Large study concludes that extremely low-carb diets are unsafe and should be avoided
12/18/2018 // Mary Miller // Views

Low-carbohydrate diets are a popular diet trend for losing weight. The diet restricts the consumption of carbohydrates found in sugary foods, breads and pastas while opting for foods rich in protein, fat and vegetables. The diet boasts of many health benefits, including improved blood pressure and cholesterol levels. These benefits may all sound good on paper, but you might want to think twice about ditching those carbs entirely. A study presented on this year's European Society of Cardiology Congress has concluded that extremely low-carb diets should be avoided since it puts a person at greater risk of premature death.

Carbohydrates serve as one of the body's main sources of energy. Simple carbohydrates are sugars that provide quick bursts of energy but soon cause the person's body to feel hungry again. Some examples of simple carbohydrates include white bread, sugars and candies. Complex carbohydrates are long chains of sugar molecules that are not as quickly digested but can fill you up for longer periods of time. Some examples of these are whole grains and wholemeal pasta.

Obesity may be linked to a high carbohydrate intake, which is why many people opt for a low-carbohydrate diet as a possible solution. Low-carb diets come with a drawback, however. Without sufficient carbohydrates to convert into energy, the body starts burning fat instead of carbs for energy. When this happens, ketones are produced as a waste product in a process called ketosis. Ketones are not harmful on their own and are normally eliminated through the kidneys are urine, but when ketones accumulate in the blood, it makes the blood acidic and can lead to ketoacidosis. (Related: Low-carb diet almost kills new mom.)

Having too much of a good thing

A recent study investigated the relationship between low-carbohydrate diets, all-cause death, and deaths from coronary heart disease, cerebrovascular disease (including stroke), and cancer. For the study, the researchers used a nationally representative sample of 24,825 participants of the U.S. National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) from 1999 to 2010. The study showed that participants with the lowest carbohydrate intake had a 32 percent higher risk of all-cause death compared to the participants with the highest carbohydrate consumption. Additionally, their risks of death from coronary heart disease, cerebrovascular disease, and cancer were increased by 51, 50, and 35 percent, respectively.

These results were confirmed in a meta-analysis of seven prospective cohort studies involving 447,506 participants. The results respectively found 15, 13, and 8 percent increased risks in total, cardiovascular, and cancer mortality for those with low-carbohydrate diets compared to those with high carbohydrate diets.

The average age of the participants in the NHANES study was 47.6 years and 51 percent of them were women. They were then divided into quartiles based on the usual percentage of their carbohydrate intake in their diet. Over an average 6.4-year follow up, the risks of all-cause and cause-specific death rose with each fall in carbohydrate intake. These findings remained significant even after adjusting for all available factors that might have influenced the association.

Study author Maciej Banach of the Medical University of Lodz in Poland 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."

Banach additionally noted that the increased intake of animal protein instead of carbohydrates, especially red and processed meat, had already been linked with a greater risk of cancer. Based on the findings of the study, he concluded that extremely low carbohydrate diets are unsafe and should not be recommended.

If you want to learn more about other weight loss diets, you can read more articles by going to

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