Are High-Protein, Low-Carb Diets Effective?

A Brief History of High-Protein, Low-Carb Diets

The high-protein, low-carb diets have been around for quite a while, all the way back to the time of Greek Olympians 2,000 years ago. These athletes consumed diets that were high in meat and low in carbohydrates to improve athletic performance.
 
The high-protein, low-carb diets regained popularity in the 1960s and 1970s with a number of new fad diets, including the Atkins Diet, Stillman's Diet, the Scarsdale Diet, the Drinking Man's Diet, and the Air Force Diet. However, these diets came under quite a bit of criticism by the American Medical Association, and their popularity diminished.
 
As the number of cases of obesity, insulin resistance, and type 2 diabetes has increased in recent years, there has been a renewed interest in the low-carbohydrate diets. Some of these include the Atkins Diet, the Sugar Busters Diet, Carbohydrate Addict's Diet, Protein Power Diet, and the Zone Diet.
 

Do These Diets Produce Significant Weight Loss?

By simply cutting out carbohydrate foods and eating more protein-rich foods, people following a high-protein, low-carb diet usually feel fuller and tend to consume 500 fewer calories each day. This can result in a weight loss of 0.45 kg to 0.9 kg (approximately 1 lb to 2 lbs) each week. These diets can initially result in a weight loss of 2 kg to 3 kg (4.4 lbs to 6.6 lbs) in the first week alone.
 
This initial drop in weight is caused in part by something called "diet-induced diuresis" (losing water weight due to dieting). The various metabolic processes involved in weight loss -- especially with a low-carb diet -- create a temporary diuretic effect.
 
Some research has shown that those who were on an 800-calorie, low-carb, high-protein diet had a weight loss of about 10 pounds, on average, after 10 days, compared to only 6 pounds for those who were on an 800-calorie mixed diet (not low-carb). These studies also determined that the primary difference in the weight loss was due to total loss in body water.
 
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