Atkins-style low-carbohydrate diets help people lose weight, but people who simply replace the bread and pasta with calories from animal protein and animal fat may face an increased risk of early death from cancer and heart disease, a new study reports.
The study found that the death rate among people who adhered most closely to a low-carb regimen was 12 percent higher over about two decades than with those who consumed diets
But death rates varied, depending on the sources of protein and fat used to displace carbohydrates. Low-carb eaters who drew more protein and fat from vegetable sources like beans and nuts were 20 percent less likely to die over the period than people who ate a high-carbohydrate diet.
But low-carb dieters who got most of their protein and fat from animal sources like red and processed meats were 14 percent more likely to die of heart disease and 28 percent more likely to die of cancer, the analysis found.
The study, published Sept. 7 in Annals of Internal Medicine, analyzed data from more than 85,000 healthy women aged 34 to 59 who participated in the Nurses’ Health Study, and almost 45,000 men aged 40 to 75 who took part in the Health Professionals’ Follow-Up Study. Participants filled out questionnaires every four years.
“If people want to follow a low-carb diet, this provides some guidance,” said the paper’s lead author, Teresa T. Fung, an associate professor of nutrition at Simmons College in Boston. “They should probably eat less meats.”