Low-carb diets work! This is a pretty basic science-based fact at the moment. At the very least, 23 top quality studies on humans have proved that this is the case.
In many instances, a diet that is low in carbs can result in three times the weight loss than the typical low-fat diet we're being instructed to adhere to.
Within the first couple of weeks (6-8 weeks) of eating low-carb individuals tend to drop weight rapidly. The principal reason is the reduction in weight of water!
Diets that are low in carbs also provide a very high safety rating. There are no serious adverse side effects that have been observed. Indeed, studies have shown that these diets result in significant improvement in several risk aspects.
Triglycerides decrease dramatically and HDL increases dramatically. Blood sugar and blood pressure levels can also decrease substantially.
A significant portion of fat loss on a low carb diet is directly from the belly as well as the liver. This is the dreadful visceral fat that accumulates within and around organs, causing inflammation and diseases.
These diets are particularly beneficial for people suffering from metabolic syndrome or the type 2 form of diabetes. There is a lot of evidence to support it. There is, however, some debate over the reasons these diets are effective.
Many people like to debate the mechanism behind it, and the thing that actually happens within our cells and organs that causes the weight to go off. However, this isn't completely understood, and the chances are it's multifactorial, meaning that there are numerous different reasons for why these diets work.
In this piece I review of some of the most convincing arguments to support the efficacy of low-carb diets.
Carb Restriction Lowers Insulin Levels
Insulin is an extremely important hormone that is present in the body. It is the principal hormone which regulates the blood sugar level as well as energy storage.
One of the roles of insulin is telling fat cells to make and store fat, as well as to help hold onto the fat they already possess. It also instructs other cells within the body to absorb glucose (blood sugar) from the bloodstream and then burn it rather than fat.
Thus, insulin increases the process of lipogenesis (production of fat) and blocks the process of lipolysis (the process of burning fat).
It is well-established that diets with low carbs result in dramatic and rapid reductions in the levels of insulin.
According to numerous experts in low-carb diets such as Gary Taubes and the late Dr. Atkins, lower levels of insulin are the most important reason behind the effectiveness of low-carb diets.
They've claimed that when carbs are slowed and insulin levels drop the fat doesn't get "locked" into fat cells anymore , and is available for your body's use for energy, which reduces the consumption of food.
But, I'd like to note that many reputable experts in the field of obesity do not think this is true and do not believe that the carbohydrate-insulin theory that obesity causes it is supported by evidence.
Water Weight Reduces Rapidly at the beginning
Within the first couple of weeks of eating low-carb individuals tend to drop weight rapidly. The principal reason is the reduction in weight of water.
The reason for this is twofold:
Insulin: As insulin goes down, the kidneys begin eliminating surplus sodium from the body. This can also lower the blood cholesterol.
Glycogen It is the body's way of storing carbs in glycogen that binds water in the liver and muscles. If carb intake decreases glycogen levels in the body decrease and water levels follow in the same direction.
This isn't the case to the same degree in a high-carb diet even though calories are decreased drastically. Although some may make this argument against low-carb dietsand diets, a reduction in water weight can be considered as an benefit.
You know, who would want to carry around extra weight and bloat every day?
In any case regardless of claims to the contrary this isn't the primary weight loss benefit of diets that are low in carbohydrates.
Studies have proven that diets with low carbs result in an increase in weight being shed and especially that "dangerous" stomach fat that is found within the abdomen.
This means that a portion of the weight loss benefit of diets that are low in carbohydrates is caused by a reduction in water weight. However, there's a huge fat loss benefit as well.
A Low Carb Diets are high in Protein
In the majority of studies where low fat and low carb diets are examined, the lower carb diets are found to be eating a lot more protein.
This is due to the fact that people substitute some of the foods with low protein (grains and sugars) by more protein-rich food items such as fish, meat and eggs..
Numerous studies have shown that protein may reduce appetite, increase metabolism, and increase muscle mass. Muscle is burning calories throughout the day.
Numerous nutritionists believe that the protein content in low-carb diets is the primary reason for their efficacy.
Diets with low carbs have the advantage of Metabolic Health
While this is a controversial topic some experts do believe that diets with low carbs offer a metabolic advantage.
That is, low-carb diets boost your energy expenditure and also that people lose more weight than is just due to a decrease in calories in isolation. There are studies that prove this.
A study that was conducted in 2012 showed that a low-carb diet was more energy-efficient in comparison to a low fat diet during a period of weight-loss maintenance.
The gain was approximately 250 calories, which is equal approximately an hour moderate intensity training daily!
But, another study suggests that it could it be the protein-rich (but not the low carb) component of the diet that triggers an increased calories consumed.
However, there are other mechanisms that can provide an additional metabolic benefit.
In a low-carb ketogenic diet, where the intake of carbs is low, lots of protein is transformed into glucose at the start in a process known as the gluconeogenesis.
This is not a good process that could result in many calories going to be "wasted." But this is usually only temporary, as ketones should begin replacing glucose in the brain within several hours.
The Low-Carb Diet will significantly Reduce Your appetite, leading to Automatically Reduced Calorie Intake
The most likely reason for the weight loss benefits of diets with low carbs is their powerful effect on appetite. It has been proven that when people are to a low-carb diet, their appetite decreases down, and they consume less calories instantly.
In actual fact studies that study the differences between low fat and low carb diets generally limit calories for the groups with low fat, whereas those with lower carbs are permitted to eat until they feel full.
Even so, the low carbohydrate groups are still prone to losing more weight.
There are a myriad of possibilities for the reasons behind this appetite decreasing effect, some which we have previously discussed.
The higher intake of protein is one of the major factors however there is evidence that ketosis could be a significant influence.
Many people who adhere to ketogenic diets feel that they only have to consume one or two meals a day. They don't feel frequently hungry.
There is some evidence to suggest that diets with low carbs may have positive effects on hormones that regulate appetite such as the hormone leptin and Ghrelin.
A few people are unable to accept that diets with low carbs could be successful, and that individuals can eat whatever they like, as this would violate principles of the calories in and energy out model.
But, if you are able to know the mechanisms behind low carb diets, then you will realize how the CICO model isn't being violated and the laws of thermodynamics remain in force. The reality is that low carb diets are effective both ways in the calories calculation.
They increase the metabolism (increasing calories expended) and reduce you cravings (reducing the calories you consume) which leads to an the automatic restriction of calories.
Calories are still important but low carb diets speed up the process, and also help to prevent the main negative effect of conscious calorie reduction the feeling of hunger.