Low-Carb Diet Deemed Safe over Short Term
Mon Oct 21, 1:42 PM ET
By Alison McCook
PHILADELPHIA (Reuters Health) – People who follow a low-carbohydrate, high-protein diet for 6 months may lose more weight than those on a standard low-fat diet, and they appear to experience no cardiovascular problems as a result.
However, study author Dr. Bonnie J. Brehm of the University of Cincinnati in Ohio told Reuters Health that despite the apparent short-term benefits of the low-carbohydrate, high-protein (LCHP) diet, this option may not be healthy in the long run.
Following the diet for 3 or 4 months may be fine, Brehm said. “But long-term? We don’t know,” she added.
One example of a LCHP diet is the Atkins Diet, which first gained popularity during the 1970s. Limited evidence suggests it may help people lose weight, but many experts remain concerned about the long-term health effects of the diet, which can contain high levels of fat and cholesterol.
The current study is based on results from 53 obese women, half of whom were asked to follow the LCHP diet, in which less than 10% of their calories came from carbohydrates. The rest of the women followed a standard low-fat diet, in which fat made up only 30% of their total calories. Both groups consumed the same number of calories each day.
After 6 months, Brehm and her colleagues found that women on the LCHP diet lost 10 more pounds of body weight and 6 more pounds of body fat than did those following the low-fat diet. Blood pressure and blood sugar levels–which can indicate increased risk for cardiovascular disease–were within normal ranges for both groups.
However, as the authors reported here on Sunday at the 85th Annual Meeting of the American Dietetic Association (ADA), those on the LCHP diet ate less carbohydrate and fiber and more protein, fat and cholesterol than did the low-fat diet followers. The ADA is a professional organization representing the nation’s licensed nutritionists and dietitians.
So why did a seemingly unhealthy diet not affect indicators of cardiovascular risk? In an interview with Reuters Health, Brehm suggested that the benefits of losing more weight may offset the disadvantages associated with high fat and cholesterol. “Perhaps it’s weight loss that causes the positive results (in cardiovascular risk factors)…and it isn’t dependent on the diet,” she said.
Although the LCHP diet helped dieters shed more pounds than the low-fat regimen, Brehm cautioned that much more research is needed before consumers can consider this program to be safe and effective. “More research does need to be done before I think you can make any kind of recommendation as to what you should follow,” she said.
The study was supported by funds from the American Heart Association.
In an interview with Reuters Health, Dr. Meir Stampfer of Harvard University said that the current study was well conducted, but he agreed that 6 months is not long enough to determine if the LCHP diet is safe over the long term.
However, he added that low-fat diets are often unsatisfying for dieters, because many carbohydrates–a common source of low-fat foods–cause a rapid rise and fall of blood sugar, leaving eaters hungrier sooner than after eating protein and other foods with the same number of calories.
But the alternative does not have to be diets that are high in protein and fats, he added. Rather, Stampfer said that he recommends that people follow a reasonable diet, consisting of moderate levels of protein and fat.
Source: Reuters Health