Avoiding carbohydrates is a popular diet method. The renunciation of bread, potatoes and pasta is not only considered an ideal way to lose weight. Low carb is often praised as the healthiest form of nutrition. Studies connoisseurs know that this fairy tale is not tenable.
Now Cochrane, the scientific institution par excellence that lays the foundations for evidence-based healthcare, has published a new large-scale study – and finally nailed the “overhealthy low-carb myth” in the coffin: The new review examined scientific evidence for the effectiveness of low-carb -Diets for weight loss and health. In 61 studies involving nearly 7,000 participants, the Cochrane authors found “no relevant advantage” of this hyped diet compared to other calorie-restricting diets.
Uwe Knop, born in 1972, is a qualified nutritionist, author and speaker for lectures at professional associations, companies and medical training courses. His book “Successfully lose weight and stay slim” was published by Springer-Verlag.
“Successfully lose weight and stay slim” by Uwe Knop
Specifically, the Cochrane researchers write in their press release: “Weight loss in individuals on a low-carbohydrate diet (also known as a low-carb diet) is unlikely to differ much from weight loss in individuals on a balanced carbohydrate diet, and for up to two years. There are also probably little or no differences between the diets in the changes in the risks of heart disease such as […] blood pressure […] and LDL cholesterol (“unhealthy” cholesterol) in the maximum observation period of the studies of two years. This was the case for people with and without type 2 diabetes.”
The latter is interesting in that the German Diabetes Society (DDG) had just made it clear that low-carb was neither the best nor the healthiest diet. Since December 2021, the following has also applied to diabetics: “The weight loss strategy should be based on individual preferences. Strict guidelines for the intake of fat, carbohydrates and protein are outdated – instead sufferers can choose healthy eating patterns that suit their preferences. Overall, the expert panel advises, the nutritional therapy must be tailored to the individual person.” Here, too, the ideal solution is personalized nutrition – which is welcome!
Hopefully this is the end of the low-carb chapter as the “best and healthiest diet”. The current review does not come as a surprise, since a phalanx of studies from recent years has already delivered comparable results. Especially in the field of diet comparison studies, numerous publications always delivered the same result in unison: It makes no difference whether you lose weight with LC or HC (high carb), the short-term “successes” are comparable.
The randomized clinical DIETFITS study, carried out at the highest medical level and published in the top journal “JAMA” in 2018, confirmed this finding: “The slimming effect of an LC diet was comparable to that of a low-fat diet in the 609 overweight or obese subjects after twelve months. Diet.”
Furthermore, for the umpteenth time, the authors (free of conflicts of interest) of a large review published in the “European Journal of Nutrition” in 2018 also criticized the usual knowledge gaps in the crucial question: “Overweight and diabetes prevention: is a low-carbohydrate and high-fat diet recommended? “
The answers are clear as the data is unclear: “Due to the complexity of the potential mechanisms underlying LC, their interactions and the lack of data from tightly controlled long-term studies (greater than 2 years), a general evidence-based recommendation of LCHF diets as preventive measure to reduce risk of type 2 diabetes premature. There is a lack of data proving the long-term effectiveness, safety and harmlessness of LCHF (LowCarbHighFat) diets. Any LC recommendation should address this lack of evidence.”
And then comes the favorite conclusion of all nutrition studies: “Low carbohydrate diets require further study before general recommendations can be made.”
A research group from the American cardiovascular society NLA (National Lipid Association) came to almost identical conclusions in the Journal of Clinical Lipology 2018. This scientific statement offers a comprehensive overview of the current evidence base, which is from the latest systematic reviews and meta-analyses of Effects of low and very low carbohydrate diets on body weight, among other things.
The cardiologists clearly state: “Based on the reviewed evidence, low and very low carbohydrate diets are not superior to other dietary approaches for weight loss.”
There is minimal data on long-term efficacy and safety (older than two years). The American scientists also make a clear announcement to their medical colleagues: “Physicians are asked to consider the findings discussed in this scientific statement when advising patients about LC diets.”
The Association for Independent Health Advice (UGB) even dedicated a whole special issue of its magazine “UGB-forum” to the carbohydrate and LC fairy tale with the title “Carbohydrate Controversy” (2018) – and the clear message: “Low-Carb Diets such as the Logi method, paleo or ketogenic diet are touted as health-promoting by numerous guide authors, in the media and on social networks. The current study situation does not provide any evidence that fewer carbohydrates would be health-promoting in the long term.”
In addition, individual researchers are also clearly raising their voices: Stefan Lorkowski, Head of Nutritional Biochemistry at the University of Jena, sees it this way: “It may be attractive, but it is naïve to believe that simply changing the ratio of carbohydrates and fats is sufficient. Rather, it depends on their nutritional quality and, above all, the energy balance” (“Ärzteblatt” 2019). Alfred Wirth, former President of the German Obesity Society, also confirms the last-mentioned key aspect in one of his specialist articles in 2018: “Almost all studies show that a low-carb diet is not superior and that the energy deficit in particular is decisive with regard to weight loss”.
Both Lorkowski and Wirth see the increase in LDL cholesterol in LC as critical to health, for Wirth the stimulation of pro-inflammatory (inflammation-promoting) factors is also critical in LC.
These LC-Contra statements could still fill pages (just like the LC-Pro studies, that’s the “beautiful” thing for all diet popes), but let’s leave it at that – although, let’s leave the ex- DGE President Helmut Heseker’s prognosis from 2019: “The low-carb diets that have been hyped for years are experiencing a situation where mass attraction and fascination are waning. The longstanding demonization of carbohydrates is suddenly exposed as a big mistake by trendsetters. Atkins, South Beach, Hollywood Star, Mayo, Logi and Paleo diets – evolution or Harvard – are not only exposed as ineffective, even worse: Instead, long-overlooked or denied side effects (e.g. bad breath, muscle cramps, nausea and headaches) to the fore”
Basically, anyone can lose weight, it’s not really that difficult. But it is really difficult for most of the “short-term kilo lighter” to maintain their reduced new desired weight in the long term – and to stay slim. But how does that work? The “secret code in a nutshell” is: You have to find and follow your own, very personal path that suits you perfectly – and then consistently stay on it.
But this path may not be easy – but you will be lighter and relieved afterwards. You can already read about the cornerstones for a firm foundation of your new, slimmer self here:
One of them is: “Those who do without a lot must enjoy more!” Because real intuitive enjoyment without fear of (scientifically non-existent) unhealthy food is the elementary passe-partout for successful slimming.