Carbohydrate and weight control: where do we stand?

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Abstract

Purpose of the review

The Atkins diet has been criticized and vilified by much of the scientific community since it was proposed 30 years ago, because it challenged nutritional recommendations and dietary guidelines for a healthy diet. However, in spite of such recommendations the prevalence of obesity continues to rise. The present review evaluates recent scientific evidence and attempts to reach consensus on the confusion of weight-reducing diets.

Recent findings

Many dietary macronutrient paradigms have been proposed for the treatment of obesity. Since obesity in its dynamic phase is the result of energy intake exceeding energy expenditure, intuitively to lose weight energy intake should be less than energy expenditure, and one might expect that the macronutrient composition of the diet would have very little, if any, effect. However, short- and long-term therapies with low-carbohydrate or high-protein diets appear to offer advantages over conventional weight-loss regimens for weight loss, body composition and cardiovascular risk factors.

Summary

Low-carbohydrate, Atkins-type diets have been demonstrated to have positive effects on weight loss and biomarkers of cardiovascular risk, which has prompted some researchers to question the validity of present-day dietary guidelines. Although evidence is accumulating in their favour, the safety and efficacy of low-carbohydrate, high-protein diets needs further long-term verification.

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