Low Carb Craze Continues, Worth the Price? (cont.)

At the same time, some dieters who have followed low-carbohydrate regimes have reported health problems ranging from constipation to heart problems, according to the activist group Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine.

Carbs Are Not the Enemy

What all this comes down to is that we need to learn more about how carbs work in weight loss. An ongoing, government-funded study may supply some answers. Almost 200 people will be closely monitored while they follow the diet for two years. But in the meantime, we need to be skeptical.

"It does take a little more energy to digest protein than carbs or fat," says Julie Walsh, MS, RD, spokeswoman for the American Dietetic Association. But she firmly believes that at the end of the day, it's the total number of calories you eat that determines whether you lose weight.

"The only good thing that has come from the low-carb craze is that it has served to educate Americans that there are good and bad carbs, and we are definitely over-consuming refined carbohydrates such as sodas and white bread" says Walsh. "As a nation, we need to eat more whole grains and fewer refined carbohydrates if we are going to be successful at weight loss."

Which brings up another important point: Low-carb diets don't do much to teach you how to make good food choices once you go off the low-carb wagon. And, after days or weeks of low-carb dieting, many people find themselves craving carbohydrates more than ever.

Further, while it's possible to lose weight quickly when you begin a high-protein diet, experts believe much of that loss is water. So low-carb still is not the diet of choice for lifetime weight loss.

My crystal ball shows signs that the low-carb trend is headed for the same fate as the low-fat craze did in the '90s. A decade ago, shelves were packed with fat-free products. But these items did little to stem the tide of the growing obesity epidemic. While they were fat free, they were loaded with calories.

Besides, when you're trying to lose weight, you should not be focused on products like cookies, chocolate, beer, etc. whether they're low-carb, low-fat, or whatever. These simply are not the kinds of foods that help you take off pounds. So the next time you're at the grocery store, walk on by those low-carb foods and right into the fresh produce section.

The WebMD Weight Loss Clinic advocates a healthy, balanced diet that you can live with forever. Our eating plan is in accordance with guidelines from all the leading health authorities and government. So stick with us. We'll help you learn about the healthy carbs while you lose weight and improve your overall health and well-being.

Published January 9, 2004

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