Which diet is best to maintain heart health?
The debate continues. People who advocate low-fat diets for heart health say that a low-carb high-fat diet is harmful to your health. It makes perfect sense on the surface that this would hold. But is it true?
A clinical trial that was recently published by a researcher and doctor who is well-versed in heart health and metabolic disease led to some surprising and fascinating results. The trial was conducted in a way that allowed participants to be divided into three groups. They were required to follow the prescribed diets for 20 weeks. Each diet had 20% protein and varied amounts of carbs as well.
Participants were provided with fully prepared and customized meals which they could either eat at the cafeteria or take to-go. This made it impossible to determine whether participants had consumed the correct amounts of macronutrients.
Here is the breakdown of these diets: Low-carb: 20% carbohydrate; 21% fat
- Moderate-carb is 40% carbohydrate and 14% fat
- High-carbohydrate: 60% carbohydrate; 7% fat
- The stunning results of the 20-week experiment were revealed after the final week.
“A low-carbohydrate diet that is high in saturated oil and low in carbohydrate has been shown to increase insulin-resistant dilipoproteinemia, lipoprotein(a) and other indicators of insulin resistance, without affecting LDL cholesterol. It is possible that carbohydrate restriction could lower CVD risk (cardiovascular disease), independent of body weight. This possibility deserves to be explored in large, multi-centered trials that are based on hard outcomes.
Researchers found that low-carb, higher-fat diets had greater improvements in triglycerides, blood pressure, lipoprotein(a), and adiponectin. This hormone is a fat-derived hormone that appears to play a key role in protecting against insulin resistance/diabetes/atherosclerosis. Lipoprotein(a), which is a type of cholesterol transporter, can cause plaques to form in the blood vessels walls. This can lead either to blood vessel hardening or narrowing. High levels of saturated fat didn’t have any adverse effects on cholesterol or other cardiovascular markers.
This is in direct contradiction to the many years of tradition. I believe it comes down to the quality of the food as well as where the fat is from. Saturated fat isn’t the dangerous substance that we’ve been told for years. My personal view is that it depends on where that fat came from and how your metabolic system reacts to saturated oil.