Weight Loss: A diet low in carbohydrates and high in fat is good for you. here’s why



A low-carb diet has long been a popular weight loss strategy. But some doctors and nutrition experts have advised against doing so for fear it will increase the risk of heart disease, as such diets usually involve eating a lot of saturated fat, like those found in red meat and butter.

But a new study, one of the largest and most rigorous trials on the subject to date, suggests that a diet low in carbohydrates and high in fat may benefit your cardiovascular health if you’re overweight.

The new study, published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, found that overweight and obese people increased their fat intake and reduced the amount of refined carbohydrates in their diet, while continuing to eat foods high in fiber. like fresh fruits, vegetables, nuts, beans and lentils – showed greater improvement in their risk factors for cardiovascular disease than those who ate a similar diet, which is lower in fat and higher in carbohydrates. Even people who replaced “healthy†whole-grain carbohydrates like brown rice and whole wheat bread with foods higher in fat showed striking improvements in a variety of risk factors for metabolic disease.

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The study suggests that eating less processed carbohydrates while eating more fat may be good for your heart health, said Dr. Dariush Mozaffarian, cardiologist and dean of the Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy at Tufts University, who did not participate in the research. . “I think this is an important study,†he said. “Most Americans still believe low-fat foods are healthier for them, and this trial shows that at least for those results, the high-fat, low-carb group did better.”

“This is a well-controlled trial that shows that eating less carbohydrates and more saturated fat is actually good for you, as long as you have a lot of unsaturated fat and are mainly on a Mediterranean-style diet,†Mozaffarian added. . Many doctors recommend a traditional Mediterranean diet, rich in fruits and vegetables, fish, and heart-healthy fats like nuts and olive oil, for cardiovascular health. Other rigorous studies have shown that following a Mediterranean diet can help prevent heart attacks and strokes.

The new study included 164 overweight and obese adults, mostly women, and took part in two phases. First, the participants were put on strict, low-calorie diets that reduced their body weight by about 12%. Then, they were each assigned to follow one of three diets in which 20%, 40%, or 60% of their calories came from carbohydrates.

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Protein was kept at 20% of the calories in each diet, with the remaining calories coming from fat. The participants received just enough calories to keep their weight stable. Participants followed the eating plans for five months, with all of their meals provided to make sure they were sticking to their diet.

The average American gets about 50% of their daily calories from carbohydrates, most of them in the form of highly processed starches like pastries, bread and donuts, and sugary foods and drinks. In the new study, the low-carb group ate significantly fewer carbs than the average American. But they weren’t on an ultra-low-carb ketogenic diet, which severely restricts carbs to less than 10% of daily calories and forces the body to burn fat rather than carbs. They also didn’t eat unlimited amounts of foods high in saturated fat like bacon, butter, and steak.

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Instead, the researchers designed what they saw as practical and relatively healthy diets for each group. All attendees ate vegetable omelets, black bean chicken burritos, seasoned London Broil, veggie chili, cauliflower soup, grilled lentil salads and grilled salmon. But the high-carb group also ate foods like whole wheat bread, brown rice, multigrain English muffins, strawberry jam, pasta, skim milk, and vanilla yogurt. The low-carb group skipped bread, rice, and fruit spreads and sweet yogurt. Instead, their meals contained higher fat ingredients such as whole milk, cream, butter, guacamole, olive oil, almonds, peanuts, pecans, and macadamia nuts, as well as soft cheeses.

After five months, people on a low-carb diet did not experience any detrimental changes in their cholesterol levels, despite the fact that 21% of their daily calories came from saturated fat. This amount is more than double what the federal dietary guidelines recommend. Their so-called bad LDL cholesterol, for example, stayed about the same as those on a high-carb diet, which got just 7% of their daily calories from saturated fat. Tests also showed that the low-carb group had about a 15% reduction in their levels of lipoprotein (a), a fatty particle in the blood that is strongly linked to the development of heart disease and stroke. cerebral.

The low-carb group also exhibited improvements in metabolic measures linked to the development of type 2 diabetes. The researchers assessed their lipoprotein insulin resistance (LPIR) scores, a measure of resistance to insulin which examines the size and concentration of molecules carrying cholesterol in the blood. Large studies have shown that people with high LPIR scores are more likely to develop diabetes. In the new study, people on a low-carb diet saw their LPIR scores drop by 15%, reducing their risk of diabetes, while those on a high-carb diet saw their scores increase by 10%. People on a moderate carbohydrate diet had no change in their LPIR scores.

The low carb group also saw other improvements. They had a drop in their triglycerides, a type of fat in the blood linked to heart attacks and strokes. And they’ve had increases in their levels of adiponectin, a hormone that helps reduce inflammation and make cells more sensitive to insulin, which is a good thing. High levels of inflammation throughout the body are linked to a range of age-related illnesses, including heart disease and diabetes.

The low-carbohydrate diet used in the study largely eliminated highly processed and sugary foods while making room for “high-quality” carbohydrates from whole fruits and vegetables, beans, legumes, and others. plants, said Dr. David Ludwig, study author and an endocrinologist at Harvard Medical School. “It’s primarily focused on eliminating processed carbohydrates, which many people now recognize as one of the less healthy aspects of our food supply,†said Ludwig, co-director of the New Balance Foundation Obesity Prevention Center at Boston Children’s Hospital. .

Ludwig pointed out that the results do not apply to the very low carbohydrate levels typical of ketogenic diets, which cause LDL cholesterol to rise sharply in some people. But he said the study shows people can achieve metabolic and cardiovascular benefits by replacing processed carbohydrates in their diets with fats, including saturated fat, without making their cholesterol levels worse.

The new study cost $ 12 million and was largely funded by the Nutrition Science Initiative, a nonprofit research group. It has also been supported by grants from the National Institutes of Health, the New Balance Foundation, and others.

Linda Van Horn, a nutrition expert who served on the federal government’s dietary guidelines advisory committee and was not involved in the new study, noted that the low-carb group consumed large amounts of unsaturated fat and high-fiber vegetables, both of which are known to have beneficial effects on cholesterol and cardiovascular risk markers. The low-carb group, for example, consumed an average of 22 grams of fiber per day, which is more than what the average American consumes, she said.

“While the study is valuable and carefully designed, as always in nutrition research, there are many dietary factors that influence cardiometabolic risk factors that may help explain the results,†said Van Horn, who is also head of nutrition in the prevention department. medicine at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine.

Mozaffarian said his take home message for people is to adopt what he calls a high fat Mediterranean diet. This involves eating less highly processed carbohydrates and sugary foods and focusing on fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, fish, cheese, olive oil, and fermented dairy products like yogurt and kefir. “This is the regime that America should focus on,†he said. “This is where all the science converges.


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