Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Low Carb diets reverse clogged arteries

I spotted this on the BBC the other day.

Actually, it is not just low carb diets. The researchers looked at 3 different diets:

Researchers studied 140 people (88 percent men, average age 51, Body Mass Index 30.4) who were randomly assigned to a low-carbohydrate, low fat or Mediterranean diet as part of the Dietary Intervention Randomized Controlled Trial-carotid (DIRECT) study.
What doesn't really hit the headlines is that while each of the diets was effective in reversing the atherosclerosis process, the low carb diet was the most effective in terms of its favorable effects on lipids in the blood.

Even the BBC note:

"Some people suggest that low-carbohydrate diets are more likely to clog arteries, but we did not see that."

Sounds like something for Dr Davies

Here is the study abstract:

Dietary Intervention to Reverse Carotid Atherosclerosis.

BACKGROUND: -It is currently unknown whether dietary weight loss interventions can induce regression of carotid atherosclerosis. Methods and Results-In a 2-year Dietary Intervention Randomized Controlled Trial-Carotid (DIRECT-Carotid) study, participants were randomized to low-fat, Mediterranean, or low-carbohydrate diets and were followed for changes in carotid artery intima-media thickness, measured with standard B-mode ultrasound, and carotid vessel wall volume (VWV), measured with carotid 3D ultrasound. Of 140 complete images of participants (aged 51 years; body mass index, 30 kg/m(2); 88% men), higher baseline carotid VWV was associated with increased intima-media thickness, age, male sex, baseline weight, blood pressure, and insulin levels (P<0.05 for all). After 2 years of dietary intervention, we observed a significant 5% regression in mean carotid VWV (-58.1 mm(3;) 95% confidence interval, -81.0 to -35.1 mm(3); P<0.001), with no differences in the low-fat, Mediterranean, or low-carbohydrate groups (-60.69 mm(3), -37.69 mm(3), -84.33 mm(3), respectively; P=0.28). Mean change in intima-media thickness was -1.1% (P=0.18). A reduction in the ratio of apolipoprotein B100 to apolipoprotein A1 was observed in the low-carbohydrate compared with the low-fat group (P=0.001). Participants who exhibited carotid VWV regression (mean decrease, -128.0 mm(3); 95% confidence interval, -148.1 to -107.9 mm(3)) compared with participants who exhibited progression (mean increase, +89.6 mm(3); 95% confidence interval, +66.6 to +112.6 mm(3)) had achieved greater weight loss (-5.3 versus -3.2 kg; P=0.03), greater decreases in systolic blood pressure (-6.8 versus -1.1 mm Hg; P=0.009) and total homocysteine (-0.06 versus +1.44 mumol/L; P=0.04), and a higher increase of apolipoprotein A1 (+0.05 versus -0.00 g/L; P=0.06). In multivariate regression models, only the decrease in systolic blood pressure remained a significant independent modifiable predictor of subsequent greater regression in both carotid VWV (beta=0.23; P=0.01) and intima-media thickness (beta=0.28; P=0.008) levels. Conclusions-Two-year weight loss diets can induce a significant regression of measurable carotid VWV. The effect is similar in low-fat, Mediterranean, or low-carbohydrate strategies and appears to be mediated mainly by the weight loss-induced decline in blood pressure.


Stephan said...

Ah, finally a study that looks at more than just blood lipids in a low-carb context. Looks promising. What I want to see now is a study showing that it reduces heart attack incidence.

It's telling that the LC group saw no increase in LDL, in fact, it decreased. Thanks for posting this Chris.

xanderd said...

I dont get how a low fat high carb, and low carb high fat diet could both reduce atherosclerosis. Doesnt that cover the entire populations diets already?

and 'Mediterranean' is misleading; it was originally used to cover only 2 locations (a greek island if I remember correctly), not the entire mediterranean. Does the benefit come only from olive oil, fish, pasta, veg etc?

not clear at all. but I will stick to my low carb diet :D

Keenan said...


ANY diet will be effective at improving body composition and lipid profile if it means a reduction in calories and processed garbage. This effect only seems to be true in the short run, though. This, I think, it the main trouble with conventional wisdom of what is "healthy".

People go from eating fast food and TV dinners to eating "healthy whole grains" and lots of fruit and lean meat and then go on believing that those things are truly healthful. While they may be *better* than their previous diet in relative terms, they are by no means optimal.

In the long run, excess carbs (especially fructose), exposure to allergens (such as gluten) and various lectins will wreck the body's metabolism, thyroid, etc to the point where the body can no longer process those "healthy whole grains". This is where the health problems would likely start appearing.

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