Research in over 135,000 people across five continents has shown that a diet low in carbohydrates and moderate in fat, fruits and vegetables is associated with a lower risk of death.
The data formed part of the Prospective Urban Rural Epidemiology (PURE) study which followed more than 135,000 people from 18 countries. The study asked people about their diet and followed them for an average of seven and half years.
The researchers found dietary fats are not associated with major cardiovascular disease but higher fat consumption was associated with lower mortality; this was seen for all major types of fats (saturated fats, polyunsaturated fats and mono unsaturated fats). Saturated fats were associated with lower stroke risk.
“A decrease in fat intake automatically led to an increase in carbohydrate consumption and our findings may explain why certain populations such as South Asians, who do not consume much fat but consume a lot of carbohydrates, have higher mortality rates,” Mahshid Dehghan, lead author of the PURE study, said.
Dehghan added that dietary guidelines have previously focused on reducing total fat to below 30 percent of daily caloric intake and saturated fat to below 10 percent of caloric intake. The idea behind this guideline was to reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease but no one considered how people would replace saturated fat in a diet. The current guidelines were developed about four decades ago using information from some Western countries where fat was more than 40 percent or 45 percent of caloric intake and saturated fat intakes were more than 20 percent. The consumption of these are now much lower in North America and Europe (31 percent and 11 percent respectively).
Eating fruits, vegetables and legumes also decreases the risk of cardiovascular disease and deaths. Legumes include beans, black beans, lentils, peas, chickpeas and black-eyed peas. Legumes are frequently eaten as an alternative for meat or some grains and starches such as pasta and white bread. Eating three to four servings of fruits, vegetables and legumes a day is achievable. Dehghan emphasised moderation is preferred as opposed to very low or very high intakes of most nutrients.