Dr. Day is a cardiologist/electrophysiologist at the Intermountain Medical Center Heart Institute in Salt Lake City, Utah. He graduated from Johns Hopkins Medical School and completed his residency and fellowships in cardiology and electrophysiology at Stanford University. He is the former president of the Heart Rhythm Society and currently serves as the president of the Utah chapter of the American College of Cardiology.
Is there a Low Carb Diet Mortality Risk?
Everyone seemed to think carbs were bad until this new study was published last week. Is there a way to follow a low carb diet and still live a long life? In this article, I’ll teach you how to optimize your carbs so that you can avoid the low carb diet mortality risk.
The Dietary Carbohydrate Intake and Mortality Study
In what has to be one of the biggest carbohydrate studies ever done, Harvard University researchers included a total of 447,607 people. Of these 447,607 people, a total of 46,464 people passed away during the 25-year follow-up of this study. These Harvard researchers then analyzed their mortality risk based on food questionnaires filled out over the years prior to their deaths. Here are the results:
1. If you ate a moderate amount of carbs (40-70% of your total calories) you lived the longest.
2. If you followed a low carb diet (less than 40% of your calories are carbs), you lost about 4 years of life.
3. If you followed a high carb diet (more than 70% of your calories are carbs), you lost around 1 year of life.
How do you explain these results?
As carbs have been blamed for the obesity crisis, diabetes, and just about every other health problem, how can these study results be explained? The answer is really quite simple. Just as there are good and bad carbs there are also good and bad proteins and fat.
In the case of this study, people eating the most carbs ate a lot of flour and other processed carbohydrates. As a result, their lives were cut short. This fits nicely from what we know from countless other studies.
For the low carb eaters in this study, the problem is that they replaced their carbs with animal proteins and fat. Indeed, these lost years of life could have been avoided had plant-based proteins and fat replaced their carbs. Once again, this finding is something that comes up in study after study.
While nutrition studies are hard to do and sometimes reach the wrong conclusion, the results of this study seem believable based on what we already know. Personally, I really don’t think what percentage of carbs you eat matters provided you are eating a mostly real food plant-based diet. In other words, if you choose to eat meat it is a very small portion of wild meat. The bulk of what is on your plate is vegetables and you also have a healthy fat like nuts, seeds, avocado, etc.
How do you find out your carb percentage?
It is really easy to find out what percentage of your calories come from carbs. Simply download the free version of either Lose It or Cronometer from iTunes or Google play to your smartphone. If you still use a flip-phone, there is also a free desktop version to both of these apps.
Next, enter in everything you ate today. Both of these apps will then automatically calculate what percentage of your calories came from carbs.
How to Eat Low Carb and Live a Long Life
Many of my patients swear by the ketogenic diet. Some of the biggest celebrities in the world are also following the ketogenic diet. Even my own carbohydrate intake this past week was 40%. This 40% number was just 1% away from falling into the danger zone according to this new study.
Yes, you can eat low carb and still live a long life according to this study. The way to do this is to replace your carbs with plant-based fat and protein.
For example, nuts, seeds, avocados, olives, and coconuts are all mostly fat. Likewise, there is a lot of protein in beans, lentils, and other legumes.
The big take away for me from this study is that unless you want to eat more plant-based you should probably moderate your carbohydrate intake. If you are trying to lose weight or reverse diabetes with the ketogenic diet, start embracing a much more plant-based way of eating.
Does that mean you have to give up meat and dairy if you want to eat low carb? Of course not. However, a 95% plant-based approach is probably optimal. You simply eat a ton of veggies, low-sugar fruit like berries, and replace your other carbs with nuts, seeds, beans, lentils, avocados, olives, and coconuts. From a mortality perspective, this study argues that this approach is associated with a long life.
Are you trying to cut back on carbs? Please leave your thoughts and comments below.
Disclaimer Policy: This website is intended to give general information and does not provide medical advice. This website does not create a doctor-patient relationship between you and Dr. John Day. If you have a medical problem, immediately contact your healthcare provider. Information on this website is not intended to diagnose or treat any condition. Dr. John Day is not responsible for any losses, damages or claims that may result from your medical decisions.