Low Carb Diets

History

You might imagine that the idea of cutting out carbohydrates to lose weight was a modern phenomenon but you would be mistaken. As early as 1863 the idea of low-carb diets was being mooted. William Banting, a once obese English undertaker, wrote and published his Letter on Corpulence Addressed to the Public  in which he described the way that he had lost weight, by giving up bread, potatoes, sugar, butter, milk and beer.

In the twentieth century, an American nutritionist called Richard Mackarness developed the low-carb diet, but it was Dr. Robert Atkins who really made the low-carb diet famous.

The Atkins Diet

Dr. Atkins Diet Revolution was first published in 1972, and advocated a diet that was low in carbs but high in protein. The diet was met with widespread criticism because of the high saturated fat content of the diet.

In 1990 Atkins published a revised edition of the book called Dr. Atkins New Diet Revolution, which quickly topped the best sellers lists and remained there for many years. High profile advocates such as Jennifer Aniston and Courtney Cox helped ensure the book’s popularity.

Other low-carb diets

Although the Atkins diet is the most famous low-carb diet, it is by no means the only one. Other low-carb diets include:

  • The Stillman Diet
  • The Scarsdale Diet
  • The Hollywood Diet
  • The Ketogenic Diet
  • The Zone Diet
  • The Dukan Diet
  • The Go Lower Diet

How does a low-carb diet work?

Low-carb diets work on the premise that a very low carbohydrate intake leads to a reduction in the amount of insulin that the body makes, which in turn leads to stores of fat and muscle being used to make energy.

Low-carb diets aim to force the body to make fat its main source of energy. When this happens a person goes into a state of ketosis. This happens when ‘ketone bodies’ are produced, to fuel organs in the body that are unable to use fat as a source of energy- the brain and in particular the red blood cells. 

Is a low-carb diet effective?

Low-carb diets are still controversial, as many nutritionists would argue that they are unbalanced and unhealthy. Their popularity has waned in the last few years and there are side effects to these diets, which include a loss of energy and bad breath. Many people who lose weight by cutting out carbs have a tendency to put it back on again when carbs are reintroduced. Sudden weight loss and yo-yo dieting can be as dangerous as carrying excess weight; a gradual weight loss is always advised.

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