Diet moderate in carbs could be key to longer life

Diet moderate in carbs could be key to longer life

According to a 25-year-long study, individuals whose diets were either low or high in carbohydrates had a higher risk of death than those who consumed a moderate amount of carbs.

"One explanation for the finding in this and the other U.S. studies is that it may reflect the higher risk of death in the overweight/obese, who may fall into two popular diet camps - those favouring a high-meat/low-carbohydrate diet and those favouring a low-fat/high-carbohydrate diet", he added. When some of the carbohydrate was replaced by proteins and fat from plant sources the risk of dying was found to be lower.

Middle-aged people who get roughly half their daily calories from carbohydrates live several years longer on average than those with meat-heavy low-carb diets, researchers reported Friday. Instead, if one chooses to follow a low carbohydrate diet, then exchanging carbohydrates for more plant-based fats and proteins might actually promote healthy aging in the long term.

The authors tracked 15 528 adults aged 45 to 64 over 25 years.

They also highlight that low-carb diets in the West often result in people eating more animal fats and meat, rather than more vegetables, fruit, and grains. The analysis revealed similar trends - participants whose diet consisted of high and low in carbohydrates had shorter life expectancy than those with moderate consumption.

"However, our data suggests that animal-based low carbohydrate diets might be associated with shorter overall lifespan and should be discouraged".

Very low and very high carb diets came with a higher risk of death than diets where they made up 50 to 55 per cent of calories.

The study, led by Harvard School of Public Health in the United States, goes some way to ending the decades-old debate over whether cutting carbs or fat is a better way to lose weight and improve health.

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From this, scientists estimated the proportion of calories they got from carbohydrates, fats, and protein.

A review of medical records of another 432,000 people from earlier studies confirmed the results, which are also in line with World Health Organisation recommendations.

Of course, this is just one study, and lots more research would have to be done to conclude that loading up on carbs is better that cutting them out altogether.

"A really important message from this study is that it is not enough to focus on the nutrients, but whether they are derived from animal or plant sources", she added.

Seidelmann warned about the widespread popularity of low-carb diets as a weight loss technique, with people giving up foods such as bread, pasta and potatoes.

As a caveat, there are some limitations to this study.

"However, the study was unable to make a distinction between the type of carbohydrates consumed i.e. sugar and refined starchy foods versus unrefined cereals". The conclusions are associations not causal relationships and the researchers had to rely on the participants to remember what they had eaten in order to determine their diets.

Dr Alison Tedstone, chief nutritionist at Public Health England, said: "This provides further evidence that low-carb diets could be incredibly damaging to our long-term health".

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