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Long-term risks of low-carb diets

The debate over which diets GPs should recommend has taken a new twist after a study found low-carbohydrate regimes raised mortality in the long term.

The researchers warned studies claiming benefits for diets low in carbohydrate and high in protein had failed to follow up patients for long enough to spot adverse effects.

The study of 42,237 women, which followed participants for 12 years, found reducing carbohydrate intake by one decile raised total mortality by 6 per cent, while increasing protein intake by a decile raised risk

2 per cent. For cardiovascular mortality, the increases were 13 and 16 per cent respectively.

Study leader Dr Pagona

Lagiou, associate professor of hygiene and epidemiology at the University of Athens, said: 'Vegetables, fruits, cereals and legumes are important carbohydrate sources – reduced intake is likely to have adverse effects.'

The results add to the controversy over dietary advice, which intensified last December when researchers found patients

with diabetes on a diet low in carbohydrate enjoyed sustained weight loss with no ill-effects.

Dr David Haslam, clinical

director of the National Obesity Forum, insisted: 'Low-carb diets are beneficial as long as people are reassured they can have fruit and vegetables.'

Dr Nick Finer, consultant in general medicine at Addenbrooke's Hospital, Cambridge, said low-carb diets could be useful in the short term.

The results were published in the latest issue of the Journal of

Internal Medicine.

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