NOT only are diets usually doomed to fail, they can also have dangerous health risk, according to an article I’ve just read in the British Medical Journal. The Daily Express made it the main story on its front page, warning people on extreme Atkins Diet style regimes are putting themselves at risk of potentially fatal heart disease and strokes.
The controversial Atkins Diet low carbohydrate-high protein eating plan is said by experts to have dangerous long-term health effects.
Cutting daily carbohydrate intake by just 20g, equivalent to a small bread roll, and increasing protein by 5g, or one boiled egg, increased the risk of cardiovascular disease by five per cent.
But when the Atkins Diet is followed to excess, the chances of heart disease, stroke or narrowed arteries soared by 60 per cent, it was claimed.
The Express and the Daily Mail reported that young women on such a strict regime are particularly in danger, with increased risk of disease for years after coming off the diet.
Dr Anna Floegel, of the German Institute of Human Nutrition, and Professor Tobias Pischon, of the Max Delbruck Centre for Molecular Medicine in Berlin, said in a report: “Despite the popularity of these diets, clinicians should probably advise against their use for long-term control of body weight.”
Victoria Taylor, of the British Heart Foundation, said: “This study highlights the need for us to achieve balance in our diets, rather than pitting nutrients against each other. Don’t feel you have to choose between carbohydrates or protein – a bit of both is better for your long-term heart health.
“Eating a mix of all food groups, rather than cutting anything out completely, will help you to stay healthy inside and out.”
Dr Clare Walton, for the Stroke Association, said: “It’s clear that we don’t fully understand the long-term implications of fashionable diets and people should seek advice from their GP or other health professional before embarking on diets of this kind.”
The original Atkins Diet was devised by American heart specialist Robert Atkins, who died of a heart attack, aged 72, in 2002.
His Atkins Diet involved eating more protein and fat in foods such as meat, cream and butter, and cutting out bread, sugar and other foods high in carbs. At its peak in 2003 more than three million Britons were thought to be on Atkins-style diets. The eating plan was promoted as a revolution in weight loss.
As the Atkins Diet involves no calorie counting and had a high meat intake, it became particularly popular with men.
It fell out of favour after concerns over health risks, but in 2008 it was relaunched as the All-New Atkins Advantage diet which purported to address these fears.
Now, new research on the bmj.com website will reopen the debate.
More than 43,000 Swedish women aged 30 to 49 were assessed over 15 years and 1,270 suffered a “cardiovascular event” such as heart disease, stroke and narrowing of the arteries.
Professor Pagona Lagiou, of the University of Athens, who carried out the research, said:
“Low-carbohydrate, high-protein diets, used on a regular basis and without consideration of the nature of carbohydrates or the source of proteins, are associated with increased risk of cardiovascular disease.”