Olivia is a 14 year old, very active young person. She is on the basketball team, the swim team, and the cross- country team. Many of her friends are trying out a high protein , low carbohydrate diet as they believe that it will help them lose weight. Explain what carbohydrates provide for active young people like Olivia and the dangers of a high protein , low carbohydrate diet as recommended by her friends.
Teenagers experience rapid changes in their bodies and health choices they make at this age can have long-lasting effects throughout their life. The physical growth plus hormone changes create a unique situation.
Olivia's friends who want to follow a high-protein, low-carbohydrate diet are, amongst other things, asserting their independence. They need to be given accurate information to allow them to make informed decisions.
Carbohydrates are easily converted into glucose providing energy and controlling moods during the day. Teens should not be avoiding carbohydrates; they should just be eating the right ones; the complex carbs , as opposed to simple carbs (such as sugary snacks). Some simple carbs though, such as fruit, are good as they mimic complex carbs and provide teens with all the sweetness they need!
If Olivia's friends who want to lose weight are also athletes like her, they have more requirements than normal teens and require a good variety of grains, proteins,vegetables, fruits and fats. Diets that exclude food groups should be avoided by anyone, not just active teens.
Weight loss must not be obtained at the expense of good nutrition. Proteins AND carbohydrates are essential for growth and repair. Complex carbs prevent sugar "highs" and "lows." Blood sugar fluctuations are dangerous and put a strain on the body in the production of insulin.
Cravings are curbed in a well-balanced diet which those on a high protein low carb diet will suffer from. Low carb diets cause tiredness and irritability and teenage girls are already irritable so imagine the combination with a low carb diet!
Low carb diets also limit fiber intake which affects metabolism - which in diet loss is counter-productive. The digestive system relies on fiber for good health.
Protein is a crucial part of any diet but can also cause health problems if consumed in very high quantities. Elevated levels of protein, even in young people, can cause gout. Proteins are popular with athletes because they make up the bulk of muscle tissue and are found in most human tissue. Protein helps repair muscle strains and tears. However, high protein diets should also include a higher amount of fat - again causing a potentially counter-productive result.
Inuit Eskimos have a diet very high in protein (fish) and fat and very low in carbohydrate because of their lifestyle and location. So, unless Olivia's friends intend to assume this lifestyle they should eat a well-balanced diet with the "good" carbohydrates, protein, "good" fats and plenty of vitamins and minerals. Low- carbohydrate diets can also cause bad breath - definitely not what the average teenager wants!