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02.05.2012


Plant-based low-carb diet is healthy

Many people can lose weight by lowering their carbohydrate intake. A low-carb diet suppresses appetite. But is this kind of diet healthy in the long run? According to American epidemiologists at Harvard it depends on the kind of low-carb foods you eat. If you eat relatively large amounts of plant-based products there's nothing wrong with low-carb.

The researchers based their publication on two classic projects: the Nurses' Health Study and the Health Professionals' Follow-up Study. In the first of these epidemiologists followed some ninety thousand women health workers aged 34-59 for 25 years; in the other they followed forty thousand male counterparts aged 40-75 for twenty years. Both of these projects have provided co-author Walter Willett with data on more than one occasion.

The researchers divided the participants into ten groups, deciles, on the basis of their carbohydrate intake. Decile 1 ate the most carbs, decile 10 the least. And then the researchers looked at the mortality rate of the groups.

People who eat little carbohydrate eat relatively more fats and proteins. These can come from animals or plants. The researchers divided the participants into deciles again, on the basis of the amount of animal fats and proteins they ate, and into deciles based on their intake of plant-based fats and proteins.

A low-carb diet was not healthy. The negative effect was not terribly alarming, but the mortality in decile 10 was several dozen percent higher than in decile 1. In the participants who had a low-carb diet consisting mainly of animal products the negative effect was a little stronger but in the participants who ate a plant-based low-carb diet, the negative effect was absent. In fact, the mortality in this group was actually lower. If you click on the table below a larger version will appear.


If you click on the table below a larger version will appear.


When the Harvardians examined their data more closely they saw that an animal-based low-carb diet increased the risk of fatal cardiovascular disease, while a plant-based low-carb diet reduced this risk. [Click for figure] Moreover, an animal-based low-carb diet increased the risk of cancer, but a plant-based low-carb diet did not. [Click for figure]

If you eat a high-protein, low-carb diet and you're wondering what these facts mean for you, then the figure below will be of interest to you. It's the table for women, but the one for men is almost the same. If you click on the table, another table with more extensive data appears. You can see the composition of the diet.


If you click on the table, another table with more extensive data appears.


As you can see, the women in decile 10 the women with the most extreme plant-based low-carb diet didn't eat extremely large amounts of plant protein. They did eat more vegetable-based fats probably in the form of nuts, peanuts, avocados and above all vegetable oil, such as olive oil.

Source:
Ann Intern Med. 2010 Sep 7;153(5):289-98.

More:
Saturated fat may make low-carb diet unhealthy 21.04.2012
Less carbs, better memory 14.11.2011
Protein diet protects against cancer: animal study 08.10.2011