Published: 04/11/2024

Experts Say Low-Carb Diets are Backed by Science

What was once a subject of public health debate is now a matter of clear scientific consensus: a well-constructed low-carb diet can be safe and nutritious.

A group of experts, including leading nutrition and health researchers and healthcare professionals, reviewed the evidence and arrived at more than 15 areas of unanimous scientific agreement on the benefits, opportunities and considerations around lower carbohydrate dietary patterns. A review of the state of science and summary of the consensus statements are now published in the peer-reviewed journal Frontiers in Nutrition.

A Consensus on Defining Low-Carbohydrate Diets

Importantly, the experts agreed on a consensus definition of low-carbohydrate diets as those containing 50 – 129 gram of carbohydrates per day. Until now, no standard definition existed.

The established range of 50-129 grams of carbohydrates per day is lower than the current dietary reference intake (DRI), which recommends 45-65% of daily calories come from carbohydrates. Based on a 2,000-calorie diet, consuming 50-129 grams of carbohydrate per day would provide about 10-26% of daily calories. The scientific basis for DRI for carbohydrates is currently being reevaluated to take more recent research into account. 

Low-Carb Diets Support Markers for Heart Health and Health Equity

The newly published consensus statements come at a time when the U.S. Departments of Agriculture and Health and Human Services are considering potential changes to the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, with particular emphasis on the importance of health equity. The Dietary Guidelines for Americans provide a set of evidence-based nutrition recommendations that broadly inform public health and nutrition activities, including food and nutrition labeling, federal nutrition assistance programs, and education initiatives, all of which are foundational to addressing persistent health disparities in America. 

A substantial body of research suggests that lower-carb diets can have a beneficial effect on weight, insulin sensitivity, and heart disease risk – diseases that disproportionately affect people from historically marginalized backgrounds, like Black and Hispanic Americans. The expert group agreed the inclusion of a lower-carbohydrate eating pattern in the Dietary Guidelines could enhance health equity across the country. 

Overall, nutrition experts agree that: 

  • Low-carb diets are safe for the general public, especially those with glucose metabolism disorders, though initial medical supervision may be necessary for some people, like those living with more medically complex conditions or taking certain medications.
  • Low-carb diets are helpful for addressing insulin resistance within the general population and in those with or at risk of diet-related diseases, like obesity, type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and more.
  • Well-planned low-carb diets can provide adequate nutrition and support high-quality diets similar to the healthy eating patterns currently recommended in the Dietary Guidelines for Americans.

Including guidance around a healthy, lower-carb eating pattern within the Dietary Guidelines could help address health disparities and advance health equity.

Low-Carb Diets, like The Atkins Diet, Provide a Solution for Healthcare Professionals

According to lead author Jeff Volek, PhD, “low-carb diets have been shown to not only help people with diet-related diseases, like heart disease and type 2 diabetes, they can also help generally healthy people reduce their risk of developing those diseases in the first place.” 

Staying up to date on the science of the benefits of low-carb diets is important for health care professionals, as they can have a great, positive impact on the health of your patients. The Atkins Diet has three different types of low-carb plans, including Atkins 20®, Atkins 40®, and Atkins 100®, that you can discuss with your patients depending on their needs. Check out the Atkins Eating Personalities guide and suggested daily meal plans to determine which plan is best for your patients.

For more information on how to get your patients started on a low-carb diet, explore the Atkins website for Healthcare Professionals.