Pitfalls of low-carb diet and why you should not fear rice

Low-carbohydrate or no-carbohydrate diet has been heavily promoted and there seem to be general ‘consensus’ that it is good for you. But what is a low-carb diet and are there any downsides to it?

What is a low carb diet?

A low carb diet aims at reducing or eliminating carbohydrates, such as those found in grains, starchy vegetables and fruits, from your food. Low carb diet foods are high in protein and fat. There are many types of low carb diets and each of them have varying restrictions on the amount of carbohydrates one can eat. One reason people get attracted to low-carb diet plan is due to its claim that it helps in weight loss. Many plans also claim health benefits beyond weight loss – such as lowering the risk of heart disease, diabetes and metabolic syndrome.

According to Mayo clinic, common sources of naturally occurring carbohydrates are:

  • Grains
  • Fruits
  • Vegetables
  • Milk
  • Nuts
  • Seeds
  • Legumes (beans, lentils, peas)

Then there is the artificial carbohydrates, mainly in the form of sugar and white flour (Maida). This is there in almost every packaged processed food that you buy at the store:

  • Breads
  • Pasta
  • Biscuits and cookies
  • Cake
  • Candy, chocolate
  • Sodas and other drinks

What is in a typical low carb diet plan?

Simply put, most low carb diet has the following:

  • More protein (meat, poultry, fish and eggs)
  • Less grains, legumes, fruits, breads, sweets

Pitfalls of a low carb diet

While there are several claims on the benefits of a low carb diet, there are many pitfalls to it as well. Here are some of them

The Science is Not Clear

The biggest pitfall of a low-carb diet is that there is no scientific proof that it is really good for you. There are several studies that ‘found’ low carb diet resulted in weight loss and other health benefits. But there are other studies that ‘found’ the opposite. An NIH study found that the subjects on a low-fat but relatively high sugar diet achieved more fat loss than those on equal-calorie low carb and low sugar diet. Lead author Kevin Hall says that “we can definitively reject the claim that carbohydrate restriction is required for body fat loss”.

Then there is this famous rice-diet by Dr. Kempner that turns low-carb-equals-low-weight-theory on its head. Dr. Kempner put his patients (back in the 1940’s and 50’s) to what would be considered a high carb diet today. He treated thousands of his patients just by putting them on to a diet program in which only these were allowed: White Rice, Fruit, Fruit Juice, Refined Table Sugar (and in some cases vitamin supplements A, D, thiamine, riboflavin, and niacin). This diet helped many patients lose weight massively and also achieved many medical benefits. This diet has given incredible improvements to his patients. It resulted in lowering diebetes (yes, diabetes). About 63% of patients decreased their fasting blood sugar levels. About 25% of the diabetic patients were able to discontinue insulin intake! The rice diet was also helpful for heart failures, healed psoriasis and helped in treating high blood pressure. According to Kempner’s observation, a rice-diet was healing more than 70% of his seriously ill patients who are not responding to other modes of treatment from many deseases.

Nutritional Deficiency/Imbalance

One of the biggest disadvantage of low carb diet is that, if it is not planned properly, it can quickly lead to nutritional deficiencies and imbalances. If you are low on consuming vegetables, you can quickly run short of vital nutrients such as vitamin C and vitamin K. If your balance tips towards eating meats that are high fat, it can have negative effect on the system. A low-carb diet can also lead to shortage in your fiber intake.

Strain on Kidneys

High consumption of meats can be a strain on kidneys. It can lead to urinating more calcium than normal. There is a thought that this can lead to osteoporosis and kidney stones

Rice Consumption in India

Traditionally, rice is an important food in the southern parts of India. It provides well rounded nutrition that is supplemented with countless other things that is in the normal diet of the population. For example,  a simple meal of dal chawal (rice with lentils) will provides entire spectrum of amino acids, vitamins and minerals. It is easy to digest (much easier than brown rice), easy to absorb into your body and easy on your digestive system

But over the last few decades, rice has got a bad rap primarily, thanks to the fear of carbs that is driven into the minds of people. This may not be without much base.

Conclusion

In the light of inconclusive scientific research and conflicting information (put forth by parties that have clear conflict of interest), it is every man to himself. Follow what you could call a balanced food regimen. Avoid any ‘food’ that includes ingredients that did not exist couple of centuries ago – sugar, refined oils, petroleum colors etc.

Better still, as we have suggested on this site before, talk to your grandmother and get information about her grandmother’s diet. This is more likely to lead you to a diet regimen that is much healthier than what is recommended by today’s scientific community and the food industry.

References
    1. https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/weight-loss/in-depth/low-carb-diet/art-20045831
    2. https://www.livestrong.com/article/465629-the-best-low-carb-bread/
    3. https://www.webmd.com/diet/guide/high-protein-low-carbohydrate-diets
    4. http://www.cell.com/cell-metabolism/fulltext/S1550-4131(15)00350-2
    5. https://deniseminger.com/2015/10/06/in-defense-of-low-fat-a-call-for-some-evolution-of-thought-part-1
    6. https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/life-style/health-fitness/diet/everything-you-wanted-to-know-about-the-benefits-of-rice/articleshow/12439103.cms