Loose Women: Dr Hilary discusses how to live longer
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Low carbohydrate diets have been shown to attack harmful visceral fat, which lurks near vital organs in the body. Reducing visceral fat is key to staving off the risk of life-threatening complications, such as impaired insulin production and heart disease. However, the long-term benefits of a low-carb diet remain controversial and inconclusive.
According to researchers in a study published in the journal Lancet, “the long-term effect of carbohydrate restriction on mortality is controversial and could depend on whether dietary carbohydrate is replaced by plant-based or animal-based fat and protein”.
The researchers aimed to investigate the association between carbohydrate intake and mortality.
They studied 15,428 adults aged 45–64 years, in four US communities, who completed a dietary questionnaire at enrolment in the Atherosclerosis Risk in Communities (ARIC) study.
The ARIC study is one of the world’s most significant and longest-running heart health studies.
The primary outcome – the outcome that an investigator considers to be the most important among the many outcomes that are to be examined – was all-cause mortality.
The researchers investigated the association between the percentage of energy from carbohydrate intake and all-cause mortality.
They further examined this association, combining ARIC data with data for carbohydrate intake reported from seven multinational studies in a meta-analysis (an analysis of multiple studies).
Finally, they assessed whether the substitution of animal or plant sources of fat and protein for carbohydrate affected mortality.
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What did the researchers find out?
In the meta-analysis of all cohorts, both low carbohydrate consumption and high carbohydrate consumption conferred greater mortality risk than did moderate intake.
Minimal risk to mortality was observed at 50 to 55 percent carbohydrate intake.
Low carbohydrate dietary patterns favouring animal-derived protein and fat sources, from sources such as lamb, beef, pork, and chicken, were associated with higher mortality.
In contrast, 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.
The findings suggest “that the source of food notably modifies the association between carbohydrate intake and mortality”, the researchers concluded.
What to avoid
Certain diets are associated with a greater risk of developing chronic disease so are best to be avoided where possible.
Diets high in saturated fat are particularly unhealthy.
Saturated fat is the kind of fat found in butter, lard, ghee, fatty meats and cheese.
“Eating a diet high in saturated fat is associated with raised levels of non-HDL (bad) cholesterol,” warns the British Heart Foundation (BHF).
This is linked to an increased risk of heart and circulatory disease.
“Nutrition labels on the front and back of packaging can help you cut down on saturated fat,” notes the NHS.
“Look out for ‘saturates’ or ‘sat fat’ on the label.”
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