Low Carb Diet Side Effects

Low Carb Diet Side Effects

Carbs, also known as carbohydrates form are naturally occurring complex compounds such as sugars, starch or fiber. Carbohydrates form a major portion of the Indian diet and are necessary for the energy required to carry out metabolic activities in both humans and animals. Apart from biological functions, carbohydrates also add the desired taste and appearance to food. Carbohydrates are found in plenty of foods items, subsequently allowing the intake of other nutrients as well.

Some illnesses associated with carbohydrate metabolism or excess carbohydrate intake are lactose intolerance, glycogen storage disease, obesity, galactosemia and diabetes mellitus. This article will help you understand those long term low carb diet side effects and how a low carb diet affects the skin.


Why Are Carbs Important?

  1. Dietary fiber or non-glycemic carbohydrates help in the smooth functioning of bowel movements.
  2. Glycosaminoglycans are derivatives of carbohydrates. These regulate metabolism, lubricate skeletal joints and help in preventing infections.
  3. Glycoproteins are essential for the formation of antibodies, enzymes, and hormones. They also possess anti-cancer activities.
  4. Glycoproteins also function as hormones such as Human gonadotropic hormone (HCG) and erythropoietin.
  5. Glycoproteins are also essential for normal vision.
  6. Carbohydrates are necessary for the biosynthesis of other compounds.

In the recent past, a newer trend of achieving weight loss was introduced and has been practiced by several people worldwide – the low carb diet.

A low carb diet essentially focuses on losing weight while eating healthier food options which contain less than 100 grams of carbohydrates/day or foods that have a low glycemic index.

A low carb diet not only aims at achieving a healthier weight but also greatly reduces the risk of developing type-II diabetes mellitus and metabolic syndrome. A low carb diet also helps to inculcate healthy eating habits.

On the contrary, research suggests consuming high carbohydrate foods such as unrefined grains, fruits, cereals and plenty of fibrous foods. Such diet providers better nutritional value as compared to a low carbohydrate diet.

However, keeping in mind the various functions that carbohydrates help to carry out, consuming a low carb diet over a long period of time may have potential side effects.


What Are The Long Term Low Carb Diet Side Effects?

1. Insulin Response

Studies have proven that long term consumption of a low carb diet along with high protein intake results in an increase in glucose production by the liver and reduced peripheral utilization of this glucose. This can cause insulin resistance. Also, this may hasten the development of type-II diabetes mellitus among susceptible individuals due to the failure of beta cells of the pancreas (the cells secrete insulin).


2. Cardiovascular System

A long term side effect of a low carb diet involves an overall increase in total cholesterol and low-density lipoproteins (LDL) and elevated high-density lipoproteins (HDL). High LDL is linked to atherosclerosis resulting in an increased risk of heart diseases. Chronic intake of a low carb diet causes an increase in free fatty acids resulting in cardiac arrhythmias.


3. Effects On Bone Heath

Bone health is an essential concern due to the following reasons;

  • Loss of bone calcium is of particular importance especially for women who follow a low carb diet. A low carb diet restricts the intake of milk and yogurt which are essential sources of calcium.
  • Practicing a low carb diet below the age of 30 years increases the risk of osteoporosis later in life.
  • Low carb and high protein diet over a long period of time cause excess ketones in the blood. This causes the blood to acidify and mobilization of calcium from the bones.

4. Cancer Risk

some long term side effects of a low carb diet may also include a risk of cancer because of the following reasons;

  • Fresh fruits and vegetables contain flavonoids, phenols, dietary fiber, and anti-oxidants. A low carb diet replaces starchy fruits and vegetables with low carbohydrate ones. Doing so for a long time may increase the risk of cancer.
  • Increased intake of animal protein as a part of a low carb diet has a strong association with the risk of cancer, especially colorectal cancer.

5. Effects On Gastro-Intestinal Tract

A low carb diet contains significantly lesser dietary fiber as found in cereals, legumes and fresh fruits and vegetables. Long term low carb diet has reported causing constipation.


Low Carb Diet Side Effects On Skin

Persons following a low carb diet or a ketogenic diet have often experienced skin rashes called the keto rash. Things you must know about a keto rash are;

  • A keto rash is called prurigo pigmentosa in medical terminology.
  • It generally appears on the chest, back or neck and is supposedly due to ketosis (release of ketones in the blood) as a result of a low carb diet.
  • The keto rash may be triggered due to a high protein diet, lack of plant-based foods and reduced intake of dietary fiber.
  • A keto rash is a sign that your body is not responding well to the diet and the diet is not suited for you particularly.
  • The rash reduces as soon as a normal diet is resumed leaving a slight brownish discoloration of the skin on healing.

Since a low carb diet completely cuts out certain fruits and vegetables, the body does not receive the necessary antioxidants and flavonoids which are required by the body. Lack of these nutrients makes the body incapable to fight against infections and this could be the reason behind the development of keto rash.


Conclusion

Research studies have proven that a diet that contains fresh fruits and vegetables along with whole grains, pulses, legumes, and low-fat dairy products is more beneficial for healthier weight loss and weight maintenance. These diets are also linked to a lesser risk of chronic illnesses.

Diets must be followed only after consulting a professional dietician or a nutritionist to avoid undesirable consequences associated with such diets. The infamous message “don’t eat carbohydrates, they make you fat” must be replaced with positive and more realistic weight loss techniques and promotion of a healthier lifestyle.

Author:

Dr. Himanshi Purohit

Dr. Himanshi is a Homeopathic consultant currently working as a lecturer in Post-graduate faculty of Homeopathy, Parul University, Vadodara.