In a May of 2003, the results of a 12-month study on the Atkins diet were reported in the New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM). One group followed the traditional food pyramid with 60% of the calories from carbohydrates while the second group followed the Atkins diet.
After one year, Atkins participants had a greater increase in the good HDL cholesterol and a larger drop in triglyceride than the high carb group.
The leader of the study, Gary Foster said, “Our initial findings suggest that low carb diets may not have the adverse effects we anticipated.”
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Conventional wisdom has dictated for years that saturated fat and cholesterol were dangerous and unhealthy, contributing to coronary heart disease. This led most health professionals to condemn low carb diets that allowed large amounts of saturated fat.
This belief is now being questioned. Many authors such as Mary Enig and Uffe Rashnkov have presented compelling cases that dietary cholesterol and saturated fat do not cause heart disease. The latest research seems to confirm this. However, many factors affected the results of these new studies.
In some studies, the subjects did not follow the Atkins Diet to exact specifications and never entered ketosis, so conclusions about saturated fat, dietary cholesterol, ketosis and coronary health cannot be drawn yet. In other studies, cholesterollowering drugs were used. And in still others, some subjects actually showed increases in total cholesterol. Those who did show improvements may have previously been on a high refined sugar, high saturated fat diet and dropping the sugar was one step in the right direction. Furthermore, some of the drop in blood cholesterol could be attributed to the decrease in body weight.
Clearly, you can’t lump all dietary fats into the same category. Processed and chemically altered trans fats have been condemned by virtually every health and nutrition expert on the planet. Other fats, like salmon and fatty fish, are among the healthiest and cardio-protective foods you can eat. Much evidence is showing that reasonable amounts of naturally occurring saturated fats such as those found in whole eggs and red meat also need not be feared (especially in the absence of sugars).
Truth is, all the information we have available at this time indicates the “fat phobia” and “fat makes you fat” scare has been unfounded because not all fat is the same. However, claims that diets very high in overall and saturated fat are healthy and safe for long term use are still premature.