New research shows that a diet high in carbs may increase your risk for diabetes and heart disease, not a diet high in fat. In fact, even doubling or almost tripling levels of dietary saturated fat did not increase total levels of saturated fat in the blood, according to a controlled diet study just published in the journal PLOS.
Senior author, Jeff Volek, a professor of human sciences at The Ohio State University, concludes that this study challenges the theory that dietary saturated fat is bad or a contributor to heart disease. With that being said, there is an association between saturated fat in the blood and heart disease.
During the study, participants were put on six three-week diets that progressively increased carbs while simultaneously reducing total fat and saturated fat, keeping calories and protein the same. Researchers discovered that as the levels of carbohydrates increased, it caused a steady rise in blood levels of a fatty acid (palmitoleic acid) known to increase the risk of heart disease and diabetes. When palmitoleic acid increases, it is a signal that an increasing proportion of carbs are being converted to fat instead of being burned as fuel.
This study shows that the level of carbohydrates you consume may be the primary regulator in terms of how you use saturated fat—whether it is burned for fuel or stored as fat. And your personal carb tolerance (which varies for everyone) helps determine this level. When more than half of Americans show some type of carb tolerance, it makes more sense to choose a diet that controls carbohydrates instead of restricting fat.
This study not only supports the reasoning behind why the Atkins Diet works, but it has also found a biomarker (palmitoleic acid) that can indicate when your body starts to convert carbs to fat, an event that Volek says contributes to “metabolic mayhem.”
Why let “metabolic mayhem” wreak its havoc on your waistline and health, when all you have to do is follow the Atkins Diet?