The lowdown on low-carb diets
Ever since Atkins, most people think that cutting carbs is healthy and a great way to lose weight. According to a survey by the International Food Information Council Foundation, consumers rank sugar and carbs as the top reasons for weight gain – the highest ranking since 2011. Not surprisingly, diets that restrict carbohydrates, including ketogenic, paleo and Whole30, are among the most popular today. This makes recent research in the European Heart Journal linking the absence of carbs in the diet to an increased risk of an earlier death all the more shocking. Confused? You’re not alone.
To carb – or not?
The research, which was presented at the annual meeting for the European Society of Cardiology, looked at data on 25,000 people over an 11-year span and found that individuals whose diets were lowest in carbs had a 32 per cent higher risk of a premature death – including from heart disease and cancer – compared with those who ate a higher-carb diet. This wasn’t even the first finding of its kind: a separate study in The Lancet revealed that low-carb dieters – people who got less than 40 per cent of their daily kiloujoules from carbs – had a higher mortality risk during the study than did moderate carb consumers whose diets were 50 to 55 per cent carbs.
Not all carbs are created equal
Experts believe that the recent findings might have something to do with the kinds of carbs you’re eating and what you’re replacing them with. “The quality of the food on a low-carb diet matters,” says registered dietitian Julie Stefanski. “The effects of a menu of pork rinds and beef jerky can’t be directly compared to the impact of eggs with spinach and avocado.” But as more evidence of the long-term effects of these diets emerges, it’s good to bone up on some of the other effects that passing on the bread basket can have on your body.