The body fat just melts away and the muscles grow too? That can only be healthy, right? When it comes to having the dream figure you long for in a few weeks, low carb diet seem to be the perfect solution. In fact, just the opposite is true. Research has linked this diet to serious illnesses such as stroke, heart attack and cancer. In this article we explain under which 2 conditions low carbs food is harmless.
The fact is: low carb works for weight loss
Anyone who deals with the topics of losing weight and building muscle will – sooner or later – come across the recommendation to eat a diet that is as low in carbohydrates and high in protein as possible in order to quickly fulfill the desire for their own dream figure.
From a nutritional point of view, that makes perfect sense. If you reduce the intake of carbohydrates, the body is forced to switch to two other sources of energy: fat and protein. If the muscles are also heavily stressed through strength training, the body uses the ingested proteins to build muscle. This leaves only the body’s own fat reserves, which are then broken down. More muscles also mean a higher energy expenditure.
Muscle building and high protein increase the effect of low carb
Another advantage of high-protein foods is that they keep you full for a long time. Because it is only slowly broken down by the body. In addition, additional energy has to be used to break down the proteins. At the same time, proteins, but also fats, have a significantly lower impact on insulin levels. This favors fat burning and reduces food cravings.
So there is no question: When it comes to losing weight quickly, low carb diets definitely work. But as wonderful as it all sounds, there is one big catch: low carb is unhealthy. Because those who rely on this form of nutrition for the long term can not only cause acute damage to their health. But it even shortens your own lifetime.
Low carbs food unhealthy: differentiating between short-term and long-term consequences
Low carb is a drastic change in diet. And that also affects the body. If you look at the health consequences, you have to distinguish between acute side effects and long-term health risks.
Short term side effects of low carb
Acute side effects usually occur in the first few days to weeks and can be assessed as relatively harmless. Because they are usually due to the so-called keto flu. This means the body’s conversion from glucose metabolism to fat metabolism (ketosis). In addition, the stomach and intestines still have to adapt to the new diet. Accordingly, the following symptoms are typical:
- a headache
- strong bad breath
- Weakness and fatigue
- Indigestion (constipation, diarrhea)
- Muscle spasms
Once the body has switched its metabolism to ketosis, these side effects usually go away again.
In the long term, low carb is unhealthy because of increased mortality
The long-term consequences are much more worrying. This is how the research team led by Dr. Sara Seidelmann from Birgham and Women’s Hospital in Boston as part of the ARIC study came to the following result: Both a permanently increased and a greatly reduced consumption of carbohydrates is associated with increased mortality. With moderate carbohydrate consumption, there is only a minimal risk of increased mortality.
Low carb unhealthy: 3 factors causing increased mortality
In the low carb diet, the low carbohydrate content is only indirectly responsible for the increased mortality. The majority of health problems arise in the food choices. So what ingredients are used to reduce the carbohydrate content.
The decisive factor is whether the missing energy is replaced by animal fats and proteins or by vegetable ones. If you mainly rely on animal foods, low carbs food becomes unhealthy.
1. Animal fats
Saturated animal fats are high in LDL cholesterol. This means that there is an increased risk of developing arteriosclerosis. This in turn promotes high blood pressure, strokes and heart attacks. Last but not least, animal fats also increase the risk of dementia and diabetes.
2. Animal proteins
Animal proteins, especially from red meat (pork, lamb, beef), are suspected of being carcinogenic. Another problem is the growth factors, especially IGF-1. These are activated when proteins and amino acids are consumed and drive the growth of cells and thus their aging.
This increases the risk of age-related diseases such as cancer. Another problem with animal proteins is that consuming them is usually associated with the intake of LDL cholesterol.
3. Malnutrition through nutrient poor foods
However, avoiding carbohydrates in connection with animal fats and proteins (except fish) brings with it another problem. In the long term he cannot do without malnutrition. Because you have to severely restrict the consumption of numerous foods that are important for a healthy diet:
- full grain
This makes it difficult to meet your long-term needs for essential nutrients such as:
- Minerals and trace elements
- Complex carbohydrates like whole grains
- Secondary plant substances
All of these nutrients are important for the body to function optimally. Many of these nutrients are also antioxidants, which protect the body from free radicals. Free radicals accelerate the aging process of the cells through oxidative stress and promote degenerative diseases such as cancer.
Low carb unhealthy: composition and duration are crucial
This increases the risk of death in a low-carb diet, especially if complex carbohydrates are permanently replaced by animal energy sources. Because:
Free radicals are released to a greater extent, especially when proteins and amino acids are absorbed
At the same time, there is a lack of antioxidants in foods of animal origin, which neutralize free radicals
there is also the risk of increased LDL cholesterol levels and growth factors, as well as the risk of malnutrition
Conclusion: low carb is much less unhealthy if you consider two things
A few weeks on low carb with mainly plant-based foods are considered harmless. As a permanent solution, however, this form of nutrition is definitely associated with high health risks. Especially if you rely too heavily on animal products when choosing your food. However, that does not mean that you have to do without it completely. In principle, 300–600 g of meat per week, preferably poultry, are considered safe.
If you are very overweight, low carb is less unhealthy
In the case of very overweight people (> BMI 35), however, the health risk of a low carb diet should be lower. Not least because the loss of visceral fat reduces the risk of being very overweight. Because of this, a low carb diet can be useful as a short term solution for rapid weight loss. As long as the food is unprocessed, nutritious and predominantly vegetable.
Low carb is only a short term solution to a long term problem
This short-term approach leads to the next problem: If you don’t have a healthy solution ready for the time after the diet, you will gain fat again and lose muscle mass. Therefore, only a healthy lifestyle that you can maintain in the long term helps if you want to lose your weight sustainably.
Better slow carb than low carb: The Longevity Diet
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In this book, Prof. Dr. Longo in simple terms:
- what is really important according to the latest scientific findings when it comes to healthy nutrition, longevity and fasting
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Last but not least, in this book he provides a concentrated load of delicious recipes and practical tips for a healthy everyday life. These help you to fill your own life step by step with simple and healthy habits and thus improve your general well-being.
Prof. Dr. Longo also created a FMD program