Friday, March 9, 2012

So what’s wrong with low-carbohydrate diets?

Dr. John Bariffa just posted an article on his blog titled What’s wrong with the dietary advice Diabetes UK dishes out to diabetics? Now this blog (Credible Evidence) is not ususlly about diabetes, rather (you guessed it - this blog is primarily about heart disease) but there is a strong connection between the two diseases.

I have reproduced part of Dr. Briffa's article because he makes several strong statements regarding heart disease and I thought it appropriate to post them here. I encourage you to follow the link to his site to read the full article and to check out the references he provided.

"            So what’s wrong with low-carbohydrate diets?
The usual accusation that such diets are high in fat, including ‘saturated’ fat that can cause heart disease (that diabetics are prone to). Actually, there is good evidence that when carbohydrate is cut from the diet, while the percentage of fat increases in the diet, the absolute amount of fat in the diet stays about the same (in other words, those switching to low-carb eating don’t generally eat more fat as a result).

This issue is a moot point, because there really is no evidence that saturated fat causes heart disease anyway. There have been several recent major reviews of the evidence regarding role that saturated fat, or fat in general, has in heart disease.

One such review conducted by researchers from McMaster University in Canada found that epidemiological evidence simply does not support a link between saturated fat and heart disease. Another recent study out of Oakland Research Institute in California, USA – this one, a meta-analysis (adding together of several similar studies) found saturated fat consumption has no links with heart disease risk.

Yet another comprehensive review of the relevant literature was performed as part of an ‘Expert Consultation’ held jointly by the World Health Organization (WHO) and Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the US. Again, no association was found between saturated fat and heart disease. This review also included a meta-analysis of intervention studies in which the effects of low-fat diets (these usually target saturated fat specifically) were assessed. Lower fat diets were not found to reduce the risk of either heart attack or risk of death due to heart disease.

The most recent review of the evidence was a 2011 meta-analysis, in which the results of 48 studies were pooled together. Each of these studies tested the effect of reducing fat and/or modifying its nature in the diet. In general, the study subjects reduced saturated fat intake and/or replaced it at least partially with so-called ‘polyunsaturated’ fats (e.g. vegetable oils). The results of this review showed that these interventions did nothing to reduce the risk death due to cardiovascular disease nor overall risk of death. In studies in which lowering and/or modification of fat was the only intervention, risk of cardiovascular events such as heart disease and stroke was not reduced either."
Read the complete article by Dr John Bariffa here.

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