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Weight Loss & Cardiovascular Health

Weight Loss and Cardiovascular Health
Date:  May. 17, 2012

Obesity is a leading cause of cardiovascular disease, especially if the weight is concentrated in the region above the belly button. Regardless of whether one follows a low-carb diet or a low-fat diet to lose weight, researchers have found that the greater the loss of belly fat, the greater the improvements to blood vessel function and the better the flow of blood throughout the body, both of which reduce the risk of vascular issues. Researchers at Johns Hopkins performed a six-month study of 60 men and women who weighed an average of 215 pounds at the outset and recently presented their findings at an American Heart Association scientific meeting that focused on cardiovascular disease prevention.


Half the participants followed a low-carb diet that included up to 30 percent of calories from carbs such as bread, pasta, and certain fruits; 40 percent of calories came from fat found in meat, dairy, and nuts. The other half consumed a low-fat diet that contained no more than 30 percent of calories from fat and 55 percent from all carbohydrates. All participants consumed approximately the same number of calories each day, regardless of which plan they followed, and incorporated moderate exercise into their daily routines. The low-carb dieters lost an average of 28.9 pounds versus the low-fat dieters, who lost 18.7 pounds over the course of six months. In order to evaluate vascular functionality, researchers constricted circulation in the upper arm of the participants for five minutes using a blood pressure cuff. The healthier the artery, the more quickly it will expand when the cuff is released.


 Researchers measured how much blood reached the fingertips before, during, and after the test and found that the more belly fat an individual had lost, the greater the blood flow to the finger, an indication of improved functionality of the artery. Researchers noted that individuals who followed the low-carb diet did not exhibit any cardiovascular issues as a result of the higher fat content in their diets, and they lost more weight at a faster pace, a result that is similar to those of other studies. Lead researcher Kerry J. Stewart, Ed.D., a professor of medicine at Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, said that eating higher amounts of carbohydrates can slow down the rate of body fat lost while on a reduced-calorie plan, potentially making low-carb diets a viable option for weight loss. Higher carbohydrate intake, particularly from simple sources, increases insulin, the hormone at the root of weight gain.


  These long-term results indicate that weight loss, coupled with exercise, is necessary for improving vascular health; additionally, following a low-carb diet rather than the traditional low-fat diet may not have any negative effects on the cardiovascular system. (American Heart Association, 2012)

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