Low-Carb, High-Protein Diet Linked to Atherosclerosis

Study pitted mice on LCHP diet against the typical 'Western' diet and mice 'chow'

FRIDAY, Aug. 28 (HealthDay News) -- Mice on a low-carbohydrate, high-protein (LCHP) diet had more aortic atherosclerosis than mice on a typical "Western" diet, despite less weight gain and similar blood lipids, according to a study published online Aug. 24 in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Shi-Yin Foo, M.D., of Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston, and colleagues fed mice either standard "chow" diet (65 percent carbohydrate, 15 percent fat, 20 percent protein), Western-style diet (43 percent carbohydrate, 42 percent fat, 15 percent protein, 0.15 percent cholesterol), or LCHP diet (12 percent carbohydrate, 43 percent fat, 45 percent protein, 0.15 percent cholesterol). The researchers examined the mice aortae, performed a serum analysis, and performed vascular or endothelial progenitor cell counts.

The researchers found that the mice on the low-carb diet gained 28 percent less weight than those on the "Western" diet, but had more plaque accumulation (15.3 versus 8.8 percent). The mice on the "chow" diet had minimal evidence of atherosclerosis. Tests for cholesterol, triglycerides, oxidative stress, insulin, glucose, and inflammatory cytokines were similar in the three groups or slightly favored the low-carb group, but endothelial progenitor cell counts dropped 40 percent in the mice on the low-carb diet.

"Although caution is warranted in extrapolating from such animal studies, these data at least raise concern that low-carbohydrate, high-protein diets could have adverse vascular effects not adequately reflected in serum risk markers. Moreover, these observations demonstrate important pathophysiological vascular effects of nonlipid macronutrients that are dissociated from weight gain," the authors conclude.

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