Consuming a low carbohydrate-high protein diet -- like the Atkins diet -- may be associated with a greater risk of cardiovascular disease in women.   Decreases in carbohydrate intake and increases in protein intake  were all associated with significantly greater risks of incident cardiovascular disease events in young Swedish women, according to Pagona Lagiou, MD, PhD, of the University of Athens in Greece, and colleagues.

The findings, which were reported online in BMJ, "do not answer questions concerning possible beneficial short-term effects of low carbohydrate or high protein diets in the control of body weight or insulin resistance," the authors wrote.   "Instead, they draw attention to the potential for considerable adverse effects on cardiovascular health of these diets when they are used on a regular basis," they wrote.

Low carb-high protein diets have become popular because of the short-term effects on weight control, but concerns have been raised about the potential cardiovascular effects over the long term. Studies exploring the issue have given mixed results, with a U.S. study showing no relationship between such a diet and rates of ischemic heart disease.   But three European studies showed a greater risk of cardiovascular mortality with such a diet.

The current analysis included 43,396 women, ages 30 to 49 at baseline, who completed a comprehensive questionnaire on lifestyle and dietary factors, as well as medical history. They were followed for an average of 15.7 years.   During follow-up, there were 1,270 incident cardiovascular events, which included ischemic heart disease, ischemic stroke, hemorrhagic stroke, subarachnoid hemorrhage, and peripheral arterial disease.

After adjustment for energy intake, saturated and unsaturated fat intake, and numerous cardiovascular risk factors, each one-point decrease in carb intake was associated with a relative 4% increase in cardiovascular events (95% CI 0% to 8%). There was a suggestion that the associations were stronger for women whose protein came mostly from animal sources, but the test for interaction did not reach statistical significance for nearly all of the individual outcomes.

"Although these results are based on an observational study, their biological plausibility seems self evident," according to Anna Floegel, MPH, of the German Institute of Human Nutrition Potsdam-Rehbruecke, and Tobias Pischon, MD, MPH, of the Max Delbrück Center for Molecular Medicine Berlin-Buch.

"A low carbohydrate diet implies low consumption of whole-grain foods, fruits, and starchy vegetables and consequently reduced intake of fiber, vitamins, and minerals. A high protein diet may indicate higher intake of red and processed meat and thus higher intake of iron, cholesterol, and saturated fat," they explained in an accompanying editorial.

"These single factors have previously been linked to a higher risk of major chronic diseases, including cardiovascular disease, in observational studies, so it is not surprising that this combination of risk factors is linked to a higher incidence of disease and mortality," they said.

For more informations about preventing heart disease, visit:   2011 Guidelines for CVD Prevention in Women

Primary source: BMJ
Lagiou P, et al "Low carbohydrate-high protein diet and incidence of cardiovascular diseases in Swedish women: prospective cohort study" BMJ 2012; DOI:10.1136/bmj.e4026.




calories in food depends on the content of carbohydrates, protein and fat contained in the food. Fat produces the most calories, which is 9 calories / gram. While carbohydrates and protein contain 4 calories per gram. Foods that contain high calories are foods that contain a lot of fat. And foods such as fruits and vegetables have a high water content to have a low calorie content.

This had been an issue over the past years with regards to diet. People really think that carbs should be limited but I guess it should be studied carefully and it all depends on the patient. Factors to consider are the lifestyle and the need of energy for the client. I am no expert on this field but I'm just giving my thoughts. I wanted to learn more on this topic also.

this is such an interesting topic. As a woman I really have noticed that i have been stressed most of the times. thanks for this article I will be changing my diet plan from now on.

Thank you for this article. Personally, I think this material is great. I agree with much of your information here. It also motivates me to learn more. I await the next article with great anticipation.

This is an interesting study into consuming a low carbohydrate high protein diet. Especially when the diet is considered popular for weight loss. It would be interesting to see what the long term effects of this type of diet would be. Thanks for sharing the results

I so agree with this article. Balance and moderation are the key to great results with any weight loss plan.

I remember reading about the dangers associated with Low carb diets a while back. Too many people use low carb diets, not as a diet but a change in lifestyle. All our organs requires energy to function, not all organs are meant to, or possess the ability to convert fatty cells to be used as fuel. The Brain needs carbohydrates to function, we all know that. Now the heart is about to be added to that list.

A low carb diet doesn´t necessarily mean total elimination of carbs and an abusive protein intake. Any diet should be done in a conscious and responsible way. If you don’t know what you´re doing, then get help from a professional.

It's nice to see a study done with a large sample size and long term follow up. Thanks for sharing.

I therefore conclude that before we go on ANY diet, we must consult our doctor first. Yeah, its true that low carbohydrate diet implies low consumption of whole-grain foods, fruits, and starchy vegetables wherein we get much vitamins and minerals while high protein diet means high intake of cholesterol which causes hypertension and heart attacks. Still, nothing beats a balanced diet.

A Low Carb diet is great, but of course don't overdo it! Just use your common sense..