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Nutrition

Seven Reasons why a low Carbohydrate Diet is wrong

Charles Remington explains the health problems you may experience with a low carbohydrate diet

Obesity is reaching epidemic levels in America and is now the second leading cause of preventable deaths. The medical community used to see it as simply the result of poor eating habits or a lack of will power but now they are beginning to define obesity as a disease that poses a dire threat to our public health. Low carbohydrate diets have become popular as the solution in our battle to lose weight. Unfortunately the human body is equipped to use carbohydrate as its primary source of fuel. Sadly the latest low carbohydrate fad diets are not the fuel the human body was designed to run on. Low carbohydrate diets can cause several health concerns over time. Here are my top seven.

1. Poor exercise performance and recovery

Carbohydrates are the primary fuel for your muscles and brain. Eating a low carbohydrate diet prevents proper maintenance of muscle and liver glycogen (storage form of carbohydrate and water), decreasing muscle performance and increasing muscle fatigue. ATP is the main source of energy for all muscle contraction. When a muscle is used, a chemical reaction breaks down ATP to produce energy. There is only enough ATP stored in the muscle for a few contractions. More ATP is needed. There are three enzyme systems that can create more ATP. The three sources of ATP for muscle contraction are carbohydrates, fatty acids and amino acid proteins. Carbohydrates metabolize efficiently and are therefore used first. If carbohydrates are not available, your muscles metabolize fatty acids and amino acids as secondary sources of ATP. These secondary sources are not efficient, which consequently cause your strength and endurance to drop drastically. It needs to be customized to your amount of muscle and exercise schedule. It provides 50% of your calories from high fibre, low glycaemia (turn into blood sugar slowly) carbohydrates which are metabolized into muscle energy best. This will lead to increases in strength and muscle endurance.

2. Gout

Gout is a form of arthritis that occurs when excessive uric acid levels, start to crystallize in joints, leading to pain and inflammation. Uric acid is a waste product in the liver's metabolism of protein. Excessive amounts of protein may lead to an inability of elimination of uric acid. I would recommend you should not exceed 1 to 1.25 grams of protein per lean pound of body weight.

3. Kidney stones

Kidney stones are hard masses that form in the kidneys when uric acid or calcium oxalate crystallizes and over time form stones. Insoluble fibre found only in carbohydrates reduces the absorption of calcium, which cause urinary calcium levels to drop resulting in prevention of kidney stone's formation. I would recommend the consumption of 30 or more grams of fibre daily. This is not attainable on low carbohydrate diets.

4. Constipation and poor intestinal health

To maintain good intestinal health our bodies require thirty or more grams of fibre daily. Fibre is divided into two types soluble and insoluble. Insoluble fibre is vital in formation of stools and decreases the time process of waste elimination. Low carbohydrate diets are too low in insoluble fibre and increase risk of constipation. Poor transit time of waste material increases risk of certain colon cancers. Insoluble fibres prevent the build up of mucus on intestinal walls which lead to poor absorption of nutrients into the body. Low carbohydrate diets are inadequate to maintain good intestinal wall health. I would recommend you use whole grains, oats, beans, fruits and vegetable which are rich in soluble and insoluble fibre. This lowers the risk for constipation, irritable bowel, diverticulitis, crohn's disease, haemorrhoids and colon cancers.

5. Rise in cholesterol levels and an increased risk of heart disease

The risk of heart disease increases on low carbohydrate, low fibre diets. These diets promote excessive amounts of animal protein, cholesterol and saturated fat. Exuberant amounts of protein increase homocysteine, which is a bi product of the amino acid methionine. Many experts believe that high homocysteine levels have many toxic effects which lead to increase risk of heart disease and hardening of arteries. Low carbohydrate, low fibre diets reduce the absorption and elimination of digestive bile in the intestines. Digestive bile is produced in the liver from cholesterol. A decrease in digestive bile production raises blood serum cholesterol levels which increases the risk of heart disease. Unlike low carbohydrate diets I would promote a nutritional balance providing 30% protein, 50% high fibre carbohydrates and 20% fat.

6. Osteoporosis

Osteoporosis is the reduction of bone density, due to the loss of calcium over long periods of time. Several dietary factors increase the risk of osteoporosis. When dietary protein reaches excessive levels, so does the loss of calcium in the urine. Most studies show that a life - long high protein diet results in an increase of osteoporosis. Poor intestinal health due to low fibre diets cause inadequate absorption of calcium in intestines contributing to poor bone formation. This would suggest that all low carbohydrate diets cannot become a life long lifestyle of eating. This is only one of many reasons why low carbohydrate diets provide poor Long Term Weight Control. Interestingly, a diet too low in protein can also increase risk of osteoporosis. There is no one size fits all when managing our weight so it has to be customized to the individual providing the right balance of protein, carbohydrate and fat.

7. Loss of muscle and reduction of metabolism

Any diet that applies the restriction of calories less than the body's daily requirements over long periods of time will result in the loss of lean muscle tissue and a decrease in the metabolism. All low carbohydrate diets are focused solely on weight loss. The loss of fat comes at a high cost, which is the loss of lean muscle. The loss of muscle reduces the resting metabolic rate, which is the major cause for rebound weight gain. Research shows 95% of all dieters' will regain that weight back. We do not fail at diets - diets fail us! The secret is not to try to lose fat every day as this will result in losing muscle and reducing metabolism.

Final thoughts

Long term success in managing weight starts with the right approach. If you are overweight, the real problem is that you have too much body fat for how much muscle you possess. A body composition solution is needed, not just a weight loss diet. Your goal should be to lose fat without losing muscle or sacrificing your health in the process. To maintain your results your eating habits must develop life long character. Low carbohydrate diets provide initial weight loss, but at the high cost of losing muscle and reducing metabolism. They are inadequate sources of fuel to support exercise activity, which is vital in maintaining good health. The risks to your health long term make low carbohydrate diet's poor solutions for life long weight management.


Article Reference

This article first appeared in:

  • REMINGTON, C. (2004) Seven Reasons why a low Carbohydrate Diet is wrong. Brian Mackenzie's Successful Coaching, (ISSN 1745-7513/ 14 / July-August), p. 3-4

Page Reference

If you quote information from this page in your work then the reference for this page is:

  • REMINGTON, C. (2004) Seven Reasons why a low Carbohydrate Diet is wrong [WWW] Available from: https://www.brianmac.co.uk/articles/scni14a3.htm [Accessed

About the Author

Charles Remington is a Nutritionist from Connecticut, U.S.A. and in 1992 discovered a way to influence hormonal change so our bodies would lose fat without losing muscle or reducing metabolism.

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