Calling all pasta lovers: A low carb diet could shorten your lifespan

Ciara Sheppard
Contributor
Cutting out foods like pasta altogether might not be the solution. [Photo: Getty]

Pasta, potatoes and bread may be delicious, but they’re often best avoided when attempting a diet.

Popular diets like Atkins swear by cutting out the starchy goodness altogether for effective weight loss.

But cutting down on carbs might impact your life span, new research shows.

“These findings bring together several strands that have been controversial,” said Professor Walter Willett, a professor of epidemiology and nutrition at Harvard T H Chan School of Public Health and a co-author of the study.

“Too much and too little carbohydrate can be harmful but what counts most is the type of fat, protein, and carbohydrate.”

A US study conducted over 25 years showed that moderate carb consumption is far healthier than saying no to carbs full stop.

The study – published in The Lancet Public Health – analysed the diets of 15,400 participants in the US to estimate how many calories they got from carbohydrates, fats, and protein.

After a 25-year study, scientists found that those who got 50-55% of their energy from carbohydrates (this counts as ‘moderate carb intake’ as per UK guidelines) had a slightly lower risk of death compared with the low and high-carb groups.

According to the BBC, researchers estimated that people in the moderate carb group were on average expected to live for another 33 years from the age of 50.

This resulted as:

  • four years more than people who got 30% or less of their energy from carbs (extra-low-carb group)
  • 2.3 years more than the 30%-40% (low-carb) group
  • 1.1 years more than the 65% or more (high-carb) group

Dr Sara Seidelmann, a cardiology specialist at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, who led the research, said: “Low-carb diets that replace carbohydrates with protein or fat are gaining widespread popularity as a health and weight loss strategy.

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

“Instead, if one chooses to follow a low carbohydrate diet, then exchanging carbohydrates for more plant-based fats and proteins might actually promote healthy ageing in the long term.”

Of course, this is just one study, and lots more research would have to be done to conclude that loading up on carbs is better that cutting them out altogether.

But for now, let’s all enjoy a bowl of pasta while feeling we’re lengthening our lifespan in the process.

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