What’s in this article

  • Can eating fewer carbohydrates help you lose weight?
  • How does a low carb diet work?
  • Does a low carb diet really help you lose weight?
  • Dangers of a low carb diet
  • What are the worst carbs for you?


Can eating fewer carbohydrates help you lose weight?
The efficacy of a low carb diet has been a subject of contention for years. In the early 2000s low carbohydrate diets, such as Atkins, were widely considered the best diets for weight loss. By 2005, one in eleven North Americans reported being on some form of a low carbohydrate diet.


How does a low carb diet work?
The goal of a low carb diet, also known as a ketogenic diet, is to cause your body to enter a state of ketosis. Ketosis occurs when your body does not have sufficient glycogen from carbohydrates and it begins burning fat instead of carbohydrates for energy. This is achieved by consuming more proteins and/or fats in place of carbohydrates.

Someone consuming less than about 50 grams of carbohydrates per day will enter a state of ketosis after a few days. The idea is that burning fat instead of carbs will induce weight loss, quickly.


Does a low carb diet really help you lose weight?
A majority of weight loss from beginning a low carb diet can be attributed to water weight. Carbohydrates that are not immediately converted into energy are normally stored as glucose. Every gram of glycogen carries 3 grams of water. So when you switch to a low carb diet, you lose glycogen and subsequently also lose water that your body normally carries.

Thus, the weight lost from a low carb diet is not from fat, and the weight will be regained when you resume consuming a normal quantity of carbohydrates.


Dangers of a low carb diet
While advocates claim that a ketogenic diet is extremely effective for weight loss and even offers protection against some diseases, critics argue that it’s ineffective and even dangerous.

Despite its widespread popularity, scientific research generally does not support claims that a low carb diet, like Atkins, leads to sustainable weight loss.

Several medical associations have stated that they do not recommend low-carb-high-fat or low-carb-high-protein diets (the only two options when carbohydrates are dramatically reduced). The American Heart Association believes that a high-protein diet could increase risk of heart disease, while The American Dietetic Association refuted that carbohydrates are not the cause of being overweight. “Calories cause weight gain. Excess calories from carbohydrates are not any more fattening than calories from other sources,” the institution stated.

Nutritionists have stated that maintaining a low level of glycogen, the foundation of a low carb diet, can cause liver damage.

In fact, the Canadian government actually prohibited companies from marketing their products as reduced or no carbs in 2004 because it determined that these properties didn’t provide health benefits.


What are the worst carbs for you?
A diet’s nutritional quality is responsible for sustained weight loss much more than the specific ratio of macronutrients consumed (carbohydrates, protein, or fat). A low carb or high carb diet can be healthy, depending on what it consists of.


Hamburger Donut Banana Whole Wheat Bread
Carbs (g) 50 50 50 50
Calories (kcal) 647 329 195 295
Fiber (g) 3.5 1.5 5.7 7.0
Salt (mg) 1452 286 2 532
Sugar(g) 12.31 34.32 26.77 5.08

Source: USDA


You can consume 50 grams of carbohydrates by eating about 2 bananas or 2 hamburgers.The problem with fad diets such as Atkins is that they promise big results through simple measures. It’s pretty clear to most people that bananas are healthier than hamburgers. However, the type of carbohydrate consumed is a consideration often blatantly ignored in fad diets. Not all carbs are created equal.


The Bottom Line
Health is comprehensive and in order to not only lose weight quickly but sustain a healthy weight, it’s important to understand which foods are healthy and why. You don’t necessarily need to avoid carbs to lose weight, but this could result in healthy weight loss if the right carbs are eliminated – namely high fat, high sugar, high salt, processed foods.


Learn about how to keep your liver healthy with Lauren Wagner RD and Amsety by watching this short video.



 “Atkins Bankruptcy a Boon for Pasta Makers”NPR.




 “Efficacy of commercial weight-loss programs: an updated systematic review.”PMC 4446719 . PMID 25844997doi:10.7326/M14-2238.

“Dietary Protein and Weight Reduction: A Statement for Healthcare Professionals From the Nutrition Committee of the Council on Nutrition, Physical Activity, and Metabolism of the American Heart Association”  American Heart Association.

Question of the Day – Do Carbohydrates Cause Weight Gain?

 “CANADA: Low-carb products could be barred with new labelling rules”