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October 2010

Nutrition Spotlight

Low carb

You May Live Longer on A Low-carb Diet (But There’s a Catch)

If you want to eat low-carb while also improving your overall health, new research suggests that a vegetable-based low-carb diet may be the way to go.

While visions of bacon and eggs, perfectly grilled steaks and limitless butter and cream prompt many dieters to jump on the low-carb bandwagon, it doesn’t take an advanced degree in nutrition to suspect that it may not be the healthiest diet, particularly for those with a history of heart disease or high cholesterol. Using data from the Nurses’ Health study, which included more than 85,000 women ages 34 to 59 and nearly 45,000 men ages 40 to 75, researchers compared the mortality rates of those who ate a low-carb animal-based diet with those who consumed a low-carb vegetable-based diet. They found that those who consumed the animal-based diet had a slightly greater (but statistically significant) risk of dying, particularly from cancer. Conversely, those who ate a vegetable-based low-carb diet had a lower mortality rate and a lower risk of dying from cardiovascular disease.

The study’s researchers, led by Dr. Teresa Fung, a professor in the Department of Nutrition at Simmons College in Boston, believe that the benefits observed from the vegetable-based diets can be attributed to its nutrient density. “Low-carbohydrate diets from animal and vegetable sources may have similar major macronutrient content,” the authors write in the September 7, 2010, issue of the Annals of Internal Medicine, “but the source of the macronutrients can result in large differences in dietary components that may affect mortality, such as specific fatty acids, protein, fiber, vitamins and minerals, and phytochemicals. Therefore, the associations that we observed are more likely to be mediated by these bioactive components rather than the carbohydrate content.”

In other words, to get the most benefit from a low-carb diet, go easy on the butter and bacon while loading up on nutrient-rich vegetables and protein sources like spinach, nuts and legumes, olive oil and avocado.

Source: Fung, T., et al. (2010). Low-carbohydrate diets and all-cause and cause-specific mortality: Two cohort studies. Annals of Internal Medicine, 153, 5, 289–298.



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