The Case for Low Carb
By Jimmy Moore
Although many nutritionists and doctors claim low-carb diets, such as South Beach and Atkins, are unhealthy, the fact remains that researchers are discovering some remarkable things about controlled-carb diets that warrant a closer examination of what has too often been dismissed as "fad" dieting.
With the recent release of Good Calories, Bad Calories: Challenging the Conventional Wisdom on Diet, Weight Control, and Disease (Knopf, 2007), by New York Times science writer Gary Taubes, the national debate about the health benefits of a high-fat, low-carb diet has resumed. Taubes scoured through thousands of studies, both old and new, to find research relevant to the premise that an excess of carbohydrates is at the root cause of not just obesity, but also many of the most pressing health ailments of our day, including type 2 diabetes, high cholesterol, metabolic syndrome, and at least some cancers, among many others.
New research findings, published this year in prestigious science journals, further Taubes' arguments and resurrect the national conversation about the veracity of the benefits of low-carb eating. Not since just after the death of Robert Atkins, M.D., in 2003, has there been so much new discussion and information on the subject.
Here's a sampling of some of these findings:
More weight loss, lower cholesterol and blood pressure: In a study conducted at Stanford University, scientists examined the health and weight impact of four popular diet plans, including Atkins (low-carb), the Zone (higher-protein), LEARN (high-carb), and Ornish (very low-fat) diets over a 12-month period. At the end of the study, the Atkins group lost more total weight and over twice the body fat of the other groups. More importantly, the Atkins group saw their HDL ("good") cholesterol go way up and their triglycerides plummet twice as much as any other group. Additionally, blood pressure in the Atkins group was "significantly lower" than all the other groups. This study was published in the March 6, 2007 issue of The Journal Of The American Medical Association.
More weight loss, improved mood and memory. For eight weeks, a group of overweight or obese study participants consumed either a low-carb, high-fat diet or a high-carb, low-fat diet with equal calories to determine impact on weight and mood. The low-carb group lost more weight than the low-fat group, but both groups experienced improvements in attitude and memory function on either diet. This study was published in the September 2007 issue of The American Journal Of Clinical Nutrition.
Reduction in tumor growth in mice. In a laboratory study at Boston College, scientists fed lab mice implanted with cancerous brain tumors one of three diets: a high-carb, standard diet; unlimited amounts of a high-fat, low-carb diet; or restricted amounts of a high-fat, low-carb diet. The mice that were fed the restricted amounts of a high-fat, low-carb diet saw a 35 to 65 percent reduction in the growth of their brain tumors, improved their overall health, and lived longer than the other two groups. This study was published in the February 21, 2007 issue of Nutrition & Metabolism.
Increased lifespan in worms. In a Germany-based study at the University of Jena, researchers examined the effect of restricting sugar intake in worms. They found that excessive amounts of glucose had negative health effects and cutting way back on glucose led to an increased life span — up to 25 percent longer compared to those worms that consumed the sugar. This study was published in the October 3, 2007 issue of Cell Metabolism.
There's much more research coming soon, so stay tuned!
Jimmy Moore is the author of the weight-loss, health blog, "Livin' La Vida Low-Carb," recognized by FOXNews.com as one of the Top 10 health blogs on the Internet today. He also is the host of his own twice-weekly podcast show, "The Livin' La Vida Low-Carb Show with Jimmy Moore." It airs on iTunes and other podcast outlets on Mondays and Thursdays boasting around 3,000 listeners each week. Finally, his wife Christine joins him in a fun and engaging new video series online called "Livin' La Vida Low-Carb On YouTube." He lives in Spartanburg, SC.
1. Thomas N. Seyfried et al., "The calorically restricted ketogenic diet, an effective alternative therapy for malignant brain cancer," Nutrition & Metabolism 4, no. 5 (February 21, 2007),
http://www.nutritionandmetabolism.com/content/4/1/5 (accessed October 22, 2007).
2. Christopher D. Gardner et al., "Comparison of the Atkins, Zone, Ornish, and LEARN Diets for Change in Weight and Related Risk Factors Among Overweight Premenopausal Women," Journal of the American Medical Association 297, no. 9 (March 7, 2007), http://jama.ama-assn.org/cgi/content/abstract/297/9/969 (accessed October 22, 2007).
3. Angela K Halyburton et al., "Low- and high-carbohydrate weight-loss diets have similar effects on mood but not cognitive performance," The American Journal Of Clinical Nutrition 86, no. 3 (September 2007), http://www.ajcn.org/cgi/content/abstract/86/3/580 (accessed October 22, 2007).
4. Michael Ristow et al., "Glucose Restriction Extends Caenorhabditis elegans Life Span by Inducing Mitochondrial Respiration and Increasing Oxidative Stress," Cell Metabolism 6 (October 3, 2007),
http://www.cellmetabolism.org/content/article/abstract?uid=PIIS1550413107002562 (accessed October 22, 2007).
Reviewed by Susan Weiner, R.D., M.S., C.D.E., C.D.N. 3/08
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