- A moderate consumption of carbohydrates, pegged between 50 to 55 percent of a daily caloric intake, has been linked to longer lifespans when compared to high or low carb diets.
- Diets that are low-carb and substituting the deficit with proteins and fats sourced from animals may result in an increased chance of early death.
- However, low-carb diets that substitute carbohydrates with plant-sourced proteins and fats were found to decrease this risk of an early death.
- The nature of the study, including, participants self-reporting their eating habits, and modifications in their eating patterns over the course of the study, may have influenced the results.
- Should one adopt a low-carb diet, replacing the lacking carbohydrates with plant-based proteins and fats is suggested to encourage healthy aging.
Frequently, we encounter discussions around high-carb and low-carb diets. However, emerging research proposes that a diet moderate in carbs could be the secret to a longer lifespan.
Moderate Carb Consumption and Longevity
A extensive study following over 15,000 individuals across the United States for around 25 years revealed intriguing findings. Diets with low carb intake (under 40 percent of caloric intake) or high carb intake (over 70 percent of calories) were linked with an increased chance of life cut short. Conversely, a moderate carbohydrate consumption (between 50 to 55 percent of calories) was associated with the minimal risk of early death.
“Our work is the most detailed study of carb consumption done to date, yielding greater insight into the relationship between specific diet components and long-term health,” said senior study author Dr. Scott Solomon, associated with Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Harvard Medical School in Boston.
The Longevity Benefit of Moderate Carbs
According to the researchers’ estimations, individuals aged 50 consuming a moderate-carb diet could be expected to live an additional 33 years – four years more than those with very low carb intake, and a year longer than those with high carb intake.
Proteins and Fats in Low-Carb Diets
The team ascertained that all low-carb diets might not impart the same health impacts. Diets abundant in animal-based proteins and fats substituting carbs (such as beef, lamb, pork, chicken, and cheese) were linked with an increased likelihood of early death. In contrast, diets favoring plant-based proteins and fats (from vegetables, legumes, and nuts) over carbohydrates decreased this risk.
It must be noted, however, that the participants’ eating habits were self-reported and assessed only at the study commencement and again six years later. Variations in eating habits over the 25-year research period could potentially influence the correlation between carbohydrate intake and lifespan.
The research team also examined data from over 432,000 individuals spanning upwards of 20 countries, discovering that both high and low carbohydrate intake resulted in a shortened life expectancy, relative to moderate carbohydrate intake.
Plant-Based Consumption for Health
“While a lack of a randomized trial prevents us from comparing long-term effects of different types of low-carb diets, our data indicates that shifting towards plant-based consumption can likely help ward off major life-threatening diseases”, said Solomon.
Study leader Dr. Sara Seidelmann, a cardiologist at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, shared: “Low-carb diets replacing carbohydrates with protein or fat are gaining popularity as a health and weight-loss approach. However, our findings suggest that animal-based low-carb diets, prevalent in North America and Europe, may correlate with a shorter overall lifespan and therefore should not be encouraged.”
Seidelmann suggests, “If one chooses to adopt a low-carb diet, substituting carbohydrates with more plant-based fats and proteins may actually encourage healthy aging over the long term.” However, two experts who penned an editorial accompanying the research added a note of caution that residual confounders can’t be entirely excluded in observational studies, particularly when observed differences are somewhat modest.
The U.S. National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases offers additional insight on diet and nutrition.