A healthy diet includes a balance of protein, carbohydrates and fats. Reducing or increasing any one of these nutrients can have major consequences on the body. Reducing carbohydrates to extremely low levels, for instance, causes the body to consume protein and fat for fuel, and is the key concept behind several popular diet plans. A diet high in carbohydrates, on the other hand, can cause a host of different effects. Consult your doctor before beginning any new diet.
A high-carb diet can produce quick energy for physical exertion, at least in the short term. Carbohydrates metabolize quickly, providing the body’s main source of fuel, which is why athletes often eat high-carb foods in preparation for an event. The energy can be short-lived, however, requiring another meal or snack to keep things going.
Your digestive system breaks down carbohydrates into glucose molecules, which then flow through the bloodstream to organs and muscles. A high-carb diet boosts blood sugar levels, prompting the pancreas to produce more insulin to handle the excess glucose. Over extended periods, a diet high in carbohydrates can cause cells to become resistant to insulin, a major cause in type 2 or adult-onset diabetes.
Two Mexican studies, reported in 2002 in the "Journal of the National Cancer Institute," founf that a high-carbohydrate diet can increase the risk of breast and pancreatic cancers. If a high carb intake is not part of a carefully monitored diet plan, it can also lead to obesity, which raises cancer risks across the board.
Some diet plans recommend a high-carbohydrate, low-fat intake; the effects these have on the body depend largely on the type of carbohydrates consumed. If most of the carbs come from vegetables and fruits, the additional vitamins and fiber can help maintain the body and even spur weight loss. In the case of “empty” carbs like bread, pasta, and other starches, a high-carb diet can lead to an excess of calories and significant weight gain.
A high-carb, low-fat diet can lead to a deficiency of certain types of vitamins. Vitamins A, K and E come from a number of fatty foods, and may be scarce in this type of dietary plan. A vitamin supplement may be necessary to ensure a complete supply of nutrients for the body.
According to an Australian study published in the "Archives of Internal Medicine" in 2009, a high-carb diet may have psychological effects. A lack of carbohydrates in the diet can lead to a reduction in the brain chemical serotonin, which can cause depression. Eating a diet high in carbs can restore serotonin levels, thus promoting a feeling of well-being.