Mention you’re thinking of going on a low carbohydrate diet program (like Atkins) and you might just unleash a wave of hand-wringing and despair…
“It’s dangerous.” “It’s ineffective.” “It causes heart disease.” “It’s nutritionally deficient.”
These are the most common arguments against low carb dieting, and they are still being voiced by many mainstream dietitians and nutritionists.
Unfortunately, none of these concerns are warranted or substantiated. However, if you are considering a low carbohydrate diet, it’s smart to get the facts first, so you can base your decisions on what the current clinical science says, and not hand wringing and fear mongering.
So let’s go through and debunk the arguments against low carbohydrate diet programs…
1. The low carbohydrate diet is nutritionally deficient.
Essentially, these diets require the removal of carbohydrates, which deprives the body of fibre and nutrient-rich colored fruits and vegetables which are so essential to optimum health.
a) Most North Americans are already deficient in these sorts of foods. Low carb dieting isn’t removing these foods from our diets because we are not eating them in the first place. Chances are, if your diet is already rich in high fibre fruits and vegetables, you’re unlikely to be a candidate for a low carb diet.
b) The period of extreme carbohydrate restriction only lasts a very short time (on the Atkins diet this period is called the “Induction Phase” and it lasts two weeks), after which friendly carbs are slowly re-introduced back into the diet.
c) During the severe carbohydrate restriction period, most diet plans encourage you to supplement with the necessary vitamins and minerals to ensure you are not running a nutritional deficit.
2) Increased protein intake is dangerous.
Actually, it isn’t. There is no evidence that an increased protein intake causes any adverse effects for individuals with normal kidney function. In fact, one clinical study (1) suggested…
“… we find no significant evidence for a detrimental effect of high protein intakes on kidney function in healthy persons after centuries of a high protein Western diet.”
3) Low carb dieting doesn’t work.
Believe it or not, a study published in the prestigious New England Journal Of Medicine (2) says it does; almost twice as well as traditional diets.
4. Low carbohydrate diets are hazardous to your health.
Seems logical, does it not? Remove the fruits and vegetables from your diet and replace them with bacon, eggs, cheese, nuts, and steak – how could you not end up in the intensive care unit, with your heart jam-packed with fat?
In reality, a recent 20-year study (3) shows no link between the low carbohydrate diet and an increased risk of heart disease. Additionally, low carb diets have been demonstrated to outperform traditional diets when it comes to improving metabolic syndrome (4).
And there you have it; the top 4 arguments against low carb dieting debunked! While doing the “low carb thing” isn’t for anyone, there’s decent evidence to suggest it’s both an effective and a credible alternative to more traditional dieting strategies.
1. Nutr Metab (Lond). 2005 Sep 20;2:25
2. N Engl J Med 2008; 359:229-241
3. Harvard School of Public Health (2006, November 9).
4. BioMed Central (2005, November 16). Low-carb Diet Better Than Low-fat Diet At Improving Metabolic Syndrome. ScienceDaily.