A major study has found that following a low-fat diet can raise the likelihood of early death by around 25 per cent.
The Lancet study, which included data from 135,000 adults, found that those who ate fewer fats were less likely to die early when compared to those who had diets rich in fat, a finding that is contrary to the NHS’ medical advice.
The study found that people who ate less fat were more likely to have diets full of starchy carbohydrates like rice, pasta and bread, and were missing vital nutrients. The study found that the participants who ate higher levels of carbohydrates had a 28 per cent higher chance of dying early.
Presently, the NHS warns against diets high in saturated fat, due to the risk of higher cholesterol and heart disease. However, this research found that people consuming less saturated fat were 13 per cent more likely to die early, while high level of consumption of all fats led to a fall in mortality by 23 per cent.
Researcher Dr Andrew Mente, from McMaster University, said: “Our data suggests that low fat diets put populations at increased risk for cardiovascular disease.
“Loosening the restriction on total fat and saturated fat and imposing limits on carbohydrates when high to reduce intake to moderate levels would be optimal.”
Dr Mente said that it was vital to get the balance of carbohydrates and fats right, with around 35 per cent of calories coming from fats.
Lead researcher Dr Mahshid Dehghan, said: “A high carbohydrate diet – greater than 60 per cent of energy – is associated with higher risk of mortality.
“Higher intake of fats, including saturated fats, are associated with lower risk of mortality.”
Professor Jeremy Pearson, of the British Heart Foundation said health officials should re-examine dietary advice, to ensure the public was getting the best message.
“This study suggests we should perhaps pay more attention to the amount of carbohydrate in our diet than we have in the past and we may need to revise the guidelines,” he said.
“What I don’t think people should do is get excited and think ‘I can eat as much saturated fat as I like’”.
Dr Alison Tedstone, chief nutritionist at Public Health England said a high fat diet could lead to weight gain and increase the risk of heart disease.
“We recommend a balanced diet based on starchy carbohydrates, while reducing total fat intake and swapping saturated fats for unsaturated fats,” she said.