The Down Low on Low-Carb Diets
How to avoid the pitfalls and side effects of a low-carb weight loss plan.
A low-carb diet can help you lose weight because it turns on
fat-burning processes, known as "dietary ketosis." These ketones are
also thought to have an appetite suppressant effect.
However, Pasteur says that when large amounts of ketones are
produced, your body can become quickly dehydrated -- another problem faced by
those on a low-carb diet.
The solution: Drink more water.
"The lower your carb intake, the greater your risk of
dehydration and subsequently the greater your need for water," says
Pasteur. Most low-carb diet experts suggest drinking at least 2 quarts of water
In addition to keeping you adequately hydrated -- which can
also help alleviate constipation -- drinking lots of water can also help offset
still another low-carb diet problem: bad breath. The ketones produced during
the diet can lead to what is sometimes described as a fruity odor although it
is often described as having an almost "chemical" odor similar to
acetone or nail polish remover.
Now if you're thinking you'll just handle the problem by
brushing and flossing a little more often, guess again. Since the breath odor
is coming from metabolic changes and not necessarily a dental-related
condition, traditional breath products are not likely to provide long-lasting
relief. On the other hand drinking more water intake can do the trick.
"The water helps dilute the ketones in your system, and
while that won't affect weight loss, it will help with the bad breath,"
Low Carbs and Supplements
The lower your intake of carbohydrates, the greater your need
for a vitamin supplement. That's the mantra that most doctors now recommend
that everyone on a low-carb diet should never forget.
The reason? Any time you restrict your diet, particularly in
terms of certain food groups, your nutrient levels can drop. But when your diet
is low carb, experts say you may be in even greater need for certain key
vitamins and minerals, particularly folic acid.
"If you're cutting out cereals, fruits, vegetables,
fortified grains, then you are cutting out your major source of folic acid, a B
vitamin that is not only important when you are pregnant, but important to
everyone's overall health," says NYU nutritionist Samantha Heller.
What's more, says Heller, folic acid is key to controlling levels of
homocysteine, an inflammatory factor linked to heart disease. If you're already
at risk for cardiovascular problems, she says, dropping folic acid levels too
low could put your health at serious risk.