Health Fitness

Low carb diet: miracle or myth?

A low-carb diet that strictly restricts carbohydrate intake is very effective in regulating the hormone insulin.

Insulin is what controls the uptake of glucose by the blood cells. In this way, insulin regulates blood sugar levels. The glucose that is absorbed into the cells is then used to meet energy requirements. When there is more glucose than the cell needs for energy, the excess is stored as fat.

In a recent report in a leading medical journal, a low-carb diet was found to reduce blood insulin levels by 27% and simultaneously improve cells’ sensitivity to the hormone.

As a result of this effect, glucose is metabolized normally without any stress on other organs or systems to produce additional insulin, a factor that has been thought to be responsible for later weight gain and the development of diabetes. Simply put, a low-carb diet helps improve glucose metabolism and protects against diabetes.

To see how a low carbohydrate diet can achieve this result, look at how the body deals with reduced carbohydrate in the daily diet.

When the carbohydrate content of your daily food intake falls below one point, two adaptive responses occur.

* You start to lose water

* You turn to fat as a source of energy.

Loss of water is one of the first changes to occur. Water is retained when there is a high blood glucose content. Insulin regulation keeps glucose within a tight normal range, so there is no need to store water. Water loss is accompanied by commensurate weight loss soon after starting a low-carb diet.

But there is also the second answer, which is more important for long-term weight loss.

Your body’s metabolism shifts toward using fat stores for energy instead of glucose. Thus the various energy requirements in the tissues are provided by the anaerobic metabolism of fat stores. As a result, weight loss follows.

Reports in some highly respected medical journals have confirmed this impact of following a low-carb diet. There is pretty conclusive data to suggest that a reduced intake of carbohydrates can eliminate stubborn abdominal fat and even get rid of dangerous visceral fat.

A Tulane University study is widely cited in support of the benefits of a low-carb diet. This experimental investigation carried out in a group of 148 volunteers compared the effects of a diet with fewer carbohydrates versus a diet low in fat. The test group of subjects were put on a strict low-carb diet where they were restricted to just 40 grams of carbs per day.

What was surprising about the study was that, contrary to prevailing wisdom, the low-carb diet group was found to lose 7.7 pounds more than those on a low-fat diet. It changed public thinking about the role of dietary fat in weight loss and showed that carbohydrates were more important than previously believed.

These data have also been confirmed in other studies. Low-carb diets can lower insulin levels, postpone or prevent the development of diabetes, and achieve weight loss by burning off stored fat.

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