You’ll Miss Out
It’s not just that you’ll feel deprived because you’ve had to give up bread, fruit, and all the rest. Your body will also be deprived of foods and nutrients that are essential for good health, including the following.
You’ll Eat Too Much “Bad” Fat
The original Atkins diet became popular largely because it allowed people to eat foods forbidden on most other diets, such as cheeseburgers (without buns). More recently, the diet has been revised to include sources of healthier fats, such as fish and olive oil, and other low-carb diets have shied away from saturated fats as well. But in practice, once you stop eating bread, fruit, and beans, it’s all too easy to eat too many fatty animal foods. After all, how many foods can you take out of your diet?
If you load up on saturated fats—the original Atkins diet got as much as 26 percent of its calories from saturated fat versus the 10 percent or less that experts recommend—it’s bad for your health. Saturated fats are still the major culprits behind elevated LDL cholesterol. The latest revisions to the diet, to be fair, do emphasize lean poultry and seafood, but in practice, many people are attracted to this diet for the bacon and butter.
What’s more, saturated fats also directly impair the body’s ability to react to insulin, so following a low-carb, high-saturated-fat diet may help you lose weight in the short term, but it may also speed the development of insulin resistance. Eventually, that can lead to metabolic syndrome, diabetes, and heart disease.
The Weight Will Come Back
Two major studies of low-carb diets, published in the New England Journal of Medicine, looked at obese men and women who stuck with either a low-carb, high-fat diet or a low-fat, high-carb diet. Both diets were low in calories.
In one study, which lasted six months, the low-carb diet seemed to win hands down. The people on it lost nearly 13 pounds (6 kg); the low-fat dieters shed just 4 pounds (2 kg). But the second study lasted six months longer, revealing a truth about low-carb diets: The results don’t last. This study too found that the low-carb dieters lost more weight in the first six months, but in the second half of the year, the weight came roaring back. By the end of a year, there was no significant difference in weight loss between the two groups. This weight “snapback” may be one reason that extremely low-carb diets have fallen out of favor.