Special Reports

Low-Carb Vegan Diet Helps Lower Weight and Heart Disease Risk


Eco-Atkins, a low-carb vegan diet, helps to lower weight and risk of heart disease, according to a St. Michael Hospital study.

"We killed two birds with one stone - or, rather, with one diet," said Dr. David Jenkins, the director of the Clinical Nutrition and Risk Modification Centre and a Nutritional Sciences professor at the Univer1sity of Toronto, in a press release. "We designed a diet that combined both vegan and low-carb elements to get the weight loss and cholesterol-lowering benefits of both."

Existing low-carbohydrate diets increase cholesterol levels as they encourage consumption of animal proteins and fats. However, diets that emphasized on vegetable proteins and oils decrease the risk of heart disease by curtailing "bad cholesterol" levels.

For the study, 23 obese men and women participated in the six-month study. Participants were given a menu plan that outlined food items and amounts and a list of relevant food substitutes. Participants were asked to consume only 60 per cent of their estimated caloric requirements.

Since the menu plan did not instruct the participants about fixed meals (when to eat what) and in turn presented them with an exchange list, they were not only able to satisfy their personal tastes, but also encouraged to stick to their diet.

Eco-Atkins participants aimed to strike a balance, coming mainly from vegetable oils, of about 26 percent of calories from carbohydrates (high-fibre foods like oats and barley and low-starch vegetables like okra and eggplant), 31 percent from proteins and (gluten, soy, vegetables, nuts and cereals) 43 per cent from fat (nuts, vegetable oils, soy products and avocado).

Researchers found that the diet helped participants to lose an average of four more pounds within six months than the high-carb, low-fat diet. The diet also cut down cholesterol, one of the factors that heighten the risk of heart attacks when present in excessive amounts in the bloodstream, by 10 percent.

"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.

The finding is published in British Medical Journal Open.

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