The Carbohydrate Conundrum

In the best selling book EatPrayLove, the lead character proclaims that “no carb should be left behind”. For some reason that eludes me, the eating of carbohydrates that has been heralded as the optimal (and forbidden) dining experience by women. In fact, there is even such a term as carborexia, which is best explained at the fear of excessive consumption of carbohydrates. But is there any substantial research behind the disproportional amount of attention carbohydrates receive compared to the other food groups? Here we consider the most discussed reports that are likely to have contributed to the spotlight remaining on carbohydrates.

One of the most recent substantial studies that was published with regards to this topic was an analysis of 22 295 Greek individuals who were followed up for over 11 years. The study provided an interesting analysis of data from a larger study called European Prospective Investigation into Cancer and nutrition (EPIC). One finding that was particularly noteworthy was the finding that there was a relationship between low carbohydrate diets and the chance of developing diabetes. According to the lead researcher, individuals on a diet high in carbs were 21% more likely to develop type 2 diabetes. This was in stark contrast to individuals on a low carbohydrate diet who had 12% risk.

Another area of research that has been emerging over the last ten years is the field that suggests that there is a potential relationship between a diet low in carbohydrates and the development of heart disease. The most famous study, which was published in 2006 in New England Journal of Medicine, indicated that there was a statistically significant relationship between a diet low in carbohydrates and good cardiovascular health for women. Given that the study had followed 82 802 women for nearly 20 years the findings inspired further (albeit somewhat inconsistent) studies.

However, one of the key issues that has been highlighted in many previous studies looking into the effects of diets low in carbohydrates is that they have rarely considered the different types of carbohydrates individuals take in. No study has ever supported that carbohydrates should not form a part of healthy diet, but there have been discussions about the types of carbohydrates that may be better suited to a healthy diet. Harvard School of Public Health Provided a comprehensive review here.

Given that research has looked at two major areas related to individual health, it should not be surprising that supermarkets in the UK have followed with healthier options that have been labelled as lower in carbohydrates. Although many research findings have been encouraging, it is also clear that a lot of research is required before it is seen as a reliable fact. Until it is decided whether diets low in carbohydrates are fact or fiction, perhaps it is best to stick to the common sense idiom of everything in moderation.

More can be read on the subject of low car diets here -

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