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.
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!