Women on Atkins-style diets are putting themselves at risk of heart disease and strokes, experts have warned.

Those who regularly eat a low-carbohydrate, high-protein diet are at greater risk of cardiovascular disease than those who do not participate in such diets, research published on bmj.com suggests.

atkins diet backlash herat disease

More than 43,000 Swedish women were assessed over 15 years. Of those, 1,270 had suffered a "cardiovascular event".

From a dietary survey, the researchers found that if women decreased their carb intake by 20g a day and increased their protein intake by 5g, they had a 5% increased risk of cardiovascular disease.

Atkins Backlash: Swedish Diet Blamed For Cholesterol Surge

The amounts are relatively small - 20g of carbohydrates is the equivalent of a small bread roll and 5g of protein is the equivalent to one boiled egg.

The figures represent an additional four to five cases of cardiovascular disease per 10,000 women per year compared with those who did not regularly eat a low-carbohydrate, high-protein diet.

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The authors said that increasing level of education and physical activity reduced the risk of cardiovascular disease, while increasing levels of smoking increased the risk.

"Low-carbohydrate, high-protein diets, used on a regular basis and without consideration of the nature of carbohydrates or the source of proteins, are associated with increased risk of cardiovascular disease," the authors conclude.

Such diets are frequently used to lose weight. They are favoured among many celebrities as a method to keep trim.

Responding to these findings, Colette Heimowitz, vice president of nutrition and education for Atkins Nutritionals Inc, told HuffPost Lifestyle: “To suggest this is a report on an ‘Atkins-style’ diet is extremely misleading. This observational study simply states that ‘fewer carbs’ and ‘higher protein’ intake was associated with higher incidence of heart disease.

"Long term adherence to low carbohydrate diets requires carefully considered food choices, which the Atkins Diet teaches in all educational materials, published books and communications.

“The authors of the report even conclude that that low carbohydrate-high protein diets are only associated with cardiovascular risk when used on a regular basis, without consideration of the nature of carbohydrates or the source of proteins.

"In stark contrast, Atkins is a nutritional strategy which stresses nutrient-dense carbohydrates as part of a balanced eating plan and includes a variety of protein and good fats, while restricting carbohydrates which have the greatest impact on blood sugar.

“High triglycerides and low HDL reported in the study are linked to strokes.

However, the Atkins Diet has demonstrated time and time again in peer review published clinical trials that the opposite happens, a clear indication that these women were not doing any form of Atkins-style diet or the incidence of stroke would have been diminished.”

Not all carbohydrates are evil! Take a look at carbs that can help you keep your weight under control...

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  • Whole-Wheat Pasta

    Because sometimes you just need pasta -- and whole-wheat kinds offer two to three times more fiber than refined white varieties, but they're just as versatile and delicious. (Similarly, whole-wheat bread and brown rice are healthier choices than their "white" counterparts.) Try our <a href="http://www.eatingwell.com/recipes_menus/recipe_slideshows/low_calorie_pasta_recipes?utm_source=HuffingtonPost_Nicci_6SlimmingCarbs_013012" target="_blank">healthier fettuccine Alfredo</a> and more lightened-up pasta recipes for a healthy dinner tonight. <strong>To cook:</strong> Follow the package directions! <strong>More from EatingWell:</strong> <a href="http://www.eatingwell.com/nutrition_health/nutrition_news_information/bad_foods_you_should_be_eating?utm_source=HuffingtonPost_Nicci_6SlimmingCarbs_013012" target="_blank">9 "Bad" Foods You Should Be Eating</a> <a href="http://www.eatingwell.com/nutrition_health/weight_loss_diet_plans/diet_exercise_tips/6_reasons_you_should_be_eating_carbs?utm_source=HuffingtonPost_Nicci_6SlimmingCarbs_013012" target="_blank">6 More Reasons Your Body Needs Carbs</a> <a href="http://www.eatingwell.com/nutrition_health/weight_loss_diet_plans/clean_up_your_diet_and_lose_weight?utm_source=HuffingtonPost_Nicci_6SlimmingCarbs_013012" target="_blank">Ditch These 4 Foods to Clean Up Your Diet</a> <em>Flickr photo by <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/ilovemypit/2792959651/" target="_hplink">Kari Sullivan</a></em>

  • Quinoa

    Consider it souped-up couscous. A delicately flavored whole grain, it provides some fiber (two grams per half-cup) and a good amount of protein (four grams). Note: Research shows protein can help you feel full for longer. Rinsing quinoa removes any residue of saponin, its natural bitter protective coating. Try adding quinoa to your diet with our delicious <a href="http://www.eatingwell.com/recipes_menus/recipe_slideshows/low_calorie_quinoa_recipes?utm_source=HuffingtonPost_Nicci_6SlimmingCarbs_013012" target="_blank">Pear-Quinoa Salad and more healthy ideas</a> for quinoa. <strong>To cook:</strong> Bring 2 cups water or broth to a boil; add 1 cup quinoa. Reduce heat to a simmer, cover and cook until the liquid has been absorbed, 15 to 20 minutes. Fluff with a fork. <em>Flickr photo by <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/kwbridge/4769277738/" target="_hplink">Kim Woodbridge</a></em>

  • Barley

    Available "pearled" (the bran has been removed) or "quick-cooking" (parboiled). While both contain soluble fiber that helps keep blood cholesterol levels healthy, pearl barley has a little more. <strong>To cook:</strong> Pearl barley -- Bring 1 cup barley and 2.5 cups water or broth to a boil. Reduce heat to a simmer; cook, covered, until tender and most of the liquid has been absorbed, 40 to 50 minutes. Let stand five minutes. For quick-cooking barley -- Bring 1.75 cups water or broth to a boil; add 1 cup barley. Reduce heat to a simmer; cook, covered, until tender, 10 to 12 minutes. <em>Flickr photo by <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/frostnova/2039718406/" target="_hplink">frostnova</a></em>

  • Bulgur

    Cracked wheat that's been parboiled so it simply needs to soak in hot water for most uses -- a perfect low-maintenance grain. It's also a good source of feel-full fiber: just half a cup delivers five grams. <strong>To cook:</strong> Pour 1.5 cups boiling water or broth over 1 cup bulgur. Let stand, covered, until light and fluffy, about 30 minutes. If all the water is not absorbed, let the bulgur stand longer or press it in a strainer to remove excess liquid. <em>Flickr photo by <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/rooey/5955383666/" target="_hplink">Rooey202</a></em>

  • Wheat Berries

    These are the whole, unprocessed kernels of wheat. They're terrific sources of B vitamins, iron, magnesium, zinc and yes, fiber. <strong>To cook:</strong> Sort through wheat berries carefully, discarding any stones, and rinse with water. Bring 4 cups water or broth and 1 cup wheat berries to a boil. Reduce heat to a simmer, cover and cook, stirring occasionally, until tender, but still a little chewy, about one hour. Drain. <em>Flickr photo by <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/rooey/5987517474/" target="_hplink">Rooey202</a></em>

  • Popcorn

    Because when you're craving pretzels or potato chips... You're certainly not going to reach for a bowl of oatmeal. Popcorn satisfies a snack craving <em>and</em> it's a whole grain. No, I'm not kidding: Three cups of popped popcorn (what you get by popping one heaping tablespoon of kernels) equals one of your three recommended daily servings of whole grains and contains three grams of fiber. <strong>To cook:</strong> Toss a heaping tablespoon into an air popper. <strong>More from EatingWell:</strong> <a href="http://www.eatingwell.com/nutrition_health/nutrition_news_information/bad_foods_you_should_be_eating?utm_source=HuffingtonPost_Nicci_6SlimmingCarbs_013012" target="_blank">9 "Bad" Foods You Should Be Eating</a> <a href="http://www.eatingwell.com/nutrition_health/weight_loss_diet_plans/diet_exercise_tips/6_reasons_you_should_be_eating_carbs?utm_source=HuffingtonPost_Nicci_6SlimmingCarbs_013012" target="_blank">6 More Reasons Your Body Needs Carbs</a> <a href="http://www.eatingwell.com/nutrition_health/weight_loss_diet_plans/clean_up_your_diet_and_lose_weight?utm_source=HuffingtonPost_Nicci_6SlimmingCarbs_013012" target="_blank">Ditch These 4 Foods to Clean Up Your Diet</a> <em>Flickr photo by <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/polkadotcreations/3387383409/" target="_hplink">Lisa Clarke</a> </em>

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