March 16, 2006

Low-carb diets can be unhealthy, doctors warn

LONDON (Reuters) - Low carbohydrate, high protein diets may
help to shed weight quickly but researchers warned on Friday
that they can be unhealthy.

The diets can cause constipation, diarrhea, headache, bad
breath and ketosis, which causes raised levels of ketones, or
acids, in the body.

"Low-carbohydrate diets for weight management are far from
healthy," said Lyn Steffen and Jennifer Nettleton, of the
University of Minnesota School of Public Health in Minneapolis,
writing in the British Medical Journal.

They cited the unpleasant effects and a lack of trials to
test the long-term effects of low-carbohydrate diets.

In a case report in the journal, doctors at New York
University School of Medicine said they had treated a
40-year-old obese woman, who had followed the Atkins diet, for
a life-threatening illness known as ketoacidosis.

The diet, based on research by Dr Robert Atkins who died in
2003, involves eating proteins such as meat and cheese and
limiting carbohydrates such as bread and pasta.

"Our patient had an underlying ketosis caused by the Atkins
diet and developed severe ketoacidosis," said Tsuh-Yin Chen,
adding that mild pancreatitis or stomach infection may have
contributed to the problem.

Ketoacidosis is caused by dangerously high levels of
ketones in the blood. It can lead to coma and death if

Steffen and Nettleton said special care should be taken
with diet plans because patients wanting to shed weight may
have a wide range of risk factors for diseases.

"As researchers and clinicians, our most important
criterion should be indisputable safety, and low-carbohydrate
diets currently fall short of this benchmark," they added.