Medical research related to low-carbohydrate diets

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Low-carbohydrate diets became a major weight loss and health maintenance trend during the late 1990s and early 2000s.[1][2][3] While their popularity has waned recently from its peak, they remain popular.[4][5] This diet trend has stirred major controversies in the medical and nutritional sciences communities and, as yet, there is not a general consensus on their efficacy or safety.[6][7] Many in the medical community remain generally opposed to these diets for long term health[8] although there has been a recent softening of this opposition by some organizations.[9][10]


Because of the substantial controversy regarding low-carbohydrate diets, and even disagreements in interpreting the results of specific studies, it is difficult to objectively summarize the research in a way that reflects scientific consensus.[11][12][13]

Although there has been some research done throughout the twentieth century, most directly relevant scientific studies have occurred in the 1990s and early 2000s and, as such, are relatively new and the results are still debated in the medical community.[12] Supporters and opponents of low-carbohydrate diets frequently cite many articles (sometimes the same articles) as supporting their positions.[14][15][16] One of the fundamental criticisms of those who advocate the low-carbohydrate diets has been the lack of long-term studies evaluating their health risks.[17][18] This has begun to change as longer term studies are emerging.[19]

Meta-analytic summaries[edit]

A 2012 systematic review studying the effects of low-carbohydrate diet on weight loss and cardiovascular risk factors showed the LCD to be associated with significant decreases in body weight, body mass index, abdominal circumference, blood pressure, triglycerides, fasting blood sugar, blood insulin and plasma C-reactive protein, as well as an increase in high-density lipoprotein cholesterol (HDL). Low-density lipoprotein cholesterol (LDL) and creatinine did not change significantly. The study found the LCD was shown to have favorable effects on body weight and major cardiovascular risk factors (but concluded the effects on long-term health are unknown). The study did not compare health benefits of LCD to low-fat diets.[20]

A meta-analysis published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition in 2013 compared low-carbohydrate, Mediterranean, vegan, vegetarian, low-glycemic index, high-fiber, and high-protein diets with control diets. The researchers concluded that low-carbohydrate, Mediterranean, low-glycemic index, and high-protein diets are effective in improving markers of risk for cardiovascular disease and diabetes.[21]


  1. ^ Low Carb - US - May 2004, The by Global Markets, 2004.
  2. ^ ZERNIKE, KATE; BURROS, MARIAN: Low-Carb Boom Isn't Just for Dieters Anymore, New York Times, February 19, 2004.
  3. ^ History of the Dr. Atkins Diet Plan, Atkins Diet Advisor. Retrieved 10 March 2008.
  4. ^ WARNER, MELANIE: Is the Low-Carb Boom Over?, New York Times, 5 December 2004.
  5. ^ Low-Carb Diet Effective for Teens Trying to Lose Weight, Cincinnati Children's Hospital, 6 May 2007.
  6. ^ Bernstein, Richard: Why the Low Carb Diet is Best, Diabetes Health, 24 April 2007.
  7. ^ Warshaw, Hope: [1], Diabetes Health, 24 April 2007.
  8. ^ Karra, Cindy: Shape Up America! Reveals The Truth About Dieters, Shape Up America! (by former U.S. Surgeon General C. Everett Koop), 29 December 2003.
  9. ^ ADA Issues New Clinical Practice Recommendations, Bio-Medicine, 28 December 2007, Alexandria, VA.
  10. ^ Exclusive Interview: Dr. Annika Dahlqvist Gets Swedish Government To Promote Livin’ La Vida Low-Carb! (Episode 107), The Livin La Vida Low-Carb Show, 28 January 2008
  11. ^ Fogoros, Richard N.: Low Fats, or Low Carbs?, Heart Disease, February 2006.
  12. ^ a b Warner, Jennifer: Jury Still Out on Low-Carbohydrate Diets,, April 8, 2003.
  13. ^ Mendosa, David: The Carb Controversy, Diabetes, 1 March 2006.
  14. ^ Low-Carb Experts Drs. Michael and Mary Dan Eades Offer Rebuttal to Recent 'Report' Suggesting Low Carb Diets Are Unhealthy According to LowCarbiz, Business Wire, 26 November 2003.
  15. ^ AtkinsExposed: References 1 - 1160, Retrieved 12 March 2008.
  16. ^ Research Supporting a Low-Carb Diet, Wilstar. Retrieved 12 March 2008.
  17. ^ BURROS, MARIAN: EATING WELL; The Post-Atkins Low Carb Diet, The New York Times, 21 January 2004.
  18. ^ Low Carbohydrate - How Do Low Carb Diets Work?, Retrieved 12 March 2008.
  19. ^ Iris Shai, R.D., Ph.D. (July 2008). "Weight Loss with a Low-Carbohydrate, Mediterranean, or Low-Fat Diet.". New England Journal of Medicine 359 (3): 229–41. doi:10.1056/NEJMoa0708681. PMID 18635428. 
  20. ^ Santos, F. L., Esteves, S. S., da Costa Pereira, A., Yancy, W. S. and Nunes, J. P. L. (2008-08-12). "Systematic review and meta-analysis of clinical trials of the effects of low carbohydrate diets on cardiovascular risk factors". Obesity Reviews. doi:10.1111/j.1467-789X.2012.01021.x. 
  21. ^ Ajala O., English P., Pinkney J. (2013). "Systematic review and meta-analysis of different dietary approaches to the management of type 2 diabetes". The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition 97 (3): 505–516. doi:10.3945/ajcn.112.042457.