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Known for Easy Weight Loss continued...

Another drawback to the low-carb diet is its severely limited menu options.

"At first, eggs and bacon in butter for breakfast every day is fun, but day after day of only meat and fat at every meal can get tiresome," says Anderson.

So therein lies the controversy. On one hand you have lots of stories of significant weight loss on a relatively user-friendly diet. On the other, you have dietitians and nutritionists who maintain that the weight loss produced is short-term and can threaten a person's overall health, despite the fact that the weight loss itself may have the beneficial effect of lowering cholesterol.

Who is right? Maybe both sides. It provides weight loss at a very high cost to overall health, or at least that has been the prevailing medical opinion.

"There have been reports in the medical literature that say that this low-carb diet may not be as bad as we thought," says Susan Barr, registered dietitian in New York City. "That makes people interested again in this diet, but until there is more research on what stresses the diet places on the body, there is no way to know what it might be doing besides providing short-term weight loss."

But Is It Safe?

According to the American Dietetic Association, low-carbohydrate diets 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 from muscle, to satisfy daily energy needs. This can lead to ketoacidosis, a state similar to that of diabetes. This type of diet can trigger weight loss, but it can have the kinds of negative long-term effects on health that Barnard mentions.

The other big question is whether low-carb weight loss lasts.

James Hill, PhD, is director of the Center for Human Nutrition at the University of Colorado Health Sciences Center in Denver. He runs the National Weight Control Registry that includes information on the diets of more than 2,600 people who maintained at least a 30-pound weight loss for a year or more.

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