Atkins Diet Can Raise Heart Risks

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By Amanda Gardner
HealthDay Reporter
Tuesday, November 6, 2007; 12:00 AM

TUESDAY, Nov. 6 (HealthDay News) -- The high-fat, high-protein and low-carbohydrate Atkins diet may put practitioners at risk for heart disease in as little as one month, a new study suggests.

When individuals followed the maintenance phase of the diet -- without weight loss -- they experienced increased "bad" cholesterol and other markers for heart disease, experts report.

"I think the Atkins diet is potentially detrimental for cardiovascular health, if maintained for a long duration and without attempts to lose weight," said lead researcher Dr. Michael Miller, lead author of the study, director of preventive cardiology at the University of Maryland Medical Center and associate professor of medicine at the University of Maryland School of Medicine in Baltimore. "A stabilizing Atkins diet is not the way to go," he said.

It's also unclear if the popular South Beach or Ornish diets, also studied in the trial, actually promote heart health.

This was just one of several studies involving diet and nutrition slated for presentation at this week's annual meeting of the American Heart Association in Orlando, Fla.

A second study, conducted primarily among Mormons in Utah, found that routine fasting was associated with a lower risk of coronary artery disease.

And yet another trial found that moderate drinking might help ward off angina after heart attack.

"Nutrition continues to be an area of interest, and, clearly, there is conflicting information out there," said Dr. Robert Bonow, immediate past president of the American Heart Association. "With the Atkins diet, you do lose weight and experience a short-term beneficial effect on lipid parameters, but the concern would be long-term. Saturated fats are not good for heart health, and many people experience rebound weight gain which is not good."

Although much research has been done on the Atkins diet, no one has yet looked at the effects of the diet when the person isnotlosing weight.

"During the process of weight loss, we would expect to see a benefit on various [cardiovascular] parameters," Miller said. In other words, the weight loss that can come with these diets will help the heart.

But how does the cardiovascular system fare on a high-fat regimen when weight remains stable? "Weight loss confounds the results, and we wanted to compare these diets without that possible confounder," Miller explained.

For this trial, 18 healthy adults completed four weeks each on the Atkins (50 percent fat), South Beach (30 percent fat) and Ornish (10 percent fat) diets.


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