Carbohydrates and a Longer Life

In a blow to Atkins Diet proponents around the world, new research seems to indicate that low protein and high carbohydrate diets can actually extend life. Mind blown! No wonder the cave man died out! Does this mean that decades of diet books are wrong? Maybe so.

Low-carb, high carb, no carb. It seems that many diets are defined by their stance on eating carbohydrates. So carbs must be bad, right? Not so fast!

Not one, but two separate studies looked at how diet affects lifespan. It appears that slightly rounded people live longer (and probably happier) lives than skinny folks.  Not to deceive anyone, one of these studies follow mice, not people, but the results should apply to us, too.

The mouse study was pretty complex. Over 800 mice were randomly assigned to one of 25 food plans. These plans had various proportions of protein, carbohydrates, fats and digestible fiber. There was no restricted access to food, so the mice could eat as much as they wanted.

The longest-lived mice lived 50% longer than the shortest-lived, 150 weeks compared to 100. The long-lived mice ate very little protein (5% to 15%) and a lot of carbs (40% to 50%). The short-lived mice ate food with about 50% protein.

The high protein, low carb mice were more slender, compared to their low protein, high carb brethren. This supports the saying, “Live fast, die young and leave a good looking corpse.” Is that really a good strategy?

The second study examined the diets of more than 6,000 adults over 50 years old. After the volunteers described their eating habits, their health was recorded over the following 18 years.  Once again, the low protein, high carb diet seemed to correlate with longer lifespans. People on high protein diets were 75% more likely to have died over the years, and four times more likely to have died from cancer.

These research reports seem to fly in the face of accepted wisdom. Dr. Atkins will certainly be disappointed. Scientists speculate that reducing protein intake can reduce production of a growth hormone called IGF-1 and a protein called mTOR. Both of these things have been shown to extend lifespan.

What does this mean for you? Maybe that slice of bread (whole wheat, of course) isn’t the worst idea in the world!

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