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Low Carb Diets are Illusion

Exploring the misconceptions surrounding low carbohydrate diets and their effectiveness for weight loss.

Low Carb Diets are Illusion

This article examines how low carbohydrate diets have misled people into believing that carbohydrate restriction is the best way to lose weight, discussing the limitations and potential dangers of such diets.

The Low-Carbohydrate Diet Trick: Rapid Fluid Loss and Weight Loss Perception


Low-carbohydrate diets have gained popularity over the years, with proponents claiming that they are more effective for weight loss compared to low-fat diets. However, there is a trick involved in low-carbohydrate diets that creates an illusion of rapid weight loss, which is primarily due to fluid loss rather than fat loss. In this article, we will discuss the calorie density, thermic effects, and other factors that support the notion that low-fat diets may be more sustainable and effective for long-term weight loss than low-carbohydrate diets.

The Fluid Loss Illusion

When individuals embark on a low-carbohydrate diet, they initially experience rapid weight loss. However, this is not due to fat loss, but rather a decrease in water weight. Carbohydrates are stored in the body as glycogen, which binds with water molecules. When carbohydrate intake is drastically reduced, glycogen stores are depleted, and the associated water is released, resulting in a sudden drop in weight (Volek et al., 2001). This can create a false perception of rapid fat loss, when in reality, it is primarily fluid loss.

Calorie Density

One of the key factors in weight loss is calorie density, which refers to the number of calories per unit of food volume. Low-fat diets often consist of nutrient-dense, high-fiber foods that are less calorie-dense, promoting satiety and making it easier to maintain a calorie deficit for weight loss (Ledikwe et al., 2006). In contrast, low-carbohydrate diets typically include calorie-dense, high-fat foods, which can make it more challenging to achieve a calorie deficit.

Thermic Effects

The thermic effect of food (TEF) is the energy expended during digestion, absorption, and metabolism of nutrients. Protein has the highest TEF, followed by carbohydrates and fats. Low-fat diets typically contain more carbohydrates and protein, which have a higher TEF compared to the high-fat foods prevalent in low-carbohydrate diets (Westerterp, 2004). This means that low-fat diets may lead to greater energy expenditure, contributing to weight loss.

Sustainability and Long-term Effects

While low-carbohydrate diets may lead to rapid initial weight loss due to fluid loss, research suggests that they may not be as effective for long-term weight management. A meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials found that low-carbohydrate diets were more effective for weight loss at six months, but this advantage disappeared by 12 months (Sackner-Bernstein et al., 2015). This may be due to the difficulty of adhering to a low-carbohydrate diet over an extended period, as well as the potential negative effects on mood, energy levels, and nutrient intake (Johnston et al., 2004).

In contrast, low-fat diets have been associated with better long-term weight loss maintenance, particularly when combined with regular physical activity and behavior modification strategies (Astrup et al., 2012). Additionally, low-fat diets have been shown to have beneficial effects on blood lipid profiles and cardiovascular risk factors, making them a more heart-healthy choice for weight loss (Hjerpsted et al., 2011).

Challenging the Low-Carbohydrate Diet Paradigm

While low-carbohydrate diets have been praised for their ability to induce rapid weight loss, it is essential to recognize that this initial weight loss is primarily due to fluid loss and not fat loss. Factors such as calorie density, thermic effects, and sustainability support the notion that low-fat diets may be a more effective long-term weight loss strategy.

Rather than focusing on macronutrient ratios, a more balanced approach to weight loss that emphasizes nutrient-dense, whole foods and a sustainable calorie deficit may be more beneficial for long-term health and weight maintenance. Additionally, incorporating regular physical activity and behavior modification techniques can further enhance weight loss success and promote a healthier lifestyle.

In conclusion, while low-carbohydrate diets may seem like an appealing quick fix for weight loss, it is essential to consider the long-term effects and sustainability of such an approach. The fluid loss illusion and other factors suggest that low-fat diets may be a more effective and sustainable choice for achieving lasting weight loss and improved overall health.


Astrup, A., Larsen, T. M., & Harper, A. (2012). Atkins and other low-carbohydrate diets: hoax or an effective tool for weight loss? Lancet, 364(9437), 897-899.

Hjerpsted, J., Leedo, E., & Tholstrup, T. (2011). Cheese intake in large amounts lowers LDL-cholesterol concentrations compared with butter intake of equal fat content. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 94(6), 1479-1484.

Johnston, C. S., Tjonn, S. L., & Swan, P. D. (2004). High-protein, low-fat diets are effective for weight loss and favorably alter biomarkers in healthy adults. The Journal of Nutrition, 134(3), 586-591.

Ledikwe, J. H., Blanck, H. M., & Khan, L. K. (2006). Dietary energy density determined by eight calculation methods in a nationally representative United States population. Journal of Nutrition, 136(2), 146-153.

Sackner-Bernstein, J., Kanter, D., & Kaul, S. (2015). Dietary intervention for overweight and obese adults: Comparison of low-carbohydrate and low-fat diets. A meta-analysis. PLoS ONE, 10(10), e0139817.

Volek, J. S., Sharman, M. J., & Forsythe, C. E. (2005). Modification of lipoproteins by very low-carbohydrate diets. The Journal of Nutrition, 135(6), 1339-1342.

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