Low-Carb Diets May Hurt Heart Health
Millions who are faithful to low-carbohydrate
regimens to lose weight are missing out on fiber-rich foods essential
to healthy hearts, experts warn.
"By eating a low-carbohydrate
diet, you are selecting out those foods that may be rich in healthy
carbohydrates," said Jeannie Moloo, a Roseville, Calif., dietitian
and a spokeswoman for the American Dietetic Association. She said
these nutrient-packed foods "lower LDL, the bad cholesterol,
and blood insulin levels. They may also reduce blood clots."
Weight-conscious individuals continue
to turn to low-carb regimens to trim waistlines. But according to
nutritionists such as Moloo, they're forgetting that not all carbohydrates
are created equal.
"First, there's refined carbohydrates
-- that's where the nutrition has been removed and [manufacturers]
have sometimes added sugar to the product -- foods like white rice,
white bread, cookies," Moloo said, adding she has no problem
with dieters cutting out these carbs.
"Refined carbohydrates release
their sugar quickly into the blood, causing a dramatic spike in
insulin," she said. They are the "worst offenders"
in terms of raising risks for cardiovascular disease.
On the other hand, there are the
"good carbs" -- foods such as fruits, vegetables and,
especially, whole grains -- all packed with micronutrients, minerals,
antioxidants and fiber.
In one recent study, involving data
on the diets of more than 350,000 men and women, researchers found
that, for every 10 grams of cereal fiber consumed daily, risks for
death from heart disease dropped by 25 percent.
Fiber is simply the undigested part
of any food, and it can come in a water-soluble or water-insoluble
"When it comes to preventing
heart disease, the water-soluble form is the one that's been shown
to lower cholesterol levels," Moloo said. "However, the
water-insoluble form is important, too, because it may help slow
down the digestive process, thereby lowering blood sugar and insulin
And there's more to fiber-rich foods
such as whole grains than just fiber. "The bran and the germ
contain fiber, vitamins, thiamine, niacin, riboflavin, various minerals,
vitamins and antioxidants," said Katharine Tallmadge, a Washington,
D.C., dietitian and a spokeswoman for the American Dietetic Association.
"In fact, researchers haven't
really figured out if it's the fiber or these other phytochemicals
that pass on these health benefits," she said.
Daily servings of good carbohydrates
are crucial to maintaining a healthy cardiovascular system, Tallmadge
said, but separating the good from the bad at the supermarket isn't
always so easy.
"It's tricky, because a lot
of breads, for example, are called '7-Grain Bread,' 'Whole Wheat
Bread,' 'Oat Bread,' etc. But if you look on the ingredient list
and the first ingredient is 'wheat flour,' that does not
mean whole wheat," she said. Instead, stick to breads where
the first ingredient clearly reads whole wheat, Tallmadge
The "Nutrition Facts" panel
gives another clue to whether a cereal, bread, cracker or other
product is truly high in nutritious fiber. "Look at the dietary
fiber line on the Nutrition Facts label and select a bread that
has at least 3 grams of fiber per serving," Moloo said.
There's less guesswork with the amount
of fiber found in fruits and vegetables. "Fresh, frozen or
canned fruits and vegetables, it's pretty much going to be the same,"
The bottom line, according to both
experts, is that by ignoring fiber-rich foods, individuals on low-carb
diets aren't doing their hearts any favors. "They are eating
a very unhealthy diet, and that's a tragedy," Tallmadge said.
Popping a fiber supplement won't
change that, she added. "Because it isn't just the fiber that
helps us -- it's fiber-rich foods. In fact, when they isolate fiber
and study it separately, they don't get the same [heart-healthy]
Reference Source 101