When it comes to carbs it’s all about quality over quantity. Some carbs are perfectly okay to eat and actually serve many benefits to our bodies.
It seems like every week there’s a new study weighing in on whether certain parts of our diet — looking at you, wine and chocolate researchers — are healthy or not.
While there are some obvious culprits that can limit our lifespans (such as sugar and alcohol) others seem to exist in a dietary gray area.
An obvious contender in that category is carbohydrates, or, as they’re referred to in modern dietary lexicon, carbs.
A new study published in The Lancet Public Health suggests that neither a no-carb diet, nor a high-carb diet, are ideal if you’re trying to live a long and healthy life.
The study observed 15,428 people in the United States and found “moderate” carb consumers — with carbs accounting for 50 to 55 percent of their caloric intake — had the lowest risk of mortality.
The researchers confirmed those findings in a meta-analysis of studies that involved more than 432,000 people in 20 countries. It also found that not all low-carb diets offer the same long-term results.
Those who ate more animal-based proteins had a greater risk of mortality compared with people who ate more plant-based proteins and fats from foods such as vegetables, legumes, and nuts.
“These findings bring together several strands that have been controversial. Too much and too little carbohydrate can be harmful, but what counts most is the type of fat, protein, and carbohydrate,” Dr. Walter Willett, the study’s co-author and professor of epidemiology and nutrition at Harvard T. H. Chan School of Public Health, said in a statement accompanying the research.
Experts not involved in the research weren’t blown away by the findings, and at least one was skeptical of the over-assumptive headlines that followed with it.
Brian Bender, PhD, a certified nutritionist and co-founder of myintakepro.com, says his initial reaction to the study was that its findings were not particularly surprising.
“Decades of research keep coming back to notion that, at the population level, ‘moderate’ levels of consumption for nearly all dietary components results in the best health outcomes,” he told Healthline. “Extreme diets that focus too heavily on one or another nutrient rarely produce optimal long-term results.”
Bender says that for very specific individuals, these extreme diets may help — and future tests may be able to provide this level of personalization — but “moderation across the board seems to reign supreme.”
Dr. Tro Kalayjian, a weight loss and nutrition physician based in New York state, said because the study was an epidemiologic population-based nutritional study based on food-frequency questionnaires and didn’t test a particular diet, it is subject to many confounding factors.
“Nobody in that study was ever put on a specific diet to assess the outcomes of a particular nutritional approach,” he told Healthline. “It broadly looks at the population.”
Kalayjian is quick to point out that the low-carb arm of the study had participants with much higher rates of smoking, alcohol use, obesity, and sedentary behavior.
“In other words, the groups are merely comparing a healthy group to a less healthy group and diet is merely a result of this difference and not a cause,” he said.
He warned that headlines that proclaimed that low-carb diets performed worse were misleading.
But, just like summarizing that all carbs are either bad or good for everyone, not all carbs are created equal. Some can help power vital body functions, while others are just downright useless.
|Read on: New Research Shows Why No-Carb Diets May Have It All Wrong|