Low carbohydrates diets (LCD) have been popular the past decade, and they are still gaining popularity after the promises of weight loss, and curing diseases like diabetes. Do they really work? Are they for everyone? Can they be harmful or not? Let’s find out:
Chemical compounds made of basic unit called sugar.
- Simple carbs contain one or two sugar units like glucose and fructose.
- Complex carbs contain many sugars linked up in chains, like starch.
When you eat carbs, your body break them down gradually starting from the mouth to the intestines, using enzymes, and other compounds. What we concerned about here, is what happened after the carbs being digested, absorbed, and going to the blood.
In the case of simple sugar, the breakdown is very easy. The sugar is transferred to the blood and the brain quickly, that’s why you feel a spike after eating it. When the brain and blood got their needs, the body starts asking for more glucose, here the pancreas starts making a hormone called glucagon. This hormone signals to the liver to release the stored sugar. Then when the blood sugar is high again, the body releases insulin to stimulate the body cells to absorb sugar for energy or storage.
It is important to keep this cycle working efficiently, When the blood sugar becomes high all the time, the muscles and other body cells start to resist insulin, and thus the blood sugar level won’t go down. Eventually this leads to type 2 diabetes.
What low carb diet is:
A diet program that restricts carbohydrates consumption to 130g or less per day.
You are suppose to reduce your intake of:
- Refined carbs like pasta, and bread.
- Starchy vegetables like potatoes, grains, and sweets.
Is low carb ketogynic? And what does that means?
Carbs are essential for fat breakdown, when the carb intake is low, the compounds resulting from fat degrading can’t be metabolized for energy. Therefore, the liver use these components, and convert them into other compounds called ketones or ketone bodies.
Ketones can be used as energy source, for your internal organs like kidney and heart. The brain can adapt to get some energy from ketone bodies.
While ketone formation process is normal in the starvation mode, or fasting, it should not be used for long time to burn fat. What happened in the process is that extra ketone bodies go to the kidneys, and if you don’t consume enough fluids, or the the production of ketones is high (think high fat diets) that result in kteosis. When it is mild, the symptoms are headaches, and low appetite. But when it happened repeatedly for prolonged time, and not treated, it can cause coma and death.
Let’s talk about the claims of low carb diet:
At the beginning yes, definitely! It will help! If you eat high protein diet, you will need more calories to digest protein, comparing to high carb diet. Also Choosing lean protein and lots of veggies, and good quality protein like eggs and yogurt (these are relatively low in calories) canbe very beneficial. Also healthy fats, like avocado and nuts are very satisfying and don’t raise the blood sugar quickly.
In this study they found, that under supervised medical conditions, low carb diet are very efficient for loosing weight in obese adolescents comparing to low fat diets.
But there are many reasons can stop you from losing weight, even when you are on a low carb diet, to mention a few:
- Eating too many calories through the day.
- Eating too many diary products that are high caloric, and high in fats like some kind of cheese, butter and heavy cream. Also the use of artificial sweeteners.
- Not exercising at all, won’t help you burn fats.
Effects on diabetes and insulin:
Yes, because when you consume less sugar, the load on your body to keep the cycle of insulin and glucagon is becoming less . In this study they found that high protein/low carb diet can reduce the fasting blood sugar level and the A1C( level which is the average blood sugar level over a period of three months) significantly.
Heart health and cholesterol level:
According to Harvard University there are some studies in favor of low carb diets for lowering blood pressure, and LDL level, but most of them were stating that low carb is beneficial for heart health and reducing diabetes risk, when you consume high quality fat and protein. Sausage and bacon are not great options, and you may still face heart disease risk.