Is a low carb diet good for me?

A close friend of mine passed away this summer. He suffered a massive heart attack. This surprised me as he had lost a lot of weight in recent years through a low carb diet, and was maintaining his present weight. He was still chubby but not obese anymore. He had begun to become more active, and was not a smoker or drinker. This got me thinking about my own situation. I am also overweight by about 25 pounds, but was maintaining my present weight also with a low carb diet and exercise. I am not privy to his medical records, but cant help thinking that his high consumption of meat and fat led to his early death. His typical supper was a large steak with the fat left on, and a salad. Most research I have done says that a low carb is the most healthy, and is supposed to reduce heart disease. The low fat diet is apparently outdated. I have recently gone to a low fat diet, and my blood pressure has gone down, so has my waist. Am I on the right path? Why is the low carb 'fad?' still going strong? Thanks!  

Good questions, but let's start with the fact you cannot compare yourself with your friend, you are both unique. Next, low fat diets are definitely not outdated! The low carb diets however, have had a short life span and for good reasons. High protein, low-carb diets (The Atkins diet is an example) can cause a number of health problems, including:

  • Kidney failure. Consuming too much protein puts a strain on the kidneys, which can make a person susceptible to kidney disease.
  • High cholesterol. It is well known that high protein diets (consisting of red meat, whole dairy products, and other high fat foods) are linked to high cholesterol. Studies have linked high cholesterol levels to an increased risk of developing heart disease, stroke, and cancer.
  • Osteoporosis and kidney stones. High protein diets have also been shown to cause people to excrete more calcium than normal through their urine. Over a prolonged period of time, this can increase a person's risk of osteoporosis and kidney stones.
  • Cancer. One of the reasons high protein diets increase the risks of certain health problems is because of the avoidance of carbohydrate-containing foods and the vitamins, minerals, fiber, and antioxidants they contain. It is therefore important to obtain your protein from a diet rich in whole grains, fruits, and vegetables. Not only are your needs for protein being met, but you are also helping to reduce your risk of developing cancer.
  • Unhealthy metabolic state (ketosis). Low-carb diets can cause your body to go into a dangerous metabolic state called ketosis since your body burns fat instead of glucose for energy. During ketosis, the body forms substances known as ketones, which can cause organs to fail and result in gout, kidney stones, or kidney failure. Ketones can also dull a person's appetite, cause nausea and bad breath. Ketosis can be prevented by eating at least 100 grams of carbohydrates a day.

While your friend was successful in losing weight, he undoubtedly paid for it with high cholesterol, causing atherosclerosis, coronary artery disease and ultimately a heart attack that killed him (I assume).

This is what you need to do (some of which you already started:

1.       Check your risk factors for heart disease:

o    Cholesterol

o    Diabetes

o    High blood pressure

o    Weight

o    Smoking status

o    Exercise

o    Family history for heart disease

2.       Check your risk here for developing heart disease. If you play around with the numbers you can see how much a lower cholesterol and other factors can improve)

3.       Start a sensible diet and exercise program and stick with it!

I think this will put you on the right path. Angelina, our nutritionist, just wrote a blog about to use dieting in a sensible manner:

Hope this helps, come back if you have more questions,

Dr T


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