Liz's Blog for a Healthier, Happier Life

Scientific Statement on Low-Carb Diets

Low-carb diets, including the “keto diet”, are all the rage these days.  The Nutrition and Lifestyle Task Force, of the National Lipid Association, conducted a comprehensive research review and released a scientific statement on the safety and effectiveness of these diets.  Here are some of the highlights of the review:

  • Low-carb and very-low-carb diets are generally low in nutrient-dense, carbohydrate-containing foods (fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and legumes) and can be high in saturated fats (coming from higher fat dairy and meat products).  This type of eating plan is inconsistent with the research-based recommendations provided by professional health organizations. 
  • Low-carb, and especially very low-carb diets, are difficult to follow and adhere to long-term. 
  • Low-carb diets may provide greater weight loss in the short term (6 months or less), however, long-term, higher carb/lower fat diets can result in the same amount of weight loss. 
  • The initial weight loss that occurs with low-carbs diets is largely due to the loss of body water, not fat loss. 
  • Low-carb diets generally result in a greater loss of lean body mass (muscle tissue) compared to diets with a more balanced intake of protein, fats, and carbohydrates.
  • Low-carb diets can negatively impact our gut microbiota.  Further research will help to determine the implications these alterations. 
  • Both low-carb and high-carb diets are linked to a higher risk of death overall in the general population.  A moderate-carb intake is linked to the lowest risk.
  • For long-term weight maintenance and heart health, it’s important to include quality, carbohydrate-containing foods in the diet (fruits, vegetables, whole grains and legumes).  If you choose to follow a lower-carb diet, work with a dietitian to make room for these foods.

To read the full report… (click here)

My closing thoughts and input…

I generally don’t recommend overly restrictive diets, like the “keto diet”.  Overly restrictive diets promote disordered eating and the development of an unhealthy relationship with our bodies and with food.  In addition, I don’t recommend a diet – for weight loss or otherwise – that greatly limits the intake of such health-enhancing foods as fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and legumes.  These foods deserve a place in every diet!  I do, however, recommend reducing the intake of carbohydrates that come from refined grains (like white bread) and sugar-rich,processed foods, including sugary drinks.



I’m a registered dietitian with a passion for peanut butter sandwiches and an undying love for chocolate. I’ve been researching, writing, and speaking about eating for optimal health for over 25 years. I have two wonderful daughters, love hiking year-round, and playing hockey in the winter. Perhaps, most importantly, I never let a good dance song go to waste!

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