The latest issue of the Mayo Clinic Proceedings has published a letter explaining that the reason low-carb dieters often lose weight and sometimes show improvements in their cholesterol, blood sugars, and blood pressures is because they are, in essence, sickened by the diet.
John McDougall, an advisory board member of Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine (PCRM), explains in his letter that low-carb diets can throw people into a metabolic state called ketosis that also occurs during severe illness. This diet-induced condition resembles the common side effects of cancer chemotherapy with fatigue, nausea, and reduced appetite for many people.
People on low-carb diets who become ill enough to experience loss of appetite are taking in less fat and cholesterol, since they are consuming less food overall. It is this same mechanism that results in cholesterol levels falling in cancer patients; however, no doctor boasts about weight loss and lower cholesterol caused by the toxic drugs used in chemotherapy.
Numerous studies show that many high-fat, low-carbohydrate dieters risk clogged arteries, heart attack, colon cancer, and kidney failure. Studies also show that even one fatty meal can increase the risk of a cardiac event immediately following the meal.
“A better approach,” states McDougall, “is to encourage people to eat foods that promote both ideal body weight and health - those from a high-complex carbohydrate, low-fat diet. You can see this for yourself when you look at various populations worldwide. For example, people living mostly on high-carbohydrate rice and vegetable dishes in Asia are trim throughout their lives with almost no risk of heart disease, diabetes or our common cancers.
Revision date: July 3, 2011
Last revised: by Sebastian Scheller, MD, ScD