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Study: Low-carb diet more effective in weight loss and improving heart health than low-fat diet

BY Michael Johnsen

DENVER — The Annals of Internal Medicine just published results of a National Institutes of Health trial titled "Effects of low-carbohydrate and low-fat diets," in which a low-carbohydrate diet was found to be more effective both for weight loss and cardiovascular risk factor reduction than a low-fat diet, Atkins Nutritionals announced Tuesday.
 
Participants in this study were assigned to one of two groups: low carbohydrate and low fat. In the low carbohydrate group, participants were instructed to count "net carbs" of less than 40 grams/day, similar to the Atkins Diet. Researchers refer to this as digestible carbohydrate — total carbohydrate minus total fiber.
 
As with the Atkins approach, participants were not given a strict calorie limit, nor were they told they needed to pair with an exercise regimen to see results. Following these guidelines, the low-carbohydrate group saw greater improvements in measures of body composition, good cholesterol, cholesterol ratio, triglycerides and overall reduction in cardiovascular risk.
 
"Over the past fifteen years, over 20 randomized clinical trials compared low carbohydrate to the standard recommendation, a low fat diet. And consistently these trials show that carbohydrate restriction is the best approach for weight management," stated Jonathan Sackner-Bernstein, Atkins spokesman and former Food and Drug Administration executive. "The data from Bazzano and colleagues confirm that the low carbohydrate strategy yields significantly better weight loss than the standard recommendation of a low fat diet. This study extends prior observations by calculating the risk of a major cardiovascular event such as a heart attack. By using the Framingham Risk Calculator, they show that the low carbohydrate strategy significantly lowers the risk of cardiovascular events."
 
"I commend the researchers with Tulane University School of Public Health and Tropical Medicine for helping reduce confusion on this subject by crystalizing the message that dietary fat does not make people fat, and it also does not negatively impact heart health," added Colette Heimowitz, VP nutrition education for Atkins. "Though it should be noted that this study is not the first to do so, it simply adds to the bank of research over the past decade that continues to confirm that lower carb, higher fat eating can successfully lead both to weight loss and improvements in cardiometabolic measures."
 
Additionally, authors of the study make a call out to National Dietary Guidelines authorities, implying that dietary fat, and specifically saturated fat, has been unduly associated with heart disease outcomes, including metabolic syndrome. Metabolic syndrome is a group of risk factors including high blood pressure, high blood sugars, excess body fat and cholesterol levels that are notable precursors of diabetes, heart disease and stroke.
 
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HHS allows for flexibility to meet meaningful use for an EHR Incentive Program reporting period for 2014

BY Michael Johnsen

BALTIMORE — The Department of Health and Human Services last week published a final rule that allows healthcare providers more flexibility in how they use certified electronic health record technology to meet meaningful use for an EHR Incentive Program reporting period for 2014. By providing this flexibility, more providers will be able to participate and meet important meaningful use objectives like drug interaction and drug-allergy checks, providing clinical summaries to patients, electronic prescribing, reporting on key public health data and reporting on quality measures.
 
“We listened to stakeholder feedback and provided CEHRT flexibility for 2014 to help ensure providers can continue to participate in the EHR Incentive Programs forward,” stated Marilyn Tavenner, CMS administrator. “We were excited to see that there is overwhelming support for this change.”
 
Based on public comments and feedback from stakeholders, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services identified ways to help eligible professionals, eligible hospitals, and critical access hospitals implement and meaningfully use Certified EHR Technology. Specifically, eligible providers can use the 2011 Edition CEHRT or a combination of 2011 and 2014 Edition CEHRT for an EHR reporting period in 2014 for the Medicare and Medicaid EHR Incentive Programs. All eligible professionals, eligible hospitals and CAHs are required to use the 2014 Edition CEHRT in 2015.
 
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NIH issues final Genomic Data Sharing policy

BY Michael Johnsen

BETHESDA, Md. — The National Institutes of Health has issued a final NIH Genomic Data Sharing policy to promote data sharing as a way to speed the translation of data into knowledge, products and procedures that improve health while protecting the privacy of research participants. The final policy was posted in the Federal Register Aug. 26, 2014 and published in the NIH Guide for Grants and Contracts Aug. 27, 2014.
 
“Everyone is eager to see the incredible deluge of molecular discoveries about disease translated into prevention, diagnostics and therapeutics for patients,” stated Kathy Hudson, NIH deputy director for science, outreach and policy. “The collective knowledge achieved through data sharing benefits researchers and patients alike, but it must be done carefully. The GDS policy outlines the responsibilities of investigators and institutions that are using the data and also encourages researchers to get consent from participants for future unspecified use of their genomic data.”
 
Starting with funding applications submitted for a Jan. 25, 2015, receipt date, the policy will apply to all NIH-funded, large-scale human and non-human projects that generate genomic data. This includes research conducted with the support of NIH grants and contracts and within the NIH Intramural Research Program. NIH officials finalized the policy after reviewing public comments on a draft released in September 2013.
 
The GDS policy can be traced to the Human Genome Project, completed in 2003, which required rapid and broad data release during its mapping and sequencing of the human genome. The GDS policy is an extension of and replaces the Genome-Wide Association Studies data sharing policy. Since 2007, the GWAS policy has governed biomedical researchers’ submission and access to human data through the NIH database for Genotypes and Phenotypes (dbGaP). Its two-tiered data distribution system has made some information and data available to the public without restrictions. Access to other data has been controlled and made available only for research purposes consistent with the consent provided by participants in the original study.
 
Under the GWAS policy, more than 2,200 investigators from 41 different countries have received access to dbGaP data from 304 studies and produced more than 900 publications. A report on genomic data sharing through dbGaP under the GWAS policy appears in the Aug. 27, 2014, advance online issue of Nature Genetics. The report was written by members of the NIH Genomic Data Sharing policy team.
 
Along with statistics about the use of dbGaP data, the Nature Genetics report outlines the challenges facing the field, such as the increased volume and complexity of genomic data.
 
“Advances in DNA sequencing technologies have enabled NIH to conduct and fund research that generates ever-greater volumes of GWAS and other types of genomic data,” noted Eric Green, NHGRI director, report co-author and a co-chair of the trans-NIH committee that developed the GDS policy. “Access to these data through dbGaP and according to the data management practices laid out in the policy allows researchers to accelerate research by combining and comparing large and information-rich datasets.”
 
A key tenet of the GDS policy is the expectation that researchers obtain the informed consent of study participants for the potential future use of their de-identified data for research and for broad sharing. NIH also has similar expectations for studies that involve the use of de-identified cell lines or clinical specimens.
 
The two-tiered system for providing access to human data is based on data sensitivity and privacy concerns developed under the GWAS policy will continue. For controlled-access data, investigators will be expected to use data only for the approved research, protect data confidentiality (including not sharing the data with unauthorized people), and acknowledge data-submitting investigators in presentations and publications.
 
NIH expects any institution submitting data to certify that the data were collected in a legal and ethically appropriate manner and that personal identifiers, such as name or address, have been removed. The NIH GDS policy also expects investigators and their institutions to provide basic plans for following the GDS policy as part of funding proposals and applications.
 
 
 
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