Low-carb diets linked to earlier death, 25-year study finds
We've come full circle, once again: balance is key to a healthy diet.
Numerous factors contribute to making good scientific claims. When it comes to studies, two are at the top of the list: participation and longevity. While there can be a value derived from a study that features, say, eight people over the course of four weeks, that’s only a starting point. To arrive at conclusive evidence, including more people over a longer period of time is necessary.
Which makes the realm of nutrition confusing. The proliferation of food blogging—sites dedicated to dieting, nutritional “facts", and “cleansing”—leaves the public dazed. Considering how entwined emotions are with eating, we often seek out what verifies our beliefs. For example, I don’t know of any vegans that purposefully spend time on paleo sites (unless they’re looking for vegan options to that diet).
Eating for your blood type, dieting for your genetic predisposition, the hidden messages of water—okay, not really, but pretty much applies the same mysticism—every year features another must-try dieting trend, or twenty. Carb restriction is the diet du jour as getting into ketosis is the goal of many. Indeed, I’ve written favorably of it in the past, as studies back up its efficacy for weight loss and longevity—in the short term. Most everything I’ve come across is uncertain about the diet's long-term validity.
Now a 25-year study, published in The Lancet Public Health, brings into question the healthiness of restricting carbs, as well as eating too many of them. We certainly love extremes when it comes to food, but the overall picture is one your grandmother would have mentioned: balance is key.
Sara Seidelmann, from the Division of Cardiovascular Medicine at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, and colleagues studied over 15,400 Americans over a quarter-century to better understand how their dietary choices affected mortality rates. They found that people that consume a moderate level of carbs (50-55 percent) at age 50 can expect to add another 33 years to their life. By contrast, high carb intake eaters (>70 percent) lived another 32 years on average, while low carb eaters (<40 percent) only added 29 years.
This isn’t the only study to confirm these data, as the researchers write:
These findings reflect a U-shaped relationship between carbohydrate intake and mortality, and were corroborated by data from other North American, European, Asian and multinational cohorts, combined as part of a meta-analysis.
Unfortunately for carnivores, the types of protein and fat you're eating matters. The team found that excessive meat and dairy intake also shortens lives. They speculate that this is due to the decreased amount of fruit and vegetable intake; increased dairy and meat has been shown to tax our inflammation and oxidative stress systems. As Seidelmann notes:
If you are going to choose a very low carbohydrate diet as a way to lose weight or as an eating pattern, it’s very important that you are mindful to replace carbohydrate with more plant-based food.
This doesn’t let vegans off the hook, however. The team also found that high carbohydrate intake of processed foods and staples like rice also increases the risk of mortality. Plenty of vegetables and moderate intake of fruits—whole fruits, not juicing—should be the main staples of a healthy diet.
So: back to the basics. Michael Pollan for the win again. “Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.”
Here's the science of black holes, from supermassive monsters to ones the size of ping-pong balls.
- There's more than one way to make a black hole, says NASA's Michelle Thaller. They're not always formed from dead stars. For example, there are teeny tiny black holes all around us, the result of high-energy cosmic rays slamming into our atmosphere with enough force to cram matter together so densely that no light can escape.
- CERN is trying to create artificial black holes right now, but don't worry, it's not dangerous. Scientists there are attempting to smash two particles together with such intensity that it creates a black hole that would live for just a millionth of a second.
- Thaller uses a brilliant analogy involving a rubber sheet, a marble, and an elephant to explain why different black holes have varying densities. Watch and learn!
- Bonus fact: If the Earth became a black hole, it would be crushed to the size of a ping-pong ball.
Military recruits are supposed to be assessed to see whether they're fit for service. What happens when they're not?
- During the Vietnam War, Robert McNamara began a program called Project 100,000.
- The program brought over 300,000 men to Vietnam who failed to meet minimum criteria for military service, both physically and mentally.
- Project 100,000 recruits were killed in disproportionate numbers and fared worse after their military service than their civilian peers, making the program one of the biggest—and possibly cruelest—mistakes of the Vietnam War.
In a breakthrough for nuclear fusion research, scientists at China's Experimental Advanced Superconducting Tokamak (EAST) reactor have produced temperatures necessary for nuclear fusion on Earth.
- The EAST reactor was able to heat hydrogen to temperatures exceeding 100 million degrees Celsius.
- Nuclear fusion could someday provide the planet with a virtually limitless supply of clean energy.
- Still, scientists have many other obstacles to pass before fusion technology becomes a viable energy source.
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