Yesterday, this blog was critical of high-promise, low-commitment diets in general. Today, the focus is on the many programs in the popular mainstream that promote low-carbohydrate and high-protein dieting such as Atkins, South Beach, the Zone, Dr Atkins, Dr Stillman and others. These diets are controversial, as many health studies question their effectiveness and point out the many health risks that are involved for people who use them.
While the research has looked at a broad spectrum of people (varying ages, health and fitness levels, medical conditions) it hasn’t pointed out the more serious potential for problems in those over the age of 55. The half-century plus of abuse that our bodies have suffered may make them particularly susceptible to potential damage from these types of diets. The American Heart Association (AHA) has completed extensive research on the effects of adhering to these types of diets and have come to some interesting conclusions.
While a low-carbohydrate, high-protein diet may be okay for body building and endurance training, the AHA reported that most Americans already consume more than enough protein than their bodies require.
Some of the health risks that have been found in the studies are as follows:
- High protein foods increase uric acid levels and may cause gout, a form of arthritis.
- Increased risk of diabetes (and sometimes cancer) often spreads in progression as the kidneys work too hard to work off the high protein amounts – this can lead to kidney failure.
- Saturated fat consumed in the diet while limiting the amount of carbohydrates may also be linked to raised blood pressure levels.
- Vitamin, mineral and fibre deficiencies from the restricted diet can lead to a broad spectrum of adverse health effects.
- Some of the immediate side effects caused by these types of diets are nausea, bad breath, and lightheadedness.
- Healthy complex carbohydrates (they protect against diseases such as heart disease and cancers) are not consumed as part of the diet, which makes people more susceptible and at higher risk for these diseases.
Not a pretty picture, is it?