Atkins-style diets linked to heart problems

Atkins-style diets may be good for losing weight fast but eating a low-carb, high-protein diet could be detrimental in the long-term. A new study from Sweeden found that women with a low-carb, high-protein diets had a higher risk of cardiovascular disease.

In the study, 43,396 women aged 30-49 completed a questionnaire on their diet. Researchers then rated their diets on a 20-point scale; the lower the ratio of protein to carbohydrates, the higher the score. After 15 years, there had been 1,270 cardiovascular events, mostly strokes and heart disease. Women had a 4-5% increased risk of cardiovascular disease for every increase of 2 points on the scale. Two points on the scale signified a decrease of carbs by 20g and increase of protein by 5g. That could be as simple as having one less dinner roll or another serving of eggs.

In a commentary to Heartwire, Dr. Henry Block of the Center for Prevention of Cardiovascular Disease criticized the study since researchers only questioned women about their diets once. ( "Who eats the same thing for 15 years?" he asked.)

Previous research on Atkins-style diets have produced mixed results. The 2006 Nurses' Health Study found that low-carb diets were not associated with an increase in heart disease. But other small European studies have linked these diets to an increase in cardiovascular mortality.

And this most recent Swedish study echoes the results of yet another new study linking low-fat, low-carb diets to heart problems. In an accompanying editorial, Dr. Anna Floegel and Dr.Tobias Pischon pointed out that the health benefits of low-carb, high-protein over low-fat diets have only been shown in short-term studies. The discrepancies between short and long-term studies need to be ironed out before doctors can conclusively recommend low-carb, high-protein diets, they wrote.


Hughes, Susan. "CV risk over Atkins diet." Heartwire. Junr 27, 2012. Accessed July 3, 2012.

Lagiou, Pagona, et al. Low carbohydrate-high protein diet and incidence of cardiovascular diseases in Swedish women: prospective cohort study. BMJ2012;344:e4026.