Dr. Pagona Lagiou, an assistant professor of epidemiology at the University of Athens Medical School in Greece, is the study’s lead researcher. “Low-carbohydrate, high-protein diets are frequently used for body-weight control,” she said. “Although [the diets] may be nutritionally acceptable if the protein is mainly of plant origin, such as nuts, and the reduction of carbohydrates applies mainly to simple and refined [carbohydrates] like unhealthy sweeteners, drinks and snacks, the general public does not always recognize and act on this guidance.”
The study involved collecting data on the diets of around 43,000 Swedish women between the ages 30-49 at the start of the study. After 15 years of follow-up, there were more than 1,200 cardiovascular incidents among these women, including stroke and heart disease. There were more instances of these events among women who followed high-protein, low carb diets. This showed women who followed this diet may have increased their risk by 28%, even after taking other factors such as smoking, hypertension, exercise, and fat intake into account.
According to Lagiou, the long-term health effects of special diets like Atkins which people follow for extended periods have not been studied enough to determine their safety. “Reduction of body weight should rely on increasing physical activity and reducing caloric intake,” she said.
Despite the study’s results, it did not provide enough evidence to prove a cause-and-effect relationship between the diet and increased risk.