthy Low-Carb Foods That Taste Incredible”