Low-Carb Diets Can Raise Heart Risk, Study Finds

Low-Carb Diets Can Raise Heart Risk, Study Finds

•By Annie Hauser,

•Contrary to popular diet wisdom, filling up on protein and cutting carbs can raise cholesterol — and weight — in the long-term.

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Bread lovers, rejoice: There's yet another reason to skip a low-carb, high-protein, high-fat diet.

Eating more fat and protein and less carbohydrates might lead to an increase in cholesterol and risk for cardiovascular disease, a 25-year study of 140,000 Swedish adults found.An effort to eat low-carb didn't improve study participants' body mass index (BMI), either: After adjusting for the aging study population, researchers found BMI actually continuously increased over the course of the study, even as participants tried to eat healthier foods.

"While low carbohydrate/high fat diets may help short-term weight loss," cautioned researcher Ingegerd Johansson, PhD, in a release, "these results ... demonstrate that long-term weight loss is not maintained, and that this diet increases blood cholesterol which has a major impact on risk of cardiovascular disease."

The study, published in Nutrition Journal, tracked the results of a regional and national efforts to reduce the fat intake and improve the heart health of adults living in Northern Sweden. The Västerbotten Intervention Programme (VIP) — which included a push for better food labeling, nutrition information, cooking demonstrations, and health examinations and counseling — began in 1985 after Swedish health officials noticed that rates of heart disease were higher in Northern Sweden, and for men, among the highest in the world.

In the first years of the program, researchers from Umeå University, the University of Gothenburg, and the National Board of Welfare, saw that it was effective in decreasing the fat intake of participants. By 1992, men were eating 3 percent less fat and women 4 percent less, and those rates remained stable until 2005. The types of fat consumed changed, too, for example, from butter to low-fat vegetable spreads. This resulted in a continual decrease in unhealthy cholesterol levels. Self-reported use ofcholesterol-lowering drugs also declined by 1 percent during this period.

But in 2005, as the low-carb craze swept the diet world, total and saturated fat levels began to creep match up, eventually returning to pre-VIP levels. Consumption of heart-healthy complex carbohydrates — low-glycemic index foods, such as whole-wheat pasta, sweet potatoes, and lentils — decreased. Wine consumption continuously increased for study participants, particularly women, which researchers believe contributed to the overall higher cholesterol and BMI levels over time.

The higher BMIs and cholesterol levels — plus the associated heart risks — lead researchers to conclude that a low-carb diet might not be the best choice for heart health.

Thanks to the popularity of the Atkins and South Beach diets in the early august (2000+), confusion exists about the perks and pitfalls of carbohydrates. Although most experts agree that "white" foods, such as white flour, white rice, and refined sugar, should be avoided for optimal health, complex carbohydrates, such as whole grains, nuts, legumes, and beans, are more than okay for a heart-healthy and a weight-loss diet.Unless otherwise instructed by a doctor, most people should aim to eat 6 to 8 ounces of grains each day, the U.S. Department of Agriculture recommends. At least 4 ounces should be whole grains. Additionally, the USDA recommends eating nuts, seeds, and legumes (all complex carbs) four to five times each week.

When it comes to eating for heart health, experts recommend avoiding the saturated fat found in fatty cuts of meat, fried foods, and full-fat dairy. Eggs,

heart-healthy oils, avocados, nuts, fish, and poultry are all examples of heart-healthy fats to eat. If you're trying to maintain your weight and heart health over time, eating a diet rich in fruits and vegetables and exercising moderately are key.


12 Replies

  • Not only cardiovascular diseases , a low carb high fat & protein diet gives kidney problems , swethakushtu ---- vitiligo , prostrate cancer , uterine problems in women ,and some mental disorders .Now the ball is in the court of detractors of high carb foods . Let them prove that high carb food is not good .

  • OK - so what about me? For the last year I've been getting my carbs from carby vegetables rather than grain based bread and I don't eat meat that is particularly fatty because I don't actually like fat although I'm not afraid to eat fat ? I would still say I was on a LCHF diet although I always say it I lowish carb and lowish fat?

    I have to say that when I was filling in my Fitbit food chart I was absolutely amazed at just how many carbs I was getting, I just don't eat bread, biscuits, cakes, jacket potatoes because no matter how 'healthy' the grains I ate were they still all spike my blood sugar massively. I have to say I've just managed to eat my way out of T2D by eating this way.

    I I intend eating this way for the rest of my life because I imagine if I go back to a grain carb based diet then I'll go back to being pre diabetic or worse T2 which I definitely don't want to do.

    There may be nothing wrong with high carb foods but in my case I see the fact that when I was gaily munching away at wholemeal bread, oat bran muffins, oatcakes, big helpings of rice, scones, biscuits and cKe, lovely big jacket potatoes etc my blood sugar put me in the Prediabetes then T2 category.

    I now eat a very healthy diet, I eat a lot of fish, chicken, the odd steak, lots of green leafy vegetables, peppers, courgettes, aubergine, onions, tomatoes, I can manage a couple of little baby new potatoes or maybe a tablespoon of rice, eggs, berry fruits, grapefruit, a banana every now and again, unsalted nuts and seeds with a bit of dried fruit thrown in and the odd teaspoon of extra thick double cream on my berries for pudding.

    I no longer snack or drink Diet Coke - I stick to water and decaf tea or coffee and I've pretty much given up chocolate now - only the very odd square of 80% dark chocolate.

    So although I eat what is basically a LCHF diet, I eat like the proverbial horse, I just very rarely eat grain based foods. I have lost weight but only because I was eating to my blood sugar meter and eliminated the things that raised my blood sugar.

    I also do 10000 steps a day most days, Pilates every week and an hour in the gym twice a week. I'm 67 and my body would be a bit creaky if I didn't.

    So I'd say for me LCHF has been a very good thing.

  • So far so good . Either consciously or unconcsiously you are avoiding fat which can be labeled as much fat . Otherwise what you eat is perfect to the tee.

  • Thank you :) No, I don't deliberately avoid fat but even as a child I never liked fatty meat so I tend to trim most fat off meat and give it to my husband, if there is only a little fat on something I just eat it but it isn't something I love to eat.

    I love butter but because I don't eat bread these days I've got nothing to put it on although sometimes I put it on vegetables or I've been known to have an oatcake with butter on it.

    I cook with olive oil or butter and have a two egg omelette every morning that is cooked in olive oil so I do get fat and I forgot that I also eat cheese so I get some fat every day and I have cream on my berries pretty much every day too although I know cream is frowned upon. It's my 'dark secret' but I'm sure I could be eating worse things.

  • I am not against fat totally . What I always say is --don't take any thing excessively . There is a specific pattern and ratio , which was followed ceremoniously and which was proved to be healthy .

  • Sounds pretty much the same as I've done over the last 18 months, Fruitandnutcase, except I like fat because it enriches the flavours of food. Low fat foods have sugar added to compensate for the fat reduction and are very bad for those of us who need to watch our sugar intakes.. A lot of bs is written about the dangers of fat consumption and cholesterol. Mainly by those with a vested interest in poisoning us with long term statin dependency. I'd much rather have a raised cholesterol than type 2 diabetes and debilitating statin use. A great read is:-

    The Great Cholesterol Con by Malcolm Kendrick.

  • You've hit the nail on the head - that's the trouble so many people have vested interests in so many products and medicines these days and they're all advising in favour of their own products.

    The manufacturers of statins have invested so much money in its development and priduction it seems like they are claiming it can cure almost anything these days.

    Have to say that when I read the latest link between statin use and T2 diabetes I was so glad I had ditched my statins after my very short and unpleasant time on them.

  • What beggars belief is the non-changing dietary advice preached by NICE for 30 years in the face of an explosion of type2 diabetes. They're still promoting a carb rich low fat diet in the face of a wealth of evidence that it is not working. As you say, too many people have vested interests in promoting the status quo. Big Pharma don't wish to cure you, just keep you dependant on their toxic products for life to maintain their profit streams. Cavemen ate high fat diets but didn't have to worrty about diabetes.

  • I know, I can hardly believe it - I was given the 'food pyramid' diet sheet, it is SO carb heavy it is just unbelievable. If I hadn't done my own thing, bought a blood glucose meter and eliminated the culprits from my diet - mainly all the 'healthy carbs' on the diet sheet I was given, I'm convinced I would still be T2 today.

    Not only has the dietary advice not changed over the last thirty years - it doesn't even work and those responsible for advising the nation on their health won't admit that it isn't working and Do something that will.

  • And now the Government has stepped back from the health iniative they were planning to reduce sugar intake, no doubt due to the pressures from the food processing lobby, and sugar manufacturers who don't want their toxic products shackled by legislation. The watered down proposals represent a massive wasted opportunity to really attack the causes of type 2 diabetes, but those vested interests won't wear it. Disgrace.

  • I know it is shocking. If only people would waken up and see how damaging sugar is and that they don't need to graze all day. I've just been reading Jason Fung's book The Obesity Code. You should hear him about the current dietary advice given by health workers.

  • Thanks for the heads up. I'm not familiar with the book so will look it up.

    I presume you're familiar with Pure, White & Deadly by John Yudkin, and The Calorie Myth by Jonathan Bailor. Both great reads.