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Low-carb diet the best way to reduce heart disease risk

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If you’re eating a low-carb diet, you don’t need to take a cholesterol-lowering statin drug—even if you have high levels of the ‘bad’ LDL type, a group of scientists is saying.

The diet is the very best way to control heart disease risk factors—and LDL cholesterol isn’t quite as bad as they say and is needed to help repair damage to the cardiovascular system.

Taking a statin to reduce your LDL levels may be counter-productive, and won’t be necessary unless you’re eating a standard, high-carb diet, says David Diamond from the University of South Florida, in an opinion piece he has written with Benjamin Bikman at Brigham Young University and Paul Mason from Concord Orthosports.

The current theory about heart health was based on the false notion that a high-fat diet is the main cause of cardiovascular disease (CVD), which fuels levels of low-density lipoprotein cholesterol (LDL-C), cited as the cause of atherosclerosis or narrowing of the arteries.

One early clue that the theory was false came about when researchers monitored people with familial hypercholesterolemia (FH), a genetic tendency to have very high levels of LDL cholesterol.  Although it was expected that mortality levels of FH sufferers would rise as their LDL levels increased, CVD deaths declined with age, irrespective of their LDL profile.

Instead, the real culprit is sugar, and especially from a diet of fast and high-processed foods and drinks.  Maintaining a low-carb diet—where these foods are limited or even eliminated—is the best way to reduce CVD risk, the researchers say.

Curr Opin Edocrinol Diabetes Obes, 2022; 29: 497-511

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