A new study by the European Society of Cardiology suggests that people who consume low-carb diet tend to have a higher risk of cardiovascular disease. The study, in other words, suggests that low carbohydrate diets are unsafe and should be avoided.
Study author Professor Maciej Banach said, “We found that people who consumed a low carbohydrate diet were at greater risk of premature death. Risks were also increased for individual causes of death including coronary heart disease, stroke, and cancer. These diets should be avoided.”
“Different diets have been suggested for weight loss, such as diets low in carbohydrates and high in protein and fat. The long-term safety of these diets is controversial, with previous studies reporting conflicting results of their influence on the risk of cardiovascular disease, cancer, and death.”
Scientists examined the relationship between low carbohydrate diets, all-cause death, and deaths from coronary heart disease, cerebrovascular disease (including stroke), and cancer in a nationally representative sample of 24,825 participants of the US National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) during 1999 to 2010.
They found that the participants who consume low-carbohydrate diet had a 32% higher risk of all-cause death than who consume high-carbohydrate diet. In addition, risks of death from coronary heart disease, cerebrovascular disease, and cancer were increased by 51%, 50%, and 35%, respectively.
Scientists confirmed the outcomes in a meta-analysis of seven prospective cohort studies with 447,506 participants and an average follow-up of 15.6 years. They found that participants who consumed the low-carbohydrate diet had 15%, 13%, and 8% increased risks in total, cardiovascular, and cancer mortality.
Participants in the NHANES study had an average age of 47.6 years, and 51% were women. They were divided into quartiles based on the usual percentage of carbohydrates in their diet. The risks of all-cause and cause-specific death over an average 6.4-year follow-up rose with each fall in carbohydrate intake, and remained significant after adjusting for all available factors that might have influenced the association.
Professor Banach said: “Low carbohydrate diets might be useful in the short term to lose weight, lower blood pressure, and improve blood glucose control, but our study suggests that in the long-term they are linked with an increased risk of death from any cause, and deaths due to cardiovascular disease, cerebrovascular disease, and cancer.”
Scientists also examined the connection between all-cause death and low carbohydrate diets for obese and non-obese participants in two age groups (55 years and older versus under 55). They found that the non-obese older participants were at higher risk.
Professor Banach noted that animal protein, and specifically red and processed meat, has already been linked with an increased risk of cancer. The reduced intake of fiber and fruits and increased intake of animal protein, cholesterol, and saturated fat with these diets may play a role. Differences in minerals, vitamins, and phytochemicals might also be involved.
He said, “Our study highlights an unfavorable association between low carbohydrate diets and total and cause-specific death, based on individual data and pooled results of previous studies. The findings suggest that low carbohydrate diets are unsafe and should not be recommended.”
The study was presented at ESC Congress 2018.