Low-Carb Diet Tied to Common Heart Rhythm Disorder

Healthy lifestyle choices and eating habits are trending topics these days. It is not only matter of making better choices in life but also the necessity of the hour for many people. The sedentary lifestyle and erratic eating habits in our busy life have been linked to many medical conditions. An ideal balanced is supposed to be nutritionally fulfilling and supporting for the body. Today, there are many different types of dieting plans and ideas to reduce weight and get in shape. Among these are low-carb diets, such as the ketogenic, paleo and Atkins diets. They may slightly differ on amount and types of products, most low-carb diets include proteins rich food and restriction on intake of sugars, legumes, grains, fruits and starchy vegetables. The popular methods of low-carb diet have even been promoted by several celebrities and some doctors. However, some recent studies have shown that it could be linked to an increase in the risk of heart rhythm disorders which may lead to stroke. The researchers studying the health effects of different types and level of carbohydrate intake also found that people who got less of their daily energy from starchy foods such as bread, pasta and potatoes had higher chances of atrial fibrillation (AFib), an abnormal heart rhythm disorder. So the study suggests that  this popular weight control method should be recommended cautiously, considering the potential influence on arrhythmia.

The experts at the best cardiology hospital in India also warn against such extreme and unhealthy dieting ideas. Cardiovascular conditions are a common problem among Indian population. A cardiac patient should always check with the doctor to ensure their diet plan works with their existing condition and its treatment. 


The study on carbohydrate intake level was focused on the flip sides of avoiding carbs and follows a low-carb diet. It analysed and assessed half a million participants and found out about their diets plans. They found that cutting back on carbs may lead to trouble for the heart. A recent study that linked low carbohydrate consumption to rise in the risk for atrial fibrillation, the most common type of arrhythmia condition, suggest maintaining caution when restricting carbohydrates for weight loss.


Atrial fibrillation, also commonly called as AFib, is a common type of disorder that causes abnormal heart rhythm. It affects millions of adults worldwide and can drastically raise the risk for stroke. Atrial fibrillation is an irregular heartbeat, known as arrhythmia, which can lead to severe complications such as blood clots, stroke, heart failure and other heart-related complications. When a person has atrial fibrillation, the two upper chambers or the atria of heart beat abnormally or rapidly – going out of coordination with the two lower chambers or the ventricles. Symptoms of Atrial fibrillation usually include heart palpitations, shortness of breath, fatigue and weakness.


While a healthy lifestyle is important for reducing the risk for AFib and other heart problems, there is still more to be known about the long-term impact of low-carb diets on heart health.

The data from Atherosclerosis Risk in Communities (ARIC) about the carbohydrate consumption among nearly 14,000 U.S. adults between 1985 and 2016 was used in this study. The responses from dietary surveys were then used by the researchers to group participants into low-carb – who took less than 44.8% of daily calories, moderate carb – who had 44.8-52.4% of daily calories and high-carb diets – had over 52.4% of daily calories.


No participant was known to have AFib condition at the beginning of the study. However, the data analysis showed that nearly 1,900 were diagnosed with AFib after an average of 22 years of follow-up. Researchers also found that participants who had low carbohydrate intake were 18% more likely to develop AFib compared to those who had with moderate carbohydrate intake. There was seen a 16% higher risk for AFib in those who had a high-carb intake.


The authors of the research paper have mentioned that although the study has depicted an association of a low-carb diet and direct increases in the risk for AFib, it does not prove the same. But, experts have suggested few explanations for this possible association. One is that people who consume a low-carb diet may eat fewer vegetables, fruits and grains. This is known to reduce inflammation. Another might be that an increase in protein intake and less consumption of carbs can also lead to oxidative stress, which means the body is facing problems defending against free radicals which may lead to damage to cells, protein and DNA. These conditions can ultimately increase risk of having atrial fibrillation, and also a general increased risk for other cardiac problems.


The study’s lead author also says that the long-term effect of restricting carbohydrate from the diet is yet a controversial topic among experts, in particular to its influence on cardiovascular health. Keeping in mind the potential influence on arrhythmia, the study further recommends this popular weight control method must be chosen carefully. 


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