Quality, not food type, say nutrition experts

Tired of the old argument pitting carbohydrates against fats? Seems you’re not alone.

Don’t knock all carbs and fats – that’s the message from a new report from The Lancet.

Nutrition experts are saying that debate is not what’s important – rather we should focus on the quality of the food in our diets.

A report just released by the prestigious medical UK journal The Lancet, which includes information from leading nutrition and public health researchers in New Zealand, says there’s a clear recommendation that we should be cutting our intakes of poor-quality foods containing lots of free sugars and saturated fats.

Instead of focusing on low fat versus low carb we should be eating a wider range of healthy fats and carbohydrates, says Professor Mann from the University of Otago’s Edgar Diabetes and Obesity Research Centre (EDOR).

“There are good fats, just as there are good carbohydrates that are associated with a reduced risk of heart disease, diabetes and colon cancer,” he says.

“Pitting one nutrient against another – such as fat versus carbs – risks confusing the public, health professionals and policy makers, and undermines confidence in evidence-based nutrition advice.”

The commentary, which also includes research from the University of Auckland and the Healthier Lives National Science Challenge, is based on the “totality of international evidence from objective, systematic and thorough expert reviews” of a range of different types of studies that evaluate the effects of foods and nutrients on health outcomes.

Prof Mann says the recommendations can be met easily by culturally diverse dietary patterns – from the traditional high-carbohydrate, low-fat diet of Japan, which is associated with longevity, to relatively high-fat, high-carbohydrate Mediterranean diets, which are associated with low risk of non-communicable diseases.

“What dietary patterns associated with the lowest risk of non-communicable diseases all have in common is that they tend to include lots of fibre-rich fruit and vegetables, legumes, pulses, nuts, wholegrains, and plant oils.”

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