MadSci Network: Biochemistry

Re: I have a few questions about ketosis vs.ketoacidosis...

Date: Wed Jun 14 13:01:32 2000
Posted By: Phyllis Stumbo, Staff, Nutrition, University of Iowa
Area of science: Biochemistry
ID: 960767313.Bc

The criticisms you hear about your "low carbohydrate" diet seem to be 
directed toward diets extremely low in carbohydrate.  Some radical weight 
loss diets contain no more than 50 grams carbohydrate per day, and are 
designed to produce "ketosis" and weight loss.   A different low 
carbohydrate diet is sometimes used to control seizures.  The 
seizure-control, low-carbohydrate diet is low in carbohydrate but high in 
fat.  Either diet requires that carbohydrate be extremely low.  Both 
diets are high in fat.  Using this diet for weight loss means that daily 
energy needs are provided by body fat, thus the weight loss.  Using the 
diet for seizure control means energy is provided by dietary fat, thus no 
weight loss.  Either diet is restrictive and difficult to manage because 
many staple foods contain carbohydrate.  For example a bowl of sugar-free 
cereal contains approximately 30 grams carbohydrate, two slices commercial 
or one slice homemade bread (which is heavier) contain 30 grams 
carbohydrate.  A serving of potatoes or corn or  cup pasta provides 15-20 
grams carbohydrate and peas, carrots, or beets have 7-10 grams carbohydrate 
per serving, a glass of milk 12 grams carbohydrate.

From your brief description, your diet, which contains vegetables and whole 
grains, might be more accurately described as sugar-free or devoid of 
processed grains.  You might count the carbohydrate content of your diet on 
a typical day to decide whether "low carbohydrate" or "low sugar" or "low 
processed foods" is the best description of your eating pattern.  A typical 
carbohydrate intake for an adolescent girl is approximately 250 grams and 
for an adolescent boy is approximately 350 grams.  An intake of one half to 
two/thirds of this amount would not be unusual, but intake of less than 100 
grams is restricted.  

If a diet is "low" in carbohydrate then it must be "high" in protein or 
"high" in fat.  The food guide pyramid gives a serving guide for a moderate 
diet, one that is neither extremely high nor low in the three energy 
nutrients (carbohydrate, protein and fat).  For an evaluation of your food 
intake use the "Interactive Healthy Eating Index" at the USDA site at

Phyllis Stumbo, PhD, RD
The University of Iowa

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