Excess carbohydrates—not total and saturated fats—are more harmful for human longevity, according to a new diet study. These results contradict decades of health advice to reduce fat intake.
Researchers in the study, called PURE (Prospective Urban Rural Epidemiology), recorded the food intake of over 135,000 people from 18 different countries, including high-, medium-, and low-income nations. They found that those who ate plenty of butter, cheese, and meats lived up to 23% longer lives than those who cut back on fats.
Current health guidelines suggest that too much saturated fat raises cholesterol levels and increases the risk of heart disease. Yet those who follow these guidelines tend to eat more carbs like bread, pasta, and rice. PURE scientists found that high intake levels of carbs had an unfavorable impact on cardiovascular health and higher mortality rates.
But carbs aren’t just starchy foods. Fruits and vegetables are, too, and when it came to those, more was always considered better. Yet the study found that eating three to four servings per day—as opposed to the daily recommended five servings—had the greatest health benefits.
Instead, the PURE researchers are recommending that about 35% of our calories come from fats. Here’s Laura Donnelley for The Telegraph:
“This study suggests we should perhaps pay more attention to the amount of carbohydrate in our diet than we have in the past and we may need to revise the guidelines,”[Jeremy Pearson, of the British Heart Foundation] said.
“What I don’t think people should do is get excited and think ‘I can eat as much saturated fat as I like.’”
Health officials still recommend a low saturated fat intake since higher levels could increase the risk of heart disease.
Health officials are unlikely to entirely rewrite dietary guidelines based on this study alone. Though it was large, it’s still an associational study, meaning there’s no direct link between carb intake and mortality.