New Harvard research shows that low carb, high-fat diet doesn’t increase risk of heart disease
CAIRO: Going on a diet these days is no simple feat, aside from an infinite supply of will power, you need to learn to eat correctly to optimize weight loss. With rows and rows of diet books stacked on bookstore shelves and conflicting advice from (supposedly) helpful friends and family, it’s not always easy to know what steps to take to create a well-balanced diet plan that will optimize weight loss. The task is daunting enough to convince you to quit before you even get started.
Don’t despair; a new long-term study sheds some light on dieting strategies. It suggests that eating a low-carb, high-fat diet for years doesn t necessarily raise the risk of heart disease, easing fears that the popular Atkins diet and similar regimens might set people up for eventual heart attacks.
The study of thousands of women over two decades found that those who got lots of their carbohydrates from refined sugars and highly processed foods nearly doubled their risk of heart disease.
At the same time, those who ate a low-carb diet, but got more of their protein and fat from vegetables rather than animal sources cut their heart disease risk by 30 percent on average, compared with those who ate more animal fats.
The findings came from researchers at Harvard University s schools of medicine and public health who reviewed records of 82,802 women in the ongoing Nurses Health Study over 20 years, reports the Associated Press. The women were not dieting to lose weight. In fact, on average they were slightly overweight and increased their body-mass index roughly 10 percent during the study.
Conventional wisdom says risk of heart disease should increase for those eating the lowest-carb, highest-fat diet, said lead author Thomas Halton.
It didn t, which was a little eye-opening, he said.
But before you head out to your nearest steak house or splurge at the cheese counter at Metro, consider the fine print.
“Having seen what a powerful difference changes in diet and lifestyle can make, I’m concerned that this new study may cause some people to believe that steak and brie are actually good for your heart, cautions Dr. Dean Ornish in an article for Newsweekthat attempts to clarify the study’s findings. “I’d love to be able to tell you that they are, but they aren’t. Hey, don’t shoot the messenger – it’s fine to indulge yourself sometimes, just don’t kid yourself.
The study’s findings, reported in last week’s New England Journal of Medicine came from an analysis of food questionnaires the nurses filled out every two to four years starting in 1980.
The researchers calculated the percentage of calories coming from carbohydrates and animal and vegetable fats and proteins, then divided the nurses into 10 groups, from the lowest to the highest calorie percentage from carbs.
The lowest-carb group ate carbohydrate amounts similar to the maintenance program of the Atkins diet, less extreme than the early phase of the diet, said dietitian Geri Brewster, former nutrition director at the Atkins Center for Complementary Medicine in Manhattan.
While she thinks the Atkins diet allows too much animal fat, Brewster said reducing carbohydrates works because it forces the body to convert stored fat into an energy source and can curb appetite.
“Low-carb diets like the Atkins diet are often higher in animal fat and lower in vegetable protein and vegetable fat. If people go on these diets believing that they have no effect on their risk of developing heart disease, they may be mistaken, argues Ornish.
Instead he suggests that the more helpful message is “that an optimal diet is low in total fat . and low in refined carbohydrates (‘bad carbs’).
“It’s not all or nothing. You have a spectrum of choices. To the degree you eat less of the bad carbs and bad fats and more of the good carbs and enough of the good fats, you’re likely to look better, feel better, lose weight, and gain health, suggests Ornish.
Of course, now that you have a guide for your diet plan, all that’s left is determination. -with AP