A major new study has found an association between low-fat diets and an increased risk of premature death.
The large epidemiological cohort study, published in The Lancet, followed more than 135,000 people in 18 countries around the world to uncover the relationship between dietary macro-nutrients and cardiovascular disease and mortality. High, middle, and low-income groups were included.
The researchers documented nearly 5,800 deaths and 4,800 major cardiovascular disease events in the cohort during the follow-up period.
Higher carbohydrate intake (above 60% of calories) was found to be associated with an increased risk of premature death, but not with an increased risk of cardiovascular disease or death from cardiovascular disease. (So, if you eat a carb-heavy diet, you are likelier to die earlier, but not necessarily from a heart-attack.)
Conversely, higher fat intake was found to be associated with a decreased risk of premature death. This was true for the intakes of total fat, saturated fat, and poly-unsaturated fat. Neither total fat nor the types of fat were associated with cardiovascular disease. However, an inverse relationship was found between saturated fat intake and stroke. That is, the higher the saturated fat intake , the lower the risk of having a stroke.
This is excellent news for those of us in the low-carb, high-fat camp! Not that I have ever had any doubt about the health benefits of my LCHF diet, but it’s great to get scientific confirmation — again.
I would caution that this is an epidemiological study that used questionnaires to compare what people said they ate to their later incidents of death and disease, not a clinical study with controlled variables. As I have stated in the past, such large cohort studies are at best good for uncovering and demonstrating associations, not for proving cause and effect. Still, this study provides many hypotheses for follow-up research. And, even with its limitations (and as its authors note), the study seriously undermines the current conventional advice to limit total fat intake to under 30% of calories, and saturated fat intake to under 10% of calories.
Indeed, the study’s findings suggest that the conventional dietary advice is killing people, and has been doing so for decades all around the world.
The authors recommend that global dietary guidelines be reconsidered in light of their findings and those of other recent studies. It’s high time for change!
“Associations of fats and carbohydrate intake with cardiovascular disease and mortality in 18 countries from five continents (PURE): a prospective cohort study.” Mahshid Dehghan, et al. The Lancet. August 29, 2017.
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