Publication Date: 04/2020
Summary: Low-carbohydrate diets (LCDs) often differ in their diet composition, which may lead to conflicting results between randomized controlled trials. Therefore, we aimed to compare the effects of different degrees of carbohydrate (CHO) restriction on cardiometabolic risk markers in humans. The experimental LCDs of 37 human trials were classified as (1) moderate-low CHO diets (<45–40 E%, n = 13), (2) low CHO diets (<40–30 E%, n = 16), and (3) very-low CHO diets (<30–3 E%; n = 8). Summary estimates of weighted mean differences (WMDs) in selected risk markers were calculated using random-effect meta-analyses. Differences between the LCD groups were assessed with univariate meta-regression analyses. Overall, the LCDs resulted in significant weight loss, reduced diastolic blood pressure BP, and increased total cholesterol and high-density lipoprotein cholesterol (HDL-C), without significant differences between the three LCD groups. Higher low-density lipoprotein cholesterol (LDL-C) concentrations were found with the very-low CHO diets compared to the moderate-low CHO diets. Decreases in triacylglycerol (TAG) concentrations were more pronounced with the low and very-low CHO diets, compared to the moderate-low CHO diets. Substitution of CHO by mainly saturated fatty acids (SFAs) increased total cholesterol, LDL-C, and HDL-C concentrations. Except for LDL-C and TAGs, effects were not related to the degree of CHO restriction. Potential effects of nutrient exchanges should be considered when following LCDs.