High-fat low-carb diets could mean significant heart risk

Dec 09, 2009

New scientific research has shown that low-carbohydrate high-fat diets, made popular by the likes of the Atkins diet, do not achieve more weight loss than low-fat high-carbohydrate diets. Worryingly, the research, lead by Dr Steven Hunter from the Royal Victoria Hospital, Belfast, also shows significantly increased risks of cardiovascular disease for people following low-carbohydrate high-fat diets.

The research shows that the risks of low-carbohydrate high-fat diets far outweigh the potential benefits gained by overweight and obese people through weight loss, including improvements in blood pressure and risk factors for .

The research results, released hot on the heels of both National Week and World Diabetes Day, are particularly important for nearly a quarter (24%) of the UK adult population, and 16% of the child population, now classified as obese and at risk of Type 2 Diabetes - 80% of all people diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes are overweight. Type 2 Diabetes is the result of inadequate insulin production and/or , which means that the right levels of glucose (our main source of energy from food) are not maintained naturally by the body. There are 180 million people in the world with diabetes and the predicts this number will double in the next 20 years.

Dr Hunter, Royal Victoria Hospital, Belfast, said: "The worldwide obesity pandemic is a major public health concern and strongly linked to rises in diabetes and . By advocating low-carbohydrate high-fat diets as a weapon against obesity and diabetes, health professionals could be contributing to a dangerous rise in cardiovascular disease".

The research study, conducted among a group of obese pre-diabetic adults, compared the results of following a low-fat high-carbohydrate diet (20% fat, 60% carbohydrate) with a high-fat low-carbohydrate diet (60% fat, 20% carbohydrate). It showed that in all areas, other than the risk of cardiovascular disease, the diets have equal health benefits. The same amount of weight is lost; there is no significant difference in the body's glucose uptake or production; and meal tolerance-related insulin secretion is comparable. However, the study revealed a significant difference in overall systemic arterial stiffness and pointed to increased cardiovascular risk factors from high-fat low-carbohydrate diets.

Dr Hunter continued: "High-fat diets have become popular because they seemingly promote more rapid weight loss and because of their palatability. However, we now have proof that they do not help people lose weight any faster than more conventional diets, and the potential negatives of increased cardiovascular risks far outweigh the potential positives of more easily sustained dieting/weight loss, especially when there is a proven and safe alternative in low-fat high-carbohydrate weight loss diets."

According to Dr Hunter, the challenge now is to find ways to make low-fat high-carbohydrate diets more palatable and easier to maintain, so that a long-term positive outcome is achieved.

The Food Standards Agency says that saturated fat should account for less than 11% of the total diet for a normal person, and Dr. Hunter concludes: "If your New Year's resolution is to lose weight, make sure you do it the right way and don't burden your body with additional unnecessary health risks by falling for the lure of the seemingly easy and fast offered by high-fat diets. The best approach for your overall health is a low-fat high-carbohydrate diet, coupled with exercise."

Source: The Sugar Bureau

Explore further: New study detects early metabolic signals that our bodies are not coping with diet or lifestyle

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Mood improves on low-fat, but not low-carb, diet plan

Nov 09, 2009

After one year, a low-calorie, low-fat diet appears more beneficial to dieters' mood than a low-carbohydrate plan with the same number of calories, according to a report in the November 9 issue of Archives of Internal Me ...

Recommended for you

How to protect health workers in conflicts and crisis

2 hours ago

Recruiting health workers with high levels of internal motivation is critical for work in difficult conditions, where their personal security and health might be compromised, according to new research published today in Health Po ...

User comments : 13

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

BaldNerd
not rated yet Dec 09, 2009
Too bad Dr. Hunter (or more likely, this reporter) did not consider a diet using low-glycemic index carbohydrates and low fat, such as the South Beach diet. I have dumped 40 pounds in less than 3 months that way without feeling hungry. I can't eat blubber anymore, but you've got to give up something.
marjon
5 / 5 (1) Dec 09, 2009
Is it April 1? The source of the data is the 'Sugar Bureau'?
I recommend eating coconut oil and fat from grass fed animals.
BaldNerd
5 / 5 (1) Dec 09, 2009
The Sugar Bureau. Hah! Sugar and processed grains are like green cryptonite for people trying to lose weight.
Velanarris
not rated yet Dec 09, 2009
Actually cane and beet sugar isn't that bad for you.

High fructose corn syrup is a wholly different story.
Mike_Scherer
not rated yet Dec 09, 2009
The Atkins diet is ULTRA-low carbohydrate (2-4% not 20%) and high protein. He made a compelling case that this dietary region is very different from normal or even semi-normal diets. This extremely important idea is lost is almost every discussion. Data from other dietary regimes is demonstrably irrelevant to the Atkins diet and the study's authors should know this. The scope of their data doesn't begin to comment on ultra-low carbohydrate weight loss or its potential dangers.
marjon
5 / 5 (1) Dec 09, 2009
The Atkins diet is ULTRA-low carbohydrate (2-4% not 20%) and high protein. He made a compelling case that this dietary region is very different from normal or even semi-normal diets. This extremely important idea is lost is almost every discussion. Data from other dietary regimes is demonstrably irrelevant to the Atkins diet and the study's authors should know this. The scope of their data doesn't begin to comment on ultra-low carbohydrate weight loss or its potential dangers.


What dangers?

I would suggest looking at the Metabolic Typing Diet book. I may explain much about why indigenous people, like the Pima Indians, become diabetic eating 'modern' food. Aboriginal Australians also have similar problems with modern food.
Imagine living on Navajo fry bread, flour fried in fat.
Mike_Scherer
not rated yet Dec 09, 2009
Hi Marjon,
Potential dangers. I haven't heard of any but we all know that there's going to be some danger to someone discovered. One of the wonderful benefits of having science news wash over us month after month is seeing the ebb and flow of good-for-you and bad-for-you. My main point is that it becomes extremely important to understand the scope and nuance of these factoids and usually we aren't given enough information to keep track ourselves.

The metabolic type & blood type discussions are interesting aren't they. If only dietitians would discipline themselves to speak carefully about the scope of their studies. That's what I'm on about. Here's another study that makes sweeping generalizations that's seemingly oblivious to its insulin context. Are these people really that clueless? Or have they found that savaging straw-man-Atkins gets headlines?
marjon
not rated yet Dec 09, 2009
Hi Marjon,
Potential dangers. I haven't heard of any but we all know that there's going to be some danger to someone discovered. One of the wonderful benefits of having science news wash over us month after month is seeing the ebb and flow of good-for-you and bad-for-you. My main point is that it becomes extremely important to understand the scope and nuance of these factoids and usually we aren't given enough information to keep track ourselves.

The metabolic type & blood type discussions are interesting aren't they. If only dietitians would discipline themselves to speak carefully about the scope of their studies. That's what I'm on about. Here's another study that makes sweeping generalizations that's seemingly oblivious to its insulin context. Are these people really that clueless? Or have they found that savaging straw-man-Atkins gets headlines?

Yes, we are all different. It's not PC for the medical community to acknowledge that important fact.
marjon
not rated yet Dec 09, 2009
"which means that the right levels of glucose (our main source of energy from food) "

How do Inuit survive by eating protein and fat? Where did they get their glucose?
I have heard that those on Arctic expeditions need to eat fat to have enough energy to stay warm.
Animals store energy in the form of fat, not sugar. Why is that?
Humans can live and thrive without eating any carbohydrates. Humans cannot live without fats and proteins.

Mike_Scherer
not rated yet Dec 09, 2009
Alas, our carbohydrate obsessed society fails to mention the body's other metabolic energy pathway involving ketones. Glucose is not the only usable source of energy for our cells. Processing of protein and fat generates ketones which the body makes capable use of.
Interestingly, cancer tumor cells apparently don't have access to this energy source. One suspects that eventually this will be researched more fully. Also likely will be studies saying high ketone diets don't fight cancer even though the experiments will have too much carbohydrate (and therefore glucose) to honestly make their claim.
Velanarris
not rated yet Dec 10, 2009
Animals store energy in the form of fat, not sugar. Why is that?
Humans can live and thrive without eating any carbohydrates. Humans cannot live without fats and proteins.

Fat cells serve only to absorb and retain sugars and simple carbohydrates for future use. Fats are where the sugars would come from in this particular case as lipids break down into sugar.
CarolinaScotsman
not rated yet Dec 12, 2009
The latest research study shows that research studies increase the risk of death by 50%.
marjon
not rated yet Dec 13, 2009
Eliminating most carbohydrates like sugar and flour, increasing my protein and eating good fats, I have excellent cholesterol/triglyceride numbers and blood pressure. Key heart disease markers.