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Low carbohydrate diets linked to heart disease

Eat bread with steak, it's better for you Atkins diet potentially unhealthy, study finds

The Atkins diet, which calls for lots of meat and little bread, may not only be dull on the palate, but also pose a serious risk to your health.

A new study conducted on mice has found that a diet high in protein and low in carbohydrates can lead to a significant build-up of plaque in the heart's arteries, which can ultimately lead to a heart attack and stroke. This occurred despite the fact that mice on a low carbohydrate diet had gained comparatively less weight than mice on a regular 'balanced' diet.

The low carbohydrate diet was found to undermine the body's ability to recover from a heart attack, by preventing the formation of new blood vessels in tissues deprived of blood flow.

The study also found that the standard indicators of heart disease, including cholesterol, did not change in mice that were fed a diet low in carbohydrates, despite evidence pointing to an increase in plaque in the arteries.

"It's very difficult to know in clinical studies how diets affect vascular health," said senior author Dr Anthony Rosenzweig, Director of Cardiovascular Research in Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston.

Doctors have until now relied on indicators like cholesterol, which support the positive benefits of a low carbohydrate diet high in protein, because dieters tend to lose weight. However, this study suggests that in mice, this kind of diet has a negative effect on health that is not reflected in indicators like cholesterol.

"Understanding the mechanisms responsible for these effects, as well as the potential restorative capacity that may counteract vascular disease, could ultimately help guide doctors in advising their patients," Dr Rosenzweig said.

"For now, it appears that a moderate and balanced diet, coupled with regular exercise, is probably best for most people," Dr Rosenzweig said.

The study was published in the online version of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

This article was published on Tue 25 August 2009

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