Researchers from University of Cincinnati in Ohio say that people who follow a low-carbohydrate, high-protein diet (LCHP) for 6 months may lose more weight than those on a standard low-fat diet, and they appear to experience no cardiovascular problems as a result.
However, they say that this diet may not be healthy in the long run.
One example of such a diet is the Atkins Diet, which first gained popularity during the 1970s. Limited evidence suggests it may help people lose weight, but many experts remain concerned about the long-term health effects of the diet, which can contain high levels of fat and cholesterol.
The American study is based on results from 53 obese women, half of who were asked to follow the LCHP diet, in which less than 10% of their calories came from carbohydrates. The rest of the women followed the standard low-fat diet, made up only 30% fat calories. Both groups consumed the same number of calories each day.
After 6 months, women on the LCHP diet lost 10 more pounds of body weight and 6 more pounds of body fat than did those following the low-fat diet. Blood pressure and blood sugar levels--which can indicate increased risk for cardiovascular disease--were within normal ranges for both groups.
However, those on the LCHP diet ate less fiber and more protein, fat and cholesterol than did the low-fat diet followers. So why did a seemingly unhealthy diet not affect indicators of heart disease risk? The authors suggest that the benefits of losing more weight may offset the disadvantages associated with high fat and cholesterol. It may be weight loss itself that causes the positive results, and these results are not dependent on the diet.
Other experts agree that 6 months is not long enough to determine if the LCHP diet is safe over the long term. However, they add that low-fat diets are often unsatisfying for dieters, because many carbohydrates--a common source of low-fat foods--cause a rapid rise and fall of blood sugar, leaving eaters hungrier sooner than after eating protein and other foods with the same number of calories.
But the alternative does not have to be diets that are high in protein and fats, he added. Rather, people should follow a reasonable diet, consisting of moderate levels of protein and fat.
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