Another salvo in the war over carbs has been fired, this time from a study in the European Society of Cardiology which argues that a diet low in carbohydrate consumption puts people at a significantly greater risk of death due to coronary heart disease, stroke and cancer.
The high protein, high fat and low carb approach has been a mainstay of dieters for a couple of decades now, rising to wider attention in forms such as the Atkins diet and the keto diet which promote the idea that although our bodies do need carbohydrates to fuel up, our modern lifestyles are way over-carbed, resulting in rising levels of blood sugars and a host of related health problems.
And while evidence has shown that low carb diets can promote weight loss and even help in combatting type two diabetes, not everyone is convinced. National dietary recommendations such as the Dietary Guidelines for Americans and the Canada Food Guide have so far resisted the low-carb temptation and continue to promote a low-fat and carb-reliant diet as the most healthy.
The new study will add grist to their mill, as researchers at the Medical University of Lodz in Poland looked at a nationally representative sample of 24,825 participants in the US National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHAVES) between 1999 and 2010. The study concluded that compared to those with the highest carb consumption among the participants, those with lower carb intakes had a 32 per cent higher risk of all-cause death over an average 6.4-year follow up and increased risks of death from coronary heart disease (51 per cent greater risk), cerebrovascular disease including stroke (50 per cent greater risk) and cancer (35 per cent greater risk).
“Low carbohydrate diets might be useful in the short term to lose weight, lower blood pressure, and improve blood glucose control, but our study suggests that in the long-term they are linked with an increased risk of death from any cause, and deaths due to cardiovascular disease, cerebrovascular disease, and cancer,” says Professor Maciej Banach, lead author of the study which was presented at the European Society of Cardiology Congress last month.
As to a probable cause of the higher death risks, Professor Banach surmised that the already-known risks associated with higher intake of red and processed meats may be a factor. “The reduced intake of fibre and fruits and increased intake of animal protein, cholesterol, and saturated fat with these diets may play a role. Differences in minerals, vitamins and phytochemicals might also be involved,” he says.
The study follows on a US National Institutes of Health study published last month in The Lancet which also concluded that diets both high and low in carbohydrates were associated with increased mortality, with the minimal risk found in the median carb intake group.