The sexes seem to respond differently to a low-carb diet. Men lose body fat quickly, while the benefits for women are less obvious, but more significant: their arteries become healthier and more flexible, and this reduces their risk of heart disease from hardening of the arteries.
This unexpected difference was noticed by researchers from the University of Missouri School of Medicine when they put 20 middle-aged and pre-diabetic men and women on a low-carb diet. By the end of the four weeks of the study, the men had lost an average of 6.3 per cent of body fat and women lost 4.4 per cent. But the level of arterial stiffness in the men hadn't changed, whereas the women had seen a big improvement.
Hardening of the arteries is one of the first signs of heart disease, and it seems to affect women more than men, and so a low-carb diet could be especially beneficial. Research group leader Elizabeth Parks explained that flexible arteries help maintain heart health. "You want flexible vessels that expand slowly as the blood flows through them," she said.
Artery hardening can be a natural process of ageing, she said, that can be accelerated by obesity, insulin resistance and metabolic syndrome, all factors that increase the risk of type 2 diabetes.