Diets that drastically curb carbohydrates while upping the intake of meat appear to be reducing life expectancies, according an extensive new study outlined this week in the Lancet medical journal.
"Basically, there's a sweet spot for carbohydrates. There's a good amount," Healthy Food Guide nutritionist Claire Turnbull explained on TVNZ1's Breakfast today. "Too much can reduce your life expectancy. But it's really too little when you're replacing carbohydrate with animal protein and animal fats. (It) can reduce your life expectancy."
The findings come after scientists looked at the data from nearly 500,000 people.
People may swear by low carb or no carb diets like Atkins, Keto and paleo, but weight loss is not the only indicator of health, Ms Turnbull pointed out.
"What's happening to your inside?" she said. "Your longevity does need to be considered."
For optimal health, we should be eating around 50-55 per cent of our calories as carbs, she said. But with carbohydrates ranging from lollies to lentils, it's also important we choose the right ones.
"That can be oats, brown rice, quinoa, vegetables, fruits, but it's not as nutritionists we're saying eat lots of white bread and get your carbohydrates," she said.
Targeting and reducing unhealthy carbs can certainly help improve health, she said. But there's a big caveat that Atkins adherents might not want to hear, she said.
"It's the plant-based fat and proteins that you need to replace the carbohydrate with - not increasing the amount of animal products," she said.