Low carb diets are all the rage right now as celebrities and the general public get on board with the rapid weight loss diet. However, a new study has found that people who consume too few carbohydrates are just as likely to have an early mortality rate compared to those who eat too many carbs. And, for those that are basing their low carb diet on a high meat and fat content to replace the lack of fuel-giving carbohydrates, the news is even grimmer, according to The Guardian.
The new study, published in The Lancet, a public health journal, details several studies that were collaborated as they studied the effects of low and high carb diets on the body.
“Low-carb diets that replace carbohydrates with protein or fat are gaining widespread popularity as a health and weight loss strategy,” said Dr. Sara Seidelmann, a member of the research team as well as a clinical and research fellow in cardiovascular medicine from Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston.
The research suggests that the optimum level of carbohydrate intake for a healthy diet appears to lie somewhere between 30 to 70 percent. Anything above or below these figures puts people in the early mortality risk group, according to the study.
In addition, those who consume more meats such as chicken, steak, and lamb, and fats such as butter and cheese, are considered more at risk of early mortality than for those low carb diets that rely on plant-based protein and fats. Some suggested plant-based proteins and fats include avocados, legumes, and nuts.
“Our data suggests that animal-based low-carbohydrate diets, which are prevalent in North America and Europe, might be associated with shorter overall lifespan and should be discouraged. 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.”
While a comparative study on the effects of low and high carb diets is not easy to undertake due to the time required, this study used “observational research with more than 15,400 people, aged 45 to 64, from diverse socio-economic backgrounds from four US communities who were enrolled in the atherosclerosis risk in communities study,” according to The Guardian.
The participants in this study were asked a series of questions based on eating habits and were then observed over 25 years. Factors such as smoking, income, and diabetes, were also considered during the study. This study was then compared with seven other observational studies from across the globe. In all, there were approximately 430,000 participants.
In the study, it was found that a 50-year-old who consumed moderate amounts of carbohydrates had a “further life expectancy of 33 years, which was four years longer than those on low-carb diets and one year longer than those who ate a high-carb diet.”
The study also found that while people were embracing low carb diets, they were often eating more meat and fats rather than making healthy vegetable choices. This reason could help to explain why low carb diets may have an increased early mortality rate as it has been a long-held belief that consuming too much meat and fat can be bad for your health.
Catherine Collins, an NHS dietitian, said that the “cult of low carb high-fat eating” was based on flimsy evidence that is considered “at odds with advice from WHO and government health bodies globally – including the UK’s Public Health England – that recommend a carb intake to provide around half our daily calorie needs.”
Collins also had an issue with the current belief that low carb diets are good for people with diabetes.
“The feting and promotion of GPs promoting often bizarre low carb diets to manage diabetes has gained much media traction,” she said. “If nothing else, this study provides some redress to this one-sided debate, and adds caution to such practice for long-term management.”
In all, though, in accordance with this new study, the guidelines suggest that people should aim to consume a moderate amount of carbohydrates. In addition, they should try to limit their intake of animal-based proteins and fats if they want to help extend their health and their lives.