Carbs - should you be cutting them out of your diet?

Low carb and no carb diets have been in the news for many years now. The Atkins Diet is the most famous. Well, does it work and will it work for you?

Food types are categorised at carbohydrates, protein and fats. In these diets only the carbohydrates are restricted or excluded. The message seems to have got out that potatoes and pasta are going to make you put on weight. So many of my clients are confused about whether they should eat them. But somehow they don't mention sugar. And yet sugar is also a carbohydrate. We find it in ready meals, even savoury ones. And we find it in chocolate of course!

So one of my concerns about diets is that we only remember certain aspects. Carbs bad, so we cut out pasta, rice, bread and potatoes. But still eat a chocolate bar every day.

I have read a number of blog where reference is made to some research or other that suggests that a high carb low fat diet is linked to high blood pressure and insulin resistance. Mmm. What sort of carbs then? Are we talking highly refined carbs like sugar and white flour here? Not all carbs are alike. Less processed carbohydrates do not lift your blood sugar up in a big rush. So no wonder we get confused.

Research done by academics and doctors in Cincinnati shows that the low carb diet does reduce weight over the short term.They state that "a very low carbohydrate diet is more effective than a low fat diet for short-term weight loss and, over 6 months, is not associated with deleterious effects on important cardiovascular risk factors in healthy women". So it doesn't seem to be a dangerous diet either. They were comparing a diet where you eat whatever you want of proteins and fats, with a calorie-restricted diet where fat was limited to 30% of total calories but you ate a mix of foods.  So it looks like the low carb diet works in the short term. What about the long term weight loss?

Another study, published in the New England Journal of Medicine, also found that at 6 months, the low carb diet was better than calorie restriction, and they also found some positive health benefits. They go on to state "The low-carbohydrate diet produced a greater weight loss (absolute difference, approximately 4 percent) than did the conventional diet for the first six months, but the differences were not significant at one year. The low-carbohydrate diet was associated with a greater improvement in some risk factors for coronary heart disease. Adherence was poor and attrition was high in both groups".

I pick up 3 points from this. 1. Low carb diets work better than conventional diets over the short term. 2. They are no better in the long term. 3. Sticking with the diet was poor for both kinds of dieting.

But there's more. "Diet has long been believed to be an important risk factor for non-insulin-dependent diabetes. Animal studies generally support a relation between high-fat diets and development of insulin resistance. ", according to research in the American Journal of Epidemiology. Their findings "support the hypothesis that high-fat, low-carbohydrate diets are associated with the onset of non-insulin-dependent diabetes mellitus in humans".  So in the long-term, you might get type 2 diabetes from this kind of diet. At that point, you will have to manage what you eat extremely carefully.

Dieting is difficult. Eating lettuce is boring. Sustaining the diet is the really tricky part. The more weird it is, the more different from what your friends and family are eating, the harder it is to sustain it.

And what is really depressing is that diets only work when you are on them. Once you stop the diet, then you are back to your old ways of eating, and this is what caused the weight gain in the first place. The weight you have lost does not stay off.

The diet industry is constantly offering us new diets to try. There are lots of books on the market. There are special diet foods. And their sales are high. While overall, our average weight is increasing.

Short-term weight loss is not what most of us are after, but it is great if you are wanting to squeeze into a special dress. For long term weight loss, something different is needed. And it will not be the same for everyone. That is where I come in.

What diets have you tried? Did they work for you? How long have you been trying to lose weight?

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