Overweight people who shed pounds, particularly abdominal belly fat, can improve the function of their blood vessels.
According to a new study conducted by Johns Hopkins researchers, it doesn’t matter whether people are on a low-carbohydrate or a low-fat diet, losing belly fattranslates into improving blood vessel function and overall heart health. The new study was presented at the American Heart Association scientific meeting in San Diego on March 13 that is focused on cardiovascular disease prevention.
In the six-month weight-loss study, the Hopkins researchers determined that the more belly fat the individual study participants lost, the better their arteries were able to expand when needed, allowing more blood to flow more freely. Also… The researchers found that participants in the study who were on a low-carb diet lost about ten pounds more, on average, than those who were on a low-fat diet.
Above the waist… Being overweight increases the risk of cardiovascular disease, especially if the fat is accumulated in the belly
“After six months, those who were on the low-carb diet lost an average of 28.9 pounds versus 18.7 pounds among those on the low-fat diet,” said chief researcher Kerry J. Stewart, Ed.D., 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.
The research team studied 60 men and women who weighed an average of 215 pounds at the start of the program. Half of the participants went on a low-carb diet while the others followed a low-fat diet. All engaged in moderate exercise and their diets provided a similar amount of calories each day.
In order to evaluate the health of the participants’ blood vessels before and after the weight lossprogram, the researchers conducted a blood flow test by constricting circulation in the upper arm for five minutes with a blood pressure cuff. With this type of test, when the cuff is released, a healthier artery will expand more, allowing more blood to flow through the artery. The researchers measured how much blood reached the fingertips before, during, and after the constriction of the artery. The test can give an indication of the overall health of the vascular system throughout the body.
The researchers found that the more belly fat a person had lost, the greater the blood flow to the finger, signaling better the function of the artery.
“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,” they explained. “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.”
In the low-carb diet used in the study, up to 30 percent of calories came from carbs such as bread, pasta and certain fruits, while 40 percent was from fat consumed from meat, dairy products and nuts. In contrast, the low-fat diet consisted of no more than 30 percent of calories from fat and 55 percent from carbs.
Interestingly, participants on the low-carb diet lost more weight and at a faster pace, on average, which has also been observed in several other studies. The researchers observed eating greater amounts of carbohydrates can slow down the rate of body fat losswhile on a weight reduction diet.
The findings were consistent with early results presented in June 2011 at the annual meeting of the American College of Sports Medicine in Denver. That initial report was based on results after participants in the study had lost their first 10 pounds.
These longer-term results show that weight loss, along with exercise, is important for improving vascular health. Also, following a low-carb diet rather than the conventionally recommended low-fat diet for weight loss is not a concern in terms of vascular health.
Story Source: Johns Hopkins Medicine
American Heart Association meeting in San Diego, CA March 2012
Johns Hopkins Medicine (2012, March 13). “Losing belly fat, whether from a low-carb or a low-fat diet, helps improve blood vessel function.”
This article is for informational and educational purposes only; It is not intended to provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Consult your doctor, physician or healthcare professional.
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