Consumption of low carbohydrate diets can be unsafe as it may increase the risk of premature death, a new study has found.
"Our study highlights an unfavourable association between low-carb diets and total and cause-specific death, based on individual data and pooled results of previous studies. The findings suggest that low-carb diets are unsafe and should not be recommended," said co-author Maciej Banach, professor at the Medical University of Lodz in Poland.
According to the researchers, different diets have been suggested for weight loss, such as diets low in carbohydrates and high in protein and fat. But the long-term safety of these diets is controversial.
"Low-carb diets might be useful in the short term to lose weight, lower blood pressure, and improve blood glucose control, but our study suggests that in the long-term they are linked with an increased risk of death from any cause, and deaths due to cardiovascular disease, cerebrovascular disease and cancer," Banach said.
For the study, the team examined the relationship between low-carb diets, all-cause death, and deaths from coronary heart disease, cerebrovascular disease (including stroke), and cancer in 24,825 participants.
Compared to participants with the highest carbohydrate consumption, those with the lowest intake had a 32 per cent higher risk of all-cause death over an average 6.4-year follow-up, the team said.
In addition, risks of death from coronary heart disease, cerebrovascular disease, and cancer were increased by 51 per cent, 50 per cent and 35 per cent, respectively, they added.
The results were confirmed in a meta-analysis of seven prospective cohort studies with 447,506 participants and an average follow-up 15.6 year, which found 15 per cent, 13 per cent and 8 per cent increased risks in total, cardiovascular and cancer mortality with low (compared to high) carbohydrate diets.
"The reduced intake of fibre and fruits and increased intake of animal protein, cholesterol, and saturated fat with these diets may play a role. Differences in minerals, vitamins and phytochemicals might also be involved," Banach noted.