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Low-Carb Diets and Thyroid Health
For many people with thyroid disorders, the struggle to maintain a healthy weight can be a lifelong battle. For many hypothyroid patients, underactive thyroid glands -- and the resulting slowdown in the endocrine system and metabolism -- can make weight gain nearly inevitable, while simultaneously rendering the prospect of weight loss only a remote possibility. Although hyperthyroid patients have overactive thyroid glands, the resulting metabolic imbalances often result in weight gains as well.
For both hypothyroid and hyperthyroid patients, the challenge of weight loss can feel like an uphill battle. Many with these disorders have found that the traditional approach to diets -- namely, low-fat, low-calorie eating -- simply aren't effective. In fact, recent studies have indicated that very low-calorie diets may even serve to inhibit thyroid function even further.
A New Approach to Weight Loss
The introduction and subsequent popularity of low-carb diets in the late 1990s and early 2000s seemed like a ray of hope for many patients with thyroid disorders. For some, low-carb diet regimens offered one of the only methods of weight loss that had ever proven to be effective. However, soon after they gained popularity, low-carb diets began to face a backlash. Many researchers and diet experts condemned the low-carb lifestyle, claiming that these diets were extreme and ultimately unhealthy.
So, what's the real impact of low-carb diets on thyroid patients? This week, we'll take a look at both sides of this persistent controversy.
The Basic Premise of Low-Carb Diets
The standard low-calorie, low-fat diet adheres to the seemingly common-sense principle that eating fat makes people fat. Proponents of low-calorie, low-fat diets contend that taking in fewer calories results in a calorie deficit. Over time, this calorie deficit is believed to result in the loss of fat.
Supporters of low-carb diets think that lasting weight loss is more likely to occur when sugars and starches, rather than fat and calories, are eliminated from the diet. They base this theory on the physiology we've inherited from our prehistoric ancestors. Millions of years ago, alternating periods of feast and famine were common. When food was scarce, human bodies horded fat. When food was plentiful, bodies released excess fat stores.
Based on this principle, low-calorie, low-fat diets may actually trick our bodies into believing they are stuck in a period of famine. In other words, these regimens may be interpreted by our bodies as being akin to near-starvation.
In contrast, low-carb dieters typically eat foods rich in calories and fats, while eschewing carbohydrate- and sugar-laden meals. This way of eating is geared to signal to our bodies that food is plentiful. When the body is convinced that a famine is not eminent, it begins dipping into its fat stores. In this way, a gradual, lasting process of weight loss is initiated.
How Do Thyroid Patients Fare on Low-Carb Diets?
Little if any research has been conducted focusing on the benefits of low-carb diets for patients with hypothyroidism or hyperthyroidism. In fact, it is only in the last several years that researchers have begun looking seriously at low-carb diets as an approach to weight loss. For decades, many scientists feared that being associated with these "fad" diets would tarnish their professional reputation. It is only very recently that the possibility that low-carb diets could be beneficial for weight loss has begun being taken seriously by some members of the scientific community.
Even though the research literature is mute on this issue, many anecdotal accounts of thyroid patients losing weight successfully on low-carb slimming regimens have been reported. A stroll through any of the most popular low-carb dieting web sites usually reveals entire communities of hypothyroid and hyperthyroid individuals who appear to be fighting -- and winning -- the weight loss battle by limiting their intakes of sugars and starches.
Proponents of low-carb diets for thyroid patients believe that the special metabolic action of low-carb diets is particularly useful for individuals whose endocrine systems don't behave normally. Because low-carb diets are believed by some to be able to boost the body's fat-burning ability and stoke the metabolic fires, this may help put thyroid patients who have struggled with excess pounds on the path to permanent weight loss.
If you're considering a low-carb diet, it's best to clear your eating plan with your physician before starting. Be sure to check back each work for more of the thyroid health news you need.
For Further Reading
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