Eco-Atkins Meat-Free Diet Promotes Weight Loss and Improves Cholesterol

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When it comes to losing weight, not all dieters have the same needs and goals. For some, it is only the number on the scale that matters most. For others, with heart-related problems, getting better results in their blood tests is of great importance as well.

What should the proportion of fat, carbs and protein be so that you experience maximum weight loss and cholesterol-lowering effects from your diet?

A recent study shows that people not only lose weight but also improve their blood lipid profile (cholesterol levels and other heart disease factors) when they follow an Eco-Atkins meat-free diet. This is a low-calorie, low-carbohydrate diet that is rich in plant-based proteins. In contrast, a high-carbohydrate and low-fat vegetarian diet, does not improve the cardiovascular blood chemistry, although it results in weight loss as well.

The authors of the study write that the amount and source of fat appear to be important when it comes to optimizing a weight-loss and cholesterol-lowering diet. The traditional Atkins diet, for example, which is based on a very low-carbohydrate intake and increased meat consumption, has been proven to be effective in body weight reduction and prevention and treatment of diabetes and coronary heart disease. However, it has a great disadvantage for those at increased risk of heart-related disease as it tends to increase the LDL-C (“bad” cholesterol) levels.

A Plant-Based Atkins-like Diet Leads To Weight Loss And Reductions In LDL-C

The team behind the published report was led by David J.A. Jenkins, M.D. He is a practitioner at the St. Michael’s Hospital as well as the University of Toronto in Canada. The group compared two diets in overweight men and women that had high levels of LDL-C cholesterol. Both diets where calorie-restricted as they reduced calorie intake to 60% of the participants estimated requirements. Twenty-five participants followed a low-carbohydrate (Eco-Atkins) diet that was high in vegetable proteins and fats (from soy, nuts, gluten, cereals, vegetable oils), whereas another set of 25 people (control group) followed a high-carbohydrate, lacto-ovo vegeterian diet. This second group also consumed low-fat dairy and whole grain foods.

Both groups lost the same amount of weight – 8.8 pounds (4 kilos). However, the low-carbohydrate (Eco-Atkins) diet presented 3 important benefits over the high-carbohydrate group:

  • The LDL-C levels were reduced and the ratio of total cholesterol over HDL-C, which a risk predictor of future cardiovascular events was improved
  • The apolipoproteins profile was improved. Apolipoproteins are proteins that bind to lipoproteins (complexes of lipids and proteins) and play an important role in the solubility and metabolism of lipids.
  • Both the systolic and diastolic blood pressure was slightly but significantly reduced

Although more research is required to find whether reducing carbohydrate intake would produce additional benefits, for now the authors concluded that a plant-based version of the Atkins diet, which is low in carbohydrates and high in vegetable proteins and oils “may be an effective option in treating those with dyslipidemia for whom both weight loss and lower LDL-C concentrations are treatment goals".

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