By Nina Bahadur, photography by Pexels
A new study goes against decades of conventional wisdom.
For anyone on the up-and-up with healthy eating news, you’ve known that “fat” has been a no-go in foods for decades. But recently, with the advent of the paleo and ketogenic diets, the new boogeyman of the nutrition world is carbohydrate-anything. Which leads people to wonder—which way is healthier, a diet low in fat or low in carbs?
Well, new research suggests that carbs—not fat—may be the bigger contributing factor to cardiovascular disease.
Researchers reviewed data from the Prospective Urban Rural Epidemiology (PURE) study, which recorded the dietary intake of 135,335 individuals aged 35 to 70 living in 18 countries. During follow-up, researchers documented 5,796 deaths and 4,784 major cardiovascular disease events. Of those who died, 1,649 died due to cardiovascular disease.
Diets with the highest carbohydrate representation (on average, 77 percent of the daily kilojoules were carbs) were associated with a 28 percent higher risk of death compared with diets where 46 percent of daily kilojoules were from carbohydrates. And diets where fat made up 35 percent of daily kilojoules were linked to a 23 percent lower risk of death compared to those who ate less fat.
These findings were presented in The Lancet, and the researchers are now urging public health officials to re-think dietary guidelines.
“Dietary guidelines need to be reconsidered based on new evidence,” researcher Mahshid Dehghan said in a press release. “We are saying: More relaxation of the current restriction on the fats and more emphasis on [lowering] carbohydrate when it is high.”
However, don’t cut out all your carbs just yet. “It’s also worth pointing out that the majority of the people who participated in this study were from low and middle-income countries where people eat loads of processed carbohydrates, so the underlying theme of carbohydrate quality also counts, too,” says Ansel. “There’s a very big difference between eating lots of empty-kilojoules processed carbs and nutrient-rich complex carbohydrates such as whole grains, beans, fruits, and vegetables.”
According to the Heart and Stroke Foundation South Africa, a full 80 percent of heart disease and stroke events could be prevented through lifestyle changes and education. If you do want to cut back on carbs, Ansel says: “Your number-one goal should be to switch out [processed carbs] to less processed whole grains, fruits, vegetables, and beans. In addition, think about cutting some of those carbs and replacing them with healthy fats from foods like canola oil, salmon, flaxseed, avocados, nuts, seeds, and small amounts of full-fat dairy.”
High-fat diets have become increasingly popular—you may have heard of the ketogenic diet, which is based on a process called ketosis. Ketosis happens when your body is deprived of carbs, causing your liver to convert fat into ketone bodies and fatty acids. These can then be used as an energy source. But in order to reach ketosis, experts say a full 80 to 90 percent of the kilojoules you consume should come from fat.
“Given that the current dietary guidelines suggest that eating up to 35 percent of your kilojoules from fat is fine, there’s no reason to switch gears unless you’re on a very high-carb, low-fat diet that’s filled with processed carbs,” Ansel says.
This article was originally featured on www.womenshealthmag.com