What are the health risks of low-carbohydrate diets?

Shari Portnoy
Nutrition & Dietetics
Low Carbohydrates? Since Glucose is the only recognized substance the brain can use for fuel, without carbohydrates, you won't be able to think or move. In the absence of carbohydrates (vegetables, fruits, cereals, grains, etc.) this miraculous body will convert protein to carbohydrates to stave off eventual death. Conversion though, will cost you. Since protein is heavier than carbohydrates, it will put pressure on some sensitive organs and what happens when there is too much pressure? Explosion. This is where it will cost you.

For a healthy way of life, moderation is the key, taste is important but we know we can't live on ice cream alone so balance it out. The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics recommends a diet high in healthy carbohydrates, 15% of calories from lean protein and a variety of foods.
Fad diets that severely restrict carbohydrates while promoting meat pose many health risks. Reasons to steer clear of these include the following:
  • Diet Rebound: Dieters often regain lost weight.
  • Free-Radical Damage: Metabolic imbalances from insulin shifts leave DNA more vulnerable to harm.
  • Cancer Risk: Studies indicate that low-fiber and high-meat consumption may increase the risk of colon cancer.
  • Calcium Depletion: Excessive protein intake can increase calcium excretion in the urine.
  • Gout and Kidney Stones: Too much protein can prompt the overproduction of uric acid that may lead to gout and kidney stones.
  • Reduced Antioxidants: A lack of fruits and vegetables cheats the body of disease-fighting phytochemicals.
  • Constipation: A low intake of dietary fiber interferes with the regularity of bowel function.
  • Diverticulitis: Fruits, vegetables and whole grains protect against developing this often-painful intestinal disorder.
  • Diminished Athletic Performance: Depleted carbohydrate-glycogen stores in the liver and muscles can impair strength and endurance.
  • Breath Odor: Bad breath and body odors result from low-carb-induced ketosis, a condition that also includes weakness, nausea and dehydration.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.