5 out of 6 people on a low-carb diet seem to be getting the benefits of reducing cortisol, a new study suggests.
A recent survey of more than 7,000 people conducted by the British Heart Foundation and the University of Toronto found that nearly one in three people on the low-fat, low-sugar diet experienced some sort of adverse effect on their stress hormones such as cortisol.
“While this may be the first study that looked at this in humans, it is the first to assess the effects of low-calorie diet in humans,” said study co-author Dr. Aniruddh Sharma, an assistant professor of medicine at the University at Buffalo.
“It seems to be the opposite of what we were hoping for.”
A number of recent studies have shown that moderate- to low-carbers tend to be healthier than their more sedentary counterparts.
This was supported by a 2009 study that found that obese people on moderate-to-low-carbohydrate diets fared better on physical activity tests than did those on a higher-carb, low fat diet.
But this wasn’t the case for those on the “moderate- to moderate-low” weight loss diet.
“We know that if you eat more calories than you burn, you burn less calories,” said Sharma.
“The low- fat diet seems to make people burn less energy than they would on a moderate- or high-carb or high fat diet.”
A 2013 study of more a half-million people found that those who ate the most calories per day experienced the lowest levels of cortisol.
And this was true for both men and women.
However, as with many studies, the study also showed that there was a significant difference in cortisol levels between groups on the high-caloric diet and the moderate-calories diet.
And the high caloric dieter had significantly more cortisol levels than the moderate calorie eater.
The researchers concluded that the low calorie dieter on a high-fat diet was at a greater risk for heart disease, cancer, diabetes and other health issues.
“Low-cal-orie dieters have more metabolic stressors,” Sharma said.
“They are also at greater risk of diabetes, cardiovascular disease, high blood pressure and hypertension.
These metabolic stressor exposures have been shown to be linked to increased risk of developing cardiovascular disease.”
Dr. J. Michael Greger, a cardiologist at the Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York City, agreed that a moderate diet is a good idea, but cautioned against eating too much fat and protein.
“If you’re doing a moderate weight loss, I would not be recommending you do any low-protein diet,” Greger said.
He said it’s not possible to “reverse” cortisol levels.
“You can’t reverse the stress hormone response, and you can’t get rid of it,” Greer said.
Instead, he said, it’s important to get enough sleep and eat a balanced diet with plenty of protein, vegetables, fruits and low-glycemic index carbohydrates.
“Cortisol is a stress hormone,” Greyer said.
It plays a role in regulating mood, regulating sleep, hormone levels and other functions.
“Most of the research on low- or moderate-fat diets is focused on how they affect the metabolic stress response,” he said.
However if you’re on a diet where you’re eating a high protein, low carb diet, Greger advised, try to consume a lower carbohydrate, low sugar diet.
The low- and moderate-carb diets can be effective for reducing the amount of cortisol you produce.
The next step for the study is to determine if there’s a relationship between cortisol levels and diabetes, heart disease and other chronic health conditions, according to Sharma.
The study was published online March 26 in the journal Obesity.