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Diet Articles | Get your body in shape

Do low carb diets work?

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do low carb diets work Reduced carbohydrate diets are widely viewed as a efficient way to lose excess weight. The reason behind this really is that when you reduce carbohydrates (especially simple carbs) you will be lowering the amount of glucose in your bloodstream.  In very simplistic terms, whenever you consume less sugar, your whole body uses fat as an energy source instead of sugar. Whenever your body uses fat as an energy source, you lose weight.

How exactly do low carb diets work:  The Science

Should there be less sugar in your bloodstream, less insulin is created by your pancreas.  Scientists now know that when insulin levels drop, something called "Hormone-Sensitive Lipase" or HSL rises in your body. This process is literally a fat burning switch!

HSL transforms stored triglycerides into free fatty acids. In simple terms, whenever your body requires energy, and insulin isn't present, HSL will take a triglycerol molecule and break it apart freeing up a diglyceride and a fatty acid.

According to Jonny Bowden, PhD, "HSL literally dissolves the stored fat that you have....into smaller particles called fatty acids, which your body then burns for energy. HSL is what unlocks the doors to your fat cells." Bowden says that HSL and insulin function like a "see-saw" meaning when one goes up the other goes down.

Most people, however, have a significant amount of glucose in their bloodstream for HSL to be present and working its magic. Their diet literally shuts off this fat burning switch.

Intake of sugar triggers insulin production. But so does the consumption of many foods that we consider healthy or that are commonly eaten. For example whole wheat bread, whole grain cereals, brown rice, pasta, potatoes and corn all send your insulin levels up.

What About Healthy Grains?

According to Bowden, whether you eat whole grain products or refined grains- you're still spiking your insulin.

However, decades of focus on grains, partially at the behest of the food industry, has left the average person, highly conditioned to be eating a high or "fast" carb diet,whenever we see people reduce these types of carbs and sugars from their diet, especially at breakfast time it helps them down the path to permanent weight loss.

How To Do Low Carb Diets The Right Way

One of the keys to actually being ABLE to follow a diet that is low in fast carbs and sugar, is making sure that the foods that you DO focus on give you the nutrients that you need to turn your cravings off.

The work of Joel Fuhrman, MD has been critical in this area. He has brought singular focus to the issue of micronutrients, and the fact that the vast majority of people do not consume nearly enough of them. He cites overwhelming research that connects the lack of adequate micronutrients in the diet to obesity and almost every other non-genetic disease out there.

The low-carb focus helps foster weight loss, and the heavy vegetable focus helps to ensure that one eats a diet that is shown to promote health AND helps fight the carb and sugar cravings.

One interesting observation that Dr. Fuhrman has shared is that heavy consumption of green vegetables is linked to less food craving.

Why You Must Consume High-Fiber Slow-Carb Foods

It is important, however, to make a distinction between different carbs. Certain foods such as beans, lentils and peas are high in carbohyrdates, but they break down slowly in the body. The provide the body a needed degree of glucose, but also contain high quantities of fiber which are associated with optimum health.

They also contain important nutrients, vitamins and minerals. If you are looking to lose weight, most likely you are looking for a starting point. As we mention earlier in this article, breakfast is the most important place to start.

Breakfast sets your "metabolic tone" for the day. What that means is that if your body has a lot of sugar in the bloodstream, the natural fat burning/energy production processes in your body will be impaired. Additionally, if you do not snack at night, you could have given your body a very long window from dinner to lunch where there is a limited amount of sugar in your system. Not only does this help with fat burning, but it also helps with your body's natural detoxification processes.

The Danger Of Combining Low Carb With High Animal Protein Diet

It is sometimes said that high-protein diets are low-carb diets in disguise. There is an overwhelming amount of evidence and opinion that this combination can be extremely dangerous and put you at risk for sudden death.

Bodybuilders learned early on that when you reduce carbs and increase the fat and protein, you will build muscle faster and reduce bodyfat. Unfortunately, scientists also learned that at an extreme level this approach can put you at risk for sudden death.

According to Dr. Fuhrman in an article on the South Beach Diet, "It is well established in the medical literature that carbohydrate restricted, high-protein diets can cause electrolytes deficiencies from enhanced urinary excretion, especially the loss of potassium that can lead to a cardiac arrthymia and sudden cardiac death."

He adds, "when you consume a nutrient dense diet, you are giving your body the widest array of vitamins, minerals and micronutrients possible." If you avoid the high animal protein part of the low-carb equation you avoid risk. If you add tons of green vegetables you dramatically increase the benefit.

How Much Fat Should You Consume On A Low Carb Diet?

The correct amount of fat in a diet is the subject of tremendous controversy. Some people, especially in the vegan community, advocate a diet very low in fat. Other people argue that fat is an energy source and that fat doesn't make you fat.

We do know one thing for certain, and that is you want to increase your consumption of vegetables and certain fruits because they contain micronutrients that most people are highly deficient in. However, fruits and vegetables do not contain lipids or fats that are needed by the body to help absorb these nutrients.

A very interesting study published in 2005 showed how the consumption of avocado along with tomatoes helped to dramatically increase the absorption of the nutrients in the tomatoes.

Does A Low Carb Diet Help Type 2 Diabetes?

This is another area where there is a lot of controversy. Researchers know that people who have Type 2 Diabetes have actually increased their carbohydrate intake over the last few decades. Others in the medical community are strongly advocating that doctors begin to advise their patients to "reduce the amount of sugar and starch in the diet."

The dirty secret here is that most doctors don't think patients can lose weight and focus primarily on drugs as a way to treating Type 2 Diabetes.

However, a growing number of doctors are starting to focus on the nutritional aspects of treating Type 2 diabetes. According to the Mount Sinai School of Medicine the "most successful strategy is one that the patient can adopt and follow in the long term."

Leading doctors are discovering that the combination of a low sugar and starch diet, combined with high levels of green vegetables can lead to complete reversal of Type 2 diabetes. If the shift away from "bad carbs" and toward nutrient dense foods is dramatic enough, many patients can get off diabetes medication completely.


The reason we wrote this article is that low carb diets as a category are hugely popular. We have an opportunity here to help change how this term is defined. For whatever reason, low carb diets, is associated with high protein. Atkins is probably the most well known example of this.

We make this point because so many people get confused about different perspectives. If you are the kind of person that gets confused by the different options this will help to simplify things.  There is nobody who would argue with adding more greens and vegetables to the diet AND There is nobody who would argue with a reduction in sugar and refined carbs. There is a lot of research that says go easy on the meat.   Don't cut it out but limit it!