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Low-Carb Diet's Effects Could Hinge on Ingredients

Animal-based low-carb diet linked to higher mortality; vegetable-based diet linked to lower

TUESDAY, Sept. 7 (HealthDay News) -- A low-carbohydrate diet is associated with different effects on mortality depending on whether the diet is animal- or vegetable-based, according to research published in the Sept. 7 issue of the Annals of Internal Medicine.

Teresa T. Fung, of Simmons College in Boston, and colleagues analyzed data from more than 129,000 participants in the Nurses' Health Study and the Health Professionals' Follow-up Study who provided diet information via food-frequency questionnaires. Subjects were followed for 20 or 26 years.

The researchers found that the overall low-carbohydrate score was associated with a small increase in overall mortality (hazard ratio [HR] between extreme deciles, 1.12; P for trend = 0.136). Animal low-carbohydrate score was linked to greater all-cause mortality (HR, 1.23; P for trend = 0.051), cardiovascular mortality (HR, 1.14; P for trend = 0.029), and cancer mortality (HR, 1.28; P for trend = 0.089). A higher vegetable low-carbohydrate score, however, was linked to lower all-cause mortality (HR, 0.80; P for trend ≤ 0.001) and cardiovascular mortality (HR, 0.77; P for trend < 0.001).

"In sum, this well-written study addresses a critical, unresolved public health question of diet but cannot satisfy us with a definitive answer," write the authors of an accompanying editorial. "The current state of the evidence is such that no one can legitimately claim that a low-carbohydrate diet is either harmful or safe with any degree of certainty until a large-scale, randomized study with meaningful clinical end points is done."

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