Is A Low-Carb Diet A Healthy Way To Eat?
There are many benefits associated with eating a low carb diet. The level and kinds of benefits will differ depending on age, weight, body type, activity level, and other biological factors. A low carb diet consumed by a mature adult will have a different effect when consumed by a child, teen, or young adult. If you are older, a diet that is low in carbohydrates may help to alleviate or even eliminate symptoms of some health issues. It may even be a great way of avoiding some health problems altogether. It’s important to understand the various effects of such a diet to see if you can benefit.
It Reduces Your Appetite
The worst and most feared side effect of dieting is hunger. That is the number one reason most people feel miserable and often give up too soon. One great advantage to a low carb diet is appetite reduction. Studies show that when you decrease carbs and eat more protein and fat you ultimately eat fewer calories overall. The key to any successful diet is sticking to it. Fewer hunger pangs equal happier dieting. This means you are likely to be more successful over time.
One of the most effective and simplest ways to lose weight is by cutting carbs. Studies have shown that people on low-fat diets lose weight slower than people on low carb diets. One of the reasons for this is low carb diets get rid of excess water in the body. Since they lower insulin levels, kidneys will begin shedding excess sodium which in turn leads to rapid weight loss within the first week or so. This quick result is very encouraging.
Studies comparing low-fat diets and low-carb diets found that participants in the low-carb diet group had a tendency to lose two to three times as much weight without feeling hungry. This benefit of a low carb diet is effective as long as you stay on it. Eventually, you will stop losing weight as you reach your ideal weight but you will be able to maintain a healthy weight over time. Be aware, however, that once you give up on the diet, the weight may start creeping back up. It is best to think of a low carb diet as a lifestyle change rather than a quick weight loss fix.
Increased HDL levels
You may have come across the phrases ‘good cholesterol’ and ‘bad cholesterol’. What exactly does that mean? HDL (high-density lipoprotein) is often referred to as the ‘good cholesterol’ and LDL (low-density lipoprotein) is the ‘bad cholesterol’. They are both lipoproteins that carry cholesterol from or to the body. HDL is considered good because it carries cholesterol to the liver from the body. LDL is considered bad because it carries cholesterol to the body from the liver.
A low carb diet has proven to be effective in increasing HDL levels. Research has shown that a high HDL level is associated with a lower risk of heart disease. Since heart diseases are more common as we age, maintaining a low carb diet as we get older can reduce and possibly prevent heart disease.
Improvement in Type 2 Diabetes – controlling blood sugar levels and reducing insulin surges
When you consume carbs, they are broken down into glucose and other simple sugars in the digestive tract. From this location, they elevate blood sugar levels once they have entered the bloodstream. Due to the toxicity of high blood sugars, the body releases a hormone known as insulin. This hormone orders the cells to take in glucose and start storing or burning it. For young and healthy people, quick insulin response results in a reduction in blood sugar ‘spikes’ meant to prevent harm to the body.
However, as people age, they can often develop what is known as insulin resistance. This means their cells are not able to recognize the insulin and therefore it is difficult for their bodies to properly deliver blood sugar into the cells. The condition may lead to a disease known as type 2 diabetes. It happens when the body fails to secrete sufficient insulin to lower blood sugar after a meal or snack. This is especially problematic when eating high carbohydrate or sugary foods. The disease is becoming more common in every age group but is generally a greater concern for those in middle age and up. It now afflicts approximately 300 million people worldwide.
One simple solution to try is to cut down on your carbohydrate intake. This helps to both prevent or delay the onset and to alleviate symptoms if it is already a concern. When you cut down on carbohydrates, you lower your body’s need for insulin production. Both insulin and blood sugar levels are reduced substantially. A study done on several diabetic seniors showed that using a low carb diet approach enabled them to reduce their insulin dosage by half on the first day. In the same study, 95% had managed to eliminate or reduce their glucose-lowering medication in a span of six months.
Lowers blood pressure
A growing number of people suffer from high blood pressure. It is an important risk factor for many diseases including kidney failure, stroke and heart disease. Low carb diets have proven to be effective in reducing blood pressure, lowering your risk of developing high blood pressure and often lowering your blood pressure if you already have been diagnosed.
Therapeutic for brain disorders
Claims that glucose is necessary for optimal brain function are true. Some parts of the brain are only capable of burning glucose. This is why the liver uses protein to produce glucose when we do not consume enough carbohydrates. Take note that a large area of the brain can also burn ketones. These are formed when carbohydrate intake is low or during starvation.
A similar mechanism is behind the ketogenic diet which has been used for many years to treat epilepsy in children who are unable to respond to drug treatment. Normally, such a diet can cure children suffering from epilepsy. In one study, 16% of the children on a ketogenic diet became seizure free while approximately half of the children had more than a 50% reduction in seizures.
Currently, very low ketogenic/carb diets are being studied to see their effects on other brain functioning disorders such as Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s disease.
These facts show that a low carb diet can be healthy for everyone, and may be particularly healthy for mature adults. However, do not make changes to your carbohydrate intake before talking to your doctor especially if you are currently on blood sugar lowering medication. Even though a low carb diet has many benefits, it may have a negative impact on your health if you have other complications. Consult your doctor and a dietician for advice on the best way to alter your diet and ask if a low carb diet is right for you. They will be able to help you find the right balance to suit your needs.