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Stanford researchers review efficacy and safety of low-carbohydrate diets

STANFORD, Calif. - People who go on low-carbohydrate diets typically lose weight, but restricted caloric intake and longer diet duration are the biggest reasons why, according to a study from Stanford University Medical Center and collaborators at Yale University. The sweeping review of literature on this popular diet also found there are no short-term adverse effects of the diet, but also that there is insufficient evidence on the diet's long-term effects and impact on people over the age of 53.

"Low-carbohydrate diets have been extremely popular as of late, and the lay press has suggested they're a safe and effective means of weight loss," said lead author Dena Bravata, MD, social science research associate at Stanford's Center for Primary Care and Outcomes Research. "While these diets are effective in the short term, weight loss results from reduced calories, not carbohydrate restriction."

The study - the first review of its kind - appears in the April 9 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association.

Books on low-carbohydrate/ high-protein diets - such as the popular Atkins diet - have sold in the millions, and proponents say these diets cause rapid weight loss without adverse side effects. Numerous medical associations and physicians, however, have expressed concern that these diets are too high in fat and can lead to kidney and liver problems and other health risks.

Despite their popularity - and the concern of some in the medical community - Bravata said little evidence exists on the efficacy and safety of low-carbohydrate diets. Bravata and her colleagues, many of whom are practicing internists, said they wanted to know what to tell their patients about these diets. The aim of their study was to synthesize the current literature and evaluate any changes in weight and cholesterol, glucose, insulin and blood pressure levels.

Bravata and the researchers collected literature on low-carbohydrate diets publish
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Contact: Michelle Brandt
mbrandt@stanford.edu
650-723-0272
Stanford University Medical Center
8-Apr-2003


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