Meat-heavy low-carb diets can 'shorten lifespan'

Meat-heavy low-carb diets can 'shorten lifespan'

Eating carbohydrates in moderation seems to be optimal for health and living a long life, the research found. As well, the study indicates that not all low-carb diets are the same when it comes to health, with plant-based ones being ideal.

"A percentage of 50-55 percent energy from carbohydrate was associated with the lowest risk of mortality", the team reported in Lancet Public Health. Diets composed of less than 40-percent carbohydrates and diets composed of more than 70-percent carbohydrates were both associated with increased mortality risk.

"On the basis of these principles, moderate intake of carbohydrate ... is likely to be more appropriate for the general population than are very low or very high intakes".

"Whereas those that favoured plant-derived protein and fat intake, from sources such as vegetables, nuts, peanut butter, and whole-grain breads, were associated with lower mortality, suggesting that the source of food notably modifies the association between carbohydrate intake and mortality".

Seidelmann suggested that, "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". Popular weight loss diets such as Atkins and Dukan include a substantial amount of meat-based foods.

'Too much and too little carbohydrate can be harmful but what counts most is the type of fat, protein, and carbohydrate.' And researcher Professor Scott Solomon of Harvard Medical School said: 'This work provides the most comprehensive study of carbohydrate intake that has been done to date, and helps us better understand the relationship between the specific components of diet and long term health. They analysed the dietary habits of 15,428 adults aged 45 to 64 from diverse socioeconomic backgrounds from four USA communities.

People who ate significantly more or less carbs than that were more likely to die, according to the study.

They also said their findings show observational associations rather than cause and effect.

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The study involved a total of 15,400 people from the United States filling out questionnaires on the food and drink they consumed, as well as portion sizes.

This revealed similar trends, with participants whose overall diets were high and low in carbohydrates having a shorter life expectancy than those with moderate consumption. "With a mere 100g of complex carb a day to play with, a lower intake of cereals, grains, and starchy vegetables is inevitable", said Catherine Collins, a dietitian with the UK's National Health Service, who was not involved in the study.

Seidelmann, however, agrees that low-carb diets and weight loss are linked in the short-term.

"Such a stance is at odds with advice from WHO and government health bodies globally - including Public Health England - that recommend a carb intake to provide around half our daily calorie needs".

She added that it the findings raise questions about the current hyping of low-carb diets for people with diabetes. Then it was considered ideal to avoid sugar and go low-carb.

Two experts who wrote an editorial accompanying the study added a note of caution.

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. "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".

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