Eco-Atkins Diet May Reduce Heart Disease Risk Factors; Study Supported by Solae and Canada Research Chair Funding

A new study shows a vegetarian version of the Atkins low-carbohydrate diet may help people lose weight and lower levels of bad (or, LDL) cholesterol in the blood. The traditional Atkins diet consists of low carbohydrate foods and a high intake of animal protein. Although studies to date have shown the traditional Atkins diet may produce modest weight loss, these studies have not demonstrated a reduction in the major heart disease risk factor, LDL or "bad" cholesterol levels.

Researchers from St. Michael's Hospital and the University of Toronto in collaboration with researchers from Solae LLC, a leader in soy protein innovation and technology, published the first ever study to look at the effect of a modified version of the Atkins diet on both weight loss and heart disease risk factors. The study, which is published in the current issue of the Archives of Internal Medicine, looked at weight loss and heart disease risk factors of subjects who followed a diet low in carbohydrates, but high in vegetable proteins that included soy.

Forty-seven overweight men and women with elevated blood cholesterol and triglyceride levels were given either a low carbohydrate diet where the protein came from vegetable sources including soy, or a high carbohydrate, low-fat, lacto-ovo vegetarian diet for four weeks. Calorie restriction was similar for both groups. There was similar weight loss and lowered blood pressure in both groups; however, the low carbohydrate, higher protein diet group also saw significant reductions in LDL cholesterol and other heart disease risk factors like apolipoproteins, blood triglyceride levels and blood pressure.

Results showed that participants who ate a low-calorie, low-carbohydrate diet high in plant-based proteins, oils and fiber, lost weight and experienced improvements in blood cholesterol levels and other heart disease risk factors. These findings suggest that an eco-friendly version of the Atkins weight-loss diet -- stressing plant proteins -- is better than a high carbohydrate weight-loss diet at reducing risk factors of heart disease.

"Our study demonstrated that when a low carbohydrate diet was given using plant foods rather than the more usual animal proteins and fats, advantages were seen in cholesterol and blood pressure reduction," said Dr. David J. A. Jenkins. "Soy proteins and nuts were valuable sources of protein and nuts also provided healthy oils. These foods have individually been associated with cholesterol reduction in other studies."

Numerous studies show that soy intakes may be associated with a lower incidence of certain chronic diseases, notably heart disease. These findings led to the authorization of a health claim for soy protein and heart disease risk by the Food & Drug Administration (FDA) in 1999. The FDA-authorized health claim helps promote the daily consumption of 25 grams of soy for lowering cholesterol levels and reducing the risk of heart disease.

"While total calories are important for weight loss, a plant-based diet that includes soy, instead of animal-based provides additional benefits that may reduce the risk of heart disease," said Dr. Greg Paul, sports nutrition expert at Solae and an author of the study. "These findings build on the body of evidence for the role of soy protein in lowering heart disease risk."

This study further confirms the heart health benefits of soy protein. Research continues to show that consuming 25 grams of soy protein per day results in significant and meaningful reductions in total cholesterol and LDL cholesterol. Soy-based foods can easily be a part of a healthy, low-cholesterol, low-fat diet that includes a variety of products, such as nutritional bars, beverages, veggie burgers, cereal, and more, to make eating heart healthy convenient for consumers.

Solae LLC is the world leader in developing innovative soy-based technology and ingredients for food and nutritional products. Solae provides solutions that deliver a unique combination of functional, nutritional and economic benefits to our customers. At Solae, we take one of nature's best resources, the soybean, and create nutritious and great-tasting ingredients. Our goal is to provide solutions for today while innovating for tomorrow. With more than 1,000 products used by more than 3,500 customers, Solae's soy ingredients are enjoyed by consumers around the world in products such as baked goods, beverages, nutrition bars, meats, vegetarian meals and much more. Headquartered in St. Louis, Missouri, USA, with annual revenue exceeding $1 billion, the company was formed through an alliance between Bunge Limited and DuPont. For more information, visit

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