The Real Dangers of High Carb Diets

Maylin Rodriguez-Paez, RN

Many people cut back on carbs as a method of losing weight. Unfortunately, mounting research shows that the dangers of high carb diets can go way beyond weight problems.

Your body actually needs carbs to extract glucose for its basic needs. However, the problems begin when we eat excessive amounts of carbs — especially the wrong kinds of carbs.

Eating too many simple carbohydrates can inspire blood sugar spikes, which have been implicated in a number of age-related chronic diseases.

For this reason, you should strive to incorporate complex carbs into your diet and minimize simple carbs whenever possible. We’ll explain why below.

High Carb Diets May Cause Disease

Studies show that high carb diets may increase the risk of several diseases. Here are three of them worthy of particular concern:

1. Cancer

One recent study showed that people with late-stage colon cancer were more likely to die or experience a recurrence when eating a high carb, high glycemic load diet.1 The mechanism isn’t clear, but scientists think that since simple carbs produce sugar, it may actually fuel cancer growth.

Other cancers associated with a high carb diet include breast and stomach cancer.2,3

2. Cardiovascular disease

Back in the 1980s, the prevailing idea was to eat carbs and avoid fats in order to prevent heart disease. Today, we know better.

In fact, research suggests that high carb diets may increase the risk of heart disease. They tend to lower HDL (good cholesterol) and increase triglycerides and VLDL (very low density lipoprotein), which are two risk factors for heart disease.4

3. Mild cognitive impairment

According to a recent study, older people who ate high carb diets were about four times more likely to develop mild cognitive impairment. Those with higher fat and protein intakes had a lower risk.5

Mild cognitive impairment is an age-related condition in which memory, thinking, and judgment are affected. This often leads to more serious problems, like Alzheimer’s disease.

Be Sure to Pick the Right Carbs

The best way to avoid the dangers of high carb diets is by avoiding simple carbs as much as possible. Common offenders include white bread, white pasta, white rice, and potatoes. When in doubt, avoid white, starchy foods.

Instead, pick complex carbs, like veggies and beans. Their fiber content helps delay your gastric emptying time, minimizing the impact the food will have on your blood sugar levels.

If you’re not sure what to pick or avoid, keep a glycemic load list handy as a reference tool. This will let you measure the impact that a food will have on your blood sugar levels before you buy it or eat it.

When looking at the list, try to pick foods at the low end, with scores below 25. Also, consider taping this list to your refrigerator as a friendly reminder when reaching for foods.

White Kidney Bean and Green Coffee Extracts Block Sugar Spikes

Beyond eating the right carbs and adjusting your overall diet, certain nutrients can also help to minimize the effects the carbs you eat have on your body.

This is important because even people who watch their diets very closely can still experience dangerous blood glucose spikes after meals.

On top of that, as we age, our ability to maintain optimal glucose levels often becomes impaired. As you can see, there are a number of reasons why carb-blocking nutrients can be helpful.

1. White kidney bean extract

White kidney bean extract is a key carb-blocking nutrient that’s backed by research. It can help you maintain healthy glucose levels by inhibiting alpha-amylase, the enzyme that breaks down carbohydrates into simple sugars.6 That way, fewer carbs are actually absorbed during a meal.

In a clinical study, white kidney bean extract was found to reduce after-meal glucose levels by more than 30%. The study participants took between 4–6 grams and didn’t experience any serious side effects at all.

2. Green coffee extract

Another impressive nutrient is green coffee extract. Its active ingredient, chlorogenic acid, blocks the activity of glucose-6-phosphatase, an enzyme that controls the release of glucose in your body.7

In a clinical trial, participants taking 400 mg of chlorogenic saw a 24% drop in blood sugar levels 30 minutes after a meal.8

This is pretty impressive, and probably helps explain why you’re hearing so much about green coffee bean extracts these days.

The Bottom Line

Low carb diets not only preserve your waistline, but can also improve your overall health. So, as an overall approach to disease prevention, be sure to choose healthy carbs and avoid the simple ones whenever possible.

Your prescription? Avoid white, starchy foods. Incorporate veggies and beans into your diet. Keep a glycemic load list handy as a reference tool. And finally, consider trying carb-blocking nutrients as well.

These simple changes can put a healthier diet and a healthier life well within reach.


  1. J Natl Cancer Inst. 2012 Nov 7. [Epub ahead of print]
  2. Cancer Res. 2011 Jan 1;71(1):123-33.
  3. Nutr Cancer. 2004;48(2):149-59.
  4. Am J Clin Nutr. 1997 Apr;65(4):1027-33.
  5. J Alzheimers Dis. 2012 Jan 1;32(2):329-39.
  6. Nutr J. 2011 Mar 17;10:24.
  7. J Agric Food Chem. 2010 Apr 14;58(7):4141-4.
  8. Effect of green coffee bean extract (GCE), High in Chlorogenic Acids, on Glucose Metabolism. Poster presentation number: 45-LB-P. Obesity 2011, the 29th Annual Scientific Meeting of the Obesity Society. Orlando, Florida. October 1-5, 2011.


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