Inflammation is a silent killer. While inflammation has flown under the radar as a risk factor for disease, it’s beginning to get a huge amount of attention. In 2002, the American Heart Association Journal “Circulation” published an article called “inflammation and atherosclerosis” (1) which detailed important links between the biology of inflammation and the mechanisms of heart disease. We now know that the inflammatory response- which often goes undetected in our bodies- is a contributing factor in a host of diseases including Alzheimer’s, cancer, strokes, diabetes and obesity.
One way to measure inflammation in the body is with a blood test called CRP- C-Reactive Protein, when elevated indicates inflammation is happening in the body. That’s why we were so impressed with recent research from one of our Science Advisory Board members Dr.Jeff Volek, PhD, RD that investigated the effect of a carbohydrate restricted diet on inflammation in a very ingenious way.
As Atkins readers know, a great deal of research has shown that carbohydrate restricted diets consistently lower triglycerides, glucose (blood sugar), as well as insulin levels, and often improve cholesterol profiles. But less has been done showing their effects on inflammation.
In this study, published in Nutrition and Metabolism (2), twenty eight overweight men consumed a diet of 17% carbohydrate, 57% fat and 26% protein for 12 weeks. Half the men were given a diet which included eggs (about three per day) and half ate the same diet without eggs. Both groups were allowed to eat as many calories as they liked, as long as the proportions of carbs, fats and protein were the same. At the end of the study, the researchers tested blood of the subjects for CRP levels, as well as for adiponectin, a valuable compound secreted by fat cells that helps regulate insulin sensitivity and fat metabolism.
The men who ate the low carb diet that included eggs had significantly less CRP (blood marker for inflammation) and more adiponectin than the group that didn’t eat eggs! Volek and his team speculate that the eggs make a significant contribution to the anti-inflammatory effects of a low-carb diet possibly due to two factors- the cholesterol in the eggs which increases HDL “good” cholesterol, and the antioxidant lutein (found in the yolk) which lowers inflammation.
We love this study because it demonstrates two things we’ve been saying for years: One, there’s no need to fear fat from healthy whole food sources like eggs, and two, a lower carb (lower sugar) diet has multiple health benefits beyond weight loss.
And oh yes- it’s further validation for the important role of antioxidants!