For many years, low carb diets have been controversial, with health professionals reluctant to recommend them to overweight or obese patients. They believed that such a lifestyle might raise cholesterol levels and increase the risk of heart disease.
However, recent scientific studies have shown that low carb diets may be beneficial in weight loss and obesity. Not only do low carb diets help in weight loss, they improve your general health AND positively modify the heart disease risk factors… including cholesterol.
These are the 10 proven benefits of low carb diets. Keep in mind that individual variation occurs, and not all people respond in exactly the same way.
1. Low Carb Diets Suppress Your Appetite
One of the benefits of low carb diets is they reduce hunger by automatically reducing appetite. This causes an effortless restriction of calories. Studies consistently show that people lose weight on a low carb diet because they end up eating fewer calories, and the extra protein and fat keeps them feeling full longer. In fact, when researchers compare low carb diets to low fat, “balanced” diets in studies, they have to restrict calories in the low fat groups—which causes participants to be hungry!
2. Low Carb Diets Help You Lose Weight
Going low-carb is one of the easiest and most effective ways to lose weight. Studies have shown that low carb diets lead to greater short-term weight loss than low fat diets… even with actively restricting calories on a low fat diet. This is due in part to the loss of excess water from the body as a result of lower insulin levels, which in turn prompts the kidneys to start shedding excess sodium.
Several studies comparing low carb diets to low fat diets have concluded that low carb diets may cause up to 2-3 times more weight loss than a low fat diet, without the participants ever being hungry. This appears to be true for at least 6 months, then weight gain re-occurs—probably due to poor eating habits.
3. A Large Percentage of The Fat Lost on Low Carb Diets Comes From The Abdominal Cavity
One of the most important benefits of low carb diets is the loss of fat in the abdominal cavity (visceral fat). This harmful fat lodges around the organs and causes metabolic dysfunction—inflammation, insulin resistance and other serious metabolic problems. Low carb diets have been shown to effectively reduce visceral fat. They not only cause more fat loss than low fat diets, a majority of the fat loss is from the abdominal cavity. Eventually, this will result in the drastic reduction in the risk factors of heart disease and type 2 diabetes.
4. Low Carb Diets Benefit Type 2 Diabetes by Lowering Blood Sugar and Insulin Levels
Studies have shown that a low carb diet benefits people with diabetes or prediabetes by lowering fasting blood glucose and insulin levels. Insulin is a hormone released into the bloodstream in response to high blood glucose levels after the metabolism of dietary carbohydrates into simple sugars (mainly glucose). Individuals with a condition called insulin resistance have a major problem with this system. Their bodies fail to secrete enough insulin to lower the circulating blood sugar after meals, and this can lead to type 2 diabetes or prediabetes. By restricting carbohydrates, you remove the need for all of that insulin resulting in a significant decrease in both blood sugar and insulin levels.
Low carb diets may be effective in treating type 2 diabetes, and some diabetics have managed to lower and even stop their diabetic medication within 6 months. Caution to diabetics: Before making any changes to your carbohydrate intake or diabetic medication dosage, consult your physician.
5. Low Carb Diets Reduce Insulin Resistance and Positively Affect Features of Metabolic Syndrome
High protein low carb diet benefits include a reduction in insulin resistance and a dramatic improvement in the essential features of metabolic syndrome. Insulin resistance is a condition in which the body produces insulin but does not use it effectively. Most people with insulin resistance have elevated insulin and glucose levels, a result of glucose building up in the blood instead of being absorbed by the cells.
Metabolic syndrome is a collection of symptoms—abdominal obesity, increased blood pressure, high fasting blood sugar levels, high triglyceride levels and low HDL levels—that occur together. Three of these must be present in order to be diagnosed with the condition. Insulin resistance is common in people with metabolic syndrome, and there is an association between these two conditions and the risk of type 2 diabetes and heart disease.
The good news is…a low carb diet benefits people with insulin resistance and metabolic syndrome by dramatically improving all five key symptoms. Existing evidence indicates that restricting carbohydrates results in weight loss, reduction in the waistline, lower blood pressure and triglycerides, lower blood sugar and insulin levels, and higher HDL levels.
6. LDL Cholesterol Levels Improve
Low Density Lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol particles, often referred to as the “bad” cholesterol, exist in different sizes. There are large molecules and small dense molecules. The small dense particles have a threefold greater risk of heart disease, while the large particles have a low risk and may actually be protective. Studies indicate that a high protein low carb diet benefits the LDL cholesterol profile positively by turning small LDL particles to large LDL particles, and by reducing the number of small LDL particles floating around in the bloodstream.
7. HDL Cholesterol Levels Increase
High Density Lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol, often referred to as the “good” cholesterol, is inversely related to your risk of heart disease. This means that lower HDL cholesterol levels are associated with greater risk of heart disease. One of the best ways to increase HDL levels is to increase one’s consumption of fat, while restricting carbohydrates. Since low carb diets tend to be high in fat, this leads to a dramatic increase in HDL levels.
8. Triglyceride Levels Go Down
Triglycerides (fat molecules in the blood) are a strong risk factor for heart disease. Elevated triglyceride levels are associated with obesity, insulin resistance, type 2 diabetes, and lower HDL (“good”) cholesterol levels. Carbohydrate consumption, especially the consumption of fructose (a simple sugar) is the main cause of high triglyceride levels. Restricting carbohydrates lowers triglyceride levels significantly, as compared to low fat diets, which tend to elevate triglyceride levels.
9. Blood Pressure Goes Down
High blood pressure (hypertension) is one of the most important risk factors for stroke, heart disease, chronic kidney disease and other diseases. Lowering blood pressure is therefore considered a crucial step in reducing the risk of many common diseases. Studies indicate that low carb diets are an effective way to lower blood pressure, especially in overweight or obese individuals.
10. C-reactive Protein Will Be Reduced
C-reactive protein (CRP) is produced by the liver. It can be measured in the blood and its level rises within a few hours after tissue injury, the start of an infection, or other cause of inflammation. CRP is a potential risk factor for heart disease. There is evidence that suggests restricting carbohydrates lowers the CRP, which may mean that low carb diets can reduce inflammation.