4 Ways Very Low-Carbohydrate Diets Negatively Impact Health

4 Ways Very Low-Carbohydrate Diets Negatively Impact HealthVery low carbohydrate diets in the style of Atkins were popular in the late 1990s and early 2000 as thousands of people restricted most carbohydrates in their diet, not just processed ones. Even though these diets lead to short-term weight loss, some of the weight loss is water weight and not fat. Plus, sticking to such an extreme diet proves challenging for many. One of the main drawbacks of very low carbohydrate diets is they limit fiber-rich carbs like fruits and vegetables and emphasize foods high in protein and fat. Adopting a very low carb diet that limits healthy carb sources from fruits and vegetables may have other health consequences as well. Here are some health issues you could experience when you stay on a diet low in carbs long-term.

 Increased Risk for Osteoporosis?

Consuming a high-protein diet without balancing it with fruits and vegetables increases blood acidity. Your body reduces this acidity by breaking down bone to release carbonate and citrate to buffer the excess acid. That’s not a good thing when it comes to the health of your bones. On the other hand, some research suggests that eating a diet high in protein increases absorption of calcium from the intestines and may offer some protection against osteoporosis. The verdict is still out as to whether diets in rich in protein negatively impact bone mass or not, but why take the chance? Bone health is an important issue, especially for women.


Taking healthy, fiber-rich carbohydrates out of your diet could put you at higher risk for depression. Diets low in carbohydrates reduces the amount of tryptophan that reaches your brain. Why is this important? Tryptophan is used to make serotonin, a brain neurotransmitter that impacts mood. Low levels of serotonin in the brain are linked with depression. Some experts believe this is a problem primarily for people who are prone to depression – although a significant number of people feel sluggish and unmotivated when they start a very low-carb diet.

Increased Risk of Kidney Stones

Very low-carbohydrate diets have been linked with kidney stones. There are several reasons why this may be. Diets that restrict carbs excessively lead to ketosis, the formation of ketone bodies. Ketone bodies supply energy to the brain when glucose isn’t available. When there are ketones in your blood, your kidneys excrete more water and sodium, leading to dehydration and a greater risk for painful kidney stones.

Increased Risk for Heart Disease

A recent study published in the British Medical Journal suggests that adopting a low carbohydrate, high-protein diet increases the risk of heart disease. Why might this be? Diets low in carbs are usually higher in heart-unhealthy forms of fat. In addition, fiber-rich fruits and vegetables offer some protection against heart disease, and you lose that protection when you limit the number of fruits and veggies you eat.

Other Problems You Can Experience on a Diet that Limits Healthy Carbs

Atkins-style, low-carb diets are typically low in fiber since you’re not eating whole grains, fruits and are eating fewer vegetables, so it’s not surprising that some low-carbers suffer from constipation. In addition, some people feel nauseated and have an unpleasant odor to their breath as ketone levels rise from carbohydrate restriction. That’s not what you want if you have a hot date! Plus, some people have problems tolerating a very low-carbohydrate diet due to fatigue, nausea, and constipation.

The Bottom Line

Very low carbohydrate diets do lead to short-term weight loss, although some of it is water weight, you can also lose weight by eliminating processed carbs from your diet and replacing them with fiber-rich carb sources like vegetables and fruits. This approach is more sustainable, and it has other health benefits since you’re increasing the amount of fiber in your diet – and getting more of the health-protective benefits of veggies and fruits. Plus, if you work out, you need healthy carb sources in your diet to fuel exercise and prevent muscle breakdown. Carbs aren’t the enemy when it comes to weight control – just processed ones. Instead of adopting a very low-carb diet, choose healthier ones instead.



The Nurse Practitioner 2003: 28: 5: 14.

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Psychology Today. “Low-Carb State of Mind”

New England Journal of Medicine. “A Prospective Study of Dietary Calcium and Other Nutrients and the Risk of Symptomatic Kidney Stones”

BMJ. 2012; 344.


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