Checking out low-carb diets

Losing weight through fewer  carbohydrates : That is the principle of low-carb diets. What you can and can’t eat and in what quantity is not uniformly defined. Because there are many different low-carb diets that follow different rules and therefore have some differences in terms of nutrition plan. We introduce you to some of the most well-known low-carb diets and tell you whether they are recommended.

Calories are usually not counted on a low-carb diet. Instead, you reduce the amount of carbohydrates you eat each day. Fat and protein, on the other hand, can still be consumed in varying amounts, depending on the diet. Low-carb diets are often not compatible with vegetarian or vegan diets, as many of them primarily allow meat, fish, dairy products, eggs and fat, while foods containing carbohydrates such as pasta, bread and rice, but sometimes  also  fruit  and vegetables are taboo.

The idea behind this is that the low-carbohydrate diet means that the body is no longer supplied with sufficient energy and the blood sugar level is kept low. As a result, the body has to fall back on its fat reserves and draw the energy it needs from fatty acid breakdown products (ketone bodies). In this way, weight loss should succeed and fat deposits should melt away.

In this series of photos, we will tell you how useful low-carb diets are, introduce you to a few different variants and explain the advantages and disadvantages they offer from a health perspective

Studies confirm that extreme low-carb diets  only have short-term success.  Because in the long term, weight reduction was only seen in those study participants who had also opted for permanent calorie reduction. Regarding possible weight loss success, a recent analysis concludes that it makes no difference whether you follow a low-carb or a low-fat approach. 1

A large-scale long-term study from 2012 was also able to show that high-protein diets can even be harmful to health. 2  Among other things, the long-term  risk of cardiovascular diseases  such as  heart attack  or stroke increased. This risk was all the higher, the fewer carbohydrates and the more protein were on the diet plan. A long-term study from 2018 also casts a bad light on low-carb diets: It concluded that diets with a very low (but also very high) percentage of carbohydrates increase the risk of mortality in the long term, especially when  instead  extra lots of animal fats or proteins are eaten. 3

Numerous other scientists also complain that many low-carb diets  are too high in fat and protein  and are therefore not suitable for a healthy diet in the long term. A high-protein diet is not recommended, especially in the case of kidney damage. But caution is also required with such diets if you have other pre-existing conditions, such as  diabetes , heart problems or  gout . Nevertheless, there are big differences between the individual diet variants. Experts rate a moderately low-carbohydrate diet much more positively.

The Atkins diet is considered the pioneer of low-carb diets. It was developed in the 1970s by cardiologist Robert Atkins and made a comeback in the 1990s.

This diet is divided into four phases in which the carbohydrate intake is precisely defined. For example, only 20 grams of carbohydrates per day are allowed during the two-week start. In the following, this amount is slowly increased. The fourth phase is about maintaining your weight – according to Atkins, this phase can be understood as a lifelong diet.

The Atkins diet consists primarily of fish, meat, eggs and cheese. But vegetable fats and low-carbohydrate vegetables such as lettuce, broccoli or zucchini are also allowed. Dietary supplements are used to ensure the intake of vitamins and minerals. Exercising and counting calories are not necessary, as Atkins points out in his book.

Atkins diet review

The diet is comparatively radical, quite one-sided and usually involves a significant change in eating habits. Fiber , vitamins and minerals are  usually neglected. Possible side effects include cravings and  bad breath , but there is also a risk of malnutrition.

Regarding the effectiveness of this diet, studies have come to different conclusions. However, the vast majority of experts agree that the Atkins diet is anything but healthy: too much protein and animal fats increase the risk of developing dyslipidemia or cardiovascular disease. Diabetics in particular should stay away from this diet: According to study results, the Atkins diet can lead to life-threatening  ketoacidosis in them  .

The South Beach Diet is also a pioneer of low-carb diets – and it also goes back to a heart specialist. With this diet, three main meals, two snacks and one dessert are eaten throughout the day. The weight loss should take place in three phases.  While carbohydrates are almost completely avoided in the first phase and the focus is on  lean  meat and fish, carbohydrates with a low glycemic index  (GLYX concept) are also allowed in the later phases. This index is intended to provide an estimate of how quickly a food causes blood sugar levels to rise.

In general, it is more about avoiding certain carbohydrates, for example  potatoes , sugar or products made from flour (also known as white flour) such as bread and pasta. However , other foods containing carbohydrates, such as wholemeal bread or fruit and  vegetables , which also contain carbohydrates, are permitted. The type and amount of proteins and fats are also important in this diet. Vegetable fats are preferred over animal fats. Light exercise is recommended but not required on the South Beach Diet.

Review of the South Beach Diet

In contrast to the Atkins diet, the South Beach diet does not generally demonize carbohydrates, but also emphasizes their quality. Food choices are more in line (though not entirely) with popular recommendations for healthy carbohydrates and fats and the proportion of vegetables in a healthy diet. A variety of recipes allows for a more varied diet, but all dishes must be freshly prepared and some require advanced cooking skills.

Experts also complain about a lack of vitamins, minerals and dietary fibers in this low-carb diet, especially in the quite radical phases 1 and 2. Therefore, these phases should only be used for a short time. However, phase 3 is judged mostly positively by experts, especially since it can help to learn healthy eating habits. However, there is no scientific evidence of its effectiveness and the underlying GLYX concept is controversial.

The  GLYX diet  is a further development of the aforementioned low-carb diets. Carbohydrates are not completely forbidden here, but are divided into “good” and “bad”. This classification is done using tables based on the so-called glycemic index (GLYX or GI). This value indicates how quickly the blood sugar level rises after eating the respective food. With a rapid increase in blood sugar levels, a larger amount of the hormone  insulin is  released, which  promotes food cravings  . In addition, insulin ensures that sugar is transported from the food into the cells – supporters of the diet assume that insulin thus promotes the formation of fat deposits.

Foods with a low glycemic index are therefore preferred on the menu, such as whole grain products, fruit and legumes. Any amount of these can be eaten, which should make it possible to lose weight without starving. For example, lemonade or mashed potatoes have a high GI.

Review of the GLYX diet

The glycemic index is particularly important for diabetics. In this context, however, the glycemic load (GL) is even more important, because this also includes the amount of carbohydrates contained and thus allows a statement to be made about the insulin requirement actually triggered – in contrast to the GI.

Scientists therefore consider the concept of the glycemic index to be oversimplified. In their opinion, too much importance is attached to insulin for weight loss. Nevertheless, the study situation is contradictory and there are also studies that attest to the positive effects of the GLYX diet, especially in type 2 diabetes. It is positive that this is a relatively moderate diet that promotes a balanced diet. However, some foods that are actually valuable are also eliminated from the menu and the proportion of fat and  protein  is considered too high.

With the LOGI method, too, the focus was initially on the glycemic index, because LOGI initially stood for “Low Glycemic Index”. Originally, the LOGI method was not a short-term diet, but a permanent form of nutrition, with the help of which the  blood values  ​​should be improved. In the meantime, however, the concept has been further developed into the LOGI diet and the abbreviation now stands for “Low Glycemic and Insulinemic Diet”, which on the one hand diverts the focus from the controversial glycemic index and at the same time emphasizes the importance of insulin release more strongly. There are different variants of the LOGI diet, which   can be combined with intermittent fasting or formula diets, among other things.

Similar to the GLYX diet, the permissible foods are selected using tables and a pyramid. This shows which foods should be eaten and how often. Sugar and sweeteners are taboo, processed cereals, whole grain products and high-fiber foods should only be consumed rarely – protein-rich foods and low-sugar fruit and starch-free vegetables form the basis. Sport also plays an important role.

Evaluation of the LOGI diet

The LOGI diet (as an improved form of the LOGI method) is neither strict nor radical, but a moderate low-carb diet in which carbohydrates make up around 25 to 30 percent of the daily calorie intake. In the medical field, it definitely finds supporters, especially in connection with diabetes or  obesity , i.e. for the therapy and prevention of insulin resistance. Nevertheless, people with previous illnesses such as diabetes mellitus should definitely consult their doctor before starting such a diet.

According to studies, the diet can actually help you lose weight. Despite the low carbohydrate and calorie intake, the foods are selected in such a way that they are still filling. Only the restriction of whole grain products is viewed critically by nutritionists. The special feature: This low-carb diet is even suitable for  vegetarians  .

The Montignac method is similar to the GLYX diet and the LOGI method. Michel Montignac’s concept also evaluates carbohydrate-containing foods according to their glycemic index, i.e. their effect on blood sugar levels.

Foods such as white bread, rice, boiled carrots  and potatoes  are not recommended afterwards  , while dairy products, certain types of fruit and even dark chocolate  can be eaten. In addition, precise rules are defined as to which foods may be combined with which amounts of fat and protein – the type of fat (polyunsaturated or monosaturated or unsaturated fatty acids) is also taken into account. The diet is divided into two phases, a phase of losing weight and a phase of stabilization.

Evaluation of the Montignac method

Critics are rather skeptical about the Montignac diet, because it also provides a lot of fat and protein, which can lead to kidney damage in the long run. Similar to the GLYX diet, it is also criticized that the importance of the glycemic index is given too high importance in this diet. Because this changes through the combination of different foods and can therefore not be considered in isolation or added up. The rules of this diet are also considered to be quite complicated, which can make it difficult to stick to.

A comparatively new variant of low-carb diets is the keto diet or ketogenic diet. Here, carbohydrates are almost completely avoided and instead a high-fat diet is used. It is almost a no-carb diet, because carbohydrates should make up only five percent of the daily food. Due to the lack of carbohydrates, the body should switch the energy metabolism to the so-called ketosis and thus the increased burning of fat.

Instead of carbohydrates, proteins and especially fats end up on the plate. Depending on the diet plan, fat should make up between 60 and 90 percent of the daily diet. The fat comes from meat, dairy products, oily fish, vegetable oils, and things like  avocados . Fruit is otherwise taboo, only a few types of berries are allowed.

Keto Diet Review

Studies suggest that the ketogenic diet  may have therapeutic benefits for various diseases, such as epilepsy . However, it should only be carried out under medical supervision.

Bad breath, tiredness or  nausea  are among the minor side effects of this diet. A risk that should not be underestimated is ketoacidosis, an  overacidification  of the blood. In addition, experts warn that this type of diet could promote the development of insulin resistance, gout and cardiovascular diseases. As with all elimination diets, there is also the risk of a deficiency.

So, the keto diet may be able to help treat certain diseases. However, until it has been adequately researched, it should only be used under the supervision of a doctor, if at all. Other methods are much better suited to losing weight, because this diet is associated with considerable health risks.

The Thonon diet is said to have originated in the French spa town of Thonon-les-Bains. Supposedly you can lose 10 kilograms in 14 days with the lightning diet. Also in forums there are sometimes positive experiences with this diet. The diet plan provides for a very low-calorie diet – those who want to lose weight should largely avoid carbohydrates, sugar,  salt  and unhealthy fats. Instead, protein-rich foods and vegetables are on the diet plan. The main suppliers of protein should be eggs, meat and fish, but vegetarian alternatives such as tofu or legumes are also allowed. Special recipes are designed to make it easier to put together the dishes.

The diet plan is divided into two phases. During the 14-day weight loss phase, calorie intake should be limited to 600 to 800 kilocalories per day. The subsequent stabilization phase allows 1,200 to 1,500 kilocalories a day. The duration of this phase depends on the previous success in losing weight: one week per kilo lost.

Rating of the Thonon diet

Like all crash diets, the Thonon diet can also achieve measurable before and after effects due to the extremely low calorie intake. However, these successes are mostly due to the loss of water and muscle mass. According to experts, however, the promised goal of 10 kilograms in two weeks cannot be achieved with such a diet – two kilograms per week are more realistic. Possible side effects of the diet include  fatigue  and headaches. As is so often the case after rapid weight loss, the yo-yo effect also threatens with this diet , if you resume your old eating habits after the end of the stabilization phase. In addition, the diet carries the risks of any high-protein diet. Only little fruit is eaten during the weight loss phase, which is why you should also keep an eye on the adequate nutrient supply.

In addition to the  diets mentioned  , there are many other low-carb diets.

This includes, among other things, the Dukan diet in which lean dairy products, certain vegetables and low-fat fish and meat types are on the menu. It is one of the protein-based diets in which not only carbohydrates but also calories and fat should be reduced. Critics consider the diet to be hazardous to health. They complain, among other things, that the protein content is far too high and that fruit and vegetables are not given enough importance. 

Also one of the protein-based low-carb diets is the  method according to Dr. Ulrich Strunz .  According to the Strunz diet, the stress hormone cortisol and the hormone insulin are primarily responsible for  obesityTestosterone  and the growth hormone STH, on the other hand, are said to have a positive effect on fat burning. The nutrition plan is therefore about stimulating the hormone balance properly. Among other things, protein drinks and large amounts of fruit and vegetables are used, but exercise and mental training also play an important role in the Strunz diet. However, the hormone theory is not scientifically proven.

In addition to the diets mentioned, there are many others that are considered low-carb. New trends are constantly emerging that attract potential buyers, such as the Hollywood diet, the slow-carb diet or the anabolic diet. In any case, it is advisable to find out thoroughly and specifically about the possible risks and side effects of the respective diet before starting a diet. Doctors and nutritionists also offer serious advice on the subject of losing weight.


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