Low-carb diets, why all the criticism?

Yesterday I was supposed to be working on my essay, but ended up reading various blog posts about nutrition, weight loss and different diets. Needless to say, I was a naughty student. Ever since I joined some kind of low carb diet (high protein and low fat) I have been amazed by the many negative opinions stated by well educated people within the health and fitness industry in relation to cutting out (fast) carbohydrates. Since nutrition is not my field of expertise, I always try to tread extremely lightly when I talk about these things. However, despite being a novice in the field, I do understand the notion of; what may work for me diet wise, may not work for someone else. And perhaps more importantly, what works for me now, may not necessarily mean that it will continue to work or be beneficial for my body in the long run. As I said, I am not educated within nutrition and bodily functions. What I do know though, is that my body and my values (weight, hormones, blood sugar, vitamins, minerals etc) are checked continuously by my endocrinologist and other specialists including a dietician and a GP within the medical field, and my values are just fine. Why this is working despite all the warnings from anti-low carb people I do not know, what I do know is that a low carb diet currently seem to be working just dandy for me. I do need to add that I am fully aware that personal anecdotes like this lack value as scientific evidence, but it does serve as an example of my own experience and story of how a body may respond in relation to being on a low-carb diet.

I do think that the hype around a diet driven by carbohydrates originates from rather old advice given by governmental health institutions recommending a ‘well-rounded’ diet in accordance with the food pyramid. Naturally eating a well-rounded diet is not going to harm you unless you suffer from allergies (which many people do these days), diabetes or any other medical diagnosis which necessitates special dietary requirements. And that is part of my criticisms towards the anti-low-carb lobbyists, their posts often lack a statement of who they are directing their advice and opinions to. It matters, because saying to an over-weight person that cutting out fast carbohydrates from the diet won’t do any good in a weight loss perspective (yes, I have seen this statement many times!) is a rather silly thing to claim as it has been proven to be successful numerous times. However, if the anti-low-carbs post is directed towards normal weight people who simply want to maintain their current weight, then a well-rounded diet with carbs included, seem to be a sound advice if there is no additional medical requirements .

Furthermore, for some reason there seem to be a huge misconception about what a low-carb-diet actually may entail. The anti-posts often ignore to reflect on this topic and seem to take for granted that low-carb means absolutely no carbohydrates. Which is a disappointingly poor analysis since the diet is not called ‘no-carbohydrates-diet’ its called a ‘low carb diet’ clearly indicating that some carbohydrates are still part of the diet. As such, the criticism fall rather flat and in particular when the advice that is followed often entail statements of ‘its okay to cut out the fast carbs (rice, potatoes, chips etc) but you should continue to eat vegetables, fruit and grains‘. Naturally I cannot speak for everyone on a low-carb diet (in particular not since there are many different variations) but I would be rather surprised if everyone who is following low-carb diets are cutting out vegetables of all kinds from their diet. I mean, isn’t that the whole point, to eat more of the less ‘heavy’ food i.e. exchanging it for vegetables, beans and instead of reaching for refined sugary treats instead indulge in some berries or fruit. When considering all of this, why do so many of the health and fitness professionals seem to have such a massive beef with the low carb diet?

I believe that one of the main problems related to food culture and consumption in our society is that we have been made to believe that we constantly need all sorts of food to function. Hold your horses now, I do understand that some nutritions etc are vital for the body to function I am all onboard on that one. But, for instance, when I decided to stop eating meat I was told over and over that I would end up suffering from mineral, vitamin and nutritional deficiency. It never happened. Keep in mind that my decision to become somewhat of a vegetarian was over 20 years ago so it wasn’t as common back then as it is today. This is part of my point, because dietary recommendations change continuously, research indicates new directions on a regular basis and that is part of the development of new food regimes covering the basis for a huge variety of needs no matter if it is medical or not. Nowadays, the government in my home country Sweden endorse a vegetarian lifestyle and work hard to make the average family cutting down on their weekly meat consumption. Something which was unheard off 20 years ago when I was told that we as humans could not function properly without meat. Thus, when considering a low-carb diet, I question why and on what basis it would be ‘dangerous’ to remove the fast carbohydrates and in particular when discussing over-weight people?

When speaking of over-weight people (myself included), cutting out refined sugar and fast carbohydrates was an important step in my journey to take control of my less good eating habits. Not only did it teach me that this heavy food isn’t needed for me to remain energetic (keep in mind that I also suffer from Hashimoto’s thyroiditis which may affect your energy levels negatively) and keep active in the gym 5 days per week and walk a minimum of 20k steps per day. It had absolutely no effect on my results, I stock up on protein and build muscles like never before and get good and healthy fat from the right sources. I wish that professionals in the health and fitness industry would allow everyone who is struggling with over-weight find their individual way to battle the ‘food problem’ and remain humble towards the fact that sometimes somewhat unconventional methods (in relation to what is socioculturally accepted) are the best ones at the present time. This does not mean that sound advice should be ignored or neglected, I do realise that many of the anti-lobbyists have good intentions. And perhaps it all comes down to the fact that I do not understand the field properly to be able to form an adequate opinion. But then again, that lack of understanding would then also entail my endocrinologist, dietician and general practitioner.

Anyway, I could not stop thinking about this so I figured I should write an entry. I may not be right in my thoughts and opinions, they are certainly not based on any scientific evidence. But then again, its rare to see any of these ‘negative’ blog entries about low carb diets referencing any genuine peer reviewed journal or research to support their claims. After all, personal opinions are just that, personal and of meager scientific value.

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