Do Low Carb-Diets Cause Severe Illness?

An interesting Letter to the Editor recently appeared in Mayo Clinic Proceedings, suggesting that low carb-dieters lose weight and show improvements in their cholesterol, blood sugar and blood pressures, because they are sickened by the diet.  Dr. John McDougall, an advisory board member of Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine and the author of this letter, suggested that low carb-dieters may suffer from a metabolic state called “ketosis”, a condition known to occur in diabetics and during severe illness. The condition also resembles the common side effects of cancer chemotherapy, such as fatigue, nausea and loss of appetite. Individuals on low carb-diets, who experience a loss of appetite, end up consuming less fat and cholesterol, because they are consuming less food overall. The same mechanism applies to reduce cholesterol levels in cancer patients because of the side effects of the chemotherapy drugs.

Several studies have shown that many high-fat, low-carb dieters risk clogged arteries, heart attack, kidney failure and colon cancer. Studies have also shown an association between one fatty meal and an increased risk of a cardiac event immediately following the meal. Dr. McDougall suggests that the better approach to weight loss is to encourage people to eat foods high in complex carbohydrates and low in fats. This approach, to some extent, is evident in Asians who mostly consume high carbohydrate rice and vegetable dishes with lower risk of heart disease, diabetes or common cancers found in Western countries.