Low-carb diets like the Atkins diet, ketogenic diet, and slow-carb have become all the rage. A new study suggests that they may not be as healthy as they’re cracked up to be. Both low and high carb diets might be connected to earlier deaths. Is it best to eat a more balanced diet and stay away from the extremes? Let’s take a closer look.

The Format Of The Study

The study analyzed data from over 15,000 middle-aged Americans as part of the Atherosclerosis Risk in Communities Study. They compared the data against additional studies from over 20 countries. In total, roughly 450,000 people were included in the studies. Scott Solomon was the senior author of the study. He called the study “the most comprehensive study of carbohydrate intake” ever.

Solomon admits that self-reported data can be flawed and the type of people that respond to requests for such studies often don’t represent an accurate cross-section of the communities they live in. Over the 25-year period, diets were measured twice: once at the beginning of the study and once six years later.

The Fuss About Carbs

After crunching all the data, researchers found that people who ate moderate amounts of carbs lived one year longer than people who ate a lot of carbs. The biggest difference was in the low-carb groups. People who ate low carbs died an average of four years before people who ate moderate carbs. Yikes!

According to co-author Sara Seidelmann, a fellow at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, “Our data suggest that animal-based low carbohydrate diets, which are prevalent in North America and Europe, might be associated with shorter overall lifespan and should be discouraged.”

Low Carbs May Not Be To Blame

The long-term effects of carbohydrate restriction are controversial. According to the study published in the medical journal The Lancet, the increased mortality rates could be related to whether or not the carbs are replaced with plant-based or animal-based fat and protein.

The majority of people who cut carbs do so to lose weight or improve their body image. They don’t just eat fewer carbs, they eat less in general. Researchers think that the health concerns could come from a lack of nutrients and other unidentified risk factors.