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Low carb diet may land you in depression

health-and-fitness Updated: Nov 11, 2009 14:20 IST
Toufiq Rashid
Toufiq Rashid
Hindustan Times
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DepressionA very low carbohydrate diet, seen as a sure shot way to shed weight, may not be good for your mental health, warn researchers.

An Australian study published in prestigious medical journal, Archives of Internal Medicine, a journal of America Medical Association, shows that compared to low fat diets the very low carbohydrate diets can cause depression, anxiety and mood swings in the patients. The study says that very low carbohydrate diet takes away all the joys of weight loss.

The researchers from University of South Australia and Flinders and University Adelaide, Australia, studied about 106 overweight and obese individuals who were either given a low carbohydrate or a low fat diet for about a year. The people were allowed to consume only 1433-1672 kcal. The researchers observed the changes in body weight, psychological mood and well being.

It was observed that both diets achieved a similar reduction in body weight of approximately 14 kg. Compared with the low carb diet, the low fat diet had greater improvements in psychological mood state. Both diets had similar effects on cognitive functioning (working memory and speed of processing information).

"These findings suggest that although dietary macronutrient composition may have little influence on long-term weight loss, some aspects of the low carb diet may have detrimental effects on mood that may negate any positive mood effects following weight loss," the researchers wrote.

Renowned clinical nutritionist and Director of health food chain in Delhi, Whole Foods, Ishi Kosla says carbohydrates are important for brain and taking them out of food completely can cause depression.

"Lot of neurotransmitters are carbohydrate dependant and taking carbs out of food can not only cause depression but also manifest in things like lack of stamina. Brain requires a minimum of 100 gm of carbs daily and some crash diets like atkins and others reduce carbs to less than 30 to 40 grams per day which has bad impact on the brain," she said.

Even the psychiatrists agree. "We see a lot of such cases were eliminating or giving less carbs than what the body requires is causing severe reaction in people and the reactions manifest more in the physical functions like in chronic fatigue syndrome, mixed anxiety, restlessness, palpitations and panic attacks," said Dr Jitendra Nagpal, Delhi based clinical Psychiatrist.

"Carbs are fuel of the body and eliminating them can effect the emotion regulating centers of the brain. It is wrong on part of dieticians or weight loss management experts to even suggest taking carbohydrates out of the diet," he added.

There however are some for whom the study warrants more study. A number of factors have to be considered.

In context of diabetes management low carbohydrates have been seen to have positive impact on disease management but the new study needs to be further evaluated as if the patients gets depressed not only will it affect diet control but taking medicines as well," said Dr Anoop Misra, HoD, department of diabetes and metabolism at Fortis Hospitals Noida and Delhi.