Popular Weight Loss Diets: Low Carb Diets

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Diet Type: Low Carb Diets

Man on Scale

Low carb diets, most notably the Atkins diet, restrict or eliminate almost all carbohydrates in the primary phase of the diet and only gradually incorporate limited types and quantities of carbohydrates in subsequent phases.


One of the major pitfalls of the average male diet is the overconsumption of sugars (from foods such as sodas and pre-packaged baked goods) and refined starches (from foods such as white bread, white rice, and white pasta) (See Stay Away from Sugars and Carbohydrates). Low-carbohydrate diets, such as the Atkins diet, essentially eliminate these types of carbohydrates from an individual’s diet.

The Atkins diet also emphasizes protein intake. Indeed, protein intake is highly important because protein slows digestion and provides a longer, more sustained feeling of fullness.


Despite the positive aspects of low-carbohydrate diets, controversy exists over the safety and long-term effectiveness of such diets.1,2,3 Researchers at the Center for Science in the Public Interest, who recently rated several fad diets, did not put the Atkins diet on their acceptable list.

Additionally, diets like the Atkins diet are extreme in their initial restriction of carbohydrates. Certainly, sugars and highly refined starches are unhealthy. However, the Atkins diet also severely restricts intake of vegetables, fruit, and whole grains in its initial phases. Fruits and vegetables contain essential vitamins and nutrients that are key to health and longevity. Additionally, fruits, vegetables, and whole grains contain necessary fiber and water that enhance one’s feeling of fullness and improve digestion and regularity.

Low-carbohydrate diets also induce rapid, initial weight loss, which is psychologically appealing. However, such rapid weight loss often comes at the expense of muscle mass, which ultimately depresses resting metabolism and can lead to future weight gain. 

The Conclusion

Although low-carbohydrate diets can effectively lead to sustained weight loss, they restrict or eliminate important subsets of healthy foods such as fruits, vegetables, and whole-grains. Consequently, low-carbohydrate diets are acceptable but by no means ideal ways by which to achieve healthy, long-term weight reduction.

1. Astrup A, Meinert Larsen T, Harper A. Atkins and other low-carbohydrate diets: hoax or an effective tool for weight loss? Lancet. 2004 Sep 4-10 2004; 364 (9437): 897-899.
2. Johnston CS, Tjonn SL, Swan PD, White A, Hutchins H, Sears B. Ketogenic low-carbohydrate diets have no metabolic advantage over nonketogenic low-carbohydrate diets. Am J Clin Nutr. May 2006; 83( 5): 1055-1061.
3. Kappagoda CT, Hyson DA, Amsterdam EA. Low-carbohydrate-high-protein diets: is there a place for them in clinical cardiology? J Am Coll Cardiol. Mar 2004; 43 (5): 725-730.