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Low carb, high protein diets linked to women's heart disease
June 27th, 2012
07:13 AM ET

Low carb, high protein diets linked to women's heart disease

Women who regularly cut back on carbohydrates and eat high amounts of protein are at increased risk of heart disease, concludes a study published Tuesday in the British Medical Journal.

To gauge the impact of the popular Atkins-style diets on women's hearts, researchers in Greece turned to a food survey completed by more than 43,000 women in Sweden. The women, who were between 30 and 49 years old, recorded the frequency and quantities of food they ate over six months in 1991 and 1992.

Using the survey, researchers calculated which women were eating the least amount of carbohydrates and the most amount of protein. The women were then followed for 15 years on average to see who became diagnosed with cardiovascular disease. The women's food habits were not tracked long-term but did provide researchers a snapshot in time.

The study found 1,270 women developed heart problems. The incidence of cardiovascular disease was 62% higher among women who consumed the least carbohydrates and the most protein, when compared to women who weren’t regularly eating a low carbohydrate, high protein diet. By eating such a diet, the researchers conclude an additional four to five women out of 10,000 develop cardiovascular disease each year.

The study found regularly eating just 20 fewer grams of carbohydrates and 5 more grams of protein a day increased the long-term risk of cardiovascular disease in women by 5%. That’s roughly the amount of carbohydrates in a small roll of whole grain bread and the amount of protein in one boiled egg.

Several large studies have had somewhat different conclusions.

In a statement, Atkins Nutritionals Inc. said the diet tested in the study was not the Atkins diet, and that the women in the study ate more carbohydrates and less protein than prescribed in the Atkins diet. The company said, "Studies done to date measuring the Atkins Diets' effect on heart health have shown diminished risk."

Nutrition experts who did not work on the study said its findings were in no way definitive.

"It's provocative," said Dr. Laurence Sperling, director of the Center for Heart Disease Prevention at Emory School of Medicine in Atlanta. "Yes, in this study there's an association, but you need to be careful about taking that information and walking away with it and changing how you eat for the rest of your life."


soundoff (61 Responses)
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    June 27, 2012 at 07:43 | Report abuse | Reply
    • kate

      ...in reference to the line: "you need to be careful about taking that information and walking away with it" (?).

      June 27, 2012 at 12:48 | Report abuse |
  2. cbtx67

    Depends what your protein source is I say. My doctor put me on a low carb diet. Said the cons were just hypes. I am a pescatarian, so my protein comes from nuts, fish and soybean. My cholesterol has gone down and I'm losing weight slowly. My bms are much more regular and I feel great. If you eat beef and bacon with every meal sure you may have heart disease, but how many of these people had a genetic predisposition to heart disease, how was their food prepared?

    June 27, 2012 at 08:43 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Anabel

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      September 12, 2012 at 03:47 | Report abuse |
  3. BA

    Atkins diet is a very specific eating life style; it advocates an increased consumption of fats while simultaneously restricting the intake of carbohydrates. So my question did these women follow an Atkins diet or did they have high protein intake in general?
    To read more about Atkins diet or other diets, go to http://www.naturalstandard.com (the authority of integrative medicine).

    June 27, 2012 at 09:57 | Report abuse | Reply
  4. eric

    no duh. Almost every accredited nutritionist ever has condemned the atkins diet since it came out. There have been so many diseases linked to not getting enough carbs and getting too much protein in your diet. By common sense, if you do both those things together it will be harmful to yourself

    June 27, 2012 at 10:21 | Report abuse | Reply
    • mutest

      Wrong.The reason low-carb diets are derided by "studies" is that the high-carb (or simple-carb) industries have significantly more lobbyists. Anyone who can think for a second that the typical high-carb American diet is good is walking around wearing blinders. High/simple carbs (bread, potatoes, etc.) cause increased insulin production, which causes greater retention of fat – which leads to Americans being 40 pounds heavier than the average human.

      June 28, 2012 at 11:14 | Report abuse |
    • liviaokokok

      Please do not listen to this article... It is completely formulated by lobbyists.
      Low-Carb, is not only the best way to prevent heart disease but also prevents diabetes.

      the fastest way to gain fat is to spike insulin by consuming carbs and have cells take up sugar and turn it into fat.

      September 16, 2012 at 22:22 | Report abuse |
  5. Vociferous

    This is a crock of bull. Studying people that ate an Atkins like diet over a 6 month period of time? That's a ridiculous study. How about establishing what their baseline cardiovascular health was prior to eating on an Atkins like program. I would suggest that most that decide to eat this way were already at higher risk for cardiovascular health issues, which is why they decided to try an Atkins like program. For the study to be meaningful, it would have to track the cardiovascular health of people who successfully lost the weight and kept it off using an Atkins approach. I guarantee you these people would be a lower risk for cardiovascular health issues than when they started. Mismanaged and poorly constructed studies can always be used to produce a desired statistical outcome. The medical establishment doesn't want people to know the truth about low-carb diets because they'll lose billions in annual revenue if people would adopt a low-carb lifestyle. Big agra-business / processed foods industry, pharmas and docs wouldn't like this. Pharmas wouldn't get to push all their unnecessary meds. Big agra-business would see people turning away from garbage processed foods, and doctors wouldn't be making so much money in treating obesity and getting their nice perks from pharma reps getting them to push their fat drugs. People really need to learn how to THINK again.

    June 27, 2012 at 10:46 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Chris st. Romain

      I Agree with you, all the process foods, suger laden,and flour stuff cusing abese in the country. That's why we are getting fatter t o many CARBS???? Need to go back too eatting protein and fibrous Veg's. thats what our Ancesters ate....

      June 27, 2012 at 14:30 | Report abuse |
    • NoName

      Yeah. That study, from the sounds of it, wasn't very well thought out. They even said they did not follow their diet after the 6 months. Further Its sample population is from one country (ie from one group of people) which could be genetically pre-dispositioned to higher cholesterol.
      The thing people like to throw out is how you are eating so much more fat and cholesterol, which may be true but does not = higher risk of atherosclerosis. If you do not believe me look these next few things up.
      The more carbohydrates you eat the more insulin you create. If you lower your carbohydrate level you will produce much less insulin.
      Insulin tells your body many things, like signaling fat cells to increase uptake of fats, but more importantly (for my point to get across at least) it signals VLDLs to be made by the liver.
      VLDLs are precursors to LDLs. They carry fat and cholesterol to the rest of the body. Once they have dumped off all the fat about half of them turn into LDLs.
      As we all know LDLs are the "bad cholesterols" and lead to heart and vascular disease.
      So quick recap, increased carbs leads to increased insulin, increased insulin leads to increased VLDLs, increased VLDLs leads to increased LDLs, and increased LDLs leads to increased cholesterol, increased cholesterol leads to increased heart disease.
      In essence atkins diet or any very low carb diet is actually helping to prevent the very thing that everyone accuses it of.
      If you do not believe me look it up.
      PS not all doctors are bad.

      July 2, 2012 at 19:12 | Report abuse |
    • Rashka

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      September 13, 2012 at 23:04 | Report abuse |
  6. WhatNow

    They used a food survey to gather data. Sorry, but we all know that people are no good at (1) remembering everything they eat and (2) reporting everything they ate. They admit that the women were not followed long term. Did they do a pre-screening for health and family history? So, basically this is just a nice little study that proves nothing.

    June 27, 2012 at 11:22 | Report abuse | Reply
  7. tatatoothy

    Articles like this make me wish there was no internet

    June 27, 2012 at 11:54 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Cat

      Good reply, I"m with you! Always something, I don't care what you do. Some of us because of certain health conditionds HAVE to have a low carb, high protein diet, but I guess we are not taken into consideration where they publish these articles!

      July 2, 2012 at 16:46 | Report abuse |
  8. Poodles

    Seems like a lot of people are butt-hurt when it's pointed out what they eat is horrible for them. I laugh at your heart problems and deaths.

    June 27, 2012 at 12:35 | Report abuse | Reply
    • John Smith

      I don't doubt that this is the case, but I have a question about the study. Women who were keeping it, "low carb," may have also been on a diet. People who are on a diet are probsbly overweight. I am assuming they controlled for weight, but have you looked at the study and seen whether they did control for weight?

      June 28, 2012 at 00:15 | Report abuse |
  9. Willy Muniz

    So they took a food survey of 62 thousand women......Please how accurate could this possibly be. Most people dont remember what they ate last week let alone over an extended period of time. There are countless articles stating the benefits of an Atkins like diet on Cardiovascular risk factors. The risk for heart disease comes form processed carbohydrates and this anti fat campaign that has been pushed on the American people. Dont take my word for it please look up the movie Fat head by Tom Naughton and some of his presentations on you tube and Cardiologist like William Davis who speaks of the true cases of heart disease. There are many more physicians coming around like Dr's Mike and Mary Eades and many more please do your own research before you just sit back and pop a pill. As a little reminder the late Tim Russert who faithfully took his statins dropped dead of a heart attack. Just my 2 cents

    June 27, 2012 at 15:53 | Report abuse | Reply
  10. John Smith

    I'm sure they did, but is it clear in the paper that they control for weight at the time of death or at survey time? People losing weight are more likely to be on a diet while healthey people don't care. One diet is low carb. Were the low carb people possibly on a diet because they're unhealthy? Does the study say they contolled for weight?

    June 28, 2012 at 00:18 | Report abuse | Reply
  11. Mrs. S

    I have been on Atkins since February, I have lost 22 pounds, my blood sugar has leveled out, I feel better. My hair is shiny and thick. I am also less moody and I stopped yelling at my husband. Pasta and cookies are just toxic. I eat lots of vegetables, eggs, chicken and fish. I even eat bacon on Sunday! Stay out of the fast food joints, there is nothing good there.

    June 29, 2012 at 15:44 | Report abuse | Reply
  12. Mike

    TheSe studies make me chuckle. One of many flawed "scientific" studies....it's a joke. It gives sugar loving obese people an excuse to follow their vices. They followed people for 15 yrs after monitoring a 6 month snap shot of their diet (which btw is no where close to a program followed by real low carb enthusiasts..read the whole study from BMJ) over the course of 1 yr. REALlY? Anyone that makes life style choices based on this needs a cupcake, and any healthcare provider that gives pts advice based on this needs to have their licensed suspended. **sigh**

    July 2, 2012 at 21:02 | Report abuse | Reply
  13. Meme

    Stay away from fast food. Be active and burn more calories than you consume. My grandparents ate real butter and had bacon with eggs most mornings. They worked hard even after retiring. They didn't sit for hours in front of the television or computer. They ate to live instead of living to eat. They ate slower and didn't snack on processed food
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    July 2, 2012 at 21:24 | Report abuse | Reply
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  16. claudia0ctober

    A PATHETIC, USELESS "News" Article

    1) The Atkins diet is NOT a high protein diet. Low Carb DOES NOT mean HIGH PROTEIN.

    "The study found regularly eating just 20 fewer grams of carbohydrates and 5 more grams of protein a day increased the long-term risk of cardiovascular disease in women by 5%"

    2) Did the study admit that increasing your carbs increases your long-term risk of diabetes, heart disease, stroke, high blood pressure, elevated cholesterol, obesity, insulin resistance, etc. etc. etc...?

    July 17, 2012 at 11:00 | Report abuse | Reply
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    July 27, 2012 at 05:20 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Walter

      Detox diets are both ineffective and ienicdrbly unhealthy. Think about it: our bodies need many different nutrients, from vitamin A to zinc, and just drinking lemonade, even for only a couple of weeks, puts you at serious risk for vitamin deficiency. You could develop a thyroid problem, anemia, or any number of countless other problems. What bad things are you planning to "take out" of your body? Fats? Cholesterol? These can just be limited in what you eat in a normal, healthy way. Think of all the critical things that won't be coming IN if you just don't eat.If you don't suffer from a vitamin deficiency, your metabolism will still be ienicdrbly messed up. It will go into starvation mode, and after you switch back to a normal eating schedule, you'll balloon back up again. The whole process isn't worth it. Remember how big the Atkins diet was? Where did it go? It disappeared for this very reason- no carbohydrates made their bodies starve, and they gained all the weight back later.I don't know enough about the South Beach to comment, but always be wary of these solutions- remember, companies are trying to make profits.Other points:You're right, exercise is very important. You should try something like twenty minutes of cardiovascular activity three times a week. I mean things like running, jogging, or rowing- not free weights, unless you're looking to gain some muscle.No, there are no negative calorie foods. Celery is debatable because of how little is actually in it besides fiber- that is, your chewing may make up for the calories in it- but you might as well just use that time to exercise and eat something you actually like later.Basically, don't fall for the idea that there are magic tricks to losing weight. It's a process- if you want to lose weight, you have to eat healthier overall- follow the food pyramid, and avoid eating too much of things that are obviously bad. Exercise regularly, get enough nutrients- you probably already know all this. Just apply it to your life.References :

      September 13, 2012 at 20:30 | Report abuse |
  18. mommyko

    A post that made me think of what I eat and how I eat it. Nevertheless, anything of too much is not good, but anything less might not be good either.

    August 26, 2012 at 05:14 | Report abuse | Reply
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    You all may know that there are lot of people who suffers from the heart problems only. So we have to eat such kind of diet which has low cholesterol. So we can reduce the chance of the heart attack.

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    August 30, 2012 at 07:41 | Report abuse | Reply
  20. Danial Lord

    Protein diet plans for ladies should primarily include complete lean proteins supplying an adequate amount of the essential amino acids needed by the body. Complete protein sources include meat, fish, eggs, dairy products plus some plant protein sources for example quinoa, buckwheat and soybeans. Incomplete protein sources for example grains, beans, nuts and seeds don’t supply all the essential amino acids necessary for body but should be included in a diet plan because they provide women with lots of healthful nutrients.http://protein.healthfoodxdrinks.com/protein-diet-foods-for-women/

    September 13, 2012 at 04:55 | Report abuse | Reply
  21. Danial Lord

    Protein diet plans for ladies should primarily include complete lean proteins supplying an adequate amount of the essential amino acids needed by the body. Complete protein sources include meat, fish, eggs, dairy products plus some plant protein sources for example quinoa, buckwheat and soybeans. Incomplete protein sources for example grains, beans, nuts and seeds don’t supply all the essential amino acids necessary for body but should be included in a diet plan because they provide women with lots of healthful nutrients.

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    Why does everyone lump ALL meats in the "heart-harmful" category? Nobody ever distinguishes the difference between CAFO-raised and grass-fed, pastured meat. BTW,, it ain't the meat–it's what the meat ate! Grains break down into loads of sugar which sicken the animal, making it an untreated diabetic, and that overload of sugar gets passed onto us through their meat, making US sick.

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    June 23, 2013 at 06:53 | Report abuse | Reply
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