Calling all pasta lovers: Low carb diets could actually shorten your lifespan

Pearl Mccarthy
August 19, 2018

The new study published in The Lancet, however, suggests that people ought to be more careful and shouldn't jump on the latest diet fad before doing proper research.

Proponents of these "Stone Age" diets argue that the rapid shift 10,000 years ago to grains, dairy and legumes has not allowed the human body enough time to adapt to these high-carb foods.

Low-carb diets that replace carbohydrates with protein or fat are becoming increasingly popular.

The study, which involved more than 15,000 Americans who were tracked for a quarter of a century, found that those who ate a low-carb diet (with less than 40 percent of daily calories coming from carbs) or a high-carb diet (with more than 70 percent of daily calories coming from carbs) were more likely to die during the study period, compared with those who ate a moderate-carb diet, with about 50 to 55 percent of their calories coming from carbs.

Dr Sara Seidelmann, a cardiology specialist at Brigham and Women's Hospital, who led the research, said: "Low-carb diets that replace carbohydrates with protein or fat are gaining widespread popularity as a health and weight loss strategy. One day, a study is coming out telling us high carb is better, another day a study is telling us low carb is better".

The US scientists also looked at the combined results of previous studies including 432,000 people from more than 20 countries, which confirmed their findings.

In addition to the finding an optimal range associated with a lower risk of early death, the team also calculated how many extra years a moderate-carb diet could provide at certain ages.

But research found those with low carb diets died an average of four years earlier than those with moderate intakes.

According to a new 25-year study of 15,000 people, eating animal proteins such as beef, lamb, pork, chicken and cheese in place of carbs is linked to a slightly increased risk of death.

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However, the definition of a low-carb diet had some caveats as not all diets were equal. "Current guidelines have been criticized by those who favor low-carb diets, largely based on short term studies for weight loss or metabolic control in diabetes, but it is vital to consider long-term effects and to examine mortality, as this study did", said Nita Forouhi, Program Leader of the Nutritional Epidemiology program at the University of Cambridge.

The volunteers filled out a food questionnaire in the late 1980s and were followed for 25 years.

Pasta, potatoes and bread may be delicious, but they're often best avoided when attempting a diet.

The findings also support the advice of Public Health England - which suggests starchy carbohydrates should form the main components of a healthy diet.

Dr Seidelmann said: "A mid-range of carbohydrate intake might be considered moderate in North America and Europe where average consumption is about 50 per cent but low in other regions, such as Asia, where the average diet consists of over 60 per cent carbohydrates".

Co-author Professor Walter Willett of Harvard School of Public Health, said: 'These findings bring together several strands that have been controversial.

On the other hand, the same person who consumes a low-carb diet and gets roughly 30% of their calories from carbohydrates could live up to 29.1 more years.

But the researchers recognize that their findings are purely observational at this stage and can not prove a cause and effect of eating too little or too many carbohydrates.

"In fact, this figure is close to the average carbohydrate consumption by the United Kingdom population observed in dietary surveys".

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