Thursday, May 25, 2006

Study: Low-Carb Diet Not Linked to Bone Loss

Robert H. Eckel, MD, director of the general clinical research center at the University of Colorado Health Sciences Center, Denver and the chairman of the American Heart Association's Nutrition, Physical Activity, and Metabolism Council has stated that "our worries over the Atkins diet go way past the question of whether it is effective for losing weight or even for keeping weight off. We worry that the diet promotes heart disease. We have concerns over whether this is a healthy diet for preventing heart disease, stroke, and cancer. There is also potential loss of bone, and the potential for people with liver and kidney problems to have trouble with the high amounts of protein in these diets."

Over the years, even in light of numerous studies demonstrating low-carb diets are effective for weight loss, improving HDL and triglycerides, improving insulin sensitivity and glycemic control and even sparing lean body mass, Dr. Eckel has maintained his position that low-carb diets are not healthy.

Now human data, published in the journal Osteporosis International, highlights (once again) the superiority of low-carb diets for weight loss while also providing concrete evidence that the diet does not lead to bone loss. The study's lead author, Dr. John D. Carter, an assistant professor at the University of South Florida College of Medicine, was surprised since "people on low carbohydrate diets absorb less calcium through the gut and excrete more calcium in the urine, so you'd expect they would be leaching their bones." However tests conducted on those following a low-carb diet found there was "no significant change in the bone turnover ratio."

I'm not surprised by the findings since the warning that high protein intake will leech calcium from bones was based on a hypothesized "potential" taken together with animal model data rather than hard data from human studies. In fact, we've had the data for quite some time that shows higher consumption of protein may actually be beneficial to bone health!

Just last year a study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition examined the relationship between protein consumption and bone health in 1,000 women averaging 75 years in age. Higher protein intakes were associated with improvements in the bone density in the hip, and the quality of the bone in the heel.

The researchers in this latest study concluded "Although the patients on the low-carbohydrate diet did lose significantly more weight than the controls did, the diet did not increase bone turnover markers compared with controls at any time point. Further, there was no significant change in the bone turnover ratio compared with controls." I wonder what Dr. Eckles has to say now?


  1. "We have concerns over whether this is a healthy diet for preventing heart disease, stroke, and cancer. There is also potential loss of bone, and the potential for people with liver and kidney problems to have trouble with the high amounts of protein in these diets."

    Actually, these are the problems people have with the mainstream "diets" not the low-carb diets. Why is the medical field so opposed to using what actually works?

  2. Clicking on Dr. Eckel's bio, shows him to be on the Board of the Institute for Creation Research, an interesting position for someone who also is the President of the American Heart Association (AHA) and a Professor of Medicine and of Physiology and Biophysics at the University of Colorado Health Sciences Center (UCHSC), in Denver. It just goes to show him and (them, the AHA) as old fossils. Oops, he doesn't believe in fossils. God put them there to confuse nonbelievers into believing in evolution instead of God. Another fascinating item was that much of his research involves rats and mice, who if we are not evolved from a common ancestor would be useless for medical research (unless God put them there just so we can learn how to heal ourselves). You can explain anything you want by creationist theory by referring back to our inability to know the Mind of God.
    I never liked the term 'the theory of evolution'. Yes, both creationism and evolution are theories. The difference is that evolution is a 'working hypothesis'. It can be used to predict. When coal burning in England was unregulated and the environment it was observed that a species of moth became darker so that it was camouflaged against the soot that covered surfaces. When the pollution was controlled, the moth lightened in color. These are the kind of changes that can be predicted by evolution. Creationism cannot predict except possibly the end of the world because again, we cannot know the mind of God. In the only writing on the subject that I can find on the net by Dr. Eckel,

    He does not actually state his belief in creationism. Rather he attempts to point out weaknesses in evolution, a favorite tactic of creationists because, while their theory is weaker, it does not have to prove itself. An assumption is made that all 'creation science' is equally or better researched than the science of evolution. No scientific references are given. This is not science, but rather statements of belief. In summary, if a man prefers to believe in the outdated hypothesis of creationism, it is too much to expect him to abandon the low fat theory of heart disease.

    P.S. Any sarcasm is intended.

    Thank you Regina for the space to comment and for your well researched column.