Inside Low Carb Diets
Let’s take a look inside Low Carb Diets from a neutral (non-weightloss focused) nutrition standpoint.
The ketogenic diet is defined as a diet that is low in carbs (50 grams or less per day), moderate in proteins, and high in fats. The standard ratio is set at 5% carbs, 20% proteins, and 75% fats. The theory behind this method is that when you put your body in ketosis mode, your body will be forced to burn your stored fat into energy.
You can really insert any Low carb diet into this conversation – I’m only discussing the ketogenic diet because it’s the low carb diet de jour.
The basic function of the ketogenic diet (in the most simplistic terms) is to induce a carb starved state so the body eventually utilizes fat cells as energy and ultimately ketones produced by the liver as the energy source.
It was designed as a way to starve the brain of glucose to help children reduce their epileptic seizures.
Sounds great – if you’re looking for rapid weight loss, but that rapid weight loss comes with a big long term price tag.
Why is this an issue?
Carbohydrates are the body’s more efficient and productive energy source. It is the body’s preferred source simply because over time, utilizing protein and fat as an energy source takes their function away from their more vital role of cell growth, tissue repair, maintaining bone mass, and hormone synthesis, specifically steroid hormones.
Long term carbohydrate starvation leads to a decrease in our Thyroid gland secretion of total and free thyroxine (this is our T4 thyroid hormone). Without going too deep into thyroid function – T4 is converted in T3 (which is referred to as a gas pedal for our metabolism) – if we have a decrease in T4 this slows down our thyroid function leading us to decreased metabolism. We ultimately put ourselves into a hypothyroid state.
Overall, a carb starved state – SLOWS down our metabolism and leads us into a metabolic adaptation.
But what about insulin resistance and ketogenic diet for diabetes?
One of the things that the ketogenic diet promises are an increased benefit for diabetes; however, this is research showing that the ketogenic diet can actually LEAD to insulin resistance and impaired beta-cell function. This is referred to as “starvation diabetes”.
This state occurs when you GO BACK to eating a higher carbohydrate state – the issue is a lot of the research on the benefits of low carb diets and ketogenic diets are SHORT TERM. They are not following up with participants 10, 20, 30 years later to see how the diet affected them.
There are a lot of symptoms from significantly reducing your carb intake and inducing a carb starved state. Some of them include:
- Heart palpitations
- Difficulty concentrating
- Brain fog
- Reduced endurance
- Hair loss
- Elevated cholesterol
- Kidney Damage
- Liver Damage
- Decrease folate (detrimental for pregnancy and fetus development)
This is only “health-promoting” (for the mass majority of people) when you believe that weight loss equates to health.
But when you look at the fundamental biochemistry of what the ketogenic diet does to your body – this has more long term and short term harmful effects than long-term health benefits.
Warning:: This is not a safe diet for anyone planning on conceiving or actively pregnant because it depletes the body of folate (a vital nutrient for fetus developments)