American Heart Association Issues ‘Strong’ Warning Against High-Protein Diets
The American Heart Association today plans to issue a "strong recommendation" against high-protein weight loss plans such as the Atkins Diet, Protein Power, the Zone and Sugar Busters, the Washington Post reports. A report published in the association's journal Circulation found a "lack of credible scientific evidence" of long-term weight loss for people on high-protein diets and a "possibility of increased risk" for people with diabetes and heart disease. Written by six members of the group's nutrition committee, the recommendations, called an "AHA Science Advisory," analyzed several "popular" diets, evaluating previous research and comparing the weight-loss programs to the AHA's dietary guidelines. The committee found that the diets offer "initial, rapid weight loss" as a result of "temporary fluid loss" from eating fewer carbohydrates. "You might get short-term effects," Sachiko St. Jeor, director of the Nutrition Education and Research Program at the University of Nevada-Reno and a member of the committee, said, adding, "But the health benefits are not demonstrated over the long term." The committee said that high-protein diets can "compromise" vitamin and mineral intake and lead to heart, liver and kidney "abnormalities." In addition, the report found that the Atkins Diet and Protein Power have "particularly high" intakes of total fat, saturated fat and cholesterol, which increase the risk of heart disease. The report also called high-protein weight loss programs "especially risky for patients with diabetes" and warned that they may lead to gout, osteoporosis and increased cancer risk.
A "disappointed" Colette Heimowitz, director of education and research for the Atkins Health and Medical Information Service in New York, said that the AHA "did not take a more informative and educational position for the general public." She added, "They are using scare tactics as headlines and feeding facts that aren't supported with scientific evidence." The AHA recommends a diet low in fat, high in fruit, vegetables, whole grains and low-fat dairy products that includes "no more calories than necessary to maintain a healthy body weight." However, Heimowitz said that many individuals "can't, won't and don't follow the low-fat recommendations. Now, they won't have a safe and effective alternative to address their obesity problem" (Squires, Washington Post, 10/9). To view the AHA report, go to http://circ.ahajournals.org/cgi/content/full/104/15/1869.This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.