Atkins. Paleo. Keto. The South Beach Diet. The Scarsdale Diet. Trends in healthy eating come and go, each with their own foibles and particulars. But the one constant they share is their disdain of carbohydrates. A big bowl of pasta? Bad. A ham sandwich on two thick slices of white bread? Evil. A doughnut? Certain doom! This has, of course, led to some to adopt extreme, very low-carb diets. Unfortunately, new research has explored the long-term effects of those kinds of eating habits, and guess what? A very low-carb diet isn’t so good for you, either.

Infographics - To Eat, Or Not to Eat: The Truth About Very Low-Carb Diets

As recent studies have shown, the science behind low-carb diets highlights the body’s need for carbs in some form. And for those who want to live long, it’s a need that shouldn’t be ignored.

Carbohydrate Aversion

According to the science behind low-carb diets, eliminating carbs is not the key to a healthier, longer life. Recent studies show that a very low-carb diet is detrimental to long-term health. The Atherosclerosis Risk in Communities (ARIC) study analyzed mortality rates based on data from more than 15,000 middle-aged women and men over 25 years. It showed that adults who received less than 40% of their daily caloric intake died an average of four years earlier than those who received between 40% to 70% of their caloric intake from carbs.

Dr. Sara Siedelmann, the lead researcher of the study, said, “our data suggest that animal-based low-carbohydrate diets, which are prevalent in North America and Europe, might be associated with shorter overall lifespan and should be discouraged.”

But what about all the diets that have swept the world, such as Atkins, Keto, South Beach, and Paleo? Are they more dangerous than they are helpful? Not necessarily. These very low-carb diet plans are effective for short-term weight loss, but not always sustainable as long-term plans.

The truth about very low-carb diets is that they are never a wise decision. Carbohydrates are fundamental to our diet, as they provide our bodies with energy and preserve muscle. Cutting out a major food group results in deficiencies because the body doesn’t get the nutrition it needs. A very low-carb diet does not provide enough fiber, antioxidants, B vitamins, and phytochemicals like folate, beta-carotene, and vitamin C. Over time people increase the likelihood of getting heart diseases, diabetes, high blood pressure, and cancer.

Different carbohydrate diets graph
Diets high in carbs are unhealthy, but so are diets far too short on carbs.

Furthermore, other organs are damaged. As people cut carbs, they rely on meat, eggs, and dairy to feel energized or satiated. This takes a toll on the heart, liver, pancreas, and other organs.

That’s the truth about very low-carb diets.

The Alternative – The Science Behind Low-carb Diets

Very low-carb diets may be all the rage, but they're not necessarily that healthy.
The science behind low-carb diets points to the body’s actual need for some form of carbohydrate.

While not revolutionary, the tried and tested approach to weight loss and long-term health has always been mindful moderation. Carefully choosing what to consume instead of cutting whole food groups out is best.

So is choosing to eat unprocessed foods over chemically-processed foods. Processed foods are low in nutrients and fiber, and high in preservatives, salt, sugar, artificial ingredients, and trans fats. They are also designed for over-consumption.

Alternatively, choosing carbohydrates that are whole foods such as quinoa, oats, sweet potatoes, apples, kidney beans, chickpeas, and nuts is a safe bet. Choosing plant-derived proteins and fats over animal-derived ones can help prolong lifespans. Eating these foods will provide the right amount of fiber, protein, good fats, nutrients, and energy.

The truth about very-low carb diets: Don't go overboard.
Moderation is the key to health – and this includes the limiting of carbohydrate intake.

The Truth about very Low-Carb Diets

It’s undeniable that low-carb diets can be effective in losing weight, improving glucose control, and lowering blood pressure. But when taken to the extreme, those very low-carb diets do not provide all the components needed to make the human engine run smoothly. The skill to learn now is discerning which foods you can replace unhealthy carbs with to enjoy a balanced diet.

The science behind low-carb diets reveals the truth about extreme diets.
What’s worse for long-term than eating too many carbs? Eating too few carbs.

The truth about very low-carb diets is that there is a multitude of eating options to achieve whatever health goal you may have.

The trick is to choose the healthiest one.

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