What Happens With Carbohydrate Deficiency & Which are the Disease Linked to it?

As per The Institute Of Medicine, we consume 45 to 65% of our daily calories from Carbohydrates. On a standard, 2000 calorie-per day diet, this would mean that we should try consuming at least 225 grams to 325 grams every day. Below this level, you may suffer from carbohydrate deficiency. Generally a low-carbohydrate diet purposefully creates this carbohydrate deficiency so as to encourage your body to switch to a different fuel source, which ultimately helps you in weight loss and also stabilizes the blood sugar level. It must be mentioned that an individual may experience immediate side effects when he or she reduces the intake of carbohydrate. However, they should subside as long as you do not simultaneously skimp on calories and fat.

There are a lot of diseases or ill health condition, which you may encounter with carbohydrate deficiency. Let us know more about them in this current article.

About Carbohydrate Deficiency

Normally, when we consume balanced diet, carbohydrate short fall does not occur. It is true that individuals undertaking crash-dieting for achieving rapid weight loss by nutrition deprivations of carbohydrates, do lose weight drastically in a very short span of time. However, they may not be able to resist the cravings for carbohydrates and they may soon end up with weight gain, by reverting to their old food habits. And in case, they are able to continue their dieting, they may have to face several carbohydrate deficiency diseases.

Now, how exactly carbohydrate deficiency occur? The carbohydrates which we consume, are broken down by digestive enzymes in to monosaccharides like glucose, fructose etc, and are absorbed in the intestine. Once in the blood, the glucose is used for production of energy. The excess of glucose is taken to the liver and is converted in to glycogen for storage. Whenever there is a requirement of energy, glycogen is broken down and again converted back to glucose. Now, with a deprivation of carbohydrate in food, the blood glucose and also the stored glycogen are depleted. In the absence of the availability of glucose for production of energy, fats and amino acids are utilized for energy needs. However, this route of energy production causes acidosis, ketosis and loss of cellular proteins. Prolonged deprivation results in symptoms and diseases associated with severe carbohydrate deficiency.

What Happens When You Have A Carbohydrate Deficiency?

Carbohydrates play a crucial role in maintaining normal functions of the body. The symptoms of carbohydrate deficiency can be transient and short lived or may be more long term, based on the extent of deficiency in carbohydrate. Below are some of the main symptoms of carbohydrate deficiency.

  • Exhaustion, irritability and fatigue.
  • Nausea, headache
  • Smelly breath
  • Muscle ache and muscle cramps
  • Altered bowel habits (constipation or diarrhea)
  • Dehydration
  • Lack of concentration and mental sharpness
  • Sodium deficiency, vitamin and mineral deficiency
  • Increased levels of lipid in blood.

It must be mentioned that an adequate intake of carbohydrates is required for proper body metabolism and optimal functioning of the human body.

Diseases Linked to Carbohydrate Deficiency

Ideally 45% to 65% of daily caloric intake should be derived from carbohydrates. The body converts all carbohydrates in to glucose, which actually works as the basic fuel for the body and provides all the required energy for normal functioning of the body. Lack of carbohydrates can cause carbohydrate deficiency and this in turn can lead to some diseases which we have discussed below.


Body begins breaking down the fats in order to meet the metabolic demands when it does not have adequate supply of carbohydrates for producing energy. Ketones are produces in this process of fat breakdown and an excess amount of ketones in blood is known as ketosis. Mild ketosis can cause symptoms of headache, nausea, smelly breath and metal fatigue; while severe ketosis can lead to severe damage of the vital organs.

The minimum amount of carbohydrates essential for the body is 130 grams per day and an intake of 225 to 325 grams of carbohydrates regularly is recommended so as to avoid ketosis.


Hypoglycaemia is the condition when the level of glucose in blood drops below normal value. It is also known as low blood glucose. It is very much essential to have normal blood glucose level. However, sometimes some individuals may have hypoglycemia. It is generally seen in patients suffering from diabetes. However, it can also happen if adequate amounts of carbohydrates are not taken; because all carbohydrates get converted in to glucose.

In case of hypoglycemia, the affected individual starts experiencing symptoms like lethargy, dizziness, confusion and triggers hunger. Hypoglycemia can be corrected by eating small amounts of carbohydrate or foods rich in glucose, immediately.


When there is carbohydrate starvation, there is shift from glycolysis or breakdown of glucose, to lipolysis or lipid breakdown, and ketogenesis for energy requirements. The resultant production of ketoacids increases acidity in the blood and other tissues of the body. These changes in the pH of the arterial blood outside 7.35 pH to 7.45 pH, lead to irreversible cell damage.

Weight Gain:

We generally avoid taking carbohydrates for the fear of gaining weight. However, it is scientifically proven that severe restriction of carbohydrates is not at all very helpful in weight loss. Carbohydrate deficiency triggers hunger and this in turn leads to extra consumption of calories. Taking a lot of low calorie, healthy carbohydrates keep you full for a long period of time and produces early satiety with the high content of fiber.

As per a recent study, individuals who ate recommended amounts of complex carbohydtares are more likely to reduce their weight and maintain it as compared to those who consume no carbohydrates at all.

Other Diseases and Conditions That Occur With Carbohydrate Deficiency:

Fatigue: There is fatigue and reduced levels of energy, when there is immediate non availability of glucose in the blood for the production of energy.

Unhealthy Weight Loss: The loss of fat and muscle mass results in emaciation and unhealthy weight loss.

Dehydration: Carbohydrate deficiency can also cause dehydration and reduced mucus secretion, dry eyes, and compromised mucus production in salivary glands, tear glands, sinuses, gastrointestinal tract etc.

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

Muscle Cramps: With carbohydrate deficiency, there is an excess of ketone in the blood, which in turn results in fluid loss and excretion of sodium ions from the body. This may further lead to muscle cramps, lassitude and exhaustion.

Affects Immunity: There is a weakened immune system with carbohydrate deficiency. There is a vitamin C loss from the body, with increased loss of fluids and degradation because of deficiency in carbohydrate. Adding to this, the chronically dehydrated condition results in weakened immune system and also infections.

Constipation: Constipation is caused because of carbohydrate deficiency. Dietary fiber is an important component of carbohydrate food, which is known to prevent recto-colon cancer and also help in digestion. The absence of dietary fiber can lead to constipation.

Mood Swings & Depression: There is also mood swing due to deficiency in carbohydrate. Dietary carbohydrate exclusion results in the brain restrict regulating the hormone serotonin. A lower level of serotonin, leads to mood swing and also depression.

How To Prevent Carbohydrate Deficiency?

Essential Diet:

Carbohydrate deficiency can be easily sorted by increasing the carbohydrate amounts in diet. The recommended daily intake of sugar must not exceed 9 teaspoons for men and 6 teaspoons for women. It is essential for you to have healthy carbohydrates so as to maintain proper body weight and have great energy levels.

Grains and vegetables like potatoes are the main source of complex carbohydrates. Dairy products also contain some carbohydrates. Carbohydrates that are derived from plant sources such as vegetables, fruits, grains and legumes are preferred, as they are loaded with fiber and provide a steady supply of glucose over a longer period of time; thus making you feel fuller for a long time.

Carbohydrate Deficiency and Exercise:

Carbohydrates are beneficial in fueling energy for regular exercise, especially intense exercise that are done for a long time; such as marathon running or long-distance marathon. When an individual decreases the level of carbohydrate intake to reach ketosis, he or she can increase fat-burning during exercise, lose their weight and reduce post-exercise muscle damage. But, that’s when someone is doing a lot of training at a low to moderate intensity, like during an athlete’s off-season. As per the research published in Nutrients in the year 2014, Carbohydrate deficiency interferes with intense exercise efforts.

Thing to Note About Carbohydrate Deficiency:

It is very much essential for every individual to consume adequate amount of carbohydrates. But one must avoid the bad carbohydrates. The bad carbohydrates or refined sugars and grains must be limited, as they have very less nutritional value and only provides calories. These include sugar, which is present in many drinks, desserts, sweets and processed foods and refined grains such as pasta and white bread. Carbohydrates obtained from such foods immediately increase the level of glucose in blood, but they are rapidly metabolized and blood glucose level drops rapidly after some time of consumption, and one feels hungry soon after taking them.


So, here we talked about some of the diseases and symptoms of carbohydrate deficiency. By now, you must be well aware of the diet and things you need to avoid and things you need to adopt so as to get rid of carbohydrate deficiency and the diseases caused by it. In case of any serious issue, do consult your doctor on an immediate basis.

Pramod Kerkar, M.D., FFARCSI, DA
Pramod Kerkar, M.D., FFARCSI, DA
Written, Edited or Reviewed By: Pramod Kerkar, M.D., FFARCSI, DA Pain Assist Inc. This article does not provide medical advice. See disclaimer
Last Modified On:November 23, 2017

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