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.


The Six: Traditional natural remedies from the Middle East

A sprig of thyme. (Shutterstock)
Updated 15 October 2018
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The Six: Traditional natural remedies from the Middle East

  • We take a look at natural remedies stemming from the Middle East
  • From turmeric to thyme, these home remedies are used across the Arab world and beyond

DUBAI: Natural remedies have long been used in the Arab world to treat a range of health issues, including these seeds and herbs that are thought to have various benefits.

Black cumin seed
According to Islamic tradition, the black cumin seed is a powerhouse of health benefits. It is thought to help with immune-related, digestive and respiratory issues and has antihistamine, anti-inflammatory and anti-oxidant properties.

Cloves
Cloves and clove oil have been used in dentistry since the 19th century due to the presence of the antiseptic and anti-inflammatory chemical eugenol.

Turmeric
Turmeric contains the chemical curcumin that is thought to decrease inflammation in the body.

Thyme
Thyme has been used for centuries to treat such complaints as diarrhea, stomach ache, arthritis and sore throats due to the presence of thymol, an antiseptic agent.

Fennel seeds
A concentrated source of minerals like copper, potassium, calcium, zinc, manganese, vitamin c, iron, selenium and magnesium, fennel is thought to do everything from regulate blood pressure to ease water retention as it’s a known diuretic.

Anise
Anise oil contains thymol, terpineol and anethole, which are thought to help with cough and flu cases. Anise is also thought to help improve digestion, alleviate cramps and reduce nausea.