Experts have called for global nutritional guidelines to be changed to recommend we eat more fat and less carbohydrates after analysing a large-scale study.
Swiss scientists looked at the Prospective Urban Rural Epidemiology (PURE) research published in The Lancet in August.
It found that people who had a high-carbohydrate diet had a 28 percent higher risk of dying – and that eating more than the currently recommended amounts of fat was not linked to higher heart disease rates.
The findings call into question the long-held wisdom that people should limit total fat intake to less than 30 per cent of daily energy, and saturated fat to less than 10 per cent.
In fact, they support reducing carbs in favour of fats of all kinds, even saturated fats. They suggested that an intake of about 35 per cent of energy in fats.
The researchers argued cutting back on fats is no good for your health if you replace it with high levels of carbohydrates – an excess of which has been linked to diabetes.
Researchers argue cutting back on fats is no good for your health if you replace it with high levels of carbohydrates.
Saturated fat – found in butter, cheese, red meat and other animal-based foods – has for a long time been linked it to an increased risk of heart disease. But there are those that claim that fatty foods have been wrongly ‘demonised’.
Now experts from the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology, in a paper published the journal Cell Metabolism, wrote: ‘Taking the body of evidence into account, we believe that current nutritional recommendations in regards to macronutrients, but most importantly in regards to refined carbs and sugar, should indeed be fundamentally reconsidered.’
They also suggest that drugs that mimic low carb nutrition – that is without the need for an actual reduction of carbohydrate intake – may offer a ‘promising approach’ to fighting obesity.
What did PURE study find?
Previous studies on animals found that reducing overall calorie intake extends the lives of rodents and monkeys.
Since the 1970s, findings such as these has brought a focus on reducing fats — especially saturated fats — to improve health and longevity. But the PURE research questioned this approach.
Over the course of about seven years, diets with roughly 35 percent of calories from fats were tied to a lower mortality rate than diets with about 60 percent of calories from carbohydrates.
The researchers found that people consuming the most carbs (over 70 per cent of total calories) died sooner than those compared to those with the lowest levels.
The PURE authors claim moderate intakes of carbohydrates (around 50-55% of total energy) are likely to be more appropriate than either very high or very low carbohydrate intakes.
They also recommend around three to four servings of fruit or vegetables per day.
‘What we are suggesting is moderation as opposed to very low and very high intakes of fats and carbohydrates,’ said Mahshid Dehghan from McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada.
Other evidence for lower carbs
The Swiss researchers point out that several animal studies have shown how high levels of carbohydrates could be harmful.
Glucose is a type of sugar you get from foods you eat, and your body uses it for energy. Insulin is a hormone that moves glucose from your blood into the cells for energy and storage.
In type 2 diabetes, the body becomes insensitive to insulin and it cannot regulate the amount of glucose in the blood. This can lead to a life-threatening complication.
The theory goes that dietary carbohydrates increase mortality, so reducing intake, or inhibiting their uptake and metabolism in the body, should boost health and longevity.
The Swiss researchers note that this has been seen in some animal studies – because of the breakdown of glucose or glucose absorption from the gut.
Drugs which speed up glucose excretion in the urine or reduce the liver’s glucose production may be beneficial, but further studies are needed to confirm this, they said.