Low carb diets: unsafe and best avoided?

Low carbohydrate diets are unsafe and should be avoided was the message at the August 2018 European Society of Cardiology Congress in Munich. According to a large study presented to the gathering by the study’s author, Professor Maciej Banach, of the Medical University of Lodz, people who consumed a low carb diet were at greater risk of premature death. “Risks were also increased for individual causes of death including coronary heart disease, stroke, and cancer. These diets should be avoided.”

This is a big call, as diets low in carbohydrates and high in protein and fat have been promoted to deal with weight loss in the fight against type 2 diabetes as well as obesity, a major global health issue raising the risk of chronic conditions such as cardiovascular disease, hypertension and cancer. While weight loss and associated benefits have been exciting interest, the long-term safety of these diets is controversial, with previous studies reporting conflicting results of their influence on the risk of cardiovascular disease, cancer, and death.

This study prospectively examined the relationship between low carbohydrate diets, all-cause death, and deaths from coronary heart disease, cerebrovascular disease (including stroke), and cancer in a nationally representative sample of 24,825 participants of the US National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) during 1999 to 2010. Compared to participants with the highest carbohydrate consumption, those with the lowest intake had a 32% higher risk of all-cause death over an average 6.4-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 prospective cohort studies with 447,506 participants and an average follow-up 15.6 years, which found 15%, 13%, and 8% increased risks in total, cardiovascular, and cancer mortality with low (compared to high) carbohydrate diets.

Professor Banach said: “Low carbohydrate diets might be useful in the short term to lose weight, lower blood pressure, and improve blood glucose control, but our study suggests that in the long-term they are linked with an increased risk of death from any cause, and deaths due to cardiovascular disease, cerebrovascular disease, and cancer.”

The Professor suggested: “The reduced intake of fibre and fruits and increased intake of animal protein, cholesterol, and saturated fat with these diets may play a role. Differences in minerals, vitamins and phytochemicals might also be involved.”

He concluded: “Our study highlights an unfavourable association between low carbohydrate diets and total and cause-specific death, based on individual data and pooled results of previous studies. The findings suggest that low carbohydrate diets are unsafe and should not be recommended.”


Fruit, Vegetables and Wholegrains are more than just carbs!

Balance and variety should be the foundation of a healthy diet.

Make eating real food Just Routine

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