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Low-carb boost for blood pressure

Tuesday January 26th, 2010

Controversial low-carb diets have proved better at dealing with blood pressure than a popular weight loss drug, researchers reported last night.

People who are overweight are at high risk of developing blood pressure problems - and losing weight can help the problem.

Low-carbohydrate diets have been popularised by the Atkins Diet system - but experts have been suspicious of them because of the risks of eating meat rather than grain.

How good are low carb diets? New research says they can beat low-fat dietsNow the latest study suggests low-carb eating is as good as the weight loss drug orlistat as a means of losing weight.

But the diet is more likely than the drug to ensure that high blood pressure is reduced, according to the report in the Archives of Internal Medicine.

During the research orlistat was combined with a low fat diet - making the success of the low-carb diet even more surprising.

British experts today said people who are overweight should choose whatever method suited them best.

Cathy Ross, a heart health nurse with the British Heart Foundation, said: "Identifying that you need to lose weight, finding a dietary approach that suits you individually combined with a regular physical activity programme, will help to reduce your risk of coronary heart disease and stroke."

She said the findings "reinforced" the message that obese people who lose weight can have a significant impact on their risk from heart disease.

She said: "Both diets, combined with some physical activity showed a reduction in waist circumference, actual weight loss, cholesterol and blood pressure levels and the medication needed to treat diabetes."

Ms Ross stressed that the US research involved a small number of patients.

The researchers at Duke University Medical Center, North Carolina, USA, involved some 146 people in their study. They were all seriously obese - with problems such as diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol and arthritis.

All the participants shed about ten per cent of their weight. As well as trying one of the two diets, participants also took part in group counselling and were encouraged to exercise.

At the end of the research nearly half the low-carb dieters were able to have their blood pressure medicine reduced - and some were able to give it up completely. This compared with 21 per cent of those who combined orlistat with a low-fat diet.

Researcher Dr William Yancy said: "We were surprised to see blood pressure improve so much more with the low-carbohydrate diet than with orlistat.

"While weight loss typically induces improvements in blood pressure, it may be that the low-carbohydrate diet has an additional effect."

He added: "If people have high blood pressure and a weight problem, a low-carbohydrate diet might be a better option than a weight loss medication.

"It's important to know you can try a diet instead of medication and get the same weight loss results with fewer costs and potentially fewer side effects."

The research is one of a number of investigations of weight loss published by the Archives of Internal Medicine last night.

It came as British officials warned of fresh problems with weight loss drugs - as counterfeiters flood the market with fake copies of the drug Alli, which is meant to contain orlistat.

The fake copies contain the drug sibutramine, which was banned in Europe last week because of its side effects, and had been sold as Reductil.

The fakes have been found in the USA - and British officials warned dieters against buying them from internet pharmacies.

Mick Deats, of the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency, said: "The trend of self-diagnosing and self-prescribing is potentially dangerous, but unless the web-site has a physical address clearly displayed, and the green cross logo of the Royal Pharmaceutical Society of Great Britain (RPSGB) then the likelihood of obtaining a counterfeit product is greatly increased.

"Buying weight loss medication from unregulated websites is a dangerous way to slim down. You don't know what you're taking and your condition is not being monitored by a healthcare professional. It's just not worth taking that type of risk."

Archives of Internal Medicine Vol. 170 No. 2, January 25, 2010

Tags: Diet & Food | Heart Health | North America | Nursing & Midwifery | UK News

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