Tweaking a healthy, high-carb diet to include a little more protein or healthy oils can further curb heart disease risks, say researchers who had volunteers try three variations of the same diet. The findings don't mean you should gorge on meat, or that carbs should be shunned. But the study involving 159 adults with borderline or mild high blood pressure found the best results with diets that replaced some carbohydrates with protein like nuts and dairy, or with healthy fats, like olive oil.
All three diets were low in saturated fats and required plenty of fruits and vegetables, and all improved blood pressure and cholesterol readings.
Adopting any of them would be beneficial - and a big change for most Americans, said lead researcher Dr. Lawrence Appel of Johns Hopkins School of Medicine.
All participants tried each of the diets for six weeks, eating meals prepared in a research kitchen and taking a few weeks' break before starting the next diet, the Ap reports.
The volunteers' average blood pressure was borderline high - 131 over 77 before starting the study. Systolic pressure - the top number in blood pressure readings - fell by an average of about 8 points while they were on the carb diet, 9.5 points on the protein diet and 9.3 points on the healthy fats diet.
Levels of LDL cholesterol, the bad kind, measured 129 on average at the start; 100 is considered optimal. LDL levels fell an average of almost 12 points on the carb diet, about 14 points on the protein diet, and about 13 points on the healthy fats diet.
Those reductions likely would translate into less heart disease if the diets were widely adopted, the researchers said.
They estimated that for every 100 people with mild high blood pressure, there would be one less heart attack over 10 years for those on the protein or healthy fats diet, compared with the more carb-friendly diet.
The study, funded by the National Institutes of Health, was presented Tuesday at an American Heart Association conference in Dallas and is published in Wednesday's Journal of the American Medical Association.
Appel said the high protein diet also seemed to produce feelings of fullness and reduced appetite. A.M.