Published: Sun, August 19, 2018
Health Care | By Cedric Leonard

Moderate carbohydrate intake may lower mortality risk

Moderate carbohydrate intake may lower mortality risk

It may not sound as sexy, but eating carbohydrates in moderation may be best for boosting longevity, a large new study suggests.

This might be because eating large amounts of animal fat and protein but few fresh plant-based foods can increase inflammation in the body. Instead, her team carried out observational research with more than 15,400 people, aged 45 to 64, from diverse socio-economic backgrounds from four United States communities who were enrolled in the atherosclerosis risk in communities study.

People with low carb diets (meaning less than 40% of their calories came from carbohydrates) and high carb diets (more than 70% of their calories came from carbs) had a higher risk of mortality than those with a moderate carb intake (50-55% of calories). "However, our data suggests that animal-based low carbohydrate diets, which are prevalent in North America and Europe, might be associated with shorter overall life span". 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. "This approach reduces our calories from fat to around a third of total calories, with protein making up around 20 per cent of the total, and alcohol calories sneaking in, too, where consumed".

It sounds harsh, especially given that low carbohydrate diets can help you to lose weight in the short-term and improve your cardio-metabolic risk. As opposed to this group were the people who rely on low-carb diets, and to everyone's surprise the group of people with the highest risk of death in the US study were people who actually barely consumed carbs at all and replaced such foods with animal fats and proteins: "beef, pork, lamb, chicken, and cheese", as Seidelmann put it.

The researchers extrapolated these results to estimate that someone who was aged 50 with a moderate carbohydrate intake could expect to live another 33 years - taking them to age 83.

The researchers at the Brigham and Women's Hospital, Boston, then compared low-carb diets rich in animal protein and fats with those that contained lots of plant-based protein and fat.

It was found that those annoying people who don't eat bread because they are on a low-carb diet and mostly stick to protein and fats from animals, have a higher risk of mortality.

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But a USA study over 25 years indicates that moderate carb consumption - or switching meat for plant-based protein and fats - is healthier.

Furthermore, with diet composition only reported at the start of the trial and six years later, the researchers acknowledge that dietary patterns could have changed over the subsequent 19 years of follow-up.

"These findings bring together several strands that have been controversial", said Professor Walter Willett, a professor of epidemiology and nutrition at Harvard T H Chan School of Public Health and a co-author of the study.

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".

Seidelmann and the team checked the diets of more than 15,400 adults in the USA and 432,000 more people located in more than 20 countries across the globe.

"This method underestimates both energy and fat intake. On the basis of these principles, moderate intake of carbohydrate (eg, roughly 50% of energy) is likely to be more appropriate for the general population than are very low or very high intakes".

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