Skip to content
My WebMD Sign In, Sign Up

Weight Loss & Diet Plans

Font Size

To Carb, or Not to Carb?

<P>Eat Yourself Thin</P>

Dangerous Process

According to the ADA, low-carb diets and others like it trigger short-term weight loss through a process called ketosis. This process kicks in when your body is in short supply of carbohydrates, a prime source of energy for the entire body, but especially for the brain, which operates exclusively on carbohydrates.

During ketosis, your carbohydrate-depleted body grabs other sources, including ketones from stored fat or protein, to satisfy daily energy needs. This leads to ketoacidosis, a state similar to that seen with type 1 diabetes. This type of diet can have a negative long-term impact on health.

"Next time you talk to someone on one of these diets, pay attention to their mental state, how alert they seem," says Holden. "The lack of carbohydrates tends to make them seem a bit fuzzy mentally because the brain is not getting enough fuel. Is that any way to diet?"

New Research Supports It

But a study in the July 2002 issue of the American Journal of Medicine showed that the most famous of low-carb diets -- the Atkins diet -- does work.

Study participants lost an average of 20 pounds while on the Atkins diet for six months, but they were not followed longer to see if they kept the weight off. Most people also had improved cholesterol levels at the end of the study, even though the eating plan permits unlimited quantities of cholesterol-rich foods such as eggs and meat.

The study was funded by a grant from the Robert Atkins Center for Complementary Medicine. Duke researcher Eric Westman, MD, says he became interested in studying the Atkins diet after several of his patients lost large amounts of weight on it.

But though researchers were impressed by the weight loss, they say more study is needed to pronounce the carbohydrate-restricting diet safe.

Safe Dieting

Here's how the American Heart Association says to take weight off -- and keep it off.

  • Be active -- try walking 30 minutes a day most days of the week.
  • To lose weight, most women should eat 1,200-1,500 calories per day.
  • To lose weight, most men should eat 1,500-1,800 calories a day.
  • A loss of one to two pounds per week is considered a healthy weight loss.
  • People who lose weight gradually are more likely to keep the weight off.
  • Eat no more than 30% of your total calories from fat.
  • Include at least five servings of fruit and vegetables in your diet each day.
  • Examine your eating habits -- keep a written journal of what and when you eat.
  • Weigh yourself only once a week.
  • Eat breakfast to curb binge eating.

"There are still a lot of things we don't know about food and nutrition," says Holden. "Nutrition is a relatively young science, but we do know that you can trick the body's mechanisms in the short run. In the long run, however, those short cuts catch up with you in the form of weight gain."

1|2

Today on WebMD

vegetables
Video
Woman trying clothes / dress
Assessment
 
Woman looking at reflection in mirror
Article
Hot cup of coffee
Quiz
 
woman shopping fresh produce
Video
butter curl on knife
Quiz
 
eating out healthy
Article
Smiling woman, red hair
Article
 
6-Week Challenges
Want to know more?
Chill Out and Charge Up Challenge – How to help your tribe de-stress and energize.
Spark Change Challenge - Ready for a healthy change? Get some major motivation.
I have read and agreed to WebMD's Privacy Policy.
Enter cell phone number
- -
Entering your cell phone number and pressing submit indicates you agree to receive text messages from WebMD related to this challenge. WebMD is utilizing a 3rd party vendor, CellTrust, to provide the messages. You can opt out at any time.
Standard text rates apply
thumbnail_woman_tossing_spinach
Video
lunchbox
Article
 
What Girls Need To Know About Eating Disorders
Article
teen squeezing into jeans
fitfor Teens
 

Special Sections