Ultra low-carb diets endangering health

By Thuy Quynh   May 17, 2023 | 12:00 am PT
Many people are going on trendy ultra low-carbohydrate diets which can endanger their health or even see them quickly putting on weight after resuming regular eating habits.

A 44-year-old man went to the National Institute of Nutrition after three unsuccessful months of dieting. The 1.7m-tall man weigeds 81 kg and had a history of fatty liver disease and high cholesterol. Doctors told him he needed to lose weight, so wife put him on a diet, cutting carbs from his daily meals.

After a week, the husband was often hungry, tired and dizzy, but his wife insisted he continue. He would sneak bowls of noodles or rice after work behind his wife’s back and eat vegetables when he returned home. After three months he gained 1.5 kg.

A 37-year-old woman in Cau Giay decided to do a keto (ketogenic) diet after seeing it praised online. The keto diet cuts carbohydrates while supplementing the body with fats. To lose weight in just a week, she cut all carb-rich food such as rice, cereal, and beans, while only eating a small amount of meat, fish, and nuts. She soon suffered from fatigue and tiredness. After medical treatment, she ate more to regain her strength, becoming 2 kg heavier.

Dr. Nguyen Trong Hung, head of the Department of Adult Nutrition Counselling at the National Institute of Nutrition, said the two cases were typical examples of dieting gone wrong.

"Removing too much food out of your meals, especially carbs, is a mistake that leads to many failed diets, " Dr. Hung said.

He explained that restricting too many calories can cause atrophied muscle and slowed metabolism, making it easier to regain the lost weight when returning to eating as normal. This puts many in a cycle of endless dieting.

Dr. Hung said that many of the diet fads lead to malnutrition and health problems, and negatively affect the digestive system.

Nutrition experts suggest that an adult needs 130-150 g of carbohydrates daily to fuel their body depending on activity levels.

The keto diet consumes a lot of unsaturated fat, while being low in carbs, and can lower blood sugar and insulin levels, creating an impact on the metabolism and limiting the amount of fat stored inside the body.

"Carbohydrates, protein, and fat are energy-producing substances, and not providing the body with enough can lead to a weakened body, creating memory loss, and lowering work efficiency," Dr. Hung said.

Other dieting methods such as low-carb and detoxification are also ill-advised. Besides the effects that may come with not consuming enough carbohydrates, eating too much protein can overwork the liver and kidneys.

Obese people who need to supplement their body with more calcium in case of osteoporosis – because their skeleton has to handle a large amount of pressure, can actually lose calcium through urinating when too much protein is consumed.

Detoxification diets involve drinking water alongside lots of fruits and vegetables that are low in sugar. However, the diet has its own risks. Studies have shown that overusing detox drinks can cause electrolyte imbalance and muscle atrophy, while losing too many nutrients can lead to hormonal imbalances.

Doctors warn that a balanced diet should include carbohydrates, protein, fat, vitamins, and minerals. Those who want to lose weight should be consistent with their diet and training for 6 months.

Those wishing to lose weight should have a varied diet, only eat until 80% full, and limit the consumption of fatty and salty food such as fried, stir-fried, and processed meals.

Maintaining a physically active lifestyle by doing simple sports such as walking and jogging is also a major aid to a balanced and healthy lifestyle.

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