Skinny Minnie? Low carb mice and their high fat arteries…

Low-carb diet on the outside…

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Low-carb diet on the inside?

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I know what you’re thinking. First…GYAH!  Second, I am not a mouse, let alone an Atkins one, (and most especially not a zombic, hypoglycemic Minnie!).  And sure, it’d be easier to translate the findings of experimental research to humans if we actually used humans in the experiment.  But it’s tough to get medical permission to give someone potential poison and then wait and see what happens for the good of the world (yes, even if they are puppy killers). So research typically starts out in mice…

As it turns out, mice make a pretty well-established decent model for studying how we clog up our heart pipes. Read on to hear about new findings on how a high protein and low carb diet may be hurting the heart behind the scenes…

(Blog previously posted on Nutrivise.tumblr.com!)

Little 4 month old mice were randomly assigned their fate for 10 weeks, and fed either a control high-carb diet, higher-fat “Western diet”, or a low-carb and high-protein diet (with similar fat content to the Western diet). Weight changes were insignificant in all groups. Upon closer investigation, the low-carb high-protein mice had significantly greater amounts of atherosclerotic plaque (plaque in their arteries) than the other groups of mice. The scientists haven’t pegged why this is yet, (is it due to not enough carbs or too much protein?). But the creepy factor resides in similar results from an earlier study.  It found that even though mice on a Paleo-ish diet had similar cholesterol blood values (LDL, HDL, and TG values*), and also lost more weight, compared to the Western diet counterparts, they had significantly more plaque clogging up their arteries. While this obviously hasn’t been translated to humans just yet, rocking a bikini may not quite worth a heart attack or a stroke!

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That being said, don’t go out and start righteously protesting against the consumption of animal-flesh or mainlining pizza dough to go Insanely-High-Carb Abysmally-Low-Protein diet either. These are two studies demonstrating we don’t know the full extent of how diet affects the arteries, therefore, further research is needed to specifically test for causal relationships. In the meantime, stay away from extreme or fad diets that cut out entire groups of food or demonize macronutrients. Also, these studies suggest that the mirror, and even your cholesterol panels, may be deceiving.  Future blogs will discuss more research on what the best guidelines are for your overall health.

Marily O

MS, RD, PhD

* More on these guys, later….

LDL -> ”Bad” cholesterol; higher levels = higher risk for heart disease.

HDL -> ”Good” cholesterol; higher levels = lower risk for heart disease.

TG -> Triglycerides; higher levels = higher risk for heart disease.

** Most head to head research studies have shown the weight loss from a low-carb diet to be comparable to other hypocaloric diets after 1 – 2 years. I will have a blog on low-carb weight loss and low-carb pros and cons later.

References:

Kostogrys, R.B., Franczyk-Zarow, M., Maslak, E., Mariusz, G., Mateuszuk, L., Jackson, C.L., & Chlopicki, S. (2012). Low carbohydrate, high protein diet promotes atherosclerosis in apolipoprotein E/ low-density lipoprotein receptor double knockout mice. Atherosclerosis, in press. 

Foo SY, Heller ER, Wykrzykowska J, et al. (2009). Vascular effects of a low-carbohydrate high-protein diet. PNAS, 106(36), 15418 e23

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