Low-carb diet linked to elevated mortality risk: study

Foods high in carbohydrates. (Shutterstock photo)
Updated 17 August 2018
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Low-carb diet linked to elevated mortality risk: study

  • Rapid shift 10,000 years ago to grains, dairy and legumes has not allowed the human body enough time to adapt to these high-carb foods, say researchers
  • Replacing meat with plant-based fats (such as avocados and nuts) and proteins (such as soy products and lentils) reduces the risk of mortality

PARIS: Middle-aged people who get roughly half their daily calories from carbohydrates live several years longer on average than those with low-carb diets, researchers reported Friday.
The findings, published in The Lancet, challenge a trend in Europe and North America toward so-called Paleo diets that shun carbohydrates in favor of animal protein and fat.
Proponents of these “Stone Age” diets argue that the rapid shift 10,000 years ago — with the advent of agriculture — to grains, dairy and legumes has not allowed the human body enough time to adapt to these high-carb foods.
For the study, under 40 percent of energy intake from carbohydrates qualifies as a low-carb regimen, though many such diets reduce the share to 20 percent or less.
At the other extreme, a 70 percent or higher share of carbohydrates — such as pasta, rice, cakes, sugary drinks — can also reduce longevity, but by far less, the scientists found.
“Low-carb diets that replace carbohydrates with protein or fat are gaining widespread popularity as a health and weight loss strategy,” said lead author Sara Seidelmann, a researcher at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston.
“However, our data suggests that animal-based low carbohydrate diets might be associated with shorter overall lifespan and should be discouraged.”
Replacing meat with plant-based fats (such as avocados and nuts) and proteins (such as soy products and lentils) reduces the risk of mortality, Seidelmann and her team found.
The optimal balance of food groups for longevity remains hotly debated.
Many studies have concluded that eating carbohydrates in moderation — 45 to 55 percent calories — is best, but others report improved short-term, cardio-metabolic health with high-protein, high-fat diets.
Measures of metabolic health include blood pressure, good and bad cholesterol, and blood sugar levels.
Seidelmann and colleagues poured over the medical histories of nearly 15,500 men and women who were 45-64 when they enrolled — between 1987 and 1889 — in a health survey spread across four locations in the United States.
Participants filled out detailed questionnaires about their dietary habits — what foods, how much, how often, etc.
Over a 25-year follow up period, more than 6,000 of the men and women died.
People who got 50-55 percent of their calories from carbohydrates outlived those with very low-carb diets, on average, by four years, and those with high-carb diets by one year.
A review of medical records for an additional 432,000 people from earlier studies yield confirmed the results, which are also in line with World Health Organization (WHO) recommendations.
“There is nothing to be gained from long-term adherence to low-carbohydrate diets rich in fats and proteins from animal origins,” said Ian Johnson, a nutrition researcher at Quadram Institute Bioscience in Norwich, England, commenting on the research, in which he did not take part.
But carb quality, not just quantity, is crucial he added.
“Most should come from plant foods rich in dietary fiber and intact grains, rather than from sugary beverages or manufactured foods high in added sugar.”
Fibers also help maintain a healthy gut flora, now considered to be a major player in health and disease.


Discovering a lost cuisine

Manti at Mayrig restaurant in Beirut. (Arab News)
Updated 3 min 22 sec ago
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Discovering a lost cuisine

  • Armenian restaurant Mayrig is tucked away in the outskirts of Gemmayze, Beirut
  • Armenian cuisine has been described as a lost cuisine, but Mayrig proves otherwise

BEIRUT: Tucked away in the outskirts of Gemmayze, Armenian restaurant Mayrig might have been difficult to spot if not for the busy valet service. The setting, an old stone house with a garden-style walk-through, lined with plants of all sorts, indicates an effort to create a cozy, home-like atmosphere in a bustling location.
This ambience is reflected inside and out. The interior is designed like any traditional Levantine home, with oriental carpets, patterned-tile floors and stone-wall interiors. Black-and-white portraits of the owner’s ancestors line the walls, creating a warm and welcoming experience of a kind you might expect at a grandmother’s home. Our host, George, played a major part in making us feel welcome and at home with a few jokes and words of wisdom between every course.
We were sampling a degustation menu, which began with a huge selection of salads and appetizers. One of the most popular was the famous eetch, a tangy and spicy salad made with cooked bulgur and tomato paste, lightly topped with parsley. It is similar in some ways to the Lebanese tabbouleh, yet very different in taste and consistency. 
Perhaps the overall favorite appetizer was the printzov keufteh, a rice-crusted kebbe in which the sweet starchiness of the crispy rice shell blends beautifully with the savory meat-and-pine nut filling.
The appetizers ended with a selection of traditional Armenian cheese pies called sou beureg. Three flavors were offered, listed in our order of preference — thyme, sujuk and basterma. Sujuk and basterma are traditional, spicy, air-cured Armenian sausages that became popular in Lebanon after Armenians settled in the country. Thyme and cheese always pair well, but the sujuk pie was overwhelming thanks to its smoky saltiness and the basterma completely overpowered the cheese with its powerful, gamy flavor.
We were already starting to feel full as the main courses began to arrive. First to be served was the fishnah kebab, a grilled-beef kebab topped with a wild sour cherry sauce. This was the only real let down of the meal, as the kebab was dry and lacked seasoning. However, the cherry sauce was the perfect balance between sweet and sour.
This recipe was brought to Yerevan, the capital of Armenia, by an influx of Armenian refugees returning to their homeland after the civil war began in Syria. As such it is a dish that perfectly embodies what Armenian food has become — an ever-changing food culture.
Next on the main course menu was the unforgettable manti. Crisp-on-the-outside minced-meat dumplings were doused in a spicy tomato sauce, allowing them to soften, then topped with yogurt and a dash of sumac to balance out the heat. This is definitely a crowd-pleaser at Mayrig and they even offer a vegetarian version made with spinach.
Finally, we came to the dessert menu, beginning with the rose loukoum ice cream, a light and airy sherbet with a fun chew due to the inclusion of mastic — a plant resin. Another must-try is the semi-dried apricot stuffed with ashta, a Lebanese milk pudding. The desserts will bring you back to Mayrig, if nothing else does.
Mayrig — which means “mother” in Armenian — pays tribute to all the Armenian women through the ages who, despite war and other hardships, were able to ensure that the traditional flavors and recipes of their ancestors endured.
Armenian cuisine has been described as a lost cuisine. However, Mayrig proves otherwise as it gathers together varieties from across the regions and generations — and now it is coming full circle by returning to its homeland, with the opening of a new restaurant in Yerevan.