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Long-term High-Protein Diet Increases CVD Risk

A recent European study found that a diet that promotes low-carbohydrate, high-protein intake could be putting women at greater risk of cardiovascular disease.

Overweight and obesity are risk factors for several common chronic diseases, and they have become endemic in most economically developed countries and beyond. Many dietary regimens have been proposed as conducive to weight control, with one diet style that encourages reduced carbohydrate intake, thereby encouraging high protein intake. Low carbohydrate-high protein diets may have short term effects on weight control; however concerns have been raised with respect to cardiovascular risks.

In a recent Lifestyle and Health Cohort study, researchers examined the long term consequences of low carbohydrate-high protein diet on cardiovascular health, among a random sample group of 43396 Swedish women, aged 30-49 years at the beginning of the study and were followed-up for an average of 15.7 years. The main outcome measures are the association of  incidence of cardiovascular diseases, after adjustment for smoking, alcohol use, hypertension, fat intake and physical activity.

The study found that a one tenth decrease in carbohydrate intake or increase in protein intake or a 2 unit increase in the low carbohydrate-high protein score were all statistically significantly associated with increasing incidence of cardiovascular disease overall. In practical terms, a 20g decrease in daily carbohydrate intake and a 5g increase in daily protein intake would correspond to a 5% increase in the overall risk of cardiovascular disease.

The researcher concluded that 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.

This study involved relatively young women, making the findings directly relevant to the demographic that often resorts to restrictive weight-loss diets such as restriction of carbohydrate with unavoidable increases in protein intake, however ignores the fundamental lifestyle factors to weight gain such sedentary habit, compulsive food consumption, and imbalanced dietary structure.

Pagona Lagiou et al. BMJ 2012;344:e4026 doi: 10.1136/bmj.e4026


Three Worst Diets to Avoid in 2013

If weight loss is one of your New Year’s Resolutions for 2013, then starting on the right track, instead of falling into traps of fad diets, will help you succeed.

The Australian Bureau of Statistics ‘2011-12 Australian Health Survey’ found that around 35% of women aged 18-24 years are either overweight or obese.  According to survey conducted in October 2012 by the Dietitians Association of Australia (DAA), 42% of women in this age group are hoping to lose weight in the New Year.  To help people get started on the right track for 2013, and stop them from trying the endless array of fad diets, DAA has released a list of three worst diets to avoid based on an online vote by 230 registered dietitians nationwide.

From a list of nine popular diets, the Lemon Detox Diet was deemed the ‘worst’ by experts for the second consecutive year, with almost three quarters (74%) of the dietitians voting against it.  The Acid and Alkaline Diet and The Six Weeks to OMG Diet were amongst the worst three diets attracting votes from 42 and 40 per cent of nutrition experts respectively.

“Don’t put your health in the hands of celebrities-endorsed diets or products that make miraculous weight and fat-loss claims. Like many things in life, good health takes perseverance and commitment to a healthy lifestyle,” said Ms McGrice, DAA Spokesperson and Accredited Practicing Dietitian.  She also advised people to “Start with small, sustainable changes like having more home-cooked meals and going for regular walks. Extreme diet measures are unnecessary and counterproductive.”

Australia’s nutrition experts give some tips on how to ditch fad diets in 2013
1.    Watch out for gimmicks or quick fixes. Being healthy takes time.
2.    Everyone wants that miracle diet that solves all problems. The truth isn’t sexy, but it works: A wholesome, nutritious, balanced diet.
3.    Carbohydrates are essential for effective brain function. Low carbohydrate diets won’t help you perform at your best.
4.    Get half vegetables, one quarter carbohydrates and one quarter protein on your plate at breakfast, lunch and dinner.
5.    No need to ban certain foods – you’ll only crave them more. Plan small amounts of ‘treat’ foods into your week and take time to taste and enjoy them. Enjoy quality over quantity.

Media Release, Dieticians Association of Australia, 8 January 2013

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