Saturday, May 9, 2015

Low carb/high protein diets

They may get results but are high-protein/low card diets good for you?
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Do you shriek at the sight of pasta and bread, but are passionate about protein? Chances are, you have embarked on a popular yet controversial low-carb, high-protein diet that helps you shed weight fast. But new research has found that Atkins-style diets can lead to clogged arteries and may increase the risk of heart disease and stroke.TheHarvard Medical School professor who launched the study has even ditched his own low-carb, high-protein lifestyle after initial findings.

Dr Anthony Rosenzweig began the research with a team of scientists after a colleague criticised him about his eating habits. While such diets help people shed weight fast, they have been dogged by concerns about the dangers of eating too much fat, which lead to heart disease and kidney problems.

The Atkins diet

Atkins is the most famous of the low-carb regimes, banning carbohydrates such as flour, sugar and potatoes, but allowing protein and fat. Some fruit and vegetables are also restricted. After being mired in controversy, it has evolved in recent years, and now includes a small amount of pasta and bread. "Our research suggests that, at least in animals, these diets could be having adverse cardiovascular effects," says Dr Rosenzweig, from the Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Centre. "It appears that a moderate and balanced diet, coupled with regular exercise, is probably best for most people."

In the study, mice were fed three different diets: a standard high-carb mouse meal, a typical western diet with moderate amounts of carbs and protein, and a low-carb/high-protein diet. The low-carb diet did not affect cholesterol levels, but there was a significant difference in the impact on atherosclerosis (the build-up of fatty plaque deposits in arteries that can lead to heart attacks or strokes).

After 12 weeks, mice on the low-carb diet had gained less weight, but developed 15 per cent more atherosclerosis than those on the standard mice food. In the western diet group there was nine per cent more atherosclerosis. The study is still in the early stages and experts say the same changes may not occur in humans. Tuesday Udell, nutrition policy officer at the Heart Foundation, says these diets can put people's long-term health at risk.

"Any Atkins-style diet is a novelty approach to eating, encouraging bad eating habits, for short-term weight loss, at the expense of long-term health," she says. "At the Heart Foundation we don't recommend foods high in saturated and trans fat, which have been shown to increase the risk of heart disease. "To maintain a healthy weight, enjoy lots of fruit and vegetables, wholegrain, lean meats and reduced dairy, and walk for 30 minutes each day."

Each year, millions of Australians fail in their quest to lose weight. The Dietitians Association of Australia (DAA) says fad diets in general can lead to weight gain over time and often do more harm than good. Tania Ferraretto, an accredited practising dietitian with Nutrition Professionals Australia, says no one diet suits everyone. "The key to losing weight is to eat less energy [kilojoules] than you burn up," she says. "We do know that those who successfully lose weight and keep it off eat breakfast, eat a low-fat diet, monitor their weight regularly and exercise almost daily. "We also know adherence to a diet significantly impacts on weight loss, so it is vital to find an eating plan that is right for you and meets your individual nutrition and lifestyle needs."

Here, Ferraretto analyses three popular diets and gives her verdict:

Cabbage soup diet

This diet has been around for decades and is nutritionally inadequate. It includes mainly fruit and vegetables with a little protein later in the week. It is low in calcium, iron, zinc, protein, carbohydrate and healthy fats. It would be dangerous if followed for much longer than a week. It will result in loss of fluid and muscle and once you stop the diet you will stack the weight back on again. It is not a long-term way of eating and does nothing to help people develop healthy eating habits.

CSIRO diet

The CSIRO Total Wellbeing diet is a higher-protein, moderate-carbohydrate, lower-fat weight-loss plan. While it recommends more animal-based protein-rich foods and less carbohydrate-rich foods than the government's Australian Guide To Healthy Eating, it still meets the nutritional needs of most people by including fruit, vegetables, wholegrain breads and cereals.

Some people already eat more meat and protein foods than recommended by more conventional weight-loss diets and may therefore find this diet easier to adopt than other eating plans. The diet promotes lean cuts of meat in line with current dietary recommendations.

Scientific studies into the Total Wellbeing diet showed that over 12 months, weight loss on this diet was the same as on a conventional higher-carbohydrate weight-loss diet. However, it is a better alternative to many fad diets because it is based on evidence and was developed by respected Australian nutrition researchers.

Macrobiotic diet

The macrobiotic diet involves eating wholegrain foods, vegetables, fruit, legumes, fish and nuts. The aim is to eat minimally processed foods that are high in dietary fibre. While these foods are healthy, some important nutrient-rich foods are eliminated, including dairy food and meats. The macrobiotic diet may be low in calcium, iron, zinc and vitamin B12 and vitamin D. While it is possible to follow a healthy macrobiotic diet that meets nutritional needs, it does take careful planning and some people may find this difficult to do.

It is easier and more practical to eat a well-balanced diet that includes foods from all food groups, such as wholegrain breads and cereals, fruits and vegetables, dairy food or a calcium-rich alternative, meat and meat products, and a small amount of healthy fats and oils. 

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The eatwell plate

Healthy meal ideas from the DAA

Wholegrain cereal topped with low-fat milk and fresh, tinned or dried fruit.
A wholegrain muffin spread with apricot fruit spread and topped with banana.

A wholegrain salad sandwich or roll with lean meat or tinned fish in springwater followed by a tub of low-fat yoghurt.
A baked potato topped with cottage cheese and salad and a piece of fresh fruit.

A stir-fry made with lean beef or skinless chicken breast and lots of vegetables, served with rice or noodles.
A pasty made with grated vegetables and lean minced meat wrapped in filo pastry basted with low-fat milk.

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