A recent study is adding more fuel to the argument that excess carbohydrates, not total and saturated fats, are more harmful to our health.
Researchers who worked on the Prospective Urban Rural Epidemiology (PURE) study followed over 135,000 people from 18 different countries for ten years. They found that those who were on lower fat diets had an increased risk of death and the group with a higher fat intake had a lower risk of stroke.
Current U.S. government guidelines suggest that too much saturated fat raises cholesterol levels and increases the risk of heart disease, yet those who follow these recommendations tend to eat more carbs like bread, pasta and rice.
Wendy Pogozelski, Distinguished Teaching professor of Chemistry at SUNY Geneseo, co-authored a similar study several years ago. "I think the idea is that we can't continue to cling to old mindsets when the data lead us away from it,” she said. “I really think there's a big reinvestigation of this demonization of fat while giving carbohydrates a free ride."
Pogozelski said one important takeaway from the research is that there is no one-size-fits-all set of dietary recommendations.
"I think people who are young, lean, and active can certainly tolerate a much higher carbohydrate diet. But the idea that somebody can have a big, carbohydrate-laden breakfast and then sit around all day...that glucose from all that carbohydrate has to go somewhere and if people aren't moving, that glucose sits around and gets converted to fat, ultimately."
Researchers in the PURE study recommend that 35 percent of our calories come from fats, but they did make a distinction between the types of carbohydrates that were consumed by study participants.
"And when the carbohydrate did come from vegetables, and to a certain extent, fruit and legumes, there were not the greater risks that there were with the kinds of carbohydrates that really did not have fiber associated with them,” Pogozelski said. “Those kinds of carbohydrates just raised blood sugar much more quickly than the carbohydrates from vegetables and things."
The PURE study was published in the Journal Lancet.