Background: It is speculated that high saturated fat very low carbohydrate diets (VLCARB) have adverse effects on cardiovascular risk but evidence for this in controlled studies is lacking. The objective of this study was to compare, under isocaloric conditions, the effects of a VLCARB to 2 low saturated fat high carbohydrate diets on body composition and cardiovascular risk.
Methods: Eighty three subjects, 48 +/- 8 y, total cholesterol 5.9 +/- 1.0 mmol/L, BMI 33 +/- 3 kg/m2 were randomly allocated to one of 3 isocaloric weight loss diets (6 MJ) for 8 weeks and on the same diets in energy balance for 4 weeks: Very Low Fat (VLF) (CHO:Fat:Protein; %SF = 70:10:20; 3%), High Unsaturated Fat (HUF) = (50:30:20; 6%), VLCARB (4:61:35; 20%)
Results: Percent fat mass loss was not different between diets VLCARB -4.5 +/- 0.5, VLF-4.0 +/- 0.5, HUF -4.4 +/- 0.6 kg). Lean mass loss was 32-31% on VLCARB and VLF compared to HUF (21%) (P < 0.05). LDL-C increased significantly only on VLCARB by 7% (p < 0.001 compared with the other diets) but apoB was unchanged on this diet and HDL-C increased relative to the other 2 diets. Triacylglycerol was lowered by 0.73 +/- 0.12 mmol/L on VLCARB compared to -0.15 +/- 0.07 mmol/L on HUF and -0.06 +/- 0.13 mmol/L on VLF (P < 0.001). Plasma homocysteine increased 6.6% only on VLCARB (P = 0.026). VLCARB lowered fasting insulin 33% compared to a 19% fall on HUF and no change on VLF (P < 0.001). The VLCARB meal also provoked significantly lower post prandial glucose and insulin responses than the VLF and HUF meals. All diets decreased fasting glucose, blood pressure and CRP (P < 0.05).
Conclusion: Isocaloric VLCARB results in similar fat loss than diets low in saturated fat, but are more effective in improving triacylglycerols, HDL-C, fasting and post prandial glucose and insulin concentrations. VLCARB may be useful in the short-term management of subjects with insulin resistance and hypertriacylglycerolemia.