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Carbs May Be Worse for the Heart Than Fat


Last updated 1/4/2007 at Noon

For years, people watching their weight or attempting to stay heart-healthy operated under the assumption and guidance from dieticians that fat was worse for their hearts and weight than carbohydrates. However, conventional wisdom just may have been incorrect, as recent reports indicate the opposite.

In late 2006, researchers at the Harvard School of Medicine revisited the controversy regarding fats, carbs and heart health, spurred on by the belief that low-carb diets, such as the popular Atkin’s Diet, couldn’t possibly be healthy. What they have found just may shock those who thought baked potatoes were better than slabs of cheese. A study published in the New England Journal of Medicine looked at the relationship between low-carbohydrate dieting and heart disease risk in more than 80,000 women assessed over 20 years. The results found that low-carb eating was not associated with an increased risk of heart disease. After coming to these conclusions, researchers further delved by assessing the relationship between heart disease risk and something known as the ‘glycemic load’ of a diet. Glycemic load is measured by the glycemic index (GI) of food, or more simply, the speed and extent of sugar release from a particular food when digested. Usually the higher the GI the themore insulin secreted by the body and the greater the risks for health problems, since excess insulin production is linked to an increased occurrence of obesity, type 2 diabetes and heart disease.

Many carbohydrates are nutrient-rich and have a low GI, such as several fruits and vegetables. However, it is the starchy staples that the public was once encouraged to eat in abundance, such as grains and pastas, that have a high glycemic load and have the potential for health implications, especially when consumed in abundance.

So, does this mean a person should load up on fats and think heart disease is a distant memory? Probably not. Most diets that propose a radical change of eating habits are largely unhealthy, according to most professionals. If you have any doubts about what to eat, practicing moderation is the safest route to take and one that ensures your body is receiving all of the nutrients it needs to function optimally.


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