London - Women on the Atkins diet could be in danger of heart attacks and strokes later in life, claim researchers.

They found that regularly eating large amounts of protein but very little carbohydrate increases the risk by more than a quarter.

Experts are now urging women to follow a balanced diet rather than trying to cut out potatoes, bread, rice and pasta.

Researchers from Greece and Sweden carried out a 15-year study on 43,400 women aged 30 to 49.

Those whose diets were low in carbo-hydrate but high in protein were found to be 28 per cent more at risk from heart attacks and strokes.

But the researchers, based at the University of Athens, said the likelihood that they would fall victim was still very small.

If 10,000 women followed the Atkins diet, an extra five would be likely to suffer a stroke or heart attack compared to another 10,000 women eating normally.

Victoria Taylor, senior dietitian at the British Heart Foundation, said: “This study highlights the need for us to achieve balance in our diets. Don’t feel you have to choose between carbohydrates or protein. Eating a mixture of all food groups, rather than cutting anything out completely, will help you to stay healthy inside and out.

“Try and include lean proteins and low-fat dairy, wholegrain and high fibre carbohydrates, along with lots of fruit and veg and small amounts of healthy fats.

“Enjoying all of these in a balanced way is far better for your heart and your waistline than trying to stick to a strict diet.”

The study is published on the British Medical Journal’s website.

A typical Atkins diet plan consists of eggs and bacon for breakfast, a chicken salad for lunch and fish and broccoli for dinner.

The diet was devised by an American heart specialist Robert Atkins, who died of a heart attack aged 72, in 2002. - Daily Mail