Does The Low Carb High Fat Diet Really Work?
“While a moderately low carb diet will typically allow an intake of approximately 80-100 grams (or 350-400 Kcals) from carbohydrates, a very low carb diet may restrict the carb intake to as low as 20-30 grams per day”
For years, we’ve been told to stay away from fats for the fear of gaining weight or winning an express ticket to the heart disease station. The central tenet of a healthy balanced diet was to consume less of saturated fats and base meals around carbohydrates. Then comes the celebrity endorsed low carbohydrate high tat (LCHF) diet plan – an immensely popular approach (especially among weight loss seekers) with a promise to improve blood glucose levels and keep the lost kilos oft permanently.
So, which way should we lean? Is the common nutrition wisdom of going low on fat-rich foods flawed? Or is the high fat concept just another fad diet that falls flat on Its big promises? Here are some advantages and disadvantages of a LCHF diet and the science behind it.
What Is A LCHF Diet?
A low carb high fat diet is exactly what it states – a diet that advises one to cut down carb intake drastically (the recommended restriction regarding the amount and type of allowed carbs in the diet may vary) and step up fat intake to 60-70 per cent of the total calorie consumption. Protein is usually maintained at an adequate level of 15- 20 per cent.
The foods allowed generously include olive oil, heavy cream, coconut, nuts, cheese, meats, and eggs. Certain fruits (oranges, apples and pears) and vegetables like broccoli, cauliflower and greens can be consumed in moderate amounts but starchy foods, grains, sugar and beans must be completely restricted.
While a moderately low carb diet will typically allow an intake of approximately 80-100 grams (or 350-400Kcals) from carbohydrates, a very low carb diet may restrict the carb intake to as low as 20-30 grams per day. This is in contrast to ICMR dietary guidelines for Indians that advises carbs to provide 55-60 per cent of the total daily calorie intake or between 250-300 grams of carbohydrate per day in a 2000 kcal diet.
How Does This Diet Work?
Our bodies are tuned to use carbohydrates as energy giving foods. However, If we don’t consume enough carbohydrate sources, such as breads, chapattis, rice, pasta or oats in our diet, our body will start using the stored fat deposits as fuel and this may work to improve fat mobilization, lower blood glucose levels and in shedding weight. In theory, this diet does make sense.
Further more, adding more fats to the diet, improves satiety and palatability and this helps to curb cravings. The proponents of this diet point out that this concept works much better than a low calorie diet (wherein the dieters feel hungry and deprived) and a low fat diet, where most calories come from carb sources. Resulting in high levels of insulin activity and an increased risk of high blood glucose levels and deposition of extra energy as fats.
When the carb intake is highly restricted, the stored fats are broken down in the liver and certain ketone bodies are produced (LCHF diets are also referred to as ketogenic diets). These ketones act as fuel for the body cells and turn the entire body Into a fat burning machine. Blood glucose Is maintained at steady low levels and Insulin activity reduces. Thus, the diet may prove beneficial for patients suffering from diabetes type II. Carefully planned and monitored ketogenic diets are studied to be also effective in controlling seizures in epilepsy patients.
It too many carbs are cut too soon, the body takes time to adapt to the metabolic shift (from glucose to ketones as fuel) and the individuals often experience headache, nausea, indigestion, sleep disturbances and fatigue. Since the dietary fibre intake is low, digestive troubles such as constipation and bloating are common.
Excess production of ketone bodies may also cause bad breath. Long- term restriction of carbs in the diet may lead to hypoglycemia (low blood sugar levels), vitamin or mineral deficiencies (carb-rich foods provide us with vitamins and minerals that are essential for normal functioning of the body). Also, consuming large amounts of fats, especially from animal sources may increase the risk of cardiovascular diseases and even cancer.
There Is no doubt that low carb diets work very well in the short-term to reduce weight, primarily by cutting the calories and improving satiety. However, consuming high fat diets for a long period is sure to cause adverse effects that negate the acquired weight loss benefits.
Though orthodox, It is still believed that sensible calorie restricted diet plans suggesting a practical macronutrient distribution (carbs not less than 40 per cent) and including high fibre, slow digesting complex carbohydrates, lean proteins and healthy fats and an active lifestyle are the best bet, if one wishes to lose weight and stay healthy too!