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Low-carb diet: Lesser-known health risks from not consuming carbohydrates


Refraining from carbohydrates: ketogenic diet is controversial
When losing weight, the spirits usually differ. Although many people think that it is particularly effective to eat as little fat as possible, more and more people are betting on "low carb". The reduction of carbohydrates is controversial. The ketogenic diet has an impact on health.

Low carb is the trend
Diets such as the Atkins diet are in vogue. Lots of meat, eggs, milk and cheese and hardly any carbohydrates: a diet based on the so-called low-carb principle. When asked whether less fat or fewer carbohydrates are suitable for losing weight quickly, scientific studies have repeatedly shown that low-carb does better than low-fat. It is clear that one can achieve a rapid weight loss by not consuming carbohydrates. However, it is controversial whether it is also healthy to remove bread, pasta and rice from the menu and to rely on fat or proteins.

Health pros and cons
For example, US scientists in the journal "Cell Metabolism" reported that people under the age of 65 who are on a high-protein diet are at greater risk of dying from cancer. On the other hand, low-carb diets help to better control type 2 diabetes, as a recent study showed. In a message from the dpa news agency, experts explain what to look out for in a ketogenic diet:

Favorable effects on serious illnesses
Carbohydrates are the number one source of energy for the human organism and especially for the brain. With a ketogenic diet, the daily intake of carbohydrates is reduced to a minimum of just 20 to 50 grams. Instead, high-fat foods are on the menu, from sausage and meat to cream, eggs and cheese to nuts.

According to advocates, the strictly low-carbohydrate diet should not only lead to weight loss, but also have beneficial effects on serious illnesses. However, there is no clear scientific evidence for this.

"From a medical point of view, ketogenic nutrition is only recommended for children with epilepsy," said Professor Georg Wechsler, President of the Federal Association of German Nutritional Medicine (BDEM). From the perspective of the specialist in internal medicine from Munich, the ketogenic diet has "many disadvantages and side effects".

Body shifts metabolism
The basic idea behind this diet is that the body changes its metabolism due to the reduction in the intake of carbohydrates and looks for new sources of energy - the fat. He attacks the body's depots and also uses the fats that are supplied through food. The ketones formed in the process supply the organism with energy.

Since the carbohydrates are not used, the high-fat diet does not usually lead to weight gain. The high proportion of protein and vegetables often results in a slimming effect.

Ketogenic diet in epilepsy
"It has been known since the 20s of the last century that a ketogenic diet reduces the propensity to attack in epilepsy," explained Margret Morlo from the Association for Nutrition and Dietetics (VFED). According to the expert, a ketogenic diet was developed in US clinics specifically for children suffering from epilepsy. The little patients have to take 90 percent of their energy in the form of fat, vitamins and minerals are administered in addition.

"The ratio of 4: 1 or 3: 1 - fat to protein and carbohydrates - must be maintained at every meal, depending on the tolerance," says Morlo. However, this diet does not work for all epilepsy sufferers. In some of the children, the insufficient protein in the diet can inhibit growth and physical development.

Only under medical supervision
"Not least because of this, a ketogenic diet should always be carried out under strict medical supervision, if at all," said Wechsler. There is a risk of deposits on the vessels if the diet is high in fat. This can lead to stroke or heart attack.

In addition, the ketogenic diet also increases uric acid production: “There is an increased risk of developing gout.” People who eat a ketogenic diet should therefore have uric acid checked regularly.

Effect on the course of cancer
Some proponents of the ketogenic diet believe that the low-carbohydrate and high-fat diet could have a positive effect on the course of cancer. Accordingly, the special diet should ensure that the growth of cancer cells can be inhibited. "So far, however, there is no generally valid scientific knowledge available," Wechsler explained.

The German Nutrition Society (DGE) comments similarly: “There are currently only a few studies on this in people with cancer. Neither tumor regression, prolongation of life, improvement in therapy response or fewer side effects due to the ketogenic diet were found, ”said DGE spokeswoman Antje Gahl. The experts therefore advise against a ketogenic diet as part of cancer therapy.

Controversial because of possible side effects
According to Wechsler, medical circles are currently debating whether a ketogenic diet could have a positive effect on diseases such as dementia or Alzheimer's. "There is currently no clear scientific evidence on this either," said the nutritionist, who calls the ketogenic diet an outsider diet.

According to Morlo, “at least initially, this diet burns more fat than any other reduction diet”. However, the diet is controversial overall because of its possible side effects and because of its imbalance. People who are overweight should prefer to change their diet and lifestyle if necessary together with specialists. “Success may not come quickly, but it has no side effects for the participants,” said Morlo. (ad)

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Video: Stanfords Christopher Gardner Tackles the Low-Carb vs. Low-Fat Question (January 2022).