The LCHFD diet is an umbrella term for eating plans that have reduced carbohydrates & increased fats than normal.

LCHFD diets are low in carbohydrates, high in fats and moderate in protein.

This method of eating is sometimes referred to as the “Banting Diet” or simply “Banting” after William Banting, a British man who popularized it after losing a large amount of weight. Banting diet has been very popular in the recent years, particularly in South Africa.

Added sugars and starchy foods like bread, pasta, potatoes and rice are restricted in the LCFHD.

Daily carbohydrate recommendations on this diet can be as low as 15 – 20g a day and maximum 100g depending on the actual plan one is following.

The origin of LCHFD diets dates back in the 1920’s when they were popular in clinical practice.

The ‘ketogenic diet’ is a low carbohydrate, high fat diet which was developed in the 1920s to treat epilepsy in children.

Epilepsy & Neurological disorders:

The LCHFD are used under medical and dietetic guidance for children who don’t tolerate or don’t respond to epilepsy medication 4-5. There is strong research that supports the use of LCHFD in treatment of epilepsy in clinical practice. Although this diet (Ketogenic diet) has been used in adults with epilepsy, there is no official recommendation related to the treatment of adult epilepsy due to limited evidence.

The ketogenic diet can also be used under medical and dietetic supervision with certain metabolic conditions such as: pyruvate dehydrogenase deficiency (PDH) and glucose transporter type 1 deficiency syndrome (GLUT1)4.

Weight loss:

The LCHFD have gained so much popularity for weight loss. This is dependent on who is publicizing it at the time. We have seen this with banting which had a face, Atkin’s diet etc.

There are several studies that have shown that low-carb, high-fat diets are an effective way to promote weight loss.

They help people shed weight by suppressing appetite, improving insulin sensitivity, increasing protein intake and boosting fat loss. LCHF diets have been found to promote fat loss, especially in the belly area, having too much belly fat particularly around the organs, can increase the risk of conditions like heart disease, diabetes and certain cancers 8,9

The LCHF diet may be a particularly helpful tool for those whose weight-loss goals are sabotaged by strong carbohydrates for carbohydrates.

Heart Health:

In terms of cardiovascular disease, some trials have identified an association between total carbohydrate intake and fasting blood lipids, and between carbohydrate intake and systolic blood pressure; however due to confounding factors such as weight loss is not possible to establish a causal relationship1.

When different sources of carbohydrate are examined the associated cardiometabolic health outcomes vary.  for example, intake of high Glycaemic load foods increases risk of cardiovascular disease.   There are several studies that have linked high fat intake to increasing cholesterol to the group of people that is sensitive to cholesterol from food.

Side Effects and Downfalls of the Diet

While evidence links many health benefits to the LCHF diet, there are drawbacks.

More extreme versions like the ketogenic diet are not suitable for children, teens and women who are pregnant or breastfeeding, unless it’s being used therapeutically to treat a medical condition mentioned above (e.g. epilepsy)

People who have diabetes or health conditions like diseases of the kidneys, liver or pancreas should speak with their doctor before beginning any LCHF diet.  The problem is that most people do not even know what disease, they have so very important to consult with the physician and a dietitian to get your cleared for LCHF diet.

Although some studies show that LCHF diets can boost athletic performance in some cases, it may not be suitable for elite athletes, as it can impair athletic performance at competitive levels 9,10.

Additionally, an LCHF diet may not be appropriate for individuals who are hypersensitive to dietary cholesterol, often referred to as “hyper-responders” 8

Many people who have not see a professional e.g. dietitian struggle to sustain such a diet and can be even term it expensive. The reason is that they might know options that are suitable for their culture and pocket>the truth is menu’s we pull on the internet or via bulk sending are not individualized. This means that you might find foods in it that are expensive to you or unappetizing to you and that results in reduced compliance.

The LCHF diet is generally well tolerated by most but can cause unpleasant side effects in some people, especially in the case of very low-carb diets like the ketogenic diet.  Side effects may include Nausea, constipation, Diarrhea, weakness, headaches, fatigue, muscle cramps, dizziness 4

Constipation is a common issue when first beginning an LCHF diet and typically caused by lack of fiber.

Bottom line:

  • Good selling & marketing strategy can motivate us to buy or use any product with or without scientific evidence. My advice is that if LCHFD is what you want to do, do it. However, bring specialists on board e.g. physician, dietitian etc. to help you adjust it for your health & nutritional needs
  • Follow a diet that is sustainable and promotes the intake of all food groups – does not undermine any food group, or nutrient
  • Its your choice, but be wise and make an informed decision


  1. SACN (2015) “Carbohydrates and Health”
  2. Accurso et al. (2008) “Dietary carbohydrate restriction in type 2 diabetes mellitus and metabolic syndrome: time for a critical appraisal”
  3. Pogozelski et al. (2005) “The metabolic effects of low-carbohydrate diets and incorporation into a biochemistry course” 
  4. GOSH website “Ketogenic Diet” (accessed July 2017: http://www.gosh.nhs.uk/health-professionals/clinical-guidelines/ketogenic-diet)  
  5. Cross (2010) “Dietary therapies – an old idea with a new lease of life”
  6. The NICE (2017) “NICE Pathways – Epilepsy Overview”
  7. Neal et al. (2009) “A randomized trial of classical and medium-chain triglyceride ketogenic diets in the treatment of childhood epilepsy
  8. Epilepsy Foundation “Modified Atkins Diet” (accessed July 2017: http://www.epilepsy.com/learn/treating-seizures-and-epilepsy/dietary-therapies/modified-atkins-diet)  
  9. Epilepsy Foundation “The LGIT and the Keogenic DIet” (accessed July 2017: http://www.epilepsy.com/article/2007/5/low-glycemic-index-treatment-and-ketogenic-diet
  10. Matthew’s Friends “MAD & LGIT” (accessed July 2017: http://www.matthewsfriends.org/keto-therapies/keto-introduction/modified-ketogenic-diets-mad-lgit/)


Mbali Mapholi (RD)

Author: Mbali Mapholi Inc

Mbali is a qualified clinical dietitian (Bsc. dietetics & PGDip dietetics) obtained from the University of KwaZulu-Natal. In dietetics she has special interest in Heart and heart related diseases, gastrointestinal (GIT) related diseases, weight management and African diet nutrition. She is a business woman with entities MiNutrition ZA and Mbali Mapholi Inc, under her belt. She is well published in the field of Nutrition with ray of media contributions (Radio, television and print media). Mbali believes is the type of eating that is nourishing, enjoyable, accessible and affordable. She believes in that nutrition education that is based on science delivered by a trusted source, is important to help people make informed nutrition decisions for themselves and those around them.

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