General Medicine

Low Carb Diets Increase Your Metabolism

Reviewed by The Clinical Committee

January 25, 2019

  • A new robust study shows that low carb diets don't just help you lose weight, they also help you burn more calories by increasing metabolism.

  • Patients who were assigned to eat low carb diets burned more calories than those on higher carb diets.

  • Patients also had higher good cholesterol (HDL) and lower bad lipids. (Triglycerides)

Calories Burned and weight loss on Low and High Carbohydrate Diets

Low Carb diets have been brought into the spotlight as an ideal diet by recent studies. For decades, nutritionists have advocated low fat diets for weight loss and cardiovascular health. However, recent research has shown that too many carbs are just as damaging, if not more damaging, to your health. Processed and simple carbohydrates, such as white bread or white rice, over the long run have been shown to increase your risk of diabetes and heart attacks.

Diet trends such as the Keto diet, Paleo diet, and Atkins diet also notably advocate for low carb intake.

A study published in the BMJ, a top medical journal, has now added one more piece of evidence supporting low carb diets.

The Effect of Carbs on Metabolism

Chart of Metabolism and Calorie Burn on Low and High Carbohydrate Diets

Researchers assigned 164 adults to 3 different diets: a low carb diet containing 20% carbohydrates, a medium carb diet containing 40% carbohydrates, and a high carb diet containing 60% carbohydrates.

Patients were instructed to exclusively eat from their assigned diets, and were provided all their food as well to ensure compliance. After 10 and 20 weeks on their diet, they were tested for their calorie burn rate and their blood lipids.

Patients on a low carb diet showed almost immediate improvement in their calorie burn. At 10 weeks, their metabolism had already changed. Patients on the lowest carb diets increased their calorie burn by around 200 calories per day and maintained this level over 20 weeks.

Medium carb patients also increased their metabolism by just under 100 calories per day, and the high carb patients had no significant change. These data indicate that the patients on the low carb diet gained a 200 calorie deficit compared to the high carb diet patients just by switching their diet composition.

The Effect of Carbs on HDL

Low Carb and High Carb Diets and HDL cholesterol, or good cholesterol

These metabolic changes also had direct and immediate impacts on patients' heart health. Higher levels of HDL, known as good cholesterol, is positively correlated with better heart health.

Patients on the low carb diet showed a significant increase in their HDL levels, followed by medium carb and high carb diets.

The Effect of Carbs on Triglycerides

Low Carb and High Carb Diets and Triglycerides

These diets also had a significant impact on "bad lipids."

High Triglyceride lebels have been associated with heart disease and increased overall mortality.

Additionally, taking medications to lower your triglycerides reduces your risk of heart disease.

In this study, patients on low carb diets showed large and significant decreases in their triglyceride levels compared to patients on high carb and medium carb diets.

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