Dietary guidelines should focus on reducing consumption of carbs, not fat

Not the kind of carbohydrates you want to be cutting back

Polyunsaturated fat is found in walnuts, sunflower and flax seeds, fish, corn, soybean and safflower oils.

"For decades, dietary guidelines have focused on reducing total fat and saturated fatty acid (SFA) intake based on the presumption that replacing SFA with carbohydrate and unsaturated fats will lower LDL-C and should therefore reduce CVD events".

Health officials are unlikely to entirely rewrite dietary guidelines based on this study alone.

Cardiovascular disease is a global epidemic, with 80 per cent of the burden of disease in low- and middle-income countries.

Many factors contribute to these diseases but diet is one of the few that can be modified to lessen risk.

"The best diets will include a balance of carbohydrates and fats - approximately 50-55 per cent carbohydrates and around 35 per cent total fat, including both saturated and unsaturated fats", Dehghan said.

"We found no evidence that below 10 per cent of energy from saturated fat is beneficial - and going below seven per cent is even harmful", she said, adding that a diet containing 10 to 13 per cent of energy from saturated fat was found to be beneficial.

The research, led by McMaster University in Canada, found diets high in carbohydrates (people getting an average of 77 per cent of their energy from carbohydrates) had a 28 per cent higher risk of death compared to low carbohydrate diets (46 per cent energy from carbohydrates).

In Australia, current guidelines recommend between 45 and 65 per cent of our daily energy intake come from carbohydrates and no more than 30 per cent from fat.

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"We're not advocating an extreme diet", agreed co-author Andrew Mente.

"When you reduce fat to very low levels, you're affecting these important minerals".

Dehghan and colleagues sifted through the health data of 135,000 volunteers from 18 countries across six continents, aged 35-70, who were monitored for a seven-and-half years.

In a linked commentary in the journal, Drs.

"The relationships between diet, cardiovascular disease and death are topics of major public health importance.... This uncertainty is likely to prevail until well-designed randomized controlled trials are done".

A second McMaster study found that eating three to four servings of fruit, vegetables and legumes per day has a similar benefit in reducing the risk of premature death as eating the now recommended five-plus servings. PURE scientists found that high intake levels of carbs had an unfavorable impact on cardiovascular health and higher mortality rates.

Crowe adds that although the research is compelling for its breadth, it does not identify the quality of carbohydrates and fats that people were consuming, only the quantity. Foods like fruits and green vegetables are good sources of carbohydrates, whereas items such as bread and pasta should be limited.

Looking at the dietary components separately showed that the benefits were attributable to fruit and legumes, with vegetable intake not significantly associated with improved outcomes. And researchers say it's time to rework recommendations that government agencies, doctors and other clinicians make to patients on healthy eating.

The researchers compared people in the top fifth of fat and carbohydrate consumers with those in the bottom "quintile" over a period of 7.4 years.

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