Low carb diets could be good for your health even if you don't lose weight

Low carb diets could be good for your health even if you don't lose weight [Photo: Getty]
Low carb diets could be good for your health even if you don't lose weight [Photo: Getty]

No carbs before Marbs. Most people assume the main benefit of a low carb diet is to lose weight, but new research has revealed cutting the carbs could make you healthier even if you don’t shed the pounds.

A new study, published in the Journal of Clinical Investigation Insight, suggests that a low-carb diet may help reverse metabolic syndrome, a precursor to diabetes, among obese individuals even if they don't lose any weight as a result of quitting the carbs.

According to the NHS metabolic syndrome is the medical term for a combination of diabetes, high blood pressure and obesity.

The condition, estimated to affect one in four people in the UK, can put sufferers at greater risk of heart disease, stroke and other conditions that affect the blood vessels.

Researchers from The Ohio State University studied 16 people with the condition, all of whom were put on were put on a low-carb diet for four weeks.

The diet was specifically formulated to contain enough calories to keep their weight stable.

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The results revealed that metabolic syndrome was reversed in more than half of people who switched to a low-carb diet, meaning their risk of developing diabetes or having a stroke or heart attack was reduced as a result.

The participants were also put on a moderate-carb and a high-carb diet (each specific diet was separated by two weeks), but researchers found that the most significant impact on the metabolic markers was witnessed on the low-carb diet.

"There's no doubt that people with metabolic syndrome and type 2 diabetes do better on low-carb diets, but they typically lose weight, and one of the prevailing thoughts is that the weight loss is driving the improvements. That was clearly not the case here," said professor Jeff Volek in a news release.

"Our view is that restricting carbs even without weight loss improves a host of metabolic problems. Obviously, quality of diet matters because quantity is locked down in this experiment."

Losing weight isn't the only benefit to low carb diets [Photo: Getty]
Losing weight isn't the only benefit to low carb diets [Photo: Getty]

Reducing their carb intake left participants with healthier cholesterol levels and less saturated fat in the blood, despite the fact that there was more fat in their diet.

And though blood pressure and their bodies' ability to use insulin did not improve, those taking part in the study were found to burn body fat more efficiently.

If they had been allowed to shed the pounds as well, study authors believe more of the participants would have seen their metabolic syndrome reversed.

Professor Volek added: “Even a modest restriction is carbs is enough to reverse metabolic syndrome in some people, but others need to restrict even more.”

Of course, more research will need to be carried out to indicate the effectiveness and sustainability of low-carb diets for people with metabolic syndrome in the long-term, but the initial results certainly look promising.

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But it hasn’t been all good news for low carb diet advocates recently as a study revealed last year suggested cutting down on carbs could impact your life span.

A US study conducted over 25 years showed that moderate carb consumption is far healthier than saying no to carbs full stop.

The study – published in The Lancet Public Health – analysed the diets of 15,400 participants in the US to estimate how many calories they got from carbohydrates, fats, and protein.

After a 25-year study, scientists found that those who got 50-55% of their energy from carbohydrates (this counts as ‘moderate carb intake’ as per UK guidelines) had a slightly lower risk of death compared with the low and high-carb groups.

Unsure about which way to go with the whole fad diet thing?

One scientist analysed low-fat diets versus low-carb ones to work out which might be best and found that both diets work, shaving off excess weight in about the same level of time.