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Diet research: Low-carb nutrition recognized as a risk factor for arrhythmias

Diet research: Low-carb nutrition recognized as a risk factor for arrhythmias



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Can A Low Carb Diet Cause Atrial Fibrillation?

Low-carb diets are currently popular and widespread for losing weight. However, nutrition experts argue whether a diet with as few carbohydrates as possible is actually good for your health. Based on health data from around 14,000 people, an international study team has now found that a low-carb diet is associated with a significantly higher risk of cardiac arrhythmias.

People who get only a small portion of their daily calories from carbohydrates such as grains, fruits and starchy vegetables are more likely to develop atrial fibrillation than people with a moderate intake of carbohydrates. This was shown by an international research team in a recent study recently presented at the American College of Cardiology.

Fewer carbohydrates = more arrhythmias?

A large American-Chinese research project found a clear connection between a low-carbohydrate diet and the increased incidence of atrial fibrillation. The researchers divided the participants into three groups. One group was eating a high carbohydrate diet, another group was eating a moderate amount of carbohydrates, and a third group was eating low carb. In the group with the fewest carbohydrates, there were 18 percent more cases of atrial fibrillation than in the group with a moderate carbohydrate intake.

Atrial fibrillation increases the risk of stroke

Atrial fibrillation is the most common form of arrhythmia. The heart beats at irregular intervals. Symptoms such as rapid heartbeat, dizziness and chronic tiredness can manifest this. "People with atrial fibrillation have a stroke five times more often than people without this cardiac arrhythmia," warns the study team.

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Data from over two decades

The data was collected in more than two decades from 1985 to 2016. The participants had to provide extensive information about their diet and were then divided into three groups. Low carb, medium carb and high carb. On average, carbohydrates made up about half of the calories consumed. The low-carb group was assigned to all participants whose daily calories were less than 44.8 percent carbohydrates. In the medium carb group, 44.8 to 52.4 percent of the daily calories came from carbohydrates. Those who consumed more carbohydrates ended up in the high carb group.

Low carb group had the highest risk

Over the course of 22 years, 1,900 of the 14,000 participants developed atrial fibrillation. "Low carbohydrate diets were associated with an increased risk of atrial fibrillation regardless of the type of protein or fat used to replace the carbohydrates," summarizes lead study author Dr. Xiaodong Zhuang the results. The low-carb group was 18 percent more likely to develop atrial fibrillation than people with a moderate carbohydrate intake. The low-carb group also had a 16 percent higher risk of developing atrial fibrillation than the group with a high carbohydrate intake.

Possible reasons for the increased risk

Dr. Zhuang explains possible reasons for this observation: on the one hand, people on a low-carbohydrate diet tend to eat fewer vegetables, fruits and grains. According to Zhuang, these are all foods that can reduce inflammation in the body and thus minimize the risk of irregular heartbeat. On the other hand, eating more protein and fat instead of carbohydrate-rich foods is associated with more oxidative stress, which is also associated with atrial fibrillation.

The cause has not yet been determined

Zhuang emphasizes, however, that the research shows a connection, but cannot prove a cause and effect. A randomized controlled trial was required for this. The long-term effects of carbohydrate reduction are still controversial, especially with regard to their influence on heart diseases, the cardiologist summarizes. However, the latest results suggest that this method of losing weight should be used with caution, says Zhuang. (vb)

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