Low-Carb Diets

By Yoojin Hahn

What is a Low-Carb Diet?

A low-carb diet is a dietary program that decreases carbohydrate intake and increases protein and fats intake. It is usually used for weight loss, as well as for the prevention of dangers related to a variety of serious health conditions, such as diabetes, cardiovascular disease, certain cancers, and so on.

How Does a Low-Carb Diet Work?

Normally, carbohydrates are the body’s main source of energy. Consequently, when one restricts the consumption of carbohydrates, the body turns to the stored fat as its main source of energy -- a metabolic state called ketosis. This helps the individual lose weight and prevent risk factors of certain health conditions.

What are the potential Benefits?

  1. Weight loss: Low-carb diets result in quicker weight loss, at about a similar pace as other dietary programs, including low-fat diets and the Mediterranean diet.

  2. Health conditions: Low-carb diets can stabilize blood pressure, improve HDL cholesterol and triglyceride values, and so on, thereby preventing risk factors of serious health conditions as diabetes and cardiovascular disease.

What are the Potential Risks?

1. High cholesterol: Because some high-fat, protein-rich foods contain saturated fats, low-carb diets may result in a rise in cholesterol levels.

2. Ketosis: The metabolic state of ketosis leads to the formation of ketones, or the molecules generated during fat metabolism, that may lead to side effects as nausea, decreased appetite, headache, and bad breath.

3. Overload of kidneys: An increased intake of protein leads one to urinate more calcium than normal. This strains the kidneys, and might potentially lead to osteoporosis and kidney stones.

4. Decreased mental acuity: The brain cannot function without glucose. Hence, an excessive restriction of carbohydrate intake may lead to decreased mental acuity.

Are low-carb diets recommended for children or teenagers?

Since there haven’t been many research studies on low-carb diets for children or teenagers, it is hard to give a clear answer. Some studies have shown that obese teenagers yield better results from low-carb diets than from other dietary programs, such as low-fat diets, while other studies have shown that low-carb diets are not very effective due to issues related to higher cholesterol consumption and to the fact that low-carb diets are difficult for children and teenagers to follow. Still, it seems pretty evident that, if a child or teenager is considering undertaking a low-carb dietary program, he or she should consider undertaking a modified low-carb dietary program than an extremely restrictive one, as it is easier to follow and would prevent potential side effects of low-carb diets, such as fiber insufficiency.

What are the general rules to an effective low-carb diet?

1. Restrict carbohydrate intake. Consume lower or no amounts of food like beans, grains, fruits, breads, pasta, sweets, and starchy vegetables. Most low-carb diets recommend a daily carbohydrate intake of 50 to 150 grams.

2. Focus on proteins. Consume higher amounts of food like meat, poultry, fish, eggs, and non-starchy vegetables.

3. Drink a lot of water. One of the main, potential side effects of low-carb diets is constipation.

4. Take fiber and vitamin supplements, if necessary.

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What are some types of low-carb diets?

  1. Atkins Diet

  2. South Beach Diet

  3. Zone Diet

  4. Protein Power


  1. "High-Protein, Low-Carb Diets Explained." WebMD. Ed. Michael W. Smith. WebMD, 28 Mar. 2014. Web. 13 Apr. 2014.

  2. Ianneli, Vincent. "Kids and Low-Carb Foods." About.com. About.com, 17 Mar. 2012. Web. 14 Apr. 2014.

  3. "Low-carb Diet: Can It Help You Lose Weight?" Mayo Clinic. Mayo Clinic, 11 Oct. 2011. Web. 13 Apr. 2014.

  4. "Low-Carbohydrate Diet." EBSCO. EBSCO Information Services, 2011. Web. 13 Apr. 2014.

  5. Neer, Katherine. "Lo-carbing Basics." 09 October 2008. HowStuffWorks.com. 13 April 2014.