Fats And Carbohydrates: Quality Is More Important Than Quantity

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Fats And Carbohydrates: Quality Is More Important Than Quantity
Fats And Carbohydrates: Quality Is More Important Than Quantity

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Fats and carbohydrates: quality is more important than quantity

Which is better, a low-fat, high-carb diet or a high-fat, low-carb diet? What is the most important type of fat consumed?

Fats and carbohydrates: quality is more important than quantity
Fats and carbohydrates: quality is more important than quantity

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Which is better, a low fat, high carbohydrate diet or a high fat, low carbohydrate diet? What is the most important type of fat consumed? In a new review presented in Science's Nutrition section, researchers from the Harvard THChan School of Public Health and Boston Children's Hospital have reached consensus and set an agenda for future research.

Researchers agree that no particular fat-to-carbohydrate ratio will be optimal for everyone, and that a universal, high-quality diet low in sugar and refined grains will help most people maintain a healthy weight and reduce the risk of chronic disease.

“This is an example of how we can overcome diet wars,” explained the study's lead author, Professor David Ludwig. “Our goal was to bring together a team with different areas of research interests and opposing views, and to identify areas of overlap without smoothing out differences.”

The authors set out evidence for three opposing positions on dietary guidelines that relate to fats and carbohydrates:

High fat intake causes obesity, diabetes, cardiovascular disease and possibly cancer, which is why low-fat diets are optimal.

  • Processed (refined) carbohydrates adversely affect metabolism; Low-carb or ketogenic (very low-carb) high-fat diets are better for health.
  • The relative amount of fats and carbohydrates in the diet is of little importance to health; what matters is what fats or carbohydrates are consumed.

The researchers agreed that by focusing on diet quality, replacing saturated fats and trans fats with unsaturated fats, and refined carbohydrates with whole grains and non-starchy vegetables, most people can maintain good health across a wide range of fat-carbohydrate ratios.

As part of their controversy, the authors identified a list of issues that could serve as the basis for a new agenda for nutrition research, including:

Do diets with different proportions of carbohydrates and fats affect body composition (fat to muscle ratio) regardless of calorie intake?

  • Do ketogenic diets have metabolic benefits in excess of moderate carbohydrate restriction, especially for diabetes?
  • What is the optimal amount of specific types of fat (including saturated fat) in a very low carb diet?

The researchers are confident that the answers to these questions will ultimately lead to better nutritional recommendations.

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