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Low-carb diets might not be the healthiest for a long life — two big new studies suggest they’re linked to higher risk of death


  • Low-carb diets are a popular way to lose weight, but a growing body of research suggests they may also lead to premature death when followed for long periods of time.
  • A new study of more than 24,800 adults in the US found that those who limit carb intake have a 32% higher risk of death from any cause than people on high-carb diets.
  • That finding aligns with other new data on more than 447,500 people around the globe.
  • Limiting carbs might be a good strategy for weight loss, but experts say it’s not a great plan to follow long-term.

Low-carb diets have many iterations, each with a devoted following. Atkins dieters eat lots of meat and eggs, before slowly and carefully reintroducing carbs, while the ketogenic diet urges people to severely cut carbs and focus on upping their fat intake from butter, cheese, and avocados.

But increasingly, scientists are discovering that going low-carb may not do you any favors in the long run.

study presented Tuesday at the European Society of Cardiology Congress 2018 looked at the self-reported eating patterns of 24,825 people in the US over more than a decade.

The researchers separated eaters into four quartiles, from lowest-carb diets to highest. They found that Americans in the bottom 25% of the pack, who ate barely any carbs, had a 32% higher risk of death than those who had the highest carb intakes. Low-carb eaters had a 51% increased risk of dying from coronary heart disease and a 35% increased risk of being killed by cancer relative to people in the top 25% of carb eaters.

The researchers also compared those results with data on the diets of 447,506 people around the world, and found that overall, low-carb dieters had a 15% increased risk of death.

The researchers think this may be because replacing healthy, fiber-rich carbs — like whole grains and certain vegetables — with more meat can lead to danger.

“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,” study author and professor Maciej Banach, from the Medical University of Lodz in Poland said in a release.

Healthy carbs like whole grains and beans aren’t bad for you

This new study comes on the heels of another worldwide investigation of death data published in the Lancet earlier this month. The research found that if people eat a moderate amount of carbs and focus on whole, healthful foods like veggies, legumes, and nuts, they tend to live longer than people who limit their carbohydrate intake.

It’s more evidence that the best long-term diet strategy is a regimen rich in vegetables, filling whole grains, and healthy fats from naturally oily sources like olives and avocados.


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