Let’s face it: the topic of nutrition can be overwhelming. With seemingly contradictory information, it can be tricky to decide which is the best nutrition strategy to go with. In this blog post you’ll find out the 10 top reasons to eat a low-carb diet, now and ongoing. If you’re the type of person who prefers consuming information in video form rather than reading, Dr Jackie and Mel recorded a discussion of each of the 10 points which you can watch by clicking below.
Enjoy! Now, let’s dive in…
- Low-carb diets produce greater weight loss initially.
Studies show that people on low-carb diets lose more weight, faster, than those on low-fat/calorie restricted diets. This is because reducing your carbohydrates encourages water loss due to the way your body holds water in its carbohydrate stores (glycogen), as your glycogen stores are reduced your ability to retain water is reduced. This leads to rapid weight loss in the first week or two. If you experience weight loss quickly when starting a new weight loss program you are more likely to continue. In studies comparing low-carb and low-fat diets, people restricting carbohydrates sometimes lose twice as much weight than people starting a low fat/calorie diet. In the long term, low carb diets are also as effective (or more effective) than traditional low fat/calorie restricted diets (1).
- Eating a lower carb diet may reduce your appetite.
Hunger is one of the most difficult parts of trying to lose weight. It is one of the main reasons why many people feel miserable and end up giving up while trying to lose weight. Restricting carbohydrates usually leads to an automatic reduction in appetite. Studies consistently show that when people reduce carbohydrates and increase their intake of protein and fat, they end up eating less calories, without hunger, leading to weight loss (2).
- Reduced blood sugar and insulin levels.
Low-carb diets can be particularly helpful for people with diabetes and insulin resistance. Many people are now insulin resistant, which can make weight loss more difficult. Studies prove that reducing carbohydrates lowers both blood sugar and insulin levels drastically (3). Some people with diabetes who begin a low-carb diet may need to reduce their insulin dosage by 50% almost immediately (4). In one study in people with type 2 diabetes, 95% had reduced or eliminated their glucose-lowering medication within six months (5).
If you do take blood sugar lowering medication, please talk to your doctor before making changes to your carbohydrate intake, as your dosage may need to be adjusted to prevent hypoglycaemia.
- A greater proportion of fat lost comes from your visceral fat.
There are two main types of fat – subcutaneous fat, which is under your skin, and visceral fat, which accumulates in your abdominal cavity around your organs. Excess visceral fat is associated with inflammation, insulin resistance and increased risk of chronic disease. Low-carb diets are very effective at reducing this harmful abdominal fat. In fact, a greater proportion of the fat lost on low-carb diets seems to come from visceral fat (6) greatly lowering your risk of developing chronic disease.
- It may improve your fatty liver disease.
More and more patients are presenting with a diagnosis of fatty liver or NAFLD, or as it has recently been rebranded, MAFLD (Metabolic Associated Fatty Liver Disease). Fatty liver disease is a consequence of obesity experienced by about 70 percent of all individuals with a body mass index (BMI) above 30. A low carbohydrate diet, independent of weight loss, leads to rapid and dramatic decreases in liver fat (9).
- Increased levels of HDL cholesterol.
High-density lipoprotein (HDL) is often called good cholesterol. The higher your levels of HDL relative to your LDL (bad) cholesterol, the lower your risk of heart disease. One of the best ways to increase HDL levels is to eat more fat and a low-carb diet should include plenty of fat (from various sources). Therefore, it is unsurprising that HDL levels often increase dramatically on healthy, low-carb diets, while they tend to increase only moderately or even decline on low-fat/calorie restricted diets.
- Improved triglyceride levels.
Triglycerides are fat molecules that circulate in your bloodstream. High fasting triglycerides are a strong heart disease risk factor. One of the main drivers of elevated triglycerides in sedentary people (so most of us!) is carbohydrate consumption, especially refined carbohydrates. When people reduce carbohydrates, they often experience a dramatic reduction in blood triglycerides.
- May lower blood pressure.
Low-carb diets are an effective way to lower blood pressure. Elevated blood pressure, or hypertension, is a significant risk factor for many diseases, including heart disease, stroke and kidney failure. In various studies the blood pressure lowering effect of low carbohydrate diets can be seen even separate from weight loss (8).
- You’re more likely to have steady energy levels.
A diet that is high in carbohydrates, particularly refined carbohydrates causes your blood sugar levels to fluctuate – and your energy levels to follow. If you change to a lower carb lifestyle, you’ll start to bring your blood sugar and your energy levels to a more predictable baseline. During the first few days of a low-carb lifestyle, you might experience the “low-carb flu”—when your body, in adjustment mode, will go through periods of sluggishness, but after the initial adjustment period you will see your energy levels improve and become more consistent throughout the day.
- Allows you to eat an exciting range of nourishing, nutrient dense foods and stop counting calories for good.
Been avoiding red meat, eggs and butter for years? When following a lower carbohydrate lifestyle you can enjoy foods like meat, cheese, eggs, nuts and full fat dairy which you may have tried to avoid for years while trying to lose weight by calorie restriction. Once you reduce your carbohydrate intake, particularly refined carbohydrates you will find you can enjoy so many protein and fat rich foods that you won’t be hungry and you will still lose weight and potentially improve all your important numbers!
There are many health and social benefits to following a lower carb lifestyle. You will improve your cholesterol, blood pressure, energy and blood sugar levels, and see weight loss with reduced hunger while enjoying a wide variety of nourishing whole foods.
If you would like to experience the many benefits of following a low carb lifestyle get in touch with us to help guide you through.
- Bueno NB, de Melo IS, de Oliveira SL, da Rocha Ataide T. Very-low-carbohydrate ketogenic diet v. low-fat diet for long-term weight loss: a meta-analysis of randomised controlled trials. Br J Nutr. 2013 Oct;110(7):1178-87. doi: 10.1017/S0007114513000548. Epub 2013 May 7. PMID: 23651522.
- McClernon FJ, Yancy WS Jr, Eberstein JA, Atkins RC, Westman EC. The effects of a low-carbohydrate ketogenic diet and a low-fat diet on mood, hunger, and other self-reported symptoms. Obesity (Silver Spring). 2007 Jan;15(1):182-7. doi: 10.1038/oby.2007.516. PMID: 17228046.
- Noakes M, Foster PR, Keogh JB, James AP, Mamo JC, Clifton PM. Comparison of isocaloric very low carbohydrate/high saturated fat and high carbohydrate/low saturated fat diets on body composition and cardiovascular risk. Nutr Metab (Lond). 2006;3:7. Published 2006 Jan 11. doi:10.1186/1743-7075-3-7
- Westman, E.C., Vernon, M.C. Has carbohydrate-restriction been forgotten as a treatment for diabetes mellitus? A perspective on the ACCORD study design. Nutr Metab (Lond) 5, 10 (2008). https://doi.org/10.1186/1743-7075-5-10
- Westman EC, Yancy WS Jr, Mavropoulos JC, Marquart M, McDuffie JR. The effect of a low-carbohydrate, ketogenic diet versus a low-glycemic index diet on glycemic control in type 2 diabetes mellitus. Nutr Metab (Lond). 2008;5:36. Published 2008 Dec 19. doi:10.1186/1743-7075-5-36
- Volek J, Sharman M, Gómez A, et al. Comparison of energy-restricted very low-carbohydrate and low-fat diets on weight loss and body composition in overweight men and women. Nutr Metab (Lond). 2004;1(1):13. Published 2004 Nov 8. doi:10.1186/1743-7075-1-13
- Gjuladin-Hellon T, Davies IG, Penson P, Amiri Baghbadorani R. Effects of carbohydrate-restricted diets on low-density lipoprotein cholesterol levels in overweight and obese adults: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Nutr Rev. 2019 Mar 1;77(3):161-180. doi: 10.1093/nutrit/nuy049. PMID: 30544168.
- Unwin DJ, Tobin SD, Murray SW, Delon C, Brady AJ. Substantial and Sustained Improvements in Blood Pressure, Weight and Lipid Profiles from a Carbohydrate Restricted Diet: An Observational Study of Insulin Resistant Patients in Primary Care. Int J Environ Res Public Health. 2019;16(15):2680. Published 2019 Jul 26. doi:10.3390/ijerph16152680
- Mardinoglu A, Wu H, Bjornson E, et al. An Integrated Understanding of the Rapid Metabolic Benefits of a Carbohydrate-Restricted Diet on Hepatic Steatosis in Humans. Cell Metab. 2018;27(3):559-571.e5. doi:10.1016/j.cmet.2018.01.005