vegetarian low-carb diet
May 27, 2014

Eco-Atkins Diet May Help Lower Heart Disease Risk As Well As Promote Weight Loss

Brett Smith for - Your Universe Online

Most low-carbohydrate diets geared toward weight loss emphasize eating chicken or beef, but a new study has shown that a low-carb diet without animal proteins can not only lead to weight loss – it can also reduce the risk of heart disease by 10 percent over the course of a decade.

The study, which was published in the British Medical Journal Open, looked at the impact of the diet often referred to as Eco-Atkins on cardiovascular risk factors and body weight. The researchers noted that more conventional low-carb diets include animal fats, which can raise cholesterol to unhealthy levels.

"We killed two birds with one stone – or, rather, with one diet," said study author Dr. David Jenkins, director of the Clinical Nutrition and Risk Modification Centre of St. Michael's Hospital in Toronto, in a  recent statement. "We designed a diet that combined both vegan and low-carb elements to get the weight loss and cholesterol-lowering benefits of both."

The study team enrolled 39 overweight men and postmenopausal women in either Eco-Atkins or a conventional low-carb diet over the course of six months. Volunteers received menu programs that defined food items and amounts. As opposed to necessitating fixed meals, the menus were a reference guide and volunteers were provided a list of acceptable food alternatives. With this list of interchangeable food items, volunteers were better able to modify the diet to their own tastes - which helped to motivate adherence to the diet, the study team said.

Volunteers were asked to eat only 60 percent of their calculated caloric needs - the quantity of calories needed to sustain their current weight.

Eco-Atkins volunteers tried to get 26 percent of their calories from carbohydrates, 31 percent from proteins and 43 percent from fat such as vegetable oils and nuts. This group ate high-fiber foods such as oats and barley and low-starch vegetables such as okra and eggplant for their carbohydrates. Proteins came from gluten, soy, nuts and cereals.

All 23 participants who completed the six-month study lost weight. However, participants on the vegan diet cut their cholesterol levels by 10 percent and lost an average of four more pounds than those on the conventional diet.

"We could expect similar results in the real world because study participants selected their own diets and were able to adjust to their needs and preferences," Jenkins said.