High-protein diet dangerous for those at risk for heart disease
While replacing fats and carbohydrates with protein has been touted as a quick way to lose weight, people who are at risk for heart disease should avoid high-protein diets as they may increase the likelihood of weight gain and premature death.
Spanish researchers analyzed data from a government-funded trial of more than 7,000 men aged 55 to 88 and women aged 60 to 80 between 2003 and 2008. None had heart disease at the beginning of the study, but had either type 2 diabetes or three or more of the following risk factors: high blood pressure, smoking, poor cholesterol levels, overweight or obesity, or family history of premature heart disease. The participants filled out food questionnaires that assessed protein consumption for about five years.
The study found that high-protein diets, such as South Beach and Atkins, may do more harm than good. Replacing carbohydrates with protein was linked to a 90 percent greater risk of gaining more than 10 percent of body weight, as well as 59 percent higher risk of overall death.
Replacing fat with protein was linked to a 66 percent increased risk of overall death.
"These results do not support the generalized use of high-protein diets as a good strategy for losing weight," said lead researcher Monica Bullo, of Pere Virgili Health Research Institute in Reus.
"Long-term efficacy and safety of these diets deserve more attention.”
The study only found an association between dietary protein, weight gain, and death rates, but did not establish a cause and effect link. The findings were presented at the European Congress on Obesity in Prague, Czech Republic Friday, May 8, but the results are considered preliminary until published in a peer-reviewed journal.
Two studies published in 2014 found that a high-protein diet during middle age significantly increases the risk of death from cancer or diabetes. One of the studies concluded that consuming too much protein was as bad for a person’s health as smoking.