Mon | Jul 15, 2019

Low-carb diet tied to common heart rhythm disorder

Published:Wednesday | March 13, 2019 | 12:25 AM

Low-carb diets are all the rage, but can cutting carbohydrates spell trouble for your heart? People getting a low proportion of their daily calories from carbohydrates such as grains, fruits and starchy vegetables are significantly more likely to develop atrial fibrillation (AFib), the most common heart-rhythm disorder, according to a study being presented at the American College of Cardiology’s 68th Annual Scientific Session.

The study, which analysed the health records of nearly 14,000 people spanning more than two decades, is the first and largest to assess the relationship between carbohydrate intake and AFib. With AFib, a type of arrhythmia, the heart doesn’t always beat or keep pace the way it should, which can lead to palpitations, dizziness and fatigue. People with AFib are five times more likely to have a stroke than people without the condition. It can also lead to heart failure.

Restricting carbohydrates has become a popular weight-loss strategy in recent years. While there are many different low-carbohydrate diets including the ketogenic, paleo and Atkins diets, most emphasise proteins while limiting intake of sugars, grains, legumes, fruits and starchy vegetables.

“The long-term effect of carbohydrate restriction is still controversial, especially with regard to its influence on cardiovascular disease,” said Xiaodong Zhuang, MD, PhD, a cardiologist at the hospital affiliated with Sun Yat-Sen University in Guangzhou, China, and the study’s lead author. “Considering the potential influence on arrhythmia, our study suggests this popular weight-ended cautiously.”

The findings complement previous studies, several of which have associated both low-carbohydrate and high-carbohydrate diets with an increased risk of death. However, while previous studies suggested that the nature of the non-carbohydrate component of the diet influenced the overall pattern observed, the new study did not.

“Low-carbohydrate diets were associated with increased risk of incident AFib regardless of the type of protein or fat used to replace the carbohydrate,” Zhuang said.