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Plant based low carb diet is healthy, animal low-carb diet is not

The optimal amount of carbohydrates in a standard Western diet is lower than you have been told. In BMJ Public Health, epidemiologists from Harvard calculate this optimum is slightly below 50 percent energy. But an even lower intake of carbohydrates may be fine too. If you replace the carbohydrates with fats and proteins from plants, and not with animal fats and proteins.

The Harvardians used data, that had been gathered in the Atherosclerosis Risk in Communities [ARIC] study, from 15428 US adults aged 45-65 years. In the [ARIC] study, which started in the late 1980s, researchers followed study participants for a quarter of a century. They knew the diet of the participants, and kept track of which study participants died.

In the study group, a diet with slightly less than half of the energy coming from carbohydrates was the healthiest. With that intake, mortality risk was at its lowest. That was remarkable. Most orthodox nutritional scientists believe that a healthy diet should consist of 60 percent of carbohydrates.

Plant based low carb diet is healthy, animal low-carb diet is not

Plant based low carb diet is healthy, animal low-carb diet is not

Using data from their own study, and also data from previous published studies, the researchers were able to calculate what happens to your mortality risk if you replace carbohydrates with fats and proteins.

That depends entirely on what proteins and fats we have, the researchers discovered. If you replace carbohydrates with animal fats and proteins, your chance of death increases. But if you replace carbohydrates with fats and proteins from plants, your chance of death will decrease.

Plant based low carb diet is healthy, animal low-carb diet is not

"These findings bring together several strands that have been controversial", says co-auteur Walter Willett in a press release. [ August 17, 2018] "Too much and too little carbohydrate can be harmful but what counts most is the type of fat, protein, and carbohydrate."

"Low-carb diets that replace carbohydrates with protein or fat are gaining widespread popularity as a health and weight loss strategy", adds first author Sara Seidelmann.

"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 aging in the long term."

Lancet Public Health (Published Online August 16, 2018) S2468-2667(18)30135-X.

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