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Can Crash Dieting Harm Your Heart?


A new study presented at the 2018 Cardiovascular Magnetic Resonance meeting held in Barcelona this year warns that crash dieting could result in deterioration of heart function.

These types of diets slash calorie intake down to about 600-800 calories a day. And while they can be very effective for natural weight loss, your heart may be at risk during the early phases of dieting.

In the study, 21 obese volunteers consumed a very low calorie diet for eight weeks. At the start of the study all of them received an MRI to measure heart function and fat distribution in the abdomen, liver and heart muscle.

After a single week, total body fat dropped by an average of 6%. Visceral fat fell by 11% and liver fat declined by 42%. At the same time, significant improvements were seen in insulin resistance, fasting total cholesterol, triglycerides, glucose and blood pressure.

While all of this sounds like great news, there was one very big downside to the diet. After the first week, heart fat among the volunteers rose by a dangerous 44%.

A Rise in Heart Fat Reduces Heart Function

This rise in heart fat was linked to deteriorating heart function and reduced the heart’s ability to pump blood. While this may sound counterintuitive, lead author Jennifer Raynor offers an explanation.

“The sudden drop in calories causes fat to be released from different parts of the body into the blood and be taken up by the heart muscle,” says Raynor. “The heart muscle prefers to choose between fat or sugar as fuel and being swamped by fat worsens its function.”

However, once participants’ bodies adjusted to the dramatic calorie restriction, heart fat content and function improved drastically — to the point where these measures were better than they had been prior to the diet. Body fat and cholesterol also continued to improve.

Heart Patients: Seek Medical Advice Before Embarking On a Very Low Calorie Diet

Dr. Raynor notes that low calorie diets do have benefits. They can be very effective for losing weight, reducing blood pressure and reversing diabetes. She also points out that otherwise healthy people may not notice these changes in heart function. However, she does offer a warning to individuals with heart disease.

“If you have heart problems, you need to check with your doctor before embarking on a very low calorie diet or fasting. People with a cardiac problem could well experience more symptoms at this early time point, so the diet should be supervised.”


Crash diets can cause transient deterioration in heart function. Press Release. European Society of Cardiology. Feb 2018.

Dana Nicholas is a freelance writer and researcher in the field of natural and alternative healing. She has over 20 years of experience working with many noted health authors and anti-aging professionals, including James Balch, M.D., Dr. Linda Page, “Amazon” John Easterling and Al Sears M.D. Dana’s goal is to keep you up-to-date on information, news and breakthroughs that can have a direct impact on your health, your quality of life… and your lifespan. “I’m absolutely convinced that America’s misguided trust in mainstream medicine – including reliance on the government to regulate our food and medicine supply – is killing us, slowly but surely,” she cautions. “By sharing what I’ve learned throughout the years I hope I can empower others to take control over their own health.”

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