Further proof that diets are unhealthy

Diet trends come and go, just like fashions. While cholesterol was the target in the 1990s, in the following decade it was carbohydrates that became enemy number one. Various gurus praised the merits of a diet high in protein and fat, but low in carbohydrates and fruits. But a recently published, highly anticipated study suggests that this type of diet should be avoided because it increases blood cholesterol levels.

Diet trends come and go, just like fashions. While cholesterol was the target in the 1990s, in the following decade it was carbohydrates that became enemy number one. Various gurus praised the merits of a diet high in protein and fat, but low in carbohydrates and fruits. But a recently published, highly anticipated study suggests that this type of diet should be avoided because it increases blood cholesterol levels.

In the 1970s, northern Sweden had one of the highest incidences of cardiovascular disease in the world. An intervention program was therefore initiated in 1985 to reverse this epidemic. At the same time, health authorities began collecting data, and researchers eventually analyzed the data collected over 25 years. One of the aspects they looked at was the effect of nutrition on health.

The researchers noted that fat intake followed two marked trends: a gradual decrease between 1986 and 1992, followed by a gradual increase since 2004, which coincides with the start of positive media support for low-carbohydrate diets. These diets recommend restricting carbohydrate intake, but without many limitations on fat and protein intake. As a result of the popularity of these diets, researchers were not surprised to note a decrease in carbohydrate intake. Protein intake remained stable over the course of the study.

The study found that the participants who increased their fat intake and decreased their intake of simple sugars and complex carbohydrates (those found in grain products and fruits) showed an increase in their blood cholesterol levels. Other studies, conducted in Japan and Poland, came to the same conclusion. These findings are important, because we know high blood cholesterol levels increase the risk of cardiovascular disease.

So forget diets! A varied diet with an emphasis on vegetables, whole grains, lean protein and low-fat dairy products is the best approach, and when it comes to nutrition, your go-to reference remains Canada';s Food Guide.

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