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Is a Low-Carb Diet Ruining Your Health?

Silhouette Of An Exhausted Sportsman At Sunset
Silhouette Of An Exhausted Sportsman At Sunset

Many athletes cannot reach peak performance on a low-carb diet.

Health Impact News Editor Comments

Chris Kresser is a practitioner of functional and integrative medicine and a licensed acupuncturist who blogs [1] and is a very popular writer. A nutritionist on his staff, Laura Schoenfeld, caused quite a controversy recently with a blog post [2] titled: Is a Low-Carb Diet Ruining Your Health [2]?

The low-carb “paleo” diet followers have reached a cult-like following in recent times, and it seems Schoenfeld had crossed a “holy” line in suggesting that not everyone does well on a low-carb diet. Many in the “paleo” diet crowd believe that carbohydrates have no place in human nutrition at all.

Schoenfeld gave reasons from her own clinical practice as to why she feels not everyone does well on a low-carb diet, and listed several types of people that seem to do better with at least a moderate amount of carbohydrates in their diet. They include:

Pregnant Women. “The most important reason why women need adequate carbohydrates during pregnancy is to ensure adequate fetal brain development and growth. Another reason is because a high protein diet can be dangerous during pregnancy, and when you cut out carbohydrates as a major macronutrient, you usually can’t help but increase protein as a percentage of calories.”

Athletes. “I’ve had many clients come to me on a low carb diet who, after switching to a more moderate carb approach, found that their energy and endurance significantly increased, and they were able to make quicker strength gains than before.”

Hypothyroidism and HPA Axis Dysregulation (Adrenal Fatigue). “The main reason why carbs affect thyroid function so directly is because insulin is needed for the conversion of the inactive T4 hormone into the active T3 hormone, and insulin is generally quite low on very low carbohydrate diets. If you have adrenal fatigue, or if your current lifestyle is already high stress in a few different areas, you may want to increase your carb intake until you can get those additional stressors under control, as you may drive yourself into adrenal fatigue by having a chronically elevated cortisol output.”

Gut Health. “One of the less discussed downsides of a very low carbohydrate diet over the long run is the potential for alteration of the gut flora. A very low carb diet can lead to gut dysbiosis and a reduction in the diversity of the gut flora.”

Read Laura Schoenfeld’s full article here [2].

The article generated so many comments, that Kresser added his own blog post to the topic:

7 Things Everyone Should Know About Low-Carb Diets [3]

Here are Kresser’s 7 points in summary, but I encourage you to go over to his website and read the entire article [3].

#1: Paleo does not equal low-carb, and very low-carb/ketogenic diets are not our “default” nutritional state, as some have claimed.

#2: Low-carb diets are incredibly effective in certain situations.

#3: The fact that ketogenic/VLC diets work therapeutically for certain conditions does not make them appropriate in all circumstances, for all people.

#4: Some people do better with low-carb diets than others.

#5: If a low-carb diet works as a therapy in a given condition, that doesn’t mean too many carbs caused that condition in the first place.

#6: If a low-carb diet is an effective therapy for a condition, that doesn’t mean it’s the only therapy for that condition.

#7: Whole-food carbohydrates do not affect the body in the same way as processed and refined carbohydrates.

Read the Full Article Here [3].

Comment from Lenna on our Facebook Page [4]:

One size definitely doesn’t fit all. We put our 16 year old, 6’3″ son on the Paleo diet. He works out every day and is training to be a baseball player. He went from 158 to 145 pounds within a few weeks. He was exhausted and slept constantly. Even with copious amounts of fruit he could not keep the weight on. Only grains and potatoes got his weight back to where it belongs and his energy level is has returned to training level.”