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Low Carb Diets
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With Americans eating more and exercising less, obesity rates are climbing. Losing weight has become a way of life in America. To help in this quest, diet books abound everywhere containing terrific promises.

Some books promote a low-fat approach, others a low-carb diet, some count calories, while others apply few restrictions. Which diet is the best? Which ones are safe? Do any of them work over the long haul? What do the human studies show? Can we make any sense out of the plethora of dietary advice in the current diet books?

The most popular diet books today promote the high protein/high fat diets such as the Atkins diet, Protein Power, Sugar Busters, and the Zone Diet all of which limit carbohydrates. The proponents of these low carbohydrate diets argue that a high carbohydrate intake produces high insulin levels. Insulin, they say, is the monster hormone that causes obesity. They argue that limiting the carbohydrate intake forces the body to burn fat. The experts disagree, saying that no data exists to validate these claims.

Why then do the high fat diets, such as the Atkins diet, work for some people? The monotony of a low carb diet with the ensuing ketosis can curb one’s appetite. When you eliminate pasta, rice, bread and other carbohydrate-rich foods from the diet there is less variety in the diet. The result is that people eat less, and so lose weight.

While high fat diets may promote short-term weight loss, the potential hazards for increasing the risk of atherosclerosis overrides any short-term benefits. The problem with the high fat diets are that they very high in saturated fat and cholesterol. Their long-term use would elevate blood lipids and increase the risk of coronary heart disease.

How to Make It Last

Basically the popular diets that produce weight loss do so by cutting the calories. But the real issue is not simply whether they help with weight loss. The important issue it is how to achieve long-term weight management. Fad diets generally have a very low success rate in the long term. Within five years of losing weight on a fad diet, over 95 percent of those people regained the weight back again.

Dr. Wing of Brown University Medical School has a National Weight Loss Registry that keeps track of people who report having lost at least 30 pounds and have kept the weight off for at least six years. The 3000 people in the registry typically eat a low fat diet (an average of 24 percent of the calories as fat), and exercise the equivalent of a daily four mile walk.

The safest way to lose weight and enjoy long-term weight management is by making healthy lifestyle changes that last a lifetime. A modest consumption of a high complex carbohydrate diet containing high-fiber foods, and a modest fat intake, together with a regular exercise program is the best recommendation.

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By Winston J. Craig, R.D. Copyright © 2010 by GraceNotes. All rights reserved. Use of this material is subject to usage guidelines.

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