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Low carbohydrate diet ‘raises cholesterol’

A low carbohydrate/high fat diet is associated with a rise in serum cholesterol and has no impact on BMI levels, according to a large population study in Sweden.

The Västerbotten Intervention Programme in north Sweden was set up in 1985 after the region was identified as having the highest prevalence of CVD in the country.

The programme looked the diet of 140,000 people over 25 years, and found that in 1986 fat made up 39% of the men's energy intake and 35% of women's, but this dropped by 2.9% in men and 4.4% in women over the next six years, and then started to rise sharply reaching 40% in men and 38% in women in 2010.

Serum cholesterol levels also began to rise around the same time - despite less than 1% of the study population taking a statin in 1992, rising to 6.5% in 2010.

The researchers have linked this rise to the increasing popularity of the low-carbohydrate/high fat diet in Sweden, which first became recognised as a way of losing weight and controlling blood glucose levels in those in the country with type 2 diabetes. But its popularity had no impact on the steadily growing BMI in the study population.

Professor Anna Winkvist, professor of nutrition at the University of Gothenburg, said: ‘The weight reduction claims for high-fat diets was not seen in the most recent years and in fact BMI increased continuously over the 25 years.'

Nutrition Journal 2012, 11: 40