Category Archives: Low-Carb Diets - Page 4

Dangers of Zero-Carb Diets, IV: Kidney Stones

Kidney stones are a frequent occurrence on the ketogenic diet for epilepsy. [1, 2, 3] About 1 in 20 children on the ketogenic diet develop kidney stones per year, compared with one in several thousand among the general population. [4] On children who follow the ketogenic diet for six years, the incidence of kidney stones is about 25% [5].

A 100-fold odds ratio is hardly ever seen in medicine. There must be some fundamental cause of kidney stones that is dramatically promoted by clinical ketogenic diets.

Just over half of ketogenic diet kidney stones are composed of uric acid and just under half of calcium oxalate mixed with calcium phosphate or uric acid. Among the general public, about 85% of stones are calcium oxalate mixes and about 10% are uric acid.  So, roughly speaking, uric acid kidney stones are 500-fold more frequent on the ketogenic diet and calcium oxalate stones are 50-fold more frequent.

Causes are Poorly Understood

In the nephrology literature, kidney stones are a rather mysterious condition.

Wikipedia has a summary of the reasons offered in the literature for high stone formation on the ketogenic diet [4]:

Kidney stone formation (nephrolithiasis) is associated with the diet for four reasons:

  • Excess calcium in the urine (hypercalciuria) occurs due to increased bone demineralisation with acidosis. Bones are mainly composed of calcium phosphate. The phosphate reacts with the acid, and the calcium is excreted by the kidneys.
  • Hypocitraturia: the urine has an abnormally low concentration of citrate, which normally helps to dissolve free calcium.
  • The urine has a low pH, which stops uric acid from dissolving, leading to crystals that act as a nidus for calcium stone formation.
  • Many institutions traditionally restricted the water intake of patients on the diet to 80% of normal daily needs; this practice is no longer encouraged.

These are not satisfying explanations. The last three factors focus on the solubility of uric acid or calcium in the urine; the first on availability of calcium, one of the most abundant minerals in the body.

There is no consideration of the sources of uric acid, oxalate, or calcium phosphate.

Two of the factors focus on urine acidity, but alkalinizing diets have only a modest effect on stone formation. In the Health Professionals Study and Nurses Health Study I and II, covering about 240,000 health professionals, people with the lowest scores for a DASH-style diet (an alkalinizing diet high in fruits, vegetables, nuts, and legumes) had a kidney stone risk less than double that of those with the highest DASH-style scores. [6]

On ketogenic diets specifically, supplementation with potassium citrate to alkalinize the urine and provide citrate reduced the stone formation rate by a factor of 3. [3] They were still more than 30-fold more frequent than in the general population.

It seems the medical community is still unaware of some primary causes of stone formation.

Uric Acid Production

One difference between a ketogenic (or zero-carb) diet and a normal diet is the high rate of protein metabolism. If both glucose and ketones are generated from protein, then over 150 g protein per day is consumed in gluconeogenesis and ketogenesis. This releases a substantial amount of nitrogen. While urea is the main pathway for nitrogen disposal, uric acid is the excretion pathway for 1% to 3% of nitrogen. [7]

This suggests that ketogenic dieters produce an extra 1 to 3 g/day uric acid from protein metabolism. A normal person excretes about 0.6 g/day. [8]

In addition to kidney stones, excess uric acid production may lead to gout. Some Atkins and low-carb Paleo dieters have contracted gout.

Oxalate Production

Our last post (on scurvy) argued that very low-carb dieters are probably inefficient at recycling vitamin C from its oxidized form, dehydroascorbic acid or DHAA.

If DHAA is not getting recycled into vitamin C, then it is being degraded. Here is its degradation pathway:

The degradation of vitamin C in mammals is initiated by the hydrolysis of dehydroascorbate to 2,3-diketo-l-gulonate, which is spontaneously degraded to oxalate, CO(2) and l-erythrulose. [9]

Oxalate is a waste material that has to be excreted in the kidneys. Vitamin C degradation is a major – in infections, probably the largest – source of oxalate in the kidneys:

Blood oxalate derives from diet, degradation of ascorbate, and production by the liver and erythrocytes. [10]

Since the loss rate from vitamin C degradation can reach 100 g/day in severe infections, and most of that mass is excreted as oxalate, it is apparent that a very low-carb dieter who has active infections, as did I and KM in the scurvy post, or some other oxidizing stress such as injury or cancer, may easily excrete grams of oxalate per day, with the amount limited by vitamin C intake.

Dehydration and Loss of Electrolytes

Excretion of oxalate consumes both electrolytes, primarily salt, and water:

In mammals, oxalate is a terminal metabolite that must be excreted or sequestered. The kidneys are the primary route of excretion and the site of oxalate’s only known function. Oxalate stimulates the uptake of chloride, water, and sodium by the proximal tubule through the exchange of oxalate for sulfate or chloride via the solute carrier SLC26A6. [10]

Salt and water are also needed by the kidneys to excrete urea and uric acid.

Personally, I found that my salt needs increased dramatically on a zero-carb diet. I needed at least a teaspoon per day of salt when zero-carbing, compared to less than a quarter-teaspoon when eating carbs.

As a result of loss of salt and water, low-carb dieters tend to become dehydrated. This is also a widely-observed side effect on ketogenic diets.

We’ve all seen what happens to urine when we’re dehydrated: it becomes colorful due to high concentrations of dissolved compounds.

As urine becomes saturated, it no longer possible for uric acid and oxalate to dissolve. They precipitate out and initial deposits nucleate further deposits to form kidney stones.

Polyunsaturated Fats and Kidney Stones

That brings us to another factor that promotes kidney stones: high omega-3 polyunsaturated fat consumption.

Here’s the data:

Older women (NHS I) in the highest quintile of EPA and DHA intake had a multivariate relative risk of 1.28 (95% confidence interval, 1.04 to 1.56; P for trend = 0.04) of stone formation compared with women in the lowest quintile. [11]

Eating omega-3 fats promotes calcium oxalate kidney stones about as much as eating oxalate. The top quintile of dietary oxalate intake has a relative risk of 1.22. [12]  (The top dietary source of oxalate is spinach, by the way.)

So what about EPA and DHA promotes kidney stone formation?  A clue comes from julianne of Julianne’s Paleo & Zone Nutrition Blog; she made a very interesting comment:

A few years ago I started taking a high dose of Omega 3, because of joint inflammation, and other issues. This made big difference for about 3 months, then seemed to not work any more. I talked to a nutritionist friend and she pointed out that according to Andrew Stoll (The Omega 3 Connection) you must take 1000 mg vit C and 500 iu vit E daily or the omega 3 becomes oxidised in your body (cell membranes) and ineffective. I started taking both and in days was back to the original anti-inflammatory effectiveness of omega 3. I have since talked to others about this – for example a psychiatrist whose clients did well on omega 3 for 3 months and then it became ineffective.

Paleo advice from many is to consume a high dose of omega 3, and at the same time reduce carbs. I am wondering if there are people suffering vit C depletion as a result of increased omega 3 consumption as well as too low carbs?

EPA and DHA have a lot of fragile carbon double bonds – 5 and 6 respectively – and are easily oxidized. It’s quite plausible that this lipid peroxidation can lead to oxidation and degradation of vitamin C.

If so, then higher EPA and DHA consumption would increase the flux of oxalate through the kidneys and raise the risk of calcium oxalate stones. It makes sense that the effect is strongest in the elderly, who tend to have the worst antioxidant status.

What Does This Tell Us About the Cause of Stones in the General Population?

Since most kidney stones afflicting the general public are calcium oxalate stones, it seems likely that vitamin C degradation may be the major source of raw material for kidney stones.

If so, then the risk of kidney stones can be greatly reduced by dietary and nutritional steps.

First, the rate of oxidation can be slowed by higher intake of antioxidants such as:

  • Glutathione and precursors such as N-acetylcysteine;
  • Selenium for glutathione peroxidase;
  • Zinc and copper for superoxide dismutase;
  • Coenzyme Q10 for lipid protection;
  • Alpha lipoid acid;
  • Colorful vegetables and berries.

Vitamin C supplementation has mixed effects: its antioxidant effect is beneficial but its degradation is harmful.

Second, electrolyte and water consumption are important. Salt is especially important.

Finally, alkalinizing compounds like lemon juice or other citrate sources can increase the solubility of uric acid.


Zero-carb dieters are at risk for

  • Excess renal oxalate from failure to recycle vitamin C;
  • Excess renal uric acid from disposal of nitrogen products of gluconeogenesis and ketogenesis;
  • Salt and other electrolyte deficiencies from excretion of oxalate, urea and uric acid; and
  • Dehydration.

These four conditions dramatically elevate the risk of kidney stones.

To remedy these deficiencies, we recommend that everyone who fasts or who follows a zero-carb diet obtain dietary and supplemental antioxidants, eat salt and other electrolytes, and drink lots of water.

Also, unless there is a therapeutic reason to restrict carbohydrates, it is best to obtain about 20% of calories from carbs in order to relieve the need to manufacture glucose and ketones from protein. This will substantially reduce uric acid excretion. If it also reduces vitamin C degradation rates, as we argued in our last post, then it will substantially reduce oxalate excretion as well.

Related Posts

Other posts in this series:

  1. Dangers of Zero-Carb Diets, I: Can There Be a Carbohydrate Deficiency? Nov 10, 2010.
  2. Dangers of Zero-Carb Diets, II: Mucus Deficiency and Gastrointestinal Cancers A Nov 15, 2010.
  3. Danger of Zero-Carb Diets III: Scurvy Nov 20, 2010.


[1] Furth SL et al. Risk factors for urolithiasis in children on the ketogenic diet. Pediatr Nephrol. 2000 Nov;15(1-2):125-8.

[2] Herzberg GZ et al. Urolithiasis associated with the ketogenic diet. J Pediatr. 1990 Nov;117(5):743-5.

[3] Sampath A et al. Kidney stones and the ketogenic diet: risk factors and prevention. J Child Neurol. 2007 Apr;22(4):375-8.

[4] “Ketogenic diet,” Wikipedia,

[5] Groesbeck DK et al. Long-term use of the ketogenic diet. Dev Med Child Neurol. 2006 Dec;48(12):978-81.

[6] Taylor EN et al. DASH-style diet associates with reduced risk for kidney stones. J Am Soc Nephrol. 2009 Oct;20(10):2253-9.

[7] Gutman AB. Significance of uric acid as a nitrogenous waste in vertebrate evolution. Arthritis Rheum. 1965 Oct;8(5):614-26.

[8] Boyle JA et al. Serum uric acid levels in normal pregnancy with observations on the renal excretion of urate in pregnancy. J Clin Pathol. 1966 Sep;19(5):501-3.

[9] Linster CL, Van Schaftingen E. Vitamin C. Biosynthesis, recycling and degradation in mammals. FEBS J. 2007 Jan;274(1):1-22.

[10] Marengo SR, Romani AM. Oxalate in renal stone disease: the terminal metabolite that just won’t go away. Nat Clin Pract Nephrol. 2008 Jul;4(7):368-77.

[11] Taylor EN et al. Fatty acid intake and incident nephrolithiasis. Am J Kidney Dis. 2005 Feb;45(2):267-74.

[12] Taylor EN, Curhan GC. Oxalate intake and the risk for nephrolithiasis. J Am Soc Nephrol. 2007 Jul;18(7):2198-204.

Danger of Zero-Carb Diets III: Scurvy

I started low-carb Paleo dieting in late 2005. I ate a lot of vegetables but no starches and hardly any fruit. In retrospect, I would call it a near zero-carb diet. At that time I was 12 years into a chronic illness that got a little worse each year and was quite mysterious to me. Adopting a low-carb diet brought immediate changes: it made what I would much later recognize as a chronic bacterial infection better (in parts of the body, not the brain) and made a chronic fungal infection worse.

Within about a year I had developed scurvy. It took me an embarrassingly long time to figure out what it was. By the time knew what it was, I had 3 cavities; had lost 25 pounds; had developed diverticulitis and an abdominal aorta that visibly swelled with every heartbeat; and had minor skin wounds – scrapes and scratches – that hadn’t healed in 6 months.

Developing scurvy was a surprise, because I was eating many vegetables plus taking a multivitamin containing 90 mg of vitamin C. I had never had any signs of vitamin C deficiency before adopting a low-carb diet.

Four grams a day of vitamin C for two months cured all the scurvy symptoms. It would be several more years before I figured out the infections, but this experience taught me the importance of micronutrition. The experience persuaded me that I needed to research diets and nutrition closely, and started us down the path of writing Perfect Health Diet.

Scurvy on a Ketogenic Diet

My experience is not unique. Here’s one case we mention in the book: the story of a young girl with epilepsy.

KM was a 9-year old girl … diagnosed with epilepsy at six months old. She started a ketogenic diet in October 2003, as her multiple antiepileptic drugs were proving to be less than effective; indeed she was having as many as 12 tonic seizures per day with prolonged periods of non-convulsive status epilepticus. After the diet was prescribed the seizure frequency reduced markedly and there were a number of long periods of time in which she had no seizures.

KM’s mother gave a history of her daughter having had bleeding gums since the beginning of September 2006; she described them as being very dark red, swollen and bleeding. In addition, she explained that her daughter had dry, crusted blood peri-orally. The family’s general dental practitioner had explained that this was probably caused by erupting teeth and instructed her to use 0.2% chlorhexidine gluconate gel and to continue her regular oral hygiene regimen; however this had no effect. About a month later the patient’s right arm became swollen. It was thought that she had sustained a fracture or a dislocation; however she was discharged from the local hospital’s fracture clinic because there was clinical improvement and radiographs showed no callus formation.

In early November KM inhaled a primary molar tooth while she was having her teeth cleaned (Fig. 1). This required an emergency bronchoscopy to retrieve it; at the same time the surgeons extracted her remaining primary teeth in order to avoid a recurrence of the problem….

At that time an appointment was made to attend a paediatric dentistry consultant clinic at the Leeds Dental Institute; however this was never kept as about three weeks after the extractions the patient was admitted to hospital with low grade fever, persistently bleeding gums, oedema of her hands and feet and a petechial rash on her legs. [1]

This girl was eating a typical amount of vitamin C: her dietary intake was calculated at 73 mg/day, well above the US RDA for 9-13 year olds of 45 mg/day. Yet her blood level was only 0.7 µmol/l. Scurvy is diagnosed at levels below 11 µmol/l.

The symptoms of scurvy are sufficiently insidious that it is easy to miss the diagnosis. In KM’s case, it happened that a “senior house officer” – a junior doctor in training – from India recognized the symptoms of scurvy. Otherwise, it might have never have occurred to the doctors to test her vitamin C level. [2]

What Is the Cause of Low-Carb Scurvy?

So what causes scurvy to develop on low-carb diets even with vitamin C intake well above the US RDA?

It seems to be a confluence of two factors:

  • An infection or some other stress (e.g. injury, cancer) leads to the oxidation of extracellular vitamin C; and
  • On a low-insulin or glutathione-deficiency-inducing diet, oxidized vitamin C is not recycled.

Infection and Vitamin C

The immune response to infections generates reactive oxygen species, which oxidize vitamin C. Oxidation removes a hydrogen atom from vitamin C, turning it into “dehydroascorbic acid,” or DHAA. If DHAA remains in the blood, it degrades with a half-life of 6 minutes. [3]

Infections can cause vitamin C deficiency on any diet. During the “acute phase response” to infection or injury, vitamin C often becomes deficient. Here is a nice paper in which French doctors surveyed their hospital patients for scurvy:

We determined serum ascorbic acid level (SAAL) and searched for clinical and biological signs of scurvy in 184 patients hospitalized during a 2-month period.

RESULTS: The prevalence of hypovitaminosis C (depletion: SAAL<5 mg/l or deficiency: SAAL<2 mg/l) was 47.3%. Some 16.9% of the patients had vitamin C deficiency. There was a strong association between hypovitaminosis C and the presence of an acute phase response (p=0.002). [4]

So half were at least depleted in vitamin C and 17% had outright deficiency, which if it persisted would produce scurvy.

We’ve previously written of how important it is to supplement with vitamin C during infections:

I might add here that in sepsis, an extremely dangerous inflammatory state brought on by bacterial infections, intravenous vitamin C reverses some of the worst symptoms. [5] If you have a loved one suffering from a dangerous infection, it might not be a bad idea to get them some vitamin C.

Insulin Dependence of Vitamin C Recycling

DHAA can be recycled back into vitamin C, but only inside cells.

In order to enter cells, DHAA needs to be transported by glucose transporters. GLUT1, GLUT3, and GLUT4 are the three human DHAA transporters; GLUT1 does most of the work. [6]

DHAA transport is crucial for brain vitamin C status. There is no direct transport of vitamin C into the brain, yet the brain is one of the most vitamin C-dependent tissues in the body. The brain relies entirely on GLUT1-mediated transport of DHAA from the blood for its vitamin C supply. Within the brain, DHAA is restored to vitamin C by glutathione.

Supplying DHAA to stroke victims (of the mouse persuasion) as late as 3 hours after the stroke can reduce the stroke-damaged volume by up to 95%:

DHA (250 mg/kg or 500 mg/kg) administered at 3 h postischemia reduced infarct volume by 6- to 9-fold, to only 5% with the highest DHA dose (P < 0.05). [7]

This is a fascinating reminder of the importance of vitamin C for wound repair and protection from injury.

Glucose transporters are activated by insulin. Thus, DHAA import into cells is increased by insulin, leading to more effective recycling of vitamin C [8]:

Insulin and IGF-1 promote recycling of DHAA into ascorbate. Source.

Confirming the role of insulin in promoting vitamin C recycling, Type I diabetics (who lack insulin) have lower blood levels of vitamin C, higher blood levels of DHAA, increased urinary loss of vitamin C metabolites, and greater need for dietary vitamin C. [9, 10]

Now we have a mechanism by which zero-carb diets reduce vitamin C recycling: by lowering insulin levels they inhibit the transport of DHAA into cells, preventing its recycling into vitamin C. Instead, DHAA is degraded and excreted. As a result, vitamin C is lost from the body.

Glutathione and Vitamin C Recycling

Once inside the cell, DHAA is recycled back to ascorbate, mainly by glutathione inside mitochondria:

Dehydroascorbate, the fully oxidized form of vitamin C, is reduced spontaneously by glutathione, as well as enzymatically in reactions using glutathione or NADPH. [11]

A GLUT1 transporter on the mitochondrial membrane is needed to bring DHAA into mitochondria, possibly squaring the effect of insulin on vitamin C recycling.

Since glutathione recycles vitamin C, glutathione deficiency is another possible cause of vitamin C deficiency.

Glutathione is recycled by the enzyme glutathione peroxidase, a selenium-containing enzyme whose abundance is sensitive to selenium status. One difficulty with zero-carb diets is that they seem to deplete selenium levels.

Selenium deficiency is a common side effect of ketogenic diets. Some epileptic children on ketogenic diets have died from selenium deficiency! [12]

So here we have a second mechanism contributing to the development of scurvy on a zero-carb diet. The diet produces a selenium deficiency, which produces a glutathione deficiency, which prevents DHAA from being recycled into vitamin C, which leads to DHAA degradation and permanent loss of vitamin C.


Zero-carb dieters are at high risk for vitamin C deficiency, glutathione deficiency, and selenium deficiency. Anyone on a zero-carb diet should remedy these by supplementation.

These deficiencies are exacerbated by chronically low insulin levels. Insulin helps recycle vitamin C, which supports glutathione status. Lack of insulin increases vitamin C degradation and loss.

The failure of the body to efficiently recycle vitamin C and maintain antioxidant stores on a zero-carb diet is evidence of an evolutionary maladaption to the zero-carb diet.

There was no reason why our ancestors should have become adapted to a zero-carb diet; after, all they’ve been eating starches for at least 2 million years. It seems a risky step to try to live this way.

Related Posts

Other posts in this series:

  1. Dangers of Zero-Carb Diets, I: Can There Be a Carbohydrate Deficiency? Nov 10, 2010.
  2. Dangers of Zero-Carb Diets, II: Mucus Deficiency and Gastrointestinal Cancers A Nov 15, 2010.
  3. Dangers of Zero-Carb Diets, IV: Kidney Stones Nov 23, 2010.


[1] Willmott NS, Bryan RA. Case report: Scurvy in an epileptic child on a ketogenic diet with oral complications.  Eur Arch Paediatr Dent. 2008 Sep;9(3):148-52.

[2] Willmott NS, personal communication.

[3] “Dehydroascorbate,” Wikipedia,

[4] Fain O et al. Hypovitaminosis C in hospitalized patients. Eur J Intern Med. 2003 Nov;14(7):419-425.

[5] Tyml K et al. Delayed ascorbate bolus protects against maldistribution of microvascular blood flow in septic rat skeletal muscle. Crit Care Med. 2005 Aug;33(8):1823-8.

[6] Rivas CI et al. Vitamin C transporters. J Physiol Biochem. 2008 Dec;64(4):357-75.

[7] Huang J et al. Dehydroascorbic acid, a blood-brain barrier transportable form of vitamin C, mediates potent cerebroprotection in experimental stroke. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2001 Sep 25;98(20):11720-4.

[8] Qutob S et al. Insulin stimulates vitamin C recycling and ascorbate accumulation in osteoblastic cells. Endocrinology. 1998 Jan;139(1):51-6.

[9] Will JC, Byers T. Does diabetes mellitus increase the requirement for vitamin C? Nutr Rev. 1996 Jul;54(7):193-202.

[10] Seghieri G et al. Renal excretion of ascorbic acid in insulin dependent diabetes mellitus. Int J Vitam Nutr Res. 1994;64(2):119-24.

[11] Linster CL, Van Schaftingen E. Vitamin C. Biosynthesis, recycling and degradation in mammals. FEBS J. 2007 Jan;274(1):1-22.

[12] Bank IM et al. Sudden cardiac death in association with the ketogenic diet. Pediatr Neurol. 2008 Dec;39(6):429-31. (Hat tip Dr. Deans.)

Dangers of Zero-Carb Diets, I: Can There Be a Carbohydrate Deficiency?

It’s frequently said in the Paleo blogosphere that carbs are unnecessary. Here’s an example from Don Matesz, an outstanding blogger who eats a diet extremely close to ours:

Protein is essential, carbs are not…. You can only cut protein so much, but you can cut carbs dramatically.

Dr. Michael Eades has mocked the idea of a carbohydrate deficiency disease:

Are there carbohydrate deficiency diseases, Mr. Harper, that you know about that the rest of the nutritional world doesn’t?  I’ll clue you in: there aren’t.  But there are both fat and protein deficiency diseases written about in every internal medicine textbook.

Such statements made an impression on me when I first started eating Paleo five years ago. But several years and health problems later, I realized that this view was mistaken.

Why Aren’t Carbohydrate Deficiency Diseases Known?

How do doctors discover the existence of a nutrient deficiency disease?

It’s not as easy as you might think. For example, the existence of essential fatty acid deficiency diseases in humans was in doubt right up into the 1950s, even though omega-6 deficiency disease had been discovered and characterized in rats in the 1920s. [1] The reason is that omega-6 and omega-3 deficiencies can occur only on unnatural diets. It was infants fed fat-free formula in the 1940s and 1950s who ended up proving the existence of omega-6 deficiency disease in humans.

Two difficulties have made it challenging for science to recognize a carbohydrate deficiency syndrome:

  1. Lack of an animal model.
  2. The rarity of zero-carb diets among humans.

Until recently, few people save the Inuit ate very low-carb diets, and the Inuit didn’t leave good medical records. As a result, few or no humans developed recorded carbohydrate deficiency syndromes.

This wouldn’t be a problem if it were possible to induce carbohydrate deficiency in animals. However, it isn’t.

Animals don’t get carbohydrate deficiency diseases because they have small brains, meaning low glucose needs, and big livers, meaning high glucose manufacturing capacity. Animals can generate all the glucose they need from protein or from volatile acids like propionate produced by bacterial fermentation in their digestive tracts.

But, as we note in the book, humans are more fragile. We have small livers and big brains, and so the possibility of glucose deficiency is real.

Here is a comparison of brain, liver, and gut sizes in humans and other primates [2]:

Organ % body weight, humans % body weight, other primates
Brain 2.0 0.7
Liver 2.2 2.5
Gut 1.7 2.9

The brain is the biggest determinant of glucose needs.  While other primates need only about 7% of energy as glucose or ketones, humans need about 20%.

Compared to other primates, humans have a 12% smaller liver. This means we can’t manufacture as much glucose from protein as animals can. Humans also have a 40% smaller gut. This means we can’t manufacture many short-chain fatty acids, which supply ketones or glucogenic substrates, from plant fiber.

So, while animals can meet their tiny glucose needs (5% of calories) in their big livers, humans may not be able to meet our big glucose needs (20-30% of calories) from our small livers.

So any carbohydrate deficiency disease will strike humans only, not animals.

How Should We Look for a Carbohydrate Deficiency Disease?

To find a carbohydrate deficiency syndrome in humans, we should look at populations that eat very low-carb diets, such as:

  • The Inuit on their traditional hunting diet.
  • Epilepsy patients being treated with a ketogenic diet.
  • Optimal Dieters in Poland, who have been following a very low-carb diet for more than 20 years.
  • Very low-carb dieters in other countries, who took up low-carb dieting in the last 10 years as the Paleo movement gathered steam.

We should also have an idea what kind of symptoms we should be looking for. Major glucose-consuming parts of the body are:

  • Brain and nerves.
  • Immune system.
  • Gut.

The body goes to great lengths to assure that the brain and nerves receive sufficient energy, so shortfalls in glucose are most likely to show up in immune and gut function.

So, we’ve mapped our project. Over the coming week, or however long it takes before we get tired, we’ll investigate the evidence for carbohydrate deficiency conditions in humans.

Related Posts

Other posts in this series:

  1. Dangers of Zero-Carb Diets, II: Mucus Deficiency and Gastrointestinal Cancers A Nov 15, 2010.
  2. Danger of Zero-Carb Diets III: Scurvy Nov 20, 2010.
  3. Dangers of Zero-Carb Diets, IV: Kidney Stones Nov 23, 2010.


[1] Holman RT. The slow discovery of the importance of omega 3 essential fatty acids in human health. J Nutr. 1998 Feb;128(2 Suppl):427S-433S.

[2] Aiello LC, Wheeler P. The expensive tissue hypothesis: the brain and the digestive system in human and primate evolution. Current Anthropology 1995(Apr); 36(2):199-211.