Carbohydrate Deficiency Diseases

Jan 2014  Carbohydrate Deficiency Diseases
Carbohydrates are being shunned by health conscious, rather weight conscious, people.
They have to understand that carbohydrate deficiency diseases and their manifestations are certain to appear if there is too much exclusion of carbohydrates in the diet. All sources of food do contain carbohydrates, even animal products. However the carbohydrate level is very low in foods of animal origin with the exception of milk which contains good amount of lactose sugar.

The causes of carbohydrate deficiency diseases

Normally, when balanced diet is consumed, carbohydrate short fall does not arise. If individuals undertake crash-dieting to achieve rapid weight loss by nutritional deprivations of carbohydrates, no doubt they may lose weight drastically in a short span of time. However, they may not be able to resist the cravings for the carbohydrates and soon by reverting to old food habits end up gaining weight. In case they are able to continue dieting, they may have to face many carbohydrate deficiency disease manifestations. People lacking food of plant origin, and people suffering chronic illness, poverty or starvation also experience deficiency diseases.

How does carbohydrate deficiency occur?

The carbohydrates consumed by us are broken down by digestive enzymes into monosaccharides (glucose, fructose etc) and absorbed in the intestine. Once in the blood, the glucose is used for energy production. The excess glucose is taken to the liver and converted into glycogen for storage. Whenever energy needs arise, glycogen is broken down and converted back to glucose. By carbohydrate deprivation in food, the blood glucose, as well as the stored glycogen are depleted. In the absence of the availability of glucose for energy production, fats and amino acids (basic components of proteins) are utilized for energy. However this route of energy production results in acidosis, ketosis and loss of cellular proteins. Prolonged deprivation leads to the symptoms and diseases connected with severe carbohydrate short fall.

Symptoms and manifestations of carbohydrate deficiency

The symptoms include hypoglycemia, confusion, tremor, feverishness, giddiness, fatigue, distress, delirium, muscles atrophy, loss of muscle tissue and reduces stamina.

Acidosis: In carbohydrate starvation, there is shift from glycolysis (breakdown of glucose) to lipolysis (breakdown of lipids) and ketogenesis for energy needs. The resultant production of ketoacids increases acidity in the blood and other body tissues. These changes in the pH of arterial blood  outside 7.35 pH - 7.45 pH result in irreversible cell damage.

Ketosis: During prolonged carbohydrate fasting or starvation, acetyl-CoA in the liver is used to produce ketone bodies formed by the breakdown of fatty acids and by the deamination of amino acids, leading to a state of ketosis.
Hypoglycemia: The non availability of glucose due to severe lack of carbohydrate causes drop in the blood sugar levels. Hypoglycemia occurs when blood glucose, levels drop under 70 mg/dL with typical symptoms like giddiness, fatigue, distress and delirium.

Fatigue and decreased energy levels: The immediate non availability of glucose in the blood for energy production, result in dip in the energy levels and fatigue.

Muscle wasting: As the fat reserves and amino acids are getting used up for energy production, there will be general loss of muscle mass and impairment of growth.

Unhealthy weight loss: The loss of fat and muscle mass leads to emaciation and weight loss.

Dehydration and reduced body secretions: As there is loss of fluids from the body due to ketosis, a state of chronic dehydration is reached. This results in reduction in mucus secretion, dry eyes and compromised mucus production in tear glands, salivary glands, sinuses, airways, and gastrointestinal tract.

Loss of sodium: Excess of ketone in the blood leads to fluid loss and excretion of sodium ions(Na+) from the body. This may lead to muscle cramps, exhaustion and lassitude.

Weakened immune system: With increased fluid loss and degradation, vitamin C  loss from the body is increased. Adding to this, the chronically dehydrated condition leads to weakened immune system and susceptibility to infections.

Constipation: Dietary fiber is an essential component of carbohydrate food, which is known to prevent recto-colon cancer and help digestion. The absence of dietary fiber can cause constipation.

Mood swing: Dietary carbohydrate exclusion causes the brain to stop regulating serotonin hormone. Low serotonin supply causes mood swing and depression.

Hence, it is imperative that we carefully add sufficient amounts of carbohydrates in our diet to protect ourselves from the deficiency manifestations.
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Deficiency diseases of carbohydrates

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