THURSDAY, June 2 (HealthDay News) -- New research suggests that
low-carbohydrate diets, with regular exercise as part of the plan,
don't appear to harm the arteries, as some experts have feared.
"It's pretty clear low-carb is effective for weight loss," said study author Kerry J. Stewart, director of clinical and research exercise physiology at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine and its Heart and Vascular Institute. "The concern has been that because you are eating more fat this is going to put stress on your blood vessels."
So, Stewart and his team evaluated the short-term effects of a
low-carb, higher-fat diet after a single meal. The researchers also
compared a low-carb diet with a low-fat diet in dieters. In each
case, they found no ill effects on blood vessel health.
Stewart is due to present his findings Friday at the American
College of Sports Medicine meeting in Denver.
However, one nutrition expert said longer-term research is
needed before concluding that high fat intake doesn't hurt blood
For the first study, Stewart's team looked at the effects of
eating an extremely high-fat McDonald's breakfast. The breakfast
had more than 900 calories and 50 grams of fat. "That's half of
what you should eat in a whole day," Stewart said.
The researchers then evaluated a marker of arterial stiffness
and another measure of blood vessel health, known as endothelial
function. "Even after eating this one meal, we didn't find any
vascular changes from before to after," he said.
The arterial stiffness, in fact, improved, he noted, although he
is not sure why.
Neither study had industry funding; both were financed by the
U.S. National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute.
For the diet study, Stewart assigned 55 men and women who were
overweight or obese to the low-carb diet or a low-fat diet. They
also had abdominal obesity and a large waist circumference (35
inches or more for women, 40 or more for men). Both are risk
factors for heart disease.
The low-carb plan included up to 55 percent fat at the
beginning, and phased down to about 40 percent. It had about 15
percent carbs initially, and then went to 40 percent. The other
dieters followed the American Heart Association's low-fat diet,
with no more than 30 percent fat a day.
Both groups had supervised exercise three times a week.
At the meeting, Stewart will report on 46 dieters, 23 from each
group, who lost 10 pounds. "In the low-carb group, they reached the
10-pound loss at 45 days," he said. The low-fat group needed 70
days to shed 10 pounds.
Their calorie intake was similar, whichever diet they were
Stewart performed the same blood vessel measures as in the
breakfast study. "There were no differences in any of the vascular
measures," he said.
The researchers will continue the study for six months. While
Stewart cautioned that these are initial findings, he added, "We
are pretty confident this is a real result. At the 10-pound
weight-loss mark, we don't see any harm to the vasculature."
Stewart said he put on weight a few years ago, went on a
low-carb plan while also exercising and dropped 40 pounds. He has
kept if off for four years.
While the study is intriguing, long-term research is crucial,
said Connie Diekman, director of university nutrition at Washington
University in St. Louis and past president of the American Dietetic
"When it comes to the impact on blood vessel functioning, as a registered dietitian I would like to see more studies in healthy and unhealthy subjects and longer-duration studies before concluding that this high-fat intake does not impact blood vessel health," she said, although the study does show that exercise is important. The breakfast study, with its one-time test, does not provide much information about what impact these diets will have long-term, she added.
To learn more about losing weight, visit the
U.S. Centers for Disease Control and