Will a Low Carb Diet Shorten Your Life?
There isn’t a subject as contentious on social media as the low carb debate. Recently a new study was published in the very prestigious journal the Lancet Public Health, which took a very long look at how carbohydrates impact our health and longevity: cutting our life short by four years if carb intake is too low or too high. This research, suffice it to say, has created quite a stir in the health and nutrition world.
To start, many people, including journalists, take the outcomes of some studies on blind faith simply by reading the sexy headline of the study instead of looking at it critically. This is important because as prestigious as the Lancet is, simply publishing a study allows it to go mainstream with misleading titles.
This particular Lancet study, is based on the ARIC study which began in 1987 and begs the question: did they accurately represent what was in this study’s conclusions? They had 15,428 participants, 45-64 years of age. They divided the study into three different groups: low-carb, moderate carb and high carb. Everyone’s definition of low carb is different. They defined low carb to be eating 39% carbohydrates – that is a very high amount of carbohydrates – they obviously have their own definitions as to what is a low carb diet. This could be a study on a high carbohydrate diet. Fundamentally, they gathered the concluded results of this study from that of a higher carb diet – not low-carb, leaving the research inadequate.
This Lancet study is based on weak epidemiological data that relies on self-reported data, a questionnaire that is always notoriously unreliable, weak as demonstrated to be correct only 0-20% of the time. Example: self-reported data of eating 600 calories per day for twenty five years…a human being cannot live on 600 calories a day for that length of time and this is considered meaningful data?
These individuals in the study were asked only twice in 25 years to answer questions such as ‘how many cups of ribs have you eaten in the last three years?’ how do you measure a cup of ribs…or ‘what did you eat last week?’ Another flaw, they excluded those in the second study with diabetes, who had heart disease or a stroke. These diseases or conditions are, in the majority of cases, originating from dietary choices such as a high carb diet that stem from high glucose and insulin.
One other flaw is that they failed to talk about energy source quality. In other words, it did not matter where the carbohydrates originated (!). Both coffee cake and broccoli are carbohydrates. However, there is a vast difference in the way the body metabolizes coffee cake vs. broccoli.
Additionally, they also failed to make any differentiation between the types of fats used such as healthy fats which include olive oil, butter, MCT oil, coconut oil and unhealthy fats such as canola oil, grapeseed oil, corn oil, shortening, margarine or vegetable oil.
The authors of the study did not report the quality of proteins as well. Was it healthy wild salmon or hot dogs? We do not know. The quality of proteins you eat is as important as the quantity.
It is important to note why eating a low carb diet can be beneficial which this study was not. A diet low in carbohydrates functions as a foundational tool to optimize health and weight. Helping to increase cellular health, mitochondrial health, reduce inflammation, improve brain health, boost energy and even extend life. Research shows eating a low carbohydrate diet can prevent or improve type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, metabolic syndrome, obesity and heart disease.
Most individuals are burning glucose as their primary fuel, which actually impedes the body’s ability to access and burn body fat. Sugar or other refined carbohydrates are a staple in the Western diet and these unhealthy carbs are turned into fat, which may explain the epidemic of fatty liver in children and adults and when removed from the diet, fatty liver is reversed.
The type of eating that extends longevity will increase the health, the number of our mitochondria and prevent generating harmful reactive oxygen species (ROS) which can destroy mitochondria and promote disease. Mitochondria generate ATP and without this energy, we would not be alive. Mitochondria that are healthy are necessary to live a life of optimized health and low-carb, high-fat diets tend to do that far more effectively than high-carb, low-fat diets.
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