What is a Low-Carb Diet: History and Facts

Low-Carb Diet History and Quick Facts

Just what is a low-carb diet? To fully answer this question, take a quick dive into the history and facts behind reducing carbohydrate consumption to achieve health goals.

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Sure, some folks plunge into a low-carb diet without giving it much thought or even really understanding what they’re getting into. Others take a more analytical approach by studying research, facts, and history first. I appreciate the enthusiasm of the first group. At the same time, you can avoid pitfalls and frustration if you take the time to understand some of the basics first.

What is a Low-Carb Diet?

Here at KetoComfortFoods.Love, we tend to focus on diets the National Institute of Health describes as very low carb. That’s what works for us, but you may have different goals and physical requirements. A low-carbohydrate diet plan may suggest a range of limits:

  • Very low: 20g to 50g of carbohydrates per day
  • Low: 51g to 130g of carbohydrates per day
  • Moderate: 26% to 40% of calories in carbohydrates per day
  • High: Over 40% of calories in carbohydrates per day

How Does a Low-Carb Diet for Weight Loss Work?

A hypothesis called the carbohydrate-insulin model supports low-carbohydrate diets. Restricting carbohydrates should reduce the demand for insulin, and insulin encourages the body to store fat. The theory also suggests that this reduction helps improve metabolic function, thus helping with weight loss.

According to the NIH, this model supports faster weight loss, at least during the first six to twelve months studied. After all, if your body is less inclined to store fat, that should make it easier to lose it. Some other benefits the theory suggests include:

  • The carbohydrate restriction may also help alleviate other health issues, like high blood sugar. Overall, success with losing weight can also improve health markers and fitness. Better physical and metabolic fitness can enhance weight loss diets.
  • Finally, quicker results can help motivate people to comply with a carb-restricted diet. Most dieters will agree that sticking with their eating plan is more than half the battle.
  • Naturally, losing weights still relies on reducing calories consumed. At the same time, eating fewer starches or sugars and more protein and fat may help people feel satiated while cutting calories.

History of Low-Carb Dieting

Doctors didn’t intent the low-carbohydrate diet when they published the last popular book on the subject. Instead, the idea behind this nutritional therapy arose and evolved through the centuries and even millennia.

According to Dr. Ananya Mandal, low-carb diets first became widespread during the 1920s as doctors used them as a modified fast to help treat epilepsy. The introduction of anti-seizure meds reduced reliance on diet as therapy. However, not everybody responded well to the drugs, so doctors might still prescribe the diet to treatment-resistant patients.

As long as as the 1860s, a formerly obese Englishman named William Banting published a weight loss guide, based on his own experience. The guide became a bestseller and advised dieters to give up potatoes, sugar, beets, butter, and milk. Today’s low-carb diets generally don’t restrict butter, but some keto proponents watch fat intake to reduce calories.

Archeologists have found documents from as long as as Ancient Greece and India prescribing various fasts to remedy various ailments. Like Mr. Banting, these ancient doctors may not have understood macronutrients, carbohydrates, protein, and fat.

Remember that the first doctors who researched low-carbohydrate diets as a treatment for diabetes and epilepsy considered them a type of modified fast. Unlike a typical fast or water fast, participants don’t need to starve themselves. Instead, they simply restrict carbohydrates.

In the 1960s, doctors found that medium-chain triglycerides, called MCTs, could allow patients to consume more protein and carbohydrates and still produce ketones, an effect of a ketogenic diet. Many healthcare providers offered patients a modified low-carb diet with the addition of MCT oil.

What is a Low-Carb Diet Today?

In the 1970s, Dr. Atkins revived interest in low-carb diets as a tool to lose and manage weight. Since then, numerous book have offered variations of this original plan. Some other health issues that low-carb diets may still help manage include PCOS, pre-diabetes, diabetes, and epilepsy. An increasing amount of research also supports carbohydrate restriction to help manage mental issues, like bipolar disorder, depression, and schizophrenia.

Standard diets, sometimes called the Standard American Diet (SAD), still predominate in the United States. According to an article on the Wall Street Journal, about 5% of Americans consume a low-carb diet every year.

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