Sunday, July 23, 2006

The 7 myths about low carb diets

Laura Dolson

I was browsing the web today and came across this article by Laura Dolson on her website.

The Most Common Low Carb Misconceptions
There are a lot of myths and misconceptions about low carb diets. Anti-low carb information often draws an image of people eating very unhealthy diets, with no vegetables or fruits, guzzling cream and eating bacon dipped in butter all day. We are courting heart disease, and are on a dangerous road to poor health. The truth is that low carb diets focus on nutritious, healthy food, and research into reducing carbs continues to show more and more positive results. Here are the myths about low carb diets I hear most often.

1. Low Carb=No Carb
This misconception is the idea that a “low” carb diet must be really really low in carbohydrates. You will read that low carb diets attempt to “eliminate carbohydrates”, for example.

Fact: Not one low carb diet author advocates this. Even Atkins Induction, which is very low in carbohydrates, is not “no carb”, is only meant to last two weeks, and actually can be skipped altogether, according to the Atkins Web site.

Fact: Diet authors who recommend reducing carbs have all sorts of different ideas about carb levels.

Fact: The carbohydrate level should be adjusted to the individual.

Fact: Over the years, the “nutritional establishment” has been gradually lowering the range of recommended carbohydrate in the diet, at the same time condemning reduced-carb diets, some of which may be recommending the lower end of the new “accepted range”, or close to it. Example: Dr. Dean Edell, a prominent media physician, once stated that the Zone Diet, a 40% carbohydrate low saturated fat diet, “could be dangerous” because it is too low in carbohydrates. Recently, the National Academy of Sciences began recommending a range of 45%-65% of the diet to be carbohydrate, depending upon the individual.

What is a Low Carb Diet?
What is a “No Carb” Diet?
Finding the Right Carb Level

(I think that the good people amongst us that are writing about, talking about and indeed living this sort of lifestyle, need to change the name from "low" carb to "controlled" carb. Clearly "low" or "no" carb is too controversial for many in the mainstream media.)

2. Low Carb Diets Discourage Eating Vegetables and Fruits
Because vegetables and fruits are mainly carbohydrate, people believe that they are not allowed on low carb diets.

Fact: The opposite is true – non-starchy vegetables are usually at the bottom of the “low carb pyramids” meaning they are the “staff of life” of the diet (replacing grains in that role) and people who follow a low carb way of eating almost always eat more vegetables than the general population. For the most part, vegetables and fruits ARE the carbs eaten when following a low carb way of eating.

See: The Most Common Low Carb Misconception: Vegetables – includes suggestions for working veggies into your diet.

(Since going Against the grain, I have never eaten more vegetables or fruit in my life! The choices you have are absoulutly stunning!. For more information you need to purchase and read some of the books in my "Recommended reading" section, on your right.)

3. Low Carb Diets Have Inadequate Fibre
The reasoning goes that since fibre IS carbohydrate, a low carb diet MUST be low in fiber.

Fact: Since fibre remains undigested (in fact, it lessens the impact of other carbohydrates on blood sugar), it is encouraged on low carb diets. Lots of low carb foods are high in fibre, and on diets that encourage carb counting, fibre does not enter into the calculation.

See: Low Carb, High Fiber.

4. People Eating Low Carb Are Courting Heart Disease
Fact: In study after study, blood pressure, cholesterol, triglycerides, and other markers for heart disease risk decline on low carb diets.

20 Benefits of Low Carb Diets
FAQ: Low Carb Diets and Cholesterol
Study: Low Carb Diets Improve Cholesterol Even Without Weight Loss

5. Low Carb Diets Will Damage the Kidneys
The reasoning here is that because people with kidney disease are usually encouraged to eat LOW protein diets, a diet that is higher in protein will CAUSE kidney disease.

Fact: This has never been shown to be the case, and, in fact, a low carb diet is often not higher in protein than the latest recommended levels.

(I beleive that the confusion here stems from simple phoenetics. When on a controlled carb way of life like Against the grain, you can go into a state called Ketosis. This is a natural occurance and in fact, everyone produces ketones all the time - just at very small levels. As you restrict your carb intake, there is less carbs available for your body to burn as fuel, so it switches to burning fat as fuel - your fat! I believe that the confusion about kidney disease comes from a condition called ketoacidosis. Quoting directly from Wikipedia, "Some diets (such as the Atkins diet) are reported to induce a mild-to-moderate state of ketosis, but this does not result in ketoacidosis if the dieter drinks an appropriate amount of water. Any diet which burns fat molecules at a significant rate results in an increased production of ketone bodies. (My emphasis))

6. Low Carb Diets Will “Suck the Calcium Out of Your Bones”
Again, this is based on the idea that low carb diets are always high in protein. People on higher protein diets tend to have more calcium in their urine. But this turns out to be a red herring.

Fact: it turns out that protein, rather than cause bone loss, actually protects our bones.

See: FAQ: Low Carb Diets and Bone Loss

7. Atkins "Died of His Own Diet"
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard this one – and I am STILL hearing it.

Fact: Robert Atkins, originator of the Atkins Diet, died from head injuries resulting from a fall. See his death certificate. Also, he was not fat when he died, but took on a lot of fluid in the hospital while in Intensive Care after his injury.

Laura Dolson is a health and science writer and longtime follower of a low-carbohydrate way of eating. She holds a B.S. in physical therapy, an M.A. in clinical psychology, and she completed the coursework and training for a Ph.D. in clinical psychology.

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