Low carbohydrate diets have become increasingly popular in recent years due to a large number of low carbohydrate diet plans (Atkins, South Beach, The Zone) getting high amounts of media attention. The basic principle behind these diets is that by reducing your carbohydrate intake you force your body into a state of ketosis (where it burns fat for energy instead of glucose and glycogen). As a result you burn more body fat and store less of it.
Whilst these diets are very effective and in my opinion support good health (I have tried to reduce my carbohydrate intake over the last year), it is possible to go too far and cause a carbohydrate deficiency in your body. In this article I am going to be outlining three of the potential side effects of carbohydrate deficiency.
1) VITAMIN AND MINERAL DEFICIENCY:- Most low carbohydrate diets suggest that you eliminate starchy, processed carbohydrates such as bread, pasta and rice. This leaves fruits and vegetables as your main carbohydrate source. However, some people eliminate these natural carbohydrates from their diet as well.
The problem with this is that fruits and vegetables are an excellent source of vitamins (particularly water soluble vitamins) and minerals which support almost every function in the body. Some of their most important roles include maintaining fluid balance in your body’s cells, keeping your blood and organs healthy, preventing cancer, preventing diabetes, removing waste materials and supporting metabolism.
Without vitamins and minerals not only does your body struggle to perform a number of basic functions but it can also lead to high blood pressure, heart problems, mental impairment, organ damage, vision problems and much more.
2) FIBRE DEFICIENCY:- Fibre is an indigestible type of carbohydrate. It has a number of health benefits which include improving blood glucose control, promoting optimal bowel health and preventing cancer. If you completely eliminate carbohydrates from your diet then you also eliminate fibre and miss out on all these benefits. Furthermore, prolonged fibre deficiency has been linked with a number of bowel problems.
3) LOW ENERGY LEVELS:- Completely eliminating carbohydrates from your diet has an adverse effect on your energy levels in the short term. Whilst this loss of energy is only temporary and your energy levels do return to normal after a few days (once your body has had the chance to adapt), it can affect your concentration and your ability to perform physical activities during these few days.
As I said at the beginning of this article, I believe that overall low carbohydrate diets are an effective weight loss tool and also promote a healthy lifestyle. They allow you to clean up your diet by cutting out the unnecessary starchy, processed and calorie heavy carbohydrates (such as bread and pasta) whilst keeping the natural, low calorie and nutrient rich carbohydrates (such as fruits and vegetables).
Furthermore, low carbohydrate diets are completely sustainable. Whilst there are essential amino acids and essential fatty acids, there are no essential carbohydrates. If you went without dietary fats or proteins for a prolonged period of time you would ultimately die. However, your body can function without carbohydrates.
Overall, whilst low carbohydrate diets are healthy and sustainable I hope this article has made you aware of the potential side effects of cutting out all carbohydrates. I think that even on a low carbohydrate diet plan, you should ensure that at least 15% of your daily calories come from carbohydrates. This can be achieved by eating a selection of fruits and vegetables which will give you adequate servings of fibre, vitamins and minerals.
What do you guys think? Have you ever tried a no carbohydrate diet? Do you believe that low carbohydrate diets are healthy? Are there any carbohydrate deficiency side effects missing from this article? Leave a comment and let me know.