Dieting programs that restrict carbohydrate consumption to one-quarter or less of dietary calories are referred to as low-carb diets or low-carbohydrate diets. Easily digestible carbohydrates such as pasta, bread and sugar are limited in food or replaced with foods containing a higher percentage of fats and moderate protein such as fish, poultry, meat, eggs, cheese, nuts, seeds and shellfish. Other foods low in carbohydrates such as spinach, kale, collards, salad vegetables and chard, with berries, fruits and other vegetables are often allowed. Alex Therrien, Health reporter, BBC news, reflects on the subject of a study suggesting that low-carb diets could shorten life:
“Low-carb diets, such as Atkins, have become increasingly popular for weight loss and have shown promise for lowering the risk of some illnesses.
But a US study over 25 years indicates that moderate carb consumption – or switching meat for plant-based protein and fats – is healthier.
The study relied on people remembering the amount of carbohydrates they ate.
Image courtesy of: USDAgov
In the study, published in The Lancet Public Health, 15,400 people from the US filled out questionnaires on the food and drink they consumed, along with portion sizes.
From this, scientists estimated the proportion of calories they got from carbohydrates, fats, and protein.
After following the group for an average of 25 years, researchers found that those who got 50-55% of their energy from carbohydrates (the moderate carb group and in line with UK dietary guidelines) had a slightly lower risk of death compared with the low and high-carb groups
Carbohydrates include vegetables, fruit and sugar but the main source of them is starchy foods, such as potatoes, bread, rice, pasta and cereals.
The NHS Eatwell Guide provides details on how to achieve this kind of healthy, balanced diet and reduce the risk of serious illnesses in the long term.
Researchers estimated that, from the age of 50, people in the moderate carb group were on average expected to live for another 33 years.
- four years more than people who got 30% or less of their energy from carbs (extra-low-carb group)
- 2.3 years more than the 30%-40% (low-carb) group
- 1.1 years more than the 65% or more (high-carb) group
The findings were similar to previous studies the authors compared their work with, which included more than 400,000 people from more than 20 countries.
The scientists then compared low-carb diets rich in animal proteins and fats with those that contained lots of plant-based protein and fat.
They found that eating more beef, lamb, pork, chicken and cheese in place of carbs was linked with a slightly increased risk of death.
But replacing carbohydrates with more plant-based proteins and fats, such as legumes and nuts, was actually found to slightly reduce the risk of mortality.”
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