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Is a low carb diet the secret to weight loss?

Netdoctor (UK) logo Netdoctor (UK) 07/11/2018 Anna Bonet
a woman holding a hot dog: A dietician gives her verdict on the low carb diet for weight loss, including health benefits, but also the potential risks. © Tara Moore - Getty Images A dietician gives her verdict on the low carb diet for weight loss, including health benefits, but also the potential risks.

Fresh bread. Creamy spaghetti. Fluffy roast potatoes. Carbohydrates come in all shapes and sizes and conjure up all kinds of feelings for each and every one of us.

For some, carbs are the go-to comfort food, bringing great pleasure to daily life. Others, however, avoid them like the plague, convinced that carbohydrates are equal to weight gain.

Carbohydrates are the body’s main source of energy, so is a low-carb diet the secret to effective weight loss or just another fad diet? says Sophie Medlin, registered dietitian and owner at City Dietitians, gives her verdict.

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What exactly is a low carb diet?

Healthy meal  © Getty Healthy meal  ‘The term 'low carb' is ill defined,’ Medlin says. ‘There is a move to categorise diets with less than 150g of carbohydrate per day as a low carb diet.’ This is compared to a ketogenic diet which often involves less than 50g of carbohydrate per day.

‘A diet with less than 150g of carbohydrate per day will allow for the inclusion of most fruit and vegetables,’ says Medlin, ‘but exclude most starchy foods like bread, pasta, rice and other grains.’

What are the health benefits of low carb?

As refined carbs such as white bread and white pasta are high in sugar, decreasing your intake can have a positive effect on certain aspects of your health:

🔹 Weight loss: According to Medlin, most people will lose weight on a low carbohydrate diet, which can be positive to your overall health if you were previously overweight.

🔹 Lower blood pressure: Studies show that low carb diets are an effective way to reduce blood pressure, which decreases your risk of developing heart disease, kidney failure and stroke.

🔹 Reduced risk of type 2 diabetes: Restricting carbohydrates is a good way to lower blood sugar levels and insulin needs.

High Angle View Of Bread On Table © Tan.xiao - Getty Images High Angle View Of Bread On Table

What are the dangers of a low carb diet?

Medlin says that those who are following a low carb diet may experience some negative side effects:

🔹 Feelings of failure: very low carb diets can be difficult to sustain, leading to lots of people to feel like they have 'failed' if they can't stick to it.

🔹 Poor digestive health: they can also be very low in fibre which could be less advantageous for our gut bacteria, as fibre is important for digestive health.

🔹 Lack of energy: many people also experience headaches and lethargy on a very low carbohydrate diet.

The low carb diet verdict

Asparagus © Getty Asparagus ‘A diet containing around 150g of carbohydrate is safe and sustainable for most people,’ says Medlin.

Any less, and the risks begin to outweigh any benefits. The best way to approach carbs is to favour wholegrain, unrefined carbohydrates where possible, rather than cutting them out completely.

⚠️ If you take medication for a chronic condition or have a condition that affects your blood sugar or liver, you should visit your doctor before embarking on a low carbohydrate diet.

Ultimately, Medlin says that dieting and weight loss is a very personal thing, adding 'there is substantial evidence to show that it doesn't matter what diet you choose, because if it works for you and your lifestyle, and you can sustain it, then it is the right diet for you as an individual.'

Gallery: 7 Low-Carb Vegetables to Reach For When You're Tired of Leafy Salads [POPSUGAR]


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