Neither of these over-the-top headlines truly represents the research on which they were based.
The news stems from a large, long-term Swedish study of women aged 30 to 49, looking at their diets and whether they developed cardiovascular disease. Researchers wanted to understand the long-term effects of low-carbohydrate, high-protein diets. They found that proportional decreases in carbohydrate intake and increases in protein intake were associated with a small increase in the risk of cardiovascular disease such as heart attack and stroke.
This sort of study can provide useful estimates about a link, but there are some important limitations, such as the need to account for other lifestyle choices and the fact that eating habits were only established once, at the start of the study.
While the media coverage mostly focused on the Atkins diet, it is important to note that this study was not assessing women who followed any particular diet. Despite some drawbacks, this research supports existing advice to follow a balanced diet in order to stay healthy.
The study was carried out by researchers from the University of Athens Medical School and other institutions from the US, Scandinavia and Europe. It was funded by grants from the Swedish Cancer Society and the Swedish Research Council. The study was published in the peer-reviewed medical journal BMJ and is an open access article.
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