A low carb diet is a weight loss program that usually recommends the restriction of carbohydrate intake. The percentage of carbohydrates allowed in this type of diet ranges from 25% to 39%. The carbohydrate deficit is replaced with foods high in proteins and fats. The diet can be used to achieve fast weight loss and can therefore be used to treat obesity.
The most common foods that feature in a low carb diet are poultry, fish, red meat, shellfish, eggs, peanuts and non starchy vegetables and fruits. The foods to be reduced include all starchy foods such as beans, grains, pastas, breads, sweets and starchy fruits and vegetables.
Reducing carbohydrates from the diet causes a lack of glucose that is needed for energy. The body is therefore forced to break down the fats that have been stored in order to use as energy. This further leads to reduced feelings of hunger which translates to eating less amounts of food.
A diet that restricts carbohydrates may have other benefits apart from rapid weight loss. It is useful for the management of diabetes, polycystic ovarian syndrome and epilepsy. The diet can also reduce the risk of certain cancers and heart disease. It is also believed to improve some health conditions such as cardiovascular diseases, metabolic syndrome and high blood pressure.
Although a low carb diet is a popular way of losing weight fast, it comes with side effects. First of all, drastically cutting out or reducing carbohydrate intake will result in malnutrition. The body may not get enough nutrients and will therefore suffer from a host of health problems such as fatigue, headache, constipation and diarrhea.
Constipation and diarrhea may be caused by lack of sufficient fiber in the diet due to limited carbohydrates. Carbohydrates are the main source of fiber. Lack of enough starch also leads to ketosis which is the burning of body fat to be used as energy. Ketosis is known to cause the build up of ketones in the body. The ketones in turn cause nausea, bad breath, mental fatigue and headache. Ketosis also causes gout and organ failure.
A low carb diet can also lead to kidney failure because too much protein puts a strain on the kidneys. The recommended red meat, high fat foods and dairy products are high in cholesterol and may cause an increase in the level of cholesterol in the body. In addition to that, a high protein intake leads to excretion of more calcium during urination. The loss of calcium increases the risk of kidney stones and osteoporosis.
A diet that is low in carbohydrates is only recommended for short term weight loss. It is not healthy enough to be used as a long term weight loss program. The weight that is lost is usually water and muscle tissue. Losing muscle tissue is not a healthy way of losing weight; rather the target should be on losing fat. Furthermore weight that is lost rapidly through a low carb diet piles back as soon as the diet is stopped.