WEDNESDAY, March 14, 2012 (HealthDay News) -- Using either a low-carbohydrate or low-fat diet to shed belly fat can improve blood vessel function, researchers say.
The study included 60 women and men who weighed 215 pounds on average and were assigned to either low-carb or low-fat diets that provided a similar amount of calories each day. The participants also did moderate exercise.
At the start and end of the six-month study, the researchers assessed the function of the participants' blood vessels.
During the study, people on the low-carb diet lost an average of 28.9 pounds and those on the low-fat diet lost an average of 18.7 pounds. The more belly fat a person lost, the better their arteries were able to expand when necessary, allowing blood to flow more freely.
"Our study demonstrated that the amount of improvement in the vessels was directly linked to how much central, or belly, fat the individuals lost, regardless of which diet they were on," lead investigator Kerry Stewart, a professor of medicine at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine and director of clinical and research exercise physiology at the Johns Hopkins Heart and Vascular Institute, said in a Hopkins news release.
"This is important since there have been concerns that a low-carb diet, which means eating more fat, may have a harmful effect on cardiovascular health. These results showed no harmful effects from the low-carb diet," Stewart noted.
The study was slated for presentation Tuesday at the American Heart Association scientific meeting in San Diego.
Being overweight increases the risk for cardiovascular disease, especially if belly fat accumulates above the waist.
Data and conclusions presented at medical meetings should be considered preliminary until published in a peer-reviewed medical journal.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention explains the causes and consequences of overweight and obesity.