Weight Loss: High-fat Atkins diet damages blood vessels

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A recent study determines that a high-fat Atkins diet can cause long-term damage to blood vessels and inflammation sometimes associated with heart/artery disease.

Dr. Michael Miller, University of Maryland’s director of preventive cardiology at the Medical Center, believes that out of all the fad diets, “Atkins is the worst.”

“The Atkins diet caused the LDL levels to go up by about 7 percent.” LDL (or low density lipoprotein) is the so-called “bad” cholesterol that can lead to clogged arteries.

Popular weight loss diets have been tested before, with varying results.  Miller has taken a unique approach to his study: evaluating people’s health once they have gone off the diet and hit a maintenance stage.

The Study Design

18 people tried eating foods specified by three diets, one of which was Atkins.  They were on the three diets for 1 month each. Careful monitoring ensured that the volunteers did NOT lose weight. The study was designed to rate the level of cholesterol in people at a weight loss plateau since weight loss from any diet in and of itself can cause a reduction in cholesterol.

When participants were on the Atkins diet, which was set to deliver 50 percent of calories as fat, their blood was tested for levels of fat, including cholesterol and inflammation indicators. Blood vessel flexibility and dilation capabilities were also measured in ultrasounds. Those results were compared to the times when they were on the other diets.

Outcome

The American Heart Association met in Orlando, FL to hear Miller’s results.

“Some markers of inflammation were increased by as much as 30 to 40 percent during the Atkins phase, whereas during the [other diet] phases, the markers either were stable or went down, some by as much as 15 to 20 percent,” Miller said.

Most studies have shown that healthy eating plans that encourage consumption of vegetables, low-fat sources of protein such as beans and legumes, and whole grains provide the best long-term or permanent weight loss.

“We don’t recommend the Atkins diet,” Miller said. “Why not start out with a [healthy eating lifestyle] that will be healthier for you in the long run after weight loss?”

Now that’s a great question!

Try reading Death Knell Sounds for Atkins Low Carb Foods and Study Shows Diets — Once Again — Aren’t the Best Weight Loss Program.

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Posted by Laura Brooks

2 Responses (Add Yours)

  • Mark McManus says:

    Do you have a link to the actual study? I’d like to look into this as every other study I have read on the subject shows Atkins type diets improve cholesterol more than their low-fat counterparts.
    LDL cholesterol must be shown alongside HDL to make any sort of comment, what happened to HDL levels?
    Also, what were the levels of the other 2 macronutrients? If 50% fat is taken alongside 40% carbs, it’s not Atkins and it’s not low-carb.
    Was this study peer-reviewed?
    Hopefully you can show me where I can read the whole study for myself.

  • Laura says:

    The publication is available through a subscription to Circulation (http://circ.ahajournals.org). Abstract: Abstract 3610: Comparative Effects of 3 Popular Diets on Lipids, Endothelial Function and Biomarkers of Atherothrombosis in the Absence of Weight Loss.

    You might also want to look at Atkins Exposed (excerpt below) which has documented objections and opposition to the Atkins Diet from major governmental and private health organizations.

    “The National Academy of Sciences, the most prestigious scientific body in the United States, agrees with the AMA and the ADA in opposing the Atkins Diet.[13] So does the American Cancer Society;[14] and the American Heart Association;[15] and the Cleveland Clinic;[16] and Johns Hopkins;[17] and the American Kidney Fund;[18] and the American College of Sports Medicine;[19] and the National Institutes of Health.[20]

    In fact there does not seem to be a single major governmental or nonprofit medical, nutrition, or science-based organization in the world that supports the Atkins Diet.[21]“

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