Atkins might have been on to something after all. At least, that might be the case according to the latest study on carbohydrates. According to new research (two reports) out of the McMaster University Population Health Research Institute and Hamilton Health Sciences (Canada), a diet high in carbohydrates is associated with a higher risk of mortality than a diet higher in fat. As a matter of fact, a diet consisting of a higher amount of fat (at a rate of about 35 percent of energy) is actually associated with a lower risk of death than a diet consisting of a lower amount of fat.
Published in The Lancet, the data comes from the Prospective Urban Rural Epidemiology study (PURE) that looked at 135,000 people from low-income, middle-income, and high-income countries. In the study, researchers asked the participants about their diet over the course of seven and a half years.
The researchers found that dietary fats (these are the fats you are supposed to eat) has not association with major cardiovascular disease, although a higher rate of fat consumption did appear to be connected with lower mortality, regardless of the type of fat (polyunsaturated fats, monounsaturated fats, or saturated fats). What’s more, total fat and the individual types were not shown to be associated with risk of heart attack or death as a result of cardiovascular disease.
However, this large study argues that when people cut out fat from their diet, they tend to replace the calories with carbohydrates; and that is not a good thing.
Lead study author Mahshid Dehghan comments, “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.”
Indeed, the research concludes: “Reducing saturated fatty acids and replacing them with carbohydrates might have an adverse effect on cardiovascular disease risk. Current recommendations to reduce total fat and saturated fatty acids in all populations, which de facto increases carbohydrate intake, are not supported by our data.”
In a press release, Dehghan adds: “The current focus on promoting low-fat diets ignores the fact that most people’s diets in low and middle income countries are very high in carbohydrates, which seem to be linked to worse health outcomes….The best diets will include a balance of carbohydrates and fats – approximately 50-55% carbohydrates and around 35% total fat, including both saturated and unsaturated fats. “