One recent trend in dieting is the low-carbohydrate or "low-carb" diet. Examples include the Atkins' diet and the South Beach diet. Low-carb diets dramatically restrict the number of calories from foods such as bread, pasta, potatoes, rice, cereals, and sweets.

In the short term, low-carb diets may provide positive results. However, studies have shown that after 6 months, they are no more effective than other diets for weight loss. Although studies have also shown that, in most cases, low-carb diets are relatively safe for up to 1 year, long-term studies are not yet available.

Because many low-carb diets restrict fruits and vegetables, most health care professionals recommended that people on these diets take a daily multi-vitamin and fiber supplement.

Before beginning any weight loss program, it is important to talk to a qualified health care provider. Possible side effects of a low-carb diet include:

  • constipation,
  • diarrhea,
  • dizziness,
  • bad breath,
  • headaches,
  • sleeping problems, and
  • nausea.

Women who are pregnant and people who have diabetes, heart disease, high cholesterol, kidney stones, or a history of stroke should be cautious about trying a low-carb diet.

Publication Review By: Stanley J. Swierzewski, III, M.D.

Published: 14 Feb 2007

Last Modified: 11 Sep 2015