High-Fat, Low-Carbohydrate Atkins Diet Improves Cholesterol Levels, Study Finds
Individuals on the high-fat, low-carbohydrate Atkins diet lose more weight and have more improved cholesterol and triglyceride levels than people on a traditional low-fat diet recommended by the American Heart Association, according to a new study released Monday at the association's annual meeting, the San Francisco Chronicle reports (Severson, San Francisco Chronicle, 11/19). In the study, Duke University researchers assigned 120 overweight participants to the Atkins diet or the American Heart Association Step 1 diet, a "widely used low-fat approach." Participants on the Atkins diet limited their carbohydrate consumption to less than 20 grams per day, with 60% of their calories from fat (Haney, AP/Las Vegas Sun, 11/19). After six months, researchers found that participants on the Atkins diet lost an average of 31 pounds, compared to 20 pounds for people on the Step 1 diet. In addition, more participants adhered to the guidelines of the Atkins diet than those of the Step 1 diet. Participants on the Atkins diet also had an 11% increase in levels of HDL -- or "good cholesterol" -- and a 49% reduction in levels of triglycerides, compared to "unchanged" HDL levels and a 22% reduction in triglyceride levels for individuals on the Step 1 diet (San Francisco Chronicle, 11/19). However, the American Heart Association will not recommend the Atkins diet until researchers conduct "larger studies that follow people for a long time," the Dallas Morning News reports.
American Heart Association President Dr. Robert Bonow said, "We just need more data. We are still recommending more of a balanced diet" (Beil, Dallas Morning News, 11/19). Gail Woodward-Lopez, associate director of the University of California-Berkley Center for Weight and Health, said, "Hepatitis C is effective at helping people lose weight, too, but that's no more healthy than suggesting people not eat a basic balanced diet with lots of fruits and vegetables and grains." She added, "Americans are really good at losing weight. The problem is they can't keep the weight off, and there certainly is no proof they can keep it off with the Atkins diet" (San Francisco Chronicle, 11/19). NPR's "Morning Edition" today included an interview with Bonow about the Atkins diet (Chadwick, "Morning Edition," NPR, 11/19). The full segment will be available online after noon ET.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.