Low-carb and vegan may be the key to fighting disease, losing weight

Low-carb isn't a new concept for diabetics; many doctors now agree that patients can benefit from cutting back on breads, pastas and pastries in favor of more lean proteins, vegetables and low-fat dairy products.

But going vegan could help reduce your risk for heart disease in addition to assisting with weight loss, according to researchers at St. Michael's Hospital.

Eco-Atkins diet emphasizes vegetable proteins and oils

The diet is referred to as "Eco-Atkins," which emphasizes vegetable proteins and oils over more traditional low-carb diets that are heavy on animal products.

Researchers in the study compared the benefits of an Eco-Atkins diet to a high-carbohydrate, low-fat diet. The former helped to reduce cholesterol by 10 percent and also helped participants lose about four pounds more than subjects who were on a high-carbohydrate, low-fat diet.

"We killed two birds with one stone – or, rather, with one diet," lead author Dr. David Jenkins, director of the Clinical Nutrition and Risk Modification Centre of St. Michael's Hospital, said in a press release. "We designed a diet that combined both vegan and low-carb elements to get the weight loss and cholesterol-lowering benefits of both."

Results can be achieved in the real world

Being a low-carb vegan may sound daunting, but Dr. Jenkins said the results could be achieved in "real world" settings.

Eco-Atkins aims for a balance of 26 percent of calories coming from carbohydrates, 31 percent from proteins and 43 percent from fat.

Vegan protein sources in the study included gluten, soy, vegetables, cereals and nuts. Fats came from sources like vegetable oils, nuts and avocado, while carbohydrates were sourced from high-fiber foods like oats, barley and low-starch vegetables.

The findings are published in British Medical Journal Open.

Source: St. Michael's Hospital

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