Published: Fri, August 17, 2018
Medicine | By Brett Sutton

Study finds moderate carbohydrate diets may be ideal for long-term health

Study finds moderate carbohydrate diets may be ideal for long-term health

For the study, which was published in Lancet Public Health, researchers followed 15,428 adults aged 45-64 over two decades from 1987.

Very low and very high carb diets came with a higher risk of death than diets where they made up 50 to 55 per cent of calories.

Middle-aged people who get roughly half their daily calories from carbohydrates live several years longer on average than those with low-carb and high-carb diets, researchers reported.

Proponents of meat-heavy low-carb "Stone Age" diets argue that the rapid shift 10,000 years ago - with the advent of agriculture - to grains, dairy and legumes has not allowed the human body enough time to adapt to these high-carb foods.

Dr Sara Seidelmann, clinical and research fellow in cardiovascular medicine from Brigham and Women's Hospital, Boston, who led the research, said: "Our data suggests that animal-based low carbohydrate diets, which are prevalent in North America and Europe, might be associated with shorter overall life span and should be discouraged". The global research shows that your mortality risk could be lowered if you follow a low-carb diet featuring plant-based proteins and fat.

The primary findings were confirmed in a meta-analysis of studies on carbohydrate intake including more than 432,000 people from over 20 countries.

The study's authors conclude that the best long-term approach to promote healthy ageing is to replace carbs with plant-based fats and protein when you're on a low-carb diet. The findings suggest that replacing carbs with animal-based proteins is linked to a greater chance of mortality, while replacing carbs with plant-based proteins lengthens life expectancy.


Eating carbs in moderation was "optimal" for health and longevity, a United States study found.

Participants filled out detailed questionnaires about their dietary habits - what foods, how much, how often and so on.

Participants were followed for about 25 years, during which 6,283 people died. Such a diet can also reduce longevity, but by far less, the scientists found.

Food plans which replace carbs with protein and fat, such as the Ketogenic or Atkins diets, have gained popularity, and endorsed by celebrities such as Gwyneth Paltrow and Kim Kardashian.

Despite these limitations, a U-shaped link between diet and health outcomes seems logical, because "essential nutrients should be consumed above a minimal level to avoid deficiency, and below a maximal level to avoid toxicity", Dr. Andrew Mente and Dr. Salim Yusuf, both of McMaster University and the Population Health Research Institute in Hamilton, Canada, wrote in a commentary accompanying the study.

Still, the commentary called for more studies that look at the effect of eating carbs on certain biomarkers; as well as studies that randomly assign people to follow certain dietary patterns, rather than focusing on specific nutrients.

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