The popularity of low-carbohydrate diets in the 1990s and 2000s was prompted, at least in part, by concern about rising rates of obesity and type 2 diabetes, and the perceived failure of low-fat/low-calorie dietary advice to address these “epidemics.” This study examines the deployment of two distinct neo-Darwinian explanations of health and body-weight in the low-carbohydrate diet movement. First, evolutionary nutrition, and second, the thrifty gene theory. These evolutionary models maintain that the answer to the question “what should we eat” can only be found by turning to the primitive past.
Clinical trials prompted by the popular low-carb diet trend quickly established that low-carb diets are effective for weight-loss particularly in the short term. In addition, low-carb diets have been shown to improve glucose control in type 2 diabetes. However, scientific evidence for the long-term effects of low-carbohydrate dieting remains scarce, The author concludes that community-based nutrition interventions are required to address the social and environmental causes of unhealthy eating habits, beginning in childhood. More fundamentally reducing current trends will require policies to address broader socioeconomic inequality, known to be associated with overweight, ill-health and disease.