The Atkins Diet is a popular weight-loss diet that emphasizes in decreasing carbohydrate intake and eating protein and fats. But it's also been pointed to as a way to increase heart health.
Developed in 1972 by Dr. Robert C. Atkins, a cardiologist, the Atkins eating plan is considered one of the first to start the current low-carb diet trend.
According to the Atkins website
, the diet was developed after the cardiologist told his patients to limit carbs and increase protein, and those patients lost weight.
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"The key was understanding that everyone's metabolism can use two different types of fuel for energy — either sugar (and carbs that are quickly turned into sugar by the body), or fat," says the website.
"But the type of fuel you burn can have a big difference in losing or maintaining weight. A typical diet reduces calories, but is still high in carbohydrates (and thus sugar). As a result, many people constantly cycle between sugar 'highs' (where excess sugar is actually stored as fat in the body) and sugar 'lows' (where you feel fatigued, and ravenously hungry — for more carbs and sugar)."
Weight loss results from following the Atkins plan vary, and studies have explored the affects the diet has on heart health.
"Research shows that a moderately low-carbohydrate diet can help the heart, as long as protein and fat selections come from healthy sources," according to the Harvard School of Public Health.
The website cited three studies regarding the issue:
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• A 20-year study found that women who followed a low-carb diet high in vegetable sources of fat and protein had "a 30 percent lower risk of heart disease," as well as a 20 percent lower risk of type 2 diabetes. The key, though, was turning toward vegetable sources for fat and protein. The study found that low-carb diets combined with animals fats or proteins didn't see the same benefits.
• Another trial by OmniHeart found that replacing some carbs with proteins or fats lowered blood pressure and "bad" LDL cholesterol more efficiently than a "healthy, higher-carbohydrate diet."
• A small weight-loss trial found that low-fat, high-carb vegetarian diets, compared to low-carb vegan diets high in vegetable protein and fat had about the same weight loss results, but the diet closest to that of Atkins saw better blood lipids and blood pressure.
The Mayo Clinic
pointed out that many of the studies are small and that significant researched needed to be done.
But Authority Nutrition
summarized 23 studies, most small, that found improvements in heart health on low-carb diets.
For instance, one study of 53 healthy but obese women found that their triglycerides were significantly lowered after following a low-carb diet, more than the women who followed a low-fat diet.
But another set of research found that people taking the low-carb, high-protein aspect of dieting to heart may actually be imperiling their health. A study published in the Journal of Evidence Based Medicine
stated that a "low carbohydrate-high protein diets, used on a regular basis and without consideration of the nature of carbohydrates or the source of proteins, are associated with increased risk of cardiovascular disease."
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