MONDAY, Sept. 6 (HealthDay News) -- A low-carbohydrate diet that
derives fats and proteins from vegetable sources rather than meats
is probably healthier, new research finds.
Comparing the two types of diets over two decades, researchers
found that the low-carb, vegetable-based plan resulted in reduced
rates of death from cardiovascular disease and cancer, and a lower
rate of all-cause death overall.
"You can have the initial Atkins-type of low-carb diet, which is loaded with sausages, bacon, steaks, and you can have healthy versions of the low-carb diet with more vegetable- or plant-based protein and fat," said Dr. Frank B. Hu, senior author of a study in the Sept. 7 issue of the Annals of Internal Medicine.
"We looked at these two versions of low-carb diets and found that the impact of the two are drastically different," Hu said.
"Those who follow the animal-based low-carb diet have an increased risk of total mortality and cancer mortality in particular," said Hu, a professor of nutrition at the Harvard School of Public Health in Boston.
"It's the ratio that's important," said Karen Congro, director of the Wellness for Life Program at the Brooklyn Hospital Center in New York City. "This tells you that meat is the issue. Red meat is out."
Although several smaller, short-term studies have shown that the
Atkins-type low-carb diets lead to weight loss, "there has been a
lot of concern that a low-carb diet, which typically [incorporates]
animal fat and animal protein, may increase the risk of chronic
diseases," Hu said. These include type 2 diabetes and coronary
Two studies are reported here, one that followed more than
85,000 women from 1980 through 2006 and one that followed over
44,500 men from 1986 through 2006.
Men and women on the animal-based low-carb diet had a 23 percent
increased risk of death, a 14 percent increased risk of dying from
heart disease and a 28 percent increased risk of dying from cancer,
the study authors found.
Those on an "Eco-Atkins" diet, the ones that incorporated
vegetable-derived fats and proteins, had a 20 percent lower death
rate and a 23 percent lower risk of dying from heart disease, the
For their part, Atkins Nutritionals, Inc., issued a statement
Tuesday saying that "the so-called 'low-carb' diet referenced in
[this] research is not representative of Atkins."
The company pointed to a journal editorial comment on the study,
written by experts at Duke University Medical Center. In their
editorial, the researchers noted that "the participants in the
highest decile [tenth] of low-carbohydrate diet score (that is,
those eating the least amount of carbohydrate) actually had a
moderately high carbohydrate intake."
According to Hu, plant-based low-carb diets get their fats
mostly from vegetable oils, nuts and peanut butter, and proteins
can come from legumes, nuts and whole grains instead of bacon and
Avocados are also a healthy source of fat, and soy and tofu are
good sources for protein, Congro said.
Overall, the participants in the studies had a relatively
low-carb intake compared to the carb-crazy U.S. population as a
"People are just over-carbing," she added. "Cereal bowls look like bowls for a casserole. People eat granola bars all day. They get into carbs without even realizing it. Because heart disease is so prevalent, anything we can do to lower the risk, the mortality" is important.
"This study is one of the first to actually differentiate types of low-carb diets in relation to long-term health impact," Congro added.
An accompanying editorial pointed out that the design of the
study may not have taken into account other variables, such as
smoking and education levels, indicating the need for a large-scale
Nutrition Center at the American Heart Association
for more on a heart-healthy diet and lifestyle.
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.
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