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Laura Dolson

Can Part-Time Low-Carb Help?

By December 11, 2011

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high-carbThere have been a couple of low-carb studies in the news out of last week's American Cancer Society Society meeting in San Antonio, Texas last week. To be sure, neither study has been published, so it's probably too soon to add them to the evidence pile, especially the second one. Still, there has been other research showing some possible effects of carbohydrate intake influencing cancer, so it's an area I'm paying attention to.

Could a 2-Day Per Week Low-Carb Diet Really Make a Difference?

This one is fascinating. 115 women were randomly divided into three groups. One group was put on a 1500 calorie per day Mediterranean-type diet. The other two groups spent two days per week on low-carb diets (50 grams of carb or less). One of these was also very low in calories for the two days (650 calories) and the other could eat whatever other foods they wanted (low saturated fat encouraged, other fats fine). Results? The 2-day low-carb groups lost more weight over the 4 months (9 pounds as compared to 5 for the Mediterrean group). And insulin levels were more reduced in the low-carb groups (18% as compared to 4% in the Mediterranean group). Lower insulin levels are associated with a lower risk of breast cancer.

I'll admit this really surprised me. I have read some indicators that even normalizing blood sugar for a relatively short period of time (like two weeks) can have a longer-term positive effect on the body. But two days per week? Usually people don't begin to really love low-carb eating until after their bodies adjust which takes at least a few days, and often a week or two. Also, one of the great things about low-carb eating is the lack of cravings, and I don't think that could be accomplished on two days per week. One of the researchers did mention that people tended to change their eating on other days of the week as time went on. I'd love to know more details about this. Hopefully it will be published so we can all read it. The other attention-getting result was that the low-calorie low-carb group did exactly as well as the low-carb group where calories weren't restricted.

Starch May Increase Risk of Breast Cancer Recurrance

This is the odd one,from the same conference. I almost didn't report on this one, but it is in the news so I decided to throw it in, as a lesson in "don't cheer just because you like the headline". Not that it surprises me that lowering carbs may have an effect on cancer; as I said, we have had preliminary evidence of that in other studies, and there are reasons to believe that it may be true, e.g. the insulin connection mentioned above. It's that according to the LA Times, the people who were more at risk for recurrence increased their carb intake by less than three grams, while the ones with the lower risk lowered their carb intake by that same amount. It defies credibility that that little a change could have an impact. (For contrast, a small potato has 30 grams of carb.) So I don't think this really adds to our knowledge, and I'm not at all excited about it. But hopefully some controlled research can come out of it that will tell us more.

Photo © Karen Struthers

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December 12, 2011 at 11:26 am
(1) Rachel says:

I’d like to try this. Does anyone know if the 2 low-carb days need to be consecutive?

December 12, 2011 at 1:05 pm
(2) Jirene says:

Good question. Also, what did they eat the other 5 days?

December 12, 2011 at 1:47 pm
(3) Kerri says:

Hello Low Carbors! I don’t usually comment, I just read… However, I wanted to comment and say finally someone has found out my secret! I have kept a memoir of my eating habits for the past 18 months and I am happy to report that I have lost 70 lbs in the past 1 yr. I eat under 80 C’s a day and when I want to lose lbs because I had a little too many C’s consecutively usually 2 days I go 4 days LOW CARBING and wahlah the weight is gone. This is a great way to maintain energy, enjoy life without denying oneself and keeping your body healthy. I work out at least 4 days per week and up to 7 depending on my schedule but I am active regardless.

I do believe that a person should do 3 LOW Carb days every week, 2 Moderate and 1 -2 stay with a conscious mind to keep under 150 C’s on those days and you will be just fine and still lose weight.

December 12, 2011 at 2:28 pm
(4) Linda says:

Kerri – that is really interesting about the change up for low, medium and a little higher – reminds me somewhat of a book from many years ago “the Rotation Diet” by Martin Katahn, Ph.D 600 cal per day for 3 days then 900 cal for 4 days for the 1st week, then 1200 cal a day for the next week. In week 3 repeat 600/900 and so on, and you were supposed to lose up to a pound a day. Was supposed to keep your body’s chemistry slightly off balance so it would never get to the point where it thought you were starving it. Works on the metabolic rate and also the reward system where 1200 cal feels like a cheat ( not really though) so it does make some sense to do the same with carbs. I’m really interested in trying your method since it was so successful for you and I find I struggle to keep my carbs under 50 all the time! Thanks for the info.


December 12, 2011 at 3:45 pm
(5) Janice says:

Hi, this sounds interesting – could anyone tell me what amount of carbs would low/ moderate /high be

December 12, 2011 at 8:18 pm
(6) lowcarbdiets says:

Hi, all -

Unfortunately, because the study hasn’t been published there are not a lot of details available, so I don’t know exactly what the participants in the study were told. I’ll be very interested to read it if and when it appears in a journal.

I do think Kerri’s tracking of her eating and documenting the effects is THE BEST idea. It’s actually how I found the best eating plan for me 12 years ago, and I keep tweaking it. It also has the advantage that whatever you’re eating, it’s all a good source of information about your body.

I know that I can’t eat extra carbs very often or I will get those cravings back.

December 12, 2011 at 11:59 pm
(7) koran says:

I have been doing the low carb diet for 1 day and 1 week, first 2 days were a bit hard then it got easier, my tummy was not so bloated which made me feel a lot better, i was then able to start to excersise , i then feel off the wagon due to lack of funds and had a jacket potato and then a packet of biscuits , i feel guilty now but i get paid today so i am going to get my normal low carb food, i have tried all sorts of diets and i have found if my tummy feels flatter i know the diet is starting to work, the dvd i am using is a excersise to burn tummy fat off first , so i will go out today and buy my food to continue my low carb diet and i will carry on, , it seems to be working for me so all i need now is discipline .

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June 21, 2012 at 10:59 am
(10) afton says:

yes they have to be consecutive days i am on week two of this diet after reading it in womens day however in both weeks i drop down to a certain wieght and then even with healthy eating and exercise i gain about 1 to 2 lbs and then loose it again on my no carb days but its only been 2 weeks so we’ll see

March 13, 2013 at 9:24 pm
(11) Tom says:

Bodybuilders have been doing this for years traditonal way 3 low carb/ low calories 1 high carb / high calorie 3 moderate calories 20% fat 40% carbs 40% protein. They aso done hundreds variations 5 high 3 low 3 high 2 low etc etc. For my self there’s nothing that trims body fat off better then calorie cycling.

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