Is an Atkin’s-type diet destroying your heart?

July 17, 2012
Volume 09    |   Issue 29

If you’re eating a high-protein, low-carb diet temporarily to lose weight, that’s just fine. But if you continue eating an Atkins-style or Paleolithic diet for months on end, you may be setting yourself up for some serious long-term health problems.

I’ve been saying this for years. Now a 15-year Swedish study of over 43,000 women confirms that a high-protein diet can cause heart disease in women.

The researchers asked study participants to fill out a dietary and lifestyle questionnaire. They also measured their diet using the low carbohydrate-high protein (LCHP) score. With this test, the lower the number (between 2 and 20), the higher the intake of carbohydrates compared to a lower intake of protein. The higher the score, the higher their intake of protein with a lower intake of carbohydrates.

Over the 15 year study, 1,270 participants suffered a cardiovascular event: (55% ischemic heart disease; 23% ischemic stroke; 6% hemorrhagic stroke; 10% subarachnoid hemorrhage; 6% peripheral arterial disease).

The researchers found that the higher the LCHP score, the more likely the participant was to experience a cardiovascular event.

They found that the risk of cardiovascular disease increased by 13% for women who scored 7 to 9. Those who scored 10-12 went up by 23%. Scoring 13-15 increased risk by 54%. And scoring 16 or higher made the participants have a 60% increased risk of having a cardiovascular event.

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Lowering risk was fairly easy. When the participants reduced their carb intake by just 20 grams a day (that’s the equivalent to a small bread roll) and increased their protein intake by 5 grams (that’s just one egg), they had a 5% increased risk of cardiovascular disease.

The researchers said high-protein diets “used on a regular basis and without consideration of the nature of carbohydrates or the source of proteins are associated with cardiovascular risk.” In fact, these numbers suggest it increases your risk by 28%.

Fortunately, there are a couple of things you can do. Obviously, eat more carbs than protein for long-term health benefits. But make sure your carbs are good carbs. Rather than eating bread, pasta, and sugar, get your carbs from vegetables, fruits, and grains (like rice and corn). You also need to get more of your protein from beans than from animal meat.

You also can lower your risk for heart disease and lose a few pounds at the same time simply by increasing your intake of vitamin D. A study funded by the National Institutes of Health studied more than 4,600 women over 65 and found that nearly 80% of them were deficient in vitamin D. And when this becomes chronic (in three months or longer), it may contribute to chronic weight gain. Take 2,000-5,000 IU of vitamin D daily. You can order a 5,000 IU tablet by following this link.

Your voice of reason in Women's Health,

Sources:

Grace Rattue. "Atkins-Style Diets May Increase Risk Of Cardiovascular Problems In Women." Medical News Today. MediLexicon, Intl., 28 Jun. 2012. Web. 28 Jun. 2012. <http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/247160.php>

LeBlanc, Erin S. MD, MPH, Joanne H. Rizzo, MPA, Kathryn L. Pedula, MS, Teresa A. Hillier MD, MS, Kristine E. Ensrud, MD, Jane Cauley, MD, Marc Hochberg. “The Endocrine Society's Clinical Guidelines for the Evaluation, Treatment and Prevention of Vitamin D Deficiency,” pg 21. Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism, July 2011, 96(7): 1911-1930.

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