Why is my low carbohydrate diet failing

It is not fat that makes you fat, but carbohydrates

Cutting away the fat from the lean meat - followers of the low-carb diet can do without that. Because: It is not fat that makes you fat, but carbohydrates, claim their inventors.

The Atkins, South Beach, Hollywood Star or Mayo diets propagated - little carbohydrates, but a lot of fat and protein - had already become fashionable in Europe in the 19th century. The low-carb euphoria was triggered by the diet book by the Englishman William Banting. The undertaker, who weighed more than 100 kilograms, turned to a London doctor about his weight problems, who recommended a special low-carbohydrate diet: The Briton should eat little grain and sugar, instead a lot of meat, eggs, fruit and vegetables. Allegedly, Banting lost more than 20 kilograms within a year and was so enthusiastic about it that he wrote the book "Letter on Corpulence" in the 1860s, in which he recorded his experiences with the diet. The book is considered to be the first known book on a low-carb diet. The Banting Diet, the name under which this weight loss regimen became popular, is thus the forerunner of modern low-carb diets.

Lots of fat and protein, little carbohydrates

In the 1970s, different variants of the low-carb diet experienced a revival. They all promise a significant weight loss through the reduction of ingested carbohydrates (low carbohydrates) and concentrate on foods rich in fat and protein. One of the most popular low-carb diets that is particularly popular in the United States is the diet according to the rules of cardiologist Robert Atkins. Slight modifications of the Atkins diet found a further following under the names South Beach, Logi, Mayo, Glyx or Hollywood Star Diet.

The renouncement or the strong reduction of carbohydrate-rich foods is very important in this form of diet. In particular, foods with a high glycemic index * such as pasta, white bread, cakes, potatoes or sugar should be avoided. Meat, fish, cheese and eggs can, however, be consumed at will, and alcohol is also allowed. The importance of fruits, vegetables and fiber is little considered in the Atkins diet, for example, but is given more attention in some similar diets.

In order to underline the logic of the low-carbohydrate diet, even evolutionary explanations are often used: While our ancestors have always lived largely on meat, foods rich in carbohydrates such as cereals were only added to the menu plan with the advent of agriculture and cattle breeding, i.e. with the beginning of sedentarism so the low-carb supporters. The food industry in the USA has also discovered the low-carb euphoria: In addition to "light" and "no-fat" products, "low-carb" products with low carbohydrates are now also filling the supermarket shelves.

Energy from burning fat

Carbohydrates are one of the main components of our food and are used by the body for short-term energy production. If the organism does not need any energy, it converts the carbohydrates into fat. In contrast to carbohydrates, the body cannot store protein; excess is excreted. The body therefore mainly retains fat as fuel for generating energy. During fat breakdown, the body produces more ketone bodies, substances that reduce the feeling of hunger. The body is therefore forced by a lack of carbohydrates to use its own fat stores as a source of energy, which makes the kilos tumble.

What's the point?

The scientific discussion of the topic has increased significantly in recent years, and there is still a lack of meaningful long-term studies. Technical articles examining weight loss through a low-carb diet largely acknowledged the low-carb diet as being a success. Comparative studies have shown that a low-carb diet is faster to lose weight than a low-fat diet. In the long term, however, the diet success of both methods became more similar again. The reason why the pounds drop at the beginning of this fat-protein regimen can also be traced back to a reduced calorie intake. Those who want to lose weight get full sooner and therefore inadvertently take in fewer calories overall.

Pros and cons for health

Studies on the health effects have so far been inconsistent. Some research has suggested positive effects on certain heart risk factors, while others link diet to negative health effects. Diet-skeptical nutritionists point to the increased fat intake and the associated greater risk of cardiovascular diseases and vascular damage. The high protein intake is particularly unsuitable for people with gout or kidney problems. In addition, some diets would limit healthy foods and essential nutrients and cause a lack of vitamins and minerals. Diet proponents sometimes propagate the low-carb diet as permanent nutrition: the diet lowers cholesterol and blood sugar levels and therefore prevents diabetes and obesity.

As a guideline, the Austrian Nutrition Society states that at least half of the daily energy intake for a balanced mixed diet should be in the form of carbohydrates. On the other hand, it is advised to only get around 30 percent of your energy intake from fats and 8-10 percent from proteins. The "low-carb" diet completely contradicts the principles of a balanced diet.

No calorie counting

One of the reasons why these low-carbohydrate diets are popular is that they do not restrict the eating style too much. In contrast to crash or zero diets, which sometimes require those who want to lose weight to limit themselves to a single food or to abstain from food altogether, current low-carb diets only restrict eating and lifestyle to a limited extent. Eating without counting calories and without having to cut out high-fat foods and still lose weight sounds almost too good as a diet program. Scientists and experts criticize that a long-term change in diet, as is necessary for permanent weight loss, cannot be achieved with it. The forbidden carbohydrates would at some point lead to a downright aversion to the many fatty foods - cravings, rule violations and relapses are therefore inevitable in the long term. (derStandard.at, 25.03.2010)