Low-carb diet: health body issues warning

As the spotlight falls on National Nutrition Week and many South Africans are trying to shed the winter kilos, The Health Professions Council of South Africa (HPCSA) has expressed alarm at the recent spate of people encouraging the following of a high-protein, high-fat and low-carbohydrate diet, as these diets have severe health consequences for those who follow them long-term.

The Professional Board for Dietetics and Nutrition has had no option but to warn the public and express its concern over the controversial unhealthy diets that have been recommended in the media by individuals, who are not specialised in the dietetics and nutrition fields.

“Although low-carbohydrate diets containing less energy may have short-term beneficial effects on weight control and insulin resistance in some individuals, a healthy diet remains a balanced diet,” Prof Edelweiss Wentzel-Viljoen, Chairperson of the Board said.

Findings in recent study

A recent study, published in the British Medical Journal found that low-carbohydrate/high-protein diets, used many years on a regular basis are associated with increased risk of cardiovascular disease. In the study over 43 000 Swedish women, aged 30 – 49 years, were followed up for an average of 15.7 years.

The researchers found that a 20g decrease in daily carbohydrate intake and a 5g increase in daily protein intake would correspond to a 5% increase in the overall risk of cardiovascular disease. In 2010 in another study published in Circulation, a positive association between intake of red meat and risk of heart disease among women was reported based on the large Nurses’ Health Study.   

“Exercise plays a very important role in the reaching and maintaining a healthy weight. A healthy diet remains one that is balanced in terms of carbohydrates, protein and fats as well as vitamins and minerals. The best way to reach a healthy balanced way of eating, is to follow the South African Food Based Dietary Guidelines,” she explains. 

The public is urged to consult a registered dietician or nutritionist who has the expertise to design a balanced healthy diet if they want to lose weight and not be swayed by media reports suggesting expensive high protein and saturated fat diets with long term unhealthy effects. 

(Press release, October 2012) 

Read more:

Tim Noakes on carbohydrates

Protein vs. carbs: the great debate

Tim Noakes called a 'cholesterol denialist' 

Tim Noakes: heart disease theory 'has failed'

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