10 Health Benefits of Low-Carb and Ketogenic Diets
Low-carb diets have been controversial for decades.
Some people assert that these diets raise cholesterol and cause heart disease due to their high fat content.
However, in most scientific studies, low-carb diets prove their worth as healthy and beneficial.
Here are 10 proven health benefits of low-carb and ketogenic diets.
Hunger tends to be the worst side effect of dieting.
It is one of the main reasons why many people feel miserable and eventually give up.
However, low-carb eating leads to an automatic reduction in appetite (1Trusted Source).
Cutting carbs is one of the simplest and most effective ways to lose weight.
Studies illustrate that people on low-carb diets lose more weight, faster, than those on low-fat diets — even when the latter are actively restricting calories.
One study in obese adults found a low-carb diet particularly effective for up to six months, compared to a conventional weight loss diet. After that, the difference in weight loss between diets was insignificant (6Trusted Source).
Not all fat in your body is the same.
Where fat is stored determines how it affects your health and risk of disease.
The two main types are subcutaneous fat, which is under your skin, and visceral fat, which accumulates in your abdominal cavity and is typical for most overweight men.
Visceral fat tends to lodge around your organs. Excess visceral fat is associated with inflammation and insulin resistance — and may drive the metabolic dysfunction so common in the West today (8Trusted Source).
Low-carb diets are very effective at reducing this harmful abdominal fat. In fact, a greater proportion of the fat people lose on low-carb diets seems to come from the abdominal cavity (9Trusted Source).
Over time, this should lead to a drastically reduced risk of heart disease and type 2 diabetes.
Triglycerides are fat molecules that circulate in your bloodstream.
It is well known that high fasting triglycerides — levels in the blood after an overnight fast — are a strong heart disease risk factor (10).
High-density lipoprotein (HDL) is often called the “good” cholesterol.
Therefore, it is unsurprising that HDL levels increase dramatically on healthy, low-carb diets, while they tend to increase only moderately or even decline on low-fat diets (24Trusted Source, 25Trusted Source).
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Some people with diabetes who begin a low-carb diet may need to reduce their insulin dosage by 50% almost immediately (33).
In one study in people with type 2 diabetes, 95% had reduced or eliminated their glucose-lowering medication within six months (34Trusted Source).
If you take blood sugar medication, talk to your doctor before making changes to your carb intake, as your dosage may need to be adjusted to prevent hypoglycemia.
Elevated blood pressure, or hypertension, is a significant risk factor for many diseases, including heart disease, stroke and kidney failure.
Metabolic syndrome is a condition highly associated with your risk of diabetes and heart disease.
In fact, metabolic syndrome is a collection of symptoms, which include:
- Abdominal obesity
- Elevated blood pressure
- Elevated fasting blood sugar levels
- High triglycerides
- Low “good” HDL cholesterol levels
Under such a diet, these conditions are nearly eliminated.
It turns out that low-carb diets increase the size of “bad” LDL particles while reducing the number of total LDL particles in your bloodstream (43Trusted Source).
As such, lowering your carb intake can boost your heart health.
Your brain needs glucose, as some parts of it can only burn this type of sugar. That’s why your liver produces glucose from protein if you don’t eat any carbs.
Yet, a large part of your brain can also burn ketones, which are formed during starvation or when carb intake is very low.
This is the mechanism behind the ketogenic diet, which has been used for decades to treat epilepsy in children who don’t respond to drug treatment (44).
In many cases, this diet can cure children of epilepsy. In one study, over half of the children on a ketogenic diet experienced a greater than 50% reduction in their number of seizures, while 16% became seizure-free (45Trusted Source).
Very low-carb and ketogenic diets are now being studied for other brain conditions as well, including Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease (46Trusted Source).
Few things are as well established in nutrition science as the immense health benefits of low-carb and ketogenic diets.
Not only can these diets improve your cholesterol, blood pressure and blood sugar, but they also reduce your appetite, boost weight loss and lower your triglycerides.
If you’re curious to boost your health, one of these diets could be worth considering.
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