Risks of a High Protein, Low Carbohydrate Diet

Whether you’re a seasoned dieter, a nutritionist, or the average Jane or Joe in the street, chances are that you’ve come across a high protein low carbohydrate diet. This type of diet, with the Atkins diet as its flagship exponent, has been widely promoted in the media and has shown some remarkable short term weight loss results.

The basic premise of these diets is a rather simple one; you have to consume 30% to sometimes 50% of your total calories in the form protein, and cut out almost all carbohydrates. To most people that want to lose weight, these kinds of diets have a lot of appeal. Weight loss success is easy on the short term and people do not have to deny themselves the high fat foods that they are usually deprived of, when on a conventional low calorie diet.

However, recent studies have shown that high protein low carbohydrate diets might be fine to use for a short period of time, but could give rise to several health problems when used for a longer period of time. Let’s take a look at what some of the risks are:

Cardiovascular Disease

Following a low carb diet generally means having a high intake of meat fish and whole dairy products. These foods contain considerable amounts of saturated fats, which are linked to elevated cholesterol levels. High cholesterol levels make for a greater chance of heart disease, stroke and vascular damage.


Another problem with low carb nutrition is that with cutting out the carbohydrates, you also throw away the antioxidants, vitamins, minerals and fiber that carbohydrate-high foods contain. Eating fruits and whole grains help you to reduce the risk of developing cancer.


Ketosis is the metabolic state to which Atkins ascribes the success of his diet. During Ketosis, the body uses fat as its fuel instead of glucose, which is derived from carbohydrates. Ketones are formed, which dull a person’s appetite, but can also cause nausea and bad breath. If the levels of ketones in the blood reach high levels, they can lead to organ damage which in severe cases can be lethal.

Kidney Disease

Aside from the aforementioned ketones possibly damaging your kidneys, high protein low carbohydrate diets can be harmful for your kidneys since consuming high levels of protein result in a greater strain on your kidneys.

Forgetfulness and Tiredness

Extreme reduction of carbohydrates in our diets results in low glucose levels and causes lack of energy. On top of this, there’s scientific data that suggests that people with low glucose levels perform worse on memory tests.

Taking these health risks into consideration, together with the fact that no long term weight loss benefits have been shown, you should be cautious when it comes to these kinds of diets. To succeddfully lose weight, be moderate with food intake, balance your diet, work out regularly and maintain a healthy lifestyle. This might not be the fast track weight loss solution you dream of, but high protein low carbohydrate diets aren’t it either.


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