Harvard Health Letter

Cutting carbs may aid weight loss and heart health

It appears that a low-carbohydrate diet, popular for weight loss, may also have some benefits for heart health. A study published Sept. 2, 2014, in Annals of Internal Medicine found that overweight people who ate less than 40 grams of carbohydrates per day for 12 months had better weight loss results than overweight people who ate a low-fat diet (getting less than 30% of their daily calories from fat). The low-carb group lost more weight and fat mass, and gained more lean muscle mass, than the low-fat group. The low-carb eaters also had better results when it came to reducing heart disease risk factors. They had larger increases in "good" HDL cholesterol and more reduction in C-reactive protein, a measure of inflammation, than the low-fat group. Does that mean you should cut your carbs? "It is important to note that the most effective diets are those that promote compliance and consistency. Adhering to an active lifestyle that includes regular exercise and heart-healthy food choices—whole grains, foods that are high in fiber, healthy fats [most oils, nuts, fish], lean protein, and low-fat or nonfat dairy—reduces cardiac risk," says Debbie Krivitsky, director of clinical nutrition at the Cardiovascular Disease Prevention Center at Massachusetts General Hospital. 

To continue reading this article, you must login.
  • Research health conditions
  • Check your symptoms
  • Prepare for a doctor's visit or test
  • Find the best treatments and procedures for you
  • Explore options for better nutrition and exercise
Learn more about the many benefits and features of joining Harvard Health Online »