Low-carb and high-carb diets associated with early death: study

A moderate intake of carbohydrates was associated with the best and healthiest lifespan. Getty Images

Low-carb diets have long been the go-to for people looking to lose weight. But a new study has found that cutting carbs in favour of animal-based protein could actually shorten your lifespan by as many as four years.

In an observational study published in the journal Lancet Public Health, researchers found that people who derived less than 40 per cent of their calories from carbohydrates could reduce their life expectancy by four years compared to those with “moderate” carbohydrate intake, which is estimated at 50 to 55 per cent of total calories.

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“Low-carb diets that replace carbohydrates with protein or fat are gaining widespread popularity as a health and weight-loss strategy,” Dr. Sara Seidelmann, lead author and a clinical and research fellow at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, said in a statement.

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“However, our data suggest that animal-based low carbohydrate diets, which are prevalent in North America and Europe, might be associated with shorter overall lifespan and should be discouraged.”

The same did not hold true for low-carb diets that derived the bulk of calories from plant-based sources.

“We need to look really carefully at what are the healthy compounds in diets that provide protection,” Seidelmann said.

READ MORE: What is the low-FODMAP diet and who should do it?

Nutrition experts stress the importance of eating carbs for a healthy diet, crediting them with providing crucial dietary fibre, blood sugar control and lower blood cholesterol levels.

On the flip side, however, diets high in carbohydrates were also deemed dangerous. The study found that people whose diets consisted of 70 per cent carbohydrate intake were also estimated to cut their life expectancy by one year compared to moderate consumers.

Experts say these findings are in line with the Canada food guide that recommends moderate carbohydrate intake, ranging from six to seven grain products per day for women aged 19 to 50, and eight for men.

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