Friday, September 10, 2010

Low-carb diets: What happens in 20 years?

Are you on a low-carb diet or know someone who is? I've dabbled with this myself and hear friends and patients talking about it all the time.

But I've always wondered: can this really be good for our bodies? We lose weight in the short-term, but what about 20+ years down the road?

A recent study in the latest Annals of Internal Medicine starts to answer these questions. They find that where your proteins/fats come from (i.e. animals versus plants) matters very much for long-term health. 

They compared low-carb diets made up of animal sources versus low-carb diets made up of vegetable sources (in over 100,000 people for over 20 years), and found an important difference in mortality rates.

Low-carb diets high in animal-protein diets were associated with higher mortality (both cardiovascular and cancer mortality), while low-carb diets high in vegetable protein diets were associated with lower mortality overall (especially cardiovascular mortality rates). The authors’ conclusion:
“A low-carbohydrate diet based on animal sources was associated with higher all-cause mortality in both men and women, whereas a vegetable-based low-carbohydrate diet was associated with lower all-cause and cardiovascular disease mortality rates.”
Low-carb diets can be helpful or harmful. What really matters is everything else you are putting into your body. It seems best to stick to simple and intuitive food rules. Here are my 5 for the day: 
  1. Avoid refined sugars (but do not avoid nutritious whole grains!)
  2. Minimize animal products
  3. Build meals around fresh colorful vegetables (the more color the better)
  4. Avoid overeating
  5. Chew thoroughly (this helps with #4)

1 comment:

  1. Dear Christina
    This article was discussed in the nutrition lists I belong to. Technically, an all vegetable diet is not carb-free. If one is vegetarian, one still has to make healthy vegetarian choices or end up eating worse than a sensible meat eater. Hence one should chose lower GI fruits and vegetables, eat grains in moderation, and avoid refined sugars.