The science behind why a low-carb diet doesn’t always lead to weight loss

Low carb diets aren’t just a fad — they’ve actually been popularized since as early as 1863, when author William Banting wrote about how cutting carbohydrates helped him return to a healthy weight and live a happier life. 

Many studies have been done about the effectiveness of low carb or even no-carb dieting and whether or not it’s safe and healthy. Recent research from the University of Glasgow may have finally given us the truth about cutting carbs: It doesn’t work for everyone. 

The study, published in Nature Scientific Reports, aimed to gain insights into the motivation behind low-carb dieting and the experiences for both current and past dieters. 

It is estimated that roughly 3 million people in the UK have tried a low-carb diet at some point. For most people, this means limiting foods rich in carbohydrates, such as bread, pasta, sweets, and in some cases, potatoes and fruits. 

What researchers found was that the key motivation for most people when starting a low-carb diet was weight loss. Other motivators were things like overall health and wellbeing, increased energy, improved mood, and concentration.

Current dieters were more likely to report a positive experience, while past dieters had mixed feelings. 

Researchers also found that most dieters in general did not seek professional support from health care professionals before cutting these key food groups from their diet. 

“A low carbohydrate diet can be an option for weight loss for people with obesity if this diet suits their preference, but a lack of professional guidance may put dieters at risk of nutritional inadequacies,” lead author Chaitong Churuangsuk said. “Doctors have an important role to play, and can initiate discussions with their patients, provide information on both benefits and risks associated with particular diets, and refer to diet and weight management specialists.”

As for the effectiveness of the diet, there are plenty of resources supporting the health and weight loss benefits of cutting out or reducing carbs. 

The Mayo Clinic reports that “low-carb diets may help prevent or improve serious health conditions, such as metabolic syndrome, diabetes, high blood pressure, and cardiovascular disease.”

However, the effects may be contributed to eating less food in general, and not necessarily the lack of carbohydrates specifically.