Carbohydrate Diets in Clinical Nutritional Practice
By Laura Sheehan
I have been using low-carbohydrate diets in my nutritional consulting practice for three years. The results have typically been very good. For the most part, people lose weight, reduce inflammation, improve their digestive function and have better energy. I don’t have a one-size-fits-all diet that I recommend but help people to reduce their carbs to a reasonable level where they start to feel better. This level is different for everyone. People that have severe metabolic issues such as diabetes, heart disease, or obesity, I would recommend that they go even lower carbohydrate. When these people follow a ketogenic diet, they have reversed diabetes and lowered inflammatory blood markers. I do not believe everyone needs to go keto to be healthy however (many nutritionists are espousing this right now).
Some of the most dramatic “low-carb successes” I have witnessed have been Alzheimer’s clients. There have not been very many of them, I admit. But when they do choose to agree to follow a very low carbohydrate (no more than 30 grams of carbohydrates a day) and high fat diet, I have observed amazing results. People that didn’t seem quite “all-there” in the room with you suddenly begin to look you in the eye and engage you in meaningful conversation. It stays that way as long as people are willing to keep the ketogenic diet going. I can immediately tell if they have indulged in sugar when I meet with them.
What would account for this observed effect? A study1 showed that ketone bodies are protective of hippocampal neurons in vitro that have been exposed to a a fragment of amyloid protein, Aβ1–42, a substance found to produce a deficit similar to Alzheimer’s disease.
I have come across many different viewpoints on low carbohydrate diets and their effect on health. The scientific data are mixed2. I personally believe that human beings can be healthy and eat a vast array of different types of diets. What I am looking to do in my practice is to balance out the incredible over-consumption of sugar that most of my clients are guilty of. To this end, a continuum of different lower-carbohydrate diets appears to be useful. Even though the scientific debate is clearly not settled, I believe I have been helping people get healthier, lose weight, and feel better on lower-carbohydrate diets.
1. Kashiwaya Y, Takeshima T. d-β-Hydroxybutyrate protects neurons in models of Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2000 May 9; 97(10): 5440–5444.
2. Nordmann AJ, Nordmann A. Effects of Low-Carbohydrate vs Low-Fat Diets on Weight Loss and Cardiovascular Risk Factors. Archives of Internal Medicine. 2006;166(3):285. doi:10.1001/archinte.166.3.285.