LCHF diets

Spike in heart attacks linked to LCHF diets

1:56 min

The Low Carb High Fat diet fad could be one of the reasons why strokes and heart attacks are increasing among young Swedes. That's according to a group of Swedish doctors and professors who have warned that the diets are a public health threat.

The mortality rate among those suffering from cardiovascular diseases in Sweden has decreased drastically over the past few decades. But new figures from the National Board of Health and Welfare and from the National Institute of Public Health show that the number of men and women aged 35 to 44 who suffer strokes is rising. And more and more young women have heart attacks, too.

Writing in newspaper Dagens Nyheter, a group of Swedish professors say changing food habits in Sweden could have something to do with it.

One of the scientists, Mai-Lis Hellenius, a cardiovascular expert at the Karolinska Institute, told Swedish Radio News that Low Carb High Fat - or LCHF - diets are a threat to public health.

LCHF diets have developed a strong following in Scandinavia, having originated here in Sweden. And as the name suggests, the diet involves eating food that is high in fat and low in carbs.

"It is no longer just the odd case we're seeing at the hospitals where more and more stroke and heart-attack patients arrive after following these diets and eating a lot of butter, cream, cheese and bacon," says Hellenius.

She adds that it is time to raise the alarm about the dangers of LCHF diets. High cholesterol, which the high-fat foods contribute to, is the biggest risk factor for hardening of the arteries, heart attacks and strokes, says Hellenius.

She points to national studies that show that around one in four Swedes has tried the LCHF diet at some point.

LCHF has many vocal proponents, but Mai-Lis Hellenius says that while LCHF and food habits are debated frequently in Sweden there is a lack of knowledge about the risks.

"On the one hand, knowledge has increased a lot but at the same time confusion has increased too and I think that has to do with how knowledge, facts and opinions spread these days. It goes very fast and quality assurances are not at their best when things go so fast," says Hellenius.