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Keywords:

  • Diets;
  • health risks;
  • low-carbohydrate diet;
  • safety

Summary

Low-carbohydrate diets have re-emerged into the public spotlight and are enjoying a high degree of popularity as people search for a solution to the population's ever-expanding waistline. The current evidence though indicates that low-carbohydrate diets present no significant advantage over more traditional energy-restricted diets on long-term weight loss and maintenance. Furthermore, a higher rate of adverse side-effects can be attributed to low-carbohydrate dieting approaches. Short-term efficacy of low-carbohydrate diets has been demonstrated for some lipid parameters of cardiovascular risk and measures of glucose control and insulin sensitivity, but no studies have ascertained if these effects represent a change in primary outcome measures. Low-carbohydrate diets are likely effective and not harmful in the short term and may have therapeutic benefits for weight-related chronic diseases although weight loss on such a program should be undertaken under medical supervision. While new commercial incarnations of the low-carbohydrate diet are now addressing overall dietary adequacy by encouraging plenty of high-fibre vegetables, fruit, low-glycaemic-index carbohydrates and healthier fat sources, this is not the message that reaches the entire public nor is it the type of diet adopted by many people outside of the world of a well-designed clinical trial. Health effects of long-term ad hoc restriction of inherently beneficial food groups without a concomitant reduction in body weight remains unanswered.