Did you know that carbohydrates can be more dangerous than fats?

A study on diet in 18 countries on 5 continents with a follow-up of 7 years finds that carbohydrates are associated with higher mortality than fats.

The new research suggests that it is not dietary fat that increases the risk of premature death, but that excess carbohydrates, especially refined and processed carbohydrates, may be the real culprit.

The research also found that eating fruits, vegetables and legumes can reduce the risk of dying prematurely. But three or four servings a day seemed to be enough. The additional portions did not seem to offer a greater benefit.

What does all this mean for you?

Eating a hamburger with cheese is not bad, and adding lettuce and tomato is still good, but an excess of white flour bread for the hamburger could increase your risk of dying prematurely.

People with a high fat intake (about 35 percent of the daily diet) had a risk of premature death 23 percent lower, and a risk of stroke 18 percent lower, compared to the people who ate less fat, said lead author Mahshid Dehghan, a researcher at the Population Health Research Institute at McMaster University in Ontario.

The researchers also noted that a very low intake of saturated fat (less than 3 percent of the daily diet) was associated with a higher risk of death in the study, compared to diets that contained up to 13 percent daily .

At the same time, high-carbohydrate diets (containing an average of 77 percent carbohydrates) were associated with a 28 percent increase in the risk of death, compared to low-carb diets, Dehghan said.

“The study showed that contrary to what is popularly believed, a higher consumption of fats in the diet is associated with a lower risk of dying,” Dehghan said.

“We found no evidence that below 10 percent energy from saturated fat is beneficial, and reducing below 7 percent could even be harmful, a moderate amount, especially accompanied by a lower intake of carbohydrates, are probably optimal, “he said.

These results suggest that major health organizations may need to rethink their dietary guidelines, Dehghan noted.

But not everyone is ready to discount current dietary guidelines.

Current global guidelines recommend that 50 to 65 percent of a person’s daily calories come from carbohydrates, and less than 10 percent from saturated fats, the researchers said.

Dehghan suggested that “the best diets include carbohydrates and fats in balance, with roughly 50 to 55 percent carbohydrates and 35 percent fat in total, including both saturated and unsaturated fats.”

All foods contain three main macronutrients that are essential for life: fats, carbohydrates and proteins. The optimal amounts that a person should eat have been the subject of debate for decades, and over time the pendulum has switched from low-fat diets to low-carb diets.

The researchers found that carbohydrate-rich diets were common: more than half of people derived 70 percent of their daily calories from carbohydrates.

Diets high in carbohydrates have been linked to increases in both blood cholesterol and the chemical components of cholesterol, Dehghan said.

While experts are still discussing what is the best diet, what should you eat?

“The diet should consist of healthy carbohydrates, lean protein, and plenty of fruits and vegetables, remember to avoid processed snacks that contain trans and saturated fats, and choose a source of healthy carbohydrates.”

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