A low-fat low-carb diet will NOT make you live longer, study suggests

A low-fat low-carb diet will NOT make you live longer – and people that keep to the plan by eating ‘unhealthy’ junk foods face higher risks of a premature death, study finds

  • Low-carb and low-fat diets are straightforward and popular plans to slim down 
  • Diets high carbs are linked to more inflammation and insulin resistance, while high-fat diets can lead to high cholesterol and poor cardiovascular health 
  • But a new Harvard University study found that on the whole low-carb and low-fat diets don’t extend lifespans 
  • In fact those who follow these plans, but get the nutrients from low-quality sources face six to seven percent higher mortality risks 
  • The researchers say that eating a well-balanced diet of whole foods may keep us trimmer and healthier for longer  

The superiority of the low-carb, low-fat diet has been debunked, according to a new study. 

Minimizing these two food groups has been a popular way to shed weight and get healthy since the 1980s. 

High-fat, high-carbohydrates diets are indeed linked to worse health outcomes and higher risks of death, but new research from Harvard University found that simply eating fewer of any carbs and any fats won’t extend your life expectancy. 

What’s more, those who get the few carbs and fats they consume from unhealthy foods made with ’empty calories’ actually have a higher risk of death than the general population, according to the new study. 

Instead, the researchers suggest that it’s quality – not quantity – of nutrients, including fats and carbs, that dictate how our diets affect our longevity. 

New Harvard University research suggests that it's not so much the amount of carbs or fats you eat, but the quality of their sources that predicts mortality risks (file)

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New Harvard University research suggests that it’s not so much the amount of carbs or fats you eat, but the quality of their sources that predicts mortality risks (file) 

There’s little doubt that cutting out carbs – like breads, pastas, grains and beer – and fats – like red meat, milk, cheese and some oils – will help you lose weight in the short-term. 

But much debate still remains over whether these diets improve our overall health in the long-run. 

Recent research has suggested that keto diets – which permit eating some fatty foods but require cutting out or nearly eliminating carbs – popular with celebrities like Kourtney Kardashian and LeBron James are not only unsustainable, but potentially unhealthy in the long run. 

Less is known about the effects of the less exacting low-carb low-fat diet plan.  

Of course, a primary measure of people’s health and wellbeing is their longevity, so researchers at Harvard set out to determine whether low-carb and low-fat diets add years to our lives or strip them away. 

The team analyzed data on the diets and health of 37,233 adult Americans with an average age of 49.7. 

Over the course of the study, 4,8666 people involved died. 


The Western diet is loosely defined as one full of fatty and sugary foods, such as burgers, fries and soda.  

People often eat foods that are high in

  • Saturated fats
  • Red meats
  • ‘Empty’ carbohydrates
  • Junk Food

And low in

  • Fresh fruits and vegetables
  • Whole Grains
  • Seafood 
  • Poultry 
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Health effects have been linked to things such as hypertension, heart disease, diabetes, obesity, colorectal cancer and dementia. 

They scored their diets on scales of how low in carbohydrates or fats they were, as well as whether the sources were ‘healthy’ or ‘unhealthy.’ 

People who scored high for low-carb or low-fat diets didn’t live any longer, on average, than those who didn’t adhere to the those nutritional restrictions. 

Those who ate unhealthy low-carb diets faced seven percent higher risks of death. 

People whose diets were low in fat but ‘unhealthy’ in quality were at a six percent greater risk of death. 

Eating a surplus of any carbohydrates is thought to increase inflammation and fuel insulin resistance. 

But getting just a few carbs from poor quality sources like refined grains like white bread, white rice and processed cornmeal or added sugars has the same effect. 

Similarly, diets low in total fat, but comprised largely of saturated fats, like beef, pork, dairy and oil, don’t provide much actual energy, take longer make us feel full and contribute to high cholesterol, raising risks for heart disease and stroke. 

Unfortunately, these low-quality foods are much cheaper, meaning that those who faced higher mortality risks despite their efforts to limit carbs and fats were more likely to have low incomes and education levels.

The takeaway: diets rich in whole fruits, vegetables, grains, fish and poutry are the most tried and true – but costly – ways to stay trimmer for a longer, healthier life, according to the new study, published in JAMA Internal Medicine.   

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