Low-carbohydrate diets (LCD) have been promoted for weight control and type 2 diabetes (T2D) management, based on an emerging body of evidence, including meta-analyses with an indication of publication bias. Proposed definitions vary between 50 and 130 g/d, or <10 and <40 % of energy from carbohydrate, with no consensus on LCD compositional criteria. LCD are usually followed with limited consideration for other macronutrients in the overall diet composition, introducing variance in the constituent foods and in metabolic responses. For weight management, extensive evidence supports LCD as a valid weight loss treatment, up to 1–2 years. Solely lowering carbohydrate intake does not, in the medium/long term, reduce HbA1c for T2D prevention or treatment, as many mechanisms interplay. Under controlled feeding conditions, LCD are not physiologically or clinically superior to diets with higher carbohydrates for weight-loss, fat loss, energy expenditure or glycaemic outcomes; indeed, all metabolic improvements require weight loss. Long-term evidence also links the LCD pattern to increased CVD risks and mortality. LCD can lead to micronutrient deficiencies and increased LDL-cholesterol, depending on food selection to replace carbohydrates. Evidence is limited but promising regarding food choices/sources to replace high-carbohydrate foods that may alleviate the negative effects of LCD, demanding further insight into the dietary practice of medium to long term LCD followers. Long-term, high-quality studies of LCD with different food sources (animal and/or plant origins) are needed, aiming for clinical endpoints (T2D incidence and remission, cardiovascular events, mortality). Ensuring micronutrient adequacy by food selection or supplementation should be considered for people who wish to pursue long-term LCD.