Cardiovascular disease is a serious concern in the modern day. An estimated 17.9 million people pass away due to the presence of cardiovascular disease each year, which means these diseases account for about 31% of all deaths around the world(1). Coronary heart disease is currently considered one of the most prevalent cardiovascular diseases, affecting up to 4% of the US population(2).
Many advancements have already been made in the treatment of heart disease, including the identification of certain diets that may hold the key to positively impacting the risk factors that are associated with the development of cardiovascular conditions.
A KETO or Low-Carb Diet has been suggested to assist in improving cholesterol balance and to provide a way to address metabolic syndrome. This may, in turn, help to decrease the prevalence of heart disease significantly. In this post, we take a look at how a low-carb diet could have a potential therapeutic effect on the cardiovascular system by targeting particular risk factors.
Cardiovascular disease is a term that refers to a number of conditions that affect the heart, blood circulatory system, and other parts of the body. Some of the most common types of conditions that are classified as cardiovascular disease include(3):
· Coronary artery disease
· Heart valve disease
· Heart failure
The majority of risk factors associated with cardiovascular disease are modifiable and preventable. The general population should be aware of such risk factors and implement appropriate behavioral and lifestyle modifications to assist in minimizing their risk for developing heart disease and related conditions.
Obesity remains one of the most important risk factors that need to be taken into consideration(4). An excessive accumulation of body fat also leads to metabolic syndrome, a range of conditions that further increases a person’s risk of suffering heart attacks, strokes, as well as other conditions related to the cardiovascular system.
Additional risk factors that also contribute to the development of cardiovascular diseases include(5):
· High LDL cholesterol levels
· Older age
· A sedentary lifestyle
· High blood pressure
Genetics also plays a part – it has been found that those with a family history of heart disease are also at a higher risk of developing these conditions themselves.
The Role Of KETO or Low-Carb High-Fat Diets In Cardiovascular Risk Factors
Weight reduction often comes as the first recommendation for patients who are at risk of cardiovascular disease. With weight reduction comes a range of other potential benefits – including better insulin control in the body, improvements in cholesterol balance, and more.
Diets that focus on reducing carbohydrate intake have become exceptionally popular. The Atkins diet surely contributed to the popularity of low-carb diets. Recent studies have suggested that the KETO or Ketogenic Diet promotes improvements in lipid profiles, diabetes, heart disease as well as a decrease in weight.
These diets primarily focus on reducing the intake of carbohydrates – which contribute to weight gain, spikes in blood sugar levels, and other potential complications in the body.
Studies have found that low-carb diets do have the potential to provide a number of positive effects in people who are overweight – in fact, according to one publication(6), low-carb diets have been shown in some studies to be a more effective approach to weight loss than the majority of other diet types.
One study(7), published in the American Journal of Epidemiology, compared the potential effects of a low-carb diet to that of a low-fat diet on particular metabolic risk factors. The study found that a low-carb diet had more potential to reduce total cholesterol levels, as well as to provide a decline in LDL cholesterol. There was also an elevation in HDL cholesterol levels, which is a good type of cholesterol that helps to keep the blood clean and may assist in further reducing the risks of cardiovascular disease.
What About Nutrition Deficiencies In These Diets?
A particular issue that many publications tend to bring up when it comes to looking at the Ketogenic diet and other diets that follow a low-carb approach is nutritional deficiencies. Many people think that eating a low-carb diet causes a deficiency in essential nutrients, due to the many restrictions in food that comes with this dieting trend.
One study(8) looked at this particular issue. After closely analyzing food options that are available for people following a low-carb diet and performing tests on people following such a diet, the scientists that led the study concluded that this myth should be dispelled. The study found that by carefully planning out a meal program, it is possible to ensure appropriate nutrient intake and there would not be a significant risk of nutritional deficiencies.
With the high prevalence of cardiovascular disease and the life-threatening complications associated with these conditions, it is crucial that appropriate measures be taken by the population who is at risk. A low-carb diet has been suggested to assist in reducing the particular risk factors that are associated with common forms of cardiovascular disease, including abdominal obesity, diabetes, high blood pressure, unbalanced cholesterol, and more.
1 Cardiovascular disease. World Health Organization. https://www.who.int/cardiovascular_diseases/en/
2 P. Bhatnagar, K. Wickramasinghe, E. Wilkins, N. Townsend. Trends in the epidemiology of cardiovascular disease in the UK. BMJ Heart Journal. https://heart.bmj.com/content/102/24/1945
3 Heart and Cardiovascular Diseases. WebMD. https://www.webmd.com/heart-disease/guide/diseases-cardiovascular#1
4 J. Kwagyan, T.M. Retta, M. Ketete, C.N. Bettencourt, A.R. Maqbool, S. Xu, O.S. Randall. Obesity and Cardiovascular Diseases in a High-Risk Population: Evidence-Based Approach to CHD Risk Reduction. HHS Public Access. 1 Jul 2015. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4487367/
5 Cardiovascular Disease Risk Factors. ADA. https://ada.com/cardiovascular-disease-risk-factors/
6 R. Oh, K.R. Uppaluri. Low Carbohydrate Diet. StatPearls. 28 Jan 2019. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK537084/
7 T. Hu, K.T. Mills, L. Yao, K. Demanelis, M. Eloustaz, W.S. Yancy, T.N. Kelly, J. He, L.A. Bazzano. Effects of Low-Carbohydrate Diets Versus Low-Fat Diets on Metabolic Risk Factors: A Meta-Analysis of Randomized Controlled Clinical Trials. American Journal of Epidemiology. 1 Oct 2012. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3530364/
8 C. Zinn, A. Rush, R. Johnson. Assessing the nutrient intake of a low-carbohydrate, high-fat (LCHF) diet: a hypothetical case study design. BMJ Open Journal. 8 Feb 2018. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5829852/
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