Jimmy Moore has a great post defining different levels of low-carb diets. This is something that has bothered me for a while: when someone says “low carb” you don’t necessarily know what they mean. I’ve seen research studies refer to diets with 45% carbs as low carb! That may well be low compared to the standard American diet, but it’s a lot more carbs than on Atkins, etc.
Last year, a number of researchers discussed carb restriction as an approach to treating diabetes and metabolic syndrome, and as part of that discussion, laid out the following definitions:
The ADA designates low carbohydrate diets as less than 130 g/d or 26% of a nominal 2000 kcal diet and we consider this a reasonable cutoff for the definition of a low-carbohydrate diet. Carbohydrate consumption before the epidemic of obesity averaged 43%, and we suggest 26% to 45% as the range for moderate-carbohydrate diets. The intake of less than 30 g/d, as noted above should be referred to as a very low carbohydrate ketogenic diet (VLCKD).
In the December 2008 issue of Clinical Nutrition Insight, a subset of the study authors added the low-carb ketogenic diet to acknowledge the difference between the LCKD and the VLCKD diet; the latter is generally a therapeutic approach for epilepsy.
Thus we have:
- Very low-carb ketogenic diet (VLCKD): < 30g carbs/day
- Low-carb ketogenic diet (LCKD): < 50g carbs/day
- Low-carb diet (LCD): 50-130g carbs/day
- Moderate-carb diet (MCD): 130-225g carbs/day
For the average person eating 2000 cals/day, this represents 6%, 10%, 10-25% and 26-45% of the diet, respectively.
BTW, I agree entirely with Jimmy on this:
The bottom line for you and me is to find out at what level carbohydrate-restriction is necessary for managing your weight and health. Some may be able to eat a MCD while others like me need to stay on a LCKD. Discover what works for you, follow it exactly and then stick to it for life!