People learn about low-carb diets online and don’t know the risks

People want to look good and be healthy. In order to achieve both of these goals you have to maintain a healthy diet. Low carbohydrate diets are very popular right now, because they are highly recommended on the internet. Now a new study led by the University of Glasgow revealed that low-carb diets do not work very well for all.

Does this look like healthy food for you? It is low-carb. Image credit: Ted Eytan via Wikimedia (CC BY-SA 2.0)

Low-carb diets are not entirely new. They started gaining popularity once the Atkins diet was first introduced in 1972. People are limiting their carbohydrate intake in attempts to lose weight or reduce their problems with type 2 diabetes. There are many variations of the low-carb diet, but followers of them generally just avoid such products as bread, pasta, cakes and sweets.

Now scientists surveyed  723 UK adults who were either current or past followers of a low carb diet or people who were never even interested in a diet like that. Unsurprisingly, weight loss was the main motivation to try a low-carb diet and around 75 % of followers managed to lose at least 5% of their baseline bodyweight. However, other aspects of the diet were not always so positive.

Interestingly, current followers of the low-carb diet found that they are experiencing such benefits as improved health and wellbeing, more happiness, energy, reduced anxiety, better mood and concentration. Current followers also had less knowledge about carbohydrates than people who did not follow a low-carb diet and those who followed it in the past. Past dieters didn’t always enjoy the same benefits – many of them stated that they didn’t notice some of the desired effects mentioned by people who recommend such diets.

Most people who do follow a low-carb diet gathered virtually all their information online, which is less than ideal in situations like this. Dr Emilie Combet, one of the authors of the study, said: “The reliance on the internet as a source of information highlights the need to communicate sensibly about food, diet and weight management, in the context of the very fragmented debate held online and in social media”. The problem is that low-carb diets are hyped up by the media and celebrities and some of their perceived advantages are not actually proven. In fact, scientists believe that low-carb diets should come with a warning that it may not work or it may even have a negative effect.

Scientists are not saying that low-carb diets are really bad. In fact, they may be good for some people. As always, it is always a good idea to consult an actual doctor and follow their recommendations. One of the dangers is nutritional inadequacies – just because you are not eating carbohydrates it doesn’t mean you are eating well. Low-carb diet usually includes a lot of fatter food.


Source: University of Glasgow

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