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Laura Dolson

Low-Carb Diet Wins for Blood Pressure Reduction

By January 27, 2010

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bloodIt's so interesting to me how different studies will show different things. This one, published this week in the Archives of Internal Medicine, includes some exciting news for people with high blood pressure.

The comparison in this case was between a low-carb diet similar to the Atkins plan, and a low-fat, low-calorie diet which included the use of Orlistat, the prescription dose of the over-the-counter weight-loss medication Alli. The groups were followed for almost a year. Another difference between this and some other studies was that they did not exclude people with health problems such as diabetes, in fact, a third of the participants were diabetic, with many taking medicine to lower blood sugar and blood pressure.

One most measures, the outcomes were similar. Both groups lost on average a little less than 10% of body weight, and had similar improvements in risk markers such as cholesterol. The one main difference was that not only were more people in the low-carb able to reduce their blood pressure medication (of those taking medication, 47% of the low-carb group reduced or eliminated medication, compared to 21% in the Orlistat/low-fat group), but even with the reduced medication, the low-carb group as a whole had reduced blood pressure compared to the Orlistat/low-fat group. This is especially surprising because Orlistat has a slight lowering effect on blood pressure, and because both groups achieved similar weight loss. In addition to lowering blood pressure medication, more diabetics in the low-carb group were able to lower diabetes medication (81% for low-carb and 68% for Orlistat/low-fat).

Another interesting result I noticed in the study was that even though the low-carb group was not told to limit calories, their calorie reduction was about the same as the group specifically told to reduce calories. One thing low-carbers love is that they don't need to struggle to reduce food intake - it comes naturally! Also interesting was although the low-carb group was eating a greater precentage of fat than before the diet, the amount of fat stayed about the same. The low-fat/Orlistat group had a large fat reduction, but although their percentage of carbohydrates went up, the amount was reduced by 17% (because they were eating fewer calories, they were eating less carbohydrate and fat).

This is the first time, to my knowledge, that a low-carb diet has been pitted against a weight loss medication. In this case, the low-carb diet did as well as the medication for weight loss, with the additional benefit of better blood pressure and medication reduction, and avoiding side effects from the medication.

Photo: Joe Raedle/Getty Images

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January 27, 2010 at 3:27 pm
(1) Kab says:

Who needs to take expensive pills with side effects to regain health and lose weight when we can do LC for free? I also think it is interesting to note that this study used LF in combination with the pill. With that kind of assistance, you would expect it to come out in a landslide victory against LC but the results were nothing of the sort. So what would the results be if the pills were NOT used in combination with LF?… I can only guess it would have fared much worse since the pills must be able to account for a good amount of its “success”. If not, why would anyone pay good money for it and go through all the miserable side-effects to take it?

Regarding the BP benefits: I think I might have mentioned this before but, my DH’s BP has dropped dramatically since cutting out carbs. When I went on LC for the diabetes (a therapy I do not believe there can be any logical argument against whatsoever), he joined me but only half-way. He still ate a lot of fruit, some starchy veggies, and occasional desserts — basically just cut out grains and juices. There was some improvement in his BP but it was still unstable going up to the high 150s over high 90s too frequently.

However, when he decided to go LC all the way and cut out those extra carbs, he replaced them mostly with meats (with fat) and non-carb, high fat snacks, he immediately began to lose stubborn fat around the middle and…. in about a month, his BP began to stay down around 115/80! This is amazing in light of the fact that HBP runs strongly in his family: His mother and her siblings have all died from heart attack or stroke in their sixites even after doing low-sodium (which I now question the usefulness of) and LF and taking medications for decades. But, at almost 60 yo, he is now in better health than ever! He swears he will never go back to eating the way the FDA advises us!

January 27, 2010 at 4:41 pm
(2) hammie says:

LC studies continue to show that LC vs LF wins. In a head to head competition between LC, LF and the Med diet, LC dieters lost more weight, had more people successfully stay on the diet, and lowered their cholesterol that the other diets. The one thing LF had over LC was that they seemed to be “happier”. Well, that seems pretty subjective to me.

LC is easy once you get past the first week or 2. Cravings will disappear and makes staying on the diet much easier, which explains why so many people are successful.

Just one thing to remember. LC should become a lifestyle, not a “diet”. If you revert to eating carbs after the “diet”, you will gain all the weight back and more. LC needs to become a lifestyle change and the results will be dramatic and long lasting!

January 27, 2010 at 7:15 pm
(3) Steve Parker, M.D. says:

Laura, I’ve scanned a few summaries of this study elsewhere and the didn’t mention the diabetic angle. So I didn’t bother to look closely at the study.

You got my attention.

I’m surprised the low-fat/Alli cohort did as well it did.


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