High Fat, Low Carb Diets Safe For Heart Health
Two new Johns Hopkins studies say that the popular Atkins-type diets consisting of low-carb and high-fat meal plans pose no heart health risk for the obese.
Researchers from the Heart and Vascular Institute at Johns Hopkins University conducted two separate studies examining the relationship of popular diets to weight loss and heart health. Lead researcher on the study and exercise physiologist Kerry Stewart, Ed.D. said that perhaps an overemphasis on low-fat diets in the United States has contributed to the obesity epidemic in the US. In a press release statement they explain that low-fat dieting encourages the over-consumption of low-fat foods, which tend to be less filling.
However, in recent years popular low-carb diets like Atkins, South Beach, and the Zone have also been criticized because, although they avoid carbs, they tend to tolerate a higher fat intake. High intake of fat increases blood cholesterol which in turn causes plaque buildup in the arteries, leading to cardiovascular disease.
Therefore, when it comes down to choosing a weight-loss program, no wonder people are confused.
The first study, which will be presented at the American College of Sports Medicine in Denver, the researchers studied 46 participants who weighed on average 218 pounds. They were assigned to a 6-month exercise program plus either a low-carb diet or a low-fat diet. The low-carb dieters were allowed 30 percent of calories from pastas, breads, and fruits and 40 percent of their diet came from fats (meat, dairy, nuts, etc.). In contrast the low-fat dieters were allowed no more than 30 percent of calories from fat and 55 percent from carbs.
According to the study results, both groups lost an average of 10 pounds, however it took the low-fat group a whole month longer to reach the weight loss. Additionally, the low-carb, high-fat group showed no evidence of increased cardiovascular risk.
"Our study should help allay the concerns that many people who need to lose weight have about choosing a low-carb diet instead of a low-fat one, and provide re-assurance that both types of diet are effective at weight loss and that a low-carb approach does not seem to pose any immediate risk to vascular health," says Stewart. "More people should be considering a low-carb diet as a good option," he adds.
The second study looked at the short-term cardiovascular effects of eating an extremely high-fat meal. The researchers examined participants blood vessels prior to eating a McDonald's meal consisting of two English McMuffins and hashbrowns as well as after. The researchers were surprised to find that there was no immediate effect of this meal on the vascular system.
"Even consuming a high-fat meal now and then does not seem to cause any immediate harm to the blood vessels," says Stewart. However, he cautions again habitual eating of these types of foods.
In summary, the Johns Hopkins researchers conclude that for obese people looking to loose weight, a low-carb, high-fat diet may be a safe and effective choice.
"Overweight and obese people appear to really have options when choosing a weight-loss program, including a low-carb diet, and even if it means eating more fat," says Stewart.