Cardiovascular and hormonal aspects of very-low-carbohydrate ketogenic diets

Document Type

Journal Article


Faculty of Computing, Health and Science


School of Exercise, Biomedical and Health Science / Centre for Alzheimer's Disease




Volek, J. S., & Sharman, M. J. (2004). Cardiovascular and hormonal aspects of very‐low‐carbohydrate ketogenic diets. Obesity research, 12(S11), 115S-123S.


In recent years, restriction of carbohydrate intake for weight loss has become widespread. Our research group began studying physiological responses to very‐low‐carbohydrate ketogenic diets (VLCKDs) in the late 1990s because we felt there was a significant void in the literature and limited understanding of metabolic responses to VLCKDs. This launched us into a line of research examining the physiological effects of VLCKDs. In this paper, we briefly overview nine studies we have published on isoenergetic and hypoenergetic VLCKDs in men and women. These studies have focused on blood lipid responses to VLCKDs, but we have also addressed changes in body weight, body composition, and hormones. Compared with low‐fat diets, short‐term VLCKDs consistently result in improvements in fat loss, fasting and postprandial triacylglycerols, high‐density lipoprotein‐cholesterol, the distribution of low‐density lipoprotein‐cholesterol subclasses, and insulin resistance. These are the key metabolic abnormalities of metabolic syndrome, a problem of epidemic proportions in the United States. There is substantial variability in total cholesterol and low‐density lipoprotein‐cholesterol responses to VLCKD. The factors responsible for this variability are not known, and studies designed to identify methods to predict blood lipid responses to VLCKD and other dietary approaches represent critical areas for nutrition researchers. Further research is warranted to validate the physiological effects of VLCKD over longer periods of time, including studies that modify the quality of macronutrients (i.e., the type of fat and protein) and the interaction with other interventions (e.g., exercise, dietary supplements, drugs).



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