Low-carb diet is associated with a lower risk of premature death

Eating pattern tied to 24% reduction in cardiovascular, cancer mortality.


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Avoiding refined and highly-processed carbohydrates is recommended to reduce the risk of developing Type 2 diabetes. A new study by scientists at Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health offers the first empirical evidence of how low-carb diets can help manage the progression of existing diabetes.

In their study, scientists examined the association between postdiagnosis low-carbohydrate diet (LCD) patterns and mortality among individuals with type 2 diabetes (T2D). The study suggests that LCD, which includes plant-based foods, is significantly associated with a lower risk of premature death among people with Type 2 diabetes.

Scientists analyzed 34 years of health data from 7,224 women participating in the Nurses’ Health Study and 2,877 men participating in the Health Professionals Follow-up Study. The participants developed Type 2 diabetes after those studies began.

The participants were asked to complete questionnaires on lifestyle and medical history every other year. Based on this data, scientists accessed the compositions of their diets. They also scored their diets according to intake of animal proteins and fats, vegetable proteins and fats, high-quality carbohydrates, and low-quality carbohydrates.

The findings showed a 24 percent reduction in all-cause mortality among those adhering to a low-carbohydrate dietary pattern. The health benefits were stronger for low-carbohydrate diets emphasizing plant-based foods and high-quality carbohydrates, such as fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. Those diets were also associated with lower cardiovascular disease and cancer mortality.

LCDs that emphasized animal products and low-quality carbohydrates, such as potatoes, added sugars, and refined grains, were not significantly associated with lower mortality.

Besides LCD, strongest health benefits were observed in those who adhered to other healthy habits, including no-smoking, exercising, and drinking alcohol in moderation.

Qi Sun, senior author and associate professor in the Departments of Nutrition and Epidemiology, said“This study, once again, underscores the importance of diet quality when choosing various diets for diabetes control and management.”

Journal Reference:

  1. Yang Hu, Gang Liu et al. Low-Carbohydrate Diet Scores and Mortality Among Adults With Incident Type 2 Diabetes. Diabetes Care. DOI: 10.2337/dc22-2310


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