It's easy to get answers about health and nutrition! Just send your question by email to firstname.lastname@example.org and Dr. Harlan will respond to selected questions of general interest. Answers will be posted in the Ask Dr. Gourmet newsletter (sign up now!) and archived in the Ask Dr. Gourmet section of the website.
Is it true that cutting drastically down on sugars (including bad carbs) is a healthy way to lose weight?
This is absurd. One can lose weight by cutting down on carbohydrates because this essentially means cutting down on calories. The problem with this is that the body uses carbohydrates as a more immediate source of fuel.
By cutting them out of the diet the body perceives that it is starving and begins to burn stored fat and muscle (using fat and protein as a fuel source).
The result is weight loss.
There is controversy about how healthy this is for the body for a number of reasons, the foremost being increased acidity in the body. After a prolonged period of carbohydrate starvation and the subsequent burning of fat and muscle, ketones build up in the blood stream (these are acids that are the byproducts of fat and muscle breakdown).
When one stops eating the restricted carbohydrate diet the starving body responds by storing as much as possible and the evidence says that people who lose weight in this way will more than likely gain it back and often more.
Dehydration can be a problem due to protein overuse and breakdown - warnings for kidney problems, diabetics, etc... Also, often the final result of this type of weight loss is a higher percent body fat mass with a lower percent lean mass and therefore lowered metabolism.
Books have been written pro and con on this topic but for me the issue is this: why would one want to eat anything that restricts your ability to eat good food? Long term weight loss is about eating good healthy balanced food.
Timothy S. Harlan, MD, FACP