Lay Your Carbs on the Table
Whilst there has always been disagreements about what constitutes a healthy diet the debate has never been more polarised than it is right now. Some clinicians and therapists recommend going low carb and avoiding grains and pulses. Others claim that plant based diets are the way to go for optimum health. Others say all things in moderation. This month we’ll look at some of the recent research into the benefits of including carbs and grains. In the future we’ll explore the pros and cons of some of the low carb diets that are recommended.
Low Carb Diets Unsafe
The low fat diet craze is long gone, instead carbohydrates are more likely to be villified as foods to be restricted if health is to be achieved. However, the findings of a large study, that was presented at the European Society of Cardiology recently, found that low carbohydrate diets are unsafe and should be avoided (1).
The study found that people who ate a low carbohydrate diet were at a greater risk of premature death. Risks were also increased for individual causes of death including coronary heart disease, stroke, and cancer.
Compared to participants with the highest carbohydrate consumption, those with the lowest intake had a 32% increased risk of all-cause death over a 6 year follow-up. In addition, risks of death from coronary heart disease, cerebrovascular disease, and cancer were increased by 51%, 50%, and 35%, respectively.
The results were confirmed in a meta-analysis of seven other studies with nearly ½ a million participants and an average follow-up of over 15 years, which found increased risks in mortality with low carbohydrate diets compared to high carbohydrate diets.
Whilst low carbohydrate diets might be useful in the short term to aid weight loss, lower blood pressure, and improve blood glucose control, the study suggests that in the long-term they are not safe.
What’s the Problem with Going Low Carb
The reasons for the negative health consequences of going low carb may be that a low carbohydrate diet means that less fibre and fewer fruit and vegetables are eaten which is likely to reduce vitamin and antioxidant intake. In addition, animal protein is likely to be increased and too much animal protein has been shown in many studies to have a negative effect on various aspects of health.
See blog post on The Sweet Spot for what the research says about how much carbohydrate we should be eating and Wholegrains for Diabetes Prevention to read about the effects of grains on type 2 diabetes.
- 1. European Society of Cardiology. “Low-carbohydrate diets and all-cause and cause-specific mortality: a population-based cohort study and pooling prospective studies” 27 August 2018.