Is a low-carb diet really less healthy for you?

Is a low-carb diet really less healthy for you?

A headline on The Atlantic magazine’s website caught my attention this morning: “Time to retire the low-carb diet fad.” This provocative headline definitely got me to click and read, but it's also part of what drives me nuts about media.

It gets my attention because it goes against the grain of what I’m used to hearing, thus prompting many cartoon question marks to come popping out of my head. But it’s also incredibly misleading, if not outright false.

The article focuses on the results of a 25-year observational study from Northern Sweden. Researchers began in 1985 with an intervention to curb skyrocketing rates of cardiovascular disease in the region. The study then followed trends in food and nutrient intake, serum cholesterol and body mass index from 1986 to 2010 to see the long-term impact of diet on these markers of CVD.

What they found was that in the first seven years, as participants reduced their fat intake, serum cholesterol levels dropped as well. After 2004 (about the same time that Atkins and other low-carb, high-fat diets took off) participants’ diets changed and their cholesterol levels again began to climb. BMI for participants increased steadily throughout the 25-year study regardless of fat intake.

So now The Atlantic, to be followed by many other media outlets I assume, cries foul on low-carb diets—with corresponding imagery of a woman dropping a giant forkful of pasta into her gaping mouth. The article goes on to espouse a great deal common sense wisdom (thank heavens) about how this isn’t an argument for processed foods or simple sugars.

This study is interesting, but in my opinion it’s also a no-brainer. Of course increasing your intake of cholesterol through fat (most likely animal fat) will increase your serum cholesterol levels. Of course a diet high in just any old fat will never be a good decision, just as a diet high in simple carbohydrates and processed foods will never be a good decision.

We love our quick-fix fad diets in this country, but not one of them has ever led to lasting change and our rates of obesity and diabetes continue to soar.

Why hasn’t the common sense wisdom of an active lifestyle coupled with a diet low in fat and sugar (this includes simple carbs), with lean protein and lots of veggies still not sunk in?

Why do Americans, with better access to plentiful and nutrition foods than any other population on earth, have so much trouble feeding themselves? Leave a comment and share your thoughts. 

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