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21.04.2012


Saturated fat may make low-carb diet unhealthy

There are quite a few studies that suggest that a low-carb/high-protein diet may be unhealthy. If you read the studies closely, it's actually quite easy to suppress your inclination to throw out your protein powders. But nevertheless: the studies are there and another one is about to be published in the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition. This one is a little bit more interesting than many of the others.

That a high-protein diet is unhealthy is an oft-heard refrain from nutritionists. A diet that contains a lot of protein increases the chance of diabetes and the risk of mortality. [Eur J Clin Nutr. 2007 May; 61(5): 575-81.] But these studies are not very clear. They are epidemiological studies, which lump together the dietary habits of health fanatics with those of nutritional barbarians who exist on hamburgers and luxury puddings.

The subject of this article is also an epidemiological study and also suffers from this problem. It was produced by researchers at Umea University in Sweden. They followed eighty thousand men and women from 1990 to 2008, and gave the participants in the study an LCHP score. The fewer carbohydrates and the more proteins the participants ate, the higher their score.

The participants who, according to the researchers, had a low-protein diet got 13 percent of their energy from proteins. The participants who, according to the researchers, had a high-protein diet got 16.5 percent of their energy from proteins. No, not really a protein-rich diet.

The researchers also distinguished between people with a healthy BMI, healthy blood pressure and a healthy blood sugar level [low metabolic risk]. In both the low metabolic risk and high metabolic risk groups, a 'protein-rich' diet increased the mortality risk but the relationship was by no means statistically significant.


Saturated fat may make low-carb diet unhealthy



Saturated fat may make low-carb diet unhealthy


The researchers also looked at the amount of saturated fat in the diet. Here they discovered that a 'protein-rich' diet only raised the mortality risk if the diet also contained high amounts of saturated fat. In the women for whom this was the case, the relationship was statistically significant.


Saturated fat may make low-carb diet unhealthy



Saturated fat may make low-carb diet unhealthy


We repeat: the relationships in this study are weak. The researchers suggest that it's not proteins that make a protein-rich diet riskier, but that it's the saturated fats that are the culprit. But it's no more than a suggestion.

Source:
Eur J Clin Nutr. 2012 Feb 15. doi: 10.1038/ejcn.2012.9. [Epub ahead of print].

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