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Itua Iyoha: 3 Reasons Why Low-Carb Diets Pose a Serious Danger to Your Health



dreamstime_m_7872953The first low-carb diet to gain widespread followership, the Atkins Diet, claimed that you could lose weight by tricking your body into burning fat instead of carbohydrates for energy. To achieve this, you would have to restrict carb intake to extremely low levels – basically starving your body of carbs.

In place of carbohydrate rich foods, Atkins advised increasing consumption of high fat, high protein foods – meat, cheese, fried foods, and so on. It’s not hard to see why this diet became so popular so quickly.

A diet that says you can eat all the bacon and deep-fried cheese you want while losing weight at the same time? It was a dream come true! And it actually worked; people were dropping weight like crazy. But it wasn’t long before the medical community noticed the health issues that came with cutting carbs. As far back as 1974, the American Medical Association issued an official condemnation of the Atkins diet. According to the AMA’s statement: “A careful scientific appraisal was carried out by several council and staff members, aided by outside consultants. It became apparent that the [Atkins] diet as recommended poses a serious threat to health”.

Sadly the Atkins fad is back in full force. It has turned even hard core jollof rice evangelists into cauliflower rice enthusiasts. Lately it’s not uncommon to hear people talk about ‘cutting out carbs’ or being on a ‘keto diet’ to lose weight. The Atkins diet goes by many names, but it is always the same low-carb-high-fat story, and of course always comes with the same health risks. Here are just 3 of the many reasons why low carb diets are a serious health hazard.

Increased risk of heart disease
This is arguably the greatest danger of low-carb diets. In encouraging heavy consumption of high fat foods, low carb diets tend to significantly increase consumption of animal products. Chicken, eggs, cheese, fish and the like are the darling of low carb diets as they are high in fat and contain little to no carbs, but their consumption is associated with increased heart disease risk.

The link between saturated fat and heart disease has long been established, but more recent studies suggest that the saturated fat link was only pointing to animal based foods, which were the main source of the saturated fat. A 2010 study published in the Annals of Internal Medicine found that low-carb diets high in animal-based food were associated with a 14% higher rate of death from heart disease, while low-carb diets high in vegetable-based food were associated with a 23% lower rate. These findings are consistent with those of other recent studies. In short, it is the animal-based foods themselves that are a dietary risk factor for heart disease, not just the saturated fat. So avoiding red meat on a low carb diet isn’t enough to cut the risk of heart disease.

Severe nutritional deficiencies
Low-carb diets aim to induce a ‘fat-burning’ state called ketosis. In this state the liver breaks down fat to produce ketones which the body’s cells then use as an energy source in place of glucose. These ketones must be excreted by the kidneys, but in the process of flushing them out the body loses significant amounts of electrolytes, which contain important minerals like potassium, sodium, calcium and magnesium. Recognising the life-threatening nature of this side effect, Atkins himself advised his followers to take potassium supplements.

On top of that, the low carb diet requires one to restrict some of the most nutritious foods we have – fruits. Keto dieters must forgo all the cancer fighting, anti-aging vitamins, antioxidants, phytochemicals and other micronutrients abundant in fruit, simply because they are a major source of carbs. Keto dieters are actually advised to supplement a long list of vitamins and minerals to make up for the diet’s deficiencies. It goes without saying that a diet lacking in so many essential minerals and vitamins is a recipe for disaster.

Reduced cognitive function
The human brain is simply not designed to run optimally on fat calories. Researchers at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine found that a ketogenic diet caused a drop in cognitive performance in subjects placed on a low-carb, high fat (ketogenic) weight loss diet, compared to those on a non-ketogenic weight loss diet. Within just one week, those on the low carb diet found it difficult to perform tasks that required “higher order mental processing and flexibility”.

“But I need to lose weight,” you might be thinking; “if not low-carb, then what’s the alternative?” The low-carb diet may provide a viable solution for obese patients who require drastic weight loss to save their lives, under close medical supervision. But for someone who is just overweight and looking to get fit, there are far healthier, less drastic ways to lose weight and keep it off long term. The results may not be instantaneous, but the truth is that there is no healthy way to achieve instantaneous weight loss.

Eating whole grains, legumes, starchy tubers, lots of fruit and veggies, small amounts of animal protein and avoiding processed junk might not sound as edgy as the ‘keto diet’, but the overwhelming scientific evidence points to this as the healthiest, most balanced way to eat. Dropping excess weight is an inevitable consequence of eating a well portioned whole foods, plant based diet accompanied by regular exercise. Best of all, it is sustainable long term.

Photo Credit: Monkey Business Images |

Itua (the Naija Vegan Chef) is a passionate food lover and nutritional health enthusiast. She advocates a whole foods, plant based diet for its amazing health benefits and the freedom to enjoy good food without guilt. Find delicious plant-based recipes made for Nigerian tastebuds on her blog,


  1. Authentic Sunshine

    October 31, 2016 at 9:14 pm

    Yep…….so half cucumber and coffee bullet all day tomorrow then ceasar salad for dinner.

  2. Deb

    October 31, 2016 at 9:14 pm

    Oya!!! Let the comments begin to roll in.

  3. Debbie

    November 1, 2016 at 12:15 am

    Goooo keto, ake vitamins, there are many ways to get trace minerals back in thebody.
    Helps reduce inflammation, diabetes, many heart and other body ailments……..without big pharma drugs!

    • Amy R

      November 1, 2016 at 3:35 am

      Im with you! I think the new wave of low carb research might her cure the diabetes epidemic. Keep reseaching. Since low fat kicked in heart disease, diabetes, obesity are still all on the rise. The science explains it all!

  4. Babe

    November 1, 2016 at 12:40 am

    Just adopt a healthy lifestyle and stop using fad diets. Eat in proportion, workout/stay active, eat only when necessary, don’t be a slave to food and you won’t need all these fad diets. This is how I’ve been able to keep 60lbs off for over 2 years

  5. Deborah A D'Addario

    November 1, 2016 at 12:41 am

    Keri saves my life vegan lifestyle messed me up but good. God bless Irish butter!

    • Itua

      November 1, 2016 at 11:10 am

      I’m sorry to hear that. A vegan lifestyle is about much more than food though. I hope you can continue to avoid animal exploitation in other aspects of your life. 🙂

  6. Deborah A D'Addario

    November 1, 2016 at 12:42 am


  7. Totos

    November 1, 2016 at 12:45 am

    Everybody’s body is different. I’ve been doing low carb on and off , rotating between paleo and keto. I definitely see the benefits. Not only in weight loss, but in regulating my period. Keto has benefited people with epilepsy, diabetes,pcos and those who are obese. You can always get extra nutrients from multivitamins. I’ve lost 30 kg and counting and I make sure to go for medical checkups also.

  8. Andy Mast

    November 1, 2016 at 1:17 am

    Low carb is not an excuse to eat tons of meat. This article is exaggerating that. In fact your protein intake should be moderate if you’re not an athlete. You can eat healthy fats, moderate protein, and low carb, and it’s not an unhealthy diet at all. Carbs are not essential to human survival, that’s scientific fact.

    • Amy R

      November 1, 2016 at 3:36 am

      Thanks! Exactly!

    • Still me

      November 1, 2016 at 6:33 am

      Yes Itua’s articles seem to always exaggerate one side to favour the valid points.

    • Itua

      November 1, 2016 at 11:04 am

      It might seem that way to you, but the research I base my conclusions on is not exaggerated. You have the option of clicking through the links and doing the research yourself if you find my article over the top.

    • Ajala & Foodie

      November 1, 2016 at 11:57 pm

      @ Itua, so while i was in my final year in undergrad, one of my chemistry instructors had us write papers on different “fads” that either do not have scientific backing from little or no evidence to insufficient data to be considered conclusive and we discussed them in class. You’d surprised the things that made the list, results from 1 or 2 research does not prove conclusive in science, in fact many times scientist have come back to refute information that have spread based on just one research. While it is good to document results and make them public, researchers (both scientist and non science based) are very careful about what is considered conclusive because we know things are constantly changing, new research is always teaching us new things and refuting claims made from past research. I mean at one point fat was considered bad but recently new research are coming out to show that fat can actually be good and an essential part of our diet.

      We need to be careful about how this comes across when trying to sell people our point of view especially on platform such as this. I have to agree that the author’s perspective appears skewed and biased. Anyone can find legitimate research on any thing today to push a propaganda but that does not mean the results cannot and will not be refuted by futher research tomorrow. I guess what I am trying to say is that when writing an article like this, try to give a balanced view that will help sell your agenda better, because people will see that you have present a view into the other side and not all negative. The truth is no diet as all the answers not ONE and this a statement you can take to the bank any day and come any century. So let’s not pretend that any diet plan does. You try to push for a plant based diet or vegetarian diet the truth is you lose out on key nutrients by cutting out animal based food from your diet and this is something i am certain you are also aware of.

      Mind you I am gluten and lactose intolerant, i.e no cheese, animal milk for me. I am not a huge fan of beef, so my animal in take is severely restricted as is my carbohydrate options. Now when i read someone advising that i cut out even more food, omo the ” kain corner eye i go give you ehen”. My goat meat and all things fish are precious to me. No oatmeal for me either and corn so for breakfast i have an veggie omelet or boiled eggs and greek yogurt most mornings because what other options do i have? Even those saying make we no eat fruit, haba make una just ke pesin already, I don’t do sugar and drinking kale and spinach on its own does not “werk:” for me. So my sweeteners are banana or a couple dates (yes i know dates are known for their high sugar content but for me it beats adding sugar or honey to my smoothies). My point is being vegan or vegetarian is a personal choice that has its disadvantages just like eating TOO much meat or too much carbohydrate. Carbohydrate like protein is an essential class of food. Balance is key, as long we are taking in the required amount of nutrients that is all that matters and not too much or not too little. I however have to confess that all the vegetarians and vegans I know, have no weight issue.

      BTW as anyone tried the silk plant based yogurt???

    • Kenn

      November 1, 2016 at 5:09 pm

      My fat intake come from Avocados mostly which is not bad at all.
      From 400 pounds to 210. Unreal drop in bad cholesterol and perfect good cholesterol.
      From diabetic and 160 units of insulin a day to zero and perfect blood sugar and from very high blood pressure to a steady 110/68 daily.

      To me the sky is falling that gets thrown out about Keto diets are truly unfounded and after I did the math on how little I will ever see my doctor again. 4 times a month to 1 time a year and 900 bucks a month in drugs to zip. Can’t understand why the docs and drug companies would want me to change my ways.

      No thank you.

  9. Lo Martinez

    November 1, 2016 at 3:06 am

    This is pretty bullshit to me.

    The only research out there that shows increased risk in heart disease when going on a high fat diet are studies with participants that were ALREADY on a HIGH CARB diet as well. High fat and high carb TOGETHER is what can cause heart disease.

    Any study where it was simply low carb high fat showed improved health benefits in several areas.

    • Mischiff Maker

      November 1, 2016 at 1:53 pm

      Actually, IIRC, it’s the high *carbs* that cause heart disease risk, not dietary fats.

      Watch “Sugar Coated” the documentary that explains the way the sugar industry attacked the science back the ’70’s, to fend off regulation. “We don’t have to *disprove* the science, just cast doubt on it”–and they did. Along with a lot of lobbying investment, of course. That’s how the whole “low fat” craze got started in the first place.

      There are plenty of healthy dietary fats that are also vegan, so being a vegan shouldn’t make one jump on the low-fat bandwagon.

  10. Scott

    November 1, 2016 at 4:51 am

    You’re so misinformed it’s borderline stupid.

  11. Susie

    November 1, 2016 at 5:00 am

    There is no one size fits all when it comes to eating. What may work for someone may not work for you. As a diabetic, I can tell you that low carb saved my life. I remember almost 5 years ago when Forks Over Knives came out and they were promoting vegan diet everywhere and I followed that trend and almost died. The high carb low fat lifestyle where I ate brown rice, oats, potatoes, beans, veggies and fruits never filled me up. I kept eating and eating, my weight kept increasing and increasing and my blood sugar kept rising and rising! Thank God my current doctor recommended the low carb diet (I read a book by Dr. Bernstein) which saved my life. I’m now off my meds, my blood sugar is relatively stable & I’ve lost so much weight. What’s more, for the first time in my life, I don’t feel desperate to eat all the time and my periods are regular with NO pain.

    I’m not condemning a plant based diet. It’s also healthy and it has worked for my friend who has heart disease and swears by it but like I said, different strokes for different folks. You’ll notice that the people who grow old past 100 and are interviewed are not ALL vegan or low carbers. They have diverse ways of eating that worked for THEM. That’s the most important thing. And btw, low carb doesn’t mean eating friend cheese and bacon lol! I eat loads of veggies, protein (which I portion out and watch cos excess protein turns to glucose too) and healthy fats like nuts, seeds, avocados and a bit of healthier oils from time to time. As for supplementing, I don’t supplement and my blood tests results are great but I thought those on the ‘whole food plant based’ lifestyle pop B12 pills and sometimes zinc and iron as well (because some anemics can’t subsist on plant based iron)? Anyways, do you but please don’t be stuck on thinking there’s only one way to eat!

    • Itua

      November 1, 2016 at 8:58 am

      Good point Susie, there is no one size fits all diet. At the same time, that does not mean that all diets are safe. It is not advisable to follow a diet that has the sort of downsides researchers have found with low carb long term; it may be fine for treating diabetes, but not for a healthy person.

      By the way, ‘plant based’ and ‘vegan’ are not the same thing; it’s a very common misconception. Veganism is an ideological stance against animal exploitation which just so happens to encompass dietary choices, hence a ‘vegan diet’. Plant based has no such ideological bias. You can eat a 90% ‘plant based diet’, but a ‘vegan diet’ is always 100% plants.

    • Mz Socially Awkward...

      November 1, 2016 at 2:26 pm

      Yasssss to healthy fats in nuts, seeds, avocados, goats cheese etc. And yasssss Lord to high fibre fruit and veg such as kale, spinach, blueberries… A low carb diet done right is a great move towards a fitter & healthier lifestyle. 🙂

  12. Azazelle

    November 1, 2016 at 7:37 am

    When people do not properly understand something, they’re going to call it the road to hell.
    Let me say a few things about Atkins. That diet only restricts fruit in its induction phase. Once you are 15 pounds away from your goal weight, you can eat fruit in small quantities. Most fruit are very sugary so one shouldn’t even be pigging out on them (how do diabetics survive?).
    Secondly, you cannot eat “”deep fried cheese” or deep fried anything, you alarmist. Because you cannot eat batter in a low carb diet. Stop Stop exaggerating!
    Thirdly, it is IMPOSSIBLE to eat large quantities of fried food on a keto diet unless unless you’re doing it wrong, Because ketogenic diets seriously reduce your appetite. As in- “I only ate a boiled egg for breakfast, and I’m fine” kind of reduction. You also completely lose your craving for sugar as an added benefit.
    Low carb diets give me clear skin, more energy, a smaller waist line ((ndicating that that I’m losing visceral fat), and most importantly eliminate menstrual problems. They are so painless I forget its going on.
    As for the alarmists saying you lose vitamins, low carb diets are crazy about consuming fresh vegetables, which are LOADED with with vitamins.
    Extreme low carb diets are for weight loss, once you get to a healthy weight, what is encouraged is a healthy lifestyle to maintain.
    Itua should consider a career as a town crier…

    • Iyke

      November 1, 2016 at 8:51 am

      Very apt!

    • Idomagirl

      November 4, 2016 at 1:00 am

      Your comment is tempting me to get on the Atkins diet. LOL.

  13. Confused

    November 1, 2016 at 8:01 am

    So should I eat bread or not????

    • Azazelle

      November 1, 2016 at 9:33 am

      If you’re trying to lose weight, flee from bread the way the children of Israel fled from Egypt!

  14. Harvarduniversitylies

    November 1, 2016 at 8:49 am


    The sugar industry in the 1960s bribed Harvard University scientists with thousands of dollars to produce reports blaming fat for heart disease.

    Saturated fat doesn’t cause heart disease; sugar does. Therefore, dietary guidelines recommending a low intake of saturated fat should never have been introduced.

    Harvard University continues to produce counterfeit studies, which now claim that switching a smidgen of saturated fat to unsaturated fat prevents heart disease (it doesn’t – five per cent of fat calories can very easily be reported the wrong way).

  15. Robert

    November 1, 2016 at 9:18 am

    As a type 2 diabetic the low carb diet has been a Godsend. After a year my stats place me in the normal catagory and off medication. Colesterol reading is 3.0 and HDL LDL balance improved. Hb1ac reads Normal. I LOOK and feel so much better minus 30lbs. The point this article misses is that in the context of a low carb diet the balanced use of good fats is acceptable. Once targets weight is achived carbs can be introduced slowly in a specific order of nutrional value until equlibrium is achieved . To label low carb diets as faddish is too deny restoration of health to millions who are victims of western carbohydrates heavy diets which are toxic to well being. DIABETES UK knows this from the many lives improved by the low carb high fat (LCHF) method. HIGH fat means an increase in intake not excess. An intake sufficient to balance the calorie previously provided by carbs. You still need to get the calalories in /out balance right and this does not mean eating lots of fat just sufficient to keep weight loss going or maintenance. With thought mineral and vitamin balance can be normalised. LCHF for diabetics I feel is mandatory as the high glucose levels that carbs generate are like a poison to systems that cannot metabolise them properly.

  16. Musicmad musician

    November 1, 2016 at 9:18 am

    Why did you eggarate thecAtkins Diet? It isn’t dangerous. Once you pass the carb craving stage you can reintroduce veggies as long as they are low carb. A prediabetic like needs energy from somewhere and seeds and nuts will work well . I can’t digest oats. So oats are a crazy diet choice, bringing pain and diarrhea for me. I prefer raw salmon to cooked any day. Vegan is not for me . Low carb is perfect.For ME. Fruit just made me pile on weight, but I eat blueberries. I keep happy chickens. They don’t care about what happens to their eggs. This is why vegans make no sense. Eggs are good food- if you get them from happy hens. The vegan diet is not a natural diet, unless you live in the Med. some people feel ill on on pulses due to the lectins. Eat natural. This means eggs and veggies and honey and fish. No processed foods , if possible. Fresh and natural makes sense. Tofu and soy spread is not natural.

    • "changing moniker"

      November 1, 2016 at 10:28 am

      what are happy hens??

    • Mz Socially Awkward...

      November 1, 2016 at 2:27 pm

      I think @Musicmad’s referring to the benefits of eating eggs and products gotten from free range hens as opposed to caged hens. You can look up videos of caged hens – those are some very unhappy animals. 🙁

  17. Andre

    November 1, 2016 at 9:45 am

    If you eat plenty of veg you don’t need fruit. Why take a potassium supplement when greens are abundant in potassium. Cheese is high in calcium. High fat moderate protein diets with a sprinkling of carbohydrate are our most natural way if eating from a evolution stand point. Also your body can convert protein from the diet to carbohydrate if needed. And I can gain lean weight on keto more effectively on keto than a carb based diet.

  18. rod

    November 1, 2016 at 10:09 am you poor uninformed sheep

  19. Mzphunby

    November 1, 2016 at 10:38 am

    …….. M lost……….!!!

  20. Trevor

    November 1, 2016 at 11:02 am

    So Vegan says meat is bad. Color me surprised. It’s funny, people can live a good long time without fruit, which the author says is a highly nutritious food, but even vegans have to add animal products to their diet to be healthy. You know, B12. Low carb eaters get all their nutrition and stuff tastes better with butter.

  21. tilda

    November 1, 2016 at 11:07 am

    Low carb diet is actually healthy in opposed to no carb diet. There are also different types of carbs. Refined carbs are best avoided.

  22. David

    November 1, 2016 at 12:17 pm

    I can only speak from experience but…

    I got diagnosed type 2 diabetic and went on a low carb diet.

    So far I’ve lost 15kg in under 2 months, reversed my diabetic condition and improved massively on pretty much every single measure on my blood tests.

    Now I’m still young (32), and perhaps it’s easier to lose weight at my age, but as I’m very satisfied with the results obtained eating a hf/lc diet thus far.

    • sky

      November 1, 2016 at 3:21 pm

      Me too. I do LCHF. I am diabetic and never been healthier. 50 carbs a day. My lab results are excellent for the last 1.5 years. Fruit would push my sugars real high. Berries only in moderation. Your article is ridiculous.

  23. Mandy

    November 1, 2016 at 12:22 pm

    I think perhaps you need to educate yourself in low carb diets and the many health benefits they have… and perhaps on human evolution. And for he record, meat is a whole food, low carb veggies – kale, cabbage, spinach, brussels sprouts, lettuce, broccoli, cauliflower, mushrooms – last time I checked those were whole foods, eggs are praised as a superfood (and contain carbs btw), and butter… guess what? whole FOOD! NOT the processed garbage that is margarine!

    It’s evident hat you have no idea what you’re talking about and are sighting bad science that has been proven wrong time and again (and again and again) as a way to push your own agenda.

    • sky

      November 1, 2016 at 3:25 pm

      Seriously. You do need more education! I live on meats butter eggs and they will have to pry my Bacon from my dying hands.

      My doctor would tell you, you are out of the loop.

  24. Lo Martinez

    November 1, 2016 at 2:04 pm

    I think as long as you’re still eating nutrient dense foods you won’t have any nutritional deficiencies.

    The people who come across problems on the low carb diet are those who try to get their fat and protein calories from processed food and think they can just eat bacon all day and be healthy.

    You still need to eat your greens, healthy fats, fish oil, avocados, eggs, and the like.

  25. Sheila

    November 1, 2016 at 4:21 pm

    I think people misinderstand the low carb diet, in actuality eating low carb natually inhibits the appetite and allows you to eat less, i eat very healthy on low carb, and i dont crave sugary foods, and i do eat meat but i combine it with healhy vegatables, The fats are real fats: real butter, avocado and cream, not fake like margarine. I was on a low fat diet my whole life and inwas always starving, the low carb diet can be very healthy and satifying and im never hungry.

  26. Daniel

    November 1, 2016 at 10:43 pm

    Any time a 2 week or less study is used to make a point about keto it’s junk science, of course after 1 week on low carb people under preform. I’m 2 month on keto and I feel better than I have in 10 years I’m athletic and fit I do keto for the stamina and mental focus.

  27. Mike

    November 1, 2016 at 11:20 pm

    What a poorly researched, biased article. You can eat a low-carb diet without eating excess amounts of saturated fats. There are plenty of animal proteins that are low in saturated fat and there are plenty of low-carb, high-fat foods that are actually good for your cholesterol and overall health (avocado, almonds and olive oil to name a few).

    The saturated fat studies that have been done in America have been heavily influenced by food companies trying to push high-carb, high-sugar, highly processed and high-profit foods that are killing us. These studies have led to the “American diet” and, in turn, to an obesity and diabetes epidemic in America. Meanwhile, other 1st world countries that have actually conducted impartial studies (Sweden being the most obvious) have found that saturated fats have no effect on cholesterol or risk of heart disease and monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats are actually beneficial. Sweden advocates the low-carb diet and they are much, much healthier as a country than America. It is no coincidence. Sugar and simple carbohydrates have a clear and obvious effect on our blood sugar – which has been scientifically proven to be the leading cause of diabetes.

    The author has clearly never tried a low-carb diet or she would have realized the cognitive benefits of a low-carb diet. I have a job that requires intense cognitive activity for long periods of time and I can assure you, low-carb diet is beneficial for cognition (once you reach ketosis, at least). I have a steady stream of ketones to the brain instead of the wishy-washy highs and crashes associated with energy from carbohydrates, so I can concentrate for far longer periods of time without any crash whatsoever. Low carb has also been shown to help the cognitive abilities of alzheimer and dementia patients.

  28. Ajala & Foodie

    November 2, 2016 at 12:14 am

    I know i have written an entire spill in response to the author’s response to another comment but i have to say this for the diabetic in the house. Now you guys have to understand that your case is the exemption to the rule here, why? because your ailment has to do with the way your body processes sugar and that is all kinds of sugar. I have read diabetic arguing about putting frozen bananas in smoothies claiming it is not unhealthy. That it is not healthy for you or that a diet is healthy (in the case of low carb diets) for you is so totally “circumstantial” i.e based on your specific health circumstances. So i cringe at using that as an argument in an article geared to a much larger population.
    I don’t agree with the author’s article for other reasons but it is one of my pet peeves when i see diabetics doing this. I would not go around arguing that oatmeal is unhealthy because of my health needs because it is actually high in fiber regardless of it is carb content therefore making it a better carb option for many.

  29. Rick

    November 4, 2016 at 7:49 pm

    ‘Just so wrong! And at every point. Ketogenic diet is THE way to go.

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