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SUBJECT INDEX==> A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z

The Dangers of an Atkins Low Carb Diet
 

The Atkins or Low Carb Diet is enormously popular right now. The arguments for the Atkins or Low Carb Diet are largely based on the "hunter-gatherer", or Paleolithic concept.  The idea is that man, since he walked out of the jungles, hunted and - you guessed it - gathered.  In fact, Low Carb proponents argue that this is how man flourished. 

The research that has poured out of the laboratories and universities in the last decade has revealed one danger after another with this dietary system. Let's start with testosterone.  Researchers at the University of North Carolina found that a Low Carb (30%) Diet lowered free testosterone by about a third and increased cortisol by about a seventh (15%) when compared to a high carb (60%) diet in intensely trained athletes. [20] This is every guys worst endocrinological nightmare and, while it may seem counterinututive, shows that carbs protect your testosterone and keep stress hormones at bay.

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A Low Carb or Atkins Diet will affect your penis in other negative ways as well.  one landmark study showed conclusively that a High Protein Diet, similar to the Atkins or Low Carb Diet, greatly decreased blood flow.  Furthermore, the authors pointed out that "fibrinogen, Lp (a), and C-RP increased by an average of 14%, 106%, and 61% respectively". [14] These are systemic inflammatory markers that have been shown to lead to cardiovascular, erectile and auto-immune diseases.  In addition, one 2009 study on mice showed greatly decreased vascular health. [19]  The mice had greatly increased arteriosclerosis and the researchers believed that it was because a low carb diet limited the mice's ability to self-repair their vessels.

So has the Atkins, Low Carb or Paleolithic Diet done well in any recent research?  The results show that these diets are generally dangerous and only good for a) people who eat almost no carbs to lose weight [7] and b) possibly people with diabetes or the Metabolic Syndrome. [8] However, for all others simply maintaining their weight with a Atkins (Low Carb) Diet, the results are not looking good at all:  one recent study in the prestigious journal Circulation showed increased bodily inflammation and LDL levels. [9] 

And that same study [9] found something else the Atkins or Low Carb Diet proponents are not likely to tell you:   "reduced endothelial vasoreactivity".  That means they found the same old curse of saturated fat:  it temporarily "hardens" your arteries.  Yes, that means that one of the dangers is decreased blood flow and potentially less hard erections.

Furthermore, animal studies have revealed that a High Fat Diet, similar to the Atkins Diet, turns off genes used for proper mitochondrial function. [12] This has been verified in many animal studies and this is bad - very, very bad.  The researchers in the above study stated that "combined, these results suggest a mechanism whereby HFD [a High Fat Diet] downregulates genes necessary for OXPHOS and mitochondrial biogenesis. These changes mimic those observed in diabetes and insulin resistance and, if sustained, may result in mitochondrial dysfunction in the prediabetic/insulin-resistant state".  In other words, over the long term a High Fat Atkins Diet could lead to  Metabolic Syndrome issues due to mitochondrial dysfunction.  And remember that mitochondrial dysfunction is associated with low testosterone as well. [13]

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Just as bad, researchers have found that another danger of the Atkins (Low Carb) Diet is increased cortisol levels by allowing cortisol to stay in one's system longer. [10] High cortisol levels are bad for many reasons, including the fact that they attack neurons, cause weight gain and many other ills. (Read this link on the Brain for more details.)

It should also be pointed out that there was one very large study that found that a low carb diet did little nothing to reduce heart disease risk. [11]  Now contrast all of that with our old friend, the Mediterranean Diet, which is a proven cancer, heart disease and erectile dysfunction fighter and which is low on saturated fat and meat.  Study after study has shown the Mediterranean Diet.  There is no equivalent body of research from the Paleolithic or Low Carb Diet crowd. 

The same goes with the Low Carb (Ornish) Diet.  It has actually decreased plaque in the arteries, drastically lowered blood pressure and cholesterol and has turned off hundred of Prostate Cancer genes. Again, the Atkins or Low Carb Diet has no equivalent body of research. 

If all of that wasn't bad enough, there are several studies showing meat consumption is bad for the brain presenting yet another danger to males on such a diet.  One recent large study with 15,000 participants found increased dementia associated with increased meat consumption. [15]  Similarly, another recent large study of Latin American and Asian populations showed that the more meat consumption, the more the dementia. [17]  In addition, a 2009 study on rats showed that a high fat diet (55%) impaired both cognition and exercise capacity. The animals essentially became "lazy and stupid".  And many people eating fast food and/or an Atkins (Low Carb) Diet approach a diet with 55% fat levels. [18]

A Low Carb diet has also been shown to be much more worse for your mood and outlook. Australian scientists placed participants on a Low Fat Diet or Low Carb Diet and, not surprisingly, found that both groups lost an equal amount of weight. However, the low carb group "felt more angry, depressed and confused" than the Low Fat cohort. [20]

Finally, it has recently been found that rats fed a high fat diet developed cholecystokinin (CCK) resistance. [16] Cholecystokinin, or CCK, controls blood sugar production in the liver. A high fat diet limits CCK, leading to overly high CCK levels.  Being CCK resistant will very likely prove to be just as bad as insulin resistant and a high fat diet appears to lead to this condition.

NOTE:  Many of my readers are interested in enhancing their exercise performance, endurance, power and so on.  The above 2009 study on rats found that animals on a high fat diet could run only about half as far as those on a low fat diet.  [18] This is simple chemistry:  fat is an inefficient energy source for your muscles.  Just as bad is the fact that a recent study found that carbohydrates are just as essential as protein go muscle gains. [21]

All of this is the reason that you find researchers recommending either the Mediterranean Diet or Low Fat (Ornish) Diet which have a significant body of research showing improvements in heart, cancer and/or auto-immune outcomes. 

Here are some related links for more information:

  • High Fat Diet Risks
  • What Just One High Fat Meal Does to You
  • Why the Paleo Diet is a False Friend
  • Why Saturated Fat is Usually Bad For You
  • Meat Risks
  • Why The Paleo Diet Is More Myth Than Science
  • The Weston Price Diet

    REFERENCES:

    6) Clin Biochem,2004 Sep,37(9):830

    7) J Nutr,Jun 2005,135:1339-1342

    8) Nutr Metab (Lond),Nov 16 2005,2:31

    9) Circulation, 2007, 116:II_819, "Abstract 3610: Comparative Effects of 3 Popular Diets on Lipids, Endothelial Function and Biomarkers of Atherothrombosis in the Absence of Weight Loss"

    10) J Clin Endocrinology Metabolism, published online Sep 4, 2007

    11) New England J of Med, Nov 9 2006, 355(19):1991-2002

    12) Diabetes, 2005, 54:1926-1933

    13) Diabetes Care, 2005, 28:1636-1642

    14) Angiology, 2000, 51(10):817-826

    15) Amer J Clin Nutr, Received for publication February 3, 2009. Accepted for publication May 21, 2009; Emiliano Albanese, et al; "Dietary fish and meat intake and dementia in Latin America, China, and India: a 10/66 Dementia Research Group population-based study"

    16) Cell Metabolism, Aug 6 2009, 10(2):99-109, "Intestinal Cholecystokinin Controls Glucose Production through a Neuronal Network", Grace W.C. Cheung, et. al.

    17) Amer J Clin Nutr, Received for publication February 3, 2009. Accepted for publication May 21, 2009; Emiliano Albanese, et al; "Dietary fish and meat intake and dementia in Latin America, China, and India: a 10/66 Dementia Research Group population-based study"

    18) FASEB J, 2009 Aug 10. [Epub ahead of print], Murray, et. al., "Deterioration of physical performance and cognitive function in rats with short-term high-fat feeding"

    19) "Vascular effects of a low-carbohydrate high-protein diet", Proceedings of the National Academy of Science, Published online 25 August 2009, Foo S, Heller ER, W20) Prevention, Apr 2010, p. 45.

    20) European journal of applied physiology, 2010 Apr, 108:1125-1131, "Influence of dietary carbohydrate intake on the free testosterone: cortisol ratio responses to short-term intensive exercise training."

    21) Journal of Exercise Physiology, 2009, 12(6): 33-39, "Dietary Carbohydrate and Protein Manipulation and Exercise Recovery in Novice Weight-Lifters"

     

     

     

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