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Why Recent Attacks on High Protein Low Carb Diets are Nonsense

Dr. Pagona Lagiou is the lead researcher of a recent study that concludes “Atkin’s type” diets elevate heart disease risk. The study followed 43,000 women in Sweden who were between the ages of 30 and 49. The women kept diaries of their food intake over six months in 1991 and 1992.

After following them for 15 years, researchers determined that an additional “four to five women out of 10,000 develop cardiovascular disease each year” by following a high-protein, low-carbohydrate diet.

According to CNN.com, researchers claim that regularly eating “just 20 fewer grams of carbohydrates and 5 more grams of protein a day increased long-term risk of cardiovascular disease in women by 5%”.

Are we to believe that skipping the steak and eating a cupcake instead will support heart health? Or swapping a scrambled egg breakfast for a glazed donut and orange juice is a healthy choice?

No Evidence? No Problem!

Dr. Lagiou says that the “reduction of body weight should rely on increasing physical activity and reducing caloric intake,” but the evidence consistently shows that these factors are not effective long-term weight loss strategies. The fact that these repeated statements remain unsupported by science shows that evidence often falls short in modern dietary science.

The lack of research made on the long-term health effects of “Atkins-type” diets after substantial periods of time is another concern of Dr. Lagiou. Although they are not contained within a controlled setting, a glimpse into the lives and health of many traditional cultures is a clear indication that high-protein, low-carbohydrate diets are effective for good health and disease prevention.

Considering that there is no significant evidence to prove that saturated fats cause heart disease, it is interesting that researchers claim to be concerned with proof of the long-term health benefits of this diet. Even more compelling, when the low-fat, high-carbohydrate diet that is recommended today was first implemented, scientists and doctors came out against it in droves.

George McGovern’s Special Committee’s Baseless Report

George McGovern’s special senate committee created dietary guidelines for all Americans. They recommended the reduction of dietary fats, especially the replacement of saturated fats with vegetable fats. The McGovern Report also suggested that Americans reduce their cholesterol intake to that of one egg each day while consuming more carbohydrates, especially in the form of grains.

This report built the foundation of today’s governmental dietary guidelines. At the time, McGovern was warned by experts of the dangers in recommending such a diet. It was more obvious at the time that modern diseases were created by modern foods, such as sugar and flour, and not traditional foods that had always been included in the human diet.

Even the American Medical Association warned that McGovern’s report contained no conclusive evidence to back up its statements. There was deep concern that this report had the potential to harm those who would adhere to its recommendations.

At the committee’s hearing, doctors pleaded with the senator to conduct more research regarding the diet-heart hypothesis, but Senator McGovern was more concerned with getting his recommendations out in his allotted time frame rather than finding the evidence to back up his views.

Atkin’s Type Diet vs High Protein Diets

There’s another very important distinction to be made between the Atkin’s diet and high protein diets. The Atkin’s diet allows processed meats, which can indeed lead to disease. However, when one eats meat in its natural state as encouraged in our native caveman diet, then it encourages good health. A high protein diet does not necessarily equal an Atkin’s diet.

Science Uses Observational Studies as Springboards for Further Study, Not as Conclusive Evidence

Observational studies, like the one performed by Dr. Lagiou, are not conclusive. They are useful in offering insight into matters that deserve further research in laboratory settings. When Atkins-type diets are studied using controlled conditions, results show that they actually lower disease risk.

Research continues to demonstrate that carbohydrate restriction is more beneficial than low-fat diets in the treatment of obesity and diabetes. Low-carb diets have also proven to increase protective HDL cholesterol and reduce triglycerides.

A randomized, controlled study that involved 53 obese women revealed the benefits of a very low-carbohydrate diet. These women effectively lowered their blood pressure, blood lipids, and fasting glucose levels within six months.

Low-fat diets consistently prove to raise triglycerides, a risk factor for heart disease. This is because in low-fat foods, the fat is replaced with sugar. Sugar is strongly associated with higher risks of heart disease, diabetes, obesity, and inflammation.

The removal of refined and starchy carbohydrates generally creates a low-carbohydrate diet. Grains and sugar are high in easily digestible carbohydrates that have been proven repeatedly to diminish health and increase weight gain.

Attacking diets based on macronutrient levels alone is not where our focus should be. Fats are healthy. Certain carbohydrates are healthy. Proteins are healthy. But when these nutrients are transformed from their original states and into vegetable oils, refined carbohydrates, or hydrolyzed proteins, they become agents of disease. This is where diet and disease intersect, this is where the evidence leads, and this is the information that scientists should be releasing to the public.

Resources:

Bonifeld, John. “Low Carb, High Protein Diets Linked to Women’s Heart Disease.” CNN Health Blog. CNN, 27 June 2012. Web. 28 June 2012.

Taubes, Gary. Good Calories, Bad Calories: Challenging the Conventional Wisdom on Diet, Weight Control, and Disease. New York: Knopf, 2007. Print.

Corbett Dooren, Jennifer. “Not All Calories Equal, Study Shows.” WSJ Health and Wellness. Wall Street Journal, 26 June 2012. Web. 28 June 2012.

Reinberg, Steven. “‘Atkins’-Type Diets May Raise Risk of Heart Problems.” US News. U.S.News & World Report, 27 June 2012. Web. 28 June 2012.

Metcalf, B. S., J. Hosking, A. N. Jeffery, L. D. Voss, W. Henley, and T. J. Wilkin. “Fatness Leads to Inactivity, but Inactivity Does Not Lead to Fatness: A Longitudinal Study in Children (EarlyBird 45).” Archives of Disease in Childhood 96.10 (2011): 942-47. Print.

Brehm, Bonnie J., and Et Al. “A Randomized Trial Comparing a Very Low Carbohydrate Diet and a Calorie-Restricted Low Fat Diet on Body Weight and Cardiovascular Risk Factors in Healthy Women.” The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism 88.4 (2003): 1617. Print.

Forsythe, Cassandra E., Stephen D. Phinney, Maria Luz Fernandez, Erin E. Quann, Richard J. Wood, Doug M. Bibus, William J. Kraemer, Richard D. Feinman, and Jeff S. Volek. “Comparison of Low Fat and Low Carbohydrate Diets on Circulating Fatty Acid Composition and Markers of Inflammation.” Lipids 43.1 (2008): 65-77. Print.

Howard, Barbara V., and Judith Wylie-Rosett. “Sugar and Cardiovascular Disease.” American Heart Association Circulation. American Heart Association, 2002. Web. 28 June 2012.

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