The Low-Carb Lies and Liars

By Michael Applebaum, MD, JD, FCLM

Welcome to Low-Carb 101.  Get your pencils and paper ready.  Take notes.  There will be a test.  It is called Life.

If you have read some of the other stuff Iíve written, you are familiar with the fact that I am opposed to wasting time, effort, energy, resources, money, etc. on hokum.

Apparently, the low-carb food manufacturers have worked with the cloners to create the industrial equivalent of genetically engineered low-carb rabbit employees.  Who else could produce and reproduce low-carb products so quickly?  Maybe low-carb minks.

The food markets are knee-deep in the low-carb drivel.  Everywhere I go, I see low-carb this and low-carb that.  Here a low-carb, there a low-carb, everywhere a low-carb.  This despite the facts that the gurus of low-carb apparently failed on their own diets.  Bob Atkins was overweight when he entered the hospital for his final stay.  And, at least to my eyes, Art Agatston does not have a South Beach body.  At least not a lean, attractive one.  More like a South Beach-ball body.  Or so it appears to me.

Ready, class?  The real name for low-carb eating to lose weight is ketogenic dieting.  Ketogenic dieting is a very specific form of eating.  It is eating to starve.  The point behind eating ketogenically is to put the body into a state called ketosis.  Ketosis fools the body into believing that it is starving so it eats itself.  The part of the body that the body mainly eats once ketosis is established is the fat.

You can lose weight on a ketogenic diet if you consume fewer calories than you burn.  There is no other way.  Same as any weight loss program.

According to most ketogenic diet plans, the development of ketosis generally takes a few weeks.  A few interesting weeks of impressive self-denial.  Some people supposedly can do this with little trouble.  During these several weeks, the amount of carbohydrate you can eat is around 30 gm daily.  This is 120 calories, or about a can of sodaís-worth.

How do you know if you are really in ketosis after these several interesting weeks of self-denial?  Well, you donít always know for sure.  But there is a best way to kind of know.  That is to pee on a special chemical-containing stick call a Ketostix (the proprietary name is in the plural cute tense).  If it turns the correct color you are ketotic.  If it does not, you are pregnant.  Just kidding.  If it does not, you are actually unsure.

Once you have spent those several interesting weeks and achieved total ketosity, you can try ramping up your carbs while peeing on your Ketostix.  If the stick turns the correct color you are still ketotic.  If it does not, you may not be.  Remember you canít actually know for sure.  You can always be pregnant if anatomically empowered and socially or technologically engaged.

Hereís where it gets scammy.  To become ketotic and stay in ketosis you really have to tightly regulate your carbohydrate intake.  Generally this means limiting your carbs to less than 100 grams per day.  For many, an even lower ceiling is required.  It is not difficult to exceed the very narrow carbohydrate range necessary to maintain ketosis.

If you eat too many carbs from low-carb foods you will become non-ketotic, i.e., no longer starving.  Then you are just like any other person on a high-fat, high-calorie diet and consuming more calories than you are burning.  You will gain weight as fat.

This is similar to what happened on low-fat foods.  People ate too many calories and got fat.  It happens on ketogenic diets, too.

So donít buy into the low-carb liars lies.  Low-carb will not work unless it is done meticulously.  That requires an understanding of how to do it.  This remains untold by the purveyors who want you to invest in the ďlow-carb lifestyle,Ē i.e., their products

For ketogenic dieting to be effective, it is really important to understand and follow the instructions.  It is not enough to just buy the parts.  You have to know how to assemble them.