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New research links diabetes and heart disease risk to a high carb diet - not fat

A new study in the US has shown that carbohydrates are more harmful for you than saturated fats.

25 Nov 2014

Saturated fats have long taken the blame for heart disease - but a new study at the University of Ohio has found that levels of fat in the blood did not increase with a high fat diet, but rather with a high carbohydrate diet.

In the study, participants were fed six 3-week diets that progressively increased carbs while simultaneously reducing total fat and saturated fat, keeping calories and protein the same. The study consisted of 16 adults and lasted 4 and a half months.

Each day’s meals added up to 2,500 calories and included about 130 grams of protein. The highest-carb level represented 55 percent of daily calories, which roughly matches the estimated daily percentage of energy provided by carbs in the American diet.

The study found that doubling or even nearly tripling saturated fat in the diet did not drive up total levels of saturated fat in the blood. However, increasing levels of carbohydrates in the diet during the study promoted a steady increase in the blood of a fatty acid linked to an elevated risk for diabetes and heart disease.

Palmitoleic acid, a fatty acid associated with unhealthy metabolism of carbohydrates that can promote disease, went down with low-carb intake and gradually increased as carbs were re-introduced to the study diet.

The finding 'challenges the conventional wisdom that has demonised saturated fat and extends our knowledge of why dietary saturated fat doesn’t correlate with disease,' said senior author Jeff Volek, a professor of human sciences at The Ohio State University.

“When you consume a very low-carb diet your body preferentially burns saturated fat,” Volek said. “We had people eat 2 times more saturated fat than they had been eating before entering the study, yet when we measured saturated fat in their blood, it went down in the majority of people.
Other traditional risk markers improved, as well.”

By the end of the trial, participants saw "significant improvements" in blood glucose, insulin and blood pressure and lost an average of 22 pounds (10 kilograms).

The research is published in the Nov. 21, 2014, issue of the journal PLOS ONE.

To read the full article click here.

Professor Tim Noakes proved right

South African Professor Tim Noakes, co-founder of The Real Meal Revolution, has for several years now preached the virtues of saturated fats in the human diet and declared outright war on carbs - and has he come under a lot of criticism for it. Many of his critics saying he has done a sudden about turn on carbs  and some even claiming that he is promoting the lifestyle for monetary gain. His cookbook The Real Meal Revolution is currently the best selling cookbook in South Africa.

The diet is immensely popular in South Africa leading to many restaurants modernising their menus to adapt to the demands of the diet and even recently the launch of a Banting App. In recent results published on the Food24 Banting Survey 38% of over 7300 respondents had indeed experienced less hunger and more energy. 

Many Food24 commenters have also shared their success stories on the diet - in the face of those claiming it's just another fad diet that is potentially very harmful to your health in the long term.

The popularity of the diet owes itself largely to the rapid weight loss reportedly experienced by most people who follow it to the letter, however a University of Stellenbosch study recently found that the Banting diet was no better for weight loss than a well-balanced low calorie weight-loss diet.

The biggest criticism for the diet however though comes via the question of the potential risk of heart problems long since associated with saturated fats. Many critics of the LCHF diet are claiming to be waiting for scientific evidence to prove Tim Noakes wrong. This particular scientific study, however, proves him right.

Professor Noakes has been very vocal in his defense of the Low Carb High Fat (Banting) diet - when you hear him speak about it - you'll see that he vehemently believes that what he is saying and doing is the right thing for all humans (including children) - especially those who are insulin resistant.

According to Professor Noakes, human beings don't need carbohydrates at all. 'Of the nutrients; protein, carbohydrate, and fat, the one that is unnecessary for human existence is carbohydrate; there is no known carbohydrate deficiency disease in humans'.

Perhaps this quote from Dr Volek sums it up well: "There is widespread misunderstanding about saturated fat. In population studies, there's clearly no association of dietary saturated fat and heart disease, yet dietary guidelines continue to advocate restriction of saturated fat. That's not scientific and not smart," Volek said.

Have you been on the Banting diet? Please share your experiences in the comments section below.

If you are on the Banting diet or would like to try it out check out our LCHF recipes hub.

We recommend you always consult your doctor before making any drastic dietary changes to your lifestyle. 

Article source: Ohio State University

- Cathrine Shone

Read more on: saturated fat  |  tim noakes  |  low carb  |  banting

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