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Mary Shomon

Low-Carb Diet News

By April 6, 2004

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Lots of news on low-carbohydrate diets, including:
  • Low carbohydrate diet has positive effect on blood lipids
  • Low carbohydrate diets and coronary artery disease, calcium, diabetes and metabolic syndrome
  • Low-carb diet effective in short-term treatment of obesity in school-age children
  • Complex carbohydrates, the breakfast of champions

To investigate the effects of very low carbohydrate diets on the blood lipids and other markers of cardiovascular disease in women, investigators attempted to repeat work previously completed on male subjects, using female subjects. This balanced, randomized two-period crossover study looked at numerous serum markers in 10 healthy women who consumed both a low fat (less than 30%) and a very low carbohydrate (less than 10%) diet for four weeks each. Although modest increases were noted in LDL, favorable effects on cardiovascular disease risk status occurred by virtue of a relatively larger increase in HDL and a decrease in fasting and postprandial triglyceride levels.

Volek, J.S., Sharman, M.J., and Gomez A.L., et al., "An Isoenergetic Very Low Carbohydrate Diet Improves Serum HDL Cholesterol and Triacylglycerol Concentrations, the Total Cholesterol to HDL Cholesterol Ratio and Postprandial Lipemic Responses Compared with a Low Fat Diet in Normal Weight, Normolipidemic Women," The Journal of Nutrition, 133(9), 2003, pages 2756- 2761.


The amount of calcium deposited in the coronary arteries is a strong predictor of future fatal cardiac events in apparently healthy individuals. It is also known that people with diabetes or the metabolic syndrome, also known as Syndrome X, have an increased risk of cardiac disease. But until now the relationship between diabetes, the metabolic syndrome and coronary artery calcium has not been studied.

The metabolic syndrome is closely related to insulin resistance, which makes it related to, and possibly a precursor of, diabetes. People suffering from the metabolic syndrome have at least three of the following health issues: obesity, low HDL cholesterol, high triglycerides, glucose intolerance and high blood pressure. Researchers at the University of California, Irvine, examined 1,823 patients, measuring their coronary artery calcium in addition to the various symptoms of metabolic syndrome and diabetes. They found that the more factors of the metabolic syndrome a patient had, the higher the coronary artery calcium. Similarly, diabetics also had an increase in coronary artery calcium, raising the need for further investigation as to the relationship between these findings and the risk of future cardiovascular events in the subset of individuals with metabolic syndrome or diabetes and coronary artery calcification.

Wong ND, Sciammarella MG, Polk D, Gallagher A, Miranda-Peats L, Whitcomb B, Hachamovitch R, Friedman JD, Hayes S, Berman DS., The metabolic syndrome, diabetes, and subclinical atherosclerosis assessed by coronary calcium, J Am Coll Cardiol. 2003 May 7;41(9):1547-53.


With childhood obesity reaching epidemic proportions, physicians everywhere are looking for treatments that are effective. Doctors at the Marshall University School of Medicine in Huntington, West Virginia. report that 23 percent of their pediatric patients are obese. In an effort to find an effective treatment for these patients, they performed a small study comparing a low-fat, calorie-counting diet to a low carbohydrate, calorie-unrestricted diet.

The study consisted of 70 obese children divided into two groups. One was given a low-fat, hypocaloric diet whose calories consisted of 55 percent carbohydrates, 15-20 percent protein and less than 30 percent fat. The other group was put on a diet without calorie restriction that kept the carbohydrates to about 7 percent of the daily caloric intake, protein at 49 percent and fat at 44 percent. The result was that of the 47 children who completed the study with a minimum of two months of follow up, those on the low carbohydrate diet lost an average of 6 kilograms, with a decrease in body mass index of 2.6 kg/m2 compared to those on the low-fat diet, who gained an average of 4.6 kilograms and whose BMI increase by .8 kg/m2. While this study was small and the error bars large, the result does suggest that the low carbohydrate diet is indeed an effective treatment for juvenile obesity.

Misty Trent Strow, James R. Bailes, Adrian R. McGinnis, Lewis Spangler, Jr and Isabel Pino, Successful Short Term Treatment of Obesity in School-Age Children, West Virginia Chapter American Academy of Pediatric Residents Research Contest Winner, 2001.


Carbohydrates come in two basic varieties: sugars and starches. Sugars, also known as simple carbohydrates, are quickly absorbed by the body. Starches-complex carbohydrates-must first be broken down into simple carbohydrates before they are absorbed by the body. This difference can have an important effect on energy and appetite, as a recent study shows.

Researchers in the Netherlands fed 26 male subjects breakfasts high in simple carbohydrates one day and high in complex carbohydrates on the next. For the four hours following their meals, the researchers measured the subjects' blood glucose, insulin, triglycerides, free fatty acids and cholecystokinin levels. Following the simple carbohydrate breakfast, glucose and insulin levels were both higher at 30 minutes after feeding, triglyceride levels were higher at 180 minutes and free fatty acids were higher at 180 and 240 minutes. In addition, the subjects were asked to assess their satiety and levels of fatigue. The researchers found that those consuming a complex carbohydrate breakfast (whole grain breads and cereals) felt more energetic and less hungry than those who ate simple carbohydrates.

Pasman WJ, Blokdijk VM, Bertina FM, Hopman WP, Hendriks HF., Effect of two breakfasts, different in carbohydrate composition, on hunger and satiety and mood in healthy men, Int J Obes Relat Metab Disord. 2003 Jun;27(6):663-8.

Source: Atkins Research


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