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Low-Carb May Not Be Heart Friendly

Research suggests hearts beat better with carbs.

While Instagram feeds are awash with people broadcasting the weight loss benefits of living off butter and steak, there has been little data addressing the impacts of carb-stingy diets on various health measures down the line. Now we have some indication that there is cause for concern.

A study population of nearly 14,000 provided dietary information via questionnaire. Those who suggested that less than 45% of their dietary calories came from carbohydrates (keto can go below 10%) had an 18% higher risk of atrial fibrillation over a two-decade period than those for whom carbs made up 45%–52% of calories, according to a study presented at the 2019 American College of Cardiology’s Annual Scientific Session in New Orleans.

In layman’s terms, atrial fibrillation is a type of irregular heartbeat that can spiral into stroke and heart failure over time. While this research shows an association and cannot prove cause and effect, it may be that certain carbohydrates—like whole grains, legumes and fruits—supply more of the nutrients needed for optimal heart functioning.

Matthew Kadey, MS, RD

Matthew Kadey, MS, RD, is a James Beard Award–winning food journalist, dietitian and author of the cookbook Rocket Fuel: Power-Packed Food for Sport + Adventure (VeloPress 2016). He has written for dozens of magazines, including Runner’s World, Men’s Health, Shape, Men’s Fitness and Muscle and Fitness.

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November-December 2020 IDEA Fitness Journal

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