Is a Low Carb Diet Increasing the Risk of Atrial Fibrillation?

There are many diets out there and most people will have tried at least one of them. Currently, the low carb diet such as the Ketogenic (Keto) diet, is popular, and many follow this hoping to stay healthy and lose weight. However, a recent study has suggested that a low carb diet can increase the risk of Atrial Fibrillation over time.

Low Carb Diet

Low Carb Diet on chalk board with fruit and veg

Atrial Fibrillation

In this disorder, the heart rhythm is affected because the heart beats less efficiently when ejecting blood out of the chambers of the heart. This can cause blood to pool and clots to form. If these blood clots rupture, they can travel to the brain and cause a stroke.

The Study

According to the study1, compared to people who consume moderate amounts of carbohydrates, those who consume less than 45% calories from carbohydrates have an 18% increased risk of developing Atrial Fibrillation. Researchers stated that, even when these carbohydrates are replaced by protein, the risk still exists.

This study reviewed data from the U.S National Institutes of Health, including data from about 14,000 individuals. At the start of the study, none of the individuals had Atrial Fibrillation. However, approximately 1,900 of these individuals had developed Atrial Fibrillation after 22 years.

In the study, individuals completed a diet-related survey and were then divided into low carb, moderate carb, and high carb intake. The study concluded that both high and low carb intake was associated with an increased risk of Atrial Fibrillation as well as premature death.

Possible Causes

Although the main aim of the study was to find a link, rather than to determine cause and effect, the researchers explained that there may be several reasons for these negative consequences of the low carb diet.

A low carb diet results in rapid weight loss by flushing out the fluids from the body. This may lead to dehydration, one of the causes of Atrial Fibrillation. Furthermore, diets like this can lead to electrolyte abnormalities which affect the rhythm of the heart.

Furthermore, in the low carb diet, individuals eat fewer vegetables, fruits and grains. These foods reduce inflammation in the body. Therefore, individuals on a low carb diet have high levels of inflammation, which has also been associated with Atrial Fibrillation.

What to Do Instead

People follow variations of the low carb diet. Some diets limit the consumption of pasta, bread and desserts, and this can be good for your health. However, some individuals restrict the consumption of healthy foods such as vegetables, fruits and legumes and this means that they are not consuming sufficient amounts of nutrients and fibers.

With regards to dieting, it is important to follow a diet that is well-balanced and includes nuts, seeds, whole grains, legumes, fruits and vegetables. Diets that are more plant based reduce the risk of many health problems.


[1] Zhuang, Xiaodong & Zhang, Shaozhao & Zhou, Huimin & Du, Zhimin & Liao, Xinxue. (2019). U-Shaped Relationship Between Carbohydrate Intake Proportion And Incident Atrial Fibrillation. Journal of the American College of Cardiology. 73. 4. 10.1016/S0735-1097(19)33766-0.

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Last updated: Jul 15, 2019 at 12:52 AM


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