Are High-Protein, Low-Carb Diets Effective?

What About Long-Term Effectiveness?

If you are considering a low-carb, high-protein diet to lose weight, you may be wondering if it will be effective for long-term weight loss. Although you may notice significant weight loss that first week, it will likely not continue at that same rate in the weeks that follow.
One study that was done on a group of participants who followed the Atkins Diet for eight weeks showed that the average weight lost during this time was about 17 lbs. The participants in the diet followed the high-protein, low-carb meal plan and also cut their daily calories by 500 calories.
However, other participants in the study weren't following the Atkins Diet. They simply reduced their calories by 500 each day and had a similar weight loss (17 lbs) during the eight-week period. This study indicated that weight loss might be due to cutting calories, not cutting carbs specifically.
Another study that was done looked at three different diet plans, including:
  • A low-fat diet: This diet reduced dietary fat and consisted of many whole-grain products, along with fruits and vegetables. It consisted of 60 percent of daily calories from carbohydrates, 20 percent from fat, and 20 percent from protein.
  • A low-glycemic-index diet: This diet included vegetables, healthy fats, legumes, fruits, and minimal amounts of processed grains. It consisted of 40 percent of daily calories from carbohydrates, 40 percent from fat, and 20 percent from protein. The low-glycemic-index carbohydrates digest slowly, which helps to keep blood sugar and hormones stable after a meal.
  • A very-low-carbohydrate diet: This diet was similar to the Atkins diet and included 10 percent of daily calories from carbohydrates, 60 percent from fat, and 30 percent from protein.
The purpose of this study was to determine if certain diets may be more effective for burning calories and helping people maintain long-term weight loss. The participants in this study followed each of the three diets for four weeks at a time in a random order. In each diet plan, the participants ate the same number of calories (1,600 calories a day).
The results of this study showed that people on the low-carb or low-glycemic-index diets burned more calories per day, compared to people on the low-fat diet. 
One of the downsides seen with the low-carb diet, however, was that it could increase levels of cortisol, a stress hormone. It could also increase levels of a certain protein in the body that can cause inflammation. High levels of these substances for an extended period of time may increase the risk for certain health issues, such as stroke, diabetes, and heart disease.
However, it's important to note that this research study was done for only a short amount of time. Therefore, it is not known exactly how these diets would help with long-term weight loss.
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