Why low-carb diets are shortsighted

Jun 03, 202110m read
Why low-carb diets are shortsighted
Health & Fitness

Low-carb diets are talked about regularly in the dieting community. A typical low-carb diet restricts foods containing sugar and starch, even healthy plant wholefoods like wholegrains, potatoes, legumes, pumpkins, and fruits are eaten in very limited amounts. Weight loss and blood sugar control are top reasons people adopt a low-carb lifestyle. However, it doesn’t mean that anything that makes you lose weight or controls blood sugar is healthy. It’s possible to lose weight or control blood sugar by doing all sorts of unhealthy things. A good treatment doesn’t fix one thing while causing another problem. As such, weight-loss and blood sugar control are only truly beneficial outcomes when they are achieved through a method that’s sustainable for long-term overall health. Low-carb diets simply fail to maintain good health in the long term and here is how.

Low-carb diets induce poor gut health

A low-carb diet severely impairs gut health and this is mainly due to lack of fiber. Plant wholefoods are the only known sources of fiber but intake of plant wholefoods is restricted on low-carb diets. Two fundamental aspects of gut function negatively influenced by lack of fiber are gut bacteria and stool profile.

Gut bacteria

Research strongly indicates that a healthy gut contains a very high population as well as wide variety of friendly bacteria. Fiber plays an integral role in achieving this healthy profile because it acts as a prebiotic. This means that fiber feeds and nurtures healthy gut bacteria, allowing these microorganisms to multiply and thrive so that they can function optimally.

In order to support a large population of healthy gut bacteria, a large quantity of fiber is needed. So, without a doubt, a diet has to be high in plant whole foods. However, low-carb diets are very low in fiber and this small quantity of fiber can only support a small population of healthy bacteria. The low level of healthy gut bacteria leads to overgrowth of harmful bacteria which eat on the wall of the digestive tract, eroding it and making the wall highly porous. Consequently, harmful bacteria and other material inside the gut easily penetrate through the permeable wall of the digestive tract into the body. This condition is popularly known as leaky gut. A leaky gut causes systemic inflammation and insulin resistance.

And the influence of fiber on diversity of gut bacteria is really interesting.  Each type of healthy bacteria likes to feed on fiber from certain foods. A certain type of healthy bacteria might like fiber from apples while a different type might prefer fiber from wholegrain millet, for example. Therefore, to maintain a diverse assortment of friendly gut bacteria, eating a wide range of plant whole foods is imperative so that each variety of bacteria can find its preferred food. A type of bacteria has to have its ideal food in order to thrive. Otherwise, strains of bacteria that can’t find their ideal foods eventually disappear from the gut eco system, leading to a narrow selection of healthy gut bacteria.

Severely narrowing the variety of healthy gut bacteria is yet another way low-carb eating impairs gut health. Low-carb diets typically restrict the variety of plant whole foods and this narrow selection can only sustain a small variety of friendly gut bacteria. Studies have found having a small variety of friendly bacteria to be profoundly connected to systemic inflammation and insulin resistance.

Stool profile

Stool consistency speaks volumes about a person’s health. Healthy stool is bulky, firm, and soft, making it easy to pass. Fiber from wholefoods is a basic ingredient for forming stools and keeping bowels regular. The low amount of fiber in low-carb diets results in fewer bowel movements as well as dangerously low stool volume and, often times, hard stool, thereby, difficult to pass. This is very unhealthy because toxins meant to be eliminated through defecation accumulate in the body, contributing immensely to systemic inflammation and insulin resistance.

So, low population of healthy gut bacteria, narrow variety of healthy gut bacteria, fewer than normal bowel movements, as well as poor stool profile are just a few among many gut issues resulting from low-carb diets. Poor gut health of this nature is a perfect breeding ground for even more digestive disorders like food intolerances, irritable bowel syndrome, diverticulitis, and colon and esophageal cancers and many of these conditions are life-threatening. Surely, any diet that carries such a huge risk for all these health problems simply isn’t right for weight-loss or diabetes. A good diet doesn’t treat one problem while breading other diseases. Good treatment takes care of a problem in a way that is helpful, and not harmful to the rest of a person’s health.

Sick gut, sick body

A rapidly growing body of evidence shows gut health to have a profoundly strong influence on every aspect of human health. As such, keeping the gut in good health is required for maintaining optimal overall wellbeing. A sick gut brings ill health to the rest of the body by inducing systemic inflammation and insulin resistance, making the entire body highly dysfunctional at a deep level. Systemic inflammation and insulin resistance are underlying causes of just about any chronic health problem including allergies, cancer, diabetes, heart disease, dementia, and autoimmune conditions like type 1 diabetes, lupus, and rheumatoid arthritis.

The adverse impact of low-carb diets on gut health is one key reason low-carb diets fail to sustain good health in the long term. You can’t expect long-term good health from a diet that is detrimental to gut health.

‘Benefits’ not truly beneficial

‘Benefits’ of low-carb diets aren’t truly beneficial because a host of serious health problems are developing even as ‘benefits’ are being experienced. Chronic illnesses develop overtime and during initial stages, the presence of these illnesses may not be so obvious until they have progressed far enough to be detected. The same low-carb diets that supposedly help with weight-loss and blood sugar control also result in cancer and other health problems in the long term. It’s really unwise to be easily misled by a small set of ‘benefits’ like weight-loss or blood sugar control, you have to take into consideration how a diet affects the body as a whole in the long-term to decide whether those ‘benefits’ are a result of deterioration in health or improvement in health.

Adopting a low-carb lifestyle just to lose weight or control blood sugar and ignoring its harmful effects, especially in the long term, is such a short-sighted and narrow view of wellness. Even studies touting the ‘health benefits’ of low-carb diets can only prove short-term benefits. There’s no credible evidence showing low-carb diets to support long-term health. People following low-carb diets for a long time always end up with serious health problems, which is why we are yet to know about a human population where people have enjoyed lifelong good health subsisting on low-carb diets. All the world’s healthiest diets are high in plant wholefoods. These healthy diets include the popular traditional Mediterranean diet and the Okinawan diet.  Low-carb diets are simply not compatible with the human body’s nutritional requirements for sustaining long-term good health.

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