Low-carbohydrate diets have been around for over 100 years. They have become very popular recently but the scientific basis for their use remains to be fully established. This article reviews the recent trials that have been published and also what is known about the effects of low-carbohydrate, high-protein diets on energy expenditure and body composition. Although many controversies remain, there is now mounting evidence that these diets can lead to effective weight loss and may thus be a useful intervention for patients who have, or are at risk of, diabetes. The practical aspects of using these diets as a short- to medium-term intervention are discussed.