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Low-Carb Diet Could Spark Mood Swings

Review on April 06, 2009

In recent years with the Atkins and South Beach diets gaining steam amongst women from all walks of life, more people have paid attention to their carbohydrate intake. While the dietary emphasis in the past decades tended to focus on lowering fat and caloric intake, with the advent of the 1980's the emphasis was switched to lowering carbohydrates. Unfortunately, coincidentally or not as it turns out, this low-carbohydrate fad dieting led to crying jags and mood swings in a number of people. As at last estimates up to 30 million people were following this type of diet, this may be cause for concern.

Mood swings carbohydrate

The idea behind restricted carbohydrate diets is that the body will be forced to burn carbohydrates stored as fat (glycogen) if there is no steady intake of fresh carbohydrates. The effect on mood is not taken into consideration, which is why mood swings may follow suit. In a study conducted by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, this link between low-carb diets and mood swings was shown. Rats were given a diet high in protein and fat, but low in carbohydrates. Correspondingly, their serotonin levels dropped, leading to mood swings and irritability. After three weeks, all of the rats exhibited this same effect.

The researchers believe that the effect on humans on a low carbohydrate diet would have a similar effect, depleting serotonin and leading to mood swings and even depression in the long run. Many scientists and nutritionists warn that those individuals already prone to bipolar disorder or depression may want to avoid this type of diet. However, only an individual woman can determine what diet is right to her. It is key to listen to what her body is telling her; if experiencing mood swings and sharp drops in energy, dietary changes may be necessary.

Above all, nutritionists place an emphasis on a dieter paying close attention to how he or she feels, particularly in the beginning phase of any diet. If mood swings are severe, a trip to the doctor may be a good idea.

Sources:
  • WebMD. Goodman, Brenda. "Low-Carb State of Mind," Psychology Today, March 2007.