THE QUESTION Cutting carbohydrates has become a popular way to lose weight. In the process, might you also be helping your heart?
THIS STUDY involved 148 men and women, about 47 years old on average, who were obese but did not have cardiovascular disease or diabetes. They were randomly assigned to follow either a low-carb diet (no more than 40 grams of carbohydrates daily) or a low-fat diet (less than 30 percent of daily calories from fat). They also met periodically with a dietitian, individually and in groups. A year later, people in the low-carb group had lost, on average, more weight than those on the low-fat diet (12 pounds vs. four pounds). They also experienced a greater reduction in risk factors for cardiovascular disease, including a drop in body fat, a lower ratio of total cholesterol to high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol, and lower triglyceride levels. Also, levels of HDL, sometimes called good cholesterol, rose more among those on the low-carb diet.
WHO MAY BE AFFECTED? Adults, especially those who are overweight. Nearly 27 million Americans have heart disease, and about 600,000 die from it every year — more than from any other cause. Eating as few fatty foods as possible has been part of the mantra for preventing heart disease, along with controlling blood pressure, exercising and not smoking, but cutting carbs has not traditionally been on that list.
CAVEATS The study measured risk factors for cardiovascular disease but did not last long enough to measure actual development of the disease. Dietary data came from the participants’ responses on questionnaires.
FIND THIS STUDY
Sept. 2 issue of Annals of Internal Medicine at www.
The research described in Quick Study comes from credible, peer-
reviewed journals. Nonetheless, conclusive evidence about a treatment's effectiveness is rarely found in a single study. Anyone considering changing or beginning treatment of any kind should consult with a physician.