Health Warning: Low-carb Weight Loss Diets May Increase Risk of Heart Attack

Research published in August 2009 suggests that low carb diets may actually contribute to the clogging of arteries, and increase the risk of developing heart disease, stroke and having a heart attack.

The research was carried out by Harvard Medical School after they heard reports that there had been cases of increased heart attacks amongst people adopting a low-carb diet. It seems the Dr. Atkins may have been wrong. He prescribed low carb diets to many of his obese patients, and reported that there was no increase in heart attack risk. However, he did also mention that the long term risks of being morbidly obese were greater than the possibility of a short term increase in heart disease risk.

One criticism of the low carb diet is that it would increase cholesterol levels. Dr. Atkins always stated that this was not so. The research by Harvard does agree with this. Low-carb diets do not raise cholesterol levels, but they do increase the build-up of fatty plaque deposits in the arteries, and this can cause both heart attacks and strokes.

Lead researcher Anthony Rosenzweig was on a low-carb diet when he started the study, however he has since stopped, and returned to eating a more balanced diet. Incidentally, previous studies have shown that over the course of a year, low carb diets do not perform any better than other types of dieting.

“Our research suggests that, at least in animals, these diets could be having adverse cardiovascular effects. It appears that a moderate and balanced diet, coupled with regular exercise, is probably best for most people.” Anthony Rosenzweig, Harvard.

Professional Opinions from the Medical Community

“We know that foods such as red meat and dairy products, which are high in protein, also contain high levels of saturated fat. These fats then cause the build up in the arteries.” Joanne Murphy, Stroke Association

“Low-carb, high-protein diets are not considered as healthy as eating a balanced diet, which is good for health because we get the different nutrients our body needs by eating from the different food groups every day.” Ellen Mason, British Heart Foundation

“This research helps to back up the basic message that our diet should contain more starchy carbohydrate, not less. For long-term health at least one-third of what we eat should be bread, rice, potatoes, pasta or other starchy food.” Prof. Alan Maryon-Davis, UK Faculty of Public Health

So the general consensus is that a healthy well balanced diet should be followed, rather than a high protein / low carb one. It is important to do all things in moderation. Do not attempt to eliminate carbs completely.


Low-carb diets linked to atherosclerosis and impaired blood vessel growth by Bonnie Prescott, Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, August 24, 2009.

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