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What Are the Health Benefits of Low-Carb and Keto Diets?

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Low-carb diets like Atkins, Paleo and Ketogenic are again becoming popular. All of them offer health benefits, while some are also great for weight loss. Let’s have a look at the many health benefits of low-carb eating.

1. Weight Loss

Low-carb diets are an effective tool for long-term weight loss. Eating food high in fat, adequate in protein and low in carbohydrates is sating and causes fewer cravings.

The following points illustrate the many ways weight loss is achieved on low-carb diets:

No portion control

No need for calorie counting, portion control, extensive exercise or feeling hungry. All you need to be aware of is the amount of carbohydrates in your food. Everything else will just follow naturally. Low-carb diets have been shown to induce satiety like no other approach.

What Are the Health Benefits of Low-Carb and Keto Diets?

Natural appetite control

Low-carb diets are sating and you won’t starve like you would with calorie-restricted diets. Studies have shown that protein and fat are the most sating nutrients, while carbohydrates are the least sating. The more nutritious food you eat, the less hungry you’ll feel and the more body fat you’ll lose!

Energy boost

The initial phase of low-carb eating may be difficult to stick to as you may experience symptoms known as “low-carb flu” or “keto-flu”. However, once you go through that phase and get keto-adapted, you will feel great and full of energy.

Eating natural, unprocessed food

Eggs, nuts, grass-fed beef, butter, vegetables and raw dairy – all these are staple foods of healthy low-carb eating.

What Are the Health Benefits of Low-Carb and Keto Diets?

More calories are burnt

People on low-carb diets generally burn the most calories.  Studies suggest that although the metabolic advantage of low-carb diets is not significant, it may help you lose weight.

Fat loss rather than muscle loss

Unlike calorie-restricted diets, low-carb diets have been shown to help preserve muscle tissue. As long as you eat an adequate amount of protein, carbohydrate restriction will help you lose fat  while preserving or even building muscles.

Low-carb diets are easier to stick to

Based on a comparison of 19 modern scientific trials, low-carb diets are easier to stick to in the long term in comparison with low-fat, calorie-restricted diets.

2. Combats Metabolic Syndrome

Overconsumption of carbs, especially sugar, causes what is known as metabolic syndrome: obesity, type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, lipid problems, inflammation and hypertension.  A systematic review of all major clinical trials of low carb diets showed significant weight loss and improvement of all major risk factors for heart disease. Let’s have a closer look at these symptoms:

Decreased insulin resistance, insulin levels and blood sugar

A study from 2004 has examined the effect of low-carb diets on blood sugar. Based on the results, blood sugar has decreased in individuals with diabetes and pre-diabetics.  Another study from 2005 shows that low-carb diets decrease insulin levels and improve insulin sensitivity in obese patients with type 2 diabetes.

Lipid problems and cardiovascular disease

Low-carb diets have been shown to improve cholesterol levels. Our body produces cholesterol in response to the type of fats we eat, among other factors. Studies have shown that carbohydrate restriction increases HDL cholesterol, which is linked to a decreased risk of heart disease.

 A 2009 systematic review of randomised controlled studies that compared low-carbohydrate diets to low-fat / low-calorie diets found that measurements of weight, HDL cholesterol, triglyceride levels and systolic blood pressure were significantly better in groups that followed low-carbohydrate diets.

Another study performed by Dr. Volek and his team found that a low-carb diet lead to significantly decreased levels of triglycerides, which are linked to increased risk of cardiovascular disease.

Finally, low-carb diets are often scrutinised for encouraging people to eat saturated fat. Let’s make this clear: The true reason for heart disease is inflammation, not saturated fat. There is no evidence that saturated fat causes heart disease.

Reduced inflammation

According to Dr. Briffa, the author of the best-selling book “Escape the Diet Trap”, carbohydrates that disrupt blood sugar levels provoke inflammation and raise triglycerides.

Eating low-carb, real food decreases inflammation in the body. Keep in mind that not everything labeled “low-carb” is anti-inflammatory. Food quality is crucial: artificial sweeteners, refined vegetable oils, char grilling or too much omega 6 all increase the level of inflammation.

Normalising blood pressure

High blood pressure (hypertension) is known to be a key factor in heart disease and stroke. A study from 2010 shows that low-carb diets are an effective tool for lowering blood pressure.

What Are the Health Benefits of Low-Carb and Keto Diets?

3. May Help Autoimmune Diseases

Low-carb diets, especially the Paleo diet, are recommended for autoimmune conditions such as Celiac disease or Hashimoto's hypothyroidism.

While low-carb diets are generally beneficial, extreme carb restriction (below 20 grams of net carbs) may not be suitable for people with Hashimoto’s. Dr. Broda Barnes, who spent over 50 years on thyroid research, suggested in his book “Hypothyroidism: The Unsuspected Illness” that the minimum amount of carbohydrate intake for patients with hypothyroidism should be at least 30 grams of net carbs.

4. Improves Dental Health

Sugar significantly alters the pH in your mouth - with less sugar intake, there is less risk of gum diseases and decay. Today, most of the evidence is based on the observations of Weston Price, an American dentist, who spent his life studying the diets of various cultures.

5. Ketosis Used for Managing Diseases

It is generally accepted, that any diet below 130-150 grams of carbohydrates is regarded as "low-carb". Ketogenic diets are a subset of low-carb diets that induce a metabolic state known as ketosis by restricting carbs to 20-50 grams a day.

 Based on studies, ketosis may be a beneficial condition for managing cancer. The idea is that when you restrict carbohydrate intake below 20-50 grams, your body runs out of glycogen stores and starts producing ketone bodies. Normal cells can use ketones for energy, but some types of cancer cells cannot use ketones. Keep in mind that it's still early days to understand if or how the ketogenic diet may help in managing various types of cancer, including brain cancer, and more studies need to be done.

Additionally, ketogenic diets have been used for treating: neurological diseases such as Alzheimer's disease, Parkinson’s disease, autism, depression, migraines, anxiety, and epilepsy. Also they have shown beneficial effects in chronic fatigue syndrome, polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS) and more.

What Are the Health Benefits of Low-Carb and Keto Diets?

Take Home Message

Low-carb diets have many proven health benefits. However, keep in mind that “low-carb” does not necessarily mean healthy. Food quality and cooking methods are as important as the amount of carbs you eat.

It is recommended you first consult your diet plan with your doctor, especially if you are pregnant, nursing or having any health issues such as diabetes, thyroid dysfunction, etc., as there may need to be an adjustment to the medication you are taking.

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Martina Slajerova
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Martina Slajerova

I changed the way I ate in 2011, when I was diagnosed with Hashimoto’s, an autoimmune disease that affects the thyroid. I had no energy, and I found it more and more difficult to maintain a healthy weight.

That’s when I decided to quit sugar, grains, and processed foods, and to start following a whole-foods-based ketogenic approach to food.

About the Reviewer

This article has been reviewed by Franziska Spritzler, RD, CDE who is a qualified expert. At KetoDiet we work with a team of health professionals to ensure accurate and up-to-date information. You can find out more on the About us page.

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Comments (9)

Hi interesting idea.
Where can I find links to peer reviewed scientic research on the keto diet?

Hi Johannes, it depends what you want to look at - there are different studies focusing on weight loss, diabetes, or even epilepsy. Have a look at the expert articles here - all include scientific references: Expert Articles

Hi Martina
I'm discouraged but hanging on....I've had chronic fatigue 15 years ago that resulted in Hashimotos. Been on natural thyroid supplement since but began the HCG diet 4 years ago to successfully lose needed weight but also got me in a cycle of gaining and losing 10-20 lbs. and oh! what it must've done to my metabolism and inflammation 😞
I am finding and reading what you have on Keto with great interest since you are also hashimotos. I have been on NO sugar (BIG deal for me with my huge sweet tooth) and following pretty faithfully, a lchf diet but not losing weight (not gaining though either!) for 5 months.  I am presently part of the 30 day challenge and watching and logging macros and overall daily totals...still no loss (actually 2 lb. gain in the first week 😞 )
I've read and followed the helps on the usual pitfalls ie: eating too many nuts etc.
Is there any other advice you can think of that might shed some light to allow me to break through the weight loss wall ??? or are there some Hashi patients that just can't get through the barrier ?

Hi Marcia, you are right, you should avoid any low-calorie diets, such as HCG. It's an extreme approach and any ultra low-calorie dieting can further damage your thyroid. The weight loss effects achieved on HCG are only temporary and it's not a sustainable approach. What happens when you go off HCG is that you may temporarily gain weigh especially if your body has been used to a low-calorie intake for some time. I know this isn't easy but give it some time, your body needs to get used to a healthy food intake. If you want to check your macros, use this tool: KetoDiet Buddy - Easy Macro Calculator for the Ketogenic Diet (ideally, don't go below 1200 kcal).

I am looking for information that discusses how the keto diet will help regulate my daughters hormones.  She does not have PCOS but high testosterone levels which increases insulin.  Can you guide me to something to show my daughter?

Yes, I think this is a great resource:

For me it's not just about weight loss it's about everything else. I've lost over 50 pounds and my blood work has never shown better results: lower total cholesterol, LDL and triglycerides, higher HDL, lower blood pressure and I'm off meds for my type 2 diabetes!

Awesome post Martina! I have to show this to my hubby, he still thinks I'm crazy. Being a type 2 diabetic, I have been following this diet for more than 3 months and have achieved great results. I lost over 20 pounds and my glucose levels have improved!

Thanks Katie and congrats on your success!