Researchers in Sweden have completed a 25-year study which looked at the impact of a regional dietary intervention that was later rolled out throughout the country. Dieters were given health examinations, counselling, healthy information, cooking demonstrations and dietary advice, while the labelling on food products was improved to help people make informed choices.
Publishing their findings in Nutrition Journal, the researchers revealed that the introduction of the dietary intervention was followed by a decrease in fat intake and a drop in cholesterol levels. However after 2005, cholesterol levels began to rise once more - a trend that experts say was linked to the promotion of low-carbohydrate diet plans in the media at that time. This discovery is concerning, as increased cholesterol is a risk factor for cardiovascular disease.
Lead researcher Professor Ingegerd Johansson said that the association between nutrition and health is complex, as it involves specific food components, interactions between those foods, and interactions with genetic factors. "While low carbohydrate/high fat diets may help short-term weight loss, these results of this Swedish study demonstrate that long-term weight loss is not maintained and that this diet increases blood cholesterol, which has a major impact on risk of cardiovascular disease," she warned.
Probably the best-known low-carbohydrate diet plan is the Atkins diet, which was popularised in a series of books from 1972 onwards. The diet requires people to limit their consumption of carbohydrates so that the body starts converting stored body fat into energy. Examples of low-carbohydrate meal plans include lamb skewers with coleslaw and chicken salad.
However, the diet has long been controversial and many experts now believe that women who are determined to achieve a healthy bikini body should adopt a less extreme diet plan that does not eliminate entire food groups, combined with regular exercise.