An extremely low-carbohydrate diet is one in which you consume fewer carbohydrates while eating a higher proportion of protein and fat. This is also referred to as a ketogenic diet.
Not all low-carb diets, on the other hand, result in ketosis.
For decades, we have been told that dietary fat is harmful to our overall health. Meanwhile, low-fat “diet” products, many of which were high in sugar, flooded the supermarket aisles and shelves. This occurred at the same time as the beginning of the obesity epidemic and, in retrospect, appears to have been a major miscalculation. While the proliferation of low-fat products does not prove causation, it is clear that the low-fat message did not prevent the rise in obesity, and we believe that it has contributed to the rise in obesity rates.
Natural fats are no longer regarded as dangerous, according to recent research.
Instead, on a low-carb diet, you will not have to worry about gaining weight. Simply reduce your intake of sugar and starches, ensure that you are getting adequate protein — or even large amounts of protein — and consume enough natural fat to allow you to enjoy your meals.
Avoiding sugar and starches has been shown to help maintain a more stable blood sugar level as well as lower insulin levels, which may make it easier to burn fat stored in the body.
Furthermore, a higher protein intake and the presence of ketones (if you are following a very low carbohydrate diet) may make you feel more satiated, resulting in a natural reduction in food consumption and weight loss.
What are the Benefits?
- Lose Weight in a Short Amount of Time
Counting calories to lose weight is ridiculous, but shifting your attention to the types of foods you eat and practicing mindful eating can make all the difference in the world.
Low-carb diets have a reputation for causing rapid weight loss without the need to feel hungry or count calories, which is why they are so popular. Many people experience weight loss when they follow a low-carb diet, even if they have tried “everything else” and failed to achieve the results they desired.
According to a 2014 study conducted by the National Institutes of Health, low-carb diets were found to be more effective for weight loss and cardiovascular risk factor reduction in overweight adults when compared to low-fat diets, as demonstrated by 148 participants who followed both types of dietary plans over a 12-month period.
Why are low-carb diets, particularly the ketogenic diet, so effective at shedding excess pounds, even in people who have a difficult time losing weight in the first place? When we consume foods high in sugar and carbohydrates, the hormone insulin is released as a reaction, which causes blood glucose levels to rise in the body (sugar).
In the medical community, insulin is known as a “fat-storage hormone” because one of its functions is to signal cells to store as much available energy as they can. Because glycogen is our “primary” energy source, this energy is initially stored as glycogen, which is formed from the glucose found in carbohydrates.
We can prevent insulin from being released and fat from being stored by eliminating carbohydrates from our diet and keeping the body’s glycogen stores low or almost empty. Because there is less insulin circulating in our bloodstream, our bodies are forced to use up all of their glycogen stores before turning to fat stores stored in our adipose tissue (body fat) for ongoing fuel.
- Improvements in Cognitive Function
In most people’s diets, fat and carbohydrates are in an inverse relationship with one another. The majority of people maintain a relatively constant protein intake, but the more carbohydrates and sugar people consume, the fewer healthy fats they consume.
This is a problem because we require healthy fats for proper brain function, mood regulation, and hormone regulation, all of which are impaired without them. While a sugary or high-carb meal may initially make you feel awake and alert, you will most likely come crashing down shortly afterward and will likely feel tired, grumpy, and irritable as a result.
As a stimulant, sugar has powerful effects on the brain, particularly when it comes to increasing cravings while simultaneously decreasing anxiety and fatigue. On the other hand, certain types of healthy fats, such as cholesterol, act as antioxidants and precursors to some important brain-supporting molecules and neurotransmitters that regulate learning, memory, mood, and energy production and expenditure.
The majority of the fat in your brain is made up of fatty acids, and your brain requires a steady stream of fats from your diet in order to function at its best.
Following the publication of a 2012 paper in The Journal of Physiology, researchers discovered evidence of significant metabolic consequences of a high-sugar diet combined with a deficiency in omega-3 fatty acids on cognitive abilities. These results were obtained as a result of the association between consuming large amounts of glucose and insulin action, both of which regulate brain-signaling mediators.
The unhealthy diet, which was high in sugar but low in healthy fats such as omega-3 fatty acids, was associated with lower cognitive scores and insulin resistance, as might be expected.
According to research, the ketogenic diet is particularly beneficial when it comes to preserving cognitive health and functioning. Individuals with the highest insulin resistance, according to the researchers, may have lower cerebral blood flow and, as a result, less brain plasticity.
This is due to the fact that insulin is a “vasodilator,” meaning that it increases blood flow to the muscles and organs, including the brain, in order to promote glucose delivery. When someone develops insulin resistance over time as a result of a high-sugar and high-carbohydrate diet, this vasodilator function is inhibited, resulting in a decrease in perfusion of brain tissues and activity.
A ketogenic diet has been shown to improve the symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease and dementia in some studies, with factors such as improved mitochondrial function being cited as reasons for the improvement. In a study published in the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition, researchers identified emerging evidence that suggests the therapeutic use of ketogenic diets for a variety of neurological disorders other than epilepsy and Alzheimer’s disease. These disorders include headaches, neurotrauma, Parkinson’s disease (including Parkinson’s disease-related sleep disorders), brain cancer, autism, and multiple sclerosis.
- Lower risk of developing Metabolic Syndrome and heart disease.
According to a 2012 study published in the American Journal of Epidemiology, low-carbohydrate diets are more effective at reducing certain metabolic and heart disease risk factors than low-fat diets, and they are at least as effective at reducing weight and other factors as low-fat diets.
A meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials was used to investigate the effects of low-carbohydrate diets (containing less than 45 percent of total energy from carbohydrates) versus low-fat diets (containing less than 30 percent of total energy from fat) on metabolic risk factors. Two thousand seven hundred and eighty-eight participants from twenty-three trials in various countries were included in the analyses.
The findings revealed that both low-carbohydrate and low-fat diets helped people lose weight while also improving their metabolic risk factors. People on low-carbohydrate diets, on the other hand, saw a significantly greater increase in “good” high-density lipoprotein cholesterol and a significantly greater decrease in triglycerides when compared to those on low-fat diets, study found.
The total cholesterol and low-density lipoprotein cholesterol levels in this group were lower than those in the low-fat diet group, as well. Keep in mind, however, that higher cholesterol levels have not been proven to be a factor in the development of heart disease!
These conclusions were reached despite the fact that there was no statistically significant difference between the two diet groups in terms of weight loss, waist circumference reduction, or other metabolic risk factors. They contend that satisfying lower-carbohydrate diets that are higher in fat can help people beat heart disease risk factors just as effectively as diets that are more difficult to adhere to and are more likely to leave people hungry.
- Reduced risk of developing Type-2 Diabetes.
In spite of rising rates of type 1 and 2 diabetes, as well as the rising cost of resources required to monitor and treat diabetic patients, researchers assert that the medical community has not been successful in reducing either the number of people affected or the severity of complications associated with diabetes in the past. While prescriptions for diabetes medications continue to rise, there is a simple, effective, low-cost strategy that has been shown to be effective in the treatment of diabetes: Cut back on the amount of sugar and starch you consume daily.
Researchers from the SUNY University of Brooklyn’s Division of Endocrinology, Diabetes, and Hypertension point out that a high-carbohydrate diet increases postprandial plasma glucose and insulin secretion, increasing the risk of diabetes, heart disease, hypertension, dyslipidemia, and obesity, among other things.
A large number of studies have demonstrated that a low-carb diet is a natural diabetes treatment and an effective tool in the prevention of patients with type 2 diabetic complications. It can also help to lower the risk of diabetes complications as well as associated risk factors such as obesity and cardiovascular disease.
In spite of the fact that many sick patients are still advised to consume a diet high in “healthy carbs” such as whole grains, a growing body of evidence shows that low-carbohydrate diets are comparable or even superior to traditional low-fat/high-carbohydrate diets in terms of weight loss, improvement in dyslipidemia associated with diabetes and metabolic syndrome, control of blood pressure, postprandial glycemia, and insulin secretion.
An investigation published in the Upsala Journal of Medical Science in 2005 examined the effects of two different diet compositions on glycemic control and body weight in two groups of obese patients with type 2 diabetes. The results revealed that both diet compositions were effective in improving glycemic control and body weight. Patients with type 2 diabetes were placed on a low-carb diet (1,800 calories for men and 1,600 calories for women) that consisted of 20% carbohydrates, 30% protein, and 50% fat. The results showed that the diet was effective in reducing obesity and type 2 diabetes.
The control group consisted of 15 obese diabetes patients who were put on a high-carbohydrate diet to see how they responded. Their diet, which contained the same number of calories for both men and women, consisted primarily of carbohydrates (60 percent), protein (15 percent), and fat (25 percent).
Positive effects on glucose levels were observed very quickly in the group that followed a low-carbohydrate diet regimen. After six months, a significant reduction in body weight was observed in patients in the low-carb diet group, which remained significant one year after the study’s conclusion.
- Assist in the Fight Cancer
Researchers have discovered that eating a diet high in refined carbohydrates and sugar contributes to free radical damage and actually feeds cancer cells, possibly allowing them to proliferate more quickly. Because low-carb diets drastically reduce sugar intake while simultaneously decreasing the intake of grains and processed foods, they may have the effect of acting as a natural cancer treatment by causing immunity to improve as oxidative stress is reduced.
Studies have shown that carbohydrate intake has an impact on prostate cancer biology, as demonstrated by mice that were fed a no-carbohydrate ketogenic diet (NCKD) having significantly smaller tumors and longer survival times than mice fed a standard Western diet. The serum insulin levels of the mice fed the equivalent of the standard human Western diet were significantly higher, and this was associated with significantly higher blood glucose levels and tumor tissue growth in the mice.
Healthy cells are fortunate in that they are able to use fat for energy while cancer cells are starved of energy during the process of removing their energy source. Cancer cells, on the other hand, are glucose-dependent and are unable to switch to a fat-consuming metabolic state.
- Fewer cravings and a reduced risk of becoming hungry!
When you follow a low-carb or ketogenic diet, one of the most significant benefits is that eating more healthy fats and proteins in place of sugar and carbohydrates is extremely satisfying because it effectively helps turn off ghrelin, the “hungry hormone,” which is responsible for hunger.
According to research, insulin has a negative effect on ghrelin, and high-density lipoprotein (HDL) may act as a carrier particle for increasing the amount of ghrelin in the bloodstream. In other words, carbohydrates cause insulin to spike quickly, resulting in cravings for more food later on as blood sugar drops and the hormone ghrelin rises.
While fats and proteins, on the other hand, are known for triggering the production of the body’s satiating hormones, allowing you to go longer periods of time between meals without feeling the need to nibble.
According to a report published in the Journal of International Studies of Obesity: Prevention, Treatment, and Rehabilitation:
Leptin and ghrelin are two hormones that have been shown to have a significant impact on one’s ability to maintain a healthy energy balance. Weight loss is facilitated by leptin, which acts as a mediator of long-term regulation of energy balance by suppressing food intake and thereby promoting weight loss. Ghrelin, on the other hand, is a hormone with a short half-life that appears to play a role in the initiation of meals. As the number of people suffering from obesity continues to rise, researchers have been focusing their efforts on determining the mechanisms by which various hormones and neurotransmitters influence energy balance. In recent years, it has become clear that obese patients are resistant to leptin.
To get off the roller-coaster of insulin highs and lows, you must learn to control your primary appetite hormones, which can be difficult to do. Keeping appetite-stimulating sugar levels low and including high-quality proteins and fats in every meal, especially in the morning with breakfast, can make this a lot easier. Breakfast also serves as a good starting point for the rest of the day.
Ketones produced by the body during the ketogenic diet have also been shown to aid in the reduction of hunger and the facilitation of intermittent fasting on the ketogenic diet. Exogenous ketone supplementation has been shown to suppress the hormone ghrelin, resulting in reduced hunger and a decreased desire to eat in studies conducted on healthy adults of average weight and height.
- Improved Digestive Health
Most people find that eating fewer sugar results in better digestive function because sugar feeds “bad bacteria” that can thrive in the gut. A diet that is too high in sugar and carbohydrates can lead to the development of the candida virus, IBS, and worsened symptoms of the leaky gut syndrome, among other things.
When you consume enough vegetables, good-quality proteins, and healthy fats, on the other hand, you can mimic the effects of fat-burning foods while also nourishing your digestive tract and reducing bacterial growth.
Symptom improvements have been reported by patients with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) following the implementation of a very low-carbohydrate diet, according to research published in the Journal of the American Gastroenterological Association in 2008. (VLCD). When participants with moderate to severe IBS were given a two-week standard diet followed by four weeks of a VLCD (20 grams of carbohydrates per day), the vast majority reported improvements in abdominal pain, stool habits, and overall quality of life, according to the findings.
- Improved Hormone Regulation
The positive effects of a low-carb diet on insulin and appetite hormones have already been discussed; however, it appears that eating low-carb can also help balance neurotransmitter function in some people, which can lead to an improvement in mood.
In a study conducted by the University of Adelaide’s Discipline of Psychiatry and School of Medicine, researchers found that women with a hormonal disorder known as polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) experienced a significant reduction in depression and an improvement in self-esteem when they followed a low-protein, high-carbohydrate diet versus a high-protein, low-carbohydrate diet over the course of 16 weeks.
A weekly exercise, group support, and educational program were provided to all participants. They were also asked to complete the Hospital Anxiety and Depression Scale at the beginning and end of the study. The HPLC diet appeared to assist in the natural regulation of hormones and was associated with significant reductions in various depressive symptoms, increased feelings of well-being, and a higher likelihood of better compliance with long-term obesity treatment.
Low Carb Diet Myths and Misconceptions
- They are only a passing fad
The term “fad diet” was coined to describe rapid weight loss diets that were only popular for a short period of time.
Today, it is frequently misused to refer to diets that are not widely accepted by the general public, such as low-carb diets.
A low-carbohydrate diet, on the other hand, has been shown to be effective in more than 20 scientific studies.
Furthermore, it has been around for decades. As a matter of fact, the first Atkins book was published in 1972, five years before the United States government issued its first set of low-fat dietary guidelines.
Looking even further back in time, William Banting published the first low-carb book in 1863, which was wildly popular at the time.
When you take into consideration the long-term and scientifically proven success of low-carb diets, it seems unlikely that this way of eating will become a fad.
- It is difficult to stay on track.
Low-carb diet opponents frequently assert that they are unsustainable because they restrict the consumption of common food groups.
It is claimed that this results in feelings of deprivation, which leads to people abandoning their diet and gaining weight.
But keep in mind that every diet has some restrictions — some restrict specific food groups or macronutrients, others restrict calories.
Following a low-carbohydrate diet has been shown to reduce appetite, allowing you to eat until you are satisfied while still losing pounds.
An alternative to this is that people who restrict their caloric intake are less likely to eat until they are completely satisfied, and they may end up feeling hungry all of the time, which is unsustainable for the majority of people.
There is no scientific evidence to support the claim that low-carb diets are more difficult to maintain than other diets.
- The majority of the weight loss is due to water weight.
Carbohydrates are stored in large quantities in your muscles and liver.
It makes use of glycogen, a type of glucose that is stored in your body and provides glucose between mealtimes for your body.
Glycogen that has been stored in your liver and muscles has a tendency to bind some water.
When you reduce your carbohydrate intake, your glycogen stores decrease, and you lose a significant amount of water weight.
Aside from that, low-carb diets result in significantly lower insulin levels, which causes your kidneys to excrete excess sodium and water through the urine.
In order to achieve these results, low-carbohydrate diets cause a significant and almost immediate reduction in body water weight.
Often, this is used as an argument against this way of eating, and it is asserted that the only reason for the weight loss advantage is due to the reduction in water retention.
In contrast, studies have shown that low-carb diets can also help you lose weight by reducing body fat, particularly in the areas of your liver and abdomen where harmful belly fat is concentrated.
According to one 6-week study on low-carb diets, participants lost 7.5 pounds (3.4 kg) of fat but gained 2.4 pounds (1.1 kg) of muscle during the period of investigation.
- It is harmful to your heart.
Low-carbohydrate diets are typically high in cholesterol and fat, particularly saturated fat.
As a result, many people believe that they raise blood cholesterol levels and increase your risk of heart disease.
Some studies, on the other hand, suggest that neither dietary cholesterol nor saturated fat has a significant impact on your risk of developing cardiovascular disease.
Most importantly, low-carb diets have been shown to improve a variety of important heart disease risk factors, including:
Blood triglycerides are significantly reduced, while HDL (good) cholesterol is increased, resulting in a significant reduction in blood pressure.
lowering insulin resistance, which lowers blood sugar and insulin levels, thereby reducing inflammation
Furthermore, levels of LDL (bad) cholesterol do not generally rise as a result of this treatment. Furthermore, these particles have a tendency to change from harmful, small, dense shapes to larger ones — a process that has been linked to a lower risk of heart disease.
Keep in mind, however, that the majority of these studies are based on averages. When following a low-carbohydrate diet, some people may experience significant increases in LDL (bad) cholesterol.
If this is the case for you, you can make adjustments to your low-carb way of eating in order to lower your blood sugar levels.