Can a Long-Term Low-Carb Diet Have Disadvantages?

Can a Long-Term Low-Carb Diet Have Disadvantages?

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Carbs are your body's main energy source, and without adequate amounts you'll feel exhausted and put your health at risk.

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If you always crave carbohydrates and want to lose weight, you may be considering a low-carb diet. The premise of the diet is that once you reduce your carbohydrate intake, your carb addiction will subside, allowing you to eat less food and lose weight. Vanderbilt University states a low-carb diet helps you lose weight initially, but it's usually ineffective at helping you maintain long-term weight loss. You also risk uncomfortable side effects and long-term health risks.


When your body is deficient in carbohydrates, you can develop a condition known as ketosis. Your body produces ketones when you metabolize fat. Excessive ketones lead to an increase in sodium and water loss. Ketosis is the most common side effect of a low-carb diet and causes fatigue and low energy levels. Low energy levels leave you with less motivation to exercise -- a key part of any weight-loss or diet regimen.

Nutrient Deficiencies

On a low-carb diet, the foods you're missing out on, such as whole grains, fruits and vegetables, provide you with essential nutrients, including fiber, potassium and calcium. With a potassium deficiency, you may experience an irregular heartbeat, constipation, fatigue, muscle damage, weakness, tingling and numbness. If your potassium levels get severely low, you can become lightheaded, and your heart may even stop. A calcium deficiency can lead to bone loss and osteoporosis over time. Fiber is needed for a healthy digestive system and has also been shown to lower blood cholesterol levels and reduce your risk for heart disease.

Heart Disease Risk

If you're replacing your carbohydrates with high-fat foods, especially if they're high in saturated fat, you're putting yourself at risk for heart disease. Saturated fat is found in foods such as beef, lamb, pork, butter and cheese. The saturated fat in these foods raises your cholesterol levels, which can lead to heart disease and stroke. If you're on a low-carb diet, replace meat with nuts, fish and beans and opt for low-fat dairy products.

Other Side Effects

Carbohydrates are your brain and body's main source of fuel, and your muscles and brain depend upon them to remain in working order. When your brain is deprived of its energy source, you can become irritable and experience weakness, nausea and dizziness, according to “U.S. News & World Report.” You may also want to keep mints on hand as a low-carb diet results in bad breath.


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