Is Your Low-Carb Diet Hurting Your Bones?

Is Your Low-Carb Diet Hurting Your Bones?

Everywhere I turn it seems that there’s another spin on low-carb diets. There’s Atkins, Paleo, LCHF (low-carb, high-fat) and meat and cheese diets, to name a few, with a new one popping up seemingly every week. As a nutritionist for 25 years, that means I’ve seen a lot of low-carb diets come and go over the years. I’ve also heard a lot of questions inquiring whether these diets are a healthy option at all. Not all low-carb diets are created equally; some help and some outright harm the body, particularly when it comes to the bones.

New research in the European Journal of Nutrition found that a low-carb, high-fat diet like its namesake LCHF, meat and cheese and Atkins diets may pose a threat to bone health, particularly in men. In this study scientists found that a low-carb, high-fat diet negatively affected three markers for bone health and bone building, including: blood levels of growth hormone, bone volume and a compound that determines new growth of bones (called bone formation marker P1NP). The same study found that this was a male-specific effect and low-carb, high-fat diets did not have the same effect on female bones.

Does that mean that women should run out and gorge on bacon, pork chops and cheese platters? Absolutely not. A Harvard University study published in the journal Nature found that in as little as two days of eating a diet high in meat and cheese, the resident microbes in the human gut shift to higher numbers of inflammation-causing ones. Considering that even low grade inflammation is increasingly linked to dozens of diseases including arthritis, heart disease and cancer, anything that increases the numbers of inflammation-causing gut microbes is not a good indicator for long-term health.

So, how can you tell if your low-carb diet is right for you? Here are some of the factors I consider when evaluating low-carb diets:

1) Any diet that eliminates or reduces “good carbs” like vegetables and legumes is unlikely to support health in the long-term. An ever-growing volume of research shows the value of plant-based diets.

2) Any diet that does not differentiate between sources of proteins, claiming that all protein sources are beneficial or acceptable on the diet, is of little value. The reality is that there is a huge difference between the body’s ability to digest and absorb amino acids from different types of protein. And, let’s face it: nitrite-packed, high-fat bacon does not offer the same health benefits as raw nuts, seeds or fish.

3) If you’re worried about bone health and are male, you should definitely skip low-carb diets that are also high in fat.

4) Gut health is increasingly linked to the health of every other part of the body. Throwing off gut health through consumption of high amounts of meat and cheese is never going to be a strategy for health.

5) Even a plant-based diet should include a small amount of protein (4 to 6 ounces of fish or chicken) or a handful of nuts or seeds every few hours to help keep blood sugar levels stable. Stable blood sugar levels means balanced energy and moods, less risk of obesity and improved overall health.

6) Your diet should differentiate between real food and “faux food”—what I refer to as chemical-laced, additive-rich “foods” that don’t really resemble anything actually grown or raised in nature, such as margarine or soda.

7) A diet should differentiate between good carbs (nuts, seeds, vegetables and legumes) and bad carbs (candy bars, cakes, pastries, soda, white rice, white sugar, white flour, etc.). Obviously, a diet high in good carbs and low in bad carbs is superior to one that doesn’t differentiate between them.

•October 1, 2015

•Michelle Schoffro Cook

22 Replies

  • Excellent piece of information. Any thing we eat should be bio-available meaning that our body should be able to identify such nutrients. Even soybean / its product is having amino-acids, despite good amount protein, few amino-acids which are not identifiable by our body.

  • Yes lot of good info.

    how about increasing calcium rich foods

    and taking a Ca+Vit D3 combo? More so in male LCHF diets?

    LCHF cannot be discounted but you have helped to bring up this

    Very important study.

    I fully endorse your study as I was feeling some mild bone weakness and mild weakness in my shoulder joints a few months ago

    and upped my Calcium intake and surely feel better!

  • Irrelevant to what follow and preach as LCHF diet. So useless article from Indian's perspective as we aren't eating bacon and meat 24X7 .... Let's have something from Indian side for a change.

    When guys write against LCHF here, first they should understand what is the LCHF that we follow. This article is just full of OPINIONS and NO PROOF. Doesn't even talk what is the LC and HF numbers that he/she is referring to. Inflammation markers have come down and that's why many have gone off STATINS as far as what we follow.

    BTW, anyone who cares about bones should also red about how certain diabetic drugs makes bones weak and those drugs cannot be avoided on a HIGH CARB LOW FAT DIET.

    20:20:60 = C:P:F doesn't miss anything and doesn't change gut flora (as enough fibers in diet) nor does it weaken bones as much as glitazones do.

  • In continuation:

    This is what we follow:

  • Wonder if this "nutritionist" with 25 years experience has anything to comment about MASAI's (except for calling it PARADOX). Experts studied Masai and found their Cholesterol, inflammation and cardiac markers great -- all saturated fat, meat, milk:


  • What's more surprising is that this "expert" clubs -- Atkins, Paleo, LCHF -- everything into one group and then expresses his OPINION. None of them discuss Dr Bernstein. They will once Dr Bernstein is no more, like they do with Atkins now.

    None of these so called nutritionists dare to discuss it on forums where diabetics live this diet and follow their medical reports. Anil Gupta had a fracture and he has been on pioz I think, but as usual drugs are always exempted.

  • Yes Diebetics do loose Vit D hence it results

    in weakness in bones.

    I have experienced it.Take it or leave it.

    A nutritionist is more knowledgeable than many .

    This defeciency can be replenished and in my case

    Calcium supplements have helped me.

    If required I will give my dose regimen.

    Now I feel no joints pain.

  • Thanks

  • Michelle s cook is an internationally well known nutritionidt and author of several book.One can depend on her writings

  • Paula Deen is a bigger celebrity than this author. She turned diabetic (her cookery show is all about CARB loaded nonsense), then waited for long time negotiating a deal for brand ambassador for "VICTOZA" and then once deal was done for undisclosed amount I guess, she proudly claimed she is diabetic. Wonder why drugs needs endorsements in the US?

    There are far more popular professionals whose writings make more sense to me as a diabetic on ZERO DRUGS for fifth year running.

  • MYDBgone

    will you kindly clarify your statement western LCHF diet?Is there other types LCHF diet and are they not composed of meat as a dominant component>

  • I follow this

    Carbs =20% : Protein =20% : Fat =60% (20:20:60)

    I in this forum learnt this proportion as LCHF I followed

    this in USA and now follow this in India.

    Appears I was low on Mineral supplemennts.

    With Mineral supplements I feel recovered.

    My band is by KIRKLAND Cal+Mg+Zn

    has worked for me. I am 68 yrs young!

  • what does 60% comprise of?


    Follow the sole link on the above post. You will have all answers on the query related to LCHF.

  • Fat.

  • Yes LCHF doesn't mean pre-dominantly MEAT.

    There are many Vegetarians on LCHF on "MY FORUM"

  • which salt of Calcium have you been using?

  • Calcium carbonate,Calcium phosphate, Calcium malate or Calcium citrate?

    Many combinations are available in the pharmacy.You have enumerated them all.

    I know all that is available BUT what are you using?

    If the info you have provided is from the books is not what I was looking for .

    I had wanted to know what you have used.

    Appears the dose suggested by you is insufficient. Kindly let me know.

  • The liver problems of the person causes so many diseases in which diabetes also

    Low carb or high carb may not much problems the digestion power causes so many diseases . U may consume high carb or low carb if it digests completely the nutrition absorbed by the body through good circulation of blood then no problems for the health of problems

    For bone problems it is deffcency of calcium and magnesium may be the problem

    It may not problem of LCHF diet.

    If u follows any type of diet either high carb or low carb if the vitamins and minerals were not sufficient then the diseases causes For calcium content consuming the calcium content food it is available in LCHF food items also

    In my opinion from LCHF their main intention is to reduce the carb quantityas much as possible This is also good since carb digest quickly and Bloodsugar spikes immediately So they avoided most of carb items

    Carb is main food for vegetarians for their daily routine It may some difficult to avoid this but for DM persons they must reduce high carb item and using sprouted pulses and vegetables it is good

    the Dm persons and also aged persons calcium is main problem it was defficency of vitamin and minerals it may not related to Low carb or high carb.

    To avoid for this most of calcium supplements tablets should be taken from the person

  • In USA more than 90 % of persons are non vegetarians but also most of them are DM and HBP and heart problems also Even though they may not used grains as south Indian type they suffered a lot in Dm and CKD CVD problems

    For vitamin supplements MYDBGone has given using of supplements tablets

  • Can u please share the name and cost of the vitamin supplements from Dr Whitaker Is it availble in India also ? Are u used all capsules

  • "Our body is so complex. and we are not doctors - we do NOT know every thing -

    NO one eats perfect balance food with all the vitamins and minerals required and in right form and right amount. Unless we do all blood tests - every five years - starting at age 35 - we will get old and sick."

    can you explain what this statement means? What is your understanding of balanced food?Is LCHF a balanced food

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