For advocates and followers of low-carb/high protein diets, a provocative, report generating some of the first data on specifically how this diet pattern impacts vascular health, I hope will serve to douse any remaining Atkins’ enthusiasm once and for all.
Reporting in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (Aug 09), scientists found that mice placed on a 12 week, low-carb/high protein diet had dramatic acceleration of arteriosclerosis (plaque build up that blocks arteries) along with reduced capacity to form new blood vessels (which can be critical for survival in the context of heart disease).
For this study, scientists placed one group of mice on a low-carb regimen, a second group of mice on a typical Western (American) diet, and a third on standard rat chow (low-fat). Even though the low-carb group gained the least amount of weight (28% less) and had no significant differences in standard markers of cardiovascular disease, like cholesterol, triglycerides, and insulin levels compared to the other 2 groups, their blood vessels accumulated almost 50% more plaque vs those on the “Western” diet (which we already know is an artery buster), and 90% more than those on the standard rat chow.
The dramatic and ominous conclusion from this study is that despite less body fat accumulation and no negative changes in cholesterol levels or the other things thought to contribute to cardiovascular disease, plaque build-up quickly advanced in the low carb group. I think it is truly reckless to recommend or engage in a low carb/high protein eating plan.
An interesting foot note to this report is that the study’s lead investigator, a clinical cardiologist, admits to being compelled to perform this study after repeatedly admitting heart-attack patients on this dietary regimen.