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June 8, 2009

The “Eco-Atkins” Diet: New Twist on an Old Tale

Arch Intern Med. 2009;169(11):1027. doi:10.1001/archinternmed.2009.149

High-protein, low-carbohydrate diets are advocated by many, predominantly commercial, weight loss programs. Most of these diets have been promoted within popular culture and until recently have been subjected to little scientific scrutiny. Substantial concern has been raised about the potential for adverse effects. Meat is commonly consumed as a major source of dietary protein. However, meat derived from animal muscle also typically contains large amounts of saturated fat and cholesterol. Consequently, low-density lipoprotein cholesterol (LDL-C) levels may increase, or do not decrease, presumably because augmented consumption of fats counterbalances the benefits of weight loss. In addition to the nonbeneficial effects on lipid levels, greater meat intake has been associated with a host of health concerns, such as all-cause mortality, coronary heart disease, cancers of the digestive tract, acceleration of chronic kidney disease, kidney stones, and osteoporosis, to name just a few.1,2 Conversely, plant-based proteins may have health benefits when dietary intake is boosted within reasonable bounds. For example, augmenting the intake of predominantly vegetable protein lowers blood pressure and LDL-C levels in people with prehypertension or stage 1 hypertension.3 Plant protein sources also appear less likely than meat to induce the aforementioned health problems.

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