What to do to keep fit? We often hear that it is important to limit carbohydrates and fats... but is it really so? What are the long-term consequences of these extreme eating habits? A very recent scientific research tries to answer this question and what emerges is truly of great importance. The study was published in the Journal of Nutrition by a Japanese team (Tamura et al, The Journal of Nutrition, Aug 2023).
Diets, fats and carbohydrates
Diets that involve a low intake of carbohydrates and fats are becoming very popular for losing weight, keeping fit and healthy, with the aim also of keeping blood sugar levels under control. And these are undoubtedly important goals, but are they being pursued in the right way? Could it be that adopting unbalanced eating habits can lead to long-term problems? This is the question that Japanese researchers sought to answer.
No sacrifices to live well and long, the study
Scientists recruited 81333 adults. Everyone was asked to answer questionnaires in order to evaluate their eating habits and, in particular, their intake of carbohydrates and fats. Then, the volunteers were followed for 9 years to monitor their health status. What has emerged is that among men, those who have the habit of limiting carbohydrates, obtaining less than 40% of their daily energy needs from them, have a greater risk of developing diseases, including cellular degeneration, with a poor outcome. But eating too many carbohydrates is also not good for your health. In fact, among women, those who obtain more than 65% of their daily energy needs from carbohydrates also have a greater risk of getting sick. As regards fats, especially if they are unsaturated fats, when the intake is too low the risk of disease increases. Only in women, a very high intake of fats, both unsaturated and saturated, has been shown to be protective of health. In men, an energy intake of more than 35% from fat increased the risk of getting sick and reduced life expectancy.
What emerges from the study is that it is important to ensure a balanced diet, which includes the intake of carbohydrates and fats, without limitations but also without excesses. In fact, thinking about reducing, if not even abolishing, carbohydrates and fats to maintain a healthy weight and keep blood sugar under control may perhaps bring the desired results in the short term, but in the long term these benefits are largely outweighed by the risks of contracting illnesses. Instead, it is better to follow an active lifestyle, ensuring regular and moderate physical activity, and a balanced diet, perhaps following the guidelines of the Mediterranean Diet, with its regular intake of cereals, preferably unrefined, from 3 to 6 portions per day, one portion corresponds to a slice of bread or 80 grams of pasta. But the Mediterranean diet also includes fruit, up to 3 portions per day, more than 3 portions of vegetables per day, at least one spoonful of extra virgin olive oil per day, one to two daily portions of milk and dairy products, three portions of fish per week, three portions per week of legumes and three portions per week of nuts, considering that a portion of walnuts, almonds, hazelnuts and cashews corresponds to approximately 40 grams.