This diet could prevent diabetes and heart disease in older people

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In a new study, researchers found improvements in body composition, fat distribution, and metabolic health in older people when they had an eight-week, very low-carbohydrate diet.

The research was conducted by a team at the University of Alabama at Birmingham.

Older adults with obesity are at a particularly high risk of developing a cardio-metabolic diseases such as Type 2 diabetes and heart disease.

Rather than total fat mass, deposition of fat in certain areas, such as the abdominal cavity and skeletal muscle, may confer this greatest risk of disease development.

In the study, the team aimed to determine if a very low-carbohydrate, or VLCD, high-fat diet would deplete these fat depots and preserve lean mass without caloric restriction in older adults with obesity.

These could improve risk factors of cardiometabolic diseases, such as insulin sensitivity and the lipid profile.

The researchers found after the eight-week intervention, despite the recommendation to consume a weight-maintaining diet, the group consuming the very low-carbohydrate diet lost more weight and total fat mass than the control diet group.

Egg consumption was an important part of the very low-carbohydrate diet. The team provided eggs to the participants in this diet group and asked them to consume at least three per day.

The primary difference in fat loss between the two groups was from the abdominal cavity and the skeletal muscle depots.

The team also found big improvements in the overall lipid profile that would reflect the decreased risk of heart disease.

Further, insulin sensitivity improved in response to the very low-carbohydrate diet reflecting the reduced risk of Type 2 diabetes.

Overall, they observed improvements in body composition, fat distribution, and metabolic health in response to an eight-week, very low-carbohydrate diet.

The team says very low-carbohydrates are a therapeutic option for many conditions, including Type 2 diabetes, obesity, and non-alcoholic fatty liver disease.

There is quite a bit of evidence about the benefits of a very low-carbohydrate diet in younger populations, and this study was one of the first to test this dietary approach to improve outcomes related to obesity in adults older than age 65.

This population is at particularly high risk of other diseases and in need of therapeutic interventions to improve health while preserving skeletal muscle mass to prevent or delay functional decline with age.

One author of the study is Amy Goss, Ph.D., RDN, an assistant professor with UAB’s Department of Nutrition Sciences.

The study is published in Nutrition and Metabolism.

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