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Low-Carb, High Mortality!

Updated: Jun 4, 2019

If I had to pick two things that Americans are most confused about when it comes to nutrition, I would say Protein and Carbohydrates. An article published just last week took an in-depth look at dietary protein and carbohydrate intake and mortality.

With the recent explosion in the popularity of extremely low carbohydrate diets, there has been growing concern in the informed medical community about the long-term health consequences. These diets are effective at inducing rapid weight-loss and decreasing some markers of chronic disease in the short-term. However, not without a cost, and increased mortality isn’t a risk worth taking to lose weight when other mortality-reducing diets exist.

The study was funded by the National Institutes of Health and published in The Lancet Journal of Public Health, a prestigious, peer-reviewed Medical Journal. The article followed over 15,000 adults age 45-64 living in 4 diverse US communities for over 20 years. The researchers wanted to see if carbohydrate intake influenced their all-cause mortality.

They found that both low carbohydrate consumption which they defined as less than 40% of calories, and high carbohydrate consumption defined as greater than 70% of calories were associated with increased risk of mortality in the study group. They also discovered that the results varied based on what composed the rest of the diet. Any time you decrease one of the three macronutrients in your diet, the other two naturally increase to provide the calories you need to function metabolically.

In the study group, when carbohydrates were swapped out for animal sources of protein and fat, as with the Atkins, Ketogenic and 'Carnivore' Diets, the rates of mortality increased. The opposite was true when the protein and fat were from plant-based sources, mortality decreased significantly.

The authors concluded that the highest risk of death was among those with the lowest carbohydrate consumption, and highest intake of animal fat and protein. In addition, the following attributes were observed in the low-carbohydrate group: they were college graduates, had high Body Mass Index, they reported lower exercise, they had high household income, they were smokers, and they had Diabetes.

The authors hypothesize that the increased mortality on low carbohydrate, high animal protein diets is related to stimulation of “inflammatory pathways, biological ageing, and oxidative stress.” On the other hand, the high mortality with high carbohydrate diets was hypothesized to be related to high intake of refined carbohydrates such as white rice, refined flour, and sugar. High intake of refined carbohydrates puts metabolic stress on body systems and increases inflammation.

Overall, consumption of animal fat and protein were higher than plant fat and protein among all participants. Those with the lowest, and highest carbohydrate consumption had lower plant-derived fat consumption compared to those in the middle range of carbohydrate consumption.

The lowest risk of mortality was at the range of 50-55% of carbohydrates, which is sustainable on a whole foods plant based diet, free from the increased risk associated with animal foods and refined carbohydrates. You may think that a plant-based diet is high in carbohydrates. When you focus on whole plant foods it is easier to consume the optimal levels of all three macronutrients along with increasing micronutrients, vitamins, water, and fiber - THE nutrient 97% of Americans are deficient in.

None of this is news to Trey Bennett, Nurse Practitioner as he is Certified in Plant-Based Nutrition through the Center for Nutrition Studies at Cornell University. Schedule a free consultation today to increase the quality and quantity of your life! It is our mission to help Kansas City live longer, happier, healthier lives.

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