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Publication #FAR8016

Low-carb Diets and Fiber1

Donna Davis and Suzanna Smith2

The low-carbohydrate diet bandwagon may not be the best way for older persons to lose weight. One of the problems is fiber—or rather, the lack of it. A healthy, well-balanced diet emphasizes fruits, vegetables, and whole grains—all good sources of dietary fiber—as well as many critical nutrients. Fiber provides bulk, important for regularity and for normal digestive function. Fiber is especially important for older people because as we age it takes longer for food to move through our system. This means more water is removed, leading to constipation, a common complaint as we age. Older people may resort to using laxatives, which can have an adverse effect on gastrointestinal health in the long run. Laxatives can also decrease nutrient absorption and cause nutritional imbalances.

For healthy digestion in the older years, include fruits, vegetables, and whole grain foods as part of meals, and as healthful snacks. And, by the way, when adding foods with dietary fiber to your diet, it's important to drink adequate water to avoid GI discomfort!

Low-carbohydrate diets help some people lose weight, at least for the short term, but these diets can pose real risks for older people. For those wanting to lose weight, it's far safer to consider increasing physical activity and following a modestly calorie-restricted balanced diet, including foods with dietary fiber.

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This document is FAR8016, one of a series of the Family Youth and Community Sciences Department, UF/IFAS Extension. Broadcast as program 112 and published December 2007. Reviewed January 2015. In the interest of time and/or clarity, the broadcast version of this script may have been modified. Visit the EDIS website at


Donna Davis, senior producer, Family Album Radio, and Suzanna Smith, associate professor, Department of Family, Youth and Community Sciences, University of Florida, and executive producer, Family Album Radio, UF/IFAS Extension, Gainesville, FL 32611.

The Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (IFAS) is an Equal Opportunity Institution authorized to provide research, educational information and other services only to individuals and institutions that function with non-discrimination with respect to race, creed, color, religion, age, disability, sex, sexual orientation, marital status, national origin, political opinions or affiliations. For more information on obtaining other UF/IFAS Extension publications, contact your county's UF/IFAS Extension office.

U.S. Department of Agriculture, UF/IFAS Extension Service, University of Florida, IFAS, Florida A & M University Cooperative Extension Program, and Boards of County Commissioners Cooperating. Nick T. Place, dean for UF/IFAS Extension.