low carbohydrate diet shortens lifespan

Are you losing pounds off your weight or years off your life?

With virtually no science behind it and decades of nutritional research ridiculing it, the low carb diet was disguised by packaging that let it slip past the gate keeper of science and into the popular culture. But now a landmark study has unmasked it and revealed the truth behind the low carb diet fad.

Low carb diets reduce the amount of carbohydrates in the diet in favour of protein and fat. This massive American study followed 15,482 people between the ages of 45 and 64 for an average of 25 years. It looked at the ultimate health question: what affect does the low carb diet have on your chance of dying from any cause? To put their results in context and to look at the overall picture presented by the research, the researchers then combined their study with seven others into a meta-analysis from all over the world that included 432,179 people.

Low carbohydrate diets, which consisted of diets providing less than 40% of your calories from carbohydrates, led to a significantly greater risk of death from any cause during the study. The highest risk of death occurred in the people with the lowest carbohydrate diets. The lowest risk of death occurred when the diet was made up of 50%-55% carbohydrates. The researchers found that a 50 year old person whose diet included less than 30% carbs could expect to live another 29.1 years; whereas, the same person with a diet of 50%-55% carbs could expect to live another 33.1 years. That is, the low carb diet cuts four years off your life.

But what you replace the carbs with also matters. Both the new study and the meta-analysis found that when carbs were replaced by animal source fats and proteins—including beef, lamb, pork, chicken and cheese—risk of dying went up significantly; when carbs were replaced by plant source fats and protein—like vegetables, nuts and whole grain breads—risk of dying went significantly down. So, the healthiest diet that is associated with the longest lifespan is built around 50%-55% carbs and plenty of plant based foods.

In the current study, replacing carbs with animal source proteins and fats was associated with higher cardiovascular and non-cardiovascular death. But, again, when plant sourced proteins and fats replaced the carbs, the risk of cardiovascular and non-cardiovascular death lowered.

All of these results held in both the new study and the meta-analysis.

When the diet went excessive in carbs—that is over 70%--mortality also went up somewhat (1.1 years): likely because it didn’t leave enough space to eat sufficient fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds and legumes while including too many refined carbs.

The researchers concluded that “animal-based low carbohydrate diets should be discouraged.”


Lancet 2018;doi.org/10.1016/S2468-2667(18)30135-X


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