A new study shows that extreme diets are doing more harm than good

balancing food
Extreme diets shown to do more harm than goodIlka & Franz - Getty Images

Extreme diets are everywhere in the wellness world. Sometimes they're labelled as such, but often the advice to eat 'low' something or cut out another is masqueraded behind talk of health benefits.

Yet the science would disagree. A new study from the The Journal of Nutrition by Nagoya University Graduate School of Medicine in Japan reported that extremely reducing or increasing carbohydrate and fat intakes could affect life expectancy in the long term.

The researchers measured daily dietary intakes of carbohydrates, fats, and total energy intake of over 80,000 people over the course of nine years to find that diets high and low in carbohydrates and fats lead to higher all-cause and cancer-related mortality.

Specifically in women, the researchers found diets moderately-low in carbohydrates - meaning under 50% of calories coming from carbohydrates, or under 250g of carbs for those eating 2000 calories a day - was associated with higher instances of cardiovascular disease. But diets high in carbohydrates (with over 65% of calorie intake coming from the macronutrient, or 325g of carbs from a 2000 calorie diet) were all associated with the risk of all-cause and cancer-related mortality.

Meanwhile, low fat diets were associated with worse longevity outcomes, meaning this research doesn't support the idea that high unsaturated fat intake is detrimental.

The researchers said this shows a dramatic reduction of food groups in both men and woman had effects on their health, with head researcher Dr. Takashi Tamura saying ‘this study is extremely important' as it 'shows that low-carbohydrate and low-fat diets may not be the healthiest strategy for promoting longevity, as their short-term benefits could potentially be outweighed by long-term risk.'

Restricting certain food groups is more popular than ever, not only with the rise of extreme diets like keto but also current conversations around lower-carb eating for blood sugar concerns and the popularity of low fat dairy products. But this study suggests that we need to be carefully balancing our diet and getting energy from a variety of foods and macronutrients to avoid any extremes. Just something to think about the next time you grab a fat-free yoghurt or are tempted to skip the sourdough with your eggs and avo.

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