Breaking down the “Big Three”

You didn’t think I’d let this one get by me did you? Of course, I’m talking about the recent Swedish study that looked at the effects of a low-carb diet on cardiovascular risk in young women. The researchers looked specifically at the Atkins-type, low-carb diet.

While I think it’s healthy to have an informed debate on the different diets that are being touted as “safe…” if you’re going to design a study, it should be designed without stacking the deck first. Truly proper and worthy studies should be designed without bias.

I’m not sure what’s going on in Sweden, but they’re grasping for straws in this study.

The authors concluded: “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.”

Do you know what the so-called “increased risk” was in this study? Four cases of cardiovascular disease per 10,000 women. Doesn’t seem very statistically valid to me.

But you don’t just have to take my word for it. Here’s what Dr. Henry Black from the Center for Prevention of Cardiovascular Disease at New York University had to say: “The risks suggested were tiny, and there were so many weaknesses in this study it should never have been accepted for publication.”

I couldn’t have said it better myself. But, for the sake of that well-informed debate I mentioned earlier, let me break down the research for you. The following chart shows “Big Three” low-carb diets…

New Hamptons Health Miracle South Beach Diet Atkins Diet
Wellness approach to weight loss. Invented by a doctor (yours truly) who also focuses on other aspects of overall health Diet only. No focus on health. Created by a doctor who is not a nutritionist Diet only. No real focus on health. Originally recognized as a fad diet (albeit vindicated in recent years)
Low-carb with emphasis on scientifically proven benefits of healthy fats, particularly the monounsaturated variety. Low-carb with emphasis on “healthy fats”-yet, no explanation of what they are (nor any science to back it up). Low-carb, high-fat (particularly the saturated variety).
No “Induction Phase.” Allows healthy carbs and fruits from Day 1 Two-week restrictive Induction Phase Lengthy, restrictive Induction Phase
Encourages real, whole foods Allows many processed foods, including canola oil, low-fat cheeses and milk, non-fat half and half, egg substitutes, liquid “butter” substitutes, and artificial sweeteners Encourages consumption of overly processed low-carb foods and artificial sweeteners.
Recipes are delicious and filling, made with whole foods Recipes are very small portions, made with lots of unhealthful ingredients Recipes are heavy,greasy, and filled with processed low-carb foods


So there you have it. All the major information you need to make an informed decision. Certainly seems like a no-brainer to me!

“Low carbohydrate-high protein diet and incidence of cardiovascular diseases in Swedish women: prospective cohort study,” BMJ 2012;344:e4026