1. Goldberg, Jeanne PhD, RD
  2. Bucciarelli, Alia MS


This article is a primer on low-carbohydrate diets: their history, how they have measured up in clinical trials, and how to work with them today.


For more than a century, low-carbohydrate diets have cycled in and out of fashion, each time returning with the promise of quick and easy weight loss. After the past 3 years of low-carbohydrate mania, it looks like the popularity of these diets is beginning to wane again. The descent has been rapid: The percentage of Americans following these diets dropped by 50% from January 2004 to September 2004. In October 2004, sales of The South Beach Diet slowed to less than one third of its volume in early March, which, according to some experts, was the peak of the most recent low-carbohydrate diet craze (Reuters Limited. Low carb sales slow as Americans craze cools-increasingly consumers abandoning protein-heavy diets. Available at: Accessed December 2004).


Despite the dramatic drop in public interest, dietitians will continue to encounter clients interested in using these diets to lose weight. Also, low-carbohydrate diets are likely to rebound in a matter of time, just as they have for the past 100 years.


This article reviews the history of low-carbohydrate diets, their safety, efficacy, and how dietitians can use them as the starting point of a long-term healthy weight-loss plan for clients who might otherwise try them on their own with little chance for long-term success and potential for physical harm