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Low-carb diet ‘reduces risk of death’

By Editor
7th September 2017
diabetes.co.uk, Research

A low-carb diet which includes a moderate intake of fat, fruit and vegetables lowers the risk of death, according to research. 

The findings of the Prospective Urban Rural Epidemiology (PURE) study, which was carried out across 18 countries and five continents, showed those who ate three to five servings of fruit, vegetables and legumes a day, lowered their risk of death considerably.

Eating a higher amount of fat (about 35 per cent of energy) has also been linked to a lower risk of death, when compared with people who eat smaller amounts. But, a diet rich in carbohydrates (of more than 60 per cent of energy) is related to higher mortality, although not with the risk of cardiovascular disease.

The results have been pushed in two reports in The Lancet, which were both produced from the PURE study, which was led by researchers at the Population Health Research Institute (PHRI) of McMaster University and Hamilton Health Sciences in Hamilton, Canada.

PURE involved more than 135,000 people from 18 low-income, middle-income and high-income countries. The study asked people about their diet and followed them for an average of seven-and-a-half years.

They found dietary fats are not associated with major cardiovascular disease, but higher fat consumption was associated with lower mortality; this was seen for all major types of fats (saturated fats, polyunsaturated fats and mono unsaturated fats), with saturated fats being associated with lower stroke risk.

Total fat and individual types of fat were not associated with risk of heart attacks or death due to cardiovascular disease.

Mahshid Dehghan, the lead author for the study and an investigator at PHRI, said: “A decrease in fat intake automatically led to an increase in carbohydrate consumption and our findings may explain why certain populations such as South Asians, who do not consume much fat but consume a lot of carbohydrates, have higher mortality rates.”

The second paper from the PURE study assessed fruit, vegetable and legume consumption and related them to deaths, heart disease and strokes.

The study found current fruit, vegetable and legume intake globally is between three to four servings per day, but most dietary guidelines recommend a minimum of five daily servings. Given that fruits and vegetables are relatively expensive in most middle-income and low-income countries, this level of consumption is unaffordable for most people in many regions of the world such as South Asia, China, Southeast Asia and Africa, where the levels of their consumption is much lower than in Western countries.

Victoria Miller, a McMaster doctoral student and lead author of the paper, said: “Our study found the lowest risk of death in those who consumed three to four servings or the equivalent to 375 to 500 grams of fruits, vegetables and legumes per day, with little additional benefit for intake beyond that range. Additionally, fruit intake was more strongly associated with benefit than vegetables.

“The PURE study includes populations from geographic regions which have not been studied before, and the diversity of populations adds considerable strength that these foods reduce disease risk.”

Diabetes.co.uk, the largest online diabetes community forum, runs the Low Carb Program, which is a 10 week, evidence-based structured education initiative.

More than 7,000 people have participated in the programme since it started and it is thought to have saved the NHS a total of £6.9 million in one year through reducing type 2 diabetes medications.

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