While many nutritionists have attacked the Atkin's weight loss regime for its high fat content, putting dieters at risk of clogged arteries and heart attack in the long-term, the small study carried out at the University of Oxford is one of the first to demonstrate a direct effect on the heart after following the diet for a short period.
The results, presented at the American Heart Association conference in Dallas on Sunday, found that after restricting carbohydrate intake to just 20g per day, and instead consuming much more fat and protein, the energy stores in the hearts of 19 participants were reduced by an average of 16 per cent.
Such a reduction does not have direct implications for health, however one of the participants did notice a difference when running, said lead author Professor Kieran Clarke: "He couldn't manage his daily run while on the diet."
"The heart requires energy for contractions," explained another of the authors, Dr Damien Tyler, "although here we were measuring energy stores rather than energy used."
He added: "You do see similar patterns in a more severe form in patients with heart failure, and type 2 diabetics also suffer from lower energy stores. But the implication of these findings on health in the long-term are difficult to define."
Yet the new work clearly demonstrates that the heart is directly affected by the Atkin's diet and could therefore be susceptible to other unbalanced regimes.
"There's some prior evidence that increasing levels of circulating fatty acids in the bloodstream can affect the heart," Dr Tyler told NutraIngredients.com.
"This study gives us the basis for further investigating the effects of these diets."