Scientists say: Popular diet can cause heart problems

Dieting can double the risk of cardiovascular disease and high cholesterol, according to a study.

Dieting can double the risk of cardiovascular disease and high cholesterol, according to a study.

In the fight to get rid of unwanted pounds, the so-called keto diet has become popular.

The diet excludes large amounts of carbohydrates from meals and replaces them with fat and protein.

But a study shows that this high-fat diet can cause problems for those with too high cholesterol and an increased risk of cardiovascular disease.

A popular solution can double the risk of a heart attack

At the American College of Cardiology’s annual conference for cardiologists in early March, Iulia Iatan presented a new study that is one of the first to look in more detail at the effects of the keto diet on cholesterol and cardiovascular disease.

“Our study found that consistent consumption of a low-carb, high-fat diet was associated with higher levels of LDL cholesterol—or ‘bad’ cholesterol—and a higher risk of heart disease,” said cardiologist Iatan, who works at St. Paul’s Hospital in Vancouver, Canada.

Iatan and her research team used data from the British Biospecimen Bank, which contains health data on more than half a million Britons who were studied for at least ten years.

The researchers behind the new study focused on 305 Britons who, in the first questionnaires, indicated that they got no more than 25 percent of their daily energy intake from carbohydrates and at least 45 percent from fat.

Carbohydrates are the body’s most common source of nutrients for daily energy needs. But the keto diet recommends that carbohydrates be limited to about 10 percent of your daily caloric intake. Followers of the diet therefore reduce the consumption of bread, rice, pasta, potatoes and some fruits and vegetables. Instead, the body gets its nutrition from protein and fat, which in the keto diet are about 25 to 65 percent. This should cause the liver to convert fat cells into so-called ketones, which replace carbohydrates as an energy source.

The keto followers were then compared to a control group of 1,220 Britons who more often got the majority of their calories from carbohydrates.

Along with having a BMI that was one percentage point higher than normal, the researchers also found that nearly one in ten of the keto group developed cardiovascular disease. But the same was true for only one in twenty on a normal diet.

Bad cholesterol clogs the arteries

Older studies have also shown that a high-fat diet can lead to more so-called LDL cholesterol . Low Density Lipoprotein-cholesterol consists almost exclusively of apo-lipoprotein B, which enables the body’s cells to bind and transport fat.

The particular protein is also a suspected culprit in leading to blood clots because it clumps together in the blood vessels.

This new study establishes a strong link between high cholesterol levels, apo-lipoprotein B, and the risk of cardiovascular disease.

People show different reactions

“We showed that the ketogenic diet participants who were at the highest risk of cardiovascular disease were also the ones with the highest levels of LDL cholesterol,” noted Iulia Iatan, speaking at a conference in New Orleans.

She also emphasized that, according to the study, different people react differently to the high-fat diet. Iatan encouraged those interested in keto to discuss the diet with their GP before starting the diet.

“If you are on the keto diet, it is recommended to have your cholesterol levels measured regularly and to be more aware of other risk factors for cardiovascular disease such as diabetes, high blood pressure, lack of exercise and smoking,” said cardiologist Iatan.

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