Sunday, November 19, 2006

That Heart Disease And Low Carb Study Everybody Keeps Talking About.....

This heart/nurse study sure is making the rounds, articles on it are pouring out from all over the world and fellow low carber's are singing praise...

Am I the only one out there that doesn't think it is that great?

I know, I know, it is said to show that there was no increase in cardiovascular disease for the low carber's and in fact according to Regina a slight decrease in risk (6%) in comparison to the low fat participants. This is good right?

Well yes, I think so, but the participants consuming the lowest carbohydrate intake averaged 116g a day. That is not very low, especially considering it is the much lower intakes that are often being slammed. I guess my main question is how much fat were these low carb participants eating?

Were they eating a high fat intake and heck what is considered a high fat intake and what is considered low?

This I am yet to find out, though Regina was kind enough to find out for me what the average calorie intake was, which was just over 1500 calories a day in another one of her great posts on this topic here.

I ask this because, I have never even thought about my fat intake in actual grams until I was low carbing. During strict low carbing averaging 1500 calories a day, I found close to 120g of fat to be a good amount, I never felt that it was high as I never ate huge amounts of animal fats to reach that (Not that animal fat bothers me). Though, I guess people doing low fat would gasp at that amount of fat? Oddly enough, if that fat intake of mine is high and it is so bad well it certainly didn't stop me from reaching a goal weight of 55kg, gaining a good increase in muscle mass and my triglycerides after 2 years were a mere 0.5 ...

Another thing I wonder about this study is how accurate were the participants food questionnaire's? How likely would it be for these people to underestimate their fat intake or any other significant factor?

But I guess the biggest thing about this study that concerns me the most is these articles that are pouring out everywhere and the message they are bringing with them for example;

A couple of quotes form this article.

Indeed the rate of heart disease among women who follow a low carbohydrate diet is no higher than it is among women who eat foods that are low in fat and high in carbohydrates, researchers at Harvard School of Public Health found. The study tracked 83,000 female nurses. “It’s not that the two diets are equally good,” Harvard’s Thomas Halton said. “In fact, they’re both equally bad,”
The only diet that reduces the risk of the disease — and does so dramatically — is one where the fat and protein come from vegetable sources, the researchers found.

Or this one:

"Neither a very low-fat diet or a very low-carbohydrate diet proved to be ideal," he says. "There were pros and cons to both of these diets."

Low-fat diets are by definition low in saturated fats, which is good for the heart, Halton says. But they also tend to be higher in refined carbohydrates like sugar and white flour, which spike blood sugar levels.

"Americans tend to pick the wrong carbohydrates," he says. "So the benefits of eating lower amounts of saturated fat and cholesterol are offset to some degree by the poor quality of the carbohydrates they eat."

The most protective diet, in terms of heart disease risk, was a low-carbohydrate that was also low in saturated fats and cholesterol where vegetables were the main sources of fats and protein. "The vegetable-based low-carbohydrate diet combined the best features of low-fat and low-carbohydrate eating," Halton says. Following this diet was associated with a 30 percent reduction in heart disease risk over 20 years.

"The quality of fat and carbohydrate is more important than the quantity," says study researcher Frank Hu, M.D., Ph.D. "A heart-healthy diet should embrace healthy types of fat and carbohydrates."

Another one:

"This study doesn't mean that you should load your plate with steak and bacon," said the study's senior author, Dr. Frank Hu, a professor of nutrition and epidemiology at Harvard.

There was no increase or decrease in the risk of heart disease among low-carb eaters in the study.

Healthy fats, carbohydrates

As for why, it could be that the side-effects of animal protein are countered by eating fewer refined carbohydrates, Hu said.

"The quality of fat and carbohydrate is more important than quantity," he said. "A heart-healthy diet should embrace healthy types of fat and carbohydrates."

Women who chose fat and protein from vegetable sources were the exception, showing a 30 per cent lower risk of heart disease, the team found.

Two of the study's authors reported receiving grants from food companies or growers.

(Heh I wonder who these food companies and growers were?)

Now if I remember right according to Reginas interpretation of the full study, the participants who fell into this category were not eating low carb at all (over 202g a day). Not only that they actually ate less fruit and vegetables and ate more saturated fat then the higher carbohydrate participants (242g) that they were compared against. Also according to Regina the most significant change in their diet compared to the others was that they ate more nuts.

According to Regina what they did find was:

The researchers did indeed find there was no risk to following a low-carbohydrate diet in the long-term; they even found that high intakes of animal fats and protein wasn't going to increase your risk of cardiovascular disease. What they didn't find is that vegetable fats and protein are protective in the context of a low-carbohydrate diet.

Instead they found, in the context of an intake range of 202g to 240g carbohydrate, when subjects are consuming similar intake of red meat, chicken, fish - a higher consumption of nuts, coffee, saturated fat and whole grains with less fruits and vegetables may provide a benefit in the context of such a dietary pattern higher in carbohydrate. Just don't expect them to tell you that - instead they'll continue to perpetuate the myth that animal foods and saturated fat is detrimental to your health.

Yet according to these articles popping up everywhere we should become a vegetarian?

Or atleast, thats how I interpret the message, what do you think other folks will get from this message?

What do you think even fellow low carbers who don't know of great blogs like Reginas get from this message?

Of course the good thing about this study is that though obviousely trying as hard as they could, the researchers don't seem to have been able to find anything bad about low carb over the long term...

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